Featured Recovery Reviews

Rock Rub

Rock RubRock Rub is a rather odd thing, but like many odd things we’ve sort of fallen in love with it.


The basics: Rock Rub is either a massage wax or a callus-busting moisturiser for your hands or possibly both. If you looked at the strap-line on the jar – ‘Go stronger, for longer’ – you might get a third, more Fifty Shades, impression. The confusion comes in depending on whether you check out the wax on the US website or its UK counterpart; in the US, Rock Rub is predominantly sold on the basis on its hand-moisturising strengths whereas in the UK it would appear we’re not quite ready to admit that rough hands are something that need dealing with. Weird, but there you go and in fact Rock Rub is pretty damn good all round.


The reason why Rock Rub works well as both a moisturiser and a massage aid is down to the ingredients of course. Beeswax (Australian beeswax to be specific, although we don’t know if that’s significant) forms the base along with canola oil, to which is added vitamin E, patchouli, lavender and the mysterious sounding ylang-ylang. It’s really the latter – along with the vitamin E benefits – that make Rock Rub so good for the skin, whilst the beeswax, with it’s slightly ‘tacky’ qualities that make it so well balanced for massage, particularly myofascial release.


Whilst we had feared that patchouli and lavender would be an overpowering combination, the smell is actually subtle and, most importantly for massage, the consistency remains constant during treatment and a little goes a surprisingly long way.


So whether you’re looking to soften those cycling hands or just get some much-needed massage in before that next long ride, Rock Rub pretty much hits the spot. We’re glad to have cleared up any confusion…


Rock Rub is available in 50g pots at £6.72 or 400g pots at a really reasonable £14.99. Further details at

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Hot Ginger Muscle Rub

Hot Ginger Muscle RubFor quite some time QM Sports Care QM2 Hot Embrocation has been Cyclo’s default muscle rub – a ridiculously complex name, but we’ve always found it hits the spot when it comes to aching legs and exhausted muscles. Enter though Hot Ginger Muscle Rub from relative new kids Natural Hero – a ‘superpowered’ recovery product boasting 98% natural ingredients, which, coming from the makers of the excellent Cool Peppermint Muscle Spritz (review here), we felt compelled to put to the test.


Hot Ginger Muscle Rub boasts a range or natural ingredients including ginger root oil (obviously), fennel – a ‘vasorelaxant’, which aids absorption, rosemary leaf oil, which apparently just smells nice, and borage seed oil (starflower), which is a rich source of essential fatty acids to aid muscle repair. To each their own on the perceived efficacy of any of these ingredients, but what we can say for sure is two things: the sensation of heat is extremely mild and it’s absorption rate was middling. If you’ll forgive the excess of detail, our testers overly hairy legs still looked like a matted spaniel even after many minutes of vigorous massaging.


If you are wondering about the 2% synthetic ingredients they are benzyl alcohol and the emulsifier sodium stearoyl glutamate – nothing in the least to worry about, but curious that Natural Hero didn’t got the whole hog on the natural front…


Okay, so QM still retains the title as far as Cyclo is concerned (despite being ridiculously difficult to source) but Hot Ginger Muscle Rub is a great alternative for those looking for a less ‘sciency’ or industrial approach to rubbing away those post-ride aches and pains. Natural Hero Hot Ginger Muscle Rub retails at £9.99 (100ml) with details and online purchase at

Featured Recovery

Massage Oils

Massage OilsThe effort of a long ride or hard training session warrants, if not demands, a little post-exercise pampering and a massage – from gentle warm down to deep tissue – is a great place to start. Everything from the feet to the calves, quads and hams benefit from massage and there are plenty of resources online to teach you the simple techniques to speed recovery and prevent the dreaded DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) that can creep up on even the most experienced of ridesr. With this in mind Cyclo looks at three of our favourite massage oils…


St Kitts Arnica Massage Oil - The St Kitts Herbery was founded by Susan & Paul Johnson back in 2001; initially a true kitchen-table enterprise that has now grown enormously but stayed true to its original ideals, creating high quality botanical products using largely traditional methods. There are those that swear by arnica for reducing bruising and if you’re amongst them then the excellent St Kitts Arnica Massage Oil is the one for you. Even if you doubt the properties the addition of lavender, birch tar and rosemary to the grape seed, sunflower oil base makes for a silky smooth massage that smells good too and is popular with physiotherapists.


