Beat up. That's how I feel after the mountain bike phase of our 2012 bike tests. Here are the numbers: 76.5 miles of singletrack over 14 laps, 15 hours of ride time, 18 testers, 28 bikes, and 27 tubes. The latter is frustrating: Though every single tester rides tubeless on their personal bikes, we continue to have to review bikes with tubes because the manufacturers ship them that way. And it's not just the time lost changing flats and patching that kills me. Tubes mean higher air pressures, which in turn makes for rougher riding and, inevitably, a tougher job perceiving how well a bike can ride.
Tubes aside, bikes are definitely riding well these days. Readers often ask me what's the best bike out there, and the truth is that—as suspension designs continue to improve, parts get both lighter and tougher, and innovation from other markets seep into cycling (for instance Fox's new Kashima coating on their forks and shocks borrowed from the motorcycle world)—there are very few bikes on the market that I wouldn't recommend. Testing is increasingly a job of choosing the right tool for the terrain, making sure a bike is set up properly, and then discerning the nuances.
This interview with Bill Burke is part of an ongoing series of interviews I do each season with Everest climbers. Not the famous, sponsored ones who get plenty of publicity but the regular people, who have full time jobs, full time families in many cases and climb for the love of climb. Please send me your suggestion for an interview. Now here’s Bill:
I have come to know and admire one Everest climber for several years now, Bill Burke. He epitomizes determination and optimism like few other climbers. Here are some stats: 69-years old, has been to Everest every year since 2007, summited from the South in 2009 at age 67, thwarted three times–once on the South and twice on the North–well you get the idea. Oh, and he is returning in 2012 at the ripe young age of 70 not for one summit but for TWO!
As if all this is not enough, in 2008, he rode, solo, round trip from Southern California to Banff Park, Canada on his Harley Davidson Road King Classic–a 37-day trip of over 6,200 miles.
Who is this wild man? Bill calls himself an “amateur mountaineer”. He started climbing, well how do I say this–let’s try “late in life”, after reaching age 60 and has now climbed the highest mountain on every continent making him the only person to climb the 7 Summits (8 if you include the Carstensz Pyramid in Papua New Guinea), after reaching age 60. The rock in his life is his wife Sharon, whom he has been married to for 49 years and the inspiration for his training is his grandson, Ollie. More on Ollie later.
The outdoor industry has practically perfected technical fabrics and fillings—they breath, they keep you warm, and they defend you from rain, sleet, wind, and snow. But only recently have companies created technical clothing that inspire compliments when you're out on the town. Here's some of the apparel we'll be testing out in our local watering holes and restaurants.
Woolrich Exposure: Woolrich successfully takes lumberjack aesthetic and turns it into a style you can wear without looking hokie. The company's new Exposure is a lightweight 800-fill down jacket with heritage styling, snap chest pockets, snap barrel cuffs, and unexpected quilting. It's uber warm and mountain ready. Available fall 2012, $199, woolrich.com
I'm constantly impressed by Iker Pou. It's not just that the Basque climber, who's sport climbed up to 5.15a and established big wall routes in Europe and Antarctica, is one of the world's greatest all-rounders at a time when climbers are specializing in narrower and narrower disciplines. It's also his longevity: at almost 35, he's still crushing routes that put down climbers ten years younger than him.
On January 2, Pou kicked off the new year by making the first ascent of Nit de Bruixes, a new 5.15a sport route in Margalef, Spain. Pou had worked the route last winter and nearly managed to make it through the crux, a three-bolt section of climbing on shallow pockets, but fell off from near the top when holds broke. It is his second 5.15, after Chris Sharma's Demencia Senil (check out that ascent in the above video.
If my enthusiasm for tomorrow's Olympic marathon trials is a bit tempered, it's because the entertainment specialists at NBC have declined to broadcast the race live. That should strike you as scandalous: these are the Olympic trials, which happen every four years, and, as such, are somewhere between four and eight times more important to running fans than tomorrow evening's Patriots-Broncos game is to football fans, which I'll be able to watch even though I don't live anywhere near Boston or Denver. NBC so misunderstands the viewership for this event that earlier this week they almost induced the U.S. Olympic committee to ban live tweeting of the race. Live tweeting.
Anyway, I'm no good as a forecaster. But here's who I think will make the Olympic team.