|submitted by /u/abeecedee
from Outdoors https://ift.tt/2nYwfW1
What makes a truly great bicycle? Is it the frame material? The craftsmanship? The geometry? High thread count tires run at the optimum pressure as administered via a $275 floor pump?
If you’re shopping for your next bike (and let’s be honest, if you’re a cyclist you’re always shopping for your next bike) you’re no doubt grappling with this very question. We live in an age of unprecedented choice when it comes to bike stuff, so when you’re standing before the vast buffet that is the retail bicycle marketplace, how do you even know where to start?
Well, as you begin your search you certainly won’t be wanting for input. The bicycle companies will each assure you that their offerings are the best and provide you with a heady blend of hard data and purple prose to back up their claims. The bike reviewers will endeavor to parse this all for you by riding the bikes themselves for a relatively short period of time and making their own recommendations. The local bike shop will either cut through all the bullshit and give you the straight dope, or they’ll try to sell you on a bike they can’t get rid of—you won’t be sure which. All of this will be liberally seasoned with group ride chatter and Internet commentary, and after you’ve gorged yourself on it all, you’ll be more confused than you were when you started.
And yet incredibly the system works (for the most part), because the truth is bicycles today are almost uniformly good, which means it’s pretty unlikely you’ll end up with a bad one. (Please note that this does not apply to department store bikes. While I do believe that they are a good thing, they are, in the context of a bike this discussion, bad.) This should come as a relief if you’ve ever found yourself poring over a geometry sheet and wondered if that one (1) degree in headtube angle is going to be the difference between your next bike handling like a scalpel or handling like a shopping cart. (Spoiler alert: you probably won’t even notice it.)
So why is it that bikes are so good? Well, bicycle manufacturers have been at it a long time—the safety bicycle has been around since the late 19th century, and we’ve been tweaking the derailleur since the 1930s—so unsurprisingly we’ve got this stuff pretty well dialed in by now. Of course, new technology always takes a little while to tweak, which is why aluminum frames used to be kinda stiff, carbon frames used to be kinda fragile, and so forth. And yes, there’s always a learning curve when it comes to adopting a new standard, which is why things like axle spacing and interfaces are still evolving, and why as a bike customer it’s always good to wait until a design has been around at least a season or two rather than be an early adopter.
Over a century and a half of collective human cycling experience coupled with modern manufacturing techniques and materials means that buying a bike isn’t all that much different from buying a pair of sneakers: if it’s your size and it feels good on your test ride, odds are you’re going to wind up being pretty pleased with your purchase.
Alas, all this quality doesn’t necessarily make shopping any easier. Because the industry has gotten so good at making performance bikes, and because it adapts so quickly to new trends (what used to be a handful of old guys in Italy is now a global value chain) there’s a lot of sameness in bikes and bike components, which is good, and bad. For example, as far as the average rider can tell, Shimano’s top-end Dura-Ace drivetrain is virtually the same as its mid-market Ultegra version (just lighter), which in turn is nearly indistinguishable from its more budget-oriented 105 product (lighter, and a little crisper), and so forth. If you're willing to pay the premium for the lightest-weight and most refined product, you can, but even if you're on a tighter budget, you'll still get parts that function smoothly and reliably. Moreover, all this is equally true across brands. The old saw that “Campy wears in while Shimano wears out” was barely true when it emerged way back in the 20th century, but it’s totally absurd today now that all this stuff works so well—even the entry-level shifty bits from the various drivetrain manufacturers make the premium component groups of yesteryear feel like rod shifters by comparison.
But the bad—or at least confusing—thing about all this sameness is that it can make gaining entry into the world of cycling feel almost prohibitively bewildering. We’ve got more bicycle sub-genres than ever, and seemingly every company now offers its own iterations of the cross-country mountain bike, and the trail bike, and the enduro bike, and the aero road bike, and the gravel bike... This means that even once you’ve narrowed it down to which type of bike you want, you’ve still got 20 browser tabs open as you pore over the small differences among a bunch of nearly identical bicycles, at which point you may feel compelled to close them all for a while and do something much more fun and spontaneous, like shop for mutual funds.
So while it’s exceedingly hard to wind up with a bad bike, it’s also exceedingly hard to wind up with a great one if you’re too wrapped up in counting pennies and grams and millimeters and degrees. If you already know for certain that you want to buy a specific “genre” (road race, gravel, XC mountain, what have you) but you can’t decide between Brand X, Y, or Z because they’re all so similar, zoom out and remember it’s as much about how you feel about who's selling you the bike. Does one come from a local bike shop with whom you can (or want to) build a relationship? Or are you the self-sufficient and/or antisocial type who doesn’t mind foregoing all that and saving a few bucks in the short term by shopping online? There’s certainly nothing wrong with the latter, but if you’re just starting out on your cycling journey the long-term value of the former could be incalculable.
If you’re not exactly sure what type of bike you want, look to the companies that defy category, because for all this sameness there are still plenty of bicycles out there that stand apart. Jones Bicycles may look like mountain bikes at first blush but they’re endlessly versatile machines suited to virtually any cycling application, and they achieve this without resorting to the evils of suspension. Rivendell has married practicality, beauty, sublime ride quality, and an almost pathological aversion to cycling trends for decades now. Surly still makes bikes that have given birth to entire subcultures, and in addition to completes they offer frames that allow you to create a Frankenstein’s Monster with the most unlikely components in your parts bin—and they’re cheap! And Crust Bikes is managing to synthesize the sensibilities of all the three. Companies like these aren’t constrained by making bikes for use in a sanctioned cycling discipline, nor are they trying to make a bike that’s just like a competitor’s bike, only slightly better. They’re just making their own idea of a great bike their way, grams and fashion be damned.
