Thursday, 21 August 2014

Review: Secret Training Race Day Personal Care Kit

Secret Training
Considering cyclists tend to be gear fanatics, we are surprisingly often a bunch that are hard to find good gifts for. We only want the latest, the greatest, that saddle, that frame; if it's not the right one, then it's probably not going to make your best bike. For that reason, it's always great to find products that really are great gift ideas for cyclists; products which you could give to any two-wheeled enthusiast, and it would bring a smile to their face. I reckon that the Secret Training Race Day Personal Care Kit is one of those...

Secret Training might seem an odd name for a company that currently provides predominately care products, but it has an interesting background. Founded by Tim Lawson, a European Track Cycling Champ and highly accomplished cyclocross racer, it is designed to give you the edge in tough race conditions.

Secret Training

Tim Lawson explains the ethos behind 'Secret Training' very well on his blog:

"Tips and advice (from coaches) would ensure that (mostly) we would not have to learn the hard way, that when it comes to racing there won't be sufficient pins for your number (or any at all if racing in Belgium), the bathrooms are likely to run out of toilet paper and there probably won't be showers at the Village Hall head quarters.

For the modern newcomer into cycling, anti-chafing or chamois cream can be a "secret" that is only discovered after an uncomfortable experience that can needlessly reduce cycling enjoyment and sometimes develop into something more serious.  

Secret Training
Even when you see the guys that are organised and know about the possibility of a no-shower clean up after the races, vast quantities of baby wipes seem to be the chosen method - better than nothing but not really the best tool for the job. 

When I started racing the "old boys" would have sourced some kind of plant sprayer and made a concoction of Eau de Cologne, soap and water that would efficiently clean off embrocation, sweat and road grime. This practice seems to have been forgotten as the professional riders finish races and climb aboard their 5 star team buses equipped with showers and washing machines. 

Surely it would be possible to revisit this system, design a spray specifically for this purpose with modern micro fibre cloths thus combining best practice with modern technology for a really practical solution. The strategy of learning from the past and applying modern technology to create effective practical solutions to race day personal care is something we have tried to do across the Secret Training Race Informed Products (STRIP) range. We hope you like it!"

When I read the above, it brought to light a very real situation that I have noticed at races. In fact, I have been the culprit of some of these mistakes as well; such as staying in riding shorts for too long after a race, or staying sticky and dusty for too long on the drive home and feeling uncomfortable as a result. Proper preparation and clean-up is key to both performance and enjoyment.

Onto the products...

Secret Training
The Secret Training Race Day kit bag contains ten thoroughly thought-out products, which will make your race day less stressful and far more enjoyable.

Secret Training1) Lip Balm - Cycling is hard on your lips; the wind and rain, oil and energy drink, dry them out and irritate them far more than usual. Chapped lips and sun-burnt lips are uncomfortable at best, and a very unwelcome distraction during a hard race. This mix of coconut, almond and beeswax seems to be highly effective at rehydrating and nourishing your lips, to avoid any discomfort even on long rides.

2) Anti-Bacterial Hand Spray - Cycling puts a real strain on your immune system, as does any intense sports effort. Avoiding bacterial infection is key to maintaining your form, so it's very handy to have some high quality anti-bacterial sanitiser in your bag.

Secret Training3) Sun Cream - We all know the importance of protecting our skin from UV rays, and this SPF30 cream seems effective at staying put and avoiding Rudolph nose syndrome whilst you're out on the bike. Definitely something for every kit bag.

4) Anti-chafing Cream - Another equally important cream: saddle sores and infections cause discomfort at best, and at worst could halt your riding. Avoid them with a decent application of chamois cream. This one seems to work well; it's thick, stays put and works effectively for several hours in the saddle.

Secret Training5) Pins In A Tin - Flapping race numbers are distracting and inefficient, ensure you avoid them with a good stash of safety pins, and keep them together (and not distributed around your kit bag and washing machine) in this neat little tin.

6) Start (pre-race) Oil - Embrocation can help to add a bit of comfort on colder days, and avoid injury when you launch into an early race effort with cold muscles. This Start Oil provides a long lasting warming effect, and contains a lot of natural ingredients such as ginger.

Secret Training7) Micro-fibre Towels - Once you've finished it's clean-up time. These two micro-fibre towels provide a great option to get dry and clean, without taking up valuable kit-bag room.

8) Post-race Wash - Combine this with the micro-fibre towels to provide a very effective cleaning solution. It smells nice, and it works very well at getting rid of dirt, oil and grime. In short, it's far better than paper towels and soap from the HQ toilet.

