By Ed Pavelka
After using these 2 chamois lubes for an equal number of rides in similar conditions, it’s a coin flip as to which does a better job. The real winner is cyclists seeking greater saddle comfort with less chance of friction and chaffing.
I hadn’t heard of Sportique Century Riding Cream or Beljum Budder before wandering by their displays at the Interbike trade show in September 2008. As a sucker for anything that might make me and other roadies more comfortable on a bike seat, I arranged for a sample of each product.
Both lubes boast “all natural” ingredients. They seem virtually identical in their slippery consistency but aren’t greasy. One check I use for chamois lubes is how they wash off my fingers in warm, body-temperature water after I apply them. Each of these dissolves in a few second and leaves just a trace. Likewise, they wash cleanly out of cycling shorts, even in cold water.
Medium-weight creams like these are very different from the heavy-duty protection afforded by 2 cycling-unspecific products popular among high-mileage riders — old favorite Bag Balm and the new goo on the block, Lantiseptic Skin Protectant. These products are essentially waterproof. They make water roll off like rain on a Simonized hood.
If you’re familiar with Chamois Butt’r, Sportique and Budder are slightlythicker, work better and last longer. When I climb out of my shorts after 3-hour rides with Sportique or Budder, I can still feel slickness on my skin even though the chamois is merely damp, not slippery. Butt’r tends to disappear quicker. Judged against these newer products, that old favorite is sliding off the back.
I use lots of lube since seeing a documentary on Lance Armstrong. In one scene he was getting dressed for a ride. He scooped out half a tub of Assos Chamois Creme and turned his shorts liner white with it. Hmmm, I thought: Maybe I haven’t been using enough. I also thought: Must be nice to be a millionaire. Swiss-made Assos costs about the same as Budder or Century Riding Cream but you get only 140 ml — about 2-3 rides worth if you slather it like Lance.
My application technique is to turn shorts inside out and rub lube into the main crotch contact area. (I have several brands of shorts, all with fabric “chamois” liners rather than real leather.) I make sure to get lube into all seams and edges where I sit, then I put plenty in the chamois center. Next I coat my skin, paying extra attention to places that experience says could be troublesome. The real trick is stepping into the shots without disturbing all this finger painting. I pull up the shorts firmly and squarely, making sure that the rear center seam is aligned with my rear center seam. And off I go.
Sportique is a Czech company with a social conscience. It doesn’t test products on animals and it donates a portion of proceeds to cancer research. If you click the Sportique website, you’ll see an impressive array of skin care products.
Century Riding Cream has a distinct formula based on botanical and natural ingredients “infused” (the company’s word) with antifungal and antimicrobial ozone. In this case ozone is a good thing. The cream provides silicone lubrication to limit friction, and its medicinal properties promise to heal skin damage if it does occur. The formula contains wintergreen, which produces a slight cooling/burning sensation (depends on your skin’s sensitivity), but it’s not as pronounced as mentholated Assos.
You get the feeling from the label that Century Riding Cream is actually an all-purpose friction-reducing skin lube and conditioner that’s been packaged to give Sportique a product for the cycling market. That’s not a bad thing. It means there are various other uses besides chamois lubrication. For example, this cream is recommended under dry and wet scuba, surfing and kayak suits and under socks for hiking and skiing.
Century Riding Cream comes in a stand-up tube with a flip-open cap. It takes a firm squeeze get it through the small opening. In fact, it works better to lay the tube on its side and press it with a palm. The off-white substance that finally emerges seems so thick that you’d assume it’s a tacky paste, but it liquefies on contact with skin or a chamois.
Perhaps because of eucalyptus and numerous other oils in its formula, Century Riding Cream has a strong, almost industrial odor — more noticeable than in any other lube I’ve used (although Lantiseptic is pretty close). When I’m applying this lube, Joleen knows it in the next room. “Sportique!” she’ll announce. Jo’s glad there is plenty of air moving when she’s behind me on the tandem.
This creamy white lube comes out of its stand-up tube easily. It boasts of being “hard core,” but “medium core” is more like it and that makes it right for lots of riders.
Beljum Budder makes a big deal out of being paraben free, but it’s not in Century Riding Cream’s list of ingredients either. Paraben is a chemicalpreservative that mimics the hormone estrogen. Evidence suggests it can play a role in the development of breast tumors. (Assos contains methylparaben; Chamois Butt’r contains methylparaben and propylparaben.)
This lube is made in Oakland not Belgium, despite the name and a label with that country’s national colors. Its formula uses no animal products and, in fact, claims to be vegan. It also does not use animals for product testing. Several ingredients give Beljum Budder antibacterial properties to help limit the Petri-dish effect inside cycling shorts. Vitamins A, D and E are in the mix.
Beljum Budder is fragrance free, meaning none is added. You can smell it during application but the aroma isn’t nearly as strong as Century Riding Cream’s. This could be a plus, depending on your social circumstances or olfactory sensitivity.
Like Century Riding Cream, Budder feels smooth and slippery when being applied, and I could still feel it on my skin after 3 hours of riding. I can’t vouch for either lube on rides of century length because none were taken. However, it seemed like 3 hours might be about the limit of their effectiveness without reapplication. Both lubes are available in small, one-use packets that can easily be carried on rides.
These lubes are equally effective, they are “all natural” and they cost about the same. A slight, half-star nod goes to Beljum Budder for 2 reasons: A tube contains 33% more lube and it has a milder aroma. Either lube, though, should help you ride more comfortably with less risk of chaffing.
My wife Joleen used both products too. She feels they are alike in terms of protection, but she didn’t care for Century Riding Cream’s odor, its slight “tingle” on private parts or the effort it took to squeeze it from the tube. Because Budder is free of these annoyances, she liked it better.