The Outside Blog

Dispatches : Jan 2013

Dynafit Beast 16: The Ultimate Alpine Touring Binding

Dynafit Beest

The perfect alpine touring (AT) binding for riders who want a high DIN doesn’t exist ... yet.

This fall, Salomon and Atomic released their Guardian and Tracker, respectively. They’re DIN 16 bindings, as is the Marker Duke EPF.

But unlike alpine bindings, which have independent toe and heel pieces, high DIN AT bindings have always required a frame that holds the toe and heel. For touring, the binding plate unlocks at the heel, and pivots on the toe, with the frame attached to the skier's boot.

The problem with a frame binding is that it creates a dead spot in the middle of the ski. When you’re arcing a turn, you flex your ski ... until you hit the section where the frame is screwed into the ski, at which point you are pressuring the binding, which doesn't allow the ski to flex underneath it. Furthermore, when you’re skinning uphill, the weight of a high DIN touring binding is strapped to your foot and you’re lifting it with every step, which is incredibly tiring.

When Dynafit releases its Beast 16 AT binding in January at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, Utah, the perfect AT binding will finally exist.

Designed by Dynafit’s Frederick Anderson with skier Eric “Hoji” Hjorfeifson, the Beast 16 is the world’s first DIN 16 binding with torsional rigidity equal to any full alpine binding. It skis like an alpine binding, and it’s significantly lighter than any other DIN 16 AT binding currently out there.

The Beast 16 solves the problem of other burly AT bindings. It has independent toe and heel pieces, which won't cause a dead spot in your ski. The ski can flex through its entire length. It also eliminates the issue of extra binding weight on your foot that you’re moving with every step because it uses tech fittings—arms that hold pins into divets in the toe of a boot. In the case of the Beast 16, the side arms are beefed up and look more like an alpine toepiece than a typical Dynafit binding.

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Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Barefoot Running Form

Shutterstock_96353507Barefoot in the grass. Photo: Shutterstock

The science of barefoot running form hit the ground somewhat simply at first. In a January, 2010, Nature article, “Foot Strike Patterns and Collision Forces in Habitually Barefoot Versus Shod Runners," Harvard evolutionary biologist Daniel Lieberman and colleagues said that traditionally unshod populations likely ran with a soft forefoot or midfoot strike. They said that rearfoot strikes, or heel strikes, involved higher collision forces that could lead to repetitive stress injuries over time. Since staying healthy was important for survival, and survival for early humans may have included running long distances to forage or hunt, they hypothesized that forefoot or midfoot strikes were probably more common for barefoot runners. They also said that forefoot or midfoot strikes might protect today's runners, who often heel strike, against a high degree of impact-related injuries.

The scientific debate about running form picked up, with a lot of back and forth about the economy, injury rates, and performance benefits of foot strike patterns and running. Lieberman and co. added traction to their theory in 2012 when they published a study that said college cross-country runners with rearfoot strikes had a higher rate of repetitive stress injuries than those with midfoot and forefoot strikes. A 2012 lawsuit brought against Vibram for deceptive advertising about the supposed health benefits of their shoes added attention and debate. The science about foot strike patterns and barefoot running is young and far from conclusive.

This month, things got more convoluted. Lieberman's 2010 Nature study, which found a high rate of forefoot strike among traditionally barefooted runners, focused on one particular group of people, the Kalenjin of Kenya. A January study published in the journal PLOS One, “Variation in Foot Strike Patterns During Running Among Habitually Barefoot Populations,” looked at another group of traditionally unshod runners—the Daasanach of northern Kenya—and found they favored rearfoot striking.

Kevin Hatala of George Washington University and colleagues tested the footstrike patterns of 38 traditionally barefoot Daasanach adults and found that the majority ran with a rearfoot strike at endurance speeds. They impacted the earth with some part of their heels 72 percent of the time, a midfoot strike in 24 percent of trials, and forefoot strike four percent of the time. "We were surprised to see that the majority of Daasanach people ran by landing on their heels first and few landed on their forefoot,” Hatala said in a press release. “This contradicts the hypothesis that a forefoot strike characterizes the 'typical' running gait of habitually barefoot people."

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Behind the Scenes: How 'Outside' Reviews Bikes

Survey the road bike spreadSurveying the road bike spread at Gates Pass.

