Chamois School 301
We've been talking about chamois a couple times here on…
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We’ve been talking about chamois a couple times here on the blog in an effort to help you choose the best option for your riding style. There are a few elements to consider when considering which PEARL iZUMi chamois to pull on for your rides. If you missed out on those posts, jump over the Chamois School 101 and Chamois School 201.

Now that you’ve committed and made a choice on P.R.O., ELITE or SELECT let’s talk about how to get the best mileage out of that important piece of gear. Much like any tool on the workbench, when used properly a chamois can save your rides and something that rhymes with grass.

Many of you folks may already know some of these tips but there are some new riders joining the party here so let’s get them up to speed on a few things, and maybe we’ll surprise a few of you more seasoned riders with some other tips.

Let’s start before you even walk out of the house or garage to grab the bike. First things first, get down to your birthday suit and ditch the undergarments. On the bike, it’s no undies, no panties, no manties. In order to get the best performance out of your chamois to eliminate chafing and maintain breathability, we gotta get everything out of the way. By getting your skin directly in contact with the super soft top sheet on all of our chamois you’ll get rid of wrinkles and irregularities that could lead to getting rubbed raw. Plus, you will allow for moisture to be wicked more effectively and efficiently from your skin which also can lead to chafing and painful riding. And there it is, go commando and be free!

Now that we have those out of the way, pull those shorts up and get jiggy with it. Put on the tunes if you need to but wiggle around, adjust some bits then get the chamois and leg grippers aligned in the right position. Sure, you might look like a track and field star at the starting blocks for a second, but getting all the fabric and your goods in the right spot now will pay off before you push a pedal.

Now here’s a curveball for some riders. Back in the day when chamois were made out of super “soft” animal skin they would dry out a bit and need some cream to soften up a bit and be compliant. We’re in the 21st century these days and we’re not using pelts to make chamois anymore. We engineer highly-technical fabrics and materials to work in a particular situation so that you don’t have to rely on something you might forget in the closet at home. Bottom line, don’t use chamois cream on a PEARL iZUMi chamois. In truth, the oils and other ingredients will actually clog up the chamois preventing it from working as designed. Meaning you will get moisture trapped between you and the top sheet which can lead to increased friction. That might lead to the need for something much different than chamois cream on your body when you get home. We don’t want you having to use ointment to heal up a wound or tell your riding buddies that our shorts are “terrible.” also, some creams may not wash out of the chamois and trap bacteria and other unpleasantries in the materials. Can you say, “Gross?” So, save some money and skip the cream when you put on your PEARL iZUMi bibs, shorts or tights. Now kit up with the rest of your gear and let’s roll!

That was a pretty sweet ride, today wasn’t it? Can’t wait to get back out there soon, so let’s take care of that highly engineered pair of stretchy pants. If you’re not going to wash your kit right away, don’t ball it up and toss it into the hamper. Let that Bad Larry hang out to dry a bit. The sweat and moisture need to dry out so if it gets balled up and sits to fester it’ll make for quite the aromatic experience. Once the gear is dry you can pitch it into the pile and take care of it with other synthetics when the time is right.

It’s laundry day!! When you go to clean up that favorite kit, turn that pair of bibs/shorts/tights inside out so the chamois is staring at you like an evil twin. This way the chamois will get the most powerful cleaning and rinse instead of hiding inside from the water and soap. Before you go pouring that random detergent you grabbed on sale at the store, we recommend you invest in a particular type of detergent for all of your technical fabrics. Look for a detergent that has zero fragrances and is in the “sensitive skin” end of the spectrum. The best out there is something along the lines of a technical detergent like Nathan Sport Wash, but other common brands make options like Tide’s “Gentle and Free.” Adding a bonus rinse is always good but not as necessary when using one of these purer detergents. Any soaps that use fragrances and other additives can actually bond to the bacteria and grime that you left in your gear and may not come out, making it smell not so fresh and so clean. We all have a jersey that stinks a bit more than the others, admit it.

After your machine chimes that the cycle is done, be sure to pull out those bibs/shorts/tights and hang them up to drip dry. Heating up the materials that make up the chamois will accelerate the breakdown of the foams as fast as a three-time World Champion in the final 300 meters. So, make room in the closet or on the shower rod to hang those chamois up nice and proud like your third-grade art project. Some PEARL iZUMi jerseys, jackets and even shell shorts are designed to be dried in the dryer on low heat. The heat will reactivate the DWR coatings to maintain water resistance. Be sure to check the interior label for washing care for each piece. If you’re like me and cut it out already and don’t remember what to do, hop on over to and if the item is still available you can click on the Care Guides button below the size options. Oh, and make sure everything is dry before you put those suckers back on for the next ride. Don’t want to be adding more moisture to the party. We’ve already talked about that rubbing you the wrong way.

