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Technical FAQ: Allergic to Chamois?

  • By Lennard Zinn
  • Published Sep. 10, 2013
Companies place a lot of emphasis on chamois construction and placement, but not all pads are right for everyone. Photo: VeloNews.com

Chamois allergies

Dear Lennard,
I have recently developed a pretty severe case of contact dermatitis from my chamois, according to my dermatologist. The chamois is about two years old, and it’s been fine in the past. I have been racing/riding since 1991, and this has never happened before. I have seen companies advertise their product as hypoallergenic, but do you know of a product or a company that focuses on hypoallergenic clothing?

I use free and clear dermatologist-recommended laundry detergent. I also always put my load on a second rinse. I guess I could try soaking my gear for an extended period of time after the wash. I’m working with my dermatologist to have an allergic test done. However, somewhat of an indicator is that I had this problem while I was in Iraq as well, with no exposure to any kind of synthetic athletic clothing, and while it was less severe, it was still present. The idea is that I’ve developed an allergy to synthetic materials, and that when I wear something like cycling gear, it is presented to my body in a much more rigorous and intense way.

I would love to get back to riding again and I dread the idea of being confined to an elliptical machine!
— John

Dear John,
Wow. That’s a bummer. It sounds like you’ve done some things to minimize it, but the comment that stood out for me is that you talked about your cycling shorts in the singular. It begs the question of whether you wear that chamois more than once before washing, as well as whether you allow it to dry completely after washing before wearing it again. If you really only have one pair of cycling shorts, that would be the first thing I’d change if I were you.

A good friend of mine got a terrible skin infection recently that he attributed to wearing the same pair of cycling shorts two days in a row for rides in hot, summer weather.

I ran your question about hypoallergenic clothing by some cycling-clothing manufacturer representatives and one chamois cream maker, and here are some of their responses.
― Lennard

From Pearl Izumi:

Here is some feedback from our Custom Service Manager who has been working with customers for a couple decades here at Pearl Izumi and been an active four-season racer/rider for 30 years. Please note: without getting a lot of details about what chamois he is in and what he is experiencing, this is pretty hard to diagnosis or put out a public statement, but in general, there is little to nothing in a chamois to be a allergic to, so we usually start with what might be getting into the chamois that could be causing a reaction.

While not proven, we dealt with one prolific US TT guy who would get a rash anywhere his own sweat stained next to his skin. How he came to be allergic to his own sweat, or something that was in his sweat, we still are unsure.

“If the chamois was fine for two years, then he’s likely not allergic to any of the materials. It’s more likely that the chamois has been contaminated by detergent or some sort of chamois cream that’s not washing out thoroughly, so it’s harboring unfriendly bacteria. I spoke to a consumer a couple of weeks ago, and we determined that his slimy chamois cream was clogging up the chamois fabric. He poured some rubbing alcohol over the chamois to remove the chamois cream, rinsed it out a few times, then laundered properly, and the problem went away. He might also want to check and see if there has been a change of detergent or fabric softener in his household.

I also hear from people who never put their clothes in the dryer, but if they live in a humid climate (or they only have one pair of shorts that they use day in and day out), it’s hard for the foam deep within the chamois to dry out completely, so I tell them to use the dryer on a low setting and to run the shorts through until they’re truly dry.”
— Cache Mundy
VP Product + Brand
Pearl Izumi

From Vermark:

In Belgium right now, all of our pads have passed the hypoallergenic test.

We spoke about this yesterday; it’s a big problem with products made in China (not to stereotype). Europe is starting to do compliance with putting the manufacture address on tags.

He should just throw them away. Who knows how long he’s been biking in the same bibs; also, he needs to get dye- and fragrance-free detergent, line dry outside in the sun if he can. Solar does amazing things.
— Brian Worthy
Vermark Guy Who’s Everywhere

From Dave Zabriskie:

Even if it’s hypoallergenic, that might not stop the contact dermatitis. I feel the contact dermatitis happens more in really hot weather. I’d take a break from that pad. Let it heal up. Don’t sit around in your shorts after rides. Wash it well and let it dry. Sometimes nice to expose to direct sunlight.
—Dave Zabriskie
President, DZ Nuts and Fast Guy on Garmin-Sharp

From Squadra:

Our pads are all made with materials that pass the Oeko-Tex Standard 100 test for harmful substances … but not any specific hypoallergenic standards that I know of.
— Dan Weatherford
President
Squadra, Inc.

