Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Boxing Day Ride

I guess Santa read my Christmas Wish List because under the tree on December 25th was a GoPro HD camera!  I couldn't wait to try it out but I managed to hold off until Boxing Day. 

My friend Jason and I hit the trails starting in Mill Creek on December 26th.  We rode some of the east Canada Cup trails, over to Conner's Hill and back through Mill Creek.  Here is some of the video I managed to capture.  Being a noob, I wasn't able to capture the first half of the ride as I had the settings wrong.

video

We also stopped by the river boat fire pit for a while to work on our skillz.  Apparently they still need some tuning...

video

Here is the updated, high quality (720p) version as promised.  I combined both videos into one and added music, as requested.  Enjoy!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Alpine Ridge Riding

It's Christmas and I have company invading my house so I am going to be lazy and post another video for your enjoyment.  I searched for some info on the location for this but I was unable to come up with much in the way of details.  The following blurb from the film description is all I could find, other than it is somewhere in the Alps.
Short clip filmed end of October 2010. The spot is really high alpine and there is no margin for mistakes.

The riders are Harald Philipp, Martin Falkner both riding a Liteville 301 and Max Schumann on a Fatmodul ANT.

Gear used for the shoot: Canon 7D, Canon 50mm, Canon 135mm, Samyang 8mm, HDpro 1080p, carbon tripod and Manfrotto 701 fluid head.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Take Action: Parks Canada Survey


Do you live and ride in Canada’s beautiful western provinces?  Are you interested in accessing more trails within Parks Canada?  If so, Parks Canada wants to hear from riders like you!  Parks Canada is conducting a survey on cycling in Western Canada and in Mountain Parks such as Banff, Jasper, Mount Revelstoke, and Waterton Lakes National Parks.

There are many ways that visitors enjoy their national parks and Parks Canada is continually striving to improve these services. In recent years, there has been an increase in interest in bicycling of all types, including the various forms of road riding and mountain biking. Parks Canada is interested in better understanding the quality of its current offer and how the cycling experience might be improved in the future.

Please take a few minutes to give them your feedback.
 
TAKE THE SURVEY NOW

Fill out the survey before January 24, 2011 and you’ll get the chance to win one of three sweet prize packs, valued at $250 each.

Help get the word out and invite your contacts to take the survey.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Life Cycles

This is not your typical mountain bike movie; Life Cycles is a film about bicycles.  The cinematography is stunning, the editing is phenomenal, and the story line and narration makes this film a one of a kind.
You haven't seen Life Cycles yet?  Seriously?  If you are waiting to see if you get a copy in your stocking for Christmas but you can't wait 10 more days, iTunes might be the answer for you.  You can download Life Cycles in HD for $9.99 or the get the standard definition version for $6.99.  If you are just being lazy then it's time to get off your butt, go to your local bike store and pick up your very own copy immediately - you don't know what you are missing!


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Potential Olympic Exclusion?

In a recent article on bikemagic.com, UCI President, Pat McQuaid, stated that mountain biking risks being excluded as an Olympic event if it doesn`t increase its appeal to television viewers.  To avoid the fate of softball and baseball, mountain biking must significantly improve its image. 

According to Peter Van den Abeele, UCI`s technical delegate, mountain biking is the most difficult and most expensive event to produce for television due to the nature of the sport.  A significant change to the traditional presentation is required to ensure mountain biking is more attractive prior to the 2013 evaluation which will determine if it should remain an Olympic event.

Hadleigh Farm has been selected as the mountain bike venue and the course has been designed with spectators and television audience in mind.  If you haven`t seen the plans for the XC MTB course at the 2012 Olympics in London, it is not what would considered a traditional mountain bike course.  The distance has been reduced to 5.1 kilometers and mainly works its way up and down an open hillside with only a small wooded section.  Don`t think that it won`t be technical though as there is a considerable amount of work being done creating several rocky drops which are expected to challenge even the best racers.

