What makes a good tri chamois?
We’ve all been there- halfway into a long ride and that’s when the discomfort starts. Whether it’s saddle sores, chaffing, or pressure, the results are always the same; your ride is ruined and you hate life all the way back. While the vast majority of saddle sore issues can be resolved simply with lower saddle positions (3-5 mm lower is generally all it takes), a appropriately-fitted saddle, and/or light use of anti-friction creams, the problem will persist if the root cause is a poor-quality chamois. This is especially true for triathletes because oftentimes brands attribute “triathlon” to mean shorts with thinner, less advanced padding. Tri-specific chamois have come a long way in the past 10 years. But some brands remain in the past.
But apart from flipping a pair of shorts inside out and squeezing the pad, do you know what to look for in a good tri pad?
Here’s 3 points:
No seams on the pad itself, and minimal seams on the edges
This image shows an example of a pad which is sure to cut you up. Thick seams along the edges can act like razor blades to the skin and additional seams on the interior of the pad that do not channel sweat results in a case of a constantly wet butt . By contrast, the Epix chamois below shows how it should look- a minimal stitching on the outer edges. Tapered edges do soften any ridgeline, no stitching lines whatsoever on the internal parts of the pad, and defined and well guttered moisture lines that also function as pivot points on the pad when rotating to and from aero position.
How thick the actual padding is varies greatly between brands. Pictured above is Epix’s men’s cycling chamois, note the distinct differences in sweat channeling, shape and width than our Tri pad. This is because there are unique demands on a cycling specific pad than a more dynamic tri pad. Namely – a much less aggressive seating position, the lack of being previously soaked from a swim, and even considerations towards the seat styles of road bikes to tt bikes. Bike seats have tended to get harder and harder, the amount of padding provided on tri-specific chamois hasn’t changed much over the years. Tri pad options tend to hinge on individual athlete preferences rather than an industry-wide trend. While some triathletes like the minimal fleece or polyester soft chamois (which is just an extra layer of fabric), others feel the foam micro-polyester style pads offer more comfort (and much more padding).
Most molded tri chamois range between 2 and 6mm of padding.
Epix tri chamois offers the highest amount of foam padding in the industry, which a variable thickness up to 8mm on the sit bone and forward regions. This is because we felt in large part competitor pads never felt comfortable enough during long rides or full-distance events. A benefit of molded pads, and why you see them increasingly in triathlon, is because we can control the mold density in key areas of the pad. Much like you see some cycling pads have firmer area’s near the sit bones, for triathlon, we can tailor the density to best suit triathlon-specific applications- ensuring a pad that provides support while also being crucially flexible during the run. The key is maintaining sufficient padding to relieve saddle pressure and keeping your feet from falling asleep. A chamois is not, by design, to be a soft Cadillac to an otherwise uncomfortable seat or seating position. Your apparel works in tandem with a well fitted and comfortable bike.
Moisture- wicking, quick-dry In general, keeping moisture away from your skin is the best way to keep it from breaking, which creates chaffing and sores. A good tri chamois will have the same functionality as most high-end cycling chamois have- a construction which allows moisture and humidity to escape. This is especially important for triathletes as you’re wet when emerging from the swim, hence the skin is immediately softer and more susceptible to chaffing. You can tell if your chamois has moisture-wicking function by checking if there are clearly-defined channels within the pad for moisture to escape, as well as a dimpled texture underneath the top layer. Some pads are pierced with small holes- this can also be effective. The Epix molded chamois is a good example of a quick-dry construction. If you race in very hot/humid conditions, this is especially important for you.