Product Review: Speed Hound ProPerformance Recovery Boots System

by Menko Johnson

Our new team sponsor Speed Hound (https://thespeedhound.com/) is a brand you may not be familiar with unless you have a triathlete in your family.  Their ProPerformance Recovery Boots System (https://thespeedhound.com/collections/items-in-stock/products/speed-hound-properformance-recovery-system) is a pneumatic leg compression system designed to enhance recovery and promote adaptation by letting you recovery faster.  Most amateur riders have never used “compression boots” before, so Speed Hound asked me to try their system out for an extended period of time to understand first hand how it works.

This inspired me to look into the science of peristaltic compression and its potential benefits for us as cyclists, which is something most of us have not had the chance to really look into.  Personally, I have really struggled the last few years to reach the same levels of training load and fitness as I had even 5 years ago, and felt most of that had to do with diminished recovery and my inability to tolerate the same levels of high-intensity training I used to.  So I invite you to put your legs up, grab a nice beverage or snack, and read on a bit about the science behind this recovery tool and my personal experience the last month of using the Speed Hound Recovery System on a regular basis.

BACKGROUND:

You’re a bike racer, which means you’ve already got mental problems.  Normal people go for a ride for fun; you insist your rides are also “fun” and persist in this fiction by describing the depths to which you pushed yourself, how you not only took up residence in the pain cave, but lit a damn fire in there and insist it felt “good.”  At this point, normal people have that wary look on their face and start to look for a way to exit from the conversation, because you are clearly nuts.

RESEARCH ON RECOVERY COMPRESSION:

However, all this fun comes at a price–turning yourself inside-out leaves your legs feeling crippled and even a small flight of stairs makes you cry for your mommy.  Short term you have that burning sensation from lactate build up, followed the next day by DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), where you hop on the bike and say “maybe I’ll feel better after I warmup.”  Putting in multiple hard days in a row takes its toll, and cyclists have been turning to technology solutions to try and solve this problem.  World Tour pros get a daily massage session at all the stage races and training blocks, but most of us can’t afford $100/hour for this luxury.  Amateur cyclists have been looking for less expensive solutions, some old school (ever tried that ice bath and have your spouse wonder why you’re screaming a few octaves higher?) and some modern.  Massage devices like “The Stick”, “The Ball” or other borderline torture devices, compression clothing, and fancy pneumatic compression sleeves that use air to simulate massage and forcibly move blood from your feet to your heart are all methods being used.  Watch any NBA game and you’ll see compression arm sleeves on many players in an attempt to improve performance.

But does any of this stuff actually work to reduce DOMS and enable cyclists to start their next ride feeling more refreshed, less sore, and ready to put in some hard training?  Recent research has found that soreness is part of the rebuilding process, and attempting to avoid that (eg: using NSAIDs) might actually impair development. However, being so sore you can’t perform solid training the next day delays your development.  So how do you find that happy medium between solid training blocks and hard muscular efforts without shattering yourself so much you can’t ride for days?

Sports medicine researchers have done several studies on different types of athletes and found that massage is highly effective, followed by compression garments (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29755363).  Photos with pro cyclists wearing inflatable “space legs” started showing up about 10 years ago and research has found these to be the next best thing to massage as it promotes the same benefits of massage, if the systems are designed right. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5955306/).  If you’re not a big reader, but like podcasts, here’s a good one that talks a lot about compression technology in recovery: https://www.velonews.com/2018/08/podcast/fast-talk-podcast-ep-52-enhancing-recovery-with-normatec_474429

Back in 2012, I bought a set of Podium Legs (~$600), as Murray, myself and few other PV racers sought to recover better from a diet of 2 interval sessions a week and double-day races on the weekend during the cross season.  I was a little dubious, but at $100/session for massage, I figured it wasn’t a huge investment in comparison. I quickly discovered the compression legs helped significantly reduce soreness/fatigue in my legs, but the system had 2 major drawbacks.  First, the maximum program time is 15 minutes–I found recovery would typically take 45-60 mins so I had to keep restarting the program. Being a busy athlete, I was trying to do 2 things at once–take my 20 minute nap AND massage my legs. It sure would be nice for it to run longer.  The 2nd, more significant issue is despite having 3 different program settings, the Podium Legs didn’t have the one that matters the most–”peristaltic pulse compression”.  Basically the boots start compression at your feet, hold it, and work their way up your legs and then releases them all at the same time.  My Podium Legs have a mode that does this, but then reverses directions, essentially pushing all the fluids back down into my feet, essentially defeating the purpose.