A common question we get here at HQ is, “When do I replace a pair of shorts?” The honest answer is, it depends. No, not those kinds of Depends. But there certainly is a “life” to the foams that are used in chamois. They will eventually break down and make an impact, literally, on you and your rides. When you notice that it takes less and less time for the comfort level to vanish on your longer rides, it’s time. That being said, we see folks out there in classic black PEARL iZUMi shorts that have to be at least a decade or two old and still riding around. We do take pride in how long our gear will last, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a decline in those materials making them less effective in the needs of a cyclist. You might be gaining some breathability with those heavily worn shorts but you’re losing compression and support in a negative trade-off. More often than not, the chamois will lose its luster before the rest of the materials on your bibs/shorts/tights.

Chamois care recap: skip the skivvies; dance like nobody’s watching; save the creams for the massage table; ride like a champ; let the funk dry out; flip it inside out; wash it all away; hang ’em high and dry. Repeat often.

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32 thoughts on “Chamois School 301

  1. Interesting. I don’t know if I can go without my undies. I’m not a size 00, I’m on the larger end of the spectrum. Seems like too much exposure not sure the tights are thick enough so I’m not advertising to the world about my new found freedom.

  2. Thank you, for publishing this guide.
    I have well over 35 years of mountain-bike and some road riding experience. Ride almost daily and ride with cream. i do it, out of fear of chafing (old school) stopping me from riding. I’m going to take your advise, and try it without….. I’M SCARED ;-I
    As your files may reflect, I have used your bibs for many-many years and love them. The improvements are fantastic….

    • Thanks for the read and feedback, Lindal. It may seem counter-intuitive on the chamois cream, but I’ve been riding the last 15 years on synthetic chamois and only used cream twice. And it wasn’t really all that helpful. Enjoy the ride!

    • I used Woolite for delicate clothing items, and usually wash them in the sink. I am considering doing the same with my Pearlizumi Tri Elite Shorts, so had a look at a FAQ on Woolite. Al they say is that there is no harsh chemicals, like bleach and enzymes. You think Woolite is OK?

      • Hi there, thanks for your question. We double checked with our materials team and Woolite is OK for your Elite Tri Shorts.

  3. All my shorts are pearl izumi and I’ve never had to use chamois cream. Yay. What are your thoughts on using a little vinegar with the detergent to help with smells.

    • Thanks for sharing, Susan! As for the vinegar, we haven’t resorted to that just yet we know that it works on some instances with other fabrics or even appliances. Let us know if you find any good results. Enjoy the ride.

  4. Josh,

    I recently returned to (road) riding, after several (a lot) years off. I’ve always used top-end gear, including clothing. I’ve been testing out bibs from several manufacturers, and have settled on the Elite In-R-Cool with 3D Chamois, based on a former teammate’s recommendation. Now that I want more, I can’t find any. Do you have any bibs with the 3D, or has your marketing dept. just called them/it something else? If its no longer available, what’s the equivalent?


    • Hi Ray,

      Glad to have you back in the saddle! The 3D is no longer used, we have evolved those into the 1:1 Interface chamois. The new chamois is an inverted structure so there are no ridges or lines against your skin. They really are nice. The comparable bib short would be the ELITE Escape bibs. If you ride long you might consider stepping up to the P.R.O. Escape bibs.

      Let us know if you have any other questions. Enjoy the ride.

  5. While looking at the product lines, it is not clear what the purpose of one product line to another is. For example, there is an Escape, Quest, and Elite. What are the reason fro these different lines. Example, Elite and Escape shorts have different fabric. Why choose one over the other. Please proved a better overview?

    • Hi Ron,

      The Escape line is an aesthetic difference while the P.R.O., ELITE, and SELECT lines have different degrees of technical fabrics and features. Escape is has a more relaxed look and style with some features like extra pockets, while the Pursuit is more for race-minded riders who are just looking for the best fit and performance for rides at harder efforts.

      You can consider the SELECT, ELITE, and P.R.O. as in terms of great, better and best. Hope that clears up any confusion. Thanks for your comments.

