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Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix For Winter Sports

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix

For the past couple of years I’ve used Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix as my primary drink while on the bike. This drink mix was developed by Allen Lim, PhD, a sport scientist and coach for a professional cycling team. He created this product “from scratch” because he thought he could improve on the usual prepackaged hydration products that were already on the market. While I love Skratch mix when served cold, or even at room temperature, it just didn’t appeal to me when served piping hot. In fact, I don’t know of any sports drink that tastes good when served hot. However, this past fall Skratch Labs introduced their new Apples & Cinnamon flavor and this product is intended to be served hot!

Thanks to a snowy and bitterly cold winter I’ve been drinking a lot of the Apples & Cinnamon flavor Skratch mix while cycling this year. I always fill two thermos bottles with this drink mix before I go out on a ride and after several hundred miles through the snow I can say I dearly love this product! It tastes great piping hot and even when it starts to cool down. While the cinnamon flavor is more dominant than the apple, this mix is perfect for all winter athletes and I highly recommend it.

A 16-ounce serving of this drink mix has 90 calories and provides 22 grams of carbohydrates, along with 300mg of sodium and 40mg of potassium. The ingredients list is fairly simple: Cane sugar, dextrose, apples, sodium citrate, citric acid, cinnamon, magnesium lactate, calcium citrate, potassium citrate, and ascorbic acid.

You can buy this Exercise Hydration Mix in either a one-pound package or as single-serving individual packages (sticks). The best buy is the one-pound package which retails for $19.50 and will make twenty 16-ounce servings. When the temperature warms up a bit and you want a cool drink, this product also comes in several other flavors, including Lemon & Limes, Raspberries, Oranges, and Pineapple. While I like all of them, the Raspberry is my favorite—the flavor is not overpowering and it is a very crisp and refreshing drink.

 

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Orp Smart Horn: The Most Anticipated Cycling Product Of The Year

Orp Smart Horn (Smorn)

Orp Smart Horn (Smorn)

What does an inventor do when they have a great idea for a new product but lack the funding to bring it to market? Many inventors turn to Kickstarter, a website where they can promote their idea and seek financial backers. Sometimes the backers donate money just because they think the project is worthwhile and other times they contribute enough to earn a few perks (anything from decals or a copy of the finished product, and all the way up to a trip to the manufacturing plant). Over the past few years I’ve helped back several projects that had to do with cycling, but the one I have anticipated the most is the new Orp Smart Horn.

Orp Smart Horn (Smorn)

Orp Smart Horn (Smorn)

The Orp Smart Horn {Smorn} is a “combination dual tone, high-decibel bike horn and front beacon light designed to make you more visible and hearable.” While the Orp is not in distribution yet, the specs for this item are fantastic! The Orp is smaller than almost any other bicycle light on the market, and the horn is louder than any bike bell could ever dream of being. The horn is activated by touching an ergonomic switch on the back of the device (the Wail Tail) and you can choose from either a friendly chirp (76 decibels) or a loud ear-splitting alert (96 decibels). The light on the Orp has 87 lumens and operates in several modes, including Slow Strobe, Fast Strobe, and Constant On. This product is also incredibly compact and lightweight (only 89 grams).

The Orp is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion power cell and should last from 6 to 12 hours, depending on the settings you choose to use. This battery recharges with a USB cable—which means you can just plug it into your computer to recharge it (great for commuters).

The suggested list price for the Orp Smart Horn is only $65 and it will be available in seven colors (Glorp, Aorta Red, Snot Green, Frostbyte, Safety Cone Orange, Wail Blue, and Asphalt Black).

 

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45NRTH Bergraven Technical Fatbiking Gaiters

45NRTH Bergraven Technical Gaiter For Fat Bikes

45NRTH Bergraven Technical Gaiter For Fat Bikes

Warning: This article deals with adult subject matter and is not suitable for southerners or cyclists who spend their winters in the basement riding a trainer. Reader discretion is advised.

After several mild winters in a row, those of us in the Upper Midwest have finally been blessed with a ton of fresh snow and bone-chilling temperatures. Several weeks ago I was at the local bike shop and saw the new 45NRTH Bergraven Technical Fatbiking Gaiters. I hesitated getting them because the past few winters have been rather disappointing for Fat Bike owners, but I decided to take a chance and buy them anyway—and I am certainly glad I did!

