Thursday, October 12, 2017

What to expect when you are expecting

We are really lucky as mountain bikers these days.  The sheer selection of not just bikes, but really good bikes is staggering.  Once you reach a certain price point, frame geometry, components, and suspension design are all at such a high level you'll get a good bike.  Given the wide range available, there are subtle differences and actually getting some time on a bike is a good thing.

There has been a growth in opportunities to demo bikes. Big brands have travelling demo days that go around the country.  Recent demo specific events, such as Outerfest have given many riders a chance to test multiple bikes on a day.  However, where I am there is very limited opportunity. This is made even more difficult given the desire for  a small and even extra small size.

So what does one do with  out a lot of demo opportunities?  Three things.  1) just hop on as many bikes as you can of friends.  Any chance I get, I would just hop on a bike, even if it was too big or set too stiff.  My goal was just to get a taste of the bike geometry and suspension feel.  Last year I was able to spend a few days on a friend's Santa Cruz 5010.  This was a great opportunity to set it up for my weight, saddle height, tire pressure... I learned a few things, such as how much I missed a dually.  I ended up not liking the bike that much because of the geometry and the suspension feel. This is a great thing actually, to know what you don't like as much as what you do like.  In general, I didn't like the slacker seat tube angle, and the suspension didn't feel good to me in terms of pedaling efficiency.  That is surprising because VPP is supposed to be a great pedaling bike.  There is a lot going on and needs to go on with suspension tuning as well, especially with my weight.  I have heard that Avalanche tuning can help a lot with that. 

Similarly, I hopped on a friend's Devinci Marshall.  I really liked the general feel of the suspension, but knew that sizing was going to be a problem.  It had plus tires and while it did roll good straight, I still haven't been fully pulled over to that side.  So the few minutes on reinforced that. 

Now let's be clear.  Hopping on a bike just let's you get a taste.  Even a few hour demo can be completely off because setup and suspension tuning takes so much effort.  But it can just help frame your thoughts and direction.

2) Reviews. Oh reviews, whether they are professional or from the peanut gallery have to be taken with many grains of salt.  There are so many reviews that say one thing and another review that says another.  I have read reviews and then actually ridden the product and can't fathom how they came up with their review.

One thing I like to look for is just any consistency.  Is there something that keeps coming up over and over again.

Here are some reviews on the Hei Hei Trail

NSMB
Dirt Rag
Mountain Bike Action
Mountain Bike Action Test
link from Kona
You tube from Bike magazine
Video marketing Connor Fearon on the bike

So what are the things the stood out to me about the Kona Hei Hei trail that put it on my radar?  Mostly, the climbing ability.  Almost every review talked about its pedaling efficiency and climbing. As much as I want to think I am like the advertisements on pink bike, I know the reality that around here I pedal a lot and I like to climb.  The single track around here is just grinding and pedaling, so a bike that is good only on the downhill isn't going to be fun in the long run for me.

Other things I liked was the steep seat tube, and 68 degree head angle. 68 on a 'trail bike' with 140mm is counter to what most specify. I think the philosophy is that a trail bike with that much travel would emphasize more downhill stability and prefer a slacker head tube. I think our terrain and my ride style would do well with this 68 degree aspect to the geometry.

A lot of reviews call the bike more of a cross country inspired trail bike.  And in the end I think that describes me and my style.  Again, I have to fight the trend of falling for the marketing that emphasizes downhills.  Any video marketing of a bike that does not show pedaling up hill and single track has to be viewed skeptically, I think. 

The Dirt Rag review said some interesting things. 
Another fact about my local trails: They involve a lot of pedaling. That’s exactly where the Hei Hei shines. More pedal-y than plush, the Fuse Independent Suspension feels efficient and composed. It climbs with alacrity, and uncle Bob is a very distant relative. Rather than wallow in the mid-stroke, the rear suspension remains cool, calm and collected as you pedal through obstacle courses strewn with rocks and roots.
High or low praise, you be the judge:

At the risk of damning it with what may sound like faint praise, this could be one of the best plain-old mountain bikes going 
So what is left now?  3) Just get something.  I am the classic paralysis by analysis consumer.  I probably would have gone months and years without getting a bike until I was able to demo tons of bikes.  'Thankfully'  I broke my hardtail so had push the purchase up.  I found it on sale on ebay and made an offer that I fully expected to be turned down.  And I won it.

