“Biocashflow” wristbands

In the summer of 2010 I wrote about the Power Balance wristbands. They were almost fashionable for a while but also became the subject of ridicule and even police investigation.

Now it seems a similar concept is here, this time under the name of Bioflow and they are being endorsed by a leading Team Sky rider amongst others.

As a reminder, Power Balance are silicone wristbands. The marketing message told us they “work with your body’s natural energy field” which is unclear on several levels. The company found itself in trouble and under investigation in several countries. In Australia it was ruled that consumers were mislead and were entitled to a full refund. Since then the message has been toned down and now they are just sold as fashion accessories.

Bioflow is a similar concept: a silicone band, this time with a magnet attached. It is a magnotherapy product and there’s little in the way of science to suggest this works, especially when the magnets involved are small enough to fit on a wristband. Still the company’s website makes this remarkable claim:

over a million people worldwide have made the decision to try our products and we now have thousands of testimonials from customers whose lives have been changed by Bioflow Magnotherapy

I suppose a testimonial of your life being changed includes sales data of people being becoming measurably poorer after spending up to 60 British pounds ($100) on a wristband. That said, the placebo effect is one of the most powerful forces in medicine so if people feel it helps then this makes for happy customers.

The Team Sky rider in question is Geraint Thomas and I’m surprised by the quote I found on the website, pictured at the top of the page here. I suppose the extra income probably makes him feel more confident. Good for him. Thomas won the Tour de Romandie prologue on Tuesday (without the help of the wristband) and he has joined “Team Bioflow”. In the past he’s done some promo work for cattle farmers in his native Wales which, I thought, worked better given the local associations and linking sport with a healthy diet.

Bio sizzle

Now riders can promote a range of equipment, often they do this as part of their role on the team. When you see that a particular product is “the choice” of a team, often this is a financial decision rather than a hand-picked selection to aid performance. There can be other deals like sunglasses and shoes where riders sign personal deals. Sunglasses might just pieces of polycarbonate but still I feel there’s some use in wearing cycling shoes and sunglasses. Plus if some fashion brands make good margins, fine.

But a silicon band with a magnet? This just seems to be a marketing scheme to take well-known athletes and pay them to endorse a product that serves little purpose. Especially since some silicone and a magnet can probably be imported from less than a dollar. If you want to wear it, go ahead. But there’s no performance gain. The extra weight even slows the athlete. Good for Thomas if he can deploy his reputation to earn some money, a cycling career is short and risky. But surely there are better products to promote?

Let’s leave Thomas and his business deals to one side; he comes across as a nice guy in charge of his career. Many cyclists endorsed the Power Balance band too so this isn’t about one rider, it’s more about the companies who make these things hiring athletes to endorse the product. My favourite was Alessandro Petacchi who, on the advice of his physio, dutifully removed his wristband at mealtimes to “aid digestion”. Almost as if it was some kind of gastric band.

Instead I thought it was worth highlighting that these products offer next to no benefit or performance gain and it’s worth stating this before these things become fashionable again. Probably the only guarantee is it’ll make you poorer. Buy one if it makes you happy and let me know if it helps your focus during a race.

89 thoughts on ““Biocashflow” wristbands”

  1. I have met Thomas on several occasions and he is a genuine, nice chap, always makes an effort to speak and it doesn’t come accross as contrived, so its a shame to see him shamelessly promoting expensive tat like this online via twitter, especially after the criticism similar products have received. I know athletes need to cash in on their success when it comes to sponsorship deals etc, but it might be worth trying to maintain a few standards.

    Must also point out that the quote at the top of the page seem’s a bit iffy, ”Gives me confidence in my performance and helps me stay focused during the race.” considering he’s only had one for two days it must be a pretty wonderful product to achieve such goals without even wearing it…

    • For someone who pays for one your comment is correct…..
      For someone who gets paid to wear one, does your comment not be impacted by how much they are being paid to wear one?
      There are very few people who wouldnt endorse this when a large proportion of their annual salary is on the table

      • No, it’s the same.

        He’s endorsing it, so he either believes it works or is lying. Neither is a particularly attractive position to be in in this instance.

