The Outside Blog

Skiing and Snowboarding : Biking

Ride Up Cowboy

In search of an eye-catching shot for the Red Bell Illume photo contest, local Seattle rider Steven Bafus and I set out for this massive cowboy hat in Oxbow Park just south of the city. 

We showed up at 6 a.m. on a June morning hoping for a window to bust out our ladder and get to work (the hat's brim is about 15 feet off the ground, and there is no real easy way to climb it).  After dodging a few park officials, Steven rolled around the 44-foot-wide brim, airing out each side like it was a skatepark.

TOOLS: Nikon D4, Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8, f/6.3 1/400 second, ISO 800

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Tapping Into the Next Super Fuel

Beets are so 2013. That’s right: maple syrup is the world’s newest super fuel, and it will soon be available in tear-top packets like the ones used by Honey Stinger and Gu.

A new company—called UnTapped and backed by pro racer Ted King—plans to package the maple syrup as an energy gel. Each packet, which contains only pure maple syrup from Vermont’s Slopeside Syrup—has 100 calories of natural energy. It’s available now for pre-order on Indiegogo.

Maple syrup has many of the minerals and electrolytes athletes need to perform at the top of their games. A tablespoon of pure maple syrup has two milligrams of sodium—critical to help maintain blood fluid levels during exercise. That same amount of syrup also has 42 milligrams of potassium to prevent muscle cramping. Manganese—a trace element linked to better bone health—occurs naturally in maple syrup, as does iron.

There’s more. According to a 2011 study from researchers at the University of Rhode Island, Canadian maple syrup has anti-inflammatory properties: one of the lead researchers went so far as to call it “a champion food” with many of the same healthy compounds found in berries, tea, red wine, and flax seed.

Plus, it’s a simple, easily digestible sugar. Pure syrup has a low glycemic index, which keeps you from constantly feeling hungry, and maintains even blood sugar and insulin levels. Maple sugars burn slowly and are absorbed slowly for spike-free energy. I would know: I’ve tried the stuff myself.

I’ve had the enviable task of taste testing Slopeside Syrup’s signature sauce—Grade A Amber—for more than a year now, and have been purchasing Slopeside Syrup in bulk for use on, well, anything I can think of. The stuff is easy to stomach even on hot days and in the middle of epically long rides.

You won’t find any of that in Aunt Jemima. You also won’t find most of this natural goodness in any other sports gel. Then, of course, there’s the delicious taste.

$1.89/packet 

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Tour Machines

For many manufacturers, the Tour de France is a testing ground and launching pad for new rides. But often the race comes so early in the production cycle that only a few key riders get access to the new bikes. Here are a few of the most notable launches we've seen from this year’s Tour de France. Even if you can't ride 'em all yet, you can drool over 'em. 

Trek Émonda

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The new flagship Trek gets its name from the word émonder, the French verb meaning to prune or to strip away. That's because the Waterloo, Wisconsin, bike manufacturer excised everything extraneous to create this lissome climber.

According to Trek, it is the lightest production bike in the world, with the top-line SLR10 tipping the scales at an almost unbelievable 10.25 pounds for a size 56. At 690 grams for the frame, it’s still heavier than the SuperSix EVO Black Inc., which Cannondale claims to be 655 grams, meaning Trek is getting the savings out of integrated components such as the direct-mount Bontrager Speed Stop brakes and the Tune hubs and tubular rims.

It might all seem a bit ridiculous given that UCI mandates bikes weigh a minimum of 14.99 pounds, which forces mechanics to supplement the bikes of riders like Frank Schleck and Haimar Zubeldia with four extra pounds of dead weight. Then again, the Émonda could be another sign that the governing body may soon lower or remove that limit altogether. The Émonda is available now and ranges from $15,750 for the SLR10 down to $1,650 for the S4, which is said to weigh 19.27 pounds.

Pinarello Dogma F8

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The Italian manufacturer rolled out the F8, its first ever aero model, ahead of last month’s Critérium du Dauphiné, and British outfit Team Sky is aboard the new bike at the Tour. Developed in conjunction with auto manufacturer Jaguar, the bike employs truncated airfoil tube shapes, not unlike the Scott Foil and the Trek Madone, and is said to not only have less drag than the previous top-shelf Dogma, but it's also significantly lighter. 