45NRTH Bergraven Technical Gaiter For Fat Bikes

45NRTH Bergraven Technical Gaiter For Fat Bikes

Gaiters are put on over your boots and winter cycling tights and extend from your boots to just below your knees. If you are not familiar with the purpose of winter gaiters, let me explain. First, they keep you lower leg and calf muscle warm (the wind has a way of making calf muscles very stiff). Second, they keep the snow out of your boots when you have to get off the bike and push.

The Bergraven gaiters are specifically designed for Fat Bike riders. The soft outer shell is made with Primaloft ECO insulation and there is a Kevlar panel to protect the gaiters if they come in contact with either the crank arms or chain-rings. These gaiters close on the sides with a hook-and-loop closure and there are buckle adjusters at the top so you can make them as snug (or loose) as you like. There is also a strap that goes under your boots to keep the gaiters in place. In addition, there is a bit of reflective piping on the back of the gaiters.

If you are fortunate enough to own a pair of 45NRTH Wölvhammer winter cycling boots there is a toe hook on these gaiters that will snap into the boots for a better fit. Unfortunately, my feet are too wide to fit into a pair of Wölvhammer boots (even though they have a wide toe box). However, you do not have to wear these gaiters with Wölvhammer boots. When the temperature drops below 10 degrees (Fahrenheit) I wear the Columbia Bugaboot Plus Cold Weather Boot—this boot is designed for hunters, but it works for cyclists as well. By the way, the toe hook on the Bergraven gaiter will lock into this boot (but you will need to trim the hook with a Dremel rotary tool first).

Sometimes you just have to dismount and push your Fat Bike

Sometimes you just have to dismount and push your Fat Bike

We’ve had a lot of snow this winter and I’ve had to walk my bike through deep snow drifts on many occasions. Sometimes you can see a drift in front of you and just dismount and walk through it. However, a few times I’ve run into deep snow without any warning and these gaiters have kept the snow out of my boots every time!

45NRTH Bergraven Technical Fatbiking Gaiters are available in two sizes: Medium (38–43) and Large (44–50). These gaiters retail for $85 a pair—not cheap, but it’s hard to put a price on staying warm! You might live in an area of the country where you would never need a product like this, but I am certainly glad I bought them (especially this year).

 

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Fatter By The Lake

A Herd Of Fat Bikes In Zion, Illinois

A Herd Of Fat Bikes In Zion, Illinois

Note: In many of my articles on this blog I refer to “the local bike shop” and by that I mean Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois. I’ve purchased my last eight bikes from this shop, including my highly customized Fat Bike (a Surly Necromancer Pugsley). Last year Chris Daisy, the owner of the shop, organized a winter event for Fat Bikes called Fatter By The Lake. I couldn’t make it to the ride this year, so I asked Chris to write an article about it so you could get a taste of what winter cycling is all about.

Chris And Cassie Daisy

Chris And Cassie Daisy

I’ll be the first to admit that the first annual Fatter By The Lake was a disaster! It took place in early February, and the weather was a mix of “I hate this” and “I want to die.” Freezing rain, crippling wind gusts and deep wet snow kept everyone except my Trek rep and myself from attending. The only reason we pushed on was because the local press was there, so I at least got a cool photo and write-up for our efforts.

Riding On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

Riding On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

This year was a different story. Thanks to slightly better weather and a nice shout out from Fat-Bike.com, attendance was up 1500%! Riders from all over the Chicago and Milwaukee area assembled at our shop and set out for Illinois Beach State Park, the only undeveloped and natural stretch of Lake Michigan shoreline in the state of Illinois. We headed east from the bike shop and picked up a trail headed toward the beach. We were immediately greeted by a huge sheet of ice, so some of the less experienced riders were falling like dominoes. Eventually everyone started to settle in and we crunched along in the snow towards the beach.

Fat Bike Derby at Illinois Beach State Park

Fat Bike Derby at Illinois Beach State Park

The skies were a heavy overcast, the waves were big enough to surf (except the temperature and undertow would have killed you), and there was an ever-present threat of freezing rain that never quite materialized. We headed south along a waterfront paved path, past the abandoned mid-century modern bathrooms and concrete sun shelters to a plateau of sand near a large parking lot. As we waited for everyone to catch up a Fat Bike derby contest broke out. The object of a derby is to ride in an ever shrinking circle without tapping a foot on the ground, while of course trying to get your opponents knocked off their bike. We watched and cheered until the last man was track standing and pedaled on.

