Is it completely gauche, in the midst of the Cross Worlds, the Lancepocalypse and all manner of other deeply important events, to pause for the half minute it takes to point you toward some of the wares in the RKP store? Our overhead here in this corner of the cycling omniverse is low but persistent, and the warehouse is full to bursting with products of unparalleled quality and soul-nurturing goodness.
Our Cream of Courage embrocation is just the thing to slather over freshly-shaved legs. It’ll make you the best smelling rider in the paceline. Pete Smith at Mad Alchemy mixed this stuff up just for us, so it’s got a pedigree to go along with its complex herbal bouquet. Think of it as the perfect addition to your pre-ride routine, or an acceptable cologne substitute for last minute cycling dates.
And as long as you’re dressing to impress, why not kit up in the latest RKP bibs and jersey? Nothing says ‘wo/man about town’ quite like a sharp kit, and you’d be hard pressed to find one sharper than this. Designed by Joe Yule of StageOne Sports and made by Panache, we guarantee you’ll be 20% more impressively attractive while wearing it (if not any faster). We have all sizes still in stock, including yours.
And for off the bike, how about an RKP ball cap? I have always been uncomfortable with companies who call their ball cap a “podium cap.” It makes me feel unworthy. This cap is just a cap. You can wear it on podiums, if you’re one of those people who wins things, but you can also wear it to the grocery store if your hair’s a mess, like mine is, every day.
I hope you will understand that these sort of shameless appeals to your base consumerist instincts are not the reason we set up our stall here on the internet. But the staff accountant, comptroller and operations team have all recommended we sell more stuff, if only so we can continue to pay their handsome and well-justified salaries. This, it seems, is how the world goes round.
And thank you for your support.
Every now and then you slip down the rabbit hole and aren’t even aware how it happened.
Last fall, Byron from Bike Hugger referred a tweet to me in which the Twitterer asked just what embrocation is. I started to reply with a 140-character techsplanation and then realized (thank heaven) that I had promised the world I would try not to go all Dr. Spock on Twitter.
So I had some fun.
I suggested that embrocation is “heat in a jar, cream of courage, a forcefield of awesomeness.”
No sooner had I composed my little near-haiku that I realized I had an idea for Pete Smith at Mad Alchemy. As much as I love embrocations, start oils and chamois creams, the companies behind them rarely have any personality. They can be forgiven for that; giving a substance you rub on your body much personality can be like trying to draw a smiley face on a plank of wood. On the other side, if it had too much personality it could get creepy.
For reasons I can’t explain Mad Alchemy seems to have struck a balance between straightforward products and a brand with a sense of fun. So I fired off an email to Pete and suggested I had a name for a new product: Cream of Courage. His response: Let’s do a custom embro.
How could I say no?
I asked Pete to dash up something that smelled like a Provençal herb garden. Heavy on the lavender and rosemary and then improvise from there. He made several non-warming blends for me to try and following a second round we settled on a blend that leads with lavender, has a strong undercurrent of rosemary, plus dashes of sage and mint. It’s the sort of scent that lingers pleasantly in any room you enter. You become a one-cyclist air decorator.
Usually, we seem to be working the other end of the spectrum. Ahem.
Pete’s a genius. It’s unquestionably my favorite embro of all time, but then, it’s exactly what I asked for. (Though I gotta admit, last season’s Chris Jones Signature was distinctly amazing.)
Because it’s almost always chilly for my morning rides here in the South Bay, but rarely ever frigid, I went for a mellow heat which should be good enough to keep your gams happy into the 40s and has the staying power of the spring classics—this stuff will heat for six hours … more if you use it liberally.
Pete doesn’t seem to be desperate for business; he didn’t need this order, but I’ve really enjoyed doing this because I like him and what he’s about and this was way more fun than just writing another glowing review of one of his embros. This was a genuine chance to put my money where my mouth is.
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.