though the following has little or nothing to do with the fact that a three year project at cambridge university claims that dinosaurs may have originated in scotland, it does pay homage to the scots' reputation as a particularly hardy race. alex salmond and nicola sturgeon notwithstanding, it seems highly appropriate that the world's biggest and baddest animals might have come to fruition in a small bothy near fort william (i may have made that bit up). and carrying this particular tradition into the modern era is the basis of my oft-repeated contention that the hebrideans are the flandrians of the west.
if evidence were required, my good friend brian smith can rarely be seen riding his bicycle while wearing gloves. though his birthplace of paisley isn't quite in the hebrides, the service plane to both islay and tiree departs and arrives from nearby glasgow airport which is good enough for me. his predilection for having immaculate hair, however, has probably come from living in the south for too many years.
though obviously members of the velo club think little of riding in galeforce sub-zero windchill wearing lightweight bibshorts, most of us have deferred to the peter sagan dress code for the spring classics, opting either for knee-warmers or the more flemish bib-threequarters. but our insouciance should not be mistaken for foolhardiness in the face of potential adversity. in the finest tradition of belgium and portland, oregon, we frequently resort to hand applied embrocation, all the better to protect those lower limbs from corrosion and climatic shot-blasting.
in the finest tradition of cycling's green credentials, it also behoves us well to slather our calf muscles with natural product which, in the particular case which i am about to elaborate, is collected from beehives. beeswax is an entirely natural product, one which lends itself to a wide range of useful products, now including a rather fine embrocation from the aptly named plan bee. this soon to be offered product is joined by an anti-chafe cream, one that lends itself remarkably well to the chamois area of your bibshorts.
i asked plan bee's david hall, erstwhile founder of the 5th floor fixed gear racing squad, what gave him the idea to produce both products from beeswax?
"My previous life saw me at the helm of The 5th Floor NYC; itself an evolution of The 5th Floor I founded in London in 2009 in response to the burgeoning fixed gear sub-culture. While we grew into a multi-national racing squad, our subversive and grass-roots ethos was pervasive. As a result, we worked with a number of craftspeople in mutual support.
"In the USA this included Mad Alchemy based in Denver.
"This translated to my work with Plan Bee in two respects; while beekeeping is a rural craft, we're very much about innovation and how the by-products of the hive can be harnessed in the 21st century. Secondly, as a sustainable company, the circular economy is at the heart of of our operations and manifesto and we have a lot of wax to work with!
"We've previously harnessed the wax for use in candles and soaps, but when I explained the concept to the founder and head beekeeper here at Plan Bee - Warren Bader - he threw himself into the R&D here at our Wishaw (Scotland) workshop. After some field testing - often literally Ê- we arrived at the blends you find in your hands today."
there are almost as many brands of chamois cream available as there are brands of bibshorts, several of which are fashioned from petroleum-based ingredients, constituents not renowned for their sustainability in the face of close investigation. however, anti-chafe cream is not necessarily confined to the posteriors of the cycling fraternity. and to be honest, the same could be said for embrocation. so are the plan bee products packaged specifically towards cyclists?
"Embrocation is relatively niche and I'd say still even East Coast America CX racer niche. That being said, having moved away from highly competitive racing myself I've found it incredibly useful in trail running or when easing an injured muscle back into use (remember though, that the heat is a reactionary trick and doesn't equate to a physiologically warmed muscle). The UK and Scotland in particular is known for experiencing five seasons in one day, and in trail running where saturated or muck-heavy clothing can be detrimental, embrocation has a place.
"Our anti-chafe cream is specifically that; anti-chafe rather than a chamois cream. As such its applications extend far beyond the saddle. The lack of petroleum means no stained running tops if used to combat nipple rash or thigh chafing; again especially in an oft wet UK climate. It's actually incredibly well suited for bike touring or hiking too, for the same reasons. It's also a practical treatment for small wounds, cracked lips, blisters or even, at a pinch, waterproof equipment such as knives and boots.
Ê "Beeswax isn't just a sustainable solution that we happen to have lying about; it's truly amazing stuff and absolutely the best for these applications. Rainforests aren't being ripped up to plant bees the way soya is and petrochemical-based products can actually aggravate even normal skin."
plan bee supplied me with a sample jar of each product, both of which have been trialled in less than favourable situations: cold, wet and windy. the anti-chafe cream i used solely as a chamois cream substitute and though in the jar it's viscous to the point of solidity, on application, body heat makes it a very simple product to apply. though david hall mentioned that the eventual packaging of both products is likely to be as a roll-on, i'd be inclined to recommend that they also offer them in jars, though perhaps just a smidgeon larger than the review samples.
i'm not sure i fancy trying to apply the anti-chafe cream by way of a roll-on. and perhaps not the embrocation either; it hardly seems the flandrian way.
if you'll pardon the pun, the plan bee embrocation offers a gentle buzz to those chiselled lower limbs, apparently waterproof, but like all forms of embrocation a veritable magnet for all the muck of the day, including cobblestones. its force-field effect seems not to suffer from a sell-by date; those legs were every bit as well protected at home time as they'd been at the point of departure. the anti-chafe was quite marvellous, every bit as transparent in use as you'd hope it would be. in short (see what i did there?) i could cheerfully live with these throughout every spring classics season and beyond.
such versatility from beeswax came as something as a suprise to me, so is it likely that there are yet more innovations to come from wishaw?
"Certainly. Even within the product applicators there are innovations to come. We've championed the roll-on, as I've often found myself putting embrocation on prior to a race with detritus from the car to avoid my hands becoming a hazard. When it hits our online store we will be offering it in a cardboard roll-on. This brings it in line with our ethos and we believe these green credentials will add further value to the cyclists that use it. We're working on a dedicated boot and shoe proofer too.
"And that's only counting the wax based products.
the price, when both the plan bee embrocation and anti-chafe creams are available soon, will be around £14.50 per roll-on. check the website linked below to find when sales are online.
friday 24 march 2017..........................................................................................................................................................................................................