‘Back in The Day,’ We used to make up our own batches of liniment toput on our legs to keep them warm for cold, wet weather races. Bikeshops didn’t carry any of the existing European brands like Muscular sowe made our own out of witch hazel, olive oil, capsulin andwintergreen. It usually washed off in the first hour but it was ouronly option at the time.
WhenI stumbled on a rave review of Mad Alchemy last Spring I was impressedand made a mental note to try some when the weather turned cool againin the fall.
As a guy that pioneered the modern day soigneurposition for traveling national teams in the late 1970’s I had beenfortunate enough to learn from the best soigneurs in Europe duringstage races like Tour de L’Avenir, Grand Prix, Wilhelm Tell and at theWorld Championships.
This area of using embrocation on legs isone of the most over looked traditions of cycling for riders inAmerica. In this modern day high tech accessory gadget world of powermeters, GPS’s, Heart monitors, and electronic shifting on 15-poundbikes the trickle down of information about what the top soigneurs havebeen using for decades has just not penetrated down to the club riderlevel in this country
Front and center steps Mad Alchemy, asmall company in Massachusetts that makes an all natural and 100 pureembrocation for several different levels of warmth AND instructionalvideo’s on just how and when to apply the six hand made types. See www.madalchemy.com
Myfirst experience was with the ‘Cold Weather’ labeled Mad Alchemy whichis a medium warmth paste with a perfect texture and consistency thatcan be applied easily with a little dab spreading nicely over a largearea while rubbing in. The fragrance is unlike so many of the chemicalbased euro products, because of the natural combination of herbalingredients, it has a refreshing nose, one of the only massage creams Ihave ever been allowed into the house with.
I started showing upfor the late fall group rides of 45-degrees with my knickers and barecalves while everyone else had full tights. Full tights were going tobe the uniform of the day soon enough and barring a mid winter thaw, wewould all be trapped into them until mid February at the earliest, sowith the help of this fragrant pure product I was able to put off theinevitable for several weeks and still be comfortable.
Oh yeah,I did not have to put on heavy booties at this temperature eitherbecause of a basic trick I had learned years ago while doing up riderslegs before stage starts in Europe.
Why stop applying linimentat the ankles or the top of the socks? Why not put some warm stuffright on the rider’s feet on those cold wet stages? Nothing like warmfeet inside those soaking wet shoes! Plus with Mad Alchemy you havenice smelling warm feet. All I needed was a light pair of Defeet shoewarmers and I was good to go.
Whilein Europe back in the ‘early days’ my soigneur kits were full of tubes,jars, and bottles of massage creams with unpronounceable ingredientsthat should have been checked off on the ban substance list.
Duringmy first weeks, using the right combination on different parts of theriders legs and lower backs was by trial and error and when I got itwrong or when the sun came out unexpectedly, riders would let me knowin no uncertain terms just how uncomfortable they were. It could evenmean stopping on the side of the road and wiping their legs down withalcohol to reduce the burn or adding more heat and covering it with athick paste so it would not wash off. It was like picking the rightcolor klister wax for a pair of wooden xc ski’s when the temperature ofthe snow did not match the air temp?but that makes me even older and Idigress.
The ‘Cold Weather’ embrocation kept my legs warm forseveral hours of riding but I had to be sure to wipe my legs downthoroughly with rubbing alcohol or witch hazel at the end of the rideor it would fire up again 6 to 8 hours later when I got under thecovers to sleep that night.
I have been using something on mylegs in all seasons of the year and I am excited to try some of theother Mad Alchemy products meant for even colder winter temps and forthose warmer to even hot days of summer.
What a treat for thisold timer to come across such a great product made with pride and allnatural ingredients that really works in all conditions. I am lookingforward to putting the knickers back on soon and sloshing about inthose early spring group rides with fenders and bare legs.
Onemore tip from the Bike Guy before I go. It is OK to put on a thin layerof Mad Alchemy under your tights or leg warmers when starting out onthose soon to warm up cold morning rides. That way when you peel offthe above-mentioned layers your legs will still be protected and warmfor the rest of the ride.