Pinarello claims the frame is 80 grams lighter than the Dogma, with an additional 40 grams weight savings coming from the revised, and much-less-wavy-than-before Onda fork. Defending champ Chris Froome started the Tour with three identical F8s, all equipped with Shimano wheels and Dura Ace Di2 components. His understudy, Richie Porte, who took over where the Brit left off, is also riding the new bike.

Lapierre Aircode

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French manufacturer Lapierre also got in on the aero movement for this Tour with its Aircode, which is currently being ridden by fifth-placed Thibaut Pinot and his entire FDJ team. The bike uses the same time-tested geometry as the Xelius EFI, but the tube shaping is all new, with most tubes employing a Kamm Tail, teardrop-shape profile.

Lapierre makes additional aerodynamic gains with internal cable routings, an integrated seat post clamp, and partial integration of the brakes. The company also unveiled a second bike, the Pulsium, a comfort-oriented endurance frame with an elastomer built into the top tub near the seat post junction to provide vertical compliance. FDJ rode the Pulsium on the infamous cobbled fifth stage.

Fuji Transonic

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Not to be left out, Fuji also unveiled an aerodynamic remake of its venerable SST, a bike we liked very much. Dubbed the Transonic, the bike benefits from much of the wind-tunnel testing and computational fluid dynamics modeling that helped to create the Norcom Straight, the TT and tri bike the company launched last year. The tube shaping here is similar, but not identical to the Norcom Straigt, and there are other familiar cues, such as the integrated wedge seat post clamp.

One brand new development is the direct-mount rear brake, which is wrapped into the seat stays with the carbon frame functioning as a block to keep the brakes out of the wind. Fuji says that a rider on the bike pedaling at 300 watts will save 24 watts over the SST and 21 over the Altamira, which equates to 65 and 55 seconds respectively in a 40-kilometer time trial. Team NetApp-Endura, which contributed extensive feedback on the bike in the development process, was enjoying great success aboard the Transonic at the Tour under Portuguese rider Tiago Machado, who was in third overall until he crashed hard on Stage 10.

Specialized S-Works McLaren Tarmac

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When Specialized launched the 2015 Tarmac in May, we were surprised that there was no mention of a McLaren edition to complement the Venge superbike of previous years. But a few days before the Tour, the company unveiled the bike, which it developed in collaboration with the McLaren F1 team. Specialized says the bike took a little longer because the Tarmac platform was already extremely efficient, so it was a challenge to eke out gains.

The McLaren Tarmac is 10 percent lighter than the standard S-Works version, but those savings are said to come at zero cost to performance thanks to a proprietary lay-up process developed exclusively for the bike. The bike is spec’d with Shimano Di2 components, EE Cycleworks custom brakes, and Roval CLX40R tubular wheels built expressly for the McLaren and will sell for a stratospheric $20,000. Only 250 McLaren Tarmacs will be produced, and just two racers in the Tour were issued the bikes—Astana’s Jacob Fuglsang and Tinkov-Saxo’s Nicolas Roche.

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Advice from Our Fittest Real Athletes

Pros are so lucky. They get to devote their lives to the sport they love, and completely focus on training and eating well. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all be so successful? Look—you can. It's not that laundry list of obligations holding you back from being an amazing athlete, and our 2014 Fittest Real Athletes are living proof. They're power players at home, in the office, and competing alongside the pros themselves. And they're nice enough to share how they do it all, so start taking notes.

Train With a Buddy

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Case Study: Ironman Clay Emge, 30

Bona Fides
Last year, Emge, an engineer at an oil and gas company in Tyler, Texas, won the 25–29 age group at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

How He Does It
Emge has always been a strong runner—he completed a one-hour 22-minute half marathon in college. After getting into triathlons in 2009, he steadily improved his multisport performance through committed training: 6 A.M. swims at the YMCA, lunchtime runs and strength training, and grueling evening bike rides. But when he missed qualifying for Kona by just ten seconds in 2012, he decided to ramp up his approach—especially on the bike, his weakest discipline. “Realizing I was that close to something most triathletes only dream of made me dedicate myself to making it the following year,” he says. Emge began riding with a friend who was also targeting Kona and was a strong cyclist but a slower runner. “He pushes me on the bike, and I push him on the run,” says Emge. “Having a partner makes it that much more bearable—and makes you faster and more competitive, too” He also does weekly group rides. “I would never have won my age group at Kona without those steps,” he says. “I’m not motivated enough to push myself to the limit.”

