Mad Alchemy Skin Care Products - The Ultimate Guide

By: Brandon Aug 4

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It's been part of our ethos from Day 1 and the mindset still lives on. There's nothing quite like supporting small businesses/builders, boutique goods have a certain je ne sai quoi, panache, even intimacy.

While Mad Alchemy has now landed itself at the forefront of skin care in cycling, it's still very much the kind of company we love to support. Fortunately, their products stand above the rest, so it's not much of a stretch to align ourselves in their corner.

With all of that said, I called my local shop to order up the most recent batches coming out of Colorado. Yes, I bought the product in this review just like everyone else, no free product here. Why? Of course I don't want to have my reviews "bought", and if I find that spending my own hard-earned money on a product is worthwhile, I can feel good sharing that. If I wasn't jazzed on the product, I can share that as well without the guilt of doing so after receiving the product for free.

Pete (Mad Alchemy's founder) doesn't even know this review is coming.....

Anyhow, I nabbed the Pro+ Chamois Cream, Euro Pro Chamois Cream, Ultimate Shave Cream, Warm Weather Embrocation, and Gentleman's Blend Embrocation. Let me break down my thoughts on each.....

Pro+ Chamois Cream

I've dabbled with nearly every major chamois cream manufacturer, and each one leaves me wanting. Be it the consistency, aroma, longevity, they weren't quite right. I decided to give Pro+ a try only because I was already ordering the other jars from Mad Alchemy, it wasn't even supposed to be part of the review.

Here's the deal: Pro+ is a bit "thinner", less viscous, than other creams I had tried. It also smells better than probably anything I put on my body. In my opinion, it's the perfect chamois cream.....for about 3 hours. Beyond that, I assume because of the reduced viscosity it starts to wear off and really needs a reapplication in my experience. Up to 3 hours, it's the best I've ever used, bar none. On longer rides I tossed a small snack bag in my pocket with enough to reapply and I was set.

Euro Pro Chamois Cream

My review of the Euro Pro is going to be short. My taint couldn't handle the tingle. I'm not too proud to admit my skin is a bit sensitive, and the new formula was too much for my taste (and taint). If you're into a big menthol hit in your nether regions, this is your chamois cream.

Ultimate Shave Cream

Going back to my mention of my all-too-sensitive skin, I had really high hopes for the Ultimate Shave Cream. It's labeled "Ultimate" for God's sake, it better be good. The best summary I came up with? My wife stole the jar after I told her how good it was and I've never gotten it back.

I fortunately didn't enlighten my wife to Ultimate Shave Cream until I had used it a number of times, and it really is that good. So good in fact that I will not shave without it now. Won't do it.

Warm Weather Embrocation

What's the point? That's the question I get, and posed. Well, Warm Weather Embrocation isn't about heating you up, it's about protecting you. Naturally bug-repellant and nourishing, this stuff was as much about the process as the result for me. Being a long-time user of embrocations for cyclocross, Warm Weather Embrocation kept me in the process of the leg rubdown, which is the short time when I mentally prepare for hard efforts.

The aroma is calming and exciting at the same time, a balance I find difficult to describe but thoroughly enjoy experiencing. Try it, if you're an embrocation-type-person, Warm Weather Embrocation will make so much sense after you give it a shot

Gentleman's Blend Embrocation

This is about as "warm" as my skin will allow me to go without embarking on a world of hurt. I rode with Gentleman's Blend for ButterGOLD in April where most people were sporting leg warmers. To be honest, those guys complained a bunch about the cold, but I was sitting completely comfortably (until I was unmercilessly dropped in the middle-of-nowhere on the Front Range). A bit of a bite without causing discomfort, if you're new to embrocation or have sensitive skin, this is your jam.

Where did this leave me? Well, I'm on my third jar of Pro+ Chamois cream this summer, I had to order a second jar of Ultimate Shave Cream to replace the one my wife yanked from me, and I've gone through an entire jar of Warm Weather Embrocation throughout the summer and it graces my legs on every intense ride I do in the heat.

I wouldn't tell you to get this stuff if I didn't use it and appreciate it myself. But I do, so you should.

photos and words by Brandon Elliott


Giro Empire ACC Limited Edition - Sepia

By: Brandon Aug 1

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I'm a sucker for limited edition stuff. The marketing behind it got my years ago when collecting baseball cards, I guess. Summers spent ripping packs open to find that signed card, something with gold leaf, or maybe even a Frank Thomas error card. Whatever it was, it has stuck with me, and now lives on through cycling.

Probably the only draw almost as strong as something limited edition are great shoes. I love shoes. It's been more than once that I've been called "Imelda", though that is of course a stretch.

Last year Giro brought out the Empire LTD MTB shoes, and I was in love. Having worn the Empire on the road, I was absolutely sold on the construction and fit, having them in the dirt was a no-brainer. Unfortunately I was only able to grab a single pair of those shoes, so I rarely wear them.

This year, Giro decided to pay homage to the past with the Empire ACC in Sepia Leather. While they've done a few other limited runs of Empires for the road in the past, the others haven't quite fit my style: electric blue and white/gold. Though, looking back, I really should have snagged those blue ones....

Here's the beautiful part: we are hoping to stock the Sepia Leather Limited Edition Empire in the near future. Of course sizes and quantities will be limited, that probably goes without saying.