Rather than researching the spec sheets, you’ve really got to research who you are and how you like to ride. Once you figure that out you’ll find your bike—and the results may surprise you.
In January 2017, Kenenisa Bekele, the Ethiopian who holds the world record in both the 5,000 and 10,000-meters, said that he believed that he was capable of running “around 2:01:30” in the marathon. Back then, those were bold words. The world record for 26.2 miles still stood at 02:02:57. Even though Bekele had just run 2:03:03 to win the 2016 Berlin Marathon, the notion that he was going to slice another 90 seconds off his personal best seemed remote. What’s more, by 2017, Bekele was no longer the most formidable presence on the professional distance running scene. That distinction went to Eliud Kipchoge, the Kenyan master who, at the time, had won an unprecedented five consecutive Marathon World Majors including an Olympic gold medal. If anyone was going to produce a marathon performance “around 2:01:30,” the smart money would have bet on Kipchoge. And, for the next three years, the smart money would have been right.
After yet another victory in this year’s London Marathon, Kipchoge has pushed his ridiculous WMM win streak to nine straight races. Last year, he finally claimed the marathon world record in Berlin. His time of 2:01:39 was 78 seconds faster than the previous mark—the largest margin of improvement in over 50 years. It was a feat that affirmed what everyone already knew: Kipchoge is in a class all by himself.
“Right now, Kipchoge is the only human on the planet who can honestly tell himself that he’s capable of running in the 2:01s,” Alex Hutchinson wrote for Outside after the race. Like most of the running community, I agreed with this assessment. That is, until yesterday.
On Sunday, Bekele shocked the running world by winning the Berlin Marathon in 2:01:41—a mere two seconds off of Kipchoge’s astounding time from last year. It wasn’t a perfect day for racing; the weather was windy and damp. Bekele, who turned 37 earlier this year, even said that he had issues with his hamstring that slowed him down. Three quarters of the way into the race, he temporarily lost contact with the leaders, only to reel them in and drop them over the final 10K. When he approached the Brandenburg Gate with less than half a mile to run, the world record was still within his grasp. He came up just short, but it’s safe to assume that no one saw this coming.
Bekele wasn’t even confirmed to participate in Berlin until three weeks ago. Although he had recently run well at the London Marathon (2:06:36 for 2nd in 2016, 2:05:57 for 3rd in 2017, and 2:08:53 for 6th in 2018), he had never come close to replicating his last triumph in Berlin. What’s more, he has also dropped out of three races, including a baffling incident at last year’s Amsterdam Marathon where he walked off the course with less than two miles to run.
In the coming days and weeks, there are sure to be discussions about the fact that Bekele was wearing the latest iteration of Nike’s controversial Vaporfly shoes. So was his fellow Ethiopian, Berhanu Legese, who finished second on Sunday in a time (2:02:48) that one year ago would have itself been a new world record. As Letsrun pointed out in their race recap, the five fastest marathons ever run have all occurred in the last 13 months and every one of them was run in some version of the Vaporfly. (Ditto, the fastest half marathon.) Indeed, it is becoming increasingly difficult to deny that advances in shoe technology are part of what’s driving the current surge in marathon times. Until recently, the question would have sounded absurd, but we might eventually need to ask ourselves how well we want our running shoes to work.
At least for the moment, however, Bekele’s achievement should be celebrated for what it is: a towering performance by the man whom many consider the greatest distance runner ever. No other athlete has had nearly as much combined success across the three major disciplines of world-class racing; 11 gold medals in IAAF cross-country world championships, eight total gold medals in Olympic and World Championship competitions on the track. And now, fulfilling his own prophecy, a marathon in “around 2:01:30.”
If Kipchoge represents a kind of platonic ideal of what marathoners can aspire to—impeccable discipline, otherworldly consistency—Bekele has repeatedly demonstrated his fallibility, occasionally blowing up in races where expectations were sky high. (When it was announced that he was running Berlin, many anticipated another DNF.) Weirdly enough, he might be a fitting patron saint for all of us who have had things go to hell on race day, only to rise again.
“I am very happy running my personal best. But I still can do this (world record),” Bekele told reporters after the race. “I don’t give up.”
We all know that eating vegetables is important, but it’s easy to get stuck in a spinach and broccoli rut. Both Harvard Medical School and the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend adding a wide variety of vegetables to your diet, since each veggie contains a different micronutrient profile of vitamins, antioxidants, amino acids, and minerals. More standard options, like carrots, bell peppers, and mushrooms, are great, too, but if you’re looking to switch things up, consider introducing some of these less popular nutrient-dense vegetables to your plate.
Also known as celery root, celeriac makes a great low-starch alternative to white potatoes. It has a similar flavor and texture when cooked, but celeriac has about one-third the amount of carbohydrates. Dana Lis, director of performance nutrition at the University of California at Davis, notes that this is ideal for athletes who are trying to fuel appropriately on an easy day. “On a rest day, you don’t need the same amount of carbohydrates that you would need after a hard effort,” she says. “So something like this is a perfect way to add nutrients while lowering carbohydrates without sacrificing satiety or flavor.” It’s also high in potassium, vitamins K and B6, and fiber, which are important for digestion and bone, nerve, and brain health.
