It was a year ago that we first reviewed a Mad Alchemy product. Back then, their product offerings were a lot smaller and they had a reputation yet to be forged. Fast forward 12 months and the name Mad Alchemy is synonymous with crisp fall mornings and the scent of race day (not to mention, the “Yankee mentality”).
Here at BKW, we thought it was only fitting that with shorter days and discussions of +1 lap, we take a look at a new product from the crew in Merrimac, MA: Mango Love. Mango Love is a non-warming embro that provides a water-repellent layer between the skin and the elements, delivering long on the PRO shine and, like all Mad Alchemy offerings, avoids the medicinal scent of traditional embros in favor of a more whimsical and fruity fragrance.
Overall Heat Rating – None. In fact, when traveling over 20 m.p.h., this stuff has a reverse effect.
Euro Style Rating – Wicked high. Keep the application to a minimum and you might almost dare to peel a light-colored short off without the post-ride leg wipe down. Almost.
Smell - Fragrant. Think refined car wash air freshener.
Durability – Surprisingly high. A towel will do the post-ride job, but Mango Love will hold off a light rain for a few hours.
Back in August on race day, I awoke to overcast skies, misty rain, and a 55-degree start temp. The borderline temps and promise of rain left me torn between proper leg warmers and an embro. With inevitable climbing temps and the fear of overdressing, I opted for the embro concoction: a mix of two job-specific ointments, which proved to be the perfect combo. For the critical muscles and tendons, I applied a layer of the Mad Alchemy Medium, a specific, targeted application. For a water-resistant barrier over the top, I applied an all-over layer of Mango Love, effectively trapping the heat beneath. The result: less heat, which was appreciated as the temps and efforts climbed, and a preservation of the heat (evident during the post-race clean up). The Mad Alchemy cocktail and the bid for overall mid-pack anonymity both proved successful.
Mango Love is served up in a tidy glass container with a clean PROfessional label and carries the endorsement of none other than the crew at Embrocation Magazine. Dip your fingers into the jar and one of your first sensations will be the smooth and buttery texture of Mango Love…a significantly different sensation than the granular coarseness of the Medium. Upon application, the Mango goes on with minimal effort, covering necessary areas with ease and resulting in a polished look. The sheen is evident even with a light coating and, when applied sparingly, the flypaper effect so common in oil-based products, is non-existent. With discussions surrounding temperature always being subjective, every rider has a varying tolerance for cold. With November temps varying as much as 40 degrees in either direction, the Mango Love will find its sweet spot between May and October effectively making it one of the best smelling and best all-around embros we’ve tried.
Elite has been making embrocations for many years, but this spring will be my first go with this hugely Euro company. Elite is one of the top sponsors of PRO teams, which of course makes it ideal for someone who is obsessed with the PRO style.
Today’s conditions: Overcast, mild, rain showers developing, 4º C, wind at 25 kph, knee warmers as first layer of protection.
The Ozone product comes in various styles to suit almost any pre- or post-race need, from hair removal to post-ride massage. I believe they also make a car wax, but I have calls into some peeps to confirm. Thermogel Forte comes in a flip-top container making application easy and clean. The product is cloudy in color and has a thin, watery feel to it. The smell is amazing, and will remind you of any pre-race parking lot. Thermogel goes on easily and rubs in leaving a medium “almost too Euro for you” look. Pair this medium sheen with a subtle pair of Oakley M Frames and you have achieved the “sleeper” look: someone who is low-key, yet provides the group with cause for growing concerns.
What’s most impressive about this Belgium knee warmer is the fact that once applied it disappears from your consciousness, leaving only a hint of shine, until the cold or wet arrives. On this particular day, the rain and cold settled in during the middle of the ride, and as the temps dropped and the rain fell, I could feel the embro punching in for its day at the office. With the rain raging full-on, we rode another 1 1/2 hours and, although I could feel neither my fingers nor my toes, my lower legs felt great!
Once home and into a warm shower, the Ozone gave me one last reminder that it was on the job. However, washed off with mild soap and a bit of elbow grease unlike the Qoleum Hot that required a wire brush and some paint thinner.
Like all great gear, the Ozone Thermogel only made itself known when it was called into action and, in my opinion, this is the mark of a great product. Like everything I feature in BKW, I paid for this product out of my own pocket, so I have no reason to sugarcoat a product that is not worthy.
If you’re looking for a great embrocation for the early spring or late summer/early fall, this could be it.
Overall Heat Rating – mild to warm
Euro Style Rating – Medium, a light sheen
Smell – Medicinal, PRO as hell, and keeps on stinking even 2 hours into your ride
Durability – Extremely high, three hours total, two in the rain with no fenders and the Ozone kept things comfy.
The Thermogel will be my go-to embro until the sign-in temps reach the 18º C mark. At that point, I will move to a higher temp embro like cajaputi, which works well in the higher temps and helps acheive the insane PRO style. The month of May should provide pleasant enough temps for me to ditch the knee warmers and let my embrocation provide all the protection. If the Thermogel delivers at the knee level as well as it does on my calves, we are PROGRAM GO!