And after the shock as worn off and after spending some time on it. I am glad for this series of events. Just to have a bike under me and learning and coming to new conclusions about what I like and don't like.

In the end, I have to tell my self and know.  This is not the last bike I will ever get.  So it is ok, to just get something and it doesn't have to be the end all and has to be loved so much that it justifies getting it. Get it, change it, try different set ups,  like it hate it, learn from it.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Kona Hei Hei Trail 27.5 introductions

 
 
So I got a new bike a few weeks ago.  Getting a new bike is not something that happens without a significant amount of agonizing and paralysis by analysis. This post summarizes how I ended up with this little orange ripper and what else was under consideration.
 
I've been thinking about a full suspension for some time now. My bikes tend to go in a pendulum from hardtail to full suspension and back again. My last dually was a 26er Iron Horse Azure. I'd started to have continual problems with the suspension settings and maintenance. 27.5 was starting to be a viable wheel size. I went an interesting route with a custom designed frame by Waltworks and then getting it built in Ti by a ChiTi maker.
 
This was a fun adventure as I've always loved the custom process of talking about you needs/goals with a builder. It also scratched my itch to try a titanium mountain bike.  It was a fun bike, but I realized that a hardtail around here is tough. When all systems are firing in sync, there isn't much faster or more fun, but fatigue sets in quick and consecutive days was getting harder.  I say 'was' because I had a nagging creak that turned out to be a hairline crack at the dropout.
 
Even before this I had been looking hard at a duallie again.  The roots around here, especially at my closest trail, New Hartford Town Park, are starting to not be fun on a hardtail and 120mm fork. The problem was that I hadn't narrowed it down to a particular 'family' of bikes. 
 
I was considering three different types of full suspension bikes all in 27.5:  1) modern cross country dually. This would be something designed for XC racing but with the new trends in slacker head angles, shorter chainstay, and 120mm fork.  I'd modify a stock bike that typically might come with a 100mm fork to 120mm.  Bikes in this family include, Norco Revolver, Trek Top Fuel, Cannondale Scalpel
 
Next 2) is short travel trail bike. This would be marketed as a trail bike but with 120-130mm travel. This would include the Norco Optic, Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt,  Santa Cruz 5010 Evil Calling, Pivot Mach 4, Spark 120mm/120mm.  Also in this genre might be the Transition Scout, though it has a big front fork.
 
Finally, is the bigger trail bikes like 140mm+ such as the Orbea Occam, Rock Mountain Altitude. The Hei Hei Trail falls in this category with 140/140 but all the reviews say it is on the XC side of things.
 
I was going back and forth.  On one side, I have been contemplating trying to race again and an XC dually with a 120mm fork would be a good weapon. As I mentioned earlier, with the pendulum swing I was thinking why go for an XC bike when I just had hardtail.  The XC bike would give a small measure of comfort over the roots and let me pedal through them.  However, don't be fooled they will still pass trail shock and lead to fatigue compared to a trail bike. The thing is that even though I don't race still, I want to go fast. And on the weekend group rides or Thursday night rights, I still make it a competition.
 
I have some friends who have been going through a similar progression of bikes lately.  They come from a road, cross, mtb racing background and started out on 29er hardtails, which are still a good choice around here for a talented rider.  They made the jump to duallies with Santa Cruz 5010.  I actually rode one for a week. It was ok, but didn't jump out at me.  I didn't like the suspension as much and the geometry had too slack a seat tube.  After going to  big demo day, they recently made the jump to big trail bikes with one getting an Evil and one getting the Rocky Altitude (which I briefly rode and was very impressed. big bike  plush with nice pedaling).
 
In addition to travel, a key characteristic is the geometry and reach/stack values.
 
I've been following a fitting theory from Lee Likes bike lately. Its centered around placing the handlebars in a specific location. It has been lower and closer than traditional. The problem is that many modern bikes are getting taller and taller, especially with longer forks. Getting the bars in this ideal position is also harder as geometries are moving towards the longer/lower/slacker mantra. 
 