A 100ml pump bottle of St Kitts Arnica Massage Oil retails at £9.95, details and online purchase at


Aptonia Relax Lotion - If you’re looking for pure simplicity at a low price the Aptonia Relax Lotion is an all-round massage oil, good for both warm-up and cool-down. The combination of glycerin, and hydrogenated castor oil makes for a smooth application and the viscosity works exceptionally well if used in conjunction with massage tools like The Stick. The use of linalool, alcohol denat base and menthol in the mix goes some way to providing a cooling effect on the skin and the addition of various citrus notes takes the edge off. Really at the opposite end of the spectrum to the bespoke nature of the St Kitts offering but, for the price, a trusted addition to the kit bag.


Aptonia Relax Lotion comes in 150ml bottles at just £3.99 and is available instore at Decathlon and online at


Body Shop Sensual Massage Oil - Don’t let the Sensual bit put you off (or maybe it hasn’t) because despite being described as ‘ideal for couples’ and being inspired by traditional Polynesian massage rituals this is a solid candidate for post-exercise recovery. Being Body Shop the list of ingredients looks somewhat arcane and takes some deciphering – ‘helianthus annuus seed oil is sunflower oil by any other name – and it certainly packs a lot in. The mix is well judged for either a simple hands-on massage or a deeper trigger point massage with (non-sensual) massage tools and the smell, which at first feels a little overpowering and difficult to place, actually grew on us after a few sessions.


A 150ml bottle of Body Shop Sensual Massage Oil retails at £10 and is available either in-store or at


Featured Recovery Reviews

The Orb

The OrbHours in the saddle can certainly punish the body and when it comes post-event recovery most of us can’t rely on (or afford) pro sports massages on a regular basis. When the option for some light self-massage arises the roam roller – the very definition of the pain/pleasure principle – seems to be the general weapon of choice; now though The Orb from Pro-Tec Athletics, whilst not a straight alternative, brings some added benefits of its own…


The 5inch ball, made of high-density EVA foam can be used in a variety of ways – all of which fundamentally involve using the body’s weight to roll and massage – to release tension in the muscles. Whilst a roller allows only single-direction relief, The Orb gives a multidirectional-workout, which feels rather more targeted and, because of the reduced surface area, deeper too.


Arguably there are disadvantages over a roller – hence we think of it as an addition not a replacement – in that more of a balancing act is involved particularly, we found, when working on the quads or tackling The Orb side-on for an ITB workout. But The Orb does come into its own in dealing with calves, glutes and hamstrings where the added intensity feels particularly well judged and using it between the shoulder blades (against a wall) was a sublime relief.


Okay, so arguably you could achieve much of this with a tennis ball at a fraction of The Orb’s £18 asking price but the size, weight and non-slip dimpled texture do all feel perfectly balanced. It’s also far more portable than most foam rollers (although Pro-Tec do produce a nifty 4inch x 12inch travel roller too) so tucking The Orb in the kit bag for some immediate post-sportive relief is an option we would heartily recommend.


Take a look at our review of the Pro-Tec Y Roller here and of The Stick here



Recovery Reviews

Pro-Tec Y Roller

Y Roller ReviewAmerican company Pro-Tec Athletics started out in 1991 with a single product – the Knee Pro-Tec Patella Tendon Strap – before expanding its product offering to include further specialised supports for running injuries; in 2012 they introduced the Y Roller, an elastomer (elastic polymer) constructed massage roller that featured a unique dual-ridge design. At Cyclo we’ve had plenty of cause to use massage rollers over the years – not least to ease tight IT bands and calf muscles; we put the Y Roller through its paces to see how it measured up.


On initial impressions, the Y Roller looked to be well made, sturdy and firm; the manufacturers claim that the elastomer used is the highest density and most durable foam possible, able to withstand constant, heavy and repeated usage without breaking down.


The unusual design has two parallel ridges each of which splits into two tram-line-like ridges on one side of the roller and remerge into a single ridge on the opposite; Pro-Tec say that the dual/single ridge option offers, ‘a targeted aggressive massage’ or the ability to ‘…roll in between ridges for a less aggressive, moderate massage.’ What this meant in practical terms was that we could roll our IT band between the dual ridges – which was firm and applied a good amount of pressure – and then slowly rolled the IT band up onto the single ridge to apply a more focused, deeper and better targeted tissue massage.


Initially we confess to having been a little unsure of exactly how to roll effectively over the dual/single ridge design, but the Y Roller comes with an easy to understand guide (and there are some helpful online videos), which shows how to use the roller for different areas of the body. It took a few back-and-forth rolls to get the hang of things, but once mastered never forgotten (appropriately like riding a bike…) The Y Roller works well across other muscle groups; calf, hamstrings, glutes, upper- and lower-back all benefitted, as did the arch of the foot (excellent after extended peddle sessions) and because of the Y Roller’s size it easily took care of quadriceps – something lesser rollers can struggle with.


