Doing Something Different

I've been burned before. Everytime Cary suggests we do "something different", I immediately add a headlamp, jacket and twice the food to my pack. - Forest Dramis

Cary Smith

Living across the street from the Putt Putt trail is both a blessing and a curse. It’s obvious why it’s a blessing, but it’s a curse because it’s so easy to go there I struggle to branch out. I try to make a conscious effort to ride different trails without using my car, so Teton Pass is the next closest thing. Luckily, I have a favorite ride that’s worth checking out. Just think of Hwy. 22 as a nice warm-up and cool-down. And when the bike path is completed, it’ll be a no-brainer.

I call this ride the Dumbbell Loop - it was all I could think of today as I was climbing. It’s roughly shaped like a dumbbell with two loops at either end of a trail you ride in both directions. If this seems like more than you want to tackle, the loop at either end would be a great ride by itself. Or you could split it up however you see fit.

No matter when you ride it, the views are superb. But if you time it right, you will also have the bonus of popping wildflowers, vibrant mid-summer foliage or glowing fall colors. Really, you can’t go wrong. And for any backcountry skiers, it’s cool to see this area in summer and try to pick your favorite ski lines.

So, here’s the nitty gritty...

Ride down Fall Creek Rd. out of Wilson and turn right onto the dirt Mosquito Creek Rd. After several miles of low angle climbing, you will come to a road on your right with a gate. This is the entrance to an outfitter’s camp. It’s the way I went today (and the track from my Garmin) but I was told in no uncertain terms that I was trespassing. Luckily, the outfitter was very friendly and told me a different entrance. Instead of turning at the gate, continue up Mosquito Creek Rd. until it forks. Take the right fork and cross the creek. This should put you on the single track (I saw the junction today). Go left on the single track and follow it. There are a couple braids, but I think they all come back together. The outfitter has done work on this trail so it’s quite rideable. I only had to go over about 4 logs all day. There are some steep sections, so be ready to push your bike if needed-these are short.

You will climb to a saddle. Turn right and follow a faint trail for about 100 feet, then the trail becomes well-defined again and continues up. This is a tough section so have a Gu if you’re struggling. Now you’re on the ridge and will continue to roll up and down along an awesome trail. You will pass the junction to Mail Cabin (at Windy Ridge) on your right. There is an old sign on a tree that is easy to miss. Continue on this trail for several miles. As you start your descent into Mike Harris, pay attention to the trail coming in from the left at about 7 o’clock. That is your return trail.

Rip the Mike Harris descent. It’s a blast all the way to the highway. Go left on Hwy. 22 toward Victor. I get more water either in Victor or at the real estate office at Teton Springs. They’ve always been very friendly if they’re there, and if not, there’s a spigot on the outside. Follow the signs to Pole Canyon Trailhead.

Take trail 31 (not to the left and up the power lines, but to the right and up Pole Canyon). This trail has seen much improvement over the last couple of years and is a challenging but enjoyable climb all the way to the saddle. There are no forks in the trail.

Just after the last rock step, you will top out, looking into Swan Valley. Turn left, ride a few hundred feet and start pushing. It’s only about 5-10 minutes of walking up the ridge then there’s a steep 50’ descent and then you’re climbing back up to the ridge and having a ball. Very fun trail with all types of terrain. When it’s fast and smooth and you’re flying along, remember to look for a trail coming from your right at about 5 o’clock. This is your hard right turn to head back toward Mail Cabin. If you miss it, you will start descending back into Mike Harris.

Backtrack along the ridge to the sign at the top of Mail Cabin, turn left and follow it down. The first 1/4 mile is fun with some root features, then it’s a little bit of shale to the saddle. From here, you get on the new reroute, which is still a work in progress but a blast with sweet bermed switchbacks and little features to pop off. Follow this trail all the way down Mail Cabin. Just before the first creek crossing, look for a faint trail going left. Take it and you will avoid all the creek crossings. Don’t take it if you want to cool your feet and wash your bike. There’s a bridge over the last crossing, after which you will climb up to Hwy. 22.

Climb the highway and turn right in the pullout at the top. You can either take the single track from the road or the access road. I recommend the single track as it’s a nice trail. Follow this trail until it tops out at Mt. Elly and the start of Black Canyon. Alternatively, you can descend Lithium (steep and challenging). It’s starting point is a couple hundred feet before Mt. Elly. Descend Black Canyon trail until it spits you out at the Old Pass Rd. Trailhead.

Coast down into Wilson and enjoy your cool-down back into Jackson!


Full Loop Stats: 69 mi, 9,295' of climbing, 6:45 ride time, 7:30 total.

Mighty Mitochondria: Your body's power plant

By: Molly Breslin •

Mito-what? How many of you reading this are scratching your head, wondering “What the……?”  and “Why do I care?”.  As a performance athlete the microscopic entities (organelles) located inside your muscle cells known as mitochondria are the key to your training and racing success.  Got you thinking that maybe you should have paid more attention in biology class?  It doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or a pro athlete: the proper care and feeding of your mitochondria is crucial.  Let’s begin with what a mitochondrion (singular) is.