Time For A Break At Dead River

Time For A Break At Dead River

The beach riding south of the Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center was sweet. The sand was frozen solid without being slippery, and the wind was at our backs as we cruised along bunny hopping driftwood, riding wheelies and just taking it all in. The Dead River is the edge of the Illinois Beach State Park property, so we stopped and let folks catch up again while we socialized, and someone took the nice photo shown above.

Ready To Roll

Ready To Roll

Naturally the ride home was against the wind, so the pace slowed up a bit. We reached the Zion Cyclery parking lot with enough time for folks to catch the Bears vs. Packers game (a sore subject with me). A group of guys wanted to check out Beulah Park, an 80 acre wooded park in Zion that we spent all summer building legal singletrack in with the help of the Chicago Area Mountain Biker Association and the Zion Park District. Since I was hosting the ride I had to gather up some gumption and press on. The riding conditions at Beulah Park were rough. The trails didn’t have enough traffic yet and my legs were no match for the group of bike messengers and die-hards I was leading. We headed back towards Sheridan Road where I gave them directions for a safe passage back to the shop, and I headed north towards home, exhausted, cramping up and grinning from ear to ear.

 

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350,000 Views In 2013

My sincerest thanks to every visitor to this blog! By reading the comments you leave here and by visiting your blogs it seems like I’ve gotten to know some of you fairly well. Most of the visitors to this site are interested in cycling in one form or another, while others just have a general interest in fitness. Regardless of why you read this blog I wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog. Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 350,000 times in 2013. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 15 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

If you scroll to the bottom of the report you will see one very sad note. The report has the names of the five “most active commenters” on this blog. The most frequent commenter was Irish Katie, a lovely woman who passed away from cancer back in October. The Chatter Blog had two wonderful articles about Katie. In the first article she simply noted how Irish Katie had not been commenting on any of the blogs recently, and in the second article it was revealed that Katie had passed on. I never had the privilege of meeting Katie, but her cheerful comments brightened up every blog she visited. She will truly be missed.

 
37 Comments

Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Only 4,949 Miles On The Bike This Year

The All Seasons Cyclist On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

The All Seasons Cyclist On The Shores Of Lake Michigan

This year did not turn out like I had planned—I ended up cycling only 4,949 miles this year and that makes it the worst mileage year I’ve had in a while. It also drops my yearly average down to just 6,075 miles per year.

We had fairly mild weather in January so I was able to get a good head start on my miles for the year. However, during the second week of February I got the flu (a genuine case of influenza, not just a common cold) and it took me off my bike for three weeks. When I finally got back to riding I was a bit slower than normal, but I worked my way back up to normal speed and distance rather quickly.

On March 28 I went out for a Metric Century ride on a beautiful day—light winds, full sun, a foot of snow on the ground and temps around freezing. The ride was enjoyable and I felt great when I got home. However, about four hours later I was at my office when my chest started hurting. Actually, the word hurting doesn’t even begin to describe the pain—it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest. I thought it was asthma, but after numerous medical tests and consulting with six different doctors I ended up having surgery on my esophagus during the first week of June. This little episode took me off the bike for a total of eight weeks and the first month back on the bike was slow and painful. On the day of surgery I was already over 2,000 miles behind where I normally would be for that time of the year.

A few days ago I was feeling sorry for myself for having such a miserable year and I told my friend Eric (a Naval officer, scientist, and all-round nice guy) how depressing it was. Eric sent me an encouraging letter to remind me that even for a dedicated cyclist mileage isn’t everything. He reminded me that since I switched to the Paleo Diet for Athletes I’ve dropped a good bit of weight and improved both my endurance and recovery times. In addition, I’ve set at least a dozen personal speed records, both on the road and on off-road trails, since I had the surgery. And even though I wasn’t able to ride a lot in the spring, this past fall I did more Century rides than I ever had before. I am thankful for good friends!

For the record, I am 54 years old and work full-time. However, I have somewhat flexible hours so long rides in the morning mean I will be at the office rather late that night. All three of our sons are grown, so Cub Scout meetings and high school football games no longer interfere with my cycling—and my wife is a very patient woman. Years of cycling have paid off—my morning resting pulse rate is usually 50 BPM and my average morning blood pressure is 104/62.

Some cyclists ignore their families just to rack up the miles. If you are one of those people let me kindly inform you that you are an idiot. Your children are only young once—so spend as much time with them as you can. It doesn’t take any extra time to eat healthy food, nor does it take all that many miles on a bike to keep your circulatory system in great shape. When your children are big enough you can have them join you for a ride.

