A cycling pad, also known as “chamois” or “bikepad” or "Fondello" (Italian), "Gamuza" or "Badana" (Spanish), Peau (French) is a protective insert that is applied in cycling shorts with the main purpose of protecting the groin from the friction of constant and prolonged saddle contact. Cycling pads were developed at the beginning of the 1900s and were exclusively made of deer leather up until the 1980s, when technical fabrics were introduced, and allowed for enhanced performance.
The first high-tech thermo molded cycling pads date back to the early 1990s; gel inserts also make their first appearance and are used in addition to polyurethane foams for extra comfort.
It is only in the year 2000 that the chamois is produced with an elastic technology, which allows the pad to move with the cyclist's body. This technology acts as an elastic interface between the cyclist's body and the saddle, and it is these very few square inches that are vertically subject to body weight and pressure. For this reason it is essential for a cycling pad to be capable of protecting the body from the compression the body exerts in contact with the saddle and from chafing in the inner leg area, that is due to the thousands of pedal strokes and revolutions that a cyclist carries out during a normal workout.
The cycling pad is the most important component of the entire cycling short. Its functions are to:
Protect the cyclist's body, whose weight exerts vertical pressure on the saddle, supplying maximum protection, particularly at a perineal and ischiatic level, beyond delivering the highest level of comfort possible. The athlete can then focus and concentrate on his pedal stroke instead of coping with discomfort and annoying pains that can arise due to continuous compression on a limited surface such as a bicycle saddle.
Supply protection so as to avoid chafing due to pedal strokes. An athlete can easily count an average of 100 pedal strokes per minute, totaling 18,000 revolutions in three hours. Without an adequate cycling pad, continuous chafing can lead to rashes and perhaps even cause the skin to tear.
Offer a skin compatible, hygienic solution (since cyclists do not wear undergarments beneath their shorts) by absorbing sweat and leaving the skin in the intimate parts as dry as possible, preventing skin irritation.
The best cycling pads on the market have bacteriostatic properties, thanks to exclusive fabrics that are developed with carbon thread for instance, a material that is naturally bacteriostatic and antistatic, free from antibacterial treatments, which instead are often chlorine based and may lead to skin irritations, in addition to eliminating the endogenous bacterial flora of the skin, favoring the proliferation of exogenous harmful bacteria and potentially creating resistant strains of bacteria.
Allow the athlete to reduce his oxygen expenditure, hence saving energy, measurable in Watts (as has been proven by a preliminary study carried out by Prof. Antonio Paoli, MD, from the department of biomedical Sciences at the University of Padua, Italy. Thanks to the increased comfort that high quality cycling pads offer, the cyclist can maintain better posture in saddle and carry out regular movements. With lower grade performing cycling pads delivering inadequate protection, the athlete is bound to have less saddle stability and will lose power while shifting trying to adjust in order to find a more comfortable position, thus wasting oxygen and energy that could otherwise be used to achieve better result and athletic performance.
There are different types of chamois that are intended for different purposes:
Long distance rides call for a cycling pad with multi density elastic interface inserts, made with ultra-high density foams. Some pads available on the market have up to four different foam densities that come in contact with different areas of the body, that interface with the saddle. There are also extreme categories, like Ultracycling, for those who race up to 24 hours consecutively.
A bikepad for short to medium distance rides will be made with less protection and the elastic interface inserts will be made with polyurethane based foams, having medium density and that allow for greater freedom of movement on and off the saddle.
Furthermore, there are specific pads designed for special cycling disciplines such as triathlon, mountain bike, cyclocross, crono time trial and evenindoor cycling and more.