The longer part becomes a problem for those of us with short torsos.  So I had a target reach in mind of 385-388mm.  Take a look at some bikes these days. It is actually pretty hard to find a reach that small.  There were a few mostly in XS that had a reach in my range.  It was a tough choice to pick an XS bike, as I've always been on Smalls.
 
Another issue is that Reach is just one part of the geometry puzzle.  In concert with longer reaches, you also typically see steeper seat tubes.  Reach is the number to consider when off the saddle and has taken over Effective Top Tube (ETT) for comparing bicycles.  ETT is still an important dimension when seated in the saddle.
 
I was thinking that I would like the steeper seat tube, because I often have my seat pushed forward on the rails.  I was more concerned with the fact that a steeper seat tube often means shorter ETT even if the reach is in the desired range.  So I was worried about an XS being too cramped when seated.
 
Short chainstays are also a in favor these days.  Given my height, I think short chainstays are a plus to get my weight in the right spot in addition to making the bike more fun.
 
So what are the characteristics of this next dream bike?
1) Nimble w/o being too twitchy
nimble and stable can be at opposite ends of the spectrum.  I've placed a high value on skills lately, and the tight technical terrain here is a consolation for losing out on the big climbs and long downhills of Blacksburg.  I have made a commitment to improving my skills by taking some Ryan Leech video classes, and trying to be diligent on practice.  So a bike that can be moved around and driven as opposed to a plow point and shoot bike was desired.  The Thunderbolt seemed to really fit this characteristic.
 
My hardtail was nimble as heck. However, it was bordering on too twitchy and was getting to be handful.
 
2) Ability to ride in the open position as much as possible
Most rear shocks come with a 3 position lever. Names for the position include downhill, trail, climb, lockout, etc.. One acts as a defacto lockout which might allow for some movement, but for the most part it is like a hardtail. The middle position is called trail typically and on a lot of bikes this is where you leave it.  The open position is the downhill mode where you'd definitely flick there when on a long extended downhill.
 
This is great to have the adjustability, but I don't like it. Except for a long fire road climb where I might set it locked or to trail, I never liked having to go back and forth.  The problems include being in the wrong position when terrain changes quickly.  around here its so variable and downhills so short if the suspension is too plush, I'd be flicking back and forth all the time.

Some bikes come with thumb levers to actuate the shock setting. Scott is known for this and has a dual lock that adjust both the fork and shock.  I've heard that once you get used to it, it is the bomb, and I can see that.  But it is also one more piece of clutter and head ache.
 
Trail mode is a nice thing and a lot of people leave their bike there all the time.  But if I am paying for the full suspension, I want to get the most out of it.  So it can be a conundrum about a bike that can pedal well all the time open.  I heard the Yeti super bikes are meant to be ridden in the middle setting, but their simpler ASRc series is better in the open mode.
 
3) poppy
I am learning how to bunny hop. It's quite fun to be able to look at a trail now and consider all the places to use a mini jumps or things to hop over. My skillset here is about at curb height to 8" that I can clear at speed.  This has unlocked a whole new level of fun especially out here on our trails. 
 
to be poppy, the suspension needs something to push against, and needs to be progressive a little bit. Some bikes are just like pillows and designed to just roll over anything.  I can see part of the fun in this to be able to ride with reckless abandon.  But I did want something with a little bit more to push against to be able to hop
 
4) emphasis pedaling efficiency
I like to downhill no doubt.  But around here, everything is a pedaling grind.  Pedal pedal pedal. And, I am an XCer at heart.  I might have Pink Bike dreams but in the end I think I need to be able to pedal well.
 
This is a tough double edged sword.  Pedal too well and it risks being chattery, and unable to smooth out small bumps.  And you haul a heavier bike around when a smaller travel might have been what you want. 
 
5) easy bike to work on
this was one I had to let go on. Press fit bottom brackets are common on bikes.  Threaded is my ideal choice.  Also more and more bikes are coming with some type of internal cable routing.  It looks cool and slick. However, working on them adds hours to any task for me, like changing housing or changing  rear disc brake.
 
Ok, so how did this bike end up in my possession?  It was on my list, a list of many.  My hardtail died an untimely death and I was without a mountain bike.  I had to act against my nature and act faster without a whole lot of demo-ing if any.
 