9) Hygiene Wipes - Run out of loo roll in the HQ? These are the solution. Always a good back-up to have!

10) Wash Bag - Finally, everything is housed upright in a very neat and tidy bag; so that it is always there and easy to grab, and you don't have to go rummaging around in your kit bag to find that bottle of embrocation that has inevitably leaked everywhere.  

I'm impressed. This is a cool thing to have in any kit bag, whether you are a hard core cross racer or a sportive rider. Make your racing more enjoyable, give yourself a bit of an edge... do a bit of Secret Training.

Check out the range at (Link)
Secret Training
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Secret Training

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Weekend Watch: Disc Brakes On Road Bikes – Are They Worth It?

This is an interesting insight into whether disc brakes on road bikes will be the next big thing are going to make that much difference. I'm looking forward to seeing a number of the models coming out from brands at Eurobike this year. Perhaps I'll get to demo one soon too.

Friday, 15 August 2014

Preparation and Pampering: Sportique Care Products

Most of the regular readers of the blog will know that I'm a big fan of the Sportique products, and I've previously reviewed a number of their balms and gels (Link).

Recently though, I've been keen to demonstrate just how useful they are: a few weeks ago I posted on 'Hints and Tips: Treating and Recovering from Road Rash', and mentioned how much better the Sportique Road Rash Balm was than your standard antiseptic cream. In this post, I focus on pre-event preparation and post-event pampering, tying in the Sportique products that I use for the purpose.

Pre-Event Preparation

Before a race or other major riding event, it clearly pays to be prepared; whether that be your bike, your kit, or your body. For most enthusiast road cyclists, preparing their legs includes the task of shaving, and often applying warm-up balm to reduce the chance of injury. Neither of these tasks are particularly scientific in their backing, but they are common place amongst cyclists, and in a world of marginal gains it seems worthwhile pursuing them, as easy-to-execute advantages pre-event.

The Sportique Shave Oil and After Shave Balm are my preferred choice for the first of these tasks; the oil is light and naturally scented, whilst the aftershave balm is highly effective at cooling and reducing irritation. There is nothing particularly new or revolutionary about shaving oil or balm, but when you find one that works well, and has natural ingredients, it's likely you'll keep using it for a long time. The Sportique stuff is top class, and remains my go-to.

Warm-up oil or embrocation is something that I admit I went many years without using when I first started riding competitively. However, in cold, wet and windy conditions, that water resistant layer on your legs, and the warming effect of the balms, are a significant benefit. Many embrocation oils are too overpoweringly chemical in their smell and composition for me though, and that's why the Sportique oil continues to be in my kit bag time and time again. It has a pleasant smell, and works extremely well; staying put, remaining non-irritant and adding a gentle warming effect to cold muscles and skin. If you want to give embrocation a try, this is the best I have found.

Post-Event Pampering

Whether you've gone through the motions of pre-event pampering or not, post race pampering is definitely something that your body will be grateful for, and there are a few products that I have really found to help ease aches and pains, and get you ready for riding as soon as possible.

The first is the Sportique Cooling Cream; it uses a combination of peppermint and eucalyptus to provide a gentle cooling effect on the skin and muscles below, helping to relax them and reduce inflammation. The cream is a nice consistency, and I find it particularly useful in hot conditions, when it can be used almost like after-sun to cool down hot and tired muscles. Imagine an ice bath in a tube; this stuff is pleasant to use and really effective.

The second magic cream is the Sportique Muscle Gel; this uses cloves, ginger and other natural botanics to provide a relaxing effect on the muscles, and reduce tension gradually. Putting it on in the evening after a hard day of riding or uncomfortable efforts really does seem to have a great effect at releasing tension in the muscles, and lowering the chance of being stiff and sore the following morning.

Finally, the Sportique Foot Gel always remains in my kit bag. Athlete's foot is a nasty infection to come across; it is caused by fungi growing in the sweaty conditions around your toes, and is all too common in pursuits such as running, cycling and sailing. Since using the Sportique Foot Gel, I can honestly say I have eliminated the problem of athlete's foot, or the pre-cursory itchy toes that often comes before. This really is a super solution.

OK, so this blog is very Sportique-centric, but they are quite easily the best care products that I've found on the market to date. They just work. They're natural, they smell nice, they're not an extortionate price, and they actually do what they say on the packet. If you're looking to prepare and pamper your body a bit better before a sports event, then check them out.

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