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Chemical Soup

A few of the group on the 70km to 80km long ride last Sunday had not ridden in months. Everyone finished, but there were a few moans during and after the ride.

Graphic courtesy of

A long time off the saddle left some feeling a bit sore around the ischial tuberosities aka sit bones.

That led to a conversation about chamois creams. I religiously use chamois cream. The one time I didn’t, I developed a saddle sore. Since then, I ensure that I have a ready supply of Chamois Butt’r Original. My chosen brand of chamois cream. Unfortunately, Chamois Butt’r isn’t available locally.

I ordered some online a while ago. COVID-19 compromised logistics chains mean that I haven’t received my order yet. As I am running low, I recently bought some Assos Chamois Crème from my LBS. I have not used Assos Chamois Crème because it contains menthol. I didn’t want that “cooling” effect. But beggars can’t be choosers.

I looked at the Assos Chamois Crème jar to check if menthol is still on the list of ingredients. It is, along with a chemical soup of other ingredients.

I have been following a thread of comments on VeloNews about skin sensitivities. The conversation started with skin sensitivity to synthetic materials used in cycling bibs. The thread went on to include sensitivity to laundry detergents and chamois creams. That led me to research what each of the ingredients in a tub of Assos Chamois Crème does. Here is what I found.

Photograph courtesy of Assos of Switzerland
Glyceryl Stearate SEEmollient
Propylene GlycolEmollient
Cetearyl AlcoholEmollient
Alcohol Sorbitan StearateEmulsifier
Polysorbate 60Emulsifier
Viscosity Increasing Agent
Hydrogenated Vegetable OilEmollient
Menthyl LactateCooling agent
Stearyl StearateEmollient
Dimethicone/Vinyltrimethylsiloxysilicate CrosspolymerEmollient
Stearic AcidEmulsifier
MentholCooling agent
Hamamelis Virginiana Water (Witch Hazel)Anti-microbial
Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E)Anti-oxidant
Denatured AlcoholSolvent
Citric AcidPreservative
Ingredient list courtesy of Assos of Switzerland

23 ingredients, presumably in decreasing percentage of total volume of the product. Which is 140ml / 4.73 fl. oz.

9 chemicals are emollients or moisturisers. 5 are emulsifiers. Emulsifiers are chemicals that stop fats and water from separating. 2 are anti-oxidants, which may preserve skin health. 2 are preservatives. 2 are cooling agents. We’ll see how well I get along with those. There are a couple of solvents. I imagine this product is mostly water. There is 1 anti-microbial.

Having put Assos Chamois Crème under the microscope, it was only fair that I did the same with Chamois Butt’r Original.

Photograph courtesy of Paceline Products Inc.
Mineral OilEmollient
Glyceryl StearateEmulsifier
Cetearyl AlcoholEmulsifier
Stearic AcidEmulsifier
PEG-100 StearateEmulsifier
Diazolidinyl UreaAnti-microbial
Iodopropynyl ButylcarbamatePreservative
Cetyl Hydroxyethyl-CelluloseEmulsifier
Viscosity increasing agent
Potassium SorbatePreservative
Disodium EDTAStabilizer
Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe Vera) Leaf JuiceEmollient
Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E)Anti-oxidant
Retinyl PalmitateAnti-oxidant
Ingredient list courtesy of Paceline Products Inc.

The Chamois Butt’r Original has 16 ingredients. 4 emollients. 5 emulsifiers. 2 anti-oxidants. 2 preservatives. 1 stabilizer. 1 anti-microbial, and 1 solvent. Again, I assume water makes up the most of this 32oz pump bottle.

I am relieved to find that the Chamois Butt’r Original does not contain as many chemicals as the Assos Chamois Crème. Having said that, the Assos has more than twice as many emollients. Which I assume are the key ingredients in a product that is formulated to eliminate chafing. The 4 emollients in the Chamois Butt’r have been enough for me though.

I just hope that the menthol lactate and menthol in the Assos Chamois Crème aren’t too cooling.

Image courtesy of free

Mere Millimeters In It

Selle Italia Superflow Saddle Sore 2

A pain in the butt.  Not since I started cycling had riding caused sore buttocks.  Or to be more specific, a sore left buttock,  I suspected a saddle sore, but there wasn’t any evidence of skin abrasion, let alone folliculitis.

There was no denying, however, that whenever I rode, I felt pressure and discomfort where my left sit bone (ischial tuberosity) rested on my saddle.  My first thought was that I needed to replace my well-used bibshorts.  Perhaps the chamois pads had become compressed, and were no longer providing the cushioning that they used to.

I tried some newer, better cushioned bibshorts, but the discomfort persisted. So I began to consider the possibility that I had somehow developed a pelvic tilt to the left.  I started to investigate chiropractic or myofascial treatment to address a structural misalignment in my pelvis.

Selle Italia Superflow Saddle Sore

By that time a few weeks had passed.  At which time I did develop some skin abrasion at the pressure point, which made me reconsider the possibility that I was developing a saddle sore.  Out came the Dettol antiseptic cream.  Perhaps it was the placebo effect, but it did feel as if the discomfort was lessening.  But it never went away completely, and the reason for the pain remained a mystery.

The answer came after I had been riding with a sore butt for about a month.  I had to send my bike for a service at Meng Thai Cycle in Kota Kemuning.  More about why my bike needed a service in a future post.

When I went to collect my bike post-service, Lee asked me if I knew that a rail on my Selle Italia SLR Superflow saddle had broken.  I did not.

The vanox rail under the left side had snapped at the point where it entered the slot at the left rear of the saddle shell.  The rail is crimped at that point, which presumable creates a weak point.  It must have snapped just before I started feeling discomfort on my left side.

Selle Italia Superflow Saddle Arrow

The shell was like a spring, and the broken rail was no longer holding the shell down properly.  The result was that the left rear of the saddle was slightly higher than the right side.  It was only two or three millimeters higher.  Not enough difference for me to notice whenever I looked at my saddle.  But enough of a difference for my butt to notice.

I replaced the broken saddle with the same model off my Ritchey Break Away, and “Hey Presto!”  No more pain in the butt.

I wouldn’t have thought that a few millimeters would have such an impact.  I could put her to shame.

Selle Italia Superflow Saddle Princess Prezi com

Image courtesy of