The Y Roller has a diameter of 15cm and is 40cm long, which makes it a little larger than its rival the Trigger Point GRID (12cm/33cm), but comes in at around the same price £38.99. Now we’re used to the initially tricky ridge rolling technique the Y Roller could well become our massage tool of choice.


Available from, with further information at and a number of instructional videos online, such as the one below.




Extras Recovery Reviews

Cool Peppermint Muscle Spritz

Cool Peppermint Muscle Spritz ReviewThere were two things that made us want to take a closer look at the Cool Peppermint Muscle Spritz from Natural Hero: First, we are told (by the makers) that it’s incredibly popular with cyclists and second we love ‘natural’ products and this one claims to consist of ‘99% natural ingredients’. So, what does it do? Is it any good? And can we forgive it that 1%?


The Cool Peppermint Muscle Spritz, which comes in a 100ml pump bottle, is intended for spraying onto aching muscles either during or post-exercise to provide an instant cooling effect, which gives way to a gentle warmth through the treated area. It achieves this through a blend of botanical extracts including peppermint (natch), white willow, arnica, witch hazel and blue chamomile – whilst the carrying agent (a natural alcohol denant) also adds to the initial cooling as its rapid evaporation leads to a drop in skin temperature. Looking at the other active ingredients in order: peppermint essential oil can reduce inflammation (and smells good), willow – in the form of bark extract – is an astringent, which will cause mild skin contraction, arnica has proven efficacy as an anti-inflammatory, witch hazel is a toner, and chamomile is another anti-inflammatory. Phew…


If you’re wondering about the 1% of synthetic ingredients: menthyl lactate is a common cosmetics ‘cooling agent’, potassium sorbate is a preservative (E number 202) and ascorbic acid (actually a form of vitamin C) is utilised as an anti-oxidant in the spritz. Nothing to worry about here and the other 99% is more than commendable.


Does it work though? The short answer is an unequivocal yes. The cooling effect was instant and quite intense shifting, after a few minutes, to a background warmth that lasted in excess of half an hour. Perhaps not strictly for use as pain relief, and, as it evaporates so quickly (an essential part of the cooling mechanism), it lacks the advantage of being compatible with massage. But for instant revitalisation with tangible soothing results that eased muscle tension this is an undeniably useful product that deserves to find its way into the bag of tricks for post-sportive or intensive training session. Cyclo would love to see a mini version – say sub-50ml – that could tuck into a jersey pocket…


Cool Peppermint Muscle Spritz from Natural Hero is available for £11.99 from


Recovery Reviews

The Stick

The Stick MassageAt first glance The Stick self-massage gizmo looks like a gimmick and ranging in price from £27.99 to £47.99, depending on size, a pretty expensive gimmick at that. But having heard so many people (cyclists and marathon runners in particular) rave about the benefits Cyclo thought it time to take a closer look…


Invented back in 1991 in America, The Stick is, in essence, a long… erm… stick, with handles at either end and a series of free-rotating spindles between; these look disturbingly like vertebrae but are, in fact, the bits that really go to work on sore muscles when you begin your self-massage session. It can be employed for a variety of massage sessions, working both trigger points and general deeper tissue pummelings, with the version Cyclo had on test (the shortest, 17inch and cheapest, £27.99) being particularly effective at working the legs.


We found some real benefits from use, both pre-ride warming and, in particular, post-ride workouts that shifted knots and released tight calf muscles quickly and efficiently. The price seems high, but compared to a single 30minute physio session things start to look far more cost effective.


It’s hard to get beyond the feeling that The Stick is a gimmick; the US website describes it as ‘The toothbrush for muscles’, a completely ridiculous simile that doesn’t stand up to even the slightest of inspection; whilst the UK site opts for the barely-better ‘The massage tool for happy muscles’. But if you can get beyond the hype and are prepared for the initial outlay, then The Stick could be a true long-term friend for both injury prevention and recovery; this is certainly kit that Cyclo will keep close to hand (and leg) from now on.


True cheapskates should take a look at the ever-excellent (and often deranged) website, where some penny-pincher has posted instructions for making your own out of household objects. We wouldn’t swear by the results, but it will give you something to read whilst using your own (genuine) Stick.


Further details and online ordering at