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



Extras Recovery Reviews


Rocktape is, for Cyclo’s money, far and away the best kinesiology tape available. Useful for supporting injuries in a variety of ways, Rocktape can also be used to apply compression for injuries (potentially reducing inflammation and speeding recovery) and to help fatigued and ‘pulled’ muscles repair – used sensibly it can even allow for the continuation of exercise during a recovery period.


We’ve tested this under numerous conditions and for treating and supporting a range of minor niggles and it plays out well right across the board, but there are a number of unique selling points to Rocktape that really raises it above the competition. For a start the huge amount of elasticity means that it can be more accurately applied and provides far better range of motion once in place, it also (crucially) stays absolutely put even under hot and sweaty conditions. Secondly not only is the width generous but because it isn’t pre-cut it can be used at lengths that best suit the injury, so everything from IT band to plantar problems can be addressed. That really brings us neatly to the third thing we love about Rocktape – the manufacturers take the time and effort to clearly and precisely spell out its uses, including a details instructional leaflet and online video guidance to help you get the best from it.


For bonus plus-points, and purely on the fun side of things, it is available in a wide range of colours and designs that even includes hard-as-nails looking tattoo or skull options. Aiding recovery has seldom looked so cool… Costing a little more than some of the competition (expect to pay in the region of £10 for 5m, good for around 5-10 applications to injury) but far superior than most. Well worth the extra in Cyclo’s opinion and if you don’t want to take our word for it then note: Rocktape are the official tape supplier to Team Garmin Cervelo, so now you can recover, if not quite ride, like a pro.


Available from



Feet First

Your feet are incredible. Yes, yours! Think about it: 28 bones, 33 joints, 19 muscles and 107 ligaments in each foot and, when working well in harmony, will support many long hours on the pedals. But they do take a pounding with each ride and many cyclists, whilst taking good care of quads, calves, knees and more, shamefully neglect the lower extremities. Cyclo thought it high-time we redressed the balance by taking a looking at three common and relatively easy to treat conditions (Bursitis, Plantar Fasciitis, Sesamoiditis) that, if ignored, can not only end a ride but a whole season.



Helping to reduce friction between muscles, tendons and bones, the bursae are small sacks filled with synovial (yolk-like) fluid. Bursitis occurs when these become inflamed and whilst in cyclists this can occur around the knee it is also relatively common both under the foot around the Achilles tendon at the heel. Causes vary, but generally over-exercise or a sudden increase in miles ridden can be a factor (as can over-tight, poorly fitted shoes). Pain, particularly around the front, underside of the foot can range from a dull-aching throb to sharp sudden stabbing pain this may not become apparent on a ride but often afterwards, particularly after sitting for a long time or first thing next morning once out of bed.


A simple ice-pack or coolant bandage works well and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory drugs (often abbreviated to NSAID, and including the likes of Ibuprofen) quickly relive pain. Opt for a cream NSAID rather than tablets as the gentle massage act of rubbing in also helps recovery. More serious bursitis can be treated professionally with steroid injections – a painful but very effective solution to long-term inflammation.


Plantar Fasciitis

Like Bursitis, Plantar Fasciitis is both an inflammation and over-use injury but affecting the plantar fascia, the thick band of fibrous connective tissue, similar to a ligament, that runs from under the heel to the ball of the foot. Often starting as a dull ache along the middle part and arch of the under-foot, plantar fasciitis can develop into sharp stabbing pain that feels like stepping on sharp stones. Again, as with Bursitis, poorly fitted shoes can be a cause but the switch to rigid cleated shoes can also contribute so it can be advisable to make the transition gradually. Ice-packs and NSAIDs will help relieve pain and a reduction in the miles cycled until the problem has resolved is advisable. Massaging the sole of the foot gently with either a sports massage oil or foot cream helps to speed recovery too.



