Yes, literally the pain in the ahhr… backside. The type of pain that makes cycling a misery, the type of pain that can turn you away from cycling. Saddle sores, bruising, chaffing, rashes and infections can be affected by your saddle, your chamois (shorts), your bike position, how often you ride, the distance you are riding and hygiene. You can tackle saddle pain with prevention but if it becomes sever, you will have to move to pain minimisation.
On my regular rides I don’t experience problems, it starts however when I spend a long time in the saddle. The Mont 24 (24 hour MTB ride) on my rickety old hardtail mountain bike was a killer. And my recent charity cycle trip from Adelaide to Darwin started to test my nerves from day three onwards. In my case it is bruising as my pelvis presses down onto the saddle through that thin, low fat piece of flesh which are my buttocks.
There are a few ways to tackle saddle pain but prevention is the best. Solutions can include getting a better saddle, one that fits your sit bones, or getting better knicks with a better chamois or getting the right bike-fit position and improving your weight distribution. You can prevent saddle sores by changing out of the sweaty knicks and into clean clothes as soon as possible after riding, and if you can, a shower is best. You can wear two pairs of knicks… or even three. And of course, you can use chamois cream which we will discuss in more detail. Anticipating and preventing pain before it happens is far better than dealing with the consequences.
I was well prepared for the long Adelaide to Darwin ride, plenty of knicks and 2 tubs of chamois cream plus fresh clothes ready to change into immediately after getting off the bike. The team cycling kit we wore was brand new, so I washed everything twice and took a few pairs of other trusty knicks.
Although personal health is private, on a big bike ride the inhibitions start to fade away as the grimace of saddle pain started to appear in the faces the men and women riding. For many riders, it was the first big cycling trip and dealing with this kind of pain was new. As a ‘fellow sufferer’, I was more than happy to share advice, but reluctant to share my chamois cream.
Swift Sports provided a 100ml tub of their New Zealand made Biomaxa Pro-Ride chamois cream for review. They also have another chamois cream called Ultra-Ride which they suggest is good for rides up to 4 hours whereas the Pro-Ride will last longer.
As a backup, and as a control product, I also took a 200ml tub of Morgan Blue hosensalbe (which German for ‘pants cream’). But before chamois cream it was double-knick time, putting my own comfortable bibknicks on first followed by the ride-kit. With a 150km cycling distance on the radar, how much cream is required? Not that much, just small scoop and applying directly to the sore areas. Some cyclists suggest putting it directly on the chamois, though I feel that it is better applied directly to the skin. Biomaxa suggest that you find out what works best for you.
Biomaxa from New Zealand and Morgan Blue from Belgium – with a German lable
Did it work, absolutely… but it does wear off. When you apply, the pain relief is immediate, the ingredients work against the pain and the work for hygiene to prevent sores from getting worse. During the cycle tour the bunches were able to have a short pitstop every 90 minutes. With the scorching sun beating down, the waterbottles and food supplies in the jersey pockets quickly ran low. The pitstops were a fast paced opportunity to drink more liquids and refill the water bottles, to eat more food and refill the back pockets, to reapply sunscreen, to have a toilet break and to reapply chamois cream.
All inhibitions were left behind, the women and the men who needed pain relief would dive into their musettes, then the hands were down the pants and the job done faster than a wheel change in Formula 1 racing. My tip for hygiene; bring some anti-bacterial wet-wipes because it is a much nicer feeling when you can sanitise your hands.
While Biomaxa Pro-Ride chamois cream didn’t give me pain relief to last the entire days ride after a single application, I am sure that the anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredients were working away. For single day – long distance cycling events, I would expect that that the preventative effect would leave your backside much better off than without. In my case, as the cycling tour to Darwin progressed I started to toughen up, my body was getting used to being in the saddle for over six hours so by the last day, chamois cream was a nice-to-have, but not a need-to-have.
The midway point at Uluru, pain-free and happy
Both brands were fairly comparable when is came to relieving pain relief. The Biomaxa cream is more buttery and richer in consistency, also it has more of a cream colour compared to the brilliant white of the Morgan Blue. And even though they both performed well, I am still able to choose a winner.
Comparison of the two chamois creams
Although Belgium brand, Morgan Blue featured a product label in German, and I am fluent in German, this wasn’t enough to sway me. But the Morgan Blue costs far less so based on price alone it takes the lead. One of the qualities that makes the Biomaxa appealing is that it has all-natural ingredients. And another highlight which I love, it that it is made in New Zealand from local ingredients. Biomaxa is clearly the premium chamois cream.
It is worth taking a look at the ingredients of the Biomaxa in detail:
• Lanolin comes from wool, it is a lubricant and also stores moisture.
• Manuka Honey has anti-bacterial properties and this particularly variety (Leptospermum species) has a very high rating (UMF 15+). It hydrates and also helps with skin repair.
• Manuka Oil has antibacterial properties and can help treat and repair saddle sore and prevent infection.
• Bees Wax holds moisture, prevents pores being clogged and is a waterproof barrier for the skin.
• Water used in Biomaxa is from a natural aquifer below Canterbury, so it pure and free from contaminants.
While this all sounds very natural, there are also a couple of ingredients which sound more like a ‘science lab’ so I asked the Australian importer, Swift Sports about this and they quickly clarified the Natural classification with the brand.
“There is no specific regulatory standard around this globally – the best one in terms of guidelines being the “Natural Products Association” which is a USA based one for Personal Care Products. Biomaxa follows this standard.
For the product to be labelled or branded “natural” it must be made with at least 95% natural ingredients. A natural ingredient is one that has come or are made from a renewable resource found in nature (Flora, Fauna, Mineral) with absolutely no petroleum compounds.
So to be clear – whilst our product is classified as natural – our product does contain very small quantities of some allowable synthetic non-natural ingredients – specifically for emulsification and product stability. These compounds – on an approved list – are confirmed as having no readily available natural alternative ingredient and they are listed as having no suspected human health risks.”
Because it is personal, cyclists may find that certain brands work better than others. In my case I like the natural factor and New Zealand factor of the Biomaxa plus it works well so will happily rely on Biomaxa chamois cream.
The Biomaxa chamois cream is available in bike shops across Australia or online from swiftsports.com.au
Biomaxa Pro-Ride 100ml – $34.50
Biomaxa Pro-Ride 200ml – $49.95
Biomaxa Ultra-Ride 100ml – $25.50
Biomaxa Ultra-Ride 200ml – $42.95