I am all about trying to maintain tradition, but if a change is required to retain mountain biking as an Olympic event, I will support it.  If this change helps popularize mountain biking and brings more people into our sport, then it will be worth the effort.

There is an excellent article from British Cycling that talks further about the past, present and future of the course at Hadleigh Farm.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Alp Style

This video was filmed in one of the eastern-most areas of the Austrian Alps.  This is different than most of the mountain bike videos you see floating around, most of which feature Danny MacAskill doing mind-blowing trials stunts.  Almost none of us can even contemplate how difficult MacAskill's maneuvers really are since most of us can't even perform a manual.  That being said, there are some serious skills on demonstration in this video, but at least it is something I can more realistically aspire to.  I hope you enjoy the video as much as I did!


29er-alpine from amotion.at on Vimeo.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Wish List

It's that time of year again.  The stores have been pushing Christmas since Remembrance Day but I refuse to acknowledge that the commercialism of Christmas is upon us until the calendar switches over to December.  Since I feel I was a good boy this year, I decided I would make a list up for Santa (in the odd chance he reads my blog) and see if I get anything under the tree this year.  I'll keep the list realistic and to items I could actually use or will likely purchase myself in the next year or so.
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1. SIDI Diablo GTX/Northwave Celsius GPX

Unfortunately I am still using the slip on winter booties over my summer shoes.  When I posted about winter cycling shoes last week, I was pumping the Lake MXZ302 shoes.  Even though the Lakes have come highly recommended for warmth and traction, I have heard issues of construction and durability.  When making purchases I prefer that I am getting a product with a good history of quality workmanship.

SIDI has a really good reputation as a high end shoe, but I have heard that the SIDI Diablo GTXs are not very warm.  So why on Earth would I put the SIDIs on my list?  Simple - SIDI is the only brand that fit me properly.  Having a long, narrow foot makes shoe buying extremely difficult.  I found out over the past few years that it makes shopping for cycling shoes even more difficult.  SIDIs are the narrowest fitting shoe I could find and it is the only shoe I don't have any foot movement in the shoe once it is fastened.  Also, I am not planning to ride when the temperature dips below -15 degrees Celsius so I am sure that the SIDIs would be able to keep me warm enough.

The only other brand that comes close to being narrow enough for my feet is Northwave and they also offer a winter cycling shoe - the Celsius GPX.  With a name like that, how could they not be appropriate for a Canadian winter?  The Celsius has had some solid reviews online as well as recommendations from the good folks at River Valley Cycle.  The Celsius is definitely a beefier looking boot than the SIDI and the cost is much less.  If you are looking for something really warm, the Celsius GPX comes in an Arctic version as well.

2. Truvativ Stylo OCT 1.1 Crankset

The final piece I need for my single speed! There are very few good single speed cranksets available with reasonable prices. The Truvativ Stylo OCT 1.1G crankset just might be the best value on the market. They have hollow-forged aluminum crankarms to reduce weight, hardened aluminum chainring, and an anodized aluminum outer guide. It also includes a GXP external bottom bracket which is one of the only zero-preload systems on the market. The complete Truvativ Stylo OCT 1.1G assembly weighs a claimed 820g.

3.  GoPro HD Helmet HERO MegaPack

This camera is all kinds of awesome.  In addition to being able to film some cool rides and relive vacation moments, having a camera like this would enhance any of the trail reviews and race recaps I am planning to do on this blog.  With countless mount options including helmet, handle bar, seat post and chest, there is no limitations to what you can attach this camera to.

Here's some info on the HD HERO from Point of View Cameras:
The Helmet HERO is world's first wearable sports camera to film in true 1080p HD format at 30 frames per second. The HD HERO captures crystal clear footage for playback that puts you right back in the action, while the wide angle lens, eliminates the chance of cutting off important bits of the scene, so you never miss a lick of the action.  Our Exclusive HD Helmet HERO MegaPack includes GoPro's HD Helmet HERO Camera System, plus a 16GB SD Card, an extra Li-Ion Battery, USB AC and Car Charger Adapters, Ride HERO clamp and Tripod Adapter.

