I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not a fan of riding in the cold. Arm and knee warmers are one thing, but when I have to start wearing a jacket and thermal bibs, it starts to take the fun out of it. Luckily, embrocation helps make things a little more bearable and Mad Alchemy steps in to heat things up.
I’ve used a different brand embro in the past, but honestly haven’t been happy with it. I barely notice it during the ride, and it burns like hell afterwards. I want something that I feel all through the ride. fter hearing many positive things about Mad Alchemy products, I decided to give them a try. I’m glad I did.
After researching their different products, I decided to try Russian Tea. The temps were in the low 40’s, so it was time to try it out. First, I applied chamois cream, because as everyone hopefully already knows, chamois cream before embro. If not, it can be a painful mistake you won’t make again. When I opened the Russian Tea, an aroma of cinnamon and cloves with citrus undertones filled my small hotel room. On the website, Pete Smith, the founder of Mad Alchemy, describes the holiday drink his mother-in-law makes, which is the inspiration for the product. With how this stuff smells, I agree with him, and would love to try the tea. Maybe he’d be nice enough to share the recipe?
The consistency at first looks like it is going to be a hard wax, but with a few circles of the fingers, the embro becomes soft and spreadable. Upon application, it has the feel of a smooth, thin wax. Mad Alchemy uses unbleached beeswax, grapeseed and soybean oils, and raw, unrefined West African shea butter as a base for their embrocation. This makes for a great natural product that protects and nourishes your skin in harsh winter cycling conditions. For my first time using the product, I didn’t want to go too thick. That being said, you don’t have to use a lot for good results. After massaging the orange paste onto my legs for 3-5 minutes as they suggest on their site, the Russian Tea seems to soak in pretty well. You’re left with a very slight tint and a little bit of shine. I also put a little on my lower back for good measure. There isn’t immediate heat, just a little tingle. Within 15 minutes though, the heat begins. The only problem was I wasn’t ready to go yet! I definitely had motivation to pick up the pace and get on the road.
Once out into the cold, the heat becomes more bearable. During the ride, it stays with you for quite some time. It was close to an hour before the Russian Tea starts to cool down slightly. The exposed area between my socks and knee warmers cooled down first, but the covered areas stayed active. Even as it cooled though, it was still a pleasant feeling that I never felt with the other embryo I’ve tried. Even after 2 hours of riding, I could still feel it working. At about 2 and a half hours, I finished my ride, but decided to take a trip down to University City, then back through Center City to Old City and Penn’s Landing. While having a snack looking out over the Delaware River, I could feel the heat coming back a bit. This stuff seriously lasts. Throughout the ride, I could catch the subtle scent of the Russian Tea when I would stop for traffic lights. It was a pleasant aroma that will set you apart from the menthol smell in the rest of the pack.
Back at the hotel is where I found there was one product I could really use, the Unbrocation Rinse. My usual body wash didn’t do much to get this stuff off. When the warm water hit areas I applied Russian Tea to, it got hot. Think of it as a hot application of Icy Hot. Once out of the shower and toweled off, I was fine. One word of caution, for those that white or lighter colored kits, there was a little bit of discoloration on the inside of my kit. I’ll try and update this after I wash my kit to let you know if there is any staining. I doubt there will be, and shouldn’t be a problem since there white is not a popular color.
Throughout the evening, I could still feel the heat. It wasn’t uncomfortable at all; I just could have skipped the sweater for dinner. My lower back was a little sore from the ride, so it actually felt pretty good having the lingering heat. When I woke up this morning, it seems that the heat is gone. Just in time for me to take the train home, get the single speed ready, kit up, and head out for a cyclocross ride. Temps seem about the same, so I’ll definitely be using the Russian Tea again. Application will happen once I get to the trail though. I’ll skip the heat for the drive there.
Overall, I’m thrilled with the Mad Alchemy Russian Tea. The timing and level of the heat was exactly what I was looking for. The natural ingredients and small batch production ensures that the product is top of the line every time. While I haven’t tried it, picking up the Unbrocation Rinse is probably also a good idea if you don’t want to feel the heat after the ride, or even for washing your hands after application. Look for more reviews of Mad Alchemy products in the future.