Many cyclists (myself included) are always searching for the latest and greatest products that will make our ride a little better, increase our fitness or performance, and generally enhance our experience on the bike – whatever that might mean to us. Over the past twelve months, injuries and life prevented me from getting out on my bike as much as I usually do, but now recovered from said injuries and freshly motivated to regain fitness for some big events this season (presuming, of course, that they don’t all get canceled due to COVID-19), I have been getting back into a groove with regular training. As I try to regain and build fitness as effectively as possible, I have been quite mindful of the routines and products I’ve used, especially pre-ride, and how effective they are in helping me optimize performance.
AMP Human PR Lotion. I was a pretty early adopter with this product, first using it under its previous name: Topical Edge. When I first read about it, the concept just made sense to me – topical lotion containing bicarbonate that, when applied, absorbs through the skin and neutralizes lactic acid produced by working and fatigued muscles. That original product was greasy and, especially when applied unshaven legs, felt kind of gross. If used when mountain biking or riding on gravel or dirt roads, it also collected dirt and dust like a magnet. As a veterinarian who has personally been involved with several scientific, FDA-regulated studies that have brought new pet medications to market, I tend to be rather critical of “studies” that are perhaps not very stringent and are thus open to bias. However, this product has gone through a double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized pilot study at San Diego State University and the results do appear to be both statistically significant and supportive of claims that it can increase lactate levels as well as decrease heart rate, perceived exertion levels, and muscle soreness. In addition, I can say from my own personal experience that the stuff just works. Every time I use it, I find myself stronger and fresher than I would have expected at the end of a ride. Not only that, but they have recently reformulated the product in such a way that its function has been maintained but the consistency of the lotion is much more pleasant – less grease, more lotion, same results. I don’t apply it prior to every ride, but I certainly do for longer or more strenuous training rides, and before any race.
Biofreeze Pain Relieving Gel. For a product that reveals my age as well as the chronic wear and tear of my body, I have taken to using Biofreeze Gel on a regular basis, in strategic locations. For me, these locations are my right knee (partially torn MCL early this ski season), my left Achilles tendon (persistent tendonitis all of last year), and for longer rides my lower back (chronic issues for over 35 years). It feels good and seems to make the early part of my rides more comfortable, until things loosen up effectively on their own. I have used products like Icy Hot and Ben Gay for these purposes in the past and they have been effective, but I have gotten away from them due to the lingering smell as well as the high risk of “sweat burns” as the lotion that I apply to my lower back drips down to, let’s say, “more sensitive areas” as I sweat. With Biofreeze, I maintain the benefits of these other products without the drawbacks.
Muc Off CC Chamois Cream. In the past, I have not really used chamois cream much, except for long endurance events. I guess my nether regions have been conditioned and tough enough that I have not generally experienced chafing during more routine rides. However, since I was off the bike so much over the past year and now have been ramping my training frequency and duration relatively quickly, I am definitely suffering the effects in those sensitive areas. In the past, my favorite has been DZ Nutz. This is partially because I like their slogan “for mainTAINTenance” but mostly because it works better than any other cream I had used previously. This season, I have started using Muc Off’s CC Chamois Cream. I first tried it because it was given to me as a free sample, and I have continued to use it because it just works really well. It is on par with DZ Nutz and, in my opinion, you would not go wrong trusting either of these fine products.
Osmo Preload Hydration. If I have a particularly long event or race coming up, I will start focusing on hydration with regular water a few days before. Then, the night before the ride/event, I will use Osmo Preload Hydration. The company claims are that this product not only increases sodium stores, which decreases cramping, but it also increases blood plasma volume which boosts overall circulation, regulates body heat, and delays the onset of fatigue. I don’t use this product before every ride but I always have a supply on hand to use before particularly long and/or strenuous rides, and before pretty much any race – whether an endurance mountain bike event or a much shorter cyclocross race.
Beta Red Pre-Workout Formula. This is another product that I do not use all the time – rather only before a race or what I know will be a long and intense ride. This natural blend of beet-juice powder and key amino acids is produced by a Colorado-based company and contains no artificial colors, sweeteners, or flavors. The company claims that the ingredients in Beta Red improve aerobic efficiency, increase muscular endurance, delay fatigue, and improve sprint performance at the end of an exhaustive workout. I do not know of any scientific testing that their specific product blend has undergone, but it is widely recognized that nitric oxide has vasodilatory effects, increases blood flow capacity, and reduces muscular oxygen uptake – which can all lead to improved performance. Beet juice is naturally high in nitrates, which the body converts to nitric oxide. Peak nitric oxide concentration in the blood occurs 2-3 hours after beat-juice consumption, so this is what I reach for about two hours prior to the start of a ride/event. Again, I do not use this product all the time, but for those big events and races, I reach for it consistently. I like the company and I like the product. It tastes good and, when needed, seems to keep me going.
Coming soon: A Few of My Favorite Things: Intra-Ride Edition
Trent Newcomer is a veterinarian and the franchise owner of Velofix Colorado, a mobile bike shop operation that serves the Front Range, from Fort Collins to the entire Denver metro area. Book a bike service appointment and have them roll up to your home or business at velofix.com