Mitochondria are affectionately referred to in almost every academic physiology textbook as the powerhouses of the cell.  For our purposes we are going to focus on the muscle cells of the skeletal and cardiac (heart) systems but mitochondria populate many other cells of the human body.  A mitochondrion is 0.5 to 1.0 microns in size; that represents 0.0000195 to 0.000039 of an inch.  To put this in perspective, the head of pin is 2 millimeters in diameter.   A mitochondria is merely a 4,000th to 2,000th the size of the head of a pin.  Up to one-third of the volume of your skeletal or cardiac muscle cell is taken up by mitochondria.  Incredulous that something so miniscule can put you on the podium? Here is a distilled version of the cellular physiology behind the magic and how to manage it to your advantage.

 As athletes we all know about oxygen and carbohydrates (sugar).  The mitochondria take both of these ingredients (substrates) and use them to produce the energy(product) that makes your heart beat and your muscles perform.  Glucose (the form of sugar found in our blood stream) is repackaged inside the complex internal structure of the mitochondria into two key components:  pyruvate and NADH (nicotinic adenine dinucleotide).  Hey there, stop that yawning, this is where things get exciting!  These two chemicals are now transported into the central part of the organelle where, in the presence of oxygen (this is of primary importance), they are used to produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate).  ATP is a nifty little chemical that is essentially the energy currency (think money, not electricity) of the cell.  This all happens via the Krebs Cycle.  Bicycle, Krebs Cycle – starting to sound connected here? Khan Academy has a fabulous video explanation of cellular respiration if you’re a visual person and would like to know more about the process, click HERE.

Now that I have piqued your interest and you are starting to wonder exactly how that ATP helps you turn the pedals and stride the miles, let’s talk about what ATP actually does.  Inside your muscle cell there are tiny little fibrils (essentially filaments of protein) named actin and myosin.  The complex physical interaction of these fibrils will be the topic of another article, but in the meantime it’s just important to understand that ATP binds to the myosin fibril and causes the muscle to contract (be it skeletal or cardiac).  Rigor mortis ensues when your body is no longer able to supply ATP to your working muscle cells.  Hopefully that gives you some perspective on how important ATP is!  Ever completely bonked in a race?  Your muscle cells were depleted of glucose, oxygen, and ATP. 

 Production of energy for your working muscles is an extremely complex biochemical recipe, but it can all be boiled down to the simple ingredients of sugar, oxygen, and calcium.  Sugar supplies the basic building blocks (remember our friends pyruvate and NADH) that the mitochondria use to produce ATP in the presence of oxygen (the whole process being called oxidative phosphorylation if you must know).  Calcium is essential to transformation of glucose into the pyruvate and NADH as well as the interaction of the myofibrils myosin and actin mentioned above.

 This process is completely dependent on the presence of oxygen as it represents aerobic respiration inside your working muscle cells.  Have a little light bulb over your head blinking “heart rate monitor”?  What a good student of exercise physiology you’ve become in just a few short paragraphs.  Your working muscles use glucose to produce ATP at a rate 13 times higher in the presence of oxygen than when oxygen is not readily available.  Heart rate monitor alarm screaming because you’re exceeding your lactate threshold (going anaerobic)?  Guess what, it won’t be long before you bonk.  Bonk is a synonym for Not Enough ATP (see above)!

 Now here is the best part – exercise actually results in mitochondrial proliferation within muscle cells.  What this means is that by exercising you are essentially asking your body to provide you with more energy and it responds by revving up it’s own cellular machinery.   The Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology published a fascinating article that explains this in more detail if you’re looking for a little light reading before bedtime. Click HERE to download.

 All sounds great, right? Your cellular biochemistry cannot do all the work on it’s own however; it needs you to be it’s teammate in the process. How can you help your physiology to perform at it’s best?  Here of some simple things you can do to optimize this process and make the best of your training and have a great race performance:

~Train smart: Overtraining and training without appropriate recovery damages muscles cells and the intracellular machinery.  Develop training programs and hire a coach if you are able.

~Stay hydrated:  Optimal cellular function is dependent on the right balance of water so that transport of substances occurs readily. Dehydration leads to “gunking” up of the system.  Think car engine here!

~Fuel: Feed your mitochondria a steady diet of available sugar.  This means consuming carbohydrates in a manner that gives your cells readily available fuel (glucose) for training and racing and well as eating a well-balanced diet and choosing high-quality recovery snacks to boost your glycogen reserves.

~Protein:  Muscles and mitochondria need protein to proliferate.  Make sure your protein intake is adequate and high quality.

~Constant oxygen supply: Mitochondria cannot function in an anaerobic environment.  Know your maximum heart rate and lactate threshold and use your heart monitor to keep that oxygen flowing freely to your cells.

~Electrolytes:  As we discussed, calcium is integral to the biochemical process, but calcium does not exist and function in isolation.  Calcium’s availability and function is inextricably tied to the levels of other electrolytes like potassium and magnesium as well as the pH of the blood (another article, another time).  Make sure you are ingesting a balanced mix of electrolytes when training and racing.

Cross Country Nationals - Mammoth, CA

By: Cary Smith

When it was first announced by USA Cycling that Mammoth Mountain was going to host a consolidated National MTB Championship, I immediately knew I wanted to attend. I hadn’t been to Mammoth since the early 90s when they hosted the NORBA Nationals and I was curious as to how much it had changed. And, thanks to the magic of Red Bull TV, I have become an avid DH fan even though I have been an XC racer my whole MTB career. Now I would have the opportunity to see, in person, just how fast they go.