Follow His Lead
Endurance coach Jesse Kropelnicki, who has guided several Ironman champions, strongly endorses working out with partners, particularly as a way to address weaknesses. But he cautions that doing so can result in overtraining. “If you’re working on improving one aspect of your sport, you need to decrease volume in others,” he says. “A triathlete who adds two hours a week of swimming needs to cut back on biking and running. Your body can only handle so much stress.”

Be More Efficient

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Case Study: Endurance Runner Blake Benke, 37

Bona Fides
In 2009, Benke, who lives in Connecticut and works in financial services on Wall Street, finished tenth place at the notorious Badwater Ultramarathon, a 135-mile race through California’s Death Valley. Last September, he completed the 153-mile Spartathlon in Greece in 28 hours and 29 minutes, earning him 13th place—the top American finish.

How He Does It
Benke has a 90-minute commute and two small children. Finding the time to train takes discipline, which he developed at the U.S. Naval Academy and later as a Marine in the Iraq war. It also demands creativity. “I think part of the fun is making it all fit,” Benke says. He uses the seams in his schedule to train. He works from 
8 a.m. to 6 p.m., “with no breaks,” but will often run eight miles from his lower Manhattan office to Harlem to catch a commuter train home. Usually, he does his longer runs on weekends. “Then, as soon as I get home, I’m taking my kids to birthday parties, giving them baths, and doing everything I can to pull my weight,” says Benke, who is currently training for November’s JFK 50 Mile race. “It helps that I really only need about six hours of sleep.”

Follow His Lead
“If something is important to you, you’ll find time to do it,” says David Allen, author of Making It All Work: Winning at the Game of Work and the Business of Life. “And often it will benefit the other things in your life.” Pack your day, as Benke does, and you can’t afford to waste a single moment, which helps you focus. “If you’re with your kids all the time but looking at your phone constantly, that’s no different than not being there at all,” says Allen. It’s all about balance. “If one part of your life starts to suffer, it’s important to reevaluate and figure out what needs to change.”

Set Goals—and Stick to Them

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Case Study: Climber Andrew Palmer, 27

Bona Fides
In October 2013, Palmer, a Boston-based data analyst at creative agency Digitas, climbed Jaws II, 
a 70-foot Class 5.15a route at 
New Hampshire’s famed Waimea crags. He was the fourth person 
to scale Jaws and one of a small number of Americans to send 
a 5.15a climb.

How He Does It
Palmer relies heavily on detailed goal setting, a habit he picked up 
in Richmond, Virginia, where he began climbing at 13, and honed as a student at Dartmouth College. These days he spends three nights 
a week at the climbing gym, training evenings from 8 to 10:30, always with a specific objective in mind. “I keep track of every workout,” he says. “If I’m not improving, I analyze variables like diet, sleep, and stress. If none of those things are to blame, I’ll take a different approach.” Almost every weekend, Palmer travels to Waimea—with a plan. “I’ll set a big goal, but start with smaller goals. When I was working on Jaws, I’d have a goal 
to make it a quarter of the way 
up, then halfway, then to just stay 
on the wall for a minute longer.”

Follow His Lead
“He’s doing everything correctly,” says Edwin Locke, professor emeritus at the University of Maryland business school and author of New Developments in Goal Setting and Task Performance. “He has a distant goal, some proximate goals, a plan to reach his goals, and a way to evaluate his goals.” Locke especially likes that Palmer tracks his progress on paper. If you do that and still can’t figure out what’s hampering your headway, he suggests reach-ing out to an expert like a coach or boss for help. “And make sure that the goal is for you,” he says. “If it’s 
to impress somebody else, you’ll fail 
or get hurt, or when you reach the goal it will feel empty.”

Multitask

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Case Study: Obstacle Racer Amelia Boone, 30

Bona Fides
Bankruptcy attorney Boone was 
the top woman and second-place overall finisher in the 2012 World’s Toughest Mudder, a 24-hour event that had competitors completing 
300 obstacles over 90 miles. Last year, Boone won the Spartan World Championship, a 14-mile course 
with some 40 obstacles.

How She Does It
During her interview for this story, Boone was rolling around on a lacrosse ball to smooth out some knots in her back. So goes training for a Chicago lawyer who occasionally puts in 80-hour workweeks at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom, one of the country’s largest firms. Boone has become a master at getting fit while cranking out billable hours. “I’ll do phone calls as I walk home,” she says. “And I always tell people that a conference call is the best time to get in a ten-minute squat test.” Of course, she also has to find time for dedicated training sessions. She often wakes up at 4 A.M. to go for a run or work out at her local CrossFit gym. If her ever changing work schedule allows, she plans to tackle at least 
20 obstacle races across the country this year—up from 12 in 2013. “I always make sure my travel bookings are refundable,” she says.

