Before moving on to the intriguing facts about your chamois, first of all, we shed some light on its pronunciations.
/ˈʃæmi/ American English
Don’t get us wrong. The chamois here is not referring to an animal like a small deer that lives in the mountains of Europe and Asia.
However, it is the fine layer of padding in your cycling shorts, which protects your nether region from saddle pain. The chamois pad is engineered to bridge the gap between the bike saddle and the points of pressure in the pelvic area.
Not only it supports your sit bones but also prevents chafing by transferring moisture away from your body and moving with you on the seat so your skin does not rub. A multi-layer lamination of different types of foam padding makes up most mads.
They are developed in the context of the human pelvic girdle which contains the Ischium bones, also known as sit bones. With a good chamois, you can ride comfortably for pain and chafe-free. Go without, you’re most likely encountering a miserable case of saddle sores.
The History of Chamois
In the 1920s and 30s, cycling shorts were made of wool, just as the jerseys of the time were. To combat the chafe that came with wool, cyclists started placing a piece of chamois cloth into their shorts. This chamois with the addition of chamois cream provided a soft, less rough solution to the wool shorts.
Cyclists found that woolen knits would bunch up making frictions, so designers started playing around with multi-panel designs and more technical fibers. The first synthetic chamois was developed by Maurizio Castelli around the 1980s.
Sizes make a difference between men’s and women’s chamois. Your size and shape play a role in your comfort. Women’s bike shorts are not just about smaller sizes and have more attractive colors. For a given size, a woman’s chamois is generally slightly wider than a man’s chamois to accommodate women’s wider sit bones.
The seams and cut of the short are made differently, usually with a shorter inseam, wider hip area, and a tapered waistband. On the contrary, a man’s chamois is constructed longer than a woman’s, to ensure modesty-protecting coverage at the front. Men’s chamois pads have a cut-out in the center to reduce the pressure on the pelvic pudendal nerve.
Wick The Moisture Away
To ensure you stay comfortable on your bike, it is imperative to keep the chamois as dry as possible. A wet chamois, either through sweat or rain, creates extra friction on the skin which, in turn, can lead to saddle sores. A good quality chamois is made with a soft and comfortable microfiber shell fabric that will be effective at wicking moisture away from your body.
Take Off Your Underwear
A chamois should be worn against your skin. Wearing underwear adds seams, reduces breathability, and restricts your movement reversing your chamois’ benefits. Wash and dry your chamois shorts as you would do to your underwear. You may need to wash them after a long ride! You can hand-wash them with mild soap or machine-wash on gentle.
Thicker is not Better
Your chamois thickness depends on how you sit on the bike. If your liking is more towards an upright position, look for one with extra rear cushioning. If you ride more stretched out, try a pad with even thickness and multi-density foam. If you’re going for a longer ride, the more density you need in a chamois pad.
It depends on your personal preference, how you are on the bike, and the quality of the foam in the chamois. Lower density foams can lose their cushioning power after a few uses, therefore the thickness is not going to work well in your favour.
Nothing Lasts Forever
Yes, chamois has a shelf life. Like any piece of clothing, your bike shorts wear out in a due course. If the foam in your chamois seems to be packed down so tightly that it feels like a piece of heavy fabric, it is time to replace your shorts. If the seams are unraveling or your elastic grippers are sagging off, replace your shorts!