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Skiing and Snowboarding : Biking

Endurance Training at 40 and Up

Endurance training isn’t just for the under 40 crowd. In fact, a European study has found that for men, endurance exercise is beneficial to the heart regardless of when they first began training.

“The heart is a muscle,” says David Matelot, who presented the study at the EuroPRevent congress 2014. "If you train it, it becomes bigger and stronger, so the pump can be more efficient.” It’s likely that the right ventricles were bigger as well, but they are harder to measure.

Though starting training after 40 has positive effects, Matelot still recommends that people start much earlier—in childhood, if possible. “There are others benefits of endurance training than cardiac parameters,” he says. “Indeed, endurance training is also beneficial for bone density, for muscle mass, for oxidative stress… And these benefits of endurance training are known to be better if training have been started early in life.”

It’s also key to keep training once you’ve started. The benefits from exercise can dwindle quickly in the inactive. But, he says, it’s “never too late to change your way of life and to get more physically active.”

The Study Methods

Researchers studied 40 men between the ages of 55 and 70 who had no cardiovascular risk factors, assessing when they first began training and the level of exercise—specifically cycling and running—they performed.

Of the 40, ten had never exercised more than two hours a week; the remaining 30 had exercised for at least seven hours, beginning either before age 30, or after age 40. The group that started younger had been training for an average of 39 years; the older group 18.

Participants went through maximal exercise testing, echocardiography at rest and during sub-maximal exercise, and heart rate analysis.

Researchers found that resting heart rate was similar for the exercisers, but much more rapid in the non-exercisers. The more active group also had bigger left ventricles and atria, and the same results in their cardiac echocardiography tests.

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Killing a Cyclist—and Then Suing the Family

No one ever wins in conflicts between cars and bicycles, but a recent story from such an incident in Ontario ranks as one the most senseless and ugliest altercations of its kind.

On October 28, 2012, around 1:30 a.m., 17-year-old Brandon Majewski and his two 16-year-old friends, Richard McLean and Jake Roberts, were riding their bikes on a rural, two-lane road on the northern outskirts of Toronto. That's when a car, driven by Sharlene Simon, 42, struck them from behind. Majewski died from his injuries at a local hospital several hours after the accident, while McLean suffered multiple broken bones, including his pelvis, and spent extensive time recovering.

Six months after the accident, Brandon’s older brother, Devon, died at his family’s home from an overdose. The family says the 23-year-old didn’t intend to kill himself, but simply succumbed to a potent mix of drugs and alcohol that he was using to dull the pain of losing his brother. In the aftermath, the Majewski family sued Simon for $900,000 to cover the expenses of putting their child to rest. And the McLeans filed another suit against her for an additional $1.4 million to recoup Richard’s medical costs.

Now, Simon has countersued Majewski’s estate, as well as the other two boys, for $1.35 million in compensation for the difficulties the incident caused her. According to a story in the Innisfil Journal, Simon’s claim states that the children “did not apply their brakes properly,” and that “they were incompetent bicyclists.” In the suit, Simon says that the accident has caused her “psychological suffering, including depression, anxiety, irritability, and post-traumatic stress.”

Perhaps this will sound cruel, but it hardly seems unreasonable that Simon should endure a little “stress and suffering.” Majewski’s family might—might!—be able to offer Simon absolution and closure, but they certainly shouldn’t be required to pay her a portion of the $1.35 million. After all, she was driving 55 in a 50-mph zone, and she’s the one who struck the cyclists, so her proficiency is as much in question as the teens’.

I'm sure it's heartbreaking for Simon to contend with what she's done, and the countersuit is likely about self-preservation in the face of the financial realities. But the fact remains, Simon killed someone, and by hiding behind a lawsuit she's shrugging off accountability and refusing to face the human reality of her actions, which is behavior that's more despicable than the accident itself. 

{%{"quote":"If you’re a driver, before you get aggressive with cyclists, consider how you’d feel if you caused someone to die."}%}

Other details of the story don’t reflect well on Simon, either, including the fact that she left the scene of the crime. Apparently, Simon’s husband, Jules, an off-duty police officer, was following his wife in a second car at the time of the accident, and after checking on the scene he escorted his wife home—before the police had arrived. And while officials say that alcohol isn’t suspected in the crash, because Simon wasn’t at the site, no breathalyzer was given, so there’s no evidence to exonerate her either. 

That said, Simon isn't the only one to blame. What were three teenagers doing riding their bikes down a dark country lane at 1:30 a.m. in the first place? A Toronto Sun story says the boys had gone out for hot dogs, and it quotes Majewski’s father, Derek, acknowledging that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. “I know they should not have been out there that late,” his father said. “But they are good kids.”

Good or not, the teens shouldn’t have been riding on a wet road in the middle of the night. According to Simon, the trio was also riding three abreast, wearing dark clothing and no helmets, and none had bike lights to warn oncoming traffic of their presence. The bikes were equipped with reflectors, but of course that’s horribly insufficient for riding on a dark motorway with cars traveling up to 50 miles per hour. All of which is to say, the cyclists, as well as their parents who allowed them out, bear some responsibility for the accident.