With the sound of cow bells in the air, it must be cross time. Ah yes, the rustle of leaves, the heckling of fans and, of course, the smell of embrocation. After a cooler than normal spring and a shorter than usual summer, the inventory of liniments has dropped below an acceptable level. Rather than heading out and restocking the same brands, the decision was made to branch out and try a few of the newer players in the game.
From the land of maple syrup, higher education, and the vintage Volvo 240 wagon comes Mad Alchemy, a do-it-yourself, “Yankee mentality” product, by cyclists, for cyclists. The buzz surrounding this new player began as early as mid-summer with talk abound about its effectiveness.
Mad Alchemy offers three heat levels: Mellow, Medium, and Madness. The Medium blend is the logical choice given the fall season. So I ordered a jar. After tearing into a small cardboard box, I was greeted by a brown, recyclable glass container with a simple screw-on black lid. This homemade look is akin to the Mason for gardeners and confirms there is no utilization of a mile-long, billion dollar automation system to fill your order. This stuff is produced by-hand, with love.
Break the top loose and the aromatic euphoria that follows is not one of a medicinal quality, but rather closer to the smell of a fancy candle. The consistency also differs from the usual rub, as it’s more like a tin of shoe polish than the typical squeeze bottle common with Sportsbalm, or the creamy, Noxema feel of Quoelum.
Ease of application is critical for me when my dressing room is the parking lot of the local race, so I want to be sure it goes on cleanly and without fuss. The consistency of the Mad Alchemy delivers. Application is easy, and the final clean-up is effortless; eliminating the accidental blindness resulting from an eye rub on the second lap of your race.
Overall Heat Rating - Medium as promised. A subtle warmth like a 30-year-old scotch.
Euro Style Rating - Wicked high. The light tint added would convert George Hamilton to cycling. The thicker you go, the more the PRO.
Smell – Fragrant, but in a good way. This is a new direction for embrocation.
Durability - High, but not unreasonable. A towel will remove enough to make your drive home less painful than your cross race.
Mad Alchemy Medium delivers the perfect amount of warmth for temps ranging from 50-60º and it ramps the heat up slowly after application. The heat is neither painful, nor offensive during the exposure times, but like all good embros, when the pace slows or stops, the Mad Alchemy stays on. The beeswax additive ensures it stays on even in wet conditions and collects less grit and road souvenirs than other, more liquid based embros. Keep in mind, if you rock it VDB style and go heavy on the layers, you may get the PRO sheen , but your also going to get the fly paper effect.
The cross calendar carries us into some unpredictable and cold months. So, as temps continue to sink, the Madness seems like the next logical step. Stay tuned for additional reviews of Mad Alchemy products.
Real, big-time bike racing was descending on my town. Barriers lined the sidewalks and minivans festooned with roof racks filled the available parking. A door slid open and there were the two stars of the Panasonic-Sportlife team: Viatcheslav Ekimov and Olaf Ludwig, both Olympic Gold Medalists.
While crowds mobbed Greg LeMond just 100 feet away, just a few people stood around the Panasonic-Sportlife van—bike racers and Winning subscribers all. The Panasonic-Sportlife team was to our select audience the ultimate Belgian PRO team. Ekimov and Ludwig signed a few autographs before sitting down on the tail of the van. What happened next was a revelation to me.
I had read that pro cyclists got their legs massaged and had even seen a short clip of a post-race massage on Tour de France coverage, but the pre-race massage was news to me. Further, the experience was my first with a warming embrocation. I watched as the soigneur applied the cream to the pros legs, watched as his thumbs and fingers moved through their hamstrings as if he were pushing through pudding; bread doesn’t knead this easily.
Suddenly, the aroma hit me. It was distinctly European, heady and exotic, as if it were the smell of bicycle racing itself. I had no idea that the massage was helping to warm their muscles in anticipation of the day’s stage. It took talking to a Cat. II teammate of mine to explain how a proper pre-race massage with a warming “liniment,” as he called it, could help prepare a cyclist for the day’s demands.
That I’d been exposed to something I hadn’t read about in any of the magazines made me feel like I had been let in on a secret. I was hooked. That there could be a wealth of hidden knowledge not even hinted at in the magazines gave the sport a new depth for me. As much as I loved the straightforward simplicity of my impression of bike racing, the idea that your success might depend on your pre-race knowledge and ability to prepare made bike racing alluringly complicated.
Before my next race I went out and bought a tub of Icy Hot. It didn’t have the impressive Euro scent but I was amazed at its ability to shut out the cold. More than anything, what stayed with me from that day was the smell of the embrocation and the way their muscles, especially their hamstrings, drooped from their legs as if they were wet cloth. I couldn’t yet reconcile how something so relaxed, so without tension, could contain such explosive and controlled power.