The “Do’s and Don’ts” of Embrocation


  1. a liquid used for rubbing on the body to relieve pain from sprains and strains.

Embro. Leg Lube.  Belgian knee warmers.  Whatever you call it, it's something that has fascinated cyclists for decades.  It is an essential part of cyclocross, but has become an accepted and even necessary part of fall, winter and early spring road cycling.  It's something that many people speak of in hushed tones, in reverence and wonderment. Embrocation is akin to leg shaving in terms of the depth of puzzling looks received by those new to the sport (and indeed, those outside the sport.)  It's a skin protector.  It's a leg “polish.”  It's a warming agent.  Truly, it's as close to the very essence of cycling as one can get without chattering over the bergs of Belgium on a steel Bianchi.  But why is that so?

If you're new to embrocation, you may rightly be wondering what the fuss is all about.  “It must be easy to just rub it in and ride off into the sunset, right?”  Sure, your legs will shine like gleaming beacons of power and destruction, and they will tingle with the a warmth indicative of the spring classics.  But beware, for circumstances can go horribly awry and end with an eye opening, possibly life changing (and certainly nether-region demolishing) experience.

As with all things in life, there's a right and a wrong way to undertake any task.  And the correct method of embrocating bliss is to speak of “The Ritual” which should accompany each embrocating experience you undertake.

First, you'll probably need some embro.  I'm personally a huge fan of

Mad Alchemy Gentleman's Blend for cool days, and 
Mad Alchemy Warm Weather for warmer days (the warm weather variety has no heat to it at all, just some delightful spearmint oil to wake up the legs, facilitate a solid pre-ride massage and protect your skin from sun, dirt, etc.)

Now that you have your embro, you need to apply it.  But before you do read more after the jump.  To help you out on the path to righteous embrocating, I'm going to go through some of the “do's” and “don'ts” of embrocating, along with the ramifications of each.


Exploration By Bike

High Bridge NJ Tunnel[dc]A[/dc]s I mentioned a while back (in Bike Therapy,) in the past two and a half years my life has transitioned from the quiet contemplation of the Hudson Valley to the hustle and bustle of New Jersey.  Along with the change of location came a change in scenery; familiar roads were gone, trusted bike shops were distant, and new relationships had to be formed.  While there's trepidation in the unknown, there was also a distinct thrill of discovering new places, new clubs, new roads and new people.  But why does it take a new place to get us in to mood to explore?

Perhaps more importantly, what lessons have been learned through this period of forced transition and how can we apply them without having to relocate 200 miles away?


Cyclocross Dismount (and Re-Mount) Workout

Running a cyclocross barrier[dc]H[/dc]alf of cyclocross is fitness.  The other half is skill, otherwise known as "getting out of your own way."  While it's important to be able to ride until your eyes bleed and your face peels off, if you continually botch your run ups, mounts, dismounts and barrier hops, you're guaranteed to be disappointed come race day.  So that means it's time to get out there and practice your skills, dammit!

Here's the story behind this workout:  You'll perform this ON YOUR CROSS BIKE!  No, your road bike is NOT suitable for this workout, period.  We're going to teach your body how to get off your bike.  Then we'll teach it how to get back ON the bike.  Finally, we're going to put it all together so that you can actually do it when it matters the most (hint, that's during a race!)

Here’s the program:



SRAM Red Hydro Discs at CXLA

It looks like a spring release for the long awaited Red hydraulic system (which means they'll really see action in next year's cross season and possibly the few road disc frames out there.)

Now's your chance, disc brake fans.

Honestly, I see no value in discs on the road, and hardly any in ‘cross (except the obvious mud clearing ability) since traction will be far more of an issue in either case than stopping power, and modulation with today's calipers is already superb.  The argument of lighter rims and less rotating mass falls on deaf ears as well: there still has to be sufficient material for a bead hook on the rim and with the carbon clincher craze, you're not going to lose much material from that bead hook.

In my opinion: a solution looking for a problem.  But it's always nice to see nifty new things.


SRAM Red Hydraulic Road Discs in Cyclocross

SRAM Red Hydro discs on Tim Johnson's Cannondale Cyclocrossworld bike.Just a quick update: it appears that SRAM's timeline of a late summer release for their hydraulic disc systems was a little…liberal.  However, Tim Johnson has been putting them well and truly through their paces on his 'cross rig (see photo at right.)

Perhaps this will mean they're slated to hit the market soon?