In 2017, researchers at the University of Southern Denmark theorized that the human brain evolved partially as a result of nutrients found in seaweed—like iodine, which is important for thyroid function, plus iron and vitamin K. Lis explains that kelp is a tasty way to add new flavor and texture to your next meal, and it makes a great alternative to salt, with only 186 milligrams of sodium per full cup. Vegetarians and vegans missing fishy or umami flavors can mix it into salads and stir-fries, and it even makes a mean imitation tuna salad.
This cute radish is a crowd-pleaser. Slice it and you’ll discover a bright-green outer ring and a hot-pink filling—it resembles a tiny watermelon. A satisfying crunch and crisp, slightly peppery flavor make it a fantastic raw vegetable to munch on, while scoring vitamin C, phosphorus, folate, and potassium in the process, all of which contribute to good cellular health (among many other benefits). Use it as a salad topper, in a vegetable tray, or for easy at-home pickling.
While you’ve probably encountered red cabbage as a garnish for your fish tacos or house salad, you should consider making it a bigger part of your diet. A single serving contains 85 percent of your daily dose of vitamin K plus 54 percent of your daily vitamin C. It’s also richer in antioxidants than regular cabbage: it contains 36 different anthocyanin antioxidants, which have been linked to cancer protection, improved brain function, and better heart health. “Typically, the more colorful, the higher the nutrient density,” Lis explains. Red cabbage also makes a crunchier, more colorful coleslaw than its pasty-white counterpart.
If you’re eating a plant-based diet, dulse should be on your radar: its robust nutrient profile covers vitamins like B12 that are hard to find when you’re not eating animal products. Dulse is a type of seaweed that can be bought in flakes (don’t be dismayed by its similarity to fish food), which makes it great for seasoning dishes without increasing sodium. It’s rich in vitamins B6, E, and A, contains the same bioactive peptides as milk—which are great for heart health and more—and has similar amino-acid levels to most beans or legumes.
You may already be on the beet bandwagon, but don’t throw away the leafy tops. Beet greens cook down into a tasty sauté with a bit of butter or olive oil, says Lis, and the sturdy leaves are packed with vitamins A and K, copper, iron, calcium, and manganese—all of which the brain and nervous system rely on to function properly. And a bunch of beets offers more bang for your buck in the veggie aisle, because you get nitrate-rich beetroot as well as the fiber-packed leafy-green tops.
Small but mighty microgreens have exploded in popularity in recent years and for good reason: studies have shown that they contain more micronutrients than many of their fully grown versions. Broccoli microgreens are some of the easiest to cultivate at home but are also now available at most grocery stores. They’re packed with twice as much vitamin C as a serving of spinach, as well as vitamin A, antioxidants, and key amino acids. Their crunchy texture holds up equally well in salads and stir-fries.
If you love crisp, sweet lettuces like romaine and iceberg but are looking for something more nutrient-dense, try Yugoslavian red. It’s higher in vitamin A and K, antioxidants, and iron than romaine but maintains the same sweet flavor and crunch. Those antioxidants help your body efficiently process free radicals—the potentially harmful chemical by-products of metabolism. Yugoslavian red lettuce is easy to grow at home, so if you’re looking for cheap, simple options to add to your garden, it’s a good choice.
Fiddleheads, the bright-green curled tips of young ferns, are easy to identify and make a great entry-level foraging food. They’re only in season for a few weeks each spring, when you can also find them at specialty grocery stores or farmers’ markets. The curlicued spirals taste a bit like asparagus but are packed with more micronutrients, including vitamin K, iron, and potassium, as well as 5.6 grams of protein per one-cup serving. However, fiddleheads need to be cooked well to release a toxin that can cause symptoms of food poisoning, so make sure to steam or sauté them for at least ten minutes.
This vegetable is similar to broccoli in terms of its nutrition profile, with vitamins C and K as well as antioxidants, but it’s a dinner-party showstopper thanks to its neat whirling patterns. A single-cup serving packs in four grams of protein and two grams of fiber, making it a good option if you’re hoping to cut down on your meat consumption. It tastes a bit nuttier than broccoli or cauliflower and adds a bit of depth to a roasted-vegetable medley.
Kohlrabi is shaped and sized like a turnip, but this root vegetable is more similar to brussels sprouts in flavor. It’s extremely low calorie—just 37 per cup—and contains a whopping five grams of fiber per serving in addition to calcium, iron, potassium, and 139 percent of your daily recommended vitamin C. It can be eaten raw or cooked and makes a great cabbage substitute. Keep the stems and use them in a sauté for bonus fiber, iron, and antioxidants.
I was a rafting guide for too long. I was pushing 30 during my last season, five years ago, and found myself absolutely haggard at the end of 12-hour days on the water. But it was in those waning days of my guiding career that I found my solution for being outside all day: the sun shirt. Once I started fully covering my skin, I discovered I had nearly twice as much energy. I’ve never looked back. Everyone should have one in their outdoor arsenal.
Moisture Management: 3.5
Athletic Movement: 4.5
Patagonia’s Capilene Cool material easily passed as cotton, with its superior looks and next-to-skin comfort, but still moved moisture and stretched like a high-end synthetic. This made it a full-on best-of-both-worlds function and fashion piece. While the cut and the low-key style of the shirt made it look extremely casual and cool, it took second place on how it moved during the circuit workout. It didn’t shed water as quickly as its competitors in the hang-dry test, but it was the most comfortable while swimming in the pool—it never felt clingy or slimy on my skin as synthetics often do.
