Chamois Cream, Rapha and Chapeau

by Chikashi

Arse butter: there are so many cycling-specific ones on the market that it is really quite bewildering. I have never felt that I need to slap some on for reasons of comfort if I am riding less than 100 km. It’s tempting to think that I am an hard arse (literally and therefore figuratively), but I suspect that it has something to do with a good pad and a compatible saddle. On longer rides, I think it is helpful to be buttered up, particularly if I am out for a longer jaunt on consecutive days. My choice has been nappy creams like Penaten and Bepanthane. They do a fine job in protecting my derrière from chafing and painful bacterial infections as one might imagine, given their original remit. However, other than being perhaps a tad too thick and sticky, nappy creams are, as I now understand in hindsight, single-mindedly practical and falls short in the sensual frou-frou department, namely, in the scent category. This is where cycling-specific chamois creams can come in to fill the void. (N.B., I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not what I’m thinking.)

Rapha chamois cream sample; Henri Cartier-Bresson, Hyères, 1932

I had a Rapha Chamois Cream sample sitting in a drawer for ages. Despite the old adage about not trying anything new on a long ride, I decided to give it a go the morning of the Paris Roubaix sportive. A 170 km ride including 52 km of cobblestone sectors is a pretty good way to put an arse butter through the mill. The amount of abuse that one’s peachy bottom endures during that route is quite unique, so as far as a ‘test ride’ is concerned, it probably is up there amongst the best. And, the Rapha Chamois Cream passed with flying colours. Not too thick, not too thin, not sticky and was still in evidence at the end of the long day albeit I have to say that I applied a very generous amount in the morning, knowing that my backside will be taking a thorough beating during the day. It has a cooling effect and a very pleasant scent that is not too strong but will stay throughout the day encasing your bum and the pad. Your derrière will smell like a wind-swept provençal divinity before, during and after the ride. This has 2 main benefits. The first is that you may just feel a bit sexy when applying the cream, which is always a good way to put you in a positive frame of mind as you pedal off, provided you don’t get too distracted. The other is that, after a long, hard ride, it ensures that you will not have a nasty olfactory surprise when you take off your shorts.

Chapeau menthol chamois cream

Of course, the sensible thing to do, after the positive experience with the sample, would be to get a full pot of the Rapha Chamois Cream. However, I was at the Bespoked Bristol show, came upon Chapeau’s booth and could not resist getting a tube of their Menthol Chamois Cream. If you know Japan and the Japanese relatively well, then you would know that the Japanese have something of a national addiction to menthol (and camphor), as evidenced by the plethora of products containing menthol that you can rub on yourself, ingest, smoke, etc. Menthol just might have a higher overall market penetration than soy sauce. So, menthol arse butter = irresistible. Natch.

The Chapeau Menthol Chamois Cream does not disappoint in the cooling and scent departments. It is pleasant on the skin, partly due to the lightness of the cream. I did wonder whether the menthol content is too high for the really sensitive areas for boys, but after applying a generous amount, there was no need to call in the fire brigade as I would have had to if I had applied Tiger Balm or Bengay. So, the start was reassuring, but the end was less clear after a couple of 150 /160 km rides. Other than the scent, the cream itself was no longer evident. Is that necessarily a bad thing? Not sure. The fact that it wasn’t there like a freshly applied K-Y Jelly does not mean that its ingredients are no longer at work. What is important is that I did not have any perineal discomfort throughout the entire ride, which is what matters. However, it must be admitted that it does not have a positive effect on the post-ride assessment psychologically. Nonetheless, I like it. Did I mention it’s menthol?

And, by the way, did you know that Germans actually have a sense of humour? The world is still full of surprises…