I often think about some of my friends who are in their 40′s but are already on medication for diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. All I can say is, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” How many chronic health problems in America could be cured by changes in diet and exercise? I’ve had friends die in their 50′s and I know the death certificate listed their cause of death as heart disease, but I have to wonder if it shouldn’t have read “suicide by lack of exercise.”

And, as I’ve said several times before, I want to thank God for my good health, Trek for making awesome bikes, and my wife for not looking at the American Express statements. I hope you all have a wonderful 2014!

 
97 Comments

Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Top Five Cycling Products Of 2013

This year I’ve penned over 100 product reviews and today I would like to make mention of my top five favorite cycling products of 2013. It was hard for me to narrow this list down to just five items, but I did follow a couple of guidelines. This list is for cycling products that I reviewed this year, though not all of them were introduced this year. In addition, I limited myself to one winning product per manufacturer. If you click on the links below they will take you to the complete review for the product mentioned.

BikeLoot Box For July

BikeLoot

BikeLoot is a box of five to seven cycling related products that are mailed to subscribers every month (like carb gels, bars, hydration, and maintenance products). Most of the products are just samples of products you’ve probably have never heard of before. BikeLoot has several great advantages. First, you don’t have to buy a whole box of a product and the hope that you will like it once it arrives—you can try the sample from the BikeLoot box and if you like it you can order more, and if you don’t like you haven’t wasted any money. Second, you will be sampling products that most cyclists aren’t even going to hear about for another year or so! And third, the BikeLoot box also offers substantial discount codes for some of the products in the box.

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

45NRTH Hüsker Dü Fat Bike Tires

I’ve spent a lot of money buying tires for my Fat Bike, but the best investment I’ve ever made in a set of tires was the 45NRTH Hüsker Dü. This is the tire that ought to come standard on every Fat Bike! The Hüsker Dü tires will give you a great grip in adverse conditions while still providing less rolling resistance on pavement or packed trails. These tires have a thread count of 120 tpi (threads per inch). Higher tpi tires are usually lighter, more supple and more expensive.

Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump

High Quality Aluminum Construction

Lezyne makes some of the best bicycle hand pumps in the world, but the Lezyne Alloy Drive High Volume Hand Pump is in a class all by itself. I bought this pump for my Surly Necromancer Pugsley—a Fat Bike with massive 4″ wide tires. Fat Bike tires usually run at very low pressure (10 to 15 psi on off-road trails; 5 to 7 psi on sand or snow), but they do require a high volume of air. Most bicycle hand pumps are designed to work the other way around (high pressure, low volume) and they would take forever to fill up a Fat Bike tire. A high volume pump like this one will fill your tires is 30% less time than most other pumps. The Lezyne Alloy Drive pump is made with CNC-machined aluminum construction, which makes it very durable and extremely lightweight—just 4.5 ounces (128 g) without the frame mount. This pump has a flex hose with a threaded Presta connection on one end and a threaded Schrader connection on the other.

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

Showers Pass CloudCover Dry Wallet For iPhone

I take my iPhone with me on every ride—in rain, snow, mud, sand or beautiful sunshine and the best case I’ve found so far is the Showers Pass CloudCover iPhone Case for the iPhone 4 or iPhone 5. One of the features I like best about the CloudCover case is that you can still use the iPhone camera without having to take the phone out of the case. I’ve experimented with this option several times and still cannot believe how well it works! As long as you are photographing in bright sunlight it is nearly impossible to tell that the phone was in the case when you took the photo.

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool

Out of the dozens of bicycle multi-tools I own, the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool has to be my favorite! Here is a breakdown of the seventeen tools in the Serfas ST-17i CO² Inflator / Mini-tool: Eight Allen keys (8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2.5, 2, and 1.5mm), one 10m open wrench, four spoke wrenches (3.23, 3.3, 3.45, 3.96mm), a chain break tool with two chain retainers, two Torx drivers (T25, T30), CO² Inflator head, and both a Philips and flat head screwdriver. This tool has a full metal body and is 2.75″ long, 1.5″ wide, and .75″ tall. This products weighs an even 4.0 ounces (114g). The chain tool on the Serfas ST-17i is one of the best I’ve ever seen on a cycling multi-tool. The biggest selling point for the Serfas ST-17i is the CO² inflator head (Presta valve only) that is built into the mini-tool.

 
 

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