We took our espresso stateside this year, catching the Giro d’Italia on television and showing up in person for the 2014 Tour of California, where we shot this video while riding along in a support car.
Work Hard AND Smart
In sports and fitness, training plans and pounding the pavement can take you a long way. But sometimes it takes more than a blue collar work ethic: it helps to have bits of wisdom from seasoned vets, deep scientific insight and cleverly-designed products. Since kicking off Limits, we’ve scraped together knowledge about everything from the effect of caffeine on endurance to importance of VO2 max testing. We still fall down at stoplights occasionally, no amount of wisdom can prevent that. Here’s what we’ve learned.
A Beautiful Grind on Ancient Rocks
Going “Rim to Rim to Rim” is a double-crossing of the Grand Canyon, covering 42.4 miles and 22,000 feet of vertical, and it’s a rite of passage for ultra runners. GP contributor Ben Clark reports on his epic there-and-back-again run.
Flying Above a Grueling Swiss Ski Mountaineering Contest
Every two years, in the beginning of May, the Swiss hold an historic ski mountaineering race: the Patrouille des Glaciers, “the Glacier Patrol”. The race, a national treasure of sorts, attracts close to 5,000 participants of all ages and ability levels and tens of thousands of rowdy Swiss spectators who line the course.
Embrace your baggage
While the lifetime warrantee on your North Face pack from grammar school is meant to be honored, there’s something to be said for retiring before things unravel. Today’s daypacks will haul your climbing gear or your laptop over mountains and through airports. These are our favorites.
Chasing Sun in the Southwest
Mountaineer and ultra runner Ben Clark shares photos from his single-day run across Zion National Park, also known as the Zion Traverse.
Now Hiring: Performance Coach
We break down a basketball designed by Wilson and SportIQ, which knows whether your last shot was a miss or a make and provides an in-app map of your game, showing you exactly what part of your game needs the most work.
Salomon's Running TV on the Western States 100
Salomon’s Running TV reaches back to the history of the 20th Annual Western States 100 in “The Original”. The year was 1974, and the Western States (also known as The Tevis Cup) was a 100-mile endurance horse ride in Placer County, CA. Colfax-native Gordy Ainsleigh had been competing for several years. “When my horse went lame in ’73, [race organizer] Drucilla invited me to do it the next year on foot”, he says. “I said, ‘well maybe’, and I was thinking: I’ll have a better horse by then. I didn’t get around to it, so in ’74, as the spring rolled on, I ran.”
Bottles that chill, filter and fold
Choosing a water bottle is like buying bar soap: you can penny-pinch and get a three-pack of Dial for two bones, or you can upgrade to Dr. Bronner’s and enjoy the marginal benefit of bathing in citrus oils every morning like a refined gentleman. Your old Nalgene Silo? Dial. Fortunately, the options for an upgrade are abundant, ranging from straightforward bottles for the gym to handheld bottles for marathon runners to double-walled glass vessels that could double as flower vases.
May God have mercy on your quads
Every religion has its pilgrimages, many of them to Jerusalem. Christians visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Muslims, the Dome of the Rock. Jews pray at the Western Wall. Running, while not an official religion, is nevertheless a sport of the pious, and its acolytes meet once a year at the Jerusalem Marathon. We were on hand at this year’s race to take in the struggle and the glory of the scenic 26.2-mile course.
To and From, safely and in style
If you’re thinking about joining the bike commuter set, you’ll need the essentials: bike, helmet, lights, lock and a handsome leather wine bottle carrier. We’ve got it all in this Kit, plus much more.
Wheels for the working man
Long gone are the days when the commuter bike was an old-school mountain bike with a potpourri of parts and a rear wheel that was only roughly true. A rise in people looking to build fitness, lower their carbon footprint or simply have fun while getting around has created a big market for commuter bikes. Here are some of our favorites for 2014.
Kids ride (almost) free
If you’re looking to introduce your kids to cycling, the Weehoo iGo Pro bicycle trailer ($400) is just the tool for the job. We got our hands on one and put it to the test with a five-year-old and a 15-month-old in tow.
Warm, Dry, and Comfortable...that's far from base
Whether you’re training for a ski mountaineering race or just sick of shivering on your morning commute, staying warm and dry is objective number one. The base layer you choose to wear while doing battle with the elements can’t guarantee success, but it sure as hell can guarantee ruin. But have hope. New synthetic fabrics offer amazing moisture-wicking properties, while merino wool is experiencing a renaissance with temperature regulating properties that are borderline miraculous. We’ve done the leg work to find the best base layers for every outdoor activity and situation for upcoming winters, falls and springs.
F-Stop is a relative newcomer to the camera bag scene, and its St. Louis headquarters is incongruous with its focus on packs for mountain sports photography. But don’t let that fool you. Their packs show a design maturity that could only stem from experience and a smart use of user feedback. We tested both the light-and-fast Kenti ($249) and the sturdier, larger Satori EXP ($379) in conditions as varied as multi-day hikes in New Zealand and peak bagging in New Hampshire.
Earn Your Turns
Ski mountaineering is the ultimate punishment tour in the mountains — moving uphill with heavy gear through deep snow and ice — with a perfect payoff when it’s time to go down. We spent this winter testing the best winter mountaineering and ski gear on some of the biggest peaks in Utah and Colorado as we trained for the Power of 4 Ski Mountaineering Race. If you’re looking to start going further in search of deep powder, look no further for the best extreme-condition gear for any winter climbing mission.
