This traditional farmers' remedy wants to replace your chamois cream

Bag Balm is apparently the secret in many pro riders' shorts

While at a recent press event I had a meeting with a non-cycling industry company, Bag Balm. It's trying to tell the story of its many uses, including for cycling. 

Well over a century ago, in 1899 to be precise, a Vermont pharmacist created a salve intended to soften and smooth the udders on milking cows. Before long, farmers (and the farmers' wives) noticed the improvement in their own hands. The 'miracle' product was Bag Balm.

From cow udders to cyclists' bums

A 4oz tin might not seem like much but a little goes a long way
A 4oz tin might not seem like much but a little goes a long way

Fast forward to the mid-nineties, and Team USA's track cycling squad were doing three-a-day workouts to prepare for the 1996 Olympics. Saddle sores began showing up, and they were an issue. 

One of the track teammates, Adam Laurent, let the others in on a little secret, Bag Balm. The anti-microbial, anti-bacterial elements combined with skin moisturizing properties let the high-cadence cyclists train again.

One of those track cyclists was two-time Olympian Sky Christopherson. Riding the infamous GT Superbike, Christopherson credits Bag Balm with allowing him to train and ultimately compete in the 1996 Olympics.

Christopherson said: "We used Bag Balm to prepare for the '96 Olympics. We were actually in a tough situation where we were having this chafing and it was really bad for three workouts a day... I put it in the chamois and everything healed up before the Olympics. It’s amazing."

Bag Balm isn't the only agricultural salve to have made the leap to cycling. We're not totally sure who got there first, but Udderly Smooth offers a similar product, which is now marketed directly to cyclists.

What's in it?

Refreshingly, the ingredients list is short. Just four ingredients are required: petrolatum for moisturizing, lanolin to soften, paraffin wax to smooth, and just 0.3 percent 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate for anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties.

Bag Balm has been around for 118 years and has recently been the secret of cyclists
Bag Balm has been around for 118 years and has recently been the secret of cyclists

Petrolatum's more common names are petroleum jelly, mineral oil jelly or mineral oil. It seals skin from air, water and further abrasion, thereby allowing the skin to heal itself. It essentially locks in the skin's own moisture, which makes it easy to see how it gained quick favor among dairy farmers in the nasty, cold, wet Vermont winters.

Because it 'locks in' the skin, it should be noted that clean skin is important to start with, sealing in dirt and sweat isn't a good idea.

There's no artificial scents or fragrances added. The scent it does have is a little bit menthol-like to my nose, reminding me of a clean hospital area. 

Versatility

Bag Balm has moved out of the barn and has many unlikely uses, including: tattoo artists healing fresh ink; gymnasts' chalked up hands; dog's cracked paws; bed-ridden hospital patients; and babies with diaper rash.

Bag Balm pricing

  • On The Go 0.25oz tube: £3.10 / $3.99 / AU$TBD
  • 1oz tin: £4.65 / $5.99 / AU$TBD
  • 4oz tin: £6.20 / $7.99 / AU$TBD 
  • 8oz tin: £7.75 / $9.99 / AU$TBD 

The 1oz version's pricing is higher because of the aluminum tin, which can and should be re-used for all sorts of small items.

I've recently gotten in a few different chamois creams recently so I plan on putting Bag Balm up to test with the cycling-specific stuff.

Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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