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.
Big Races, Fat Bikes
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.
World's Best Female Climber
Sasha DiGiulian is the best female climber in the world. In 2012, she became the first American woman (and only the third woman of all time) to climb grade 5.14d, only three steps below where the scale tops out. She’s graced the covers of 12 different magazines, received the Rubicon and Salewa Rock Legend awards and been sponsored by Adidas, Five Ten and Petzl, among others. The craziest part? She’s only 21. We caught up with the Columbia University undergraduate to talk about climbing, philosophy and piña coladas.
To Russia We Fly
Packing for a trip to Russia for the Sochi Olympics is no small feat. There’s weather, international travel, technology and a desire to stay light on our feet to consider. Gear needs to be tough, functional, lightweight and understated. Here’s a sampling of what we’re packing to use on a normal day in Sochi.
We take our pick-up sports with a healthy dose of enthusiasm. A casual game of touch football is the perfect outlet for friendly competition, (a little bit of) athleticism and a chance to revel in some big-game moments like our favorite pros. Unfortunately, we somehow missed out on Peyton’s arm strength and precision. No matter. Simply being able to throw a football correctly keeps you involved in the game and might even get you the nod at the coveted QB spot. Get a ball, get a friend, and go practice these six easy steps the next time the sun shows up.
In advance of the biggest American sporting event of the year, many people start thinking about placing a bet or two. For those who don’t know the difference between a fullback and a backpack, it’s a harrowing time. But, with a little education, you too can get in on the action.
A board meeting you want to be part of
Nostalgia is an attractive creature, and we often find ourselves getting sentimental over microbrews about our gear of yore and cool vintage finds. But like the skis we came across in Park City, neither the Snurfer nor the Burton Backhill were performance decks. Nobody back in the day was talking about carbon and kevlar layup or cambered medley — not sober, anyway. Today the construction materials and technology that go into snowboard making produce rides for every body type, terrain and personal preference. These five boards are some of the finest in each category.
Killer Pow, Bro
Skis have become impossibly technical — not with complicated gadgets and moving parts, but other things that engineers geek out over like ski geometry, core materials and physics. In this photo essay we recall a bygone era of skis when color schemes were impossibly neon, patterns were questionable and bindings were more like door hinges.
The pipe dream of skis built to fit your style and body has long been the realm of pro racers and big mountain free skiers. Decidedly unsponsored skiers like us have always had to make do with off-the-rack solutions — until now. One small Telluride, Colorado boutique manufacturer, Wagner Custom Skis, has a secret formula for designing and building the best personalized skis in the world at prices that are accessible to most serious skiers. Together with Wagner’s engineers we designed a pair of ultimate ski mountaineering boards; then we put them to the test among the famous 13,000 foot peaks of Telluride Mountain Resort.
Don't lose your head
These days, seeing someone without a helmet on the slopes is a rarity; more than 70 percent of all mountain-goers are donning them, and countless brands are releasing offerings onto the market. With hundreds of brain buckets to choose from, though, the task of finding the right one can be daunting — but, with your IQ and major bodily functions on the line, we beg you to persevere. To help, we’ve rounded up our five favorite snow sports helmets covering the spectrum from high-tech to lightweight.
Heads-Up on the Hill
In 2012, Oakley partnered with Recon Instruments, maker of groundbreaking Heads-up Display (HUD) technology, to create the Airwave goggle and bring data and entertainment right into the wearer’s field of view, a la Minority Report. The second generation Oakley Airwave 1.5 ($649) launched at the end of 2013 with improvements across the board. We got our hands on a pair to test while shredding pow in Revelstoke, BC.
Bound for Success
Bindings often go overlooked in favor of the flashiness of a new pair of skis or boots. But as your only contact point for control and power transfer along the 170-180cm boards you’re strapping on, and your final line of safety in a major crash, they’re the most important piece of gear for a successful and safe season. Read on for a breakdown of the best ski bindings for this season.
Sculpting the Mountain
Now in its seventh season, the Salomon Freeski TV channel has covered the sport exhaustively. In “The Architect”, Vice President of Resort Design at Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners, Ryley Thiessen, explains how resort development has changed from the 1960s to today, bringing us from mom-and-pop mountains (now all but extinct) to four-season resorts in China.
Crash into me, baby
Bouldering is a relatively new evolution in rock climbing, and lacking ropes or other protection makes it one of the more dangerous. With steep overhangs and extremely technical moves, you’re going to spend a significant portion of the day falling on your butt, making a good crash pad absolutely essential. We recently had an opportunity to practice bouldering in the limestone caves of American Fork Canyon and the sandstone crags of Moab, where our well-worn Evolv Iceman Crash Pad ($135) was a constant source of support.