Moisture Management: 3.75
Athletic Movement: 5
If the Rhone Endurance Long Sleeve had a hood, it would have won this competition. It did offer a decidedly athletic fit and slightly shiny exterior but was coupled with an almost tailored profile, which made it look quite sharp. “Damn, you look good in that shirt,” my wife said to her blushing husband, as I packed our daughter’s diaper bag to head to the pool. The Polartec Power Dry fabric has long been one of my favorite synthetics for getting sweat off my skin while also moving with my body, and this specific iteration did not disappoint. “Never rode up, yet never inhibited movement,” was my first note after I worked out in it.
Moisture Management: 5
Athletic Movement: 4.5
Stio was tied with Patagonia for most comfortable sun shirt in this test, thanks to the extralight and extremely stretchy Helion material. It also crushed moisture management and was only a few grams of water shy of being bone-dry at the end of the test. So while it was a contender for first, it got bumped down because the athletic fit and thin fabric showed too much nipple for everyday use. And to be frank, the extremely bright colorway made me a little self-conscious while playing with my daughter in the park.
Moisture Management: 4
Athletic Movement: 4.5
The Lifa Active Light was fantastic, but it wasn’t the best in any particular category, which is why it landed in fourth place. It had a next-level athletic cut (read: Scandinavian) that made it look more like a ski-mountaineering piece than something I would wear to drink cold beer on a patio. While the fit did it no favors in the style category, it was clearly made to move: I was impressed by how much mobility it demonstrated during the workout, tying for second in that category in spite of being the tightest top in this test.
Moisture Management: 3.75
Athletic Movement: 3.75
The technology on the PFG is pretty amazing. Little reflective dots on the surface actively bounce light off the material, which, coupled with small coils on the interior that raise the garment off your skin, legitimately delivers a cooling sensation when you are hot as hell. It also makes the top look fantastically overbuilt for everyday use. “No, just no,” was my wife’s reaction when I asked her if I could pull off wearing it out to a meal. The integrated neck gaiter is what landed the PFG a perfect score for coverage but also deducted major style points. (It does feel unfair to throw such a high-tech shirt into a style fight.) The hoodie moved fantastically during the workout for how much fabric I was dealing with, but it took a hit because the gaiter got pretty stifling when I started huffing and puffing—though that might actually be an advantage during some cooler shoulder-season activities. While this sun shirt would be excellent for someone who works as a fishing guide in the Seychelles, it was too much for my personal everyday needs.
We lifted off from Albuquerque, New Mexico, on a warm spring morning, rising out of the concrete grid, over the brown river flanked by cottonwoods leafing out in green, then north above a range of barren mounds and sandy arroyos dotted with piñon.
Somewhere down below, my wife rode north toward Montana in the back seat of her parents’ car, cradling the body of our boy. Our only child. She and I had bought tickets to sit together on this plane. She had just given birth and could not be expected to sit two days in a car as it brought the casket and the child to the woods near the Canadian border where she was raised, a better resting place than the weedy brown graveyards of Albuquerque, a city in which we didn’t expect to stay long. We wanted our boy at home.
But as the departure day approached, C. realized that we had bought the ticket for Mother’s Day, and she couldn’t bear the thought of spending it away from him. I couldn’t bear the thought of two days confined to the car with his embalmed body. As a result, I flew alone, taking a window seat over the dry mountains. Our first decision as parents was what to do with his body. Although I still hadn’t changed a diaper, I had changed his ice packs. I was 47 years old.
When our son died on the same day he was born, my first thought—my only thought—was that it was I who had killed him. It was simple logic: I was his father. My one duty was to protect my son, and he was dead, therefore I’d done wrong. Clearly we had chosen the wrong midwife, doctor, hospital, procedures. But when that brand of blame didn’t hold up to medical reason, I plumbed for failure deeper in my past. “I should have had children 20 years ago,” I sobbed. “I should have had eight kids in case some of them died.” I blamed my wife for wanting to wait. I blamed myself for allowing us to wait. Maybe if I hadn’t taken this job, we’d have had the baby elsewhere, and he would have lived. The whole of my existence had never felt so puny, pointless.
When I was 20 or so, I developed such an acute terror of flying that tears would well as the engines revved on the tarmac and I envisioned my death, the news of it delivered to my parents. Over the years I somehow transformed this fear into naps, and that morning in Albuquerque, I closed my eyes and dozed off as we hurled down the runway, waking ten minutes later to the pleasant ding, the stewardess announcing that we had reached cruising altitude.
After a few minutes staring out the window, I opened a book. I was halfway through The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, which I’d read years before. I returned to it now, as a father. I felt the man’s devotion to the boy, his sole desire to keep his son alive. I knew how he’d give his own life for his son’s and why he saved the last bullet not for himself but for the boy, to spare him from things more awful than death.
I read half an hour, then set the book down. I looked out the window. To the west lay a familiar landscape, the red-rock canyons of the Four Corners. I couldn’t tell if we were in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, or Utah, but the carved sandstone and juniper slopes broken up by flat green ranches were the very topography of my life. I craned my neck for a point of reference. There were no towns, just the occasional farmhouse or mobile home on a gravel road winding up a dry wash.
