Review: Mad Alchemy Non-Warming Embrocation

Pre-ride rub for the warm seasons

If you’ve used a typical embrocation, you know its benefits in the colder months. The warming feeling helps keep you going when the temps drop, especially when the conditions are wet. So what is the point of a non-warming embro? Read on to find out.

For those new to embrocation, its cycling roots trace back to Belgium, as many good things do. Instead of putting on warmers that get water logged in wet conditions, riders would apply the fiery balm to their legs in an effort to keep warm. These concoctions came in all types of consistencies, but now, they typically are some sort of a wax based product, which provides a barrier against precipitation and mud. It’s not going to keep you clean and dry, but the waxy balm does help to bead up water. Most embrocation you will find has some sort of an ingredient that causes the feeling of heat. Capsicum oils are widely used. These are the same oils that give peppers their heat. The amount of oil, and other ingredients help determine how mild or hot the product will be.

Mad Alchemy Non-Warming Embro
Mad Alchemy Non-Warming Embro. Photo by Scott Kingsley

The Mad Alchemy Non-Warming Embrocation does not use capsicum oil though. They have plenty of other products (that we will cover in later reviews) to give you anything from a mild warmth to a burn so hot you’ll feel like you are on the sun! The goal of the non-warming embro is to provide a barrier against the elements and a skin nourishing balm to use for a pre ride massage.

Mad Alchemy prides itself with using all natural ingredients and making their products in small batches to provide a consistently high quality product. The base is a beeswax with grapeseed and soybean oils. This creates a balm that can be worked into the skin, and provides a good starting point for loosening up the muscles through massage. Mad Alchemy says that the grapeseed oil in particular, “helps to prevent breakdown of the epithelial cell membranes, helping  to maintain skin integrity.” They then add essential oils, such as mint and eucalyptus, which help as a natural bug repellent.

The Non-Warming Embrocation comes in a small plastic jar, containing 4 oz of product. When you open the top, you are immediately met with hints of the eucalyptus and mint oils, along with the smell of the beeswax. It is a very pleasant smell, especially in the morning before a long ride. The texture is obviously waxy, but smooth on your fingers. You may need to rub your fingers around the top in circles to get it started, especially if it has been sitting in the cold. Once it warms on your fingers, it spreads easily. Mad Alchemy suggests the following steps to enjoy the full experience of the tradition:

Be sure to stop, appreciate and think about your appliqué. One should always try to sit and rest the muscles of the legs, taking care to remove any water or debris that has already accumulated on the legs using a soft, damp cloth to do so.

Take your time with the application.  Start with a conservative amount of product, massaging it deeply into the muscles over a 3-5 minute period.  Start with the calves, the tendons of the hamstrings behind the knee and then the patella.  Concentrate your efforts then to the quadriceps and hamstrings muscle bellies.  On particularly cold days or if you notice low back soreness it may be beneficial to rub into the low back, top of the shoulders and neck.  Like a proper tubular gluing technique, a second layer of embrocation will provide a more productive shield from the elements and increased warmth on colder days.

Now breathe, you are embrocated, you are prepared for whatever the race or the weather may throw at you.

Mad Alchemy Non-Warming Embro After Application
Mad Alchemy Non-Warming Embro After Application. Photo by Scott Kingsley

You might not always have time to go through those steps, but it does feel good to take the time and relax when preparing for a long ride or a tough race. It can give you a chance to think about what is ahead, or have a good chat with your riding partners before you head off. Besides the pleasant smell, you’ll notice that the applied area will have a nice sheen.  For roadies and crossers that shave, it is a nice touch to highlight those legs you’ve been training all year. The smell stays with you throughout the ride, and as mentioned before the eucalyptus oil works as a natural bug repellent, which has come in handy at times. About the only drawback I have found though, is you will have a nice “Belgian tan” after the ride. Because of the waxy consistency that stays on your legs, you’ll pick up the dust and grime on your legs. By no means is it unsightly, you will just be a little dirtier than the others that are not using embro. It washes off easily.

That takes me to the next part, clean up. The beauty of Non-Warming Embrocation is that you don’t have that post ride burn. After the ride, just wipe your legs down with a damp cloth or wipes, such as Action Wipes. This should get the grime off, and most of the embro. You are hopefully going to take a shower anyways, so a light scrub with a wash cloth will take care of the rest.

It won’t make you a better climber, or more aero, but it gives you a chance to prepare for your ride and give your legs some protection against the elements. Take your time, enjoy the experience, and embrocate.

www.madalchemy.com – $17.95

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