  6. I just want to clarify about chamois cream…I understand that “back in the day” chamois cream was designed to moisten / soften the chamois. Today, there are different creams…so are you saying that one should not be using something like Chamois Butt’r even when doing longer rides? Just chamois, no any type of creams, correct?

    • Hi Walter, some riders do feel that creams help them avoid saddle sores but the creams can clog the foams of the chamois increasing moisture. When there’s increased moisture there is a potential for more movement of the fabrics against your skin which can lead to sores or chaffing. The creams can also become “stuck” within the foams and difficult to wash out leading to odor and bacteria build up.

      There is also an element of weather (humidity and temperature) to be considered, so if it’s super humid where you ride or extreme heat, managing that moisture will be tricky. Our chamois were designed with the intention to manage the moisture and keep the top sheet from moving around. There are no absolutes in life, so if you find that you need chamois cream to mitigate conditions to enjoy your ride do what you need to do. Just be sure to do it commando-style.

  7. Hi.

    Where does the “Select LTD Bike Shorts” fall in terms of aggressive vs adventure styling?

    Also would it be safe to presume it’s a more value item in the ‘Select’ range in terms of ride length?


    • Spencer, the SELECT will be our entry-level or shorter ride level chamois. SELECT is good for those quick rides or even an MTB ride where you’re not on the saddle as much. Thanks for asking.

  8. Can you please provide an overview of the different types of chamois you have for your shorts as there doesn’t seem to be any description on your website (including the amount of padding)?

    For example, I see “Tour 3D Chamois”, “premium P.R.O. Escape 1:1™ Chamois”, “SELECT Pursuit 1:1® Chamois”, “NEW SELECT Pursuit Chamois”, “New blended thickness SELECT Escape 1:1™ Chamois”, “New ELITE Escape 1:1™ Chamois”, “ELITE Escape 1:1® Chamois”, and “PRO Escape 1:1® Chamois”. There are probably more.

    It is EXTREMELY confusing to determine the differences as, other than these blogs, there are zero pages with information and pictures.

    I am a bicycle tourist, so i spent a lot of time in a more upright position on a road bike for long amounts of time (4-8 hours/day).


    • Hi MrBear, based on your description of 4-8 hours a ride/day, your best bet is to go with the PRO Escape chamois. It’s our best chamois for longer rides. That can be found in our PRO Bibs/Shorts.

      The main reason you see so many different options is that we’ve developed several different chamois over the last few years. Some that you have listed are not used in new products any longer. We are working on updating the website so that when purchasing there is some info to differentiate the chamois more simply, including a chamois/shorts info page. Along the lines of PRO = best; ELITE = better; Select = great. We are learning that the other info within the titles may sow some confusion. You won’t really find the Pursuit or Escape nomenclature going forward, as we’ve dropped it from most product names, but it is registered for the chamois.

      Sorry for the delayed response, your comment didn’t trigger a notification for me. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to email them to

  9. THANK YOU! I started riding a little over a year ago and I initially bought budget cycling shorts and learned quickly that a thin layer of Chamois Butt’r was necessary to prevent chaffing. When I upgraded to PI clothing, I kept using the creme for rides of more than about 10 miles. After reading your article, I went out today on a 30 mile ride with my Elite Escape shorts without Chamois Butt’r and I was perfectly fine!

  10. Which of your bibs has the least amount of padding in the perineum (male) area? I’ve got a “pro” saddle and the two pairs of bibs I have used in the past are sufficiently padded to push up in a way that’s equivalent to a no-cutout saddle. Basically, all of the extra padding fills up the cutout and I’m back at square one with numbness. I’ve tried a bunch of saddles, been to a shop to make sure my fit is ok, etc.

    TL/DR thick perineum chamois makes me numb. Which of your bibs have the thinnest chamois?

    • Hi Eric, our thinnest chamois is our PRO Pursuit Chamois, but those will be found only in our 2018 Pursuit bibs. The vast majority of other riders prefered the PRO Escape Chamois (a few millimeters thicker) so the Pursuit was discontinued. We are currently working on completely revamping our chamois for the 2021 season. Stay tuned!!

  11. I have found two very interesting offers of bibtights (they are 2018 models): one with ELITE Escape 1:1 chamois and the other with PRO Pursuit 1:1 chamois. What chamois of that two do you recommend for longer rides? According to your answers, it is clear that PRO Escape chamois is the best for longer rides but I have doubts if PRO Pursuit chamois will be better than ELITE Escape chamois because it is the thinnest and it was discontinued.