  2. Surely this is about a novice agent on the outskirts of the professionally managed Team Sky, trying to make their buck. They grab the deals and don’t think about the future for the rider.
    A good agent will think about the long game and how G will appear to the Blue Chip companies if he gets a result in a Grand Tour. This dubious project works against that, no? So with a chap with such a bright and long future ahead, should he grabbing the bucks like its his last year in contract?
    I feel pretty let down by G. I thought he was down to earth and to me, I see the quote as him just lying. I don’t subscribe to his twitter to see a load of advertising messages. But I can see also that it’s a devised campaign set up with the wristband maker and his agent. It’s not very clever it’s insulting to me as a enthusiast.

  3. That myknoaky thing is similar. An ultra-high margin product where most budget spend is in marketing and promotion.
    I noticed Geraint’s tweet yesterday too and was slightly disappointed.
    I’m not sure it’s much different to the total dominance in extreme sports of Red Bull or Monster Energy though. Following Steve Peat on Twitter can sometimes feel like advertorial too – with Monster, Vito Sport, Helmet cams, etc, etc.

    Some other similarly spurious products used in sport include those nose expanders and those LifeWave patches (both used by Beckham at some point I think).

    • I see the myknoaky as slightly different since it is really about planting trees. I’d still rather just support a dedicated tree planting project – preferably a local one – as I don’t feel I need a freebie to encourage me to plant a tree. However, if myknoaky gets someone who might not have considered planting a tree to contribute to a scheme which does then well and good.

  4. I suppose what it comes down to is belief. If athletes believe they gain a psychological advantage by wearing a band, they’ll do it – even if the science is debunked. Is it really that different to wearing a crucifix?

  5. I’m no more of a fan of stuff promoted via tweets from the accounts of my favourite riders (probably tweeted by his agent or similar from his account, with his endorsement of course). However, this kind of channel marketing isnt going to disappear, and fundamentally everyone who follows him should have enough nous to make their own call and decide whether they want behave like sheep and buy WHATEVER their favourite riders are promoting. What next? Outrage because he’s promoting a Fiat Punto rather than a more ecologically-friendly car 🙂

  6. Maybe he gave it to Bradley yesterday? My advice would be that he should also attach a pyramid shaped crystal to his bike to capture the energy of the earth/sun.

  7. Please don’t be too hard to Thomas, I didn’t want to give him a hard time, more to warn about the pseudoscience here. For all we know an agent organised the deal and the attributed quotes are a fabrication signed off by the agent or another third party. It’s more the company and the way it sails close to medicine and science, even quoting the British Medical Journal, that is amusing but I was not going to comment on the subject as long as the company sought endorsements from golfers and snooker players. Now it’s in cycling it’s worth a mention.

    • @INRNG: “Pseudoscience” for sure. Why would a company place a magnet inside an artificial material such as silicone? Silicone is not a conductor, it’s just an unnatural man-made synthetic, and to place scientifically-unproven magnets into the wrist band seems like a lot of quackery to me. Of course their focus is on the magnet, not the silicone.

      I would bet money that the Bioflow company is trying to cash-in on LA’s “Livestrong” yellow bands idea but with a magnet thrown in. I’m not a Lance fan, but his wristbands sold billions (of course for his Foundation). I’ll bet a lot of people felt they had extra “powers” by wearing those bands.
      Here in the US, people were frenzied trying to get that wristband — they were constantly selling out.

      Placebo, yes. People seem to have a need to have/wear tangible objects which they believe will help them. Too bad these people can’t believe in their own strengths without a prop.

    • Sure.

      But there is a broader question here about athlete product endorsement – not least whether athletes should be more careful to protect their own “brands” by not being associated with dubious products like this.

      But then again, does anybody know whether Quick-Step flooring or Belisol windows are any good? And how would Tom Boonen or Andre Greipel know?

      • At least you can walk on a floor and windows keep the rain out! Mind you perhaps the magnet would come in handy for holding your racing licence on the fridge door and the silicone band for holding your pens in check.

    • The life of a pro cyclist is short and they don’t make the money the athletes in the big three US sports do. I say let them endorse what they want because it is up to the consumer to make the choice to buy the product. How many of us would do the same thing?

  8. I challenged Gerr on Twitter and now @GeriantThomas86 has mysteriously disappeared from Twiter or shock no – he’s blocked me! My wife works with his mum and I’ve met him through Cardiff Ajax CC – top bloke. But this decision is a bad call for all the reasons above. The bands only vaguely proven “benefit” is for those with chronic arthritis in knees and hips – maybe he planning ahead for his old age?