Certainly one of the lesser known (but no less common) cycling complaints affects the sesamoids, two small pea-sized bones under the main joint of the big toe. Seasmoids are unusual in that they are not connected to other bones by joints but rather embedded in soft tissue (a little like the knee), they can become inflamed and even rupture under the stresses of cycling. Inflammation will cause a general aching pain that may come on slowly, but a direct rupture/fracture, will cause an immediate shooting pain under the big toe. Swelling and even bruising can become evident and difficulty bending the big toe can be a sign of Sesamoiditis. If you suspect a fracture then professional help needs to be sought immediately (and a brief ‘retirement’ from cycling likely) but simply inflammation should be controllable with ice-packs and, again, NSAIDs. Reduce your miles and intensity of training until fully recovered.


General Foot Care

You will have noticed that with all of the above conditions both ice and NSAIDs are broadly speaking the solution. Cyclists can do well to observe the so-called RICE regime – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation – for an impressively wide range of injuries and complaints with the use of Non- Steroidal creams used for dealing with pain and a wise addition of an extra ‘R’ (making it RICER) with the final letter standing for ‘Referral to a doctor’ is things don’t improve or if you are not entirely certain of what is wrong.


Cyclo Top Tips

Feet get hot and can swell on a long ride. Leave them bare immediately afterwards.

Peppermint foot cream can be the ideal post-ride pamper.

Bruising to the sole and heel can be treated with arnica cream and topical (applied to the skin) Ibuprofen can reduce swelling.

Use a ribbed, spindle foot roller to massage the soles of the feet and help treat minor plantar fasciitis.

Carefully pick cycling shoes. Have them properly fitted and check for wear and tear.

Make the transition to cleated shoes gradually.

Make sure your bike fits and is always properly adjusted to you.


The above is strictly intended as general advice and in no way constitutes professional medical opinion. Always consult your GP, physio or other healthcare professional.


Extras Recovery Reviews

Kenkoh Classic Health Sandal

With much sunnier weather in prospect it’s high time to start looking at something beyond the comfy fire-side slipper for that all-important post-cycle recovery and pamper session and with that in mind Cyclo took a (slightly cynical) look at the Kenkoh Classic Health Sandal. Why cynical? Well beyond the aesthetic – the Kenkoh’s are odd to say the least – the big selling point for these Japanese imports is that they claim to stimulate the many reflexology points on the sole of the foot and, as something of a pseudo-science, reflexology is something we rather reserve judgement on.


The sandals ‘work’ (depending on your definition/belief-system) through stimulation provided along the length of the under-foot by 1000-plus tiny rubbery nodules that gently massage the foot with each step taken. Putting aside any particular adherence to the benefits of reflexology, what the Kenkohs do undeniably delivery is an exceptionally pleasant and wholly unexpected massaging of tired feet that stimulates blood-flow to speed recovery. The sensation – which at first feels a little like walking on a tiny bed of nails – is oddly relaxing and after a few hours strapped into race shoes brought quick relief to achy soles and toes.


We can certainly see some benefits here to riders suffering a range of minor foot ailments from plantar fasciitis and heel bruising to poor circulation and, although we would argue that the Kenkohs are far from the stylish ‘must-haves’ that the makers claim, they work exceptionally well in revitalising pedal-worn feet. Cyclo loves a spot of pampering and combining these with a little after-cycle foot cream massage is the closest we’re likely to commit to a day at a spa.


Expect to pay around the £50 mark for the Kenkoh Classics or £35 for the all-new flip-flop version that hides away the ‘magic’ nodules within far more conventional looking summer wear. More information and online purchase at



Cycling Knee Pain

Spend enough time in the saddle and sooner or later something’s going to give. Whilst some injuries are easy to avoid – road-rash (don’t fall off), cracked skull (don’t fall off, wear a helmet) – others can creep up on you. In the first of a series of features Cyclo looks at cycling knee pain. But first, some basics:


In general terms three things can help reduce the risk of injury: warm up, stay warm, cool down. For a warm up, particularly early in the season if you’ve spent little time in the saddle over the winter months, start your ride slow in an easy gear and take ten minutes to work out all the creaks and groans (yours and the bikes); in cooler weather stay warm with appropriate clothing and perhaps even consider compression wear to help keep muscles warm and working at their most effective; finally cool down – a slow coast home rather than a sprint finish, followed by a little gentle stretching can go a long way towards damage prevention.


