Thursday, February 5, 2009
Even though I was one of the early users of Mad Alchemy, I now feel like I am jumping on the bandwagon in reviewing it. Pete Smith's (founder, developer, alchemist) products have garnered great reviews in such publications as: Embrocation Cycling Journal and even Bicycling Magazine. The blogosphere has been buzzing as well.
In my case, my review is caught up in my relationship with Mr. Smith and his family. They are a fixture at cyclocross races across New England. Pete, Jan and the kids are very likeable and approachable. Pete has been sponsoring the Cambridge Bicycles team since its inception, first as a coaching sponsor and then as an embrocation supplier. He continues to coach some of our most successful athletes (Revolutions Coaching). The Smiths are all-around good people and in my book, that it reason enough to support them. But they also mix up some great product, which is the reason that you should support them.
Mad Alchemy is made in Merrimac, MA in the Smith family kitchen. Pete started tinkering around with oils last spring and came up with some formulas. Jan has stories of Pete brewing some of the first batches in an enclosed kitchen. The fumes wafted up into the kids sleeping areas causing major discomfort. I should note that no one was injured and Jan recounted the anecdote with smiles and laughs. Mad Alchemy is truly homemade from natural ingredients.
Mad Alchemy comes in 4 oz jars. That may seem small, but it is twice what you get in a stick of Greyhound Juice. The jars themselves have character.
They are reminiscent of pharmacies of old. Tinctures used to come in similar jars.
The product is thick and pasty at room temperature.
To apply it, I have found that it is best to stir the top part of the grease with a finger to warm and loosen it so up that you can easily apply a thin layer instead of trying to spread clumps around.
A little Mad Alchemy goes a long way. It is hot enough that you will not find yourself applying thick layers in an effort to increase the heat. I purchased two jars at the beginning of CX season. I used it in every race and in most training. I offered other racers samples at every race. I still have enough to get through the winter and into the spring.
I have used only the cold weather embrocations, the medium strength and the “Madness.” The Medium is hot enough to irritate the nostrils and keep the legs stoked in all but the most ruthless cold. For most people the Medium is as hot as they will need. In fact, I recommend starting with the Mellow/Light Warmth.
The Madness is another story entirely. Madness indeed. It is epic. While most embrocation is neutral upon application and heats up slowly, The Madness burns right away. Its heat is immediate and intense, not for the beginner and not for the faint of heart. During application and before riding, this stuff asserts itself. If I apply it indoors, I begin sweating immediately. Once on the bike, your legs become numb to the cold. I find myself able to dig a little deeper and put out more power, because the Madness masks the accumulation of lactic acid.
MAE is not water soluble. It stays where you put it, for a long time. It offers a high sheen and the subtle orange tint completes the Belgiun hardman look. If you train in the rain or in spring runoff, MAE is better than any clothing you can wear, since the water will bead up and drip off of you instead of soaking in.
The heat lasts long enough for any ride. I have applied this before 5 hours rides and was still feeling the heat. Some other embrocations fizzle out after an hour or two, not Mad Alchemy. I have heard of some cyclocross racers who are applying Mad Alchemy 3-4 hours before a race to allow the oil to really heat up.
I have had no issues with clogged pores because of Mad Alchemy. Unlike a Belgian hardman, I have sensitive skin. Certain soaps burn my face and some lotions give me rashes. Mad Alchemy gets my sensitive skin seal of approval.
Mad Alchemy has become my go to embrocation. I have tried many other embrocations and was dedicated to Greyhound Juice for years. Since laying in my supply of MA, I have left my Greyhound on the shelf, and put the Alchemy in my race bag.
I have heard rumors and rumblings that Mr. Smith is developing chamois crème. While noting the Pete's smashing success with creating embrocation, I eagerly await the release of his chamois crème. Hopefully he puts it in different packaging than the Embro, as it could really ruin your day if you confused the two.
Mad Alchemy Products can be ordered direct: http://madalchemy.com/Products.html