Reviewed. I’m always amazed how different magazines and blogs interpret that word. Some publications call in a product, use it a time or two, and then print their opinions—which yields a pretty cursory and fleeting impression. Others scan the Web for ideas and reviews and dress up some background knowledge and trips to media launches as critical advice. And then there are the “buyer’s guides,” which pose as gear critiques even though they are often nothing more than product listings and prices.

At Outside, we're demanding about our reviews, especially when it comes to bikes. Our bike reviews are the result of a months-long undertaking that involves some 100 bikes, dozens of testers, and thousands of miles of riding.

Consideration on the bikes that you see in our reviews in the Summer Buyer’s Guide and May print edition actually begins eight months before the magazines hit the stands at Interbike, the industry trade show where we scour the floor for the most interesting- and innovative-looking rides. In the weeks following the show, we begin contacting manufacturers for their products, and the bikes begin pouring in to our local bike shop, The Broken Spoke Santa Fe, which unboxes and builds them up. Meanwhile, I—along with a host of editors and testers—do my best to log a couple of hours on each test bike by New Year's.

A truck full of bikes26 feet of Penske, loaded with 2013 bikes.

Testing begins in earnest in early January—this week. After humping all the bikes to Tucson (56 of them in a Penske this year, and a handful are still on the way), we assemble a dozen testers a day and spend a week riding in circles. Each day is devoted to a different genre (XC Race, for instance, or aero road), and from 8 a.m. 'til 3 p.m. we ride hour-long test loops, stopping between each lap to record our thoughts and trade bikes. At night there’s bourbon-fueled discussion of the bikes we rode that day and lots of tubes to patch.

By the end of week, we amass around 300 review forms, which become the basis for choosing the bikes that make the magazine. The top mountain and road picks become our Gear of the Year winners. And then comes the least enviable part of the process: boxing up all the beat-up bikes and shipping them back.

Over the next week we’ll be zinging around the cactus-lined trails and rough back roads around Tucson to pick our favorite bikes of 2013. Check back here for pictures, initial impressions, and tales of the desert shenanigans. And if you have questions about the tests, send them along.

—Aaron Gulley

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5 Simple Green Resolutions From a 9-Year-Old Eco Blogger

Here at Raising Rippers, we’re trying to be a little less digital and a little more analog-conscious this year, so it was with some trepidation that we stumbled upon, an eco-blog written by a nine-year-old Canadian girl named Hannah Alper. Since launching her site last June, the fourth-grader from Toronto has racked up more than 100,000 pageviews and been called the future of social media.

SKI6247Also on her to-do list. Photo: Courtesy of

But when you’re nine and fielding interview requests and making appearances on national TV, how do you find time for old-fashioned kid stuff? “I do karate and I still play with my frriends and go for bike rides when it's nice outside,” says Hannah, who must have some mad time-management skills because she also does homework, organizes penny drives at school—the last one raised 97,500 pennies, enough to give 39 children clean water for life—and writes two posts a week (her parents OKed the idea on the condition that they vet and edit each post before it goes live).

Her latest: New Year's resolutions for being greener at home. Hannah may already have some pretty big expectations to live up to, but this post is filled with lots of simple, practical ideas for creating positive change in 2013. “Every little thing that we each do will add up to make a huge difference in the world,” says Hannah, who wants to be an activist when she grows up. Try these yourself, and share them with your kids.

—Katie Arnold

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A Snowboard Made of Flax, Cashew, and Coke Bottles

Craig_SUSCAMRC development engineer Craig Atkins with the SPUC. Photo: AMRC Center

Some day, the researchers at the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Research Center (AMRC) will help design lighter, smarter vehicles, from electric cars to airplanes, that will employ bio-based materials with low-environmental-impact and high-performance characteristics that will make travel significantly more energy efficient. For now, however, they're starting with a snowboard.

"We wanted to develop our knowledge with biocomposites," explains AMRC researcher Alistair Murray. "We wanted to be ahead of the game in terms of our knowledge" of working with biocomposite materials, and what we could offer lab members, he says. (These members include Boeing, Rolls Royce, and a range of other blue chip firms in aviation, transportaion, and defense.) "So we made up some projects where we could get hands-on experience."

One of these was to create a snowboard using a core made by the Swiss firm Bcomp that is derived from recycled PET (like Coke bottles) and flax fiber. Instead of fiberglass or carbon fiber skins, Murray and his cohorts used flax fibers embedded in a resin containing 30 percent cashew nut husks epoxy. Because Murray was also planning a (ahem) sabbatical in Whistler this winter, he's been strapped with additional work: testing the board. Poor guy.

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