And so to the knees…


Knees take a pounding on the bike, like the hinge on a door constantly being open and closed. There are a multitude of reasons for knee pain ranging from Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS – an inflammation of the fibrous tissue running from the outer pelvis to the knee), to Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (often called “runner’s knee, although runners don’t have the monopoly on this one) and Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis in athletes. Although degenerative conditions can’t necessarily be prevented, making sure in the first instance that your bike is correctly fitted for you and you alone can help general wear and tear.


When knee pain does occur, for whatever reason (and let’s assume you should seek professional medical advice too!), there are a number of simple and inexpensive creams that may prove beneficial. Ibuprofen gel is a so-called Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and as such is an active pain killer containing the same ingredient as the common tablet form, the advantage of the gel is that the very act of “rubbing in” can bring benefit and if you opt for a brand that also incorporates a heat element, such as that found in Deep Heat rub, the relief can be two-fold.


Although lacking the “true” medical benefit of Ibuprofen, Natures Kiss Herbal Cream is an excellent all-round rub with a wide combination of natural ingredients including arnica, hypericum and calendula or alternatively try capsicum cream which has strong clinical evidence behind it for treating a huge range of aches and pains. Don’t be put off by the fact that capsicum is part of the nightshade family, we’re really just talking chilli-peppers here. Most chillies contain methyl vanillyl nonenamide a lipophilic (just meaning it dissolves in fats) that give them their varying degrees of heat but which also appears to give them some pretty impressive restorative merits. Capsicum’s ability to control and/or reduce pain is more than anecdotal with numerous laboratory studies showing that it may even be able to tackle the severity of rheumatoid arthritis. So whilst you could munch your way through a fistful of chillies brings tears to your eyes – a better option is a “topical” form (rubbed on the skin – and with little or no sensation of heat) such as the St Kitts Herbery Capsicum Cream. Two brief words of warning about capsicum cream though: first do wash your hands after use; although not as lethal as raw chillies you’ll certainly know all about it if you rub your eyes after application. Secondly the cream can stain, so make sure it is fully rubbed in before slipping on your favourite ride apparel.


Applying ice packs post-rode can also help reduce both inflammation and pain, particularly when used as part of the so-called RICE regime – Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation; one of Cyclo’s favourite products is Physicool, a cooling compression bandage that gently squeezes the affected area whilst slowly cooling it. Because it’s based on a coolant spray the bandage (stored in a re-sealable pouch) can easily be used anywhere and in situations when ice and ice-packs wouldn’t be available. Of course at home a bag of peas can prove almost as good…


Finally, if you want to take things truly back to nature, then a post-ride hot drink made by simply adding boiling water to an inch or two of roughly peeled root ginger, which is a proved anti-inflammatory, is both effective and incredibly cheap.


The above is strictly intended as general advice and in no way constitutes professional medical opionion. Always consult your GP, physio or other healthcare professional.


Extras Reviews

Chafe-Ease & Anti-Blister-Stick

Chafe-Ease and Anti-Blister StickNothing – with perhaps the exception of poor weather and falling off – spoils a good cycle ride more thoroughly than good old fashioned chaffing. Even the most expensive apparel can rub you raw when you least expect it, after months of loyal service without so much as an uncomfortable seam suddenly that dreaded hot-spot develops. The first of Cyclo’s two favourite products for dealing with the problem is Chafe-Ease made by the New Zealand company Nature’s Kiss – we came to this via their better known and long-available Recovery rub which works wonders on tired legs. Chafe-Ease is a relatively thick (but non-greasy) cream that combines Calendula Officinalis, Hypericum Perforatum (St John’s Wort) and the essential oils of Tea Tree and Lavender that can be rubbed in pre-ride to any areas that you know are likely the rub (perfect for brand-new kit that still needs a but of breaking in) or used post-ride to treat areas of irritation. Also a general moisturise, Chafe-Ease works well, we’ve discovered over long winter months, in treating cracked skin on exposed fingers. At around the £10 mark, it’s not the cheapest ticket on the market but worth the extra few pounds as the 90g tub seems to last forever.