Then a range of snowcapped peaks thrust up from the desert. I felt a thrill—joy, actually—something I hadn’t felt in weeks, like the sensation you get when you run into an old friend who you’ve missed for years, when his features come into focus. There, the jagged pyramid of Mount Tukuhnikivatz, the blunt ridge of Mount Peale, and the lumpy mound of Mount Mellenthin. I recognized Mann’s Peak, Mount Waas, and Mount Tomasaki of the La Sals on the border of Utah and Colorado. I’d been atop almost all of them two decades ago, working as a guide. I’d seen a bear and herds of elk. I’d swum in Medicine Lake, glissaded down the col below Laurel Pass, toured the North Woods on skis. I had arrived on the far slopes of the La Sals, in Moab, at age 22, when some hitchhikers I picked up suggested it, and I ended up staying for 11 years. Once I’d tried to climb Mellenthin with my dog, but the gales of wind across a bare ridge forced us to lie down, then turn around, only to find a tree fallen across the road. We abandoned the truck, walked to the nearest pavement, hitched a ride home.
Now below me I saw the sheer walls of the Dolores River, the first big river I floated, which launched my guiding jobs. A decade later the river had been my first magazine assignment, and I could see where it flowed into the Colorado, and I remembered my typically ill-conceived expedition to kayak it at extremely low water. My girlfriend and I broke up the day before, but we decided to take the trip together anyway, a decision regretted by none more than our third paddler, who endured two nights of us fighting and crying.
We flew beyond the La Sals and crossed the Colorado, a river I had floated a hundred times or more, and I watched it drain toward Moab, where I’d spent the entirety of my first book advance, $10,000, on the down payment for an acre of cottonwoods and tumbleweeds with a 1965 single-wide trailer. The land abutted a creek that flowed down from the springs and snows of the La Sals. I’d written my second book in the front room of that trailer, breaking on the hour to gaze out the wide window that I called the windshield at the stormclouds gathering around Tukuhnikivatz. In the spring, in sandy soil, I planted a catalpa and a sycamore that 15 years later cast shade on that writing room.
The plane floated on, over the mouth of the Green River’s Desolation Canyon, a windswept wilderness where I estimate I slept more than 50 nights. That was the canyon that originally hooked my imagination, a city boy from the suburbs of Los Angeles, reading Ed Abbey tell of its grand loneliness, its 86 miles without roads or other signs of civilization.
Then the tortured narrows of the San Rafael Swell where, coming home from a book event in in Salt Lake City, I’d rolled my truck and walked away unhurt except for the indignity of seeing all my unsold first editions littered across the dirt road. Years later I led three-week explorations of its slots, where my group once slaughtered a sheep with a hunting knife and wrapped its meat in cotton sheets and roasted it overnight in an underground pit of hot rocks. In those days I was teaching teenagers to climb and cook, paddle and pack, assuming without saying so that one day I’d teach those same skills in these same canyons to my own child.
I cried at the window. First for my boy and then for myself, for that tiny creature trotting happily across the land like an ant, unaware of the fate that lay ahead. Mixed with it was a kind of joy, a love for all the beauty and laughter and freedom and fortune that I’d found below, for the blessed life I’d been allowed in those canyons and on those mountains, of actually getting paid to navigate these magical places and then commissioned as a writer to satisfy that same sort of curiosity and wanderlust.
Back then I wrestled with life’s lightness, the sense that nothing mattered, nothing was real—all felt like simulation or commodity—and I spent years seeking the authentic amid the artificial. I weep for the innocence of my younger self, his not knowing the heaviness of life. But I also cheer for the unsubstantial burden on his feet and of his spirit, a lightness I may never know again. In those years of swashbuckling across wilderness, even as I risked my life, I never thought too hard about death, certainly not the death of my children. I was always afraid of dying, always felt I had so many things I still needed to do, but the only way to function on cliffs and in whitewater was to block that fear. Like any character in a book, my former self did not know what lay ahead. As for that heaviness: in the coming days, I would lay my baby boy in a hole and cover him with soil.
Was it foolish to have been so carefree? That’s the question fate forces upon us. We know, even if we don’t think about it, that our lives will end, as will the lives of everyone we have ever known and loved. A Zen teacher said: life is like getting into a boat and sailing out to sea, where eventually the boat will capsize and we will drown. But what to do with that knowledge?
Years earlier, C. had her charts read in Nepal by a fortune-teller named Dipendra who specialized in matchmaking. He grimaced; of the 34 characteristics deemed essential to a good marriage, C. and I were compatible in only seven. “For arranged marriage, I would not recommend,” he said, then smiled. “But since is a love match, I think OK.” He also warned that I was destined to have a terrible accident. We laughed about Dipendra’s curse over the years, and when I launched off a three-foot ledge on my mountain bike, sailed over the bars, and bounced on my head like a pencil, tumbling to my feet with only a slight case of whiplash, we wondered—hoped—that the worst disaster was behind us.
Now as a childless 47-year-old traveling to my son’s funeral, I wondered, Should I have done things differently? Should I have spent more time preparing the soil for burial and less time planting it with shade trees? More time learning to grieve and less time pretending I would never have to? More time contemplating death and less time careening headfirst down steep snowfields? I had lived as fully as I knew how, and even now, after my path led me to sorrow more devastating than anything I could have imagined, I still didn’t know that I would—or could—do anything differently.
The plane passed north into less familiar territory. It’s true that I had denied death. My life had been good. Even beautiful. I had never thought too hard about the afterlife, but since my son’s death, I’d come to believe in it, not because the facts had changed but because I needed it. My wife and I had created a spirit, and I needed to believe that we would reunite with him somehow. I was not suicidal. But that familiar fear of death was gone. I had done all that I wanted to do, and it had not ended like I hoped, but still there was nothing more that effort alone could bring me. Destiny was not in my hands. As the plane began its descent back to earth, I felt for the first time that I was ready to die.
