Doc’s All-Natural Chamois Cream–A Review

What do you use down there? Guest poster Jeff Hemmel has some stuff you might not have heard of.

I used to ride sans anything slippery in my shorts, then followed my local bike shop owner’s suggestion to try chamois cream as I began to put in more and more miles. Now, spending a LOT of time in the saddle every month, I’m a believer in that weird glop known as chamois cream.

I’ve tried quite a few, even did a little “chamois cream shootout” for this blog a year or two back. But my new favorite is a lesser-known brand dubbed Doc’s All-Natural Chamois Cream (www.docscycling.com).

All you Texans will probably appreciate the fact that Doc’s is actually made in the Lone Star State, but what I liked about it is that Doc’s is made by, you guessed it, an actual doctor. A practicing physician who is also a Cat 2 racer, this Doc wasn’t thrilled by the price and questionable effectiveness of chamois creams he found on the market, so he decided to whip up his own. Doc’s All Natural Chamois Cream lists no artificial or petroleum-based ingredients like so many chamois creams, but instead relies on stuff like Witch Hazel and a strong concentration of Tea Tree Oil to fight grunge, and Aloe and Coconut Oil to prevent chafe and keep your skin happy.

I found Doc’s while looking for a product similar to Dave Zabriskie’s DZnuts, which I like but find too expensive for regular use. Doc’s follows a similar all-natural route, but gives you an 8-ounce jar for about $20, less than half the price of DZnuts and on par with bike shop standbys like Chamois Butt’r. At first glance Doc’s product seemed just a tiny bit thinner in consistency than some lubes, but after months of use I’ve had no problems with saddle sores, even at the height of the summer, so guess I’m a believer.

Yes, I realize there are cheaper alternatives, from Bag Balm to Aquaphor. But I like the natural ingredient idea, particularly on something I use often, and appreciate that Doc’s appears to wash cleanly out of my shorts. A jar has also lasted me quite a while, so my “cost-per-ride” has been pretty cheap.

Currently the product seems to be available at a few Texas bike shops. The rest of us can find it on Amazon.

Review: The Jersey Bin

Guest poster Jeff Hemmel likes to review things, and he’s found something he likes.

Noob or not, cyclists like their baggies. I’m a little nutty about losing one particular worn, zip-style bag that’s just a little bigger than my iPhone. Inside I tuck my phone, a credit card, ID, and some cash. The small bag fits perfectly in my jersey pocket and keeps things — namely my phone — safe and dry.

Or at least, kept things safe and dry in the past tense. As handy as baggies are, they’re ridiculously thin. After repeated use, mine features multiple tears that no longer allow it to get the job done. And while I’m sure there are people who will now jump in and remind me that baggies are cheap (a whole box for a few dollars!), I like my small, pocket-sized baggie, not some oversize sandwich bag that I have to fold up in my pocket. And even if I didn’t mind the excess, it just seems kind of silly to keep going through sandwich bags repeatedly, let alone trust them to save your pricey smart phone from rain and sweat.

What I’ve really wanted is a heavier duty zip-lock bag little bigger than the contents I wanted to carry in it. That’s when I spotted a tweet from pro rider Ted King featuring that exact thing — a thick, tough, phone-sized, zip-style bag with a Strava logo. Turns out it was a privately labeled “Jersey Bin.”

Like a Ziploc on steroids, the Jersey Bin (www.jerseybin.com) is made from a 10-gauge vinyl that resists the pokes or tears that would bring a standard baggie to its knees. A sturdy zip closure seals everything up inside. Better yet, that “zipper” runs lengthwise. No more trying to cram my phone, and its grippy rubber case, down through the slim widthwise opening of the bag or struggling to extract some cash at a convenience store. The sideways zipper provides easy access. Sizes include mini, trim, and big. The mini nicely fits my iPhone, cash and cards, without excess. Go bigger if you’re the type who wants to carry more.

I’ve ridden with the Jersey Bin for about a week now. Positive marks include the fact that everything within has stayed absolutely dry. You can also easily use a touchscreen phone interface right through the vinyl (in fact, it seems to work better than my old thin baggie), you can make and receive calls with the phone still in the bag, and the bins — available in three sizes — all seem to fit comfortably in a jersey pocket. An unexpected side benefit is that the stiffer bag lays flat against your lower back; my old-school baggie often let items “sag” to the bottom of my pocket.

Downsides? They’re few. Personally I like the suppler feel of the frosted vinyl version, but the clear is easier when you want to view your phone’s screen. And yes, critics will bring up that whole “box o’ baggies” cost issue, but at only about $6 (including First Class or Priority Mail shipping), that’s kind of a silly argument.

A simple idea? Certainly. But one I’ve been looking for a long time…

Vredestein Fortezza SE Update

Back at the beginning of the year, I put a new set of tires on my bike — Vredestein Fortezza SEs. I wrote about the change from the Continental Gatorskins I had been riding, and promised an update once I had some miles on them. So here goes.

The update isn’t pegged to any specific mileage number or ride number, but rather, to my first flat on these tires. One of the things that has impressed me about the Vredesteins has been their puncture resistance. I’ve noticed that even with seven months’ use behind them, the tires have just a few miniscule cracks in the tread. Compared to some tires I’ve run in the past, these fill me with confidence, and I don’t even think about the possibility of a flat when I’m on a ride anymore.

Maybe that’s what contributed to my incident Sunday. I was leading a B ride with the club, and just a mile and a half from the start, I rolled over something. I think it was a twisted piece of metal, about six inches long. I was riding directly into the morning sun at the time, and didn’t see the thing until it was too late.

So I pulled over, and the group had to wait for the leader as I replaced the tube. The metal left a deep cut in the tread, but it’s less than a quarter-inch long. I had a chance to run my fingers around the tire to make sure there were no other problem areas, and I noted that the rest of it was still fairly cut-free.

After 2,015 miles on these tires, the verdict is in: I like them. I was a little concerned at the beginning, because they seemed to be a bargain brand for Performance Bike, where I bought them. Vredestein makes a Fortezza model, and the SE is supposed to be slightly heavier than that one. (SE stands for Special Edition, and I presume it is made specifically for Performance.) Vredestein is made in the Netherlands, and since that’s where my ancestors came from, that’s another (flimsy) reason I was attracted to them.

I took a look at the Vredestein website to see if the claims they make for the tire hold up.

Very low rolling resistance. True. I typically pump these up to 120 psi. The sidewall says they’ll take pressures from 115-160 psi — much more than the 100 pounds I was used to running in my old tires. The harder pressure does make the tires roll easier.

Outstanding ride quality. True. These things can transmit the feel of bad road surfaces up to the hands, but they also have a cushiony feel over bumps — evan at that high pressure. I hadn’t expected that soft sensation with these, and it was a pleasant surprise.

Protection layer. True. I know there’s a flat in every tire, and I found the flat in this one. But for routine riding around city, suburban, and rural roads, these have been the most trouble-free tires I’ve owned. And if I could have seen past the glare Sunday morning, they would still be flat free.

Vredestein says the Fortezza is a dry-weather tire. I have not had much occasion to ride it in the wet, especially with the extraordinary drought Texas is experiencing this year. The tires come only in 23mm widths, and I would have preferred the option to put on 25s, but because of the nice ride, it’s not that big a deal.

Vredestein makes a model called the Fortezza Tricomp which they claim is a four-season tire with good traction in both wet and dry conditions. When it’s time to replace these, I might look around for the Tricomps, although the difference in price might just be enough to send me back for another pair of SEs.