Rapha have applied an unapologetically premium attitude towards their cycling clothing and their latest foray into skin care looks to follow the same curve – at least in terms of the packaging.
Our test set omits the shaving cream but includes the chamois cream (US$20/£15 for 125ml), winter embrocation ($27/£20 for 125ml) and bath soap ($9/£7 for 100g block), all made in the UK and wrapped up in Rapha's trademark black, white and pink, complete with little stories about Mont Ventoux.
Main lubricating ingredients in the chamois cream include olive oil, vegetable glycerine and shea butter, plus menthol to lend that minty-fresh feeling and rosemary extract to keep fungus at bay. Also tossed into the mix for all of Rapha's skin care line are atlas cedar, lavender, pine needle extract, juniper berry, lemon, cypress, patchouli and cistus.
Rapha's winter embrocation is intended for truly cold conditions with three main organic agents: wintergreen, capsaicin and vanilla. Shea butter, vitamin E and beeswax are added to both moisturize your skin and protect it from water, and even arnica is included to help relieve muscle soreness.
The Rapha Winter Embrocation and Chamois Cream come in metal tins
Finally, Rapha say their soap is particularly gentle on tired skin with its generous allotment of natural oils "perfect for a relaxing post-ride bath". In fact, it's apparently gentle enough that Rapha also recommend the soap for hand washing their own natural leather gloves. For more information, visit www.rapha.cc.
Elite Ozone Waterproof Warm-Up Emulsion
Elite's Ozone division of body care products includes their own Waterproof Warm-Up Emulsion – otherwise known as embrocation to help keep exposed skin warm during cold rides and races plus a sealing element to keep water and mud from sticking.
Elite claim one additional benefit for their formula, though, based on research at a university in Padua, Italy: included ozonides supposedly react with other ingredients to supply oxygen directly to underlying tissue while also tempering lactic acid build-up in the muscles. A 150ml bottle will cost you $27.99. More information: www.elite-it.com.
Elite claim the ozonides in their Ozone Waterproof Warm-Up Emulsion will actually improve muscle performance
Joshua Tree Products embrocation
Joshua Tree Products offer not one but three different embrocations depending on rider preferences and the day's conditions. The Brian Matter-signature Citrus formula is the hottest of the three, combining capsaicin for heat plus grapefruit essential oils for a tingly feel.
Alternatively, the "mid-heat" Kelli Emmett Spiced formula uses both capsaicin and clove essential oils for a less intense feel while the Adam Craig Eucalyptus blend generates no heat at all, instead offering just a water and mud-shedding barrier courtesy of eucalyptus and peppermint oils.
All three come in a convenient hands-free applicator similar to what you'd find for deodorant. The plastic shell lets you coat your legs as needed with reduced risk of cross-contamination (chamois first, embrocation after…) and the clear labeling makes it easy to quickly find the right mix in your gear bag. Each 10ml container costs $12. More information: http://www.jtreelife.com.
Joshua Tree Products offer three different embrocation formulas depending on the day's conditions and rider preferences
Rocktape kinesiology tape, Rock Sauce, and pHast Legs
Kinesiology tape was invented back in the 1970s but its use in pro cycling has grown dramatically in recent years – look at race photos and you'll invariably see athletes with taped-up body parts to aid their performance or just get them through another day of battle.
Rocktape say their tape is especially elastic – 190 percent elasticity versus the more usual 130-150 percent – to allow a greater range of motion and provide improved durability during athletic events. The company also claim the enhanced "snap-back" can provide some performance benefits.
The tape is offered in 32 different colors and a variety of different sizes, from pre-cut strips to bulk rolls for personal or institutional use. As the tape's effectiveness is entirely dependent on how it's applied, the company have also posted a number of video tutorials on their website. Prices vary depending on size and color but most 5cm x 5m rolls will cost $20.
Rocktape also offer Rock Sauce, a concentrated topical analgesic designed to be used in conjunction with kinesiology tape – which makes sense since if you're taping a joint because of injury, it probably doesn't feel great, either. Rocktape recommend rubbing Rock Sauce into the affected area first, then applying tape and then applying Rock Sauce onto the tape itself for both a strong initial burst effect plus an extra one to two hours of warming for greater healing.
Rocktape offer kinesiology tape in several different sizes and a wide range of colors
Key ingredients include 20 percent methyl salicylate, 10 percent menthol and 0.05 percent capsaicin – not quite as concentrated in terms of pain relief as Ultra-Strength Ben-Gay but with the added heating benefit of the capsaicin to help promote blood flow. A 4oz bottle of Rock Sauce retails for $14.95; a bigger 8oz bottle costs $29.95.
Our last submission from Rocktape is pHast Legs, a mineral supplement that the company say will stabilize pH and neutralize excess hydrogen ions in muscles to reduce muscle burn, improve anaerobic muscle power, reduce muscle damage and enhance the burning of fat, lactate and glycogen for better aerobic performance.
Rocktape claim a measurable five percent power boost after using pHast Legs for seven to 10 days, with up to 25 percent gains in time-to fatigue – tough to believe but we've talked to users of similar products who at least report feeling better. A one-month supply of pHast Legs costs $39.95, two months' worth will run you $59.95 and a four-month supply retails for $99.95. More information: http://www.rocktape.com.
Rocktape's Rock Sauce is a concentrated analgesic to soothe aching muscles while pHast Legs will supposedly provide measureable improvements in muscle performance
Leg Lube shave gel
Colorado-based Leg Lube claim their 'performance shave gel' offers noticeable benefits over conventional soap or shaving creams – namely additional lubrication for fewer cuts, reduced 'razor burn' and decreased skin irritation. Leg Lube can be used in or out of the shower and with or without water; the company say it's safe to use "anywhere you shave". The paraben-free formula also includes aloe and eucalyptus.
Several BikeRadar staffers have begun using Leg Lube and the initial results have been encouraging. While not groundbreaking, Leg Lube does feel noticeably slicker than conventional shaving creams and we've suffered fewer cuts – even when going against the grain and with a less-than-optimal razor.
The eucalyptus oil also lends a distinctly minty and tingly feel – for that aftershave feel without the aftershave screaming. The $8.95, 100mlbottle seems to be lasting well, too, since relatively little is needed, although the clear formula can be tough to see on your legs. More information: http://www.leglube.com.
Leg Lube say their shave gel contains a higher level of lubricants than other gels or creams