A year after our son died, my wife and I drove down to West Texas, bumping along dirt roads by the big bend of the Rio Grande. We camped out there, hours from pavement, not many people in sight. Wildflowers ignited in purple and white and yellow. The cacti blossomed. It was cloudy but hot.
We had another baby on the way, a second son, six months along. We talked to him more than we had talked to his brother. We knew that, for some, life in the womb is the only life they get. Each morning I sang to him. To his brother I had sung, “May God bless you and keep you always, may your dreams all come true,” but to him I sang, “Don’t let the sunshine fool you, don’t let the bluebirds tool you.” We loved him with joy and terror.
One day we climbed up a steep trail to gaze down into a sheer cliff narrows where the river snaked through. When we returned to the river bottom, we sneaked through a gap in the willows and found the Rio Grande shimmering over a gravel bar, pouring into a deep hole. We stripped and leaped in, floated in the cool eddy, naked and alone in what felt like the wilds. There was no wall, no signs of a border. We crept across the gravel, the current pushing at our calves, and nudely smuggled our baby into Mexico and back. The clouds dissolved, and the sun baked us dry. One last green bottle of beer floated in the ice chest.
Isn’t life gorgeous? Aren’t we blessed?
Sometimes it seems that we are.
One morning last month in East Burke, Vermont, mechanics at Liv were polishing up a fleet of the most razzle-dazzle mountain bikes the company has ever offered. The full-carbon Pique Advanced Pro 29 that I was about to test retails for a whopping $12,300—quite a bit more than the accessibly priced models this company has become known for. It’s also, unapologetically, a women’s bike, designed from anatomical and physiological data specific to women. So before I could throw a leg over Liv’s sparkling new rig, I first sat down to hear the case for women’s-specific bike design.
A brand video laid out the evidence. Using data from PeopleSize (a global anthropometric database) and NASA, Liv has learned that women have narrower shoulders, shorter arms, and shorter crotch heights, among other differences. Those trends become more pronounced among shorter men and women, meaning that women are less likely to achieve an ideal fit on smaller-size frames built for men. Women’s muscle activity also reveals distinctive patterns: ladies activate their rectus femoris (one of the thigh’s quad muscles) more than men, so Liv’s steeper seat-tube angles put the rider in a position to favor that muscle. Because women’s ratio of lower-body to upper-body strength is higher than men’s, Liv adjusts the stiffness of its bikes accordingly, making some regions (Liv declined to disclose specifics on which ones) softer and others more rigid to compensate for women’s powerful pedal strokes.
“We build bikes from the ground up, using data points from women,” says Cassondra Spring, Liv’s global marketing communications specialist. “It’s something we’re really proud of. We think it sets us apart.” That commitment to women’s bike design seems more distinctive every year.
Back in the late 1990s, Trek rolled out the first line of bikes built using women’s-specific design (WSD). These weren’t just fitted with different saddles to accommodate women’s typically broader hips. Instead, women’s-specific geometries promised to cater to female proportions (which often mean longer legs and shorter torso lengths relative to overall height). More companies followed, until women’s bikes became a well-established category. Liv, a subsidiary of Giant, joined the party in 2008.
However, some brands never embraced the women’s-design trend. For example, Juliana may be a women’s brand, but its bikes’ geometries are identical to the men’s versions made by Santa Cruz, Juliana’s parent company.
And in recent years, many of the cycling brands that touted women’s bike design have been, well, backpedaling. In 2018, Trek announced that it would phase out its WSD models in favor of unisex geometries. In 2020, Specialized will discontinue its women’s models, and Yeti will no longer offer its Beti line of women’s mountain bikes.
Liv, meanwhile, remains committed to women’s design. “We don’t just make a women’s bike,” says Spring. “We make a lot of them.” In fact, the $12,300 version of the Pique Advanced Pro 29 appeals to uncompromising experts seeking top technology. Many gear companies (not just bike brands) have long assumed that this kind of customer is exclusively male. But Liv is betting that women—some of them, at least—will open their wallets for a brilliant mountain bike.
And yes, the Pique Advanced Pro 29 is a marvelous bike. Top-end builds come with Fox’s latest innovation, the Live Valve, which electronically and automatically adjusts the fork and shock settings to adapt to terrain changes within three milliseconds of sensing them, meaning the suspension optimization is practically immediate.
All versions of the bike (aluminum Pique 29 frames start at $2,050) overcome most—and maybe all—of the challenges associated with fitting 29-inch wheels to small and extrasmall frames. I’m five feet tall, and I’ve personally experienced those downsides: the 29ers I’ve tested felt sluggish when I accelerated, and their long wheelbase lacked agility in tight corners. But Liv racer Kaysee Armstrong (who is also petite) wanted a 29er, so the company’s designers set out to solve the conundrum of big wheels on small bikes.
“It’s really hard,” laughs Sophia Shih, Liv’s advanced engineer. She started with a computer simulation of an ideal woman-specific riding position. Then, using more computer-aided engineering, Shih tweaked the frame’s geometry and construction to preserve that ideal position on the bike.
The resulting frame has a very short rear center (the distance from the bottom bracket to the rear axle) for agility and a superstiff bottom-bracket linkage for snappy acceleration. “It was a challenge to get it stiff enough,” says Shih, who persisted in adjusting the carbon layups and frame angles until she achieved the target numbers that would yield the desired stiffness.
Then Liv worked closely with Fox to tune the Pique 29’s suspension. During a week of riding in Sedona, Arizona, a large team of female testers rode prototypes of the aluminum Pique 29 and carbon Pique Advanced Pro. They delivered their feedback to on-site engineers from Fox, who incorporated tester responses into recalculations for the forks and shocks. Consumers still have to set their own sag and rebound based on their weight and ride preferences, but the women’s-specific tune aims to optimize the bike’s performance by calibrating the suspension components to the rider’s anticipated inputs.
