Wool is itchy!
At the turn of the last century when cycling became a legitimate past time and a sport, came into vogue, we were wearing clothes that were made from wool. Wool was a resource and the specialist clothes were most likely hand-knitted by your mother.
The wool clothing is a great insulating material but besides from sagging when you got wet, from sweat or weather, it was prickly and caused serious chaffing from the friction between the moving skin and the fabric itself. It was common back in the day that riders were uncomfortable whenever they rode, which makes this sport so much more a discipline, but were left bleeding after a leg in the journey.
What is, and Why the Chamois?
So, as the sport progressed, manufacturers started to make the clothing. They addressed the chaffing problem by sewing in a piece of Chamois in the seat of the pants which separated the skin for the wool fabric. The insert provided no cushion against vibration or road surface unevenness, it was purely separation.
Chamois is a European mountain goat-like animal, that had a particular hide. As its numbers reduced, sheepskin was substituted and “Chamois Cream” was applied to condition the leather to make it softer. Later in the 1940s and ’50s deer skin was used for racing teams as it was considered a softer material and more comfortable.
Introducing modern microfibres and a revolution in cycling wear
The clothing fabrics were revolutionised with the DuPont invention of Lycra in the late 1950s which lead to the wool and cotton fabrics becoming obsolete by the early 1960s. The Lycra fabric was thinner, lighter, had a stretch capability and was vastly more comfortable. By 1976 ASSOS was making shorts for the Ti Raleigh professional team and the Castelli company popularised the sport with its own version. The first padded non-leather version of the chamois was developed by Castelli in 1980 which was cotton-based padding but soon after, the Japanese invented the microfibre fabrics and brought them to Europe. The apparel maker De Marchi adapted the microfibre material to create sponge padding.
The role of the modern chamois
The role of the chamois in bicycle pants has not so much changed but it has been enhanced by the technology of materials and manufacture that make it and the advantages that this presents, to offer comfort to the rider so they can concentrate on one thing.
While the original role was to prevent chaffing, the new styles of chamois are tailored for use according to your attitude on the bike being
- ROAD POSITION: peak pressure points are in the perineal area, with an angle of 27-28° degrees;
- MTB POSITION: peak pressure points are in the ischiatic area, with an angle of 39-40° degrees;
- TRIATHLON POSITION: peak pressure points in correspondence of the pubic bones. The very narrow-angle at 24-25° degrees.
The chamois product has come a long way in its development, from a natural leather inlay to a technologically advanced and essential piece of cycling clothing. In recent years the chamois has made leaps and bounds regarding the technologies that go into the product. The products are becoming more environmentally friendly while offering the complete protection required for all cycling recreation and professional environments.
It was once said to me though, that a chamois is only as good as the saddle it is matched to. While this holds true, in a commercial sense, the saddle makers and the chamois makers work off similar data to design their products.
Perfuro Gear products are made with Elastic Interface chamois products in them, so in writing this article I posed a few questions about how the chamois are made and what is install for the future.
What are the key characteristics to keep in mind when choosing a cycling pad?
In the EIT Lab we defined five parameters need to be skillfully mixed to develop the right cycling protection for each discipline:
- Reliability – offering protection even after miles and miles of riding. Testing of the durability helps define the lifetime of the product
- Breathability – ventilation, air management to maintain that dry feeling and freshness for you and the product,
- Elastic Memory – preventing permanent compression and distortion so that the sponge is fully effective every time.
- Energy absorption – pedalling makes multiple strains which create energy and stress the perineal area. A well-performing chamois protects the rider in this vital connection for a smooth ride
- Vibration dampening / Shock absorbance – the surface being ridden is constantly transmitting vibrations through the bike. A well-insulated chamois provides comfort over all surfaces.
We are human, we are all different. How can we make these critical components without custom measurements?
Elastic Interface is able to design homogenized cycling pads thanks to the anthropometric parameters that have been measured in collaboration with the University of Padua. These parameters were measured with an academic approach, so by taking a defined number of people and by making an average for men and for women. The chamois protections are then designed to cover all “range points” so that they fit the majority of people.
The chamois also needs to interact with the saddle manufacturers, who, I imagine would also need to design to anatomical standards. This must be very important for size and shape. Does EI share their findings with saddle manufacturers, or vice versa, or once again is there a ‘standard’ produced that both items can be coordinated in design/fabrication? Do you guys regularly speak to each other (Chamois -> saddle) in so that you are both moving in the right direction with new models?
There are many saddle manufacturers and each of them offers many different styles. It would be hard for our customers to provide ad hoc solutions for all different saddles! For this reason, as part of the R&D process, we test our chamois on different saddles, so to make sure that they are suitable for most styles in the market.
Different fabrics with different qualities are offered for models of chamois which are tailored for the activity. The shape and the combination of sponges used, along with the construction of the chamois are considered in the design. The most popular styles contain the following features;
- Thermo moulded – The components are overlaid and put into a press where they are melded together under heat and pressure,
- Multi-directional Curvature, as with thermo moulded this process produces a 3D moulded chamois that fits better to your natural shape.
- Soft edges – to prevent discomfort within the change of materials
Elastic Interface also has policies in place to produce a sustainable product. The company works to the THREE R principal which is to
- Reduce –
- Reduce the amount of waste produced
- Reduce the paper and more sustainable packaging
- Reduce the number of new plastics used – Polyester, Polyamide are products of recycled PET bottles
- Reducing energy consumption
- Foam recycle program.
- Fabric recycling.
- Working with their supplier MITI for making sustainable fabrics.
- Moulds optimisation
Check out the Elastic Interface website which shows and explains the comprehensive range of cycling chamois to suit your cycling style https://www.elasticinterface.com/