If the cost of the 1080p is more than your budget, the 960p HD HERO is a great option.  Missing from the HD HERO 960 (besides the obvious 1080p video) are 720p at 60 fps and the HERO BUS expansion port in the rear of the camera that will let you take advantage of GoPro's forthcoming BacPac accessories.  Unless you are serious about your videos, the 960p should be more than adequate at a much lower price.  This is the model I would most likely buy for myself as I doubt I would be taking advantage of these extra features of the 1080p model.

If you are heavy into videography or you need to have the latest technology, you will be interested to know that, according to the GoPro website, the 3D HERO kit will be available soon.  There wasn't a price or expected date for release, but I would be very interested to see how the videos look!  Maybe with 3D video we can finally see just how technical trails really are?

4. Park Tools Deluxe Bench Mount Repair Stand

I have a decent set up in my garage for working on most things.  I have a great bench, a plethora of tools, but what I lack is a bike repair stand.  Although the thought of having a portable stand to take with me in the event I need to work on my bike wherever I travel is great, the reality is I rarely ever work on it anywhere but home.  For the few times that I would need something portable, the convenience of having a stand mounted to my bench outweighs the convenience of being able to take my stand with me.

Well, that sums up my needs and wants for items that I would actually put to use on a regular basis.  If Santa doesn't deliver this year I will most likely purchase at the shoes before the calendar turns to 2011 and the crankset before the snow melts.  I trust that the jolly, fat old man in the red suit will not disappoint me this holiday season and I will find at least one of these items when I look under the tree on Christmas morning.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Do You Single Speed?

So what is it that is intriguing about riding a single speed?  Is it the simplicity of having only one gear?  Is it the clean look with no derailleurs, shifters or cables?  Maybe it makes you feel nostalgic, bringing you back to the days of your youth or perhaps it is the lack of maintenance required.  Regardless of what drives someone to ride a single speed, we all see them out on the trails and most of us have praised a rider as we ourselves are gasping for air at the top of a tough climb, "Wow - that guy just cleaned that section on a single speed!  He's hardcore!" 

Improving Efficiency

As I am building up my first single speed mountain bike and getting in the mindset to pedal in just one gear for the first time since I was riding a BMX in 1992, I can't help but look for the benefits that riding a SS will provide me when racing my geared bike.  Single speeding forces you to work and improve on areas where you can 'cheat' with a geared bike and still remain competitive in a race. 

The first thing that comes to mind is the increased strength required to ride a single speed as you can no longer drop your gears and sit and spin up the hills.  You better get out of the saddle, mash your pedals and start tossing your bike side to side if you are dreaming of making those tough climbs.  I think I have that part down.  I prefer to stand up to climb and I typically try to push one gear under the tallest I can handle.

Another key to single speeding is carrying momentum.  The more you can maintain your momentum, the less you need to accelerate.  Less braking into the corners will reduce the amount of hard pedalling you need coming out of the corner to get back up to speed.  I have been working on this, but there is room for improvement.  For me, this comes down to trusting that my tires will hold.  I had my front tire wash out on me a few times last year trying to increase my speed this way.  I have since changed my front tire from a Kenda Karma 1.9 to a Maxxis Aspen 2.1.  With a little bit more bite on the side lugs the Aspens have helped me keep the rubber side down.

You also need to carry more momentum into hills otherwise you will burn yourself out on the climbs.  This means you will need to pedal hard into the hill as well as hard up the hill.  This is definitely something I don't do.  I generally try to recover going into the hill and then start hammering when I get to the base of the hill.  This worked well for me as I usually passed quite a few people (in my category) on the climbs around Edmonton, but I am certain carrying more momentum into the hills will only make me faster. 

The big change for me will getting out of my comfort cadence zone.  I typically ride with a cadence between 80 and 90 RPMs.  I have no problem dropping to 50 RPMs and powering up big hills, but where I fail miserably at is on the flats trying to pump out a cadence of 110+ RPMs.  My heart rate skyrockets and breathing gets out of tempo, which is a real bad combination.