No parks? No problem
Our trip with Gerard is an audible. A group of journalists organized by mountain bike tour operator Sacred Rides, we came for a taste of the company’s newest offering: a tour of the Southwest’s outdoor adventure gems, from singletrack bike trails to world-famous slot canyons. But with Zion National Park closed by the federal government shutdown, we’ve changed tack and hired him to help us navigate nearby Yankee Doodle Canyon — a technical descent that promises to mimic Zion’s architecture. The road to Yankee Doodle, usually deserted, is littered with dawdling sightseers who walk the road in place of a trail. The shoulder has become a makeshift parking lot full of cars with out-of-state plates.
Inside cycling's hottest discipline
Sometimes you sprint at the end of a cyclocross race. But you always sprint at the beginning. As I straddle my top tube on the starting grid waiting for the whistle to send off my category at the Coyote Point Bay Area Super Prestige, I know this sprint start will hurt more than most.
Cyclocross racing pits riders on bikes with drop bars and knobby tires against each other on multi-lap courses over a mix of grass, dirt, pavement, sand, mud and sections that force riders to carry their bikes over barriers and up stairs and hills. Racers attack from the line, and the intensity doesn’t diminish for the duration of the 30- to 60-minute events — it’s a redline-all-the-time, full-contact affair. With participation doubling over the past five years, it’s also the fastest growing segment of competitive cycling in America. Some attribute this growth to the more laid-back, beer-primed environment at cyclocross races, but cool bikes certainly don’t hurt. We’ve got three rigs that make the grade from the starter’s gun well past the finish line.
It's never too cold
It’s not like getting up for that pre-work run was easy during the summer or fall. Now it’s pitch black, relentlessly cold and the streets are covered with ice, snow and salt. But a brisk jog before sunrise is a one-way ticket to a fulfilling day, not to mention a long winter of staying fit despite a dining regimen of braised short ribs and mashed potatoes. The right gear will keep you warm, dry and, most importantly, stable when the ground beneath you isn’t.
See How it All Ends
Nearly a year after his training began, Dirk Shaw called from Costa Rica, where he had just completed the final mission in The Road to La Ruta: the race itself. He explained how he’d learned to enjoy the process as much as the culminating event. Process over product. Wise words, Mr. Shaw.
But we also know that race day happens to be both process and product, when reason and reflection give way to adrenaline and ecstasy — or despair. Deep, raw despair that people in the industry call “injury”, “mechanical failure”, or simply “Did Not Finish”. Luckily, as Dirk’s grueling journey from coast to coast and peak to peak unfolded, we had someone on hand to document the dramatic highs and lows. Now we present the final chapter in the Road to La Ruta series, our film of the epic race.
Conquering La Ruta
Suffering is a universal language. October 24-26 were the hardest three days I have ever spent on a bike, but they were also the most connected I have ever felt with the people and the world around me. The power of a shared experience, through joy and pain, transcends almost everything. It crushes barriers of language and culture. Now I know why everyone becomes so emotionally bonded to the La Ruta de Los Conquistadores: words are unnecessary when you have shared the suffering of a ride that is practically straight up for nearly two hours in the blazing heat.
Lifelong surf legend
If you’re looking for a lesson in the good life, look no further than Robert August. At 18 he starred in The Endless Summer, the first great surfing film, taking him on a seven-month world tour of uncharted breaks. The rest, as they say, is history. August went on to launch an eponymous line of surfboards, which he still shapes today. We caught up with him at Witch’s Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo, Costa Rica, to talk about parenting, lamb chops and the difference between monkeys and people.
A Basketball coach, literally
This year, the basketball gets a new update in the form of the 94Fifty ($295), a Bluetooth-enabled basketball that pairs with your mobile device to track shot speed, dribble force, control, spin, and acceleration. Posted to Kickstarter on March 5th, it crushed its $100,000 goal in a little over a month. We took it for a test run.
Gifts for the resident jock
Part of you doesn’t want to buy The Athlete any gift at all. He roughhouses at the Thanksgiving football game; he runs negative splits at the charity 5K; he seems to be toweling off every time your girlfriend is around. While we’re all worse for wear, he’s aging like a Rodin. But ultimately, he’s a good guy who just really likes to get the blood flowing. He whipped you into shape for Tough Mudder, remember? And who came along for a second opinion when you bought the used Cervelo? Who’s consistently willing to do an aerial chest bump? Yeah, that’s him. Go ahead, get him a little something nice for the holidays this year. We’ve got all the ideas you need.
Gear for the Top of World
Sometimes the mountains just call your name. Whether you’ve got a season to train for a summit bit up Mt. Rainier or just a Saturday afternoon to log some miles hiking up the local ski hill, the right gear can mean the difference between enjoying the majesty and struggling through misery (or worse). Here’s the gear we used for our recent solo free climb of Mount Olympus in Utah — but it’s perfect for any ultralight mountain mission.