The Forecast Calls For Pain
The basic premise of the sport is to ski up and down a resort or backcountry course as fast a possible — think trail running, but with ultralight ski gear, winter conditions, and powder turns on the downhill. After spending most of this winter chasing deep powder in Utah’s Wasatch Range, we decided to put our months of dawn patrol and long ski weekends of training to the test in one of the sport’s most prestigious North American races, the Power of 4 in Aspen, CO.
Armoring up for battle with frigid surf
When it comes time to hit the surf and temps are in the 30s rather than the 70s, the right gear is the difference between channeling Bodhi and becoming intimate with the symptoms of hypothermia. While it’s admittedly tough to be toasty in water less than half your body’s normal temperature, with the right kit you can at least pursue your hobby and live to tell about it. Below are our picks for the gear you’ll need for winter surfing.
A caving expedition in Belize
We’d been underground for five hours, as deep as 600 feet below the surface of the jungle in a cave the Belizeans call the Mountain Cow Cave. The cavern has been rebranded for tourists as the more picturesque-sounding Crystal Cave, though few tourists make it here. Unlike the more famous and accessible Actun Tunichil Muchnal cave, which sees thousands of visitors per year, Crystal Cave only sees a few hundred, most only peeking into its impressive foyer. I could see why. It was not for the faint of heart.
Five Oceans, Five Cameras
Nowadays, there are many options for underwater photography and videography available to the avid diver and occasional vacation snorkeler alike. These five underwater imaging options — everything from custom-machined metal housings to cameras that don’t need a housing at all — will serve you well on your next dive trip. What you shoot is up to you.
Get wet, stay warm
Patagonia has always been a company with one foot in the mountains and one in the sea — climbing and skiing one day, surfing and paddling the next. When they introduced wetsuits to their lineup a few years ago, it was a big leap for the company, but not one they were unqualified to make. In fact, their experience building warm, lightweight and bombproof alpine gear transferred well to wetsuits, which we found out recently while testing the R1 wetsuit during a week of diving in Belize.
An Offshore Account
After a long and fairly uneventful dive on an unnamed reef out in South Water Caye, I clambered aboard Splash Belize’s dive boat, shed tanks and weights and stripped off my wetsuit. The big diesels rumbled to life and Captain Malcolm steered toward a small island in the distance. As we drew closer, I could make out a few small panga boats and some activity on the beach. Then came a distinctive smell: barbecue.
Big Races, Fat Bikes
Fat bike races are a great tool for carrying fitness into the winter, building your base for the coming year, or letting out your inner nutso cyclist. During some of the longer hauls, riders should expect to carry everything from sleeping bags and tents to locator beacons and cooking infrastructure. Just a few years ago your race options were limited, but the rapid growth in the category has created a number of race options and formats to choose from. Here are some of our favorites.
Gear for the diehard winter rider
Fat bikes can effortlessly glide over snowy conditions like a set of snowshoes, and they’re cushy enough for riding in frigid temps without shattering your frozen tuchus. But the bike can only take you so far. Staying warm and dry — and returning home with all your fingers and toes — requires the right set of gear for when the weather decides to take a serious turn for the worse. These winter fat biking essentials will help you battle the worst Mother Nature can throw your way.
The Iditarod, by Bicycle.
The Iditarod Trail Invitational (ITI) is the world’s longest winter ultramarathon by mountain bike, foot and ski. It follows the historic Iditarod Trail from Knik, AK, over the Alaska Range to McGrath and on to Nome. If you like to run and ride in severe winter conditions and sleep outside in the frozen tundra, then this is the race for you.
Ice cold Red Bull
While all eyes were on Sochi as the Olympics wrapped up, another exciting winter sports event was happening this past weekend in St. Paul, Minnesota: the Red Bull Crashed Ice championships. Crashed Ice is Red Bull’s (generally apt) name for the up-and-coming sport of ice cross. And though it may be a made-up sport invented to sell energy drinks, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see it in the Olympics one day.
Go For A Spin
For cyclists, both trainers and rollers have their respective pros and cons. When Indiana-based SportCrafters introduced their “best of both worlds” Omnium Trainer ($449), then, we decided to give it a thorough testing during the harshest days of a particularly bad winter.
The Future is Gold
Thanks to Cold-War-era bias (and some legitimate concerns), the groundbreaking athletic technology developed for the 2014 Sochi Games played second fiddle to alleged (OK, verifiable) corruption and safety issues. However, we want to give credit where credit is due. From aerodynamic bobsleds to virtual ski-runs to crazy X-Ray goggles, the technology on display in Sochi threatens to outshine the physical feats of our planet’s greatest athletes.
WHEN GEARS AND SPRINGS STILL DETERMINED GOLD, SILVER AND BRONZE
The use of stopwatches to time Olympic events began at the first Modern Games in 1896 and ended in the 1960s with the coming of electronic timekeeping. Touch pads were quicker than timers’ thumbs and electric eyes became more reliable than human eyes. But these workhorse timers that fit so nicely in hand deserve more than a passing note. We take a look back at some Olympic moments during the golden era of mechanical timekeeping.
Insight from our man on the ground
I’m in Sochi this week, and guess what? I haven’t been blown up, my phone hasn’t been hacked, my hotel room is quite nice and the water from the taps isn’t brown. Instead I’ve seen some amazing athletes doing some amazing things on the ice and snow and had my preconceptions sincerely rattled.