Follow Her Lead
Art Markman, a psychology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, says you can get away with Boone’s brand of aggressive multitasking if the exercises you’re doing feel habitual. “You can easily complete a task that you don’t need to think about, like walking or brushing your teeth, while also having a conversation,” Markman says. Plus, “exercise is really good cognitively,” he says. “It releases dopamine, which is associated with focused attention.” But things get tricky when you try to accomplish multiple tasks that tax your brain, like shopping online while talking to someone. “Your brain will shift back and forth between the two tasks,” he cautions, “and you’ll become inefficient at both.”

Eat Smarter

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Case Study: Triathlete Sami Inkinen, 38

Bona Fides
Since launching the real estate website Trulia in 2005, Silicon Valley resident Inkinen has climbed to the top of the amateur triathlon ranks. He’s a two-time overall amateur champion at the highly competitive Wildflower Triathlon, near Paso Robles, California, and was the 2011 world cham-pion in the 70.3 distance for 
the 30–39 age group. In June, Inkinen and his wife began their attempt to row a 5-by-20-foot boat from San Francisco to Hawaii.

How He Does It
Though his company is now well established, Finland native Inkinen still keeps a startup schedule, regularly putting in 70-hour weeks. So how does he maintain elite-level endurance fitness? “Really intense hour-long workouts,” he says. Inkinen will bust out ten intervals of minute-long sprints on a treadmill or stationary bike followed by a minute of jogging or spinning, then jump in the pool and swim 100-yard sprints. “It’s all the time I can afford,” he says. But the most dramatic improvement in his racing came when he rebooted his nutrition plan. Disillusioned with a low-fat, high-carb diet that left him constantly hungry and caused his weight to fluctuate dramatically, Inkinen experimented with different foods, ultimately adopting a high-fat diet made up of ingredients like olive oil, macadamia nuts, and avocados. “After a few months, I started becoming healthier and performing better,” he says.

Follow His Lead
According to Dina Griffin, a sports dietitian at Fuel4mance, which counsels elite athletes on nutrition, there are four key signs that you might be ingesting too many carbs: you frequently bonk, you’re hungry all the time, your stomach hurts, and you’re not recovering well from workouts. “We’re seeing that most athletes—from weekend amateurs to serious professionals—perform better with moderate carbohydrate intake,” she says. “If you eat pasta every night, cut back to once or twice a week and see if you notice a difference.”

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The Test of Time

From the $100 surf-ready Mariner Tide to the $1,750 super-powered Astron, these are the season's most exciting new watches. They're ready for anything nature throws at them. Are you? 

Nixon Tangent ($500)

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The Tangent is made from the same burly material used in the fins of big-wave surfboards. It comes with a simple tide dial, and Nixon smartly moved the crown to the nine o’clock position to reduce wrist bite while paddling out.

Seiko Astron ($1,750)

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This titanium-body watch uses GPS to calibrate the exact time, zone, and daylight-savings status. And because it doesn’t use atomic clocks, it can also set itself—precise to one second every 100,000 years— at any point on earth. The only caveat: it uses solar power to take a daily reading, so you do need to be outside at least once in a while.

Freestyle Mariner Tide ($100)

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This easy-to-read watch takes Freestyle’s Mariner sailing model, turns it into a great tool for surfers, and still keeps the price within reach. Programmed with tidal direction, time, and height for 150 beaches worldwide, the Mariner Tide does the thinking for you, so you can watch for the next swell.

Luminox SXC 5127 ($795)

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When the first clients of Space Expedition Corporation launch into orbit, they’ll all be wearing one of these. Basically a spruced-up aviation watch, it can handle G-forces and has a GMT hand, in case you splash down in another time zone.

Reactor Gryphon ($350)

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For the optimal balance of tough-as-nails and light-as-feathers, the survivalist-minded Reactor houses a stainless-steel body inside a frame made of weapons-grade Nitromid polymer. Even the K1 hardened, high-ceramic glass crystal is more impact-resistant than most watches. Its slim profile minimizes the chance of breakage, and it stays illuminated all night.

Suunto Ambit2 R ($249)

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Running watches just keep getting better. The Ambit2 R takes readings for speed, distance, and heart rate and features interval timers and a Backtrack function that’ll guide you on unfamiliar trails.

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