We do not market our pads as hypoallergenic, but they are antimicrobial/antibacterial in function. It could be possible that a person may be allergic to the polyester seat surface and or foam used in padding internally in the products. But we have not had any issues to date.
— Greg “Dough” Demgen
VP Sales
Squadra, Inc.

From Castelli:

We have an antibacterial treatment but nothing to make it hypoallergenic.
— Steve Smith
Castelli Brand Manager

From Mavic:

Our chamois pads have an antimicrobial surface fabric, and they’re made of non-irritating materials, but we don’t call out the materials as hypoallergenic.

I wonder if chamois cream would help?

Or maybe it’s just a case of the chamois being worn out after two years?
— Zack Vestal
Mavic PR Manager

From Curve:

Yes, some of our pads do have antibacterial/antimicrobial treatment. Our PTN pad has this treatment. Our higher-end pads do not have any special treatments.

To be honest, usually any issues are associated with particularities associated with lack of laundering, sensitivities to detergents, etc.

Our pads are the same ones used by pro racers who spend more time in the saddle than nearly any other cyclists, and we have direct feedback that they do not experience saddle sores, etc. I can say the same in my experience.

Certain laundry additives (Oxi Clean, etc.) will kill anything. We recommend some kind of disinfectant if people are sensitive to skin irritations. Fabric antibacterial treatments usually wear off with a certain number of washings, anyway.
— Henrik Nejezchleb
President, Curve Inc.

Follow-up on last week’s Tech FAQ

Dear Lennard,
Shimano has 6700 and 6700-A rear derailleurs. The -A is rated to 30t in both short and medium cage. Distributors now sell only -A.

A tandem I recently worked on came with a 6700 GS and an 11-32t cassette, which worked poorly out of the box and then developed interference that was not possible to eliminate. The 6700-A GS works much better, allowing the 32t to function properly despite being beyond the rated range, without having to have the b-screw flipped or barely hanging onto the derailleur hanger.
— Chris

Follow-up on August 13 Tech FAQ

Hutchinson didn’t weigh in on this question, and a representative of the company wanted to respond to the reader’s question and Schwalbe’s comments.

Regarding perceptions of the two Road Tubeless tires that Winsor is referring to and the comments of the Schwalbe rep.

Fusion 3 and Intensive composition
Both the Fusion3 and Intensive Road Tubeless tires share the same casing, puncture breaker (bead to bead), and compounds. 70 ShA on the rolling tread and 60 ShA on the cornering band [editor’s note: this refers to the durometer of the rubber compound]. The difference between the Intensive and the Fusion3 is that the tread is 1mm thicker on the Intensive to increase the amount of longevity of the rolling tread (older 3+ years Intensives had a thermoplastic material in the compound to improve wear. This was removed to improve grip and ride). This would slightly decrease the suppleness of the Intensive on the road

Pressure
These two tires are rated to a maximum pressure of at 8.7 bars, or 125 psi. However, there’s no reason to ever approach those pressures with Road Tubeless.

The proper “pressure zone” is probably 85-100psi for most riders for the most comfortable ride, lowest rolling resistance, and tire life.

You can easily tell the tire manufacture date of a Hutchinson tire by the numbers in the circles molded into the tire.

Mounting
Mounting difficulties can be affected by several factors. Road Tubeless is inherently more difficult by the fact that Road Tubeless tire carbon beads only stretch about 2 percent, while regular polyamide beads stretch 6-7 percent. Add to that variations in rim section depth and manufacturing tolerances of rims related to ETRTO standards, and you have a chance of tire mounting difficulty. Hutchinson recommends using a 50-50 dish soap and water mixture to aid tire seating during inflation once mounted.

Performance
Every single component of a tire can make a significant difference in tire performance, life, and efficiency. It is probably one of the most overlooked and variable component performance metrics.

For example, the new Hutchinson 23mm Atom Galactik Road Tubeless tire makes significant performance gains with a new modified puncture breaker and an all-new casing material.

This tire could not have been manufactured when Hutchinson created the first Road Tubeless tires six years ago. Literally Road Tubeless 2.0.

— Richard Goodwin
PR & Marketing Liaison
Hutchinson Tire North America

FILED UNDER: Bikes and Tech / Technical FAQ TAGS:

Lennard Zinn

Lennard Zinn

Our longtime technical writer joined VeloNews in 1987. He is also a framebuilder, a former U.S. National Team rider, and author of many bicycle books, including Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance and Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance, as well as Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes and Zinn's Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in physics from Colorado College. Readers can send brief technical questions to Ask LZ.

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