There was an ebay auction for an XS Kona Hei Hei Trail.  It was their base model which comes in Orange, my favorite color for a bike.  The XS Hei Hei ticked most of the boxes for geometry except for a pretty tall stack.  The 140mm was on the longer side of what I was aiming for, but the reviews all talked about exceptional pedaling efficiency.
 
It looked like a demo bike, so was used with some scratches on the paint, fork, rear derailleur.  It was the low end spec, and the parts would not bring a whole lot on the used market, but I was more into this for the frame /shock anyway.  If you are looking at this bike, I'd say go for the mid level. It comes with this carbon wheel set WTB carbon 29mm internal with Hope hubs.  Basically a dream build for me and it is stock.  These rims retail for $500 each my goodness. 
 
Anyway, it was listed as a buy now/best offer.  I looked at it for a week and didn't act, but neither did anyone else.  It was relisted for a few hundred less, like $3500 to start, then $3200 I think.  I decided to just throw a token offer out.  I do this a lot, where there is something I'd like to have but not really ready to buy it.  I'll throw out an offer, that I know will be rejected more to say to myself that I acted and was going to get it but it was too expensive.
 
I did that here with an offer of like $2800 on a bike that retailed new for $5000 or so.  Well, guess what? ..."Honey, I bought a bike.. "  I was trying to figure out the right way to break it to management.  Let's just say the credit card company figured it out for me when they called her and asked if we made a purchase from Pro's Closet and she texted me to ask.
 
So I bought it, sight unseen an unridden. 
 
Subsequent posts will talk about many of the trials and tribulations of setting up a new bike and getting it dialed in.  And most importantly, whether I like it or not.
 
Discussions to follow will include, geometry bar/saddle  position,suspension setup, tires, components, wheels, fit, component selection,  and ride reviews
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hi All,

I thought I'd put the band back together again and write again.  It has been a long time since I've shared thoughts on my biking or whatever other hobby has my attention. I am not sure a reason for the hiatus other than I just got out of it.  In retrospect, I wish I'd tried harder to maintain some type of journal. I've realized that writing here helps writing elsewhere. It helps to take the jumble of thoughts that bounce back and forth and make a coherent sentence.  Helping in this case to calm down those thoughts and if anything just reason whatever I'm going around and around about.

Mountain biking is still my central focus. If anything, the emphasis has grown all encompassing. It's almost all I think about, talk about and spend money on.  With the exception of my beloved and frustrating money pit 2005 Legacy GT Wagon 5MT, cycling is and has always been my mistress.

Mountain biking is a welcome friend especially in these times. I'm very lucky to be able to say that there isn't anything really bad in my life. It is just a harder time in general. I recall a friend saying that this middle age is considered one of the hardest times because of a combination of aging parents on one side, younger to grown kids on another, and your own marriage and career in the middle. Financially, it can be straining with college expenses incurring or looming.

Combine all that with the world we are living in  and I can see why I've fallen deeper and deeper into the obsessing about something else. For those of you reading in the future or not from around here, it's 2017 and locally, nationally, and worldwide it is a time of great stress and uncertainty. Politics combined with catastrophic natural disasters and every news days is stressful. 

So cycling is my respite to provide a place to focus thoughts and energy. It's also a good/bad thing as it can be the source of much frustration when working on my bike or wishing I was in better shape. I'm slower than I used to be and don't ride as long as we did in VA.  The riding here in Central NY, especially this little pocket is different. It's hard and grinding and 1hr here is like 1.5 in VA. So doing a 7mile ride in 1.5 hr and feeling worked can be a blow to the ego when I used to do 3hr or 40mile mtb rides.

I have some friends to ride with and beers after are sometimes more the focus than riding hard or long. I am very focused on skill development and pushing my own capabilities. I imagine that is seen as showing off. The racer, even though I was never that good, has me always pushing to improve my fitness and ride harder. Though, I just can't get myself to get onto a solid training plan and do the intervals on the trainer like I used to.

I'm turning 50 next year and have been considering some kind of event like a bike trip or 80k mtb ride or racing again. We'll see. I am not sure I've got it in me to race, but do know there is nothing like fear to motivate me to train.