When it came time for me to ride the Pique Advanced Pro, the afternoon sun blazed above Vermont’s Kingdom Trails. But riding this bike felt effortless. The fit was perfect from the get-go, requiring no adjustments to the stem or cranks for me to feel at home on the extrasmall size. I appreciated the pedaling efficiency as soon as I started climbing: the bike accelerates with ego-stroking immediacy and seems to translate every watt of energy into forward propulsion. I loved its ability to zoom out of corners and thrust me up hills—quite unlike what I’ve felt on other 29ers.
As expected, the big hoops smoothed out the roots I frequently encountered while riding among Vermont’s maples. But I also loved the bike’s surprising stability on ledgy descents. With 100 millimeters of front and rear suspension, it’s built for cross-country trails and races, yet I hardly felt pummeled by the occasional ruts, drops, and rock gardens I negotiated.
So do women need a women’s-specific bike? Maybe not. Many women have achieved good fit and performance from mainline, gender-neutral bikes. But there’s nothing dumbed down about Liv’s 29er, which manages to fit an impressively wide range of women—and that hardly deserves to go out of style.
Eight years ago, Quiency Duggers stepped onto the doctor’s scale during his annual physical and saw the numbers on the screen climb to 440 pounds. “That’s 60 pounds shy of a quarter ton,” he says. “I thought, This is unacceptable. I need to change a lot of things in my life.” So he bought an exercise bike, started riding for two minutes every day, and eventually began jogging 100 yards at a time in his Atlanta neighborhood. Today Duggers is half his former weight and an avid runner, logging upwards of 300 miles each month. “I’m a junkie at this point,” he says, laughing.
In addition to that exercise bike and a whole lot of conviction, Duggers gives credit to two free apps, MapMyRun and MyFitnessPal, which he utilized throughout his weight-loss journey. The apps’ secret sauce? They work together to give you a holistic picture of your fitness plan. “All the Under Armour products talk to each other,” Duggers adds. “I like that.”
Ben McCallister, Under Armor’s senior product director for MapMyRun and connected footwear, says that’s by design. “You can track your run in MapMyRun and then see how that caloric burn influences your nutrition with MyFitnessPal,” McAllister says. In other words, the apps are not designed simply to track your progress, but to actually improve your running and fitness along the way. That’s something any athlete looking to make gains—no matter how big or small—can benefit from. Here’s how the apps work and how to get the most out of them.
MapMyRun was built specifically for runners, with a focus on extreme accuracy, so it delivers consistent results from run to run, regardless of speed or stride length. But it also tracks activities like cycling, mountain biking, walking, and gym workouts, all of which play into your broader fitness program managed by the MyFitnessPal app (more on that later). You can also use it to plan routes—which is especially convenient when traveling to new cities—and real-time prompts tell you things like your split time or whether you need to speed up to reach your goal. And if you run with music, you’ll love that it syncs with Apple Music or your library, further streamlining your workouts.
McAllister helped design MapMyRun to be one of the most intuitive fitness apps out there, so you can focus on your workout—not your devices. The real magic, however, happens when you use it with Under Armour’s HOVR™ Phantom/SE smart shoe. Synced directly with MapMyRun, the shoe’s built-in chip frees you from needing a GPS watch or smartphone to track workouts. It automatically measures the distance of each stride, which the app then tabulates into an easy-to-read graph that tells you if you’re overstriding—a common mistake runners make that causes injury and inefficiency. “Before the HOVR, you’d have to buy a pretty expensive device to get access to that data,” McAllister says. “Now it’s included in the price of the shoe.” It’s a virtual personal coach, fitness tracker, altimeter, route planner, and social network—all for a price tag that starts around $100.
In addition to building a strong training routine, your overall fitness plan has to start with what you eat, and the MyFitnessPal app gives you access to the world’s largest nutritional database. “Whether you’re a competitive athlete or just want to feel better every day, MyFitnessPal is the best tool out there to track nutrition,” McAllister says. The app offers meal planning and nutritional advice tailored to your athletic objectives.
You can enter everything you ate (search for things like “meatloaf” or “avocado toast”) in an easy-to-log diary, add any exercise that hasn’t already been tracked in the MapMyRun app (mowing the lawn and cleaning the house count), and see your projected weight loss or gain five weeks down the road. The premium subscription also tracks calories according to when you consumed them—more accurately calculating how many you’ve burned—and tells you which foods are best and worst for you.
Duggers still uses both MyFitnessPal and MapMyRun every single day to help him reach ever loftier objectives. “They tell me where I’m lacking and how I can improve,” he says. “My next goal is to do a 10K in 45 minutes. And my next marathon? I’m going to run that in as close as I can get to four hours.”
Contrary to popular opinion, the best scientific debates are not on Twitter. Instead, they’re found in special sections of certain journals where teams of scientists are invited to present contrasting views on hot-button issues, then rebut each others’ takes in a pre-determined (and generally civilized) format. This is where you get a window into what topics are currently roiling the waters in labs around the world.
A few years ago, in the Journal of Physiology’s CrossTalk section, researchers debated the following proposition: “Heat acclimation does/does not improve performance in a cool condition.” This is a question that (as I explained in an Outside article last summer) has obsessed physiologists, coaches, and athletes since a bombshell 2010 study from the University of Oregon found that 10 days of training in 104 degrees Fahrenheit boosted cyclists’ VO2max by 5 percent—even when the subjects were later tested in cool temperatures. Suddenly heat training was being hailed as the poor man’s altitude training. But was the result legit, or just a fluke?
