28 January, 2015

New Gear: Springfield Range Officer 1911 9mm

I love my Kimber 1911 Stainless Custom II .45. The 1911 platform, in addition to being among the most proven around, just works for me. I love the ergonomics. The balance. The feel. How everything on it seems so perfectly logical. The wide range of aftermarket parts you can get to customize feel, improve accuracy, and just make it "yours".

What I don't love is the cost of .45 ammunition. Ouch.

I'm a big fan of Springfield Armory products. I own both a full-size and subcompact XD models. And the 1911's I've shot were always solid. They make a great product, with good features, at a very fair price. With their new Range Officer 1911 in 9mm they're definitely showing that they listen to customers.

The Range Officer is a relatively new offering that's geared for competitive target shooting. They've given you everything you need, and nothing you don't. A gun that's supposed to be a tack-driver right out of the box, but that leaves you room (and cash) to customize. For a very reasonable price you get a match-grade barrel and bushing, extended beavertail grip safety, and adjustable target sights.

And now, you can get it in a 9mm. I had the opportunity to shoot a Smith & Wesson Custom Shop 1911 9mm a few years back. I came away extremely impressed. The ergonomics of a 1911, combined with the low cost and recoil of 9mm. Well, now Springfield has done it with the 9mm Range Officer.

So, I put one on order (takes a while -- turns out customers really wanted these). Today I picked it up. Although I haven't shot it yet, I can see this will become a favorite. Feels like a well-built 1911 in-hand. Fit and finish are nice and tight. Grips are both elegant and hand-grabbing.

More to follow after I shoot it and give it a thorough clean and lube.


23 January, 2015

A Body in Motion

Wow, is this Winter an improvement over last year. As most of the nation discovered not only what Polar Vortex meant, but how it felt, I specialized in one thing - getting fat. I watched way too much TV, moved way too little, and stopped doing the outdoor things I love. When I could find time to ski, the 3 degree high, coupled with 25mph winds kept me at home on the couch. Many days even my black lab/mutt, Lilly didn't want to go for much of a walk.

But this Winter not only is the weather a bit milder, I also went into the season with a plan. My plan was simple - diversity. Last year the gym was really all I had. This presents two problems - first, I hate gyms. And second, once the New Year's Resolution crowds showed up and the parking lot got choked with snow getting access was all but impossible.

New Blizzard Bonafides

Specialized Crux 'Cross Bike
This year the Epic Pass has allowed me to do some weekly outings to Mt. Brighton. My purchase of a CycleOps Fluid 2 trainer has me riding 3-4 times per week. I've managed to get my Specialized Crux Comp 'cross bike out a couple of times. And, I've been skiing at Caberfae (given our dry December, I had to wait a bit).

All of this has reminded me - a body in motion tends to stay in motion. And a body at rest will remain there. I'm happy to have found a groove and put my body in motion. So far, despite a December markedly bad eating and drinking choices, my weight is "reasonable".

The Road to Nowhere
Yesterday I crossed the next milestone - making a commitment to complete my first-ever Century ride. For the third year, I will be participating in the Susan G. Komen Ride for the Cure in August. Unlike past years where I signed up for a shorter distance and then had a stretch goal of the longer one, this year I will settle for no less than a full Century. I'm riding in memorial of a friend whose life was cut short too soon by this disease. As a side note, I also increased my fundraising goal. So, if you feel compelled to donate to support my effort, you can see my online page and make donations here.

The net result? I'm enjoying this Winter a whole bunch more enjoyable than last.

19 January, 2015

Initial Review: Blizzard Bonafide Skis

Short Review: Blizzard Bonafides are the best skis I've ever ridden.

If you're getting the idea that this is going to be a positive review, you're dead on. Picked these up at Sun & Snow Sports at the end of the season last year. This really started after how much I love my Volkl RTM 84 rockered skis. I've tended to have one mid-fat (84mm or so) ski and then one larger ski (100mm+) for fresh snow. I was quite happy with my prior Line Prophet 100's. I was generally pretty happy with these skis, though they were clearly primarily a powder ski. Really didn't handle Midwest hardpack all that well, and chattered insanely at speed on the hockey rinks of Michigan, plus turn initation wasn't especially great. My new Bonafides are 2013/2014 models, but the only difference are updated graphics (I prefer mine over this year's).

After a lot of debate, I settled on the Blizzard Bonafides in the 187cm length. I had some concern these would be too long, but also read that most rockered skis tend to ski shorter than their length would suggest. Also, my Volkls are 171's and I really wanted something longer for more stability at speed and in crud. As it turns out, my concerns were unwarranted. Turn initiation is easy and powerful - these are easier to turn than my 181cm Line's. Thank you rocker!

My main impression of these skis after a day at Caberfae Peaks on Saturday is that they're FAST. It's super-easy and comfortable to get up to warp speed on these beasts. And it's not that they're an uber-stiff speed ski, they just seem to encourage you to go fast because they're so smooth and strong. They feel rock solid at speed and cutting through crud. I'm really eager to get them out on some big terrain out West. Not to mention some deep pow!!!

They'll also throw down short radius turns surprisingly well. I got on them pretty hard in some tighter stuff on Saturday and they rocked it out. Easy turn initiation and reasonably tight radius. They're not mogul skis, but I'm no longer a mogul skier.

In reading some online reviews I've most frequently heard them compared to the Volkl Mantra. Most reviews mentioned the Mantra's stiffer tail as better for finishing turns on hardpack. I really didn't find this to be an issue for the Bonafides. Even when I really got on the tails at the exit of a turn there was no sign of wash-out. Perhaps it's just my skiing style, but it really wasn't even noticeable.

In the 30+ years of skiing, these are hands-down the best all-around boards I've been on. I've owned some legends over the years, but nothing that compares to the Blizzard Bonafide. I hesitate to use the term "one ski quiver" but these might just qualify.


16 January, 2015

Light it Up

I read an article in Bicycling magazine (which I curiously can't find right now) that showed the main ways in which cyclists are hit by cars. I wish I could find it, but one number really stuck out at me - over 60% of the time they are hit from the rear. I can't recall the other numbers, but do remember that this was over double any other direction.

This really struck me (bad pun, I know...). I have a rear light, but until I read this article, I was a bit too casual about turning it on. Mostly I'd use it on late rides at dusk. Not now. Every. Freakin'. Time. Cyclists are hard enough to see from the side or three-quarters perspective, but from the rear -- we practically disappear.

I'm a big fan of Lezyne products. They're beautifully engineered and manufactured. And they WORK. My Classic Floor Drive pump is the best pump I've ever owned. Today on Facebook I see a post on their newest rear light - the Zecto Auto. I'm getting one. Now. It's tempting to order one each for the road and cross bikes, but they're a bit spendy. So, this cool light has technology that senses motion and turns on. And after three minutes stopped, it shuts off. Presto! No more forgetting to turn the blinker light on. Beyond awesome! I like when I can easily build in safety to my rides.