I figured if I was going to drive 850 miles for a race, I should make it worth it. To that end, I rented a condo for the whole week and entered three races: Single speed XC, age group XC and age group enduro. Getting there a couple days early was pure luxury. I could relax, get the lay of the land, figure out single speed gearing and tire choice and watch the Tour.

I have raced my single speed at several XC and Marathon Nationals over the last few years, experiencing a fair amount of success with 5 wins in 6 tries. Unfortunately, the last XC race I entered I didn’t finish so that weighed heavily on my mind. In other words, this is the race in which I wanted to do well.

Some people find it hard to believe, but even after entering all manner of races for most of my life, I still get incredibly nervous, even easily agitated, as race time draws near. I start to second guess my preparation, my equipment, my nutrition, even the lens color of my Smith glasses. I believe that this shows that it still means something to me and there is still a draw to toe the starting line.

This self-induced pressure, however, can sometimes backfire. My last few training rides before the single speed race went well, with my heart rate coming up easily, even at the 8000’ elevation of Mammoth. Outwardly, I expressed this as a good sign of being rested, but I knew that, for me, this can sometimes also mean that I’m too keyed up.

I haven’t raced in California for 20 years. Since most of the field was from California and Arizona I wasn’t familiar with my competitors. So, my race plan was to start fast to be with the leaders as we entered the first single track. Mission accomplished as I hit the single track in 2nd. Kyle Trudeau and I quickly opened a gap on the field and traded leads throughout the first half of the 22 mile race. I was pushing hard but couldn’t ride him off my wheel. I knew he was also trying to get away from me and wasn’t having any luck. It was good, hard racing but I didn’t feel overextended…until I lost my focus and he opened a slight cushion. I didn’t respond and he kept the pressure up. Now I was reeling. I started having some slight cramping issues and the floodgates of negative thoughts opened wide. My 3rd lap was significantly slower than the first two and I was passed by two competitors. I didn’t even try to ride with them. In a classic “too little, too late” situation I finally ate some Gu gel, which brought me somewhat back to life. Up ahead, I saw a single speeder who I thought was the 3rd place rider slowing down. I picked up the pace, got around him and drilled the final descent. Well, drilled it until I brushed a sharp rock with my front wheel and heard the sickening hiss of a flat tire. My sealant tried to plug it but every time my tire flexed, I would get sprayed and I was quickly riding on my rim. I made a game-time decision to ride it in for the last few minutes, trying to be light on my front end through the rocks and on the off-camber sections. I rolled across the finish line only to learn that the guy I thought I passed was actually a lap down. Oh well. At least it was a good test for an Enve rim. When I got home and cleaned my bike, I pored over the rim and there was not any evidence of damage. Chalk one up to Enve durability.

Looking back on the race, I made two conclusions. One is that I was too hyped up and let the pressure get to me. The other was that I was hungry. I was drinking Gu electrolyte tabs and only had about one gel packet. I needed more on that day and should’ve realized it sooner.

I spent the afternoon moping around, debating whether I even wanted to race the XC the next day. I knew I would, but the doubts were there. Luckily, enduro practice was in the evening so it was nice to go clear my head with some good old-fashioned fear!

Warming up for the age group XC the following day, I harbored no expectations. My plan had changed to one of riding a smart race and seeing how it pans out. I figured I would ride my race and see where that got me by the end. I didn’t want to be moving backward through the pack as the race progressed.

When the starting gun went off and we rounded the first corner I didn’t need to worry about moving backward, as I was in last place! I made some passes before the singletrack but just settled in, not worrying about making aggressive passes, but passing when I could. I was having a much better time today, riding smart and not burying myself. And I kept making passes, which made it easier to push a little harder. By the end of the 2nd lap, I thought I might be in the lead of my class but it’s hard to tell with all the other age groups out there. As I came through to start the last lap, I heard the announcer say I was in the lead. I felt some pressure at the top of the first climb of the last lap and decided it was time to make some space. I upped my pace slightly and rode in for the win. My lap times were markedly different from yesterday. Instead of decreasing each lap, my first lap was my slowest, 2nd was fastest and the last two were identical, which is a much more enjoyable way to race.

I had successfully learned from my mistakes the previous day. I ate more before the race, switched my drink to Gu Brew and ate a gel earlier in the race. I also hadn’t applied any pressure on myself to perform so I rode smoother and more calmly.

I was a little disappointed in my enduro performance as I rode worse than I did in practice. But, I didn’t crash, learned a few things and stoked my fire to learn some new skills so I can be more competitive and have fun riding unfamiliar terrain.

All in all, it was a fun week and so nice to have all the different disciplines at one venue. I hope that more races incorporate XC and gravity events into their schedule.

As with any good road trip, there needs to be a little drama. Instead of driving halfway home Sunday night, I had to be in Carson City, NV, Monday morning to get my new van checked as the computer was telling me it was going to shut down in 150 miles. This is not the first time this has happened-the first was driving home from the dealer with only 200 miles on it! They couldn’t fix it immediately, so I rented a U-Haul and drove the entire way home Monday, arriving in my driveway at 3am. I was excited to get in my own bed for three hours of sleep before work, only to find that the friend who was watching the house had taken the spare key with her. Not willing to break a window, we slept in the cab of the U-Haul in the driveway until I called her at six so I could get some clothes and go to work. 

