An update on the Alpine 160 (1 year in)

It’s been about 8 months since I last wrote about the Alpine and I wanted to share an update on how it worked out after about a year in use.

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It’s time to renew bike clothes’ waterproofness

In 2009, I bought a Platzangst Hardride jacket for bike riding in wet and cold conditions. While obviously being somewhat of a fashion item, it was said to offer a 5000mm water column while still offering an mvp value (that’s “breathability in grams of water per square metre in 24 hours”) of also 5000. In I’d say the first year of using it, the jacket worked great. Rain just rolled off and the climate inside the jacket was okay when opening the zippers on the sides.

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Don’t waste time looking at numbers

One thing I’ve always liked best about riding bikes is that there are no electronic devices around and that you can concentrate on things other than numbers, displays and buttons. Working with computers all day I quickly found that having time without them around is a precious thing to have.

Last week I was riding with a new group of people. I had met one of them before, the rest I had never seen. When we met, I instantly noticed to amount of “gimmicks” they brought. One of them had an iPhone attached to his handlebar, the other one had a GPS device and a speed indicator thingy. The third guy had a camera attached to his helmet, another one to his handlebar and the last of them had a camera on his helmet and a speed indicator on the stem.

The iPhone apparently was supposed to track via GPS where we rode but alongside of that, it constantly (like every couple of minutes) kept saying “lost GPS signal” “cannot find GPS signal”. Noooo, my friend, that’s not annoying … The speed indicator guys were constantly talking about what they saw on their tiny displays. “Mine shows 16 km/h”, “mine shows 16,5 km/h” “hmm, maybe your settings are wrong, you know … you have to tweak this and that setting if you put on a bigger tire” … Wah! I was so annoyed that by the time we arrived at the first trail entry that in my head I had already marked each of those guys as “never ride with him again”.

Then we hit the first trail. It’s December, so there are a lot of leaves and the ground is soft and muddy. If there are leaves on top of mud, you better try not braking too hard because all that will happen is tires instantly blocking on the leaves and start sliding on top of the soft mud. But beginners do that. It’s one of the most instinctive things people do when they are afraid of something – they brake. So every single one of those guys slipped and fell within the first 50 meters of the trail and I couldn’t help but smile about this. Being equipped with literally thousand of Euros worth of eletronic gadgets doesn’t make anyone better rider.

I don’t say these things are bad to have around, how could I since I also carry a GPS device and a mobile phone in my backpack. The mobile is good to have around in case something happens and you have to call someone and the GPS device is nice to look at after the ride in order to know where you were and how far and long you have ridden. But wouldn’t concentrating on your riding rather than your numbers bring way more joy and way more improvement to your riding? I strongly think so and would encourage every beginner mountainbike rider not to focus on these electronic devices. Enjoy the ride, don’t waste time with looking at numbers.

In your face, UCI!

That‘s my news of the week (who was that Steve anyway …)! Freecaster plans to have its own downhill racing series.

There seems to have been some “financial differences” between the UCI and freecaster regarding licence fees for showing the UCI Mountainbike world cup on the internet. Freecaster couldn’t afford the new amount and therefore will not provide us with live footage of the events next year.

We all were pretty disappointed when we heard that and started swearing about the !”§/&%ing UCI. Freecaster’s response to that is one of the most astonishing things I ever witnessed. Instead of just not broadcasting the races, they’re going to start their own racing series and thereby give the UCI a piece of their mind. I’m so, so, so, so happy they stepped up and talked to the pro racing teams, which, apart from 2 teams, will all be part of the new series, and showed the UCI that nobody really needs them in (at least gravity oriented) mountainbiking. And not just that … Nissan, the original world cup sponsor is on board, too and they even doubled the price money the riders will get for winning the races. How great is that?

Kudos to freecaster! Hope it’s going to work out good.

Welcome to freedom

Let’s face it, this year’s german summer blows, right? It’s either raining like whatnot or it’s hot as hell … sometimes even both, resulting in a foggy, sweaty mess that nobody really likes. And even with a certain state of mind concerning weather, it got a little cumbersome over the weeks. This sunday however, was plain awesome.

7.40 am, 17°C, longsleeve jersey. Not much of a sunset, lots of grey clouds. Most of the time pedaling uphill on a wavy kind of trail. Conditions are great, lots of grip on the trail, not too hot yet, practically noone around except for the occasional grumpy sunday-morning-i-am-still-wasted-but-the-dog-has-to-poop-people.

Half an hour later. It starts to rain. For a second there, I think I should return home since I’m not that far away yet. But there’s a downhill trail, right at my front tire … easy choice, right? The trail was a mess … besides the usual roots and rocks there were deep ruts from the rain that had come down that week. Totally different from what I remembered the trail being like … refreshingly different. Since I know the corners and I’m familiar with the steepness, it felt pretty comfortable to adapt to the new obstacles. Mud and rain everywhere, can’t really see much any more, breath’s pumping … feels great.

Couple minutes later, bottom of the hill, noticable temperature drop, rain’s getting heavier. The trail ends at the lowest point of the valley, so the only next direction available is “uphill”. It’s dead quiet. The only noise is my breath, the rear tire gripping into the ground, raindrops falling and a little creek coming down right next to the trail. No cars, no talking, no phone-annoyance, just nature, my bike and me. It’s still hot from the exertion of getting up the hill but every tiny raindrop provides a bit of cooling. Every leaf I touch while riding through the thick underbrush soaks the jersey with cooling water. Look straight ahead, pedaling, breathing, riding. Not trying but doing, not guessing but knowing.

Welcome to the zone where nothing else matters, where everything else becomes tiny and pointless, where everything you do is what you want to do and noone’s there to tell you not to. Welcome to what mountainbiking’s really about. Welcome to that short moment of freedom, right outside your door.