So I am glad to be back and share some thoughts, and welcome back.

I just got a new bike and am in thought that the journey of setting it up and growing with it would me a fun entry back to writing more formally here in a blog.  I have been keeping notes in a table in one note of almost every ride for the past two years with my previous hardtail and various setup, tire pressures, and fork settings. 

This new bike and it as a platform makes for a great canvas for trying and learning some things. I see some frustration too as is always my way. No matter what I can do some things wrong. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Notes on snowboard boots setup/tie (32 Lashed)

Anyone who snowboards understands how important boots are to your over all riding experience. I would go as far as to say they are the most important piece of the kit trumping everything else, including board, bindings, base layers, or outerwear.  The more experienced I get, the more I realize that subtle fine grain movements of the foot ranging from ankle flexion to pedaling are key to success.  All this places incredible hellish strain on the feet and increase the importance of boot set up. The problem is most don't consider the technicalities of something as taken for granted as tying boots, or sock selection or how tight is tight enough for the ankle harness. I analyze everything and think about these things a lot and have only now come to some realizations.  This post will discuss some thoughts and strategies I have on boots and is skewed towards the 32 Lashed boot which is indicative of many traditional laced boots.  While speed lacing systems are popular and BOA is growing, the majority of boots are still laced.

The first thing to consider is ditching the sock liner that comes with the boot. In almost all cases, the sock liner is nothing but a piece of cheap cardboard or foam that does nothing.  I suffer from fallen arches which makes snowboarding even more aggravating on my feet and completely unbearable with stock sock liners.  I finally ended up getting some custom inserts made by a ski boot fitter. At the very least a good aftermarket insert like Superfeet or Sole is recommended.

The next thing to consider before we get to lacing is socks and thinking about moisture management. I've realized that one of the key contributors to getting cold feet is perspiration. No matter what I've tried my feet perspire, leading to damp socks and very cold feet.  I also have other issues like chilblains which are all interrelated back to the core concept that snowboarding is hell on the feet.  I've recently been experimenting with the concept of vapor barriers. The concept is to not try and mitigate the perspiration through a wicking liner sock.  But rather, to accept it and trap it with a non-breathable membrane and keep the moisture at the feet minimizing the sock or boot insides getting damp. 

They make things caller vapor barrier socks, but I have been experimenting with good old saran wrap. I wrap some around the upper part of my feet/toes and put my thin snowboard sock over it. The problem with the whole concept of vapor barriers is that your force your foot towards trench foot. But I realized that my feet are going to sweat no matter what and lead to trench foot anyway. I used to have to change socks every 2-3 hours.  One trick to help keep the moisture from being force directly next to skin, is to first put a very thin liner sock on, then the vapor barrier, then your regular sock.  The only problem with this is that it begins to push into too thick.  I much prefer one thin wool sock as opposed to multiple layers or thicker socks. So far, I have been able to extend riding to 3-4 hours without any sock issues and my toes stay warmer.  The rest of foot does sweat and cool down though.

This approach isn't for everyone, and it can just feel bad on the feet.  I do this with my hands too and wear nitrile gloves sometimes.  I again extends the time before my hands get cold, but it really tears my hands apart and they are sensitive. Regardless, consider carrying extra socks to change into every few hours.

Ok, so now that we have a good insole in, and have considered moisture management, now we move to putting the boot on and the inner harness. Put your foot into the liner, and liner into the boot if it isn't already in the outer boot. I find that my sock gets pushed around a lot when I put my foot into the liner that is already in the boot, Ideally, I'd put my foot into the liner then liner in the boot. The problem is that it is pretty difficult to get the liner into the boot and sometimes takes more effort then I want.  Regardless, with foot in boot, slam your heel on the ground, stomp your foot. This helps seat your heel in the liner and seat the liner in the boot. Note that the liner is on the higher end, I believe an can be heat molded. There are recipes on the internet for DIY, but a good fitter can help you. They can put some toe caps on your feet to help get a few mm space in there which can help a ton with keeping toes warm by giving enough room for you to wiggle them.