SRAM Replacement Cog Review

By: Kyle Mills

I admit it—I’m a serial granny gear user. 

There’s just no climb mellow enough that I don't want to throw my chain onto my 36 and spin away. This tendency was one of the reasons I liked the idea of the XX cassette. It had an aluminum large cog and because of that metal’s propensity to wear, SRAM was making it replaceable. Unfortunately, they reneged on that promise and steadfastly refuse to sell the part, leaving me with two very expensive cassettes sitting on a shelf, virtually pristine except for chewed up grannies.

Companies like OneUp and Wolf make innovative systems to put larger cogs on a SRAM cassette, but the last thing I need is the temptation of a 42. Enter Ari, an Italian maker of custom bike components. For 70 Euros and another 30 Euros for shipping, they’ll send you the replacement that SRAM won’t.


The website is a little confusing, written in a mix of Italian and creative English. I was having trouble making heads or tails of it and decided to just send an email. Valentina got right back to me and I ended up just ordering through her and paying via PayPal. A day later, I got confirmation that my cog had been shipped and four days after that it was on my doorsteps in Wyoming. I wish there was a cheaper shipping option, but at least you get service proportional to the price.


If you can remove and reinstall a cassette, you can put this thing on with no problem. The hardest part was separating the worn out cog, a process that took about a minute with a flat head screwdriver. Simply slip on the new cog and included spacer, line up the holes, and drop on the cassette body.

It appears that the cassette doesn’t press fit to the cog like the SRAM version, so they never become one unit. I've always found the way XX cassettes engage only a small section of hub spline a bit disconcerting and this seems to make the situation worse. Having said that, I’ve never heard of anyone stripping their hub with a SRAM cassette, so the engineers seem to be doing their magic.



I can't perceive any difference between this and the OEM cassette. Shifts are fast and smooth, even when I do them under more power than I should. No slipping, no vibration, no drama.  Basically, everything you want with the added benefit of a fun selection of colors.



This thing isn't cheap, particularly with the lack of a slow-boat-to-China shipping option. Beats throwing away a $250 cassette, though. And let’s face it, most of us don’t have anywhere near enough bright red Italian stuff on our bikes.

Togwotee WInter Classic

By: Cary Smith

While driving to Togwotee Mountain Lodge on Saturday morning for the 8th(?) Annual Togwotee Winter Classic our eyes were glued to the outside thermometer in Paul's truck. We were expecting to be seeing numbers like 16° or 18°, but it had settled at 2° when we parked. At least it was windy.

As racers scrambled to adjust their layering system and figure a way to keep their drink mix warm, Adam the race director was putting the finishing touches on the course. Oh wait, he didn't touch the course. This is a true backcountry race where everyone is encouraged to bring a map and pay attention to the trail markers. Luckily, there are only four turns so it's pretty easy to navigate. 

About 40 racers lined up for either the 25 or 35 mile race. It's pretty casual so if you're not feeling great at the course split you can decide right then and there to do the shorter race. In more than one instance, a racer was pinning it to stay with a competitor only to watch them stay straight and bypass the extra 10 miles. The lesson here is, know your rabbit.

The first 7ish miles follow the Continental Divide snowmobile trail east from the lodge. Remember that wind? Yea, straight in our faces for the better part of an hour. Even though the snow was firm, tactics played a huge role as sucking a wheel was way easier-and way warmer. Wheel sucking is a dangerous game on snow, though. The racer in front is constantly looking for the firmest snow and is likely to swerve at any given moment, so you'd better watch your wheel overlap.

Once we made the turn out of the wind, things got better in a hurry. One long climb to the course split then a ripping descent down into a cool canyon brought the racers to a series of wicked little climbs that wouldn't bother a snowmobile but caused great pain in the legs and lungs of anyone on a bike. Again, these hills were quickly forgotten as the course wound its way down a beautiful valley on firm snow aided by, you guessed it, a nuking wind, this time in our favor. 

Just as you're about out of gears, the trail slowly starts climbing back uphill and toward the finish line at the lodge. Several long switchbacks brought the 35 mile course back to rejoin the 25 then it was a fun, rolling climb to the finish. Well, almost.

With about a mile to go, with the smell of the barn overpowering even my sweat-soaked kit, the course took a hard left hand turn onto the nastiest set of whoop-de-dos I've ever seen. Soft, deep and pointy, these whoops sucked the life out of my legs and crushed my spirit. Luckily, they didn't last all the way to the finish and I was able to regain my smile as I saw the sign marking 1/4 mile to the lodge and the "Fat Tire Togwotee Burger" awaiting me.

Sunscreen Shootout

By: Forest Dramis

Before we get into the actual review of the sunscreens in our test, it's important to understand some of the basics of what sunscreen labeling means. When shopping for sunscreen most people only consider the SPF (Sun Protection Factor). SPF is measured by the FDA as a comparison of how much UV exposure it takes to cause a sunburn versus when someone does not use a sunscreen. The higher the SPF number, the more protection against burning. However, because the SPF indicates only how much Ultraviolet B is being blocked, the spectrum of UV that causes burning, it doesn't give an indication of protection from Ultraviolet A, the spectrum of UV that causes melanoma. Under FDA regulations, any sunscreen labeled "Broad Spectrum" must block UV-A and UV-B at the same level. Nowadays almost every sunscreen on the market over SPF 15 is Broad Spectrum, but it's best to make sure. All sunscreen designations and claims assume you will reapply after 2 hours. Is your sunscreen "waterproof" or "sweatproof"? The answer is no. The FDA prohibits either terminology and only allows "Water Resistant" to be used if the SPF efficacy isn't drastically reduced during 40-80 minutes of water activity. 