  9. Very good piece. I had a good laugh. And then I think of all the people I’ve met who seem to believe honestly in concepts like “personal energy” or “interpersonal chemistry”, and who, at any rate, seem to like it when superstitions are disguised in scientific language. It’s not so funny after all. 🙂

  10. I’ve heard he’s also using snake oil for post-ride massage.

    As with many of the comments on here, I’d hope it was bad advice from an agent. Maybe the reaction to his tweet will make him consider his endorsements more carefully.

  11. Fair play to him. He wont be a cyclist forever, grab the cash while you can G! If people are stupid enough to buy the product then more fool them.

    If anyone wants me, il be eating bran flakes on Hovis toast… Afterall thats how Hoy and Pendleton got so fast…isnt it?

  12. $100 is a lot of cash, but in a sport where a weekend racer will spend 3K on aero wheels while barely able to hold the tempo at which aero IS an advantage, I can see why Mr. Thomas is attaching his name to this product.
    Money does not equal intelligence.
    Some fools have lots of it and some smart folks will act the fool to get it.

  13. Inner Ring – you’re taking on all kinds of controversial subjects recently. The amount of marketing bulls__t in the world is amazing and more of it is being shoveled at us every day. The cycling industry is full of it for sure, but it’s certainly not limited to them. If someone believes a bike that’s 100 grams lighter or 1% “more efficient” or because it’s “aero” saves 2 watts is worth a pile o’ dough, all I can do is laugh at ’em…but we’ve been there before with the “$10K bike and 79 cent legs” routine so if this guy wants to endorse a $100 rubber band with a magnet stuck into it, who really cares? The morons who buy this stuff are just that….but the world is full of ’em and they seem to have endless amounts of money to spend on products with dubious claims.

    • Larry T. Surely the purpose of a society includes protecting the weak in the head? Lies are dangerous and marketers and politicians should be held to account. When good people do nothing, the bad win. Magnets today, wars in foreign countries tomorrow. The truth needs to be upheld.

  14. To be fair, the raw price of the rare earth materials used in most magnets has gone through the roof in the last 18 months; so the magnet cost is probably more like $2.50.

  15. A lot of people believe this rubbish and it’s disappointing to see an Olympic athlete advertising them.

    You can’t expect G to know or understand the science but you’d hope that his management would look into it and ask around. It’s a very bad decision and I hope he decides to get out of it in some way.

    I also think that the opinion that if people are stupid enough to buy it then it’s their problem is wrong as well. People believe what they are told. In fact I’m sure most people commenting here have believed that these things are rubbish without looking up the relevant research, and G is an Olympic winning athlete. Most people will believe what he has to say about cycling and training because they reasonably expect his knowledge to be better than theirs. As a UK resident I have in some part funded G’s career, at least on the track, through grants he has recieved (I think, please correct me if I’m wrong) and I find this extremely distasteful.

    • @Patterson Hood: “You can’t expect G to know or understand the science…” — that’s because there IS no sound science, it’s pseudoscience that is completely unproven. This magnetic wristband will [probably] sell more units based on G’s endorsement of it and the “thousands” of testimonials that people are giving.

      SKY has a stellar reputation, but maybe Geraint’s personal agent has more to do with this endorsement than the team management does, as INRNG points out? Even so, it’s an embarrassment to SKY when people everywhere are Tweeting about it.

      You are correct, people take at face value what they are told without investigating the legitimacy of products. The research that Bioflow purports is hogwash that makes me scratch my head, wondering why people are so gullible. Perhaps in this day and age of folks struggling [globally] in so many ways, even a simplistic wristband gives them something to believe in?

      • The SKY cycling TEAM may have a stellar reputation but the parent company’s not so well-thought-of if you’ve been spied upon, had your phone hacked or are not a fan of “Fox News -based on a true story” in the USA. I see magnet bracelets in the airline mags while I’m flying back-and-forth from Italy to the USA. They seem pretty harmless and only separate the fools from their money, which seems to be getting ever more popular these days.

  16. wow this inrng.com/ topic has generated much commentary in a short span of time. anyone recall if some of the legends were hucksters?. e.g., lemond, hinault, merckx, etc.

  17. Thanks for another nice and objective article.
    I don’t blame anyone for their ‘superstitions’, and coming from a mathematical background I always felt that a lot of what’s called ‘science’ – including a lot of what’s called ‘proved’ – actually comes pretty close to superstition, too, but that’s just the way it is and it’s all right with me. Plus I’ve always been a big fan of the placebo effect in general!
    But, yes, it does start to feel strange when it comes to making money with it, especially because it always has to be so much money of course ($100 – WTF!).

