Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It's not a pad

That thing in the shorts, formerly called a chamois because it was, is not a pad. It never was.

Padded seats kill my ass. Padded shorts REALLY kill my ass.

Synthetic chamois was a great leap forward. It was more washable, dried faster and did not dry to sandpaper the way a natural chamois did after a few washings. But then inexperienced riders started asking for more cush under the tush, thinking that was the key to saddle comfort. With the triathlon boom of the 1980s and the mountain bike boom of the 1990s, the bike industry picked up a huge influx of inexperienced cyclists. There was a lot more money in selling them what they thought they wanted than in teaching them what actually works.

Occasional and short-distance riders can get away with anything between buns and bike seat. If they haven't found the width and shape of saddle that really suits their anatomy fo rthe long haul, padding on seat and pants will guard against the feeling that they had been kicked solidly with a large boot in a tender place. But now the market is flooded with shorts that look like they have half a pound cake sewn into the crotch.

The chamois protects against chafe. The shorts are supposed to have no seam or flat seams in the problem area, unlike most normal street pants, which have a four-way seam junction under there. In the 1970s, cutoff shorts, with their lump of denim digging into that precious anatomy, did more to sell real cycling shorts than any marketing campaign. And in the 1970s people were more than ready to forego their skivvies, as proper bike short use requires. It was the '70s, man.

I'm nursing my last two pairs of shorts that don't make me feel like I've got a mattress shoved in my crotch. I need to do some product research, fast.


Anonymous said...

Okay my friend, this classifies as a "grumpy old man" post. I mean, from here shouldn't your next post be telling us that the old leather Brooks saddle really was better and anyone who rides anything else really just hasn't been taught to appreciate what a "real" cyclist knows? And while we're at it, people really were a heartier lot back in the good old days before propane tanks and indoor plumbing.

Now, don't get me wrong, I have my own favorite targets of "if they only understood they'd never use that crazy newfangled stuff." Gas grills, non stick frying pans, most types of instant food, etc. But I have accumulated many pairs of cycling shorts in my bottom drawer, from my tri-suit, with its thinnest of thin pads to one with gel padding, to everything in between. And you know what? If I know I'm going to be riding over 50 miles, its the gel hands down that I'll choose first. And I'm bummed if they happen to be in the landry. It's just comfortable. Maybe I'm a wimp. But give me some of them old creature comforts. I liked 'em at 18, and I like 'em better at 47.

cafiend said...

Awesomely appropriate that you should mention the Brooks. I left leather saddles behind because they do turn into uncomfortable, weird sculptures if not properly maintained. However, I just rode one this weekend and decided I may be mature enough to have a long-term, adult relationship with one.

My wife and I love our gas grill. We use some non-stick pans, but also some non-non-stick pans.

You have to find what worksd for you. I'm surprised that the padding pinches my nerves and generates magma-loke heat, but not when I think about it more. It provides cushioning from one aspect of road shock and saddle discomfort, but exacerbates other irritations too much, in my humble crotch.

Sandi said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I sure miss shorts with chamois (either real or fake). I haven't found any shorts with pads I like these days. I have three that I like from years gone by, but they won't last forever.

You'd think with the resurgence of traditional cycling staple such as luggged steel and wool that someone would come to market with a good short with chamois. I've been looking, and haven't found anything yet.

If you find anything reasonable availble, please let us all know!

Anonymous said...

I thought there was a retro chamois movement to go with the retro wool movement. Personally I prefer the washability of synthetic chamois. While I don't prefer the revealing tightness of Lycra, wool got all stretched out and baggy. Someone needs to come up with a material with the matte finish and visual thickness of wool, but the shape retention and quick drying of Lycra.

I also had some touring shorts that were basically hiking shorts with a chamois. They were pretty comfortable. They looked semi-normal until you noticed the stitching for the chamois. I didn't like to have much in the pockets while I was riding, but I had the pockets to carry things when I walked away from the bike. Modern baggies have all struck me as more baggy than I'd like.

Still shopping.