Now the inner ankle harness.  The Lashed is on the higher end of a laced boot and has an inner ankle harness that is part of the outer boot as opposed to part of the liner.  This seems more secure and I've realized also makes it easy to tighten the ankle harness too much.  Early on, I was a zealot for the no heel lift mantra.  I used to wrench as tight a I could inner harnesses.  The problem, is that there are many nerves and blood vessels that run near the ankle. The blood vessels feed your toes.  Cold feet means that you've constricted blood flow to your toes.  The other downside of a wrenched down inner harness is ankle flexibility.

I've only recently understood how important ankle flexion is to snowboarding.  You often here the 'bend your knees' mantra.  But really, it should be flex your ankle.  I vividly remember on day riding at Winterplace, where my ankles were just on fire. I finally couldn't stand it anymore and had to loosen my boot.  I then had a few of the better toe side turns I've ever had.  It still took me years since that day to understand that there is a sweet spot to tightening your inner harness to that strikes a balance between stiffness and responsiveness and ankle flexibility.

One suggestion for the Lashed is to snug down the inner harness, then walk around or do other things with your gear to let the laces stabilize a bit and even out tension, then re-tension the pull and lock it down.  The lace locks on these things never totally last long, so you may have to recheck it later. Again, learn to find that sweet spot, and don't automatically wrench it unless you know that this works for you.

Now to lacing. One thing I try and do, is tie my boots on inside. Once my hand get cold I sometimes never recover. It takes me a long time to tie my boots, so I'd freeze trying to do it outside.  It can be difficult to get laces tight, especially down at the lower laces.  Some people like to keep them a little loose to minimize pressure on the foot and still keep responsiveness by keeping the boot tighter elsewhere. It can be painful on the fingers to get the laces tight on the lower foot. I use a hockey lace puller that I got from a local sporting goods shop. It makes it easy to get it as tight as I need to.
Next, we get into the real issue that has been eating at me for awhile. And that is lacing/tying the boot.  There are two main issues here.  One is tying the boot tight in the places you want it tight and the second is tying it so it stays tight and doesn't work its way loose every run.  Recall the flex your ankle soap Box from earlier?  Well every toe side turn you are pressing into the tongue and pressing against your shoelace.  So it is no wonder that you can work your boot loose.  I find this vague feeling and delayed reaction in turning edge-to edge when my boot tops are even the slightest loose
 
So there are entire web pages devoted to shoe lacing. This guy is amazing, but we'll get to his shoe lace knot in a minute. We still need a few more tricks for tightening.  When lacing and tying the upper part of the boot, it can be hard to pull hard enough, and you want to keep them from loosening.  This you tube video shows a trick for helping with that.  One thing that isn't highlighted in it though is that incredible leverage that doing it this way gives you for pulling the lace tight.  You basically create a mini pulley.  Right at 1:19 you can see that he's clipped one lace on a loop and is getting ready to do the other lace. There is that twist in the lace that he is pulling against. You can pull really tight here and wrench down and it's much easier to get it tight then if you didn't do this.  I do this twit thing all the way up the boot.
There is also another technique in this article about strategies to help keep the boot from loosening.
Ok, now the part I have struggled with and am still not sure I've completely mastered. Tying a shoelace that doesn't come loose.  I tried regular shoe lace knots, and double shoelace knots to no success.  I tried this surgeon's shoe lace knot, and could get the knot tied ok, but had trouble keeping tension onto the lace around my shin. So while the knot would stay tight, there was already some slack from not keeping the lace tight on the shin when the knot was made.
 
Right now I am experimenting with this Ian's Secure knot. It seems to be the best one for being able to keep tension on the lace against the shin and then creating a knot that does not come loose and is easy to undo. 
Oh, I also like to do a wrap all the way around my shin before doing the knot, but am not sure I've got enough to do this knot with and do that.  I really need new laces, I've got two different ones on there, and neither are very good.  I think there are some better aftermarket laces out there that I would benefit from trying.
 
So, the goal I am striving for is keeping my feet drier, setting the foot correctly in the boot, getting the ankle harness JUST right, tiring the boot tight, and keeping it tight.  I struggle with all of these components, and constantly had been re-tying the boot, or loosening or tightening he ankle strap. I am annoying to ride with because I always have to make Minor adjustments. I am not there yet, but am hopeful that this new Ian's secure knot will help me get to where I want to be.
 
