The invisible knee warmers
We learn a lot through observation. At a local CX race back in 2009, we spotted several combatants giving it beans in the meanest of autumns, and doing it all with their guns out. That’s leg-guns, mind. Research soon led us to discover that these invisible knee warmers are a well-known secret dubbed embrocation (embro). Since then, we’ve used it religiously through the years, but with work taking us to warmer climates, we forgot about this handy piece of kit. Having now come back to the UK, and with autumn making its cooler mark, we’re rediscovering this hidden gem.
Here’s a little background…
Belgium Knee Warmers Defined
Keeping hot while being cool
What is it?
Embrocation is a concoction of herbs, oils and waxes. It is said that horse owners would use it to warm up their racing stallions. It was soon adopted by Belgian cyclists during cooler days. And of course, anything a Belgian rider does has got to be a good idea, or certainly brave. Since then, most embro products have been popularised by home-made producers. Up till recently we would get ours imported from the US, but with the obvious postal delays and rising costs, this ended up becoming an annoying experience. Very soon after we discovered Rapha’s offering.
How does it work?
The chemistry works along with the skin’s sensitivities. The combination of ingredients act as an irritant that get the legs reacting to the application. This is a good moment to remind ourselves that said application should take place after putting on all your kit. Especially, bibs and jersey to avoid painful accidents and putting those around you into uncontrollable fits of laughter.
Even after several hours, wash your hands before eating or rubbing your eyes. This stuff is good everywhere else, but less so on other things.
What’s it like?
When we used to get embrocation from the US, it came in a variety of temperatures. From mild to extra hot, there was a tub to suit every sensitivity. This is because the more you use it, the more resistant you become.
Rapha’s Winter Embrocation is a medium blend, so if you’ve never used embro before, you may want to try a thin layer first. As you go on, this layer will thicken as your body and the weather changes.
The mixture is a thick lather of pleasant herbs and oils of organic ingredients that is more oily than vaseline. It has a rich orange appearance that will tan your legs with a glow, so ensure that you apply evenly to get maximum benefit and to avoid looking odd.
- Apply after cycling kit is put on
- Do not mistake for Chamois Cream – Rapha use the same packaging pot
- Test on a short ride before using for the long haul
- Depending on conditions it will take anything from 10-30 mins to take effect
- Excellent for short rides/races of 1-3 hours
- Can last longer dependent on weather conditions
- Reapplication is not necessary – squirt some water on to reinvigorate
- Use wipes or wash-off embro before removing bibs
- Inhale and enjoy
The Low Down
With so few people making embro these days, Rapha is one of the few suppliers who consistently produce them and make it readily available. The 150ml offering doesn’t sound like a lot, but we’ve found it to last a couple of seasons. Bear in mind, this all depends on where you live in the world and how often you use it. Suffice to say, that used 3 times a week for 2-3 months worked fine from one pot.
It’s not cheap, nor does it come in a wide variety of temperatures, but if you like your body to breathe rather than be constrained by layers during changeable conditions, then this is the right pot for you.
You can purchase Rapha’s Winter Embrocation online or at the store for £20.
A popular riding tip is to wear a fragrance on a ride. The idea being that the sweet scent would awaken and encourage a second wind. Now, if Rapha were to release a fragrance, for any gender, this would be it.
:: The review is independent and the club does not have any involvement with Rapha. We simply like their idea. You can find a range of reviews here ::