Mad Alchemy Chris Jones Signature Blend

Disclaimer: Mad Alchemy is an advertiser here at RKP. We hope you won’t be too surprised if we happen to like their products; it was our belief in their mission that made the relationship possible.

Checking out embrocations is a bit like candle shopping. The very first thing I do is unscrew the top and then bring the jar right up to my nose and inhale deeply. I enjoy the mystery of trying to figure out what ingredients have been combined witches’ cauldron style to give those creations their unique scent; it’s quite like wine tasting. As a candle shopper (and Yankee Candle fanatic) I never found candles labeled “Douglas Fir” terribly interesting. One-note creations lack depth and the adventure of figuring out the unique elements the give the blends their character. Show me a candle named “Christmas Cookie” or “Autumn Harvest” and I’ll show you a candle with some depth.

So it was that when I received the new Mad Alchemy Chris Jones Signature Blend that I opened the top, inserted my schnoz and breathed in what I detected were the very flavors of summer. It was distinctly mellow smelling and while that designation was more about the heat factor, I couldn’t help but think that descriptor was just as apt in metaphor. Coconut. That was the dominant tone of the scent and brought back memories of countless stunning beauties from my youth wearing Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion. Beneath that was the uncomplicated yet rich fragrance of vanilla.

The label sports a pastiche of the perennial favorite surf wax, a brand whose stickers transcended surfers themselves: Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax. While the connection between summer and surf wax made a certain amount of sense to me, it wasn’t until I went to the Mad Alchemy site and read Pete’s description that I understood the intersection point between Chris Jones, surfing and this embrocation. Aha!

Because how you apply an embrocation will affect just how hot it is, I have realized that I need less of a Mad Alchemy embro on my legs to get the job done than I would use with most other brands. The friends who taught me had learned the old-school Euro method of applying enough embro that their legs gleamed with a glossy car wax look and remained slick to the touch. I’ve found that if I apply that much Mad Alchemy to my legs the mellow will carry me into temperatures I don’t think of as, well, mellow. Pete rates this as being effective from as low as 35 degrees to as warm as 70. In my experience, I wouldn’t use this if the temperature was above 65 degrees and I go light on it if the ride is going to be three hours or less. I applied this before the San Luis Obispo Gran Fondo and eight hours layer it was keeping me warm on the drive home. Pete credits the embro’s staying power to ultra-fresh ingredients he was able to source for this blend.

One word of caution: Shea butter has a rather orangy tint to it and that can leave visible marks on white Lycra should you choose to wear some on a cool day.

This is one of those rare embros where, at least for me, the scent alone conjures the heat of a summer day, ensuring my comfort no matter what it’s like outside.

A 4 oz., recyclable jar goes for $21.95 and 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Just Go Harder Foundation.

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  1. Bikelink

    Have used some embrocation over the past few years but am wondering about what the heck it does. Since capsacian is the main ingredient in many, it makes substance P released … causes pain….makes legs feel hot. When I put my hand on my legs though they don’t feel hot to the touch. So is burning hot embrocation fine in 35 degrees in protecting legs from the cold (rather then them just not feeling cold). Digging deeper, is cold even a hazard for unprotected knees, or is it just that they ‘feel’ cold? I suspect the latter since we don’t have a legion of crippled ex-cyclists running around…

    1. Author

      Bikelink: Embrocations work by irritating the skin. The capsicum (or whatever is being used, as they don’t all use capsicum) irritates the skin. That irritation causes blood to flood the capillaries, which is why your skin turns red. Having the blood circulate through your capillaries keeps your skin from getting chilled which would slow your muscles. Here’s the important bit, though: It’s helpful to use enough embrocation that it forms a bit of a protective layer to insulate your skin from the elements. This is particularly key on wet days.

      Anecdotally, there’s a fair bit of information to suggest that the tightening up of skin, muscles and connective tissue in cold weather hurts athletic performance. That said, there’s a study that says embros don’t work. At all.

      For my part, if it’s wet out, I vastly prefer embrocation because it doesn’t absorb water and get heavy. Years ago, I forgot my embro for a rainy road race and went with knee warmers. The knee warmers soaked up a gallon of water and then the gripper elastic tugged on my legs to the point that it rubbed the skin on my thigh raw. The moment I learned this in the shower is one I won’t forget.

      The point behind embro is to keep your blood circulating well enough in your legs that the muscles don’t get sluggish. There is one cost with that extra circulation: It has a metabolic impact and you’ll want to up your calorie intake a bit.

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