Taking it To the Next Level

It's bad enough that people think that trail riding on a single speed is fun, but then there are those who take it to another level: racing.  That's right, people purposefully choose to handcuff themselves into one gear that is rarely going to be the most efficient ratio for the circumstance that they will be in.   Races can be short with XC races being 1.5 to 2 hours, or considerably longer with a marathon race such as the 24 hour solo events.

In case you don't think it's difficult, here is a graphic quote from a single speed racer:
Single speeding is the art of harnessing desperation. You are constantly backed into a gear ratio corner, down to your last match; wolves of anaerobic threshold, mockery by your peers, and personal defeat constantly circling. The gnawing oxygen debt, the vacuous gasps of one's lungs, the sudden deafening roar of gravity and the heaviness of everything without air. Breathe like your car has plunged into a lake and hopelessly sealed inside you gulp vast breaths, each fearing to be your last, that each might be the one breath you will have to bring you back to the surface.

You must learn to claw, eyes bulging, lungs aflame, raw metallic taste in the back of your throat to the top of climbs, and make all these things secret. The world at large must only see a crazy man, a mutant, a cyborg atop a bike with only one impossible gear. And they will stare and shake their heads and wonder how you got to the top first, never knowing, never understanding that it was the only way up, that you could not have made it any slower, that all the drive train handicaps they presume you to burden yourself with are the very advantages that have made you fast and hard as coffin nails.
Sounds like good times, sign me up!  Others who race single speed don't think it is quite that difficult.  For every one person who feels like racing a single speed is death on two wheels, you get other people like this:
I’m a fraud. I’ve been riding and racing a single speed mountain bike for many years and thinking I’m pretty cool. I’m not.

I’ll be the first to admit that I love passing someone on a geared bike and having them say, “Damn! Dude, that is hardcore.” It feels great. there is no denying it. Here’s the thing though, it’s not hardcore. I have suffered way more on a geared bike than I ever have on a single speed. Yep, it’s true, single speeding is easier than gears. You get more breaks and recovery time on a single.

It’s time to abolish the single speed category at all mountain bike races. I think you should race whatever category happens to be your ability but race it on your single speed. There doesn’t need to be a separate class for single speeders. It’s not a handicap nor a badge of honor. We need to get over ourselves. It’s fun and we know it's special but we don’t need our own class. That’s just dumb.
And this:
Pretty much every race I’ve ever raced, a spectator or fellow racer will comment on the fact that I’m on a single speed. I just kind of smile and cruise on by. It makes me feel cool and like a fraud all at the same time. The dirty little secret is that in a lot of situations it’s actually an advantage to be on a single speed.
Maybe it's not that hard?  Now I'm confused.  I plan to try my hand at racing my single speed in one of the local Tuesday races but I already think the first quote is more likely to be what I will be feeling rather than the latter two.

Races to Keep an Eye On

The upcoming season will bring the spotlight to single speed racing in my neck of the woods as Edmonton will be hosting the 2011 Canadian Single Speed Championships, which will be a part of the existing Edmonton Canada Cup on July 23, 2011.  The Edmonton Canada Cup is already a hugely successful event organized by Mike Sarnecki and Evan Sherman of Alberta MTB Racing and it attracts many of our country's best XC mountain bike racers.  The addition of the Canadian Single Speed Championships will only enhance the excitement on that day. 

The cream of the crop for those who race with only one gear is the Single Speed World Championships (SSWC.)  This is not a sanctioned event but there is a lot of pride in winning this race.  But this is more than just a race, it is an annual party on two wheels where shortcuts are available if you chug a beer and the winners are scarred for life, literally.  The winner is actually tattooed with SSWC, the year and a design chosen for that year.  This fits perfectly into a quote from The Replacements, "Don't do anything great if you can't handle the congratulations."  There are some familiar names sporting ink work due to winning this event, including Carl Decker, Adam Craig and Heather Irmiger.  Check out the results and highlights from the 2010 SSWC and you will see just how much fun the SSWC is.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Winter Cycling Gear continued...

