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Dispatches : Biking

An Ode to the Fat Bike

All Smiles on the Fat Bike

Earlier this week on a side street in Santa Fe, I passed a guy bike commuting the opposite direction from me. He was riding a fat bike.

Like any good cyclist, I'll often crane my neck to see what a passing rider is pedaling or what pretty frame is adorning the roof rack of that Subaru. But this time I nearly crashed looking because, other than the handful of fat bikes that come through the Outside offices for testing, this was the first big wheeler I've ever seen in my town. In addition to the fatty, this guy was wearing royal blue short shorts and technicolor knee socks—as if he needed more than the monster truck tires to draw attention to himself.

What you have to understand is that Santa Fe is no Boulder, Colorado. No Portland, Oregon. A small contingency of dedicated cyclists lives and trains here, but this is no bastion of cycling culture. So the arrival of fat bikes in Santa Fe is akin to the arrival of, say, women in military combat positions—it's a sign that the trend has moved from outlier to mainstream.

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Specialized Overhauls Apparel Line

Velodramatic_clothinglaunchride-6990The Big Easy. Photo: Robertson/VeloDramatic

In Morgan Hill, California, last Saturday morning, a small peloton riding a phalanx of Roubaix SL4s, Tarmacs, and Venges rolled out on a loop that Specialized CEO Mike Sinyard calls The Big Easy. The 60-mile circuit, one of Sinyard’s favorite weekend jaunts, takes in two famous area climbs, including the perennial Tour of California hump up Tunitas Creek, as well as plunging descents, pastoral hills, and a coastal stretch with views over the infamous Mavericks surf break.

This wasn’t, however, Sinyard’s standard weekly tour. It was the culmination of two years of work by his company to reinvent its apparel program, and everyone in the 30-strong group, half journalists (myself included) and the remainder Specialized employees and racers, were decked from helmet to cleat in red and white S-branded gear.

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John Davis Sets Off to Hike, Paddle, and Bike the Spine of the Continent

John_Davis_CongareeNP_Susan_BaycotJohn Davis paddling in Congaree National Park. Photo: Susan Baycot

Climate change, development, ranching, and oil and gas exploration tend to get a lot of ink when it comes to threats to wildlife in the Western United States. But wildlife corridors are another vital factor, and one that relates very closely to all the aforementioned variables because they allow wildlife to adapt to changes in their environment while maintaining vital migration patterns. The movement of keystone species, such as cougars, wolves, and bears, through these corridors—or "wildways"—is vital to balancing ecosystems, as well. In fact, the study of these corridors is a fundamental aspect of conservation biology, as Mary Ellen Hannibal describes in her book The Spine of the Continent.

Unfortunately, highways tend to fragment these corridors, as roadkill makes perfectly obvious, and other demands are continually encroaching on these passageways. Conservation biologists are continually working to protect wildways and keep them open. On January 25, wilderness advocate, writer, and adventurer John Davis will set out from Sonora, Mexico, on a 10-month journey along this spine, which is linked through a number of mountain ranges, including the Rockies, from Mexico into Canada.

The goal for this project, dubbed TrekWest, is to drum up attention and improved protections for the waterways and mountain passes along the corridor. Along the way Davis will conduct a sort of moving symposium, meeting with scientists and researchers who are studying the pressures being put on wildlife corridors through development and other demands. He plans to broadcast these interactions via Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and the trip is being made possible through the Wildlands Network, which Davis co-founded, and a range of other conservation groups, listed on the route map.

Long slogs and extreme weather are not foreign concepts to Davis. For his TrekEast adventure in 2011, he hiked, biked, and paddled 7,600 backcountry miles from the Florida Keys to Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula.

He says he is motivated to go on these treks both as a way of putting wildways into the national discussion but also for his own fulfillment. "I do this first and foremost because I believe in the value of nature, but also for selfish reasons," he says. "I like to recreate in wild places and I personally lose each time an acre of wildlands are lost."

"The conservation community alone isn't enough [to protect these corridors], we need to get a national consensus on this. The outdoor recreation community is absolutely vital to this," he adds. "I hope to strengthen the ties between conservation biologists and outdoor recreationalists, who should be active in trying to protect these areas. I hope that's one thing my trek will draw attention to."

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It's Not About Lance Armstrong

Though I told myself I wouldn't do it, I watched the Lance Armstrong interview last night. It was like a bad pile-up on the highway or billows of black smoke from a distant fire—you know you shouldn't look, but it's tough not to get sucked in. I had a two-hour workout to do, and I figured the footage of the final unraveling of one of the greatest American sports heroes couldn't be any worse than my normal shoot-em-up trainer fare. I was wrong.

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8 Important Reactions to Oprah's Lance Armstrong Interview

On Thursday, Sports Illustrated’s David Epstein published an interview with former Armstrong bike mechanic Mike Anderson. Anderson was fired after he found steroids while cleaning his boss’ apartment. Anderson said that Armstrong promised to help him open up a bike shop, and that after the firing he tried to negotiate a deal to make that happen. Armstrong sued Anderson and sent out information to reporters discrediting Anderson as a disgruntled employee. Anderson, who now lives in New Zealand and works at a bike shop, told Epstein that he wouldn’t watch Oprah’s interview with the cyclist.

“Since it's Lance and since I have such a cynical view of him, why would I even bother? I've wasted a lot of mental and emotional energy with that guy for way too long,” said Anderson. “That aside, there's not going to be any real genuine contrition. What's the point? I kind of enjoy getting everyone else's view. I know what he's like. I know he's completely lacking empathy. I know this. I've seen it. I don't think that suddenly he's turned 180 degrees and become a normal human being who thinks and feels like the majority of us do."

In the interview, Armstrong said that he doped. He said that at the time he was doping, he did not think it was wrong or cheating. He did not offer new, detailed information about how he doped or implicate others that were involved. He did not offer a public apology.

Here are the views of eight other people who watched the interview and are connected to Armstrong.

TYLER HAMILTON in VeloNews:

“I think it’s a huge, huge first step for Lance Armstrong,” Hamilton, one of 11 former teammates to testify against the U.S. cycling star, told NBC television’s Today Show.

“For a lot of people, it’s raw. I’ve known about it for a long time, since 1998. Big first step,” said Hamilton, whose 2012 book, The Secret Race, described doping by Armstrong.

“You can tell, it’s real. He’s very emotional and he’s definitely sorry. I don’t know. I think it’s going to be a hard next few weeks for him, next few months, years,” he said. “He did the right thing, finally. And it’s never too late to tell the truth.”

BETSY ANDREU on Anderson Cooper 360, responding to the fact that Armstrong said he would not answer Oprah’s question about whether he admitted to doping while being treated in a hospital room for cancer in 1996:

“You owed it to me, Lance, and you dropped the ball. After what you’ve done to me, what you’ve done to my family, and you couldn’t own up to it? And now we’re supposed to believe you? You had one chance at the truth. This is it.”

“If the hospital room didn’t happen,” Andreu told Cooper, “just say it didn’t happen. But he won’t do it because it did happen. But if this is his way of saying, ‘OK, I don’t want to go there, we’ll give it to her,’ that is not good enough. That is not being transparent. That’s not being completely honest. That’s skirting the issue.”

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