Of course, I think about a triple BOA boot all the time. But they are very expensive. I have broken plenty of parts on the mountain before from laces to bindings, know that it is not impossible to have problems. I think a triple is the only BOA I would get to ensure that the ankle tightness is completely independent from the upper or lower. But until then, with hope these strategies here will help my riding and maintain consistency through the day.
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Winter Tires

As someone who grew up in California and lived a large part of their life in Virginia, driving in snow is not something I am comfortable with.  In two weeks, I'll be moving to central New York right on the edge of the Lake Effect snow-belt.  As with all things in life, the love of new gear will get me through this.

There has been a revolution in tire technology over the last decade.  Rubber compounds combined with tread designs have spawned dedicated tires designed for both cold weather and snow/slush/ice.  I am determined not to let my tires limit me getting to the ski resorts.  Once reason for my franticness, is that my current tires, Yokohama Avid ENVigors are downright scary on snow, slush and ice.  My tires spin at the slightest movement and the anti-locks kick in every stop.  Having a Scooby Legacy GT wagon, there is an expectation that it will excel in poor weather.  It was disconcerting that my old Legacy wagon was so much more sure footed in the snow.  Part of its prowess comes from its sway bars and its cheap all seasons, which out perform theses ENVs in poor weather.
 
One of the interesting by products of the internet age is the abundance reviews. Tire Rack is one of the leaders in this space and there are many European reviews.  Snow tires are a popular for discussion.  The keys to new snow tires are the rubber compounds and tread design.  When the temperature drops below 40s, it is beneficial to use a tire designed for this. 
 
In the continuum of tires there are All Season tires that most everyone gets. The tires that is supposed to do well in summer, fall, rain and snow.  A lot of people have two full sets of rims and opt for dedicated tires for summer and winter. With regards to winter tires, there are studded tires, - used for only the worst conditions and often illegal on most roads, studless and studdable winter tires, and performance winter tires.
 
The performance winter tires are for those that want to maintain their sports car nature and still do well in the snow. They are also expensive.  These would be nice to have, but were a little expensive. I would go for a Dunlop Winter Sport 4d if I could.
 
I decided to focus on the studdless(meaning you could get studs if you want) winter tires to prepare me for snow country for the next few months.  I'd change to other wheels with summer/spring tires in late April.
 
 
Bridgestone Blizzaks have the most history as the best snow tires.  Michelin X-ice 3 hold the best ranking at Tire rack.  And the General Altimax Arctic is known as one of the bestbang for the bucks.  It is an exact replica of a famous Euro tire.  The problem right now is the time of year.
 
I talked with several local shops and no one could get winter tires. It seems that only a limited supply are made and by mid February we are beyond the season.  So the General's were sold out almost across the country.  Many suggest to size to a narrower tire for a snow tire. This allows the tire to cut through the snow.  Online, I was able to find some X-ice 3 in my stock size.  But they were very expensive. 
 
I then looked for 205/50R17 and found some Altima Arctic and some Continental Extreme Winter contacts.  The outfit selling the Arctic was a little suspect , so just went with the leader in the field, Tire Rack. I'm getting them delivered to a local tire installer and will have them on in a few days. 
 
I'm also getting my sway bars installed in next week.  That will help a lot to smooth out the body roll that is so heavy in these wagons.  More discussion to follow.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Core and other cycling specific workouts

good article on strength training for mtb. Some nice selection of specific exercises:
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Ultimate sandbag routine for Hip Hinge


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A circuit using the sand bag. I'm getting ready to order the Power package which looks to be their medium size. They are sized as core, power, strength, and burly. With the power it looks like you can put two filler bags and get up to 40 lbs in it which will be plenty for me to learn on.

I'm a big fan of the sandbag. Adding in a rotational component to exercises makes it an awesome tool for athletes needing greater stability in all planes of motion.
The cool thing about the sandbag is that it offers so many different options for holding it. While the barbell offers very little in the way of changing grips, with the sandbag we can shoulder it, hug it, crossbody hug it, and Zercher hold it. The possibilities are many, and each different grip or hold offers a different set of challenges.
Here's an example:
Order Exercise Reps
A Split Clean 5*
B Rotational Lunge 4*
C Push Press 8
D Zercher Good Morning 8
E Shouldered Get-Up 2*
In the video below my athlete is using an 80-pound bag and he's getting crushed by the end.