Unlike the way things usually go on Twitter, the academic version of this debate shied away from the extremes. Both sides presented evidence supporting their view, but also acknowledged evidence that seemingly contradicted it. More data, they both agreed, was needed. On that note, a new study in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, from a team of researchers in the United Kingdom led by Mark Waldron of Swansea University, offers some interesting new data for the debate.
One potential source of confusion in previous studies is when you measure the outcome. Should you expect a performance boost within days of starting your heat training? Right after you finish heat training? Or is there some sort of delay before it kicks in? To find out, the researchers decided to test fitness adaptations during a 10-day heat adaptation protocol (on days 5 and 10), and after the heat adaptation was finished (on days 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 10).
The study involved 22 cyclists (all male, alas), all of whom were serious amateur cyclists training an average of 14 hours a week and competing regularly. The adaptation protocol was 10 consecutive days of cycling in the lab for 60 minutes at an intensity equal to 50 percent of their VO2max, with half of them in the heat group at a room temperature of 100.4 F (38 degrees Celsius) and the other half in a control group at 68 F (20 C). They also continued with their normal training outside the lab, subtracting their lab rides to maintain roughly the same training volume as usual. The outcome measure on the test days was VO2max, a marker of aerobic fitness that has a reasonably good correlation with race performance, tested at 68 F (20 C).
If you looked at the data right after the heat adaptation period, or even a couple of days later, you’d conclude that it makes you worse. The VO2max readings were lower. But three days after the heat adaptation, VO2max readings started to climb, and four days afterwards, they peaked at 4.9 percent higher than baseline, strikingly similar to the 2010 Oregon study. The control group, meanwhile, hardly saw any change. Here’s what the average VO2max values looked like (white squares are the control group, black circles are the heat-adapted group):
The control group’s values stay reasonably constant from the baseline test (labeled BL) through the two tests during heat adaptation (HA 5 and 10) and the six tests after the heat adaptation (Post 1 to 10). The heat adapted group, in contrast, shows a pronounced decrease during the adaptation period followed by a big rebound after it finishes.
This delayed response is puzzling, because many of the changes associated with heat adaptation happen pretty quickly. For example, here’s what the average heart rate during the 60-minute rides looked like during the 10 days of heat adaptation:
In this case, positive changes (i.e. a lower heart rate) start happening pretty much right away, and continue steadily throughout the protocol. This suggests the cyclists are improving their cardiac efficiency, meaning they’re getting better at delivering oxygen-rich blood to their muscles with less effort. But that can’t be what leads to improved VO2max, because the two changes happen at different times.
The heart rate data is significant for another reason. All the cyclists in both groups were exercising at the same relative intensity, 50 percent of VO2max. For the control group, that resulted in an average heart rate of a little over 140 beats per minute. For the poor suckers in the heat group, they were initially averaging 170 beats per minute, and even after 10 days were still close to 160 beats per minute. In other words, they were training harder. Could that explain why they saw an improvement in VO2max? It can’t be dismissed—but it’s probably not the whole story. These cyclists were pretty serious, already training for 14 hours a week, so it’s very unlikely that they’d see a massive 5 percent jump in VO2max just by training a little harder.
Another point the researchers highlight is individual variation. Only one of the 12 heat-adapted athletes failed to improve his VO2max, which is pretty impressive. But the exact timing of the peak was slightly different for each athlete. If you simply take the difference between baseline VO2max and the highest value recorded during the study (instead of the average on a specific day like the fourth day after the heat training protocol finished), the average improvement was 7.1 percent, which is even more remarkable. That’s not really a valid metric, because you’re cherry-picking the highest value from a series of repeated tests, but it is a reminder that four days isn’t necessarily a magic number for everyone. It’s just an average.
In the end, these results nudge the pendulum a little more toward the idea that heat adaptation really can boost your performance even when you’re not competing in hot weather. Even better, they suggest that the biggest benefits come after the heat adaptation is done, which makes it a little easier to work out the logistics of heat training and ensure you have at least a few days, and perhaps even a week, to recover from the heat before competing. I’d still be unlikely to bother with this for a race where I know the weather will be cool. But if there’s a chance it might be hot, then heat adaptation definitely makes sense—and knowing that there’s a chance your heat training will pay off even if the temperatures stay low is a nice little confidence-booster to have in your back pocket.
My new book, Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance, with a foreword by Malcolm Gladwell, is now available. For more, join me on Twitter and Facebook, and sign up for the Sweat Science email newsletter.
Wildlife officials in Colorado are warning people to keep their distance from elk during their mating season after a bull charged people, knocked a woman down and repeatedly butted her with its antlers.
Video shows the elk running toward people Thursday near the visitor center in Estes Park near Rocky Mountain National Park.
The woman escaped after public works employee Brian Berg drove a pickup on the sidewalk and got between her and the elk.
The elk then rammed the front of the truck.
A spokesman for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Jason Clay, told KDVR-TV that bull elk aggressively fight over their breeding rights. He said people need to give elk space even in developed areas and let them move away on their own.
See the video via KDVR below.
The post Bull elk charges, knocks down woman near Rocky Mountain National Park [video] appeared first on Outdoornews.
Back in 2014, pro climber Alex Honnold gave us a tour of the 2002 Ford Econoline E150 he used as his mobile base camp. That van served him...