So what exactly does the SPF number mean? SPF 50 blocks more UV than SPF 30, but how much more, and why does it matter? It matters because higher SPF sunscreen can be considerably more expensive than its lesser SPF companions. During our research we found that some companies' SPF 50 sunscreen cost as much as double the same sunscreen in SPF 30. SPF 15 blocks 93% of UV rays. SPF 30 blocks 97% of UV rays and SPF 50 blocks 98% of UV rays. Is that 1% worth double the cost? Add to that consideration that the amount of sunscreen you apply is critical to your protection and I think SPF 30 is the best way to go. It should also be noted that the FDA considers SPFs over 50 to be "no more effective than SPF 50."

We tested 5 sunscreens: Coppertone Sport SPF 30, Beyond Coastal Active SPF 34, Trilipiderm Broad Spectrum SPF 30, Banana Boat Sport SPF 30, and Neutrogena Ultra Dry Touch SPF 30. (All of these sunscreens are Broad Spectrum.) Since the FDA regulates sunscreen, we can confidently assume all these sunscreens block approximately 97% of UV-A and UV-B. All these sunscreens will protect you on your ride or ski. That leaves a few metrics for us to use when deciding which to buy. Feel: How does it feel on your skin? Is it slimy, sticky, greasy or dry? Smell: Does it smell good, bad or innocuous? Price: Do you want to pay $15 for your sunscreen or $5? Here's what we found...

Most favorite: Beyond Coastal Active SPF 34  This was our favorite sunscreen in the test. After application my skin felt well coated but never felt sticky, slimy or wet. The smell was innocuous and the price was great.

Our second favorite was Coppertone Sport. Great feel on the skin, easy to apply and a smell that reminds us of the beach without being too obtrusive. Even though Coppertone came in 2nd during our test, because of its much lower price -- $1.34/oz versus $3.94/oz for Beyond Coastal, we feel that this is the best choice if you're on a budget.

Honorable mention: Neutrogena Ultra Dry  I'm giving the Neutrogena honorable mention because despite its steep price it has some desirable properties that shouldn't be ignored. While it misses the mark on the cost metric it does have one very important quality that active users shouldn't ignore: it didn't burn my eyes when sweating from under my helmet. All sunscreen will run when you're sweating hard, but this one seemed to run the least and also burned the least.

Least favorite: Trilipiderm Broad Spectrum SPF 30   We found this sunscreen to be quite slippery and slimy when applied. Our hope was that after a couple minutes it would "soak in" and be less noticeable, but no such luck. I'm sure it was moisturizing my skin and it was certainly giving me a glow....or shine...but the feel of this sunscreen had me trying to wipe it off. Not really what you want to be doing with your skin protection.

Bottom Line: Wear sunscreen. Every time out. Most of us live at altitude and play at an even higher altitude. There's every reason in the world to use it, and no reason not to use it. Based on our tests I've switched my regimen to use Beyond Coastal Active SPF 34....until I run out, then I'll switch to Coppertone. If it's going to be especially hot, I'll add the Neutrogena Ultra Dry to my face because of its sweat-related properties.

Outside Magazine Bike Test: Road Bikes

By: Forest Dramis

Instead of talking about every road bike ridden at the Bike Test, I've chosen a few of the standout models and one of the disappointing models. As always, these opinions are not those of Outside Magazine or anyone else, just my two cents.

Specialized S-Works Tarmac Disc: For me, this was clearly the standout bike of the Test. I've ridden disc road bikes before, some of them great (Specialized Roubaix Disc), some of them disappointing (Colnago C59 Disc). I found the Tarmac Disc to be nearly perfect. Ride quality and comfort is what I've come to expect from all of Specialized's top-end bikes: exceptional. Stiffness, power transfer and handling were all great, which is to be expected from a bike in this price bracket. The Tarmac had only two drawbacks: price & weight. Price? Welcome to the game. It's a high end bike and that's what they cost. Weight? It's not heavy by any means, but it's heavy for $10,000. Our test bike came in at 16# with Roval carbon wheels. Those two issues aside, it's perfect. It's comfortable enough for a 6 hr ride. It's quick and nimble enough for a crit. It's stiff enough to climb well. And the combination of its handling with its flawless disc brakes makes it the best bike I've ever descended on. Supreme confidence, solidity and control. So good that even I, a confessed weight weenie, wouldn't give up the disc brakes for less weight. The Tarmac clearly represents the future of road bikes. 

Weight: 16.02#     Price: $10,000

Wilier Zero.9: It seems like every year Wilier sends a bike to the Test is another year a Wilier makes it into the Top 3. Every Wilier I've ever tested has been a standout, from the Cento 1 to the incredible Zero.7, they've all been winners. The Zero.9 continues that tradition. Our test bike was spec'd with the always loved Shimano Ultegra. For anyone on a budget, Ultegra should be the go-to gruppo. Quality, shift performance and reliability is all on par with Dura Ace. It's just a little heavier and considerably cheaper.