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Sandbag combo drill
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sandbag for hip hinge progression


a dumbell exercise.  I do something similar with a barbell braced against a corner, where I squat, stand up and then drive the bar up.

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A random compendium of exercises with cycling specific development in mind.

working 3 planes




stagger stance kettle bell push press


12minute routine for lower back/posture from the Foundation book:


wrist work with kettlebell


Lance's strength training:


AntiRotational with a band. I use resistance tubing


4 more core exercises one with sandbag
lateral sand bag pull
renegade row
inchworm

pinkbike video on single leg squats progression (not pistol squat)

http://www.sportsciencelab.com/exercises/hip-twistHip twists on Ball

 The founder:

Sandbag rotational lunge:

Kettlebells for wrist-


Lance's foundation program - core - posterior chain:
http://www.menshealth.com/celebrity-fitness/lance-armstrong-workout


Rotational Deadlifts (ideally with sandbag)






Core workout from Bicycling - do in order: http://www.bicycling.com/training-nutrition/training-fitness/core?page=0,3

1:

2:
3: 4: 6:
 5: This looks really interesting for training hip rotations:



another one. I did these one day at a demo at the gym, it really targeted the same hip muscles needed for cornering



I want one of these 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The "Back Mouse" or Back Mice

I've started my yearly ritual of strength training ala the Morris way. Currently, the transition lifting is proceeding fairly well. This is the phase where I gradually introduce weights starting with extremely light weights and 8-10 reps. Typically, I start with 2 sets the first week, then 3, then up to 4 sets of 12 reps with increasing weight week to week. The goal is to enter into the Hypertrophy phase with connective tissue that is strong enough to take on the new load from the weight lifting. The problem of just jumping into Hypertrophy isn't the muscles as they could probably take the load except with some pretty tender soreness the next few days. However, it is the connective tissue that would probably be the weak link in the chain. My strength training focuses on quads, hips, hamstrings. Squats are a core aspect as is stiff legged dead lift. One thing I've noticed over the years as I increase weight are these small nodules in my lower back. At first they might seem like a typical trigger point. Trigger points live inside my shoulders, upper back, mid back, piriformis, hip flexors like they are bad house guests. I've experienced some relief using trigger point massage balls which allow you to get deep into the belly of the muscle to break up the knot. It is considered a hurts so good technology and can literally take my breath away, however the relief is noticeable. However, these 'knots' in the lower back are different. They are much smaller, and more raised like a nodule. Their shape is more defined and are almost round about 1-2cm and hard. They move slightly yet, deep palpitation or pressure does not dissipate them. I've been searching for information about them and thought that it might be because lower back muscles wrap around the waist as opposed to being longer like a typical mid back or upper back muscle. The ever ending googling has identified a phenomena known as the "Back Mouse". Reading this was fascinating, as it described these nodules that I experience very well. I had upped my squat and dead lift weight recently, and noticed these. They are interesting in that deep massage don't have much affect on them, nor does stretching and they typical cat-back, arching or bird-dog lower back work affect them. This leads me to agree with the supposition that they are these are episacroiliac lipoma or lumbar fascia fat herniation. They seem to go away slowly and don't cause me too much pain. Deep pressure does not provide relief as is the case with other trigger points and usually increase pain focal to the area of the nodule. Other experience pain that is speculated to be the nodule impinging on nerve endings. If it is causing pain, a diagnostic to determine whether this is the root is to inject it with an anesthetic. This targeted injection isolates the treatment to that tiny region. I have also heard of Dry Needling as an alternative to an injection of pain reliever. Dry needling is where they push an acupuncture needle into the trigger point and then move it up and down. You might also come across the drama around dry needling between certified acupuncturists and chiropractors. Supposedly, dry needling is a trendy term and a certificate can be obtained from weekend courses. However a certified acupuncturist requires years of training and oversight from the health department. They have been doing this technique as part of their typical toolset however it wasn't tagged with a hot up and coming name. I've been interested in dry needling for trigger point therapy as well.