To continue from the prior post, this is the conclusion to my winter riding gear overview. 

Head Gear

There are many options when it comes to keeping you head warm, depending on how much of your face you also want to protect. If you are looking around in your closet for something, keep in mind whatever you choose needs to fit comfortably under your helmet. My primary concern when out in the cold, in addition to keeping my head warm, is keeping my ears from freezing. For this, I found the Sugoi SubZero Skull Cap to be an excellent choice. It is very thin and barely noticeable on your head, yet holds the heat in as well as most thick winter toques. If you are looking for additional protection, a balaclava would be a fine choice to increase coverage to your cheeks, chin and neck. There are many other head and face protection options available and they seem to be universal for many winter activities that use helmets including skiing, snowboarding and snowmobiling.  For those guys looking for an excuse not to shave, keeping your face warm is the perfect reason to grow a beard.

Shoes

I saved the most important for last. You can use your shoes that you use all season, but your feet will be cold, more accurately, frozen by the time your ride comes to an end. Even with a couple layers of socks, you will need some cold weather assistance in the footwear department. There are a couple options available, one of which is winter booties, which slip on over your existing cycling shoes. My friend Sheldon over at Bikeridr.com did a great review of the Sugoi winter riding bootie.  These booties definitely help keep the snow and cold off your feet but they are a hassle. Booties are difficult to get on and the toes tend to come up if you encounter a hike-a-bike section allowing snow to get in your shoe vents.  Finally, they are not very durable as I have wore out the pair I purchased last season in about 15 rides. That being said, this is definitely the way to go if you are only going to ride a few times over the winter or if you just want to see if winter riding is for you.

If you have already made the decision that you will be riding in the winter on a regular basis, the only option is a winter specific cycling shoe or boot. A few of us had a good discussion about winter footwear prior to our ride last Sunday. There are plenty of good options available but brand that seemed to be getting the most support was Lake, specifically the MXZ302 model. The opinions were that warmth of the Lake was similar to some other premium boots on the market, but what makes these stand out for users is the Vibram soul which provides superior traction on icy surfaces compared to any other MTB shoe available.  If you find you aren't doing much walking, other less expensive options are available including popular cycling shoe brands such as Sidi and Shimano.

Conclusion

There are several alternatives to going out and buying cold weather gear.  The most important thing to keeping warm, no matter the sport, is dressing in layers and keep the layers as thin as possible.  If you are serious about winter riding, winter cycling shoes/boots are a necessity.  Booties, although better than nothing, aren't of much use and will need to be replaced regularly. 

If you are riding in the winter months, make sure you take a look at the forecast prior to heading out and keep an eye on the time as it gets dark early.  If you are going out by yourself, tell someone where you are going and when they can expect you back in case you are injured.  It wouldn't take long to suffer hypothermia if you are laying in the snow unconscious or with a broken leg.  Take a cell phone in case you experience mechanical troubles beyond your trail side ability to fix.  There are fewer people out and about in the winter months so there is less of a chance someone will find you if you are in trouble.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Winter Cycling Gear

In my previous post I discussed winter cycling and the joys of riding in the snow.  After heading out this past Sunday as the mercury dipped down to a frosty -16*C, I have a few thoughts on cold weather gear.

Cold weather gear specific to cycling is definitely the best option as far as performance and comfort is concerned but there are other options you can try that are a little less costly, especially if you are trying winter cycling for the first time or you are only planning to ride occasionally during the winter months. Also, if you participate in any other outdoor winter activities, some of the winter cycling gear doesn’t transfer well to another winter sport.

Upper Body

I think the most important thing you can do when preparing for outdoor winter activities is to layer your clothing. I use a Nike Dryfit compression fit long sleeve shirt (it doubles as my shirt I wear under my hockey equipment), a long sleeve cycling jersey and one of a couple different light weight, cold weather jackets I use for XC skiing. I doubt these jackets are much different that the cold weather cycling gear so if you already have something similar in your closet you may not have to shell out any additional money.