GT Grade

GT Grade

Norco Search XR

Norco Search XR

Norco Search & GT Grade: While I'm not sure where a "gravel bike" fits into one's quiver, there's no denying that gravel bikes have been the fastest growing segment of bike sales on the road side. The two gravel bikes that stood out in the test were the Norco Search and the GT Grade. Basically the same price and same spec, there's not much separating the two. Both bikes were extremely comfortable, owing to their larger tires at lower pressure. Both were great on the road as well as on the trail. While I wouldn't hesitate to do a 'cross race or two on either bike, their handling was noticeably slower than a dedicated 'cross bike. In this case, that's not a drawback as both felt very stable descending rough trail. If you're interested in 'cross, like to ride fire roads and the occasional trail as well as road, you can't do much better than either of these bikes. Throw on some slicks and each would make a great road bike. Swap out for some 'cross tires and head out to the dirt road or single track. Both these bikes are versatile and credible alternatives to a standard road bike and you can't go wrong by placing either in your garage. (Note: The saddle that comes stock on the Norco, while being beautifully color coordinated, is actually a historic relic from the Spanish Inquisition. Legend has it it was used in the interrogation of over 1,100 heretics and was considered one of the most effective torture devices of its time.)

Norco Search XR (Ultegra): $3,700               GT Grade (Ultegra): $3,580

Trek Emonda

Trek Emonda

Trek Emonda: Sometimes a bike stands out at the test not for being exceptional, but for being exceptionally disappointing. Unfortunately, the Trek Emonda we tested fell into the latter category. Whoever you are, the prospect of riding a 10.3# road bike is exciting. When you then learn it's $15,000 out of the box, it's even more enticing. To say the bike feels light is a staggering understatement. Frankly, it feels invisible. Accelerating up short rollers felt noticeably easier than on any bike I've ever ridden. The 10%+ climb up Gates Pass felt easier than anticipated. When the ride points uphill, it has no peer. Are you filthy rich and just happen to be targeting the Mt. Evans Hill Climb this year? Look no further, your search is over. However, if you're not that guy, look elsewhere. As good as it is on the climbs, it's equally bad everywhere else. Rough road? You'll feel every crack, piece of chip-seal, frost heave, texture and grain of sand. Do you ride longer than 2 hours? Bummer. Your neck will hurt so much from the ultra-short head tube that you'll be packing your jersey full of ibuprofen. Faced with the prospect of descending that mountain pass you just rocketed up? Godspeed. The combination of it's ethereal lightness, super short head tube, odd Bontrager combo bar-stem and stiff TUNE wheels makes it less than stable on the descents. Way, way less than stable. In short, it's a one trick pony. It does that one trick--climbing, extremely well. Better than anything else on the market. But that's all it does well. If you're looking for anything besides a hill climb machine, look elsewhere.

First Ride: Shimano XTR Di2

By: Forest Dramis

This week I was able to ride Shimano XTR Di2 for the first time. While a couple hours isn't enough time to thoroughly explore the nuances of such a complex and capable system, I was able to get a good sense of what it's like to ride this gruppo. If you're looking for weights, battery specs and marketing copy....go here. If you're looking for an honest impression of what XTRi2 can and can't do, and what it's really like to ride with it, read on.

The test's Pivot Mach 4 came equipped with XTR Di2 and everyone was excited to take it out and see what it was like. Our test loop on this day consisted of a 25 minute climb up singletrack and a 15 minute descent, all on single track. The climb was varied with flat, smooth sections as well as rocky, steep sections. All in all, a great loop for testing with varied terrain and grades.

The Pivot was set up 2x and included both a left and right shifter. Because of XTRi2's sophistication, only one shifter is needed, and I would definitely suggest eliminating the left hand shifter. (Both triggers on both shifters are completely customizable and can activate any combination of front/rear shifting.) As set up, the shifters use beeps to indicate three different moments in the shift pattern. At the high and low end of gears the system beeped once. In the middle cogs it beeped twice to alert you that the next shift would also shift the front chainring. I found the beeps annoying and would turn them off. (Like almost everything with XTRi2, shift alerts are fully customizable and can be shut off.) The automatic front chain ring shift is great. One need only decided whether you want to shift harder or easier, the system then shifts both front and derailleur into the most efficient position to achieve your desired gear. It works perfectly. Every time. Unlike Di2 levers, which I find a little vague and hard to feel with gloves on, XTRi2 has a very definite "mechanical" feeling in the trigger shifter. There is an audible click, natural movement to the lever and no dead feeling. If all you could perceive is the tactile impression of your fingers, you couldn't tell the if they were mechanical or electronic shifters. 

Shifting was predictably immediate and flawless. Even under full pressure. The system easily shifted both front and rear even when I was out of the saddle on steep sections. I would say it was only marginally faster than with mechanical XTR, but the benefit as I see it is being able to shift under full power. Coming out of a creek crossing in the wrong gear? No problem. Out of the saddle, charging hard and wanting to shift? No problem. Cash weighing down your wallet and want a quick way to get rid of all of it? No problem!

Yeah, it's expensive. Really expensive. Like it's brother Dura Ace Di2, you don't need XTRi2. But when was the last time you bought something cycling related just because you needed it? Mountain biking was pretty darn fun on a 26" hard tail with 8-speed shifting. But technology moves on. Rest assured, riding won't be any more fun with XTRi2, though when the servos shift it does sound positively sci-fi. But if you like having the newest toys -- who doesn't --and money isn't an issue, you could do far worse than plopping down for the future of shifting.