Our other recommendation is the Anti-Blister Stick made by Steroplast (around £4.50) – this was first recommended to us by a runner friend but we find it translates well to two wheels. Really intended to treat blisters on the feet, it actually works brilliantly as an emergency anti-chafe, being about the size of a match-box and easily slipped into a jersey pocket. The semi-solid stick, which works in a similar way to push-up deodorant sticks, and combines palm butter and hydrogenated avocado oils for an effective and non-greasy result.


Both are widely available online.


Recovery Reviews

Happy Foot Kit

Happy Foot KitOf course we know that as cyclists you’re all good at looking after aching quads and calfs post race (right?) but if there’s one thing Cyclo finds tender after a long time on two wheels – apart from perhaps out nether regions – it’s the soles of our feet. However flashy your footwear it’s inevitable that a good long slog on the bike is going to take its toll, with the plantar fascia – the band of tissue not unlike a ligament that stretches from your heel to your middle foot bones – often taking the brunt of the abuse. We were delight to receive (goodies always welcome) the wonderfully named Happy Foot Kit from Opal London and set about indulging our oft-abused appendages.


Contained within the cheekily foot-shaped bag (not the most hardcore pro-looking bit of kit so you might want to just keep it safely at home) is 100ml of cooling aromatherapy peppermint foot gel and a ribbed massage foot roller which is excellent for relieving aching feet and simple to use – just put it under the sole of your foot and move it backwards and forwards. It also has an excellent application for use if you are suffering from the otherwise hard to treat Plantar Fasciitis (a painful inflammation of the aforementioned plantar fascia which can be caused by overdoing things) and also as a simple in-flight exercise to help in the prevention of DVT. The cream is effective and soothing; no claims of true medicinal benefit made, but the simple act of massaging in is revitalising.


Cyclo certainly wouldn’t claim that the Happy Foot Kit is anywhere close to an essential addition to your cycling toys, but the results are undeniably satisfying after a long hard sportive. Feet are so easily neglected and this could be your chance to rectify the situation and pamper them just a little…


Available for £7.00 at


Apparel Recovery Reviews

Physicool Cooling Tee-Shirt

The original Physicool product was a cooling compression bandage that first made its appearance on Dragons’ Den a couple of years ago and could genuinely claim to be revolutionary in its ability to combine post-exercise compression with the recovery benefits of cold – all without the need for icepacks. Now, in association with OK! Famously Fit an online “Celebrity and Expert Health and Fitness” magazine (with ex-Steps star Lee Latchford Evans, no less), they have released the Physicool Cooling Tee-Shirt based on the same coolant spray as the bandage. In principle this might seem like a good idea, but in execution is a little bit neither fish nor foul. The tech-quality T-shirt can simply be sprayed as and when required with the coolant spray to help wick away heat from the body; and in this it is undoubtedly effective – we found that it consistently cooled us for more than an hour without the need for “recharging” and not just in a vague menthol spray way that fools you in to thinking you are cooler (such as with Skins ICE) but in a demonstrable and measurable body-temperature manner. Good stuff, but at Cyclo we can’t quite see the point.


Post ride you could certainly use it to simply cool off – although rapid cooling isn’t always the best advice – but with a little more application this could have been an excellent addition to you kit bag. Imagine if Physicool had teamed up with the aforementioned Skins, or indeed CompresSport, TXU, etc, so that true post-exercise recovery could have been achieved with a little extra squeeze. At £49.99 for a T with 250ml of coolant or £58.98 for a T with 500ml you are already in to the territory where you could by an excellent compression top from most of the leading brands and still have money over to but a stand-alone bottle of coolant at £7.99 for 200ml or £16.99 for 500ml…


So, certainly not the cheapest bit of kit you could add to your bag, but it does do exactly what it claims. Cool.


Available from