Lower Body

There are plenty of options for cold weather cycling tights and even though I don’t use them, I have heard that they are well liked by those cyclists who do. I feel that this is one of the items that I can come up with a customized option from my existing wardrobe. Like most people who ride frequently, I already have a large chamois collection which have no other use than cycling. As far as keeping my lower legs warm, I have Nike Dryfit compression fit pants (also wear these under my hockey equipment) and I have a pair of cold weather pants that I use for XC skiing. When I layer these items I don’t think there is any reduction in performance and I stay warm the entire ride. I would say my current mix-and-match of gear is an adequate alternative to specific cold weather tights.

Gloves

Cycling specific winter gloves are great. The most commonly used style is called Lobster Claws. They are a combination of mitts and gloves with only a thumb and two fingers. Your index and middle fingers go in one side and your ring and pinkie fingers go in the other side. This will keep your fingers a bit warmer in the way mitts do as each finger isn’t isolated as they are in gloves, but still allows you to two finger brake. Again, I use my existing winter gear as I have plenty of gloves that I use for XC skiing. On colder days gloves aren’t as effective as Lobster Claws, but in temperatures warmer than -15*C I have not required anything warmer than my existing gloves.

I will come back to this topic on my next post to address the last two, and in my opinion most important, areas of concern - your head and your feet.  Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Winter Cycling

As the days get shorter, the leaves turn colors and fall off the trees, and the temperature drops, it is just a matter of time before the snow flies when you live in Alberta. That day came on Wednesday here in Edmonton.  For the people who live an active lifestyle, when the cold and snow arrives it signals the time to take up indoor sports or visit the gym more often.  For those who don`t mind the elements, their focus turns to hockey or skiing. Then there are the few crazy individuals who continue to bike throughout the winter months over the snow and ice. At least that is what I thought before I tried winter riding last year.

The most common question I get after being asked if I ride all year long is how do you ride on the snow and ice? Do you use studded tires? Don't you fall a lot? Honestly, I think this is why most people in Edmonton can't drive their cars in the winter. I say this because the same logic applies when driving on snow and ice, regardless of whether it is a car or a bike on top of set of tires. You need to reduce your speed, give yourself more time to stop and don't try to make sudden turns. There is a bit more to pay attention to when on your bike that doesn't apply to your vehicle such as leaning and how much to use your front vs. rear brakes, but the basic winter driving rules apply to both. 

I enjoy winter cycling for the same reason I enjoy night riding - it makes old trails new again. Even though we are blessed to have so much excellent single track in our river valley, trails get a bit boring after riding them through the spring, summer and autumn. Adding a layer of snow adds a new twist to the same old trails and you have to shift your attention as areas of difficulty tend to change. Even though snow will reduce the technical features when roots become covered with snow, climbs and descents can become more difficult.

I found that the skills I was required to improve the most were slow speed bike handling and balance. When you are on a snow covered trail you need to keep on the hard packed area. On the less travelled trails the packed area can be as narrow as 6 inches wide. If your front wheel goes off the hard packed trail it will sink into the soft snow, killing your momentum. If you go off the trail at a high speed you might go over the handlebars, so it is best to reduce your speed.  I compare the skill required to ride these very narrow snow trails similar to that necessary to ride ladder bridges.  But unlike the potentially painful penalty if you fall off a ladder bridge, typically on the snowy trails the worst that happens is you have to put your foot down in a the soft powder and some snow gets in your shoes.

Cycling in the winter isn`t dangerous or crazy any more than it is during the summer.  The most extreme part of winter cycling is the temperatures so just like every other winter sport, you need to dress appropriate for the weather.  I will continue with this theme next post with a look into what you need for riding gear.  Stay tuned!