    As for Geraint Thomas: couldn’t help thinking a short ‘Oh my’ when I saw that tweet yesterday either but it didn’t really come as a big surprise since he was riding the Tour 2010 like this http://www.teamsky.com/gallery/0,27401,19033_6247291,00.html#photo=17 (I’m no expert but isn’t that something similar?).
    However, he was and still is my favourite rider and I actually try to ignore EVERY product endorsement that comes from ANY rider (fuck those ever-present CNP gels by the way) because I know that’s a part of what they live on but it’s not a part of what I’m interested in.

    • PS: Had a look at that Power Balance article from 2010 now, and yes, that’s exactly what Thomas was wearing back then, too.

      And to make one thing clear:
      “But surely there are better products to promote?” Yes, indeed.

    • @Anna: In the US today, the price of copper is $3.81/pound. A small magnet weighs so little, only a tiny percentage of one pound, so Bioflow is making money “hand over fist” on this product. I guess that’s what people who manufacture “ideas” love about capitalism. These companies bank on the knowledge that everyday people will buy just about anything, especially if endorsed by a world-class athlete.

      $100 is insane for something that costs pennies-on-the-dollar to make. Again, I say that if people believe something’s going to help them (improve their performance in this case), it probably will.
      Also, these wristbands are sporty fashion statements of their own kind. Like sheep who follow the herd, there’s a domino effect of people blindly following “the herd.”

      In double-blind medical studies the placebo effect is often as strong as the medicine itself. Doesn’t that say a lot about our supposed “need” for expensive pharmaceuticals, too?

      I prefer to use my own psychological, mental and physical strength.

  18. @ Inner Ring:

    Not sure red meat is really part of a healthy diet anymore. But I get the point – it at least has some benefit compared to silicone and copper.

  19. As some may remember, King Eddy endorsed R6 cigarettes, so this bit of silicone snake oil seems harmless in comparison. No doubt the guy I’ve seen riding an S-Works McClaren Venge with a 4″ rear view mirror on the handlebars (I love LA!) will be rocking one of these.

    • Please post a photo if you ever see him again and get the chance. That is brilliant.

      Did you notice if he had a kickstand too? They can be very handy.

      • Absolutely! At the time I was so baffled by what I was seeing that I didn’t think to get a picture. Kind of like seeing bigfoot, I guess. I didn’t notice a kickstand but if he had one I think it’d be safe to assume it was carbon fiber.

    • I hope not. Hopefully it’s not seen as something against the rider, just a warning any benefits of this product. Therapy with magnets can help but as said above, with arthritis and that should not be a problem for Thomas, nor the golfers and snooker players who also promote the product.

  20. From the BMJ article:
    “Is the effect real?
    Our study has not entirely resolved the extent to which
    the effect of magnetic bracelets is specific or due to
    placebo. Blinding did not affect the pattern of results,
    but the validity of the self reporting of blinding status
    could be questioned. Although the analysis of
    per-specification bracelets also suggests a specific
    effect, the result is only a trend and needs
    confirmation. Therefore, we cannot be certain whether
    our data show a specific effect of magnets, a placebo
    effect, or both.”
    In short, if you’ve got osteoarthritis they might work, or the placebo effect my make them work for you.
    Power Balance was a scam this is slightly different to these bioflow wristbands, I’ve known people to swear by them and if it works for them then fine. I’ve also been offered them by one of their promoters on a full money back guarantee which made me believe him more (I know where he lives too). I still didn’t get one – I don’t think the placebo effect would work on me.

    There could well be a link between Geraint Thomas, BioFlow & Dawes Cycles through Team GB. BioFlow are bringing out there cycling specific wrist bands to be sold through Dawes Cycles; Dawes have a range of official Team GB bikes and kit; Geraint Thomas is a Team GB rider and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was the face of Dawes TV adverts over the summer in the UK. So it could be the Dawes advertising deal that sees him link up with BioFlow. But this is just speculation.

    On a side note power balance state: “The 3mm thick wristband is made from 100% Surgical Grade Silicone that is extremely durable” So at least their better than PIP breasts!