SPEED HOUND SYSTEM

With a background in triathlon, Speed Hound knows a little something about recovery.  Let’s face it, compared to a competitive triathlete, we’re a bunch of wussies. I don’t go out and train double days, 6 days a week, and only run if I’m being chased.  Their bodies are surely taxed far more heavily than ours, so being able to recover is the key to being able to train harder. Speed Hound’s Recovery compression system is designed to help your body speed up the process of moving fluids out of your legs and massaging those muscles back into shape.

                 

Out of the box, Speed Hound’s compression system is clearly thought out and ready to go.  After years with the Podium Legs, it was easy to see there were a bunch of clever small details built in you might not notice if you hadn’t used a system that lacks them.  There are 2 main parts to the system–a compressor which has all your settings and generates the pneumatic forces, and the compression boots, which slide over our legs and deliver the “squeeze” to your legs.  The compression boots themselves have 4 zones, your feet, lower calves, hamstrings, and quads. The system allows you to select any or all of those zones to focus on, and I typically just do all 4. You simply slide the boots on (they have full-length zippers to make on-off easy), plug the air lines into the pump, and plug the pump into the wall.

To operate the system, all you have to do is select 2 things: the compression mode (Massage or Peristaltic Compression), and the duration of the session (10-20-30 minutes).  Both modes work their way up from your feet to your quads, but massage applies pressure one area at a time and then releases, while PC applies pressure and holds it. Lastly, it has over 10 different levels of pressure, which means you can have it squeeze very gently at its lowest levels, all the way up to a “boa constrictor” mode that elicits high-pitched gasps.  I’d recommend starting low and finding what works for you–the goal is recovery, not injury.

         

Beyond the simple use of the system, there are several things that really stood out to me about the quality and thought put into the design of the system.  First off, the pneumatic plug that attaches the legs to the compressor has a tab to make sure you insert it the right way–this matters because if you have it upside down, the air goes into the opposite zones on the boots.  Second, the supplied power cord is nice and long, which means you can move the unit around quite a bit. I always had an extension cord in my Podium Legs and more than once had the pump fall off the bed because the cord was stretched.  The leg sleeves themselves have nice pockets to hide all of tubes and protect the connections, and even have inserts for ice packs if you so desire. The whole unit comes in a nice zip up padded carry case, which makes it easy to transport to races, training camp, and so on.  Give yourself a 12v power adapter and chauffeur, and you can do this from the back seat of your car if you so desired. Speed Hound even makes an optional carrying backpack for more transportability. The pump is quiet and I found if you put it on something that isolates sound you can run this thing while watching TV and not annoy your spouse, which was the major drawback I had previously with the pump from my Podium Legs–it drove Cami crazy.

DOES IT WORK?

I spent the last 3 weeks using the system after workouts, races and weight lifting.  At first, I figured it might be a little nicer than my Podium Legs, but after 3 weeks I can definitively say these are a huge improvement and are functionally much better.  This last week I put in 3 consecutive hard days in a row, and used Speed Hound Recovery for an hour after each one. Sunday I pulled out all the stops and did several maximal efforts ranging from 10-15 minutes, each with an all-out sprint for 30 seconds at the end.  My legs were utterly trashed when I got home, so I waited a few hours and then sat down with the Speed Hound legs for an hour of quiet time around 3pm. By late evening, that customary fatigue and “heavy” feeling where every little squat or stair burns was practically non-existent.  I wasn’t fresh by any means, but I woke up ready to ride and not like I had just put in a super hard 3 hours the day before. I like them so much I’d consider carving out 30 minutes every day, even on easier days because I just feel better. In a game where recovery is probably more important than the workout, I was pleasantly surprised to find that regular use really did make a difference for me.  It is definitely capable of more than “mild compression” as the image below shows my leg after an hour long session.

If you love to hammer hard miles on the road, track or dirt, especially back-to-back days, it might be worth considering investing in a set of ProPerformance Recovery Boots.  As cyclists we’re often happy to drop large sums of money to get the newest, lightest, and fastest gear, but that’s always focused on the training side of the equation, often neglecting the most simple things, like sleep and body work.

2019 San Bruno Mountain Hillclimb – It’s a Wrap!

Many thanks to the 124 racers and countless volunteers for joining us for our annual New Years tradition on San Bruno Mountain. The fastest time of the day was 15:09.39 by Andrew Holmes, an E5! Congratulations to Robert Pasco (M 55+ 1/2/3) and Courtney Nelson (W 3/4) for breaking the course records in their respective categories!