*photo credits to Sheldon Smart

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Review - Rudy Project Sunglasses

I was lucky enough to receive a 3 year sponsorship from Rudy Project in my first year of racing.  Rudy Project provides athlete sponsorships not only to professional athletes but also to weekend warriors like myself.  They have also sponsored hundred of sporting events throughout the United States and Canada.  Rudy Project is very proud of the quality of their world class eye wear and has a warranty program to back it up with a 3 year limited warranty on the frames and a replacement lens guarantee.  That's right, if you manage to scratch a Rudy Project lens, for a small shipping and handling fee, Rudy Project will replace it - no questions asked.  Also of note, even though it doesn't apply to me, (at least not at this time of my life) almost all of their products are RX-able for those who require prescription eye wear.

Product Options

Rudy Project has over 20 Sport models to choose from, all with several options in frame color and multiple interchangeable lenses.  I chose the Rydon model with carbon colored frame and Impactx Photochromic red lenses.  I chose the lenses first as I wanted the photochromic ability and I liked the red colored lenses.  I chose the Rydon frames for a couple of reasons.  First was that I liked the style, but Rudy Project has many stylish frames that were appealing.  My final decision came down to availability of additional lenses available for each type of frame.  While most other frames that I liked had anywhere from 5 to 13 different types of spare lenses, the Rydon has 18 different spare lens options.  Do I need 18 spare lenses?  Probably not, but I like to have options and the Rydon gives me the most.  

Comfort

I am very happy with the customizable fit that the Rydon frames provide me.  The nose pieces and the arms are moldable letting you adjust these pieces to conform to your features of your face.  Because of this the glasses stay in the right place all the time; I haven't experienced any tight spots which can pinching or pressure, nor are they loose enough to be sliding off your face or shifting around which would require constant adjustment.  These glasses are also light weight so you don't notice them on your face. 

Performance

The lenses provide clear and crisp vision.  The interchangeable lenses are very easy to swap in and out, yet secure enough that I have never experienced a lens falling out, even under impact.  It is worth noting that the photochromic ability only works with direct UV contact, so if you are using them to drive with, they will not get darker in bright conditions.  However, there are replacement lenses that are specified for driving available.  When the photochromic lenses are exposed to direct UV, they adapt to the lighting conditions quickly.  The tint always seemed to be just right and I rarely notice the transition.  From the department of pleasant surprises, these lenses change different colors as the temperature changes!  When it is warm out, the lenses change to a deep red, almost black colored, which was expected with the light red color of the lenses when not in direct UV light.  What was surprising was that in cooler temperatures (around 0*C or colder) the lenses didn't change to a dark red but rather blue!  This was nice to have when riding in the snow as the blue is a much better color for winter riding.  This means I only require 1 set of lenses for riding all seasons!

Durability

As promised, these lenses seem unscratchable.  I am not gentle on my eye wear and there isn't a blemish to be found on these lenses after two seasons of racing.  But being scratch-proof was only part of the durability features of this lens as they are also advertised as unbreakable.  On the Rudy Project website they posted a youtube link showing someone hitting an impactx lens with a hammer.  After about 5 strikes there were no signs of impact on the lens whatsoever.  I was wondering if I would really require such a feature in my lenses as I couldn't imagine a situation where lenses would be under such a condition.  It didn't take long until I found out just how well these lenses handle a blow.  In my third race during my first season I crashed, going over my bars and into a jagged tree stump.  As I travelled through the air, face first into the stump, all I could think of as I could see this sharp edge getting closer to my eye was how much losing my eye was going to hurt.  As I impacted the stump, the protruding piece hit me square in the lens and snapped my head back.  My forehead scraped down the tree stump causing some bleeding but all I could think of was that my eye was not injured!  Amazingly, not only did the lens not break after such an impact, but as advertised, there wasn't even a scratch on the lens. 