  21. The Welsh Beef link-up is fine, it’s promoting Wales which is great, we’re a small country and it needs all the promotionist can get. It might also be explained that his uncle is a farmer. He’s not the type to cynically exploit the easily swayed and although he’s not stupid, this biopowercockring nonsense promotion is disappointing. He is a nice guy, very genuinely down-to-earth and I would imagine those that know him well will probably thoroughly take the piss out of him for it.

    • I did take issue with the Welsh Beef sponsorship from any standpoint other than recent studies have clearly indicates that consumption of red meat is BAD.

  22. These types of products and the non-stop barrage of marketing and advertising that go with it make me puke. I worked for a short-time in the marketing department of a corporation that started selling items similar to this. They were complete with wild claims from “scientists” and “experts” about how much they were going to change your life, but there was no actual proof that the product you just shelled out hundreds and sometimes thousands (yes, thousands) of dollars for did a darn thing.

    I have no problem with pro athletes using their star power to represent and promote a product or brand that is proven to work. This, however, just seems to be another one of those times where someone is cashing in for the sake of a quick paycheck. Shame on them.

  23. Lets put the scientific method to this!
    Perhaps it time to demand GT to a double blind study.

    Those who know him ( Twitter or ?), personally challenge him to ride say 10-each, 10 mile time trials.
    5 with a band with no magnet ( Placebo)… and 5 with his Bioflow.

    Obviously, he can’t know which is which, “Proof is in the pudding”

    • That ad was funny. I expected the good nights rest but the gets me out of bed was a curve ball!

      El Pistolero’s fingerbang salute is far from my favorite and the graphic interpretation, while excellent for the content, isn’t high on my list either. But, I really like the color selection and the frameset looked great with the color bars on the downtube. The kit I thought was nicely executed as well. Now if the pistol can get holstered he could have one of the better pro personality logos on the color scheme alone. Change the pistol shape for España and you have a winner. Unless you like the pistols of course.

      Continuing on this digression why the Sportful kit?
      Larry T. will like that but with Spain in tough economic times shouldn’t he be wearing ExteOndo? Or is the Basque thing getting in the way I wonder?
      Oh yeah and there we go.
      GT supported Welsh beef why can’t Alberto support Spanish/Basque cycling kit?
      Especially after all the help he gave the Spanish Beef industry!
      Digression merging with on topic supporting arguments, sort of.

      I tried. : P

  24. At least the Bioflow guys have a sense of humour. They admit that the magnet technology is actually “referred to as CRP”.


    Yes it is.

  25. plastic wristbands aside….as much as I like his support for the local Welsh beef industry, it does open the door for someone with a sharper wit than me to draw humorous comparisons with a certain well-known Spanish cyclist who also endorsed the local beef.

    All nonsense aside, he’s a great bike rider.

  26. Well, I am currently wearing a device on my wrist that emits a small electromagnetic field and I am sure that it helps me beat all the other commuters on my way into work. I continue to wear it all day and find it boosts my confidence in meetings. It also has some added features over the bioflow which are great for a sports person, it has a stopwatch, hrm and cadence, yes its a sports watch. I do not know if it would interfere with the bioflow? or maybe they would have a synergistic effect?

  27. “But then again, does anybody know whether Quick-Step flooring or Belisol windows are any good? And how would Tom Boonen or Andre Greipel know”

    If Boonen claimed that his Quickstep flooring enhanced his riding in some way, we’d certainly be sceptical!

    (BTW, we have it and it’s excellent flooring!)

    I agree with what’s been said by most: either Thomas believes in Bioflow, which makes him an idiot; or he doesn’t, in which case he’s being rather dishonest. If someone else set up the deal, gave a quote on his behalf and tweeted on his behalf, then that certainly makes him an idiot too!

    Will be interesting to see if he parts company with them and retracts his comments or stands by them.

    It’d be tough for him to do deals with companies who make products that might actually influence his performance – For example, I’m not sure Sidi would pay him much to say “My new shoes give me similar performance gains to my BioFlow wristband!”

  28. The whole magnets-in-a-bracelet thing is nothing new. They’ve been advertised for decades. And athletes have been endorsing them since as far back as I can remember.

  29. Well obviously you don’t need the wristband on for such a short effort (3.3k), which is why Thomas didn’t have it on for the prologue. Duh.

  30. so, basically, without it he has a lack of confidence and focus!!! wtf!!!
    is it synchronized with the magnet on his front wheel?!!!!!!!

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