We rolled out some new technology with our timing flow, and unfortunately, there were some kinks. We very much appreciate the patience that everyone showed as we worked through those issues, and as a result, we made some final adjustments to times after the event. Updated results can be viewed at OnTheDay.net.

Best wishes for 2019, and we hope to see you all at the Brisbane Criterium! (We have some special things planned…stay tuned!)

Timing results: https://ontheday.net/2019/san_bruno/

Course records: https://penvelo.org/pdf_files/SBHCrecords2019.pdf

Event photos by Katie Miu

Podium photos by David Siler

Video by Stan Tsang

Pen Velo to host traditional NCNCA road season opener!

We at Pen Velo are wasting no time in getting the NCNCA road racing season underway with the 2019 San Bruno Mountain Hillclimb! PV will again be hosting this traditional NCNCA opener on New Year’s Day.

What better way to get a head start on burning off those excess holiday calories than with a short trip through the pain cave on January 1? The first group sets off at 10:00AM – not too early, so no excuses for you late-night revelers! But no worries, you’ll be home in time to watch the Rose Bowl.

Click HERE for online registration and HERE to view the official race flyer. Online registration closes at 11:59PM on Dec 29, 2018.

NOTE that all juniors race together, but boys and girls will be picked separately. So junior girls – please come and race with us!

1974 San Bruno Mountain Hillclimb (photo by Fred Kornahrens)

Fancy yourself a climber? There’s an additional $200 in prize money for anyone who beats the current course record (14:20 for men, 16:34 for women) and an additional $50 for anyone who beats the course record for their category. 

Interested in volunteering? There are still a few volunteer positions open – click HERE to volunteer.

First time racer? This is a great event to get started in bike racing and can provide a good measure of your early-season fitness. How do you prepare for this race? Check out this video by current men’s course record holder Nathaniel English (https://englishendurance.com/), offering a lot of helpful pointers on preparing for this or any other hillclimb race.

See you on January 1!

Andrew Hsu Named PV Advocacy Director

We are pleased to announce that Andrew Hsu has taken on the new role of PV Advocacy Director!

Many of you know Andrew’s longrunning commitment to club as the former PV President, super cyclist, and overall awesome person.  What many of you might not know is that Andrew stepped down as PV President in order to pursue his passion of bicycle advocacy, joining the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition Board.  The position of Director of Advocacy is a natural fit for Andrew to expand his passion and help PV’s voice within the community.

Also, a special thanks to Bill Brissman (280 bike trail), Dave Kristofferson (Canada Road paving), and Bill Fallis for working diligently behind the scenes to make this long overdue position happen.

And thanks, of course, to Andrew for accepting this new position.

A Great Day of Racing at Brisbane!

With 244 riders taking the start in 11 different categories, the Brisbane Criterium was a great success in its first year. Thanks to all the racers for trying out this new race. Congratulations to Race Director Matt McNamara and a small steering team who put this race together in just a few months time. None of it would have been possible without the crack crew of about 75 PV volunteers, several of whom where there all day long!

Results

Photos by Katie Miu

Thanks for Coming!

PV Bringing Crit Racing back to Brisbane!

Sierra Point parkway and the Brisbane City marina will once again reverberate with the sounds of speed and competition as the Brisbane Criterium roars into the bay area on Sunday July 15th. Long the home of the legendary “Night Race” cyclocross event, the Sierra Point circuit offers 5 corners and plenty of speed over its 0.4 mile loop. Racers in eleven different categories face a flurry of primes and prizes throughout the day with the first race kicking off at 8:00am and continuing until the Pro1/2 Men take the start at 4:30pm.

Peninsula Velo, promoters of the event, set out to build a classic neighborhood race that harkens back to the days of old – pure street racing on a great course with maximum cash on offer, great spectating and lots of opportunities to race, cheer, or simply support local racing. Athletes will compete for over $1700 in cash and prizes across all categories. Event entry is only $35 online via BikeReg.com, or $50 on site the day of, and races are arranged so that most competitors will have the option of an additional race (or two) for only $15 each. Race director Matt McNamara noted  “This course and the City of Brisbane have a rich cycling history and we wanted to do something to honor that by focusing on back-to-basics racing that is local, convenient, high quality, and fast as heck!”

