there are, as all too many of us are aware, rights of passage to be endured as we head towards that well-deserved professional contract. we already have the passion, the intensity, the fitness and in at least one direction, the speed. all that remains to be acquired is strategy, skill and the knowledge of which way round to wear a pair of shorts.
some of you may remember a uk based firm by the name of been bag, responsible for providing some particularly fine, left of centre cycling apparel, more readily aimed at the offroad market. it is to my great credit that i owned a pair of their slightly baggy and not altogether full-length trousers, featuring a rather ostentatious but highly decorative multi-coloured stripe down the outer edge of each leg. though simply an eager customer, i feel they must have known of my proclivity for experiencing the earth's gravitational pull, for the top section of each leg bore a lightly padded section, one capable of alleviating at least some of the thud felt as i fell off the mountain bike once more.
however, on discovering the exciting world of road cycling, head cocked backwards as i sped along firmly grasping those white taped drop bars, the aforementioned pair of been bags appeared just a tad incongruous. and sat on a more razor-like saddle, they failed to provide the level of comfort once enjoyed while trammeling across the sand dunes on bouncy forks. the only solution available is one that meets virtually every uk-based roadie wanabee; the comic.
before the days of the interweb, the back pages of cycling weekly were literally awash with multi-page advertisements from the regulars, enticingly listing the price of every item of componentry offered by either shimano or their italian counterparts. and further down those crammed lists would be the offer of certain indispensible items of cycling apparel. in the case under discussion, we only have eyes for cycling shorts.
as a right of passage, the choice of such netherware is fraught with danger, and in those bygone days was even more so. we currently luxuriate in a plethora of enticingly coloured and decorated chamois pads, none of which have ever come across even a photograph of the carpathian mountains, let alone the breed of deer inhabiting their slopes. but, as the name suggests, this was not always so.
as a member of a cycling club, there would doubtless have been some old fogies still dressed in wool jerseys and weathered molteni caps who could have advised the youth of the day. but the individualist, ensconced on a hebridean island bereft of any recognisable cycling heritage was pretty much left to his own devices. and the back pages of the comic. for at the point of purchase, that chamois pad was a soft as the cloth your mother used to wash the kitchen windows. suddenly posterior comfort had reached hitherto unrealised proportions.
but wash those recently acquired shorts (a process that arrived very quickly) and when the lycra was dry, followed closely by that of the pad, subsequent wearing would be more likely to take on the characteristics of a brillo pad. suddenly, the true properties of so-called chamois cream became all too glaringly obvious.
as an appendment to this possible source of injurious discomfort, was the option of a garment referred to in those advertising columns as bibshorts. the occasional illustration alerted the newbie as to the constitution of said garment, but how to size the blighters? ought one simply to take account of one's waist size, or, considering the length of those bib straps, would it be better to order on the basis of height. the less kind amongst us would offer that this is a decision that is still rife with confusion.
however, the original purpose of chamois cream was, quite patently, to restore the softness apparent in the pad at point of purchase. once dry, or perhaps even prior to, the cream was necessitously and conscientiously rubbed into the tan coloured pad, that on our way to that pro contract, the undercarriage might retain most, if not all, of its original pre-velocipedinal function.
however, now that the antelopes of central europe are safe from militant marksmen despatched from the cycling apparelists of italy, and the word synthetic is the preferred pre-fix to any contemporary pair of shorts, is chamois cream still necessary on a bike?
i know of those who would answer with a resounding no!, including many who have never appreciated its original purpose. but i think there are still as many who'd answer yes and i'd count myself resolutely amongst their number. without wishing to delve too far into a portion of the sunday morning ablutions, i will not wear a pair of padded shorts, bib-threequarters or tights without first applying an appropriate quantity of chamois cream.
though i do have my preferred brand, i'm always open to suggestion, particularly if it originates from the home of hard-man cycling. yes, i am talking about belgium, but you may be surprised to learn that the name on the label is that of morgan blue; as surprised as i was, come to that.
for a name i have never come across before, it was with a breath of amazement to discover just how many professional race teams rely upon their extensive range of products to get them through the season. how many proferrers of chamois cream do you know that also produce chain oil, bike polish and chain degreaser? exactly. their chamois cream is of a remarkable light consistency and utterly devoid of aroma. and in a physical demonstration of their versatility, morgan blue offer not only solid chamois cream for wet weather conditions, but a counterpart known as soft chamois cream which is recommended for dry weather.
the dichotomy or conundrum is why uk distributors windwave would take it upon themselves to send me the latter, given the hebridean predilection for precipitation. in truth, i have ridden not only in wet conditions, but on a bicycle that has no earthly means of attaching mudguards should such be deemed necessary. what i'm attesting to in a rather devious manner is that the 23mm rear tyre has been spreading grime and splash across most of my backside without, so far as i can detect, any detrimental effect.
in this respect, i have every faith in those belgians; they will know at least as much about agricultural toothpaste and pouring rain as the flandrians of the west. it is good stuff. in fact, it's very good stuff, no matter the climatic directions on the label. it is, if you will forgive the colouristic wording, pretty transparent in use; i can honestly say that the consistency of its constitution has not been uppermost in my mind as i slog into yet another atlantic headwind.
and in the manner described by many a housewife with regard to the kindness of her washing-up liquid to care of her hands, i think i might offer the same praise to the care and attention provided by morgan blue's chamois cream to my bum.
a white plastic 200ml tub retails at £9.99, a particularly efficacious price for the quantity involved, and none too onerous even if you are of the opinion that modern padded shorts are perfectly acceptable raw (so to speak). i do have one or two other items from the morgan blue range sitting in either my bathroom or bikeshed for review over the coming weeks, but i am quite aghast at the breadth of their range considering i'd never heard of them before.
and they're belgian.
monday 18th february 2013..........................................................................................................................................................................................................