If you've never tried on the Empire, I can safely say you're missing out. I was initially drawn to them, even in their stock colors, because of the style. But once lacing them up, it was obvious the advantages of a one-piece upper, the laces allow for huge adjustability, and they are silly-light.

For now, just admire these. The color is spot on, the delivery of the pre-order shoes with their bag and tool roll was spot on, and of course the fit is second-to-none.

$350 and includes two pairs of our socks in the corresponding size.


photos and words by Brandon Elliott


UPDATED - 2014/15 Shimano 5800 105 - First Look

By: Brandon Apr 2

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I was alerted tonight to some sneak peeks of Shimano's upcoming 105 drivetrain. Of course, the article I was linked to has since been removed, but I thought I'd share what I could still find's to hoping this article stays live!

Before we dive into what I've found, let me briefly cover what I find most important:

1. No Di2 for 105...yet. It'll come at some point, but doesn't appear to be in the cards for now.

2. Mechanical shifting now gets hydraulic disc brakes. No longer required to make the Di2 swap, Shimano's new ST-RS685 shifters will allow an 11-speed mechanical drivetrain with Shimano's incredible hydraulic disc braking.

3. 105 now gets the upgraded front derailleur geometry of 6800 Ultegra and 9000 Dura-Ace. This is huge news as anyone who has used 6800/9000 will agree. Shimano has long been known for their front shifting, but this is next-level stuff at 105 pricing.

4. Shimano's 4-bolt cranks now make their way to 105 along with chainrings that appear to have Ultegra-like construction.

Without further ado, here's a copy-paste from forum.

Shimano has released details of its all new 105 groupset. Revamped for 2014/15, the drivetrain is now 11-speed, with all components gaining trickle down technology from the company's existing Ultegra and Dura-Ace groups.

Importantly, the new 105 can also be combined with Shimano's recently announced, second generation hydraulic disc brake for road bikes – in a system that debuts mechanical shifting with hydraulic braking for the company.

FC-5800 chainset

There are several chainset options for the new 105 including the FC-5800, a new four-arm Hollowtech II design similar to that of current Ultegra and Dura-Ace. it's stiffer and lighter than the five-arm design it replaces, and Shimano has reinforced construction around the chainring area to further improve the stiffness to weight ratio.

The chainset uses the same bolt circle diameter for compact and traditional double chainsets, which means one crankarm fits all chainring sizes. Gearing options are as follows: 50-34t, 52-36t or 53-39t, and both black and silver colour options will be available. The crankset can be used with Shimano's SM-BBR60 bottom bracket or, should your frame require it, the SM-BB72-41B press-fit bottom bracket.

Shimano will also continue to produce five-arm Hollowtech II chainsets in all popular gear combinations for the 105 group. Crank length options will be 165mm, 170mm, 172.5mm and 175mm.

ST-5800 dual control shift levers

105 now gains the light yet positive shift action found in Dura-Ace and Ultegra levers; there's also a new compact shape that's borrowed from the the levers of Shimano's more expensive groups. The lever can adjusted to accommodate different hand sizes via a 10mm screw-type reach adjustment. Polymer coated cables are now standard.

FD-5800 front derailleur

The new 5800 front derailleur has a longer link arm and a new spring mechanism when compared with the last generation component. RD-5800 rear derailleur.

Shimano has included a new spring mechanism and cable pitch in the latest 105 rear derailleur, said to provide robust adjustability. Both SS (short) and GS (long) options will be available, with the latter being compatible with a 32t cassette. BR-5800 caliper brakes.

105 has taken a step up to a new symmetrical dual pivot caliper design, with a higher arch allowing clearance for up to a 28c tyre. The result is a claimed 10% increase in power. Direct mount versions will also be available (BR-5810-F/R). CS-5800 cassette.

105's 11-speed cassette is offered in three flavours providing the following ratios: 11-25t, 11-28t and 11-32t. Each choice uses close ratios that Shimano say optimise rhythm and cadence control.

CN-HG600-11 Chain

The new CN-HG600 11-speed chain uses Shimano's low friction surface treatment known as Sil-Tec. It's a PTFE surface coating that reduces friction while boosting durability. The technology first debuted a couple of years back on Shimano's flagship Dura-Ace 9000 chain.

Hydraulic disc compatibility

The big news is that Shimano has now expanded hydraulic disc technology to work with a mechanical drivetrain rather than the Di2-only previous components. This has been achieved by the company introducing the ST-RS685, a new dual-control lever that houses 11-speed shifting internals alongside the guts of Shimano's hydraulic brake. The 11-speed shifter can be paired with the drivetrain of Shimano’s Dura-Ace and Ultegra mechanical groups as well as this latest version of 105.

Both the ST-RS685 shifter and the new BR-RS785 hydraulic disc brake will remain a non-series component, meaning they won't belong to a particular product group such as Ultegra or Dura-Ace.

Flat handlebar shifter Shimano has decided to offer another non-series component that builds on the versatility of the 105 group: a pair of 11-speed flat bar shifters. These should provide a decent option for manufacturers or individuals looking for premium shifting on flat bar hybrids without having to resort to often overbuilt mountain bike components. Once again these parts will work with Shimano’s Dura-Ace and Ultegra mechanical.

photos courtesy of Shimano and forum


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