As a science-loving numbers guy, cycling appeals to me. I love experimenting on myself, tweaking variables like workout structure, recovery, nutrition, and CdA then observing the results with tools like Strava, WKO4, and Golden Cheetah. Cycling (both indoors and out) has taught me much about how to test and move beyond my limits.

When it comes to nutritional supplements, I’m not ashamed to say I’ve tried many. While I would never use anything illegal, banned by USADA, or potentially harmful, there are plenty of perfectly legitimate products on the market. When I come across a new supplement which may improve my racing, training or recovery I typically dig into the research, read what other cyclists have to say, and give it a try if it looks promising.

Hello, Topical Edge

When I first heard of Topical Edge’s “Performance and Recovery Lotion” (PR Lotion) I was immediately intrigued since was described as sodium bicarbonate lotion. I knew from past research that sodium bicarbonate (aka “baking soda” or “bicarb”) was a well-known and legal performance enhancer for cyclists, runners, and swimmers. The science is proven and simple to understand: bicarb is a base, counteracting the acid which causes your muscles to burn when you go anaerobic too long. (Read what Topical Edge says about the science.)

The big challenge with bicarb, though, is the gastric distress it can cause when ingested. In fact, I read so many stories of gut-wrenching stomach pain and diarrhea that I avoided trying bicarb at all!

But this product was a lotion, which eliminated my gastric concerns. I was intrigued, so I placed an order and my box arrived a few days later. I decided to give it a try on my next hard ride.

My initial box of Topical Edge… 10 packets, for 5 workouts.

My First Ride

My plan was to ride a favorite local Saturday loop, 65-miles around the lake with my good buddy Zane (here’s that full ride on Strava). Zane didn’t want to push hard since he was racing the next day, so I told him I would do most of the pulling on the flats. I also let him know I wanted to hit the climbs hard, and I’d wait for him at the top. That’s what friends are for, right?

As instructed, I rubbed one packet of PR Lotion into each of my legs (my quads, really) just before kitting up. We rode at a medium tempo for the first 25 miles, enjoying the beautiful Northern California morning as our legs warmed up. Then we came to the first climb.

Spinning with Zane along the northern edge of Clear Lake, CA.

Sulphur Bank is a 6%, 1.1 mile segment on Strava. My PR of 6:38 had been set 4 months earlier when I last hit this loop hard with Zane and another buddy. Today Zane told me he would pace me up the climb, because he wanted to get in a couple short efforts. So I sat on his wheel and started working.

He pushed it pretty hard up the beginning of the climb, then pulled off to let me finish on my own. I kept hammering to the top, and when I arrived I couldn’t believe my time: 5:52! This was only 13 seconds off the KOM (7th overall)… and 12% faster than my PR. I was happy with my time, and we continued. One climb down, two to go.

The second climb is only .4 miles long at a steady 7%. My PR of 2:43 had been set over a year earlier in a hard group ride. I hammered this short climb, and purposely paid more attention to my body this time, curious if there were noticeable effects from PR Lotion. What I found as a climbed was my legs were burning, but not so bad that I felt I needed to let up. While my heart rate was about where it would normally be for that sort of power effort, the legs just didn’t hurt as bad.

View from the top of the second climb, looking north over Vigilance Winery vineyards towards Anderson Marsh.

At the top my segment time showed 2:29… another PR! (PR Lotion was living up to its name!) My time put me within 17 seconds of the KOM (3rd overall), a 9% improvement over my previous time. I spun easy at the top, waiting for Zane. When he arrived I told him my secret, “I’m trying this new lotion from Topical Edge… and it actually works! The legs just don’t hurt like they normally would!” He didn’t seem terribly interested, so we continued on down the road.

The third and final major climb was Point Lakeview Rd, 1.3 miles at 5%. My previous best was 7:18. I told Zane I was going to try to beat this PR as well, and set off on a steady pace. As I climbed I notice I was easily ahead of my PR pace, so I switched my Elemnt over to show my time vs the KOM. Imagine my surprise when it showed me a couple seconds ahead of KOM pace! The fight was on. I focused on keeping the effort steady and hard, and when I got to the top I was amazed to see that I had claimed the KOM. Me, a 185lb guy who never gets KOMs on climbs over 90 seconds! Zane couldn’t believe it when I told him, and honestly, I was quite surprised myself. My time was 6:18, a 15% improvement on my PR.

The Aftermath

When I returned home I noticed a slight white residue around my knees, which I assume is what happens when rubbed-in PR Lotion meets with sweat. I also noticed that my body felt like I had put in a good hard workout–which I had! I told my wife it felt like my body had done all the work required for those efforts, but my legs just didn’t hurt as much while I was doing them.

Although Topical Edge’s literature says it aids in recovery and after-workout muscle soreness, I felt like these didn’t really change for me on this first experiment. BUT (and this is a big but) I didn’t re-apply after the ride, which is what Topical Edge advises. That experiment would have to wait another ride.

Coming Up

I plan to write at least two more posts about my PR Lotion experience, talking about rides which came after the one above. I’ve learned some interesting stuff about the product and my own limits thanks to these tests, and I want to share those insights with you, dear ZwiftBlog readers. So stay tuned!

Buying PR Lotion

If you haven’t tried Topical Edge’s PR Lotion yet, you absolutely should. Buy it now > (use promo code “ZBBOGO” to buy one, get one free thru 11/23/17)

(Full Disclosure: I’m so impressed with this product that I’ve become an affiliate for Topical Edge. Your purchase through the link above supports ZwiftBlog.)