29 February, 2016

On the Road Again

Specialized Crux Comp
View from the cockpit
Took advantage of a wonderful 62 degree day to get in a road ride yesterday. Words can't even express how good it felt to get out and stretch my legs, get my heart rate up, and cleanse both mind and soul. The trainer is a reasonable Winter fitness solution, but it really does rather suck. It's the exercise of cycling, only without any of the richness.

Yesterday, I enjoyed the sunshine, the remnants of a foot of snow from earlier in the week, and just how fucking great it was to be outside, doing something I love. I was talking to a friend about churches over the weekend and observed that by and large, the outdoors is my church. It's where I go to re-connect and re-center.

Well, so much for the deep BS, how was the ride?

Legs were surprisingly strong, as was cardio. I felt like I had a reasonable amount of jump, and even the daunting Delhi Hill wasn't too bad. Wind was up pretty high, but I really didn't notice. So, all things considered, I think my Winter regimen of riding the trainer and skiing has worked. I also haven't gained the weight I normally do. Double-bonus!

The other thing was the addition of the Specialized Crux Comp to my stable is huge and doing exactly what I planned by extending my seasons. My road bike is still set-up on the trainer, so I have that when it snows again (tomorrow...). And, with the road bike being carbon with carbon wheels, it's nice to have a more rugged alternative. She's just too pretty to ride in the slop and debris of late Winter. I also found the November Nimbus Alloy TI wheels really enjoyable on the roads. Those White Industries hubs are SO smooooooooth!

In two weeks, I head to Colorado for a Spring ski trip. I'm sure I will return satiated by Winter and eager for Spring! Yesterday was proof.


17 February, 2016

Monster Boards

I love my Blizzard Bonafides. They are hands-down the best skis I've ever owned. At 98mm underfoot, they're great in powder and crud. The rockered construction and the Flipcore technology make them equally at-home on groomers. I've skied them in Michigan and Colorado in a wide range of conditions and found them incredibly versatile. But, not QUITE the one ski quiver.

The past two seasons in Michigan have been unique. With nearly perfect snow, we've missed out on what I affectionately call "Michigan Boilerplate". If you've skied the Midwest or the East, you know what I mean. That thaw-freeze-that-freeze again snow that's then coated with a bit of man-made stuff. It's more like a hockey rink than a ski hill. This is tough stuff that demands a certain ski to really tame it. And the Bonafides are NOT that ski. Honestly, I really think the core issue is largely width. They're just too wide to get consistently on-edge. We've had some of those conditions in SE Michigan this year. So, I decided it was time to look for a hardpack ski. Stiff. Torsionally rigid. And with an edge like a hockey skate.

Head Monster M78 skis
A quick visit to the always-resourceful Rob Parent at Sun & Snow Sports yields a few options. Oh, yeah, and I want something over 175cm and I won't ski them a ton, so I don't want to invest a fortune. At the last moment, Rob asks, "What about some Head Monsters? I have an M78 demo ski in 178cm that I'd let go for a good price...". Done. Here's my Visa.

This weekend I got them out on local ice bump, Mt. Brighton. Saturday is a perfect example of the day I bought these for. Started the day at around 1 degree F. High winds. A brutal round of freeze-thaw, followed by a chilly end to the week. The snow is ROCK hard.

In a word - HELL YEAH! True to their name, the Monsters grip like a demon. They're damp and stable, even on the chunkiest of ice. Even when the wind comes up and visibility drops to zero, I feel comfortable and confident. By the end of Sunday, I'm blasting through smooth, fast GS turns. Even pure ice isn't completely scary.

Are they perfect? Well, they just may be the heaviest ski I've ever owned, but I mostly notice that hauling them through the parking lot. And the graphics leave a lot to be desired. But for what I bought them for, they RIP! I am one very happy skier.

15 February, 2016

New Brain Bucket - Giro G9 Helmet First Impressions Review

Been thinking for a while about replacing my decade-old Giro ski helmet. In addition to being at least ten years old (with the potential to have its protection compromised), the advent of MIPS helmets which protect against the rotational injuries the produce concussions is pretty significant. And, I'm guessing that a few other things have advanced in helmet technology as well.

I started looking last year, but pricing for MIPS helmets from Scott, Giro, and POC were all still pretty high.This season, most manufacturers seem to have brought this technology into their mid-range helmets. Pretty early on, I became interested in the Giro Nine MIPS model. I've generally had pretty solid experience with the Giro brand in terms of fit, quality, and performance. Also, they generally have solid audio solutions - a key element to me.

Giro Nine MIPS Ski Helmet
A local shop is kind enough to have a 20% off sale so a Nine MIPS and a set of Outdoor Tech X Wired Chips is secured in a stylish Smurf Blue color to match my Marmot and Marker jackets. So, was it worth the money? In a word, absolutely!

Helmets are made of polymers and expanded polystyrene for impact absorption. Both degrade with time, with UV exposure, and with a gazillion impacts large and small. I learn while reading the Giro manual that helmet life is considered 3-5 years. Oops. This, plus the MIPS features have me feeling much better about my safety in the event of a fall or hit.

My previous Giro helmet was fairly comfortable, so that was never an issue. The only real problem came when I bought some Oakley Canopy goggles. The larger lenses of this google were great as they fit nicely over glasses and gave an awesome field of vision. What wasn't so good was that due to hitting the helmet, they pressed down pretty aggressively on my nose and cheeks. By the end of the day, not so comfortable! From the get-go, I could tell the new helmet was a huge leap forward in this area. Giro has clearly recognized the trend toward larger goggle frames, and addressed it. Also, as a side benefit, the helmet really is a bit more comfortable fit!

In a word, mixed. The Outdoor Tech Chips sound OK. I don't think the bass is as robust as my previous Skull Candy pads. And the controls to change volume and mute/stop my iPod don't seem to work. I did swap out the cable to my old one so at least I could mute my jams if riding up on a lift with someone. I did just notice something about a "10 hour play time" on their web site. So, perhaps I need to investigate if I'm missing a battery or something... ah, user error.

I'm glad I waited, and equally happy that I didn't wait any longer. The price came down, but having the latest safety technology, as well as the better goggle fit are totally worth the investment. I suspect that I'm the issue with some of the audio problems. If you're looking for a new helmet, give the Giro Nine MIPS a look -- I don't think you'll be disappointed!