One of the more memorable remarks during our transcontinental bicycle journey last fall was made by Cathy Blondeau, a rider from Victoria, British Columbia. It went something like this: “I’ve learned that on a cross-country bike trip you can apply Chamois Butt’r at a busy intersection, in broad daylight, with absolutely no shame.”
For those not familiar with the product, Chamois Butt’r is a cream that prevents saddle sores, resulting from the rubbing and chafing caused by sitting astride a bicycle for hours on end.
A similar product is more colorfully named Boudreaux’s Butt Paste, marketed to heal infants’ diaper rash but widely used by cyclists for saddle sores.
On Sunday, The Associated Press carried a story about another lubricant that I had never heard of — perhaps because I’ve never lived on a dairy farm.
It’s called Bag Balm, made in Lyndonville, Vt., since 1899, and originally intended to soothe the irritated udders of milk cows.
Today, the yellow-green ointment seems to have a variety of uses far removed from cows, ranging from silencing squeaky bed springs to preventing corrosion on military weapons. It was even used, the AP reported, to soothe “the paws of cadaver-sniffing dogs searching the World Trade Center rubble.”
“Long-distance bicyclist Andy Claflin says he started using Bag Balm on a cross-country race last June, when a teammate turned him on to it for saddle sores,” the AP story said.
“Claflin, 37, from Dayton, Minn., was suffering from saddle sores as he competed in the Race Across America. A teammate told him it was good for the sores, a bane of long-distance biking. So he slathered some on, down below.”
The AP quoted this testimonial from Claflin: “I was sitting there in Arizona, it’s 110 degrees, the air conditioning wasn’t working, the crapper in the RV wasn’t working, I gotta’ bike 100 miles in this heat and great, I’ve got to deal with this. It was nasty and filthy and it felt weird … But I didn’t have saddle sores from then on, riding 130 miles a day. When you’re on the bike, you’re like ‘Oh, this stuff is great.'”
I was fortunate not to suffer from saddle sores on our cross-country trek from San Diego to St. Augustine, Fla. My rear end was occasionally tender from long days on the bike, but I never developed saddle sores. I attribute that to my saddle: a British-made leather Brooks B17, favored by many long-distance cyclists. After it’s broken in, it molds itself to your posterior like a comfortable old boot.
So, I’m glad to say, I can’t vouch for any of the above-mentioned ointments.