Final Thoughts

If you are looking for a new pair of sunglasses, you should definitely consider looking at Rudy Project as one of your options.  They have a specific lens for almost any application from driving to sailing to ballistics to cycling to golf.  If you are looking for casual sunglasses, they have those too with over 20 models to choose from.  If you aren't keen on making purchases on the internet or would prefer to try on some different models on before dishing out your hard earned money, visit your local authorized Rudy dealer.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Trail Review - Breathless

For my first review, I am going to share my thoughts on what has quickly become my favorite trail in Edmonton. For the last month, most of my riding has been at Terwillegar and the new trail called Breathless.

Breathless is an out-and-back trail which is much more technical than most other trails in the city. Some of the technical highlights include a few steep switchbacks, a couple short drops, lots of roots and endless power climbs. The most memorable piece of the trail would be the bench that was cut into the steep river bank. The bench is only a couple feet wide and probably over 50 feet above the valley floor at it's highest elevation. There is a severe penalty for failure so needless to say, if you have a fear of heights or have doubts about your skills, this is not a trail for you.

Breathless is a new trail and it shows in certain areas. The soil conditions change frequently throughout the trail, ranging from grassy to sandy to loamy to hard pack. The sandy and loamy sections are still quite loose and it will take some moisture and a lot of traffic to really pack these areas in. Another condition to be aware of is that there are plenty of sharp, rooty stumps from the bushes that were cleared in a few concentrated areas. You will get a lot of tire 'pop' off of these stumps as your wheels deflect off of them. I am running light XC race tires and have not had a puncture from these so you don't need to be too concerned about flatting.  Also of note, work on the trail is not complete as the trail flows nicely then comes to an abrupt end, but don't let that stop you from checking it out.  The work that has been done is amazing and everyone that I have ridden with on the trail has been impressed by how well the existing terrain has been utilized.  Kudos to those who have spent countless hours building so the rest of us can reap the benefits.

Some of the steeper sections of Breathless are only rideable one direction. For me, there are four sections that I can not pedal up and I consider hike-a-bike sections. On the way out, there are three sections that you are required to push and they are lumped quite close together: the climb just before the bench, going up the switchback just after the bench, and the last climb before the meadow. On the way back, the only section I would consider a requirement to push would be going up the switchbacks before the climb back to the meadow.  With how steep many of the sections of this trail are, I would not recommend trying to ride it if conditions are not dry or tacky.  You definitely require maximum traction and if conditions are muddy or snowy I don't think this trail can be safely navigated.

If you are a fan of gravity, the hike-a-bike sections I mentioned are most appealing when pointing your front wheel down. All 4 of those sections all have at least one tight turn in them so be sure to keep your speed in check. If you are the kind of rider who enjoys cranking up the speed and maintaining a fast pace, you may not enjoy this trail. There are very few places where you can pick up much speed, and nowhere that you can maintain momentum. The trail is full of twists and turns with short power climbs lurking around every corner. This trail really works on your low speed bike handling skills as well as your anaerobic climbing. If you aren't used to doing lots of power climbs in your ride, by the time you make your way out-and-back you will know why it was named Breathless.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Welcome

Welcome to those of you who have stumbled their way to my blog! I have blogged on an off for the past 5 years but I never had a purpose other than to dump whatever was on my mind.  I was never consistent with posting, sometimes posting several 'articles' a week then going up to 6 months with nothing.  Hopefully this attempt will be a bit more successful as far as consistency is concerned. 

Now that I have completed my second season of XC mountain bike racing, I wanted to 'give back' in the form of sharing my experiences. Also, I am one of very few racers on the local race circuit who are riding a 29er. As the 29er trend continues to grow, I would like to let everyone else know what 29er specific equipment has worked well for me and what hasn't.  I'm sure that non-29er equipment will also work its way in every now and then, but it won't be my focus.  What I don't want to do is copy what other local bloggers I read are already doing.  My goal is to provide something different.

Currently, the weather has been very cooperative for November so I have been trying to get out on the trails as often as my schedule permits. This is an excellent time of year to ride as the leaves are gone from the trees giving you great sight lines, trails are dry and firm, and with the cooler temperatures you aren't overheating.