Outside Magazine Bike Test 2015

Photo: Aaron Gulley

Photo: Aaron Gulley

By: Forest Dramis

This past week I was fortunate enough to be invited again to the Outside Magazine Bike Test in Tucson, AZ. It's always a great week of sun, riding, great food and friends. Oh, and then there are the bikes. Spending your time riding the best bikes in the world is a good way to while away the days.

The test week is split into Road days and MTB days. This year road days were spent at Gates Pass and Saguaro National Park. Both of these loops are great for testing with varying road surfaces, fast sections, rollers and climbs. Gates Pass features a steep climb every lap, whereas Saguaro features endless, steep rollers. Mountain bike days were spent at Mt. Lemmon and Starr Pass. The Mt. Lemmon loop featured a 30 minute climb on singletrack with a 15 minute singletrack descent. Starr Pass featured more diverse terrain with a choice of loops featuring rocky terrain, steep climbs, fast desert riding and a little sand.

Chef Sam Lightner

Chef Sam Lightner

A typical day on the test begins at 7am. After a quick breakfast, bike loading and one last tea, we left the house by 8am and drove to the day's test area where we would ride laps until noon. After every lap we filled out forms regarding the bike we just rode. Data collected included everything from ride quality, handling, acceleration and stiffness to riders' fatigue level. Each form ends with us writing a paragraph describing what we thought stood out about the bikes, what we liked and disliked and whether we would like to own the bike. Ride. Fill out a form. Set up a new bike. Ride. Repeat. Around noon we'd take a break, have lunch and then get back to riding until 4pm. Load all the bikes back into the truck, head back to the house, and then the fun begins.

One of the best perks about the Outside Magazine Bike Test is the food. In the past Sam Lightner has been the house chef, busting out everything from beef Wellington to roast chicken stuffed with pesto and gorgonzola. This year we doubled our pleasure by adding Mark Daverin to the chef roster and we were rewarded with a fine repast. The highlight of which was a braised lamb chop with edamame hummus. Yeah, it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it.

Photo: Aaron Gulley

Photo: Aaron Gulley

This year we had about seventy bikes. Thirty road bikes and forty mountain bikes. These are shipped by manufacturers to Tucson where they are built by the Bike Test mechanic. Think about building, and then unbuilding, seventy bikes. It's a monumental task, handled flawlessly. In addition to the building, unbuilding and setting up of all the bikes, the mechanic is also on hand during the day to make any adjustments, tweaks or repairs that come up.

Instead of talking about all the bikes that we tested, I've chosen a few that I thought stood out. Some stood out for being awesome. Some stood out for being less than awesome. Click below and enjoy. I know I did!


XTR Di2: First Ride Impressions

MTB Coming Soon....


By: Cary Smith

For many athletes, winter is the off season. This, of course, doesn’t mean sitting on the couch and losing all your hard-earned fitness from the summer. Rather, it means starting to rebuild so you can return faster and stronger next season. For many of us, this calls for bundling up and getting outside in the cold and dark. With this change in the weather comes a need for increased preparation of equipment, clothing and nutrition. Since I’m a skier and cyclist, I will focus on what I do for these activities but my ideas can easily be adapted to other sports.


Equipment preparation can be summarized with a simple saying I like to remind myself of whenever I don’t feel like waxing my skis or cleaning my bike: Take care of your gear and it will take care of you. In other words, stay on top of regular maintenance so that equipment failure doesn’t leave you stranded. This is especially necessary in winter since any unplanned extension of your workout can have dire consequences. For winter cycling, there are a few things you can do to make it more enjoyable. First, put fenders on your bike to stay dry so you can ride longer without getting as chilled. Second, have a good light system. Daylight is scarce and cars are not expecting bikes on the road when it’s cold, raining or snowing. Third, ride slower. I don’t mean easier, I mean use a mountain bike, cyclocross bike or fat bike. The wind generated while riding on the roads with 23mm slick tires will cool your core much faster than if you’re working harder to turn larger, heavier tires while going slower. 

Everybody has their own ideas on clothing choices that work for them. So, whatever works, stick with it. My rule of thumb is that I should feel chilly as I start my workout knowing that I will soon be warmed up. Try to avoid sweaty clothes, as they are the best way to drop your core temperature; wear layers that you can strip. Don’t underestimate the usefulness of a neck warmer. It takes very little space in your pocket or pack and almost acts as an extra layer. If you haven’t ridden with handcovers, or pogies, you’re missing out. You can stay warm with a much lighter glove, increasing dexterity and control. 


Your nutrition requirements are slightly changed in cold temperature, as they are at high altitude, which often goes hand in hand with cold and winter sports. As the mercury plummets, your need for glycogen increases. Your body doesn’t like to burn fat when it’s cold since glucose, both ingested and stored as glycogen, is easier and faster to use. What this means is that you should eat a warm meal 2-3 hours prior to your workout-think oatmeal or pasta-and then plan on Gu and Chomps to top off your tank while training. The trick here is to keep your food as warm as possible. Try to avoid storing it in your pack but rather next to your body-in a pocket, in your glove or even stuffed in your lycra. This aids both in ease of consumption and ease of digestion as your body doesn’t need to expend energy keeping your body warm while you’re trying to freeze it from the inside out. One study found that fingertips were 2 degrees colder five minutes after eating a bowl of ice cream and 5 degrees colder after 15 minutes.