    • Hi Carlos, the PRO Pursuit is good for riders who want a thinner chamois for “road feel” but still great support from the multi-density foam. The ELITE Escape chamois would probably not hold up as well to a longer ride like the PRO Pursuit because the foams used are a lighter density so over longer time they might not be as comfortable. The other aspect about the PRO Pursuit is that the padding was designed for a more agressive body position on the bike. So there is better support for the soft tissues in that forward body position as opposed to a more upright position which moves the pressure further to the posterior area of sit bones. If you’ve been riding for some time and have essentially trained up your saddle time, I think you could go with either option. If you’re working up to longer rides and saddle time, the ELITE Escape might be better. If you are a rider that gets a lot of saddle time, some racing in the drops, and wants to have that “feel for the road” the PRO Pursuit would suit you. Hopefully, that gives some guidance.

  12. Hi Joshua, I’m a new cyclist (female) and I tried on some shorts at my local bike shop. I ended up purchasing a pair of men’s Escape Quest shorts because they felt the most comfortable in the fitting room. I didn’t realize they were men’s at the time. After reading the blog, I would like to try a women’s pair. I usually do short rides 10-20 miles and I prefer a longer short. What do you recommend? Also, I’m usually a women’s size 2 or 4, but the smalls seemed like I might rip them trying to pull them up. Is a women’s small for like a size 0? Also, what chamois is in the men’s Escape Quest?

  13. Hi Joshua,
    My Pearlizumi real chamois shorts are finally refusing to bounce back! I have nursed these 3 pairs for years (clearly, LOL). I have been riding for 40 years (not in the same shorts LOL, but Pearlizumi real chamois). I ride about 20 miles 2 to 3 days per week. (used to ride more ;P) I tried 1 pair of “foam” or faux chamois and I hated them. I’m 5’3 and 117. What do you recommend? I’m combing the net for real chamois.

    • Hi Kim, not really sure where you could find another real chamois. The only idea I can think of is a saddlery maker. As in horse saddles. They might be able to source some lambskin, the only hurdle will be finding a way to stitch them back into the shorts or swapping out a foam chamois from a new pair. Keep in mind that you’ll void any warranty on the bibs by doing this. If you were to ride a newer foam chamois, I would say that since you’re used to not having a ton of cushion, the Select might be for you. The PRO would be my next suggestion. It’s not super thick but has good support and saddle feel. I’m guessing the Elite would be too much for you in terms of thickness. Hope that helps.

  14. > We are currently working on completely revamping our chamois for the 2021 season. Stay tuned!!

    Hey Josh, can I get something like I got in the last millenium?

    I’ve been bike commuting since about 1995. I had four pairs of shorts: two Pearl Izumi Ultrasensor, and two Sugoi Technifine. The chamois in each look like a piece of leather pulled off a baseball. The chamois have lasted through three jobs, three bikes, and tens of thousands of miles.

    It’s come to the point where I have to replace my shorts. I went to a bike shop and tried some on. They had a big foam “chamois” that looks like it was made for someone who has never been on a bike before. It felt like I had a bike seat between my legs before I even got on my bike. I figured ok, the mass market stuff is made for the mass market. Maybe I should try a fancy brand, like Rapha. Same deal–though not so ridiculously overpadded.

    Can I get shorts with chamois anywhere like you used to make them? From any brand? I don’t ride with a big fat cushy bike seat like you’d get on a Walmart cruiser. The last thing I want is a big fat cushy short. I just want a nice piece of fake leather to spread out the impact points.

    • Hey AP,
      Totally understand where you’re coming from with regard to wanting a low-profile lower-support chamois for riding. The real chamois (and some synthetic leathers) of yesteryear are just not made anymore. In your rare case, you might actually consider the Attack or other SELECT level shorts/bibs that we make as the chamois is not super thick or firm. The longer you go on the ride the more the foam will give and provide that firmer feel. The ELITE chamois will be too thick and “comfy” for your preferred experience, and it sounds like the Pro would be a little more supportive than you’ve been used to.

      The only other thought you might consider is to look into a saddlery shop near you and see if you can get them to tan a legit lambskin to sew into your pair of shorts/bibs. With the real leather, you’ll have to maintain it more with creams to prevent it from drying out and cracking. Maybe they will have an idea as far as potentially using synthetic leather too?

      For a brief overview of the history of chamois, you can check out this Bicycling Magazine article:

      Hope that all helps.

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