DZ Nuts Chamois Cream
USPRO Time Trial Champion (and recent World Championship bronze medalist) David Zabriskie is a joker. His delivery is sufficiently dry that it's hard to tell when he's joking and when he's serious. When he introduced his chamois cream, DZ Nuts (pronounced "Deeeez Nuts"), it was likewise hard to get a read on him. Was this a goof or something he was serious about?
Looking at the packaging, something that seems designed to appear on the shelf next to intimate warming lubes, it seemed the product was a joke. The accessories the Z-man wore, a hat and t-shirt with the racy name and graphics, continued to mine the joke. Maybe the product is designed to launch a media empire, much in the way that Guy's Shoes and Powdermilk Biscuits are staple gags of Garrison Keillor. The salve could be anything, and it could serve as a placeholder for the joker to keep himself in the public eye.
Read the packaging. "High viscosity chamois cream." Step three of official application instructions reads, "Be a champion and enjoy the long, comfortable ride." And of course, the Zabriskie neologism "maintaintanance." Maybe. Maybe not.
When we saw tea tree oil at the top of the featured ingredients list, it screamed Health Food Store!! at us. We've shopped at health food stores, and have bought lots of good stuff at them, but there are so many products, from vitamin supplements to creams to oils to tea leaves that are supposed to dramatically improve your life in the aisles, yet so few have any data to back up the claims made, and usually there's a disclaimer mentioning how the FDA has not evaluated the claim. The other two major ingredients, evodia and masterwort are also very much of the health food store herbal remedy aisle.
We're not down on herbal remedies; we just feel that a good portion of the offerings are well-meaning Seneca oil. Some really do work, others "work" by being ingested when the real solutions were actually doing the job. So, as you might imagine, it was with a critical eye that we gave our first test to DZ Nuts chamois cream.
The white cream squeezed out of the black tube is of a viscosity between the Assos and NRG. It doesn't have as strong a sensation on the skin as the Assos and much stronger than the NRG. There's a tingling, but there isn't an "air conditioned" genitals sensation like you get from the Assos. It's a gentle sensation, one that stays for a good, long while.
Before we played with the Assos and NRG salves for the first time about 2 years ago, we'd never invested in a topical preparation for the skin/chamois interface. We didn't think we needed to. Saddle sores were rare, and when they developed, we devised a workable course of treatment. While saddle sores weren't an issue, raw skin developed now and again. Before that test, we had days when we'd ride 60-100 miles and notice that we didn't want to sit on the saddle at the end of the ride. We attributed it to fatigue, that because we were tired, we were sliding on the saddle, but really, it was the sensation of being rubbed raw we were trying to minimize. Since then, we've been using creams for longer rides, rainy rides, and time trials.
We figured a good test of DZ Nuts would be to take our least comfortable shorts and see if an application could turn them in to good shorts. The current low-flier of our shorts drawer is an older pair of team gear. This earlier generation Champion System short was fine for sitting on, but for races over 50 miles, it often tore us up. We worked some of the cream into the shorts, a little more onto ourselves, and away we went. 75 miles later, with a 44-mile race in the middle of that, we were fine in our finer region. It was as if we had worn our newer team gear.
The magic is listed on the side of the box. The big thing is the holistic tea tree oil, an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal oil. Also gives a nice scent. The herb evodia, another herbal anti-inflammatory, has wound healing properties. Helping the evodia is masterwort, a Swiss herb that is known for its wound healing and mental calming qualities.
Assos Chamois Cream, the standard of the industry, has ingredients that read more like a leather and skin conditioner than it does like a healing salve. We still like the Assos, but the promise of reducing bacteria, fungus, and inflammation is mighty attractive.
How does a bike pro, a guy whose job is to ride, eat, rest, sleep, have the time to design a topical ointment? He starts out as a fast, young guy who has a problem with saddle sores. Being that he wants to turn pro, he's got to find a way to keep riding. So he tries the usual solutions and then starts improvising with some of his own. Add to that mix, a "pharmaceutical scientist," who is also a cyclist, also suffers from excessive saddle sores, has been working on a solution, and even lives near the Z. They meet, trade notes, and that scientist, Marc Ward, continues to develop a cream. They team up with a marketing guy, design the label and boxes, and squeeze the product into tubes.
Ward says he approached Zabriskie after finding his web musings on caring for the genital area. We remember reading it some time ago ourselves, but haven't been able to track it down. The two had a common interest. They brought in a third guy, and started the biz.
Much like holistic cures, the proof is in the result. While we can't say we noticed the increased lubricity between our skin and the chamois, we noticed that we didn't feel raw and could settle on the saddle after long, mountainous rides. While we didn't notice any extremely fast saddle sore healing, we know we didn't have any saddle sores to begin with, and our crotch remained uncontaminated in that way throughout. Another success.
A question many have about using such products is how thick to put the stuff on. We don't think there's a single answer. We might use it a few times a week; so far, the tube has lasted us three months and we've still got plenty left. Ward is more sparing in his application and he goes through a tube in a month. Zabriskie is reputed to put DZ Nuts on so thick that it's coming through his chamois and he goes through a tube a week. Nothing like being your own dealer.
Whether or not Dave Z is joking, his stuff works. We used it with our "good" shorts as well. And on long days. And during races. Even when the races were short and flat. And even though our customers reflexively order Assos cream -- oftentimes by the case -- DZ Nuts is an alternative absolutely worth consideration.