Dehydration is prevalent in winter athletes for a variety of reasons. As our core temperature drops, the desire to drink is diminished. And the lack of sweat (if you’re dressed properly) leads people to believe they don’t need to drink. Unfortunately, your body is still losing water as both sweat and through exhalation. As you breathe in cold, dry air, your body needs to warm and moisten it. This extra moisture is then lost every time you exhale. Obviously, the harder you’re breathing the more pronounced this is. So, you need to drink and you need carbohydrates. What’s the solution? Gu Brew or Roctane, depending on the length of your workout. Electrolytes are not as important in the winter since, hopefully, you’re not sweating as much due to proper clothing choices.

Again, internal cold is the enemy, so the warmer the liquid, the better it works. Always fill your bottle or hydration system with warm/hot drink mix. The insulated bottles work OK in moderate temperatures but they’re still helped by keeping them on your body in a jersey pocket or in your pack instead of on your bike. I like to use a hydration bladder over my first layer but under other layers in the form of a low profile pack or a vest with a sleeve. Then I can keep the hose inside as well. Speaking of hoses, after drinking your fill, blow the liquid back into the bladder to keep it from freezing in the (insulated) tube. Drinking often will help your performance as well as keep your container from freezing, rendering it useless. 

Embrace the cold, just remember to prepare for it. It never hurts to bring a few more calories than you think you’ll need. It might be just enough to get you home when your phone is frozen and you can’t call for help!

Lander MTB Getaway

Lander MTB Getaway

Lander, that friendly down to earth town just over the mountains, offers a fun time for anyone seeking an outdoorsy thrill. The climbing and backpacking scene have been thriving for a while but mountain biking is really starting to take off. Over the last several years the Lander Cycling Club (LCC) has been hard at work improving existing trails and building new ones...

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Spring Training in Tucson, AZ

Spring Training in Tucson, AZ

With sun, citrus, and miles of road to ride, Tucson, AZ, is one of the best escapes I can think of to get a start on spring bike training.  I crave the heat and like to sleep in, but if you’re an early riser like the locals, you’ll enjoy the desert morning breeze and save the Ramada room for the 85-95 degree afternoons...

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Fezzari CR5 VS Scott Addict Team Issue VS BMC SLR01

Fezzari CR5 VS Scott Addict Team Issue VS BMC SLR01

Why do we buy a particular bike? I think it can be broken down to: Price, weight, comfort and bling. How one weights each of those considerations depends on personal preference, intended use and tax bracket. For most of us we compare weight, comfort and bling, and then filter our options through what we can afford...

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The Best Road Climb in Wyoming - Lander Getaway

The Best Road Climb in Wyoming - Lander Getaway

Three hours drive from Jackson lies the best kept secret in Wyoming cycling. Not only is Lander blessed with a mild and dry climate, but this small town is replete with outdoor recreational opportunities. Most people are well aware of the world class rock climbing Lander has, but fewer people know about the great riding available...

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Gravel Bikes

By: Forest Dramis

Gravel bikes are the next big thing. Gravel bikes are ruling the market. Gravel grinders are ruling the race circuit. Crusher in the Tushar is THE race. Pardon me while I yawn...

Really? We've just discovered road racing on dirt roads? Strade Bianche? Paris Roubiax? Tour of the Battenkill? While I like a good marketing campaign as well as the next guy, and I realize if the bike industry doesn't change change BB standards every 8 quarters they'll go out of business, but I'm going to draw the line at Gravel Road Bikes. (Actually, I also draw the line at 650b, but that's another rant)

I had the "pleasure" of testing the Niner RLT – ($3,000, 19.2lbs), Foundry Auger ($3,050, 20.6lbs) and Vassago Fisticuff ($1,900,20.0lbs) at the Outside Magazine bike test in Tucson. Instead of giving you a rundown on each bike, I'll just give you my overall impressions as they were all pretty underwhelming.

None of them are as good as my cross bike. None of them handled off road terrain as well as my cross bike, none of them were as comfortable as my cross bike. None of them were as light as my cross bike and with the exception of the Vassago, none of them were as cheap as my cross bike. I also don't know who they're for. Are they for the guy who does a lot of dirt road riding but rides a little road too? OK, that guy should buy a cross bike. They're better. Are they for the road racer who wants to go kill it at the Crusher? That guy would be racing on his road bike. People who race "Gravel Grinders" and want to be competitive, race their road bikes. Is Fabian racing Flanders or Roubaix on his "gravel bike"? Please...

So in short, if you do a ton of dirt road riding, buy a cross bike, you'll be happy you did. If you want to race some dirt road races? Race your road bike, you'll be faster. And if you really want to buy a "gravel bike", make room in your garage next to your 650b.

Castelli Fawesome Vest

Castelli Fawesome Vest

Everyone needs a vest. It's critical. It's extra warmth, protection from the wind and when you don't want to deal with a jacket on race day, it's exactly what you need. I think cycling vests come in two categories: Super light and Light. A superlight vest is just a thin layer of nylon, probably a mesh back, no frills...

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