Mad Alchemy Russisch Thee

Okay, so let’s begin with the disclosure. You’re already aware that Mad Alchemy is an advertiser here at RKP. Radio Freddy at BKW had reviewed some Mad Alchemy product and my interest was piqued by his review of the Mango Love. Pete Smith, the proprietor, got in touch to ask about ad rates; I was thrilled to hear from him. I responded by telling him I’d been curious to learn more about his embrocations. I had read the copy on his web site and it seemed apparent that he was doing more than just making some heat-bearing smelly leg creams. Proper embrocation seemd, well, a bit of a crusade for him.

He struck me as an all-in sort of entrepreneur. Pardon me while I dig him.

Pete sent a few products to try and began advertising. I’ve tried them all, and while I like them all, the product I’ve decided I most need to review is the Russisch Thee, a warming embrocation. He classifies his embrocations according to whether they warm or not and then he includes a “burn meter” to show you, relatively speaking, just how much heat they will generate. Honestly, there are a few European embrocation companies that could learn a thing or two about clear descriptions from the Mad Alchemy site.

The Russisch Thee, or Russian Tea, is named in honor a holiday drink Pete’s mother-in-law used to make. In its description he says its flavor is characterized by notes of cinnamon and clove with a hint of citrus. Pete considers it a “medium heat” embro.

I should stop here and level with you about something else. I’ve become a complete embrocation junkie. The way some women purchase perfumes or smelly candles I collect embrocations. Nothing against perfumes or smelly candles, mind you; I used to ride by Yankee Candle and love their candles to this day.

Where were we? Oh yeah: With a diverse assortment of embrocations to choose from in the morning, I’ve come to associate certain smells with specific conditions. In a funny way, it’s become a sort of double-check on my reading of the weather forecast.

Of course, that’s not to say I don’t get my choice wrong sometimes. However, to that point, I’ve come associate the smell of cloves, cinnamon and orange—the three leading aromas of the Mad Alchemy Russisch Thee—with a chilly day, a day that won’t reach 50 degrees.

The texture of Russisch Thee is creamy without feeling greasy. The orange color makes it easy to tell where it has yet to be massaged in sufficiently.

The heat in the Russisch Thee comes from capsicum; hot stuff indeed. It’s important to note that unlike with some embrocations where the heat comes on almost immediately, capsicum can take a little while to heat up. Be careful not to reapply just because you don’t feel anything initially. If it’s a cold morning, you might not want to leave this to moments before rolling out the door or those first few kilometers could be chillier than you had in mind. That said, when this stuff does get rolling it lasts longer than a four-course meal. Six hours is my rough count.

Naturally, anything that can make a 45-degree day feel like 70 degrees to your legs is something you’ll want to wash off your hands STAT. With a base of beeswax and shea butter it washes off with ordinary soap—no muss, no fuss.

On his site Pete includes an unusual endorsement of the Russisch Thee. Of all his embrocations, its the one he says he uses on race day.

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  1. velosopher

    Padraig, pardon the off-topic comment, but if you used to ride by Yankee Candle, you must have been a Pioneer Valley resident at one time — like I am now. Is that right?

    1. Author

      Everyone: Thanks for your comments. There are lots of great embrocations out there and I hope you go try some of them.

      Velosopher: Yes, I used to be a resident of the Pioneer Valley. On the way back from Brattleboro rides I knew I was 15 miles from home when I could smell Yankee Candle. You live in a special place.

  2. soul_cramp

    I used embro for the first time this past Saturday. Mad Alchemy Uber Secret. I had a tough time choosing between the Russich Thee and the Uber Secret. I went with the coffee smelling one. But this stuff doesn’t smell like any coffee, some how he got it to smell just like some brew from a moka pot. A very good thing. Temps were just barely 50° but due to winds that got up to 20+mph it felt considerably cooler. I credit the embro with keeping me from feeling under-dressed. I’m a fan and wish I would have tried it sooner…

  3. Cato

    I’m a big fan of Pete and Mad Alchemy. I alternate Russisch Thee and Uber Secret during the winter and Warm Weather and Mango Love in the summer. It’s just not a race or a really hard ride without embrocation. A big benefit for us South Florida cyclists, they are natural mosquito repellents.

  4. Dan

    I’m a recent Mad Alchemy convert too. Just got the standard Cold Weather Embro, in “mellow.” It’s great! I love being able to ditch the elastic knee warmers for the Belgium variety. Plus all the road grit they pick up looks kinda [email protected]$$ as well!

    Just one word of warning…put your bibs on BEFORE you embro! Capsicum belongs on your knees…no where else, if you get my drift.

  5. Matt Walsh

    Okay, as a still-practicing ad man, bravo. You just brilliantly suckered me into the strange world of embrocation — which sounds like a titillating subset of BDSM. Whatever, I’m in and that’s saying something because, uhh, it’s Spring and Summer is fast approaching. Not like I need a warm-up cream just now. As I read I was desperately thinking, where can I go to ride where it’s still freezing out? And the name — You cannot not buy a product with the cool name like Russisch Thee and Mad Alchemy. I’m in even deeper, hooked on what I instantly consider a Mandatory product. So congrats on the writing. You can get an ad job any time.

    1. Author

      Blame it on Pete. I won’t write that way about just any product.

      I think of embrocations the way I think of deserts: I always want a diverse selection in the cupboard. Some days I want chocolate, but some days nothing but maple will suffice. Or maybe Russian Tea.

  6. Cedrik

    After reading BKW for a while, I decided to try using embrocation and got some Mad Alchemy secret formula. I’m hooked now, at least for longer rides, to the point I got some warm weather embro, too. Somehow I always feel faster and stronger when I embrocate.

  7. velosopher

    “Somehow I always feel faster and stronger when I embrocate.” Ditto, Cedrik.

    I think it’s interesting that folks (like many on Bikeforums) vehemently put down embro b/c science doesn’t support the idea that it’s physiologically effective or helpful. I’m betting these same folks buy jerseys with carbon fibers in them, spend hundreds of dollars to save a few grams on their bike, or change their bar tape from dark to white in the spring. Do any of these things make them faster?

    The wise answer is, “Yes.” The day I let bike riding be ruled by something as cold as “science” (itself ridiculously subjective, and I know of which I speak) you can lay me in the cold, dark ground, place my CAAD 8 on top of me, and cover us with fragrant spring soil.

  8. bradyja


    Good review. I’m more a fan of the “coffee” flavor myself, but Mad Alchemy definitely has got the embro goin’ on.

  9. Kid Wonder

    I don’t know what kind of soap you use, but I need to use rubbing alcohol and vigor to get Mad Alchemy embrocation off of my legs. I love the stuff on the bike, but as soon as I get home I fear the shower’s chemically-enhanced flame!

    1. Author

      Kid Wonder: I hit my legs with a birch branch just before getting in the shower and when the water streams down, I never notice the sting. Srsly, I use baby wipes to remove the grime and then use Dawn to wash my legs once I’m in the shower. I’ve gotten a few suggestions about neutralizing the capsicum and am going to be experimenting in the coming weeks. I’ll let you know if I find success. Of course, if you go on six-hour rides like I was during my base phase, the heat is pretty done by the time you get in the shower. There’s always that.

  10. michael

    Rather sadly for me Mad Alchemy does not yet sell or ship to Canada 🙁

    So I am left wondering, does anyone in California in the SF area know of any local shops carrying any? I’ll be down there in a month and would love to stock up. I tried some a friend had when I last visited him out east and I have developed a craving I need to satiate.

    Any info appreciated!

  11. Pingback: Sportique Warming Up Cream : Red Kite Prayer

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