Among the novelties on offer is a VIP area for teams that register at least five riders in total for the day of racing. VIP Teams will get a free 10’x10′ team area and 2 parking spots next to the course. According to McNamara other highlights include “a swath of primes like the always popular “Crowd Prime”, a novel  “Racer” Prime, where riders can lay some cash down on themselves, a “Team Prime”,  and the innovative Charity Prime – where all dollars are donated to a local organization of the winners choosing, and that’s just part of whats in store. We’re running a wheels in/wheels out pit in the old school style, while the podium for Brisbane will be 3 deep in each category, as it should be. The winner in each race will be taking home a custom designed Castelli jersey, commemorative certificate,  and a free entry into next years race. We look forward to seeing you out there on July 15th for the Brisbane Criterium.”

For more information:  visit us online:  www.penvelo.org or call Race Director Matt McNamara at 408.891.3462

Beat the Clock Back in 2018!

After a one-year hiatus we are pleased to announce that the Beat the Clock time trial series on Canada Road will be back this season. Our first event will take place on Saturday, February 10, 2018, which is coming up pretty shortly! For more information about Beat the Clock as well as course details, check out the event website HERE. UPDATE: Registration is now CLOSED. Rider start times posted HERE.

The PV Women’s Team at a 2016 Beat the Clock event

For the uninitiated, Beat the Clock is a fun, low-key time trial series which allows cyclists of all abilities to test their speed and skill on a 10-mile out-and-back course on Canada Road. A portion of the proceeds will go toward funding the Bicycle Sunday program run by the San Mateo County Parks Department. This program closes the north end of Canada Road every Sunday, allowing people of all ages to cycle, walk, run, skateboard, skate-ski or participate in almost any non–motorized activity (ball and Frisbee sports excepted).

 

New Year’s Day Tradition Opens NCNCA Road Season

PV opened the NCNCA Road Racing Season with the traditional San Bruno Mountain Hillclimb! 123 racers started 2018 off right with a short, but intense climb to the summit of Radio Road. Despite an auto accident on the race route in heavy fog just 15 minutes before the scheduled start time, the racers were able to make their way past the fog to the sunny summit without incident. Thanks to everyone who came out to race and also to our hardy crew of PV volunteers for making the event a success!

Race results

Please support our race photographers by buying their photos!

Katie Truong’s Photos

Alex Chiu’s Photos

Registration open for 2018 San Bruno Mountain Hillclimb

Pen Velo will again be hosting the traditional NCNCA road season opener, the San Bruno Mountain Hillclimb, on January 1, 2018. Get a head start on burning off all of those excess holiday calories and join us on New Year’s Day for a short trip through the pain cave – just enough to whet your appetite for the full season of racing yet to come. The start time for the first group is at the almost-civilized hour of 10:00AM – not too early, but early enough to get you home in time to watch the Rose Bowl…

Online registration is now open – click HERE to register.

Click HERE to view/download the race flyer.

This race depends on volunteer course marshals and registration staff – click HERE if you can help.

Clark Natwick, Murray Swanson named Lifetime Members of PV

It was announced at the annual club banquet on November 11 that two longtime Pen Velo members, Clark Natwick and Murray Swanson, were recently honored with lifetime membership in the club. Clark retired after 16 years as team coach in 2015. Murray recently returned to his homeland of Scotland after a distinguished tenure as a masters road, MTB and cyclocross racer with PV. Now both will remain a part of the PV family for a long time to come.

Clark joined PV in 1995 after a distinguished career as a road, mountain bike and cyclocross racer at the elite level. He served as club president for three years, then as team coach for 16 years, retiring from that position after the 2015 season. Clark brought to PV a wealth of experience both as an athlete (10 national championship medals) and as a coach (USA Olympic Training Center, USA National Cyclocross Team, USA National MTB Team). In 2012, Clark made a brief comeback to competition as a masters athlete racing in Pen Velo colors, earning two NCNCA District Championships on the track and a bronze medal in team pursuit at the USAC Masters Track Nationals. Under his guidance, Pen Velo athletes achieved numerous team and individual awards on both the regional and national level.

Murray Swanson joined PV in 2002 at age 35. He started racing soon after that, winning such races as the Burlingame Criterium, Wente Road Race and the Sea Otter Classic cross country MTB race. Murray truly distinguished himself as a cyclocross racer, winning his first B race and going on to win over 30 races going head-to-head with some of the best masters talent in the country as well as scoring top 10’s in elite races against the “young guys”. But Murray’s proudest accomplishment in cycling has been teaching intellectually disabled daughter Madelyn how to ride in four different disciplines and watching her love for cycling and her Pen Velo teammates develop. Since his return to Scotland, Murray has won his first three veterans cyclocross races wearing PV colors.