These sorts of incidents tend to get painted in black and white, and opinion usually divides along predictable lines, with cyclists maintaining that they don’t get fair treatment on the roads and motorists insisting that bikes don’t belong on the roads at all. But most situations are messier and more complicated than that, especially this one. 

Motorists must realize that cyclists have a right to be on the roads, and we all have to figure out ways to coexist. I see so many drivers get angry at cyclists, cutting them off, gunning their engines around them, slamming on their brakes as if to try and cause them to crash. Last weekend while out riding on the roads around Santa Cruz, the group I was with had two separate vehicles throw empty soda cans at us.

It always makes me wonder: Do drivers really want to kill cyclists? Because riders are vulnerable and exposed on the roads, and causing one of us to crash could very well result in a death. So if you’re a driver, before you get aggressive with cyclists, consider how you’d feel—how you would live for the rest of your life—if you caused someone to die.

{%{"quote":"Motorists must realize that cyclists have a right to be on the roads, and we all have to figure out ways to coexist."}%}

Likewise, we cyclists must realize that with the right to be on the road comes responsibility. I see so many riders fail to stop at intersections, pass cars on the right, and act as traffic menaces. But by ignoring the rules of the road, we cyclists confuse drivers, incite their anger and scorn, and sometimes even precipitate accidents.

We must be proactive about our right to ride, and that includes making ourselves as visible as possible, adhering to all traffic regulations, and, basically, riding defensively. We are vulnerable and, like it or not, collisions or altercations are likely going to be worse for us as cyclists than for drivers. 

Brandon Majewski’s death is a tragedy. I feel sorry for his devastated family and friends, and I hope they find peace. But I also pity Sharlene Simon, who, as the mother to three children herself, surely never intended to hit those boys, much less kill one. And I have to believe that Simon is countersuing out of anger and hurt and even financial self-preservation. That wouldn’t make it right or any less repugnant, but it would at least make it comprehensible.

I still believe that no one wins in conflicts between cars and bicycles, but perhaps a tiny bit of good can come from this awful story. The next time you’re out on the road, whether you’re a driver or a cyclist, think of Brandon and Sharlene. Obey the traffic laws. Move deliberately and with caution. And most importantly, have some empathy for your fellow human beings.

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Graphene: The Material of the Future

What do the condom of the future and the new line of women’s skis from Head have in common? Okay, you’re not gonna get this one, so I’ll just tell you. Both will utilize a material called graphene, a layer of carbon atoms bonded together in repeating hexagonal shapes. One million times thinner than paper and 100 times stronger than steel, graphene is considered the strongest and lightest material known to man.

Two scientists from England’s University of Manchester discovered graphene in 2004. They were subsequently awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics for isolating the material. Since its discovery, graphene has been imagined for numerous applications—everything from unbreakable phone screens to body armor for soldiers to better solar cells (the material is an excellent conductor of heat).

A University of Michigan study is looking at how graphene could be used to make infrared contact lenses. And that condom, which the University of Manchester is developing thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is supposed to be the strongest and thinnest condom ever made—and therefore a condom men might actually be inclined to wear because of the near-normal sensation the prophylactic will allow. (When I tried to reach somebody at University of Manchester for comment, I was told nobody was available.) The Polish government is so encouraged by graphene’s potential that it has poured nearly $70 million into infrastructure to produce the material.

{%{"quote":"One million times thinner than paper and 100 times stronger than steel, graphene is considered the strongest and lightest material known to man."}%}

Any real use for graphene so far has come in the world of sports. Last year, Austrian sporting goods manufacturer Head increased the power and control of its YouTek Graphene Speed Pro tennis racket by employing graphene in its throat. In testing, the manufacturer noticed that the most precise and hardest-hit balls were struck using rackets that were light in the midsection but heavy in the handle and head. The prototypes, however, kept cracking. Graphene solved that problem.

Catlike, a Spanish manufacturer of cycling helmets, is also using graphene to make lighter and more durable helmets. The four styles of Mixino helmets, which the company claims are incredibly strong yet incredibly lightweight, have been on the market only for a few months and cost around $300.

Next season, Head’s line of women’s skis will feature the material. “Graphene allowed us to target where we wanted to reduce weight while also increasing the product’s strength,” says Jon Rucker, Head’s vice president.

In the groomer ski category, the company used graphene in the midsection, allowing the heavier tip and tail of the ski to grip the snow. In powder boards, Head designers used graphene in the tip and tail to allow the ski to float through the fluff.

The downside to all this is that the skis are more expensive. Graphene costs about 20 percent more than fiberglass or carbon, other materials used in ski manufacturing. That means Head’s Total Joy, which is 85 millimeters underfoot, will run you about $1,000.

If reports are true—that the skis are damp, strong, and lighter than other skis on the market—then the cost may be worth it. Head also plans to unveil men’s skis featuring graphene. “There’s no timetable,” says Rucker. “But they’re coming.”

Other sporting goods products featuring graphene may also be on the very near horizon. “If graphene isn’t manufactured perfectly, the material is weak,” says Jun Lou, a researcher at Rice University who recently released a study on the effectiveness of graphene. “But if it’s mixed with other materials in a composite, as would probably be the case in most sports equipment, the product will likely do very well. It’s also a cheaper way of using graphene, so I think we’ll see more of that soon.”

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