‘ARSE cream’, ‘bum wax’, ‘groin grease’ or ‘chamois cream’ – whatever you want to call it, slapping a load of cold and embrocation on your nether regions seems to be a bit of a taboo topic among cyclists.
Well, we are talking after all about slapping stuff on our backsides and some of us find the nether regions awkward territory.
For instance, I was surprised to learn from a training mate that he never uses chamois cream and from the way he edged away from me – bow-legged, I might add – I could tell he didn’t like to discuss it either.
Personally, I’ve always followed the advice given to Tim Moore in French Revolutions by Richard Hallet, the technical editor for Cycling Weekly. Apparently, he told Tim in an odd, dreamy voice, “So yeah…really slather it on.”
He’s right. There’s nothing worse than getting 60-miles into a 100-mile ride and realising that your bearings are rubbing on their rims, so to speak. Of course, ‘slathering’ costs money. Or that’s what I used to think.
A few year’s ago, I bought a very nice winter cycle jersey from a well-known British cycle clothing company that ends in ‘a’ – you know the one. Admittedly, I was disappointed not to get a bag of Haribo with the jersey, but I was perhaps mixing them up with someone else.
Instead, there was a freebie packet of chamois crème that I tossed, all curly-lipped, in my bike kit box. ‘Oh, no you don’t’, I thought. ‘You might think you can draw me in, like a sheep at shearing time, with your subtle little marketing game, but I’m the sheep that swerves the gate and I won’t be buying your over-priced grease any time soon’.
At this point, I was using Sudacrem. Admittedly, it does the job well, but has an unpleasant odour and is so tacky on the hands you need Swarfega to get it off. In addition, if you have kids, it reminds you of a time when going out on your bike was near impossible.
One day I found myself out of Sudacrem and had to dig out that luxury sachet. Ahhhhh, it was like that bit in the film ‘Ratatoille’, when the critic tastes the meal.
The cream’s fragrance was of childhood memories of a summer in France, a subtle blend of herbs and nostalgia that also left my shorts smelling if freshly washed even after a gruelling day in the saddle.
So, those wicked marketing people had got me after all. Not quite. The voice of thrifty reason – better known as my wife – intervened. After a year of her saying ‘how much? It’s not even as if it’s reducing your wrinkles,’ I finally went cold turkey on the pricey stuff with my own home-made methadone treatment.
As far as chamois cream goes, making it is easy. Regardless of trace herbs from the mountains of France, quality chamois crème is basically bog standard chemist shop aqueous cream with a few fancy oils thrown in to make it last longer.
Once I’d researched the list of oils off the side of the fancy product, I bought them online and started blending.
Almond oil is odourless and so you can add a good slug of that to give the cream a lasting viscosity. After an early mistake of putting in too much Tea tree oil and not enough almond oil, I ended up with a cream that lasted 10-minutes in the saddle and smelt of chlorine.
But I soon got into it and my second batch smelt pretty identical to the shop bought cream and worked a treat.
What are the savings? Well, the oils average £5 each for 10ml, but bear in mind that you only need a few drips of each essential oil per 500ml tub of aqueous cream and a little extra almond oil, which is pretty darn cheap.
Aqueous cream costs approximately £3 for a 500ml tub. As the oils will last for at least two litres worth of cream, the total cost will be less than £40. Two litres of the stuff in fancy jars will set you back £200.
Ingredients: Aqueous Cream, Almond oil, Cedarwood oil, Teatree oil, Rosemary Oil, Lavender Oil, Patchouli Oil (for hippies and touring cyclists),Vicks Vapour rub – just a dab per batch though: It’s the menthol smell you’re after – not a burning ring of fire.