All posts with the keyword ‘Bike’

WHAT IS… CYCLOCROSS?

2. November 2020
Tips and Tricks

The days get shorter and the weather is taking a turn for the worse. The racing cyclists among us are cleaning their bikes (well, most of them) for the winter and mountain bikers are looking forward to splashing through mud. However, since last winter at the latest, there have been a number of cross-breeds from both worlds, especially among Alpine Trekkers. Here in Germany, a niche sport is slowly becoming established that has long been known to the French, Belgians and Dutch – as is so often the case when it comes to cycling. For those who haven’t guessed yet, we are talking about cyclocross. If you don’t know what we’re talking about, here’s some clarification:

When shortcuts were allowed

The emergence of cyclocross (also known as cross-country racing or bicycle cross) cannot be dated exactly, but it is thought to have been conceived in France in the early twentieth century. A popular theory traces the history back to steeplechases. The challenge: to reach the next village – usually marked by the church tower – by bicycle. The route: whichever you choose. The cyclists rode their bikes over hill and dale, carried them in between and tried to reach their destination by the shortest route. Shortcuts were the order of the day.

Over time, it became clear that handling the bike on unpaved surfaces and the resulting completely different loads had a positive effect on the performance of road cycling, and cross-country cycling began to develop as a sport in its own right. The Frenchman Daniel Gousseau then organised the first French championship in 1902. By the 1930s, the sport had spread to Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Italy and Spain and has since become an integral part of the cycling scenes there. Germany only followed suit in 1954 with its own national championship, but in our country “Crossing” has a rather marginal existence between mountain biking and road biking.

What are the main differences?

Cyclocross bikes can be described as relatively flat hybrids between mountain bikes and road bikes, but more in the direction of road bikes. Frame, handlebars and components look like a racer at first glance. If you look at the tyres and brake system, the mountain bike influence becomes clear.

The studded tyres, which usually measure over 3 cm in width, are necessary to move better on soft ground and disc brakes have the advantage of not collecting so much dirt. In addition, the braking performance in damp and dirty conditions is significantly better than that of conventional brakes. However, there are also models that still rely on cantilever brakes – usually the slightly cheaper ones. Compared to racing bike brakes, however, these are designed to be much more open, so that as little dirt as possible can get stuck.

A closer look at the frame reveals even more differences. The fork is wider and more robustly built, just like the rear triangle. The reason is relatively simple: firstly, the load is much higher off-road than on asphalt, and because you often ride the Crosser on muddy surfaces, less dirt will stick to it.

Speaking of forks: don’t expect cushioning. Cyclocrossers usually come with rigid forks. This takes some getting used to, because if you don’t relax your arms on uneven ground, you’ll be shaken pretty badly. You also have to deal with obstacles in a completely different way. The pros jump over them, but if in doubt, you should dismount, shoulder your bike and go over the obstacle.

What equipment do I need?

The mountain bike influence can also be seen in the choice of shoes. As mentioned, you’ll have to carry the bike on occasion, so mountain bike shoes are usually used because of their profile and more flexible soles which makes them better suited for walking than road bike shoes.

In terms of clothing however, road bike attire is usually preferred. Just put on some tight-fitting bib shorts with comfortable (!) padding, an aerodynamic cycling jersey and the fun can begin – as long as the weather plays along. You should always have a spare inner tube with you, especially if you are venturing into difficult terrain with the Crosser. You can still play around with the tyre pressure, but you don’t have the same possibilities as with fat mountain bike tyres. A hard impact from a pointed stone can mean the end of the tube!

Special case: gravel bikes

Anyone interested in cyclocross will inevitably stumble upon the term ‘gravel bike’ at some point. Gravel bikes were invented by the US bicycle industry and are positioned somewhere between cyclocross and so-called endurance road bikes (racing bikes with a touring geometry). They are mainly used for riding on paved roads with gravel. However, the big difference lies primarily in the tyres, which are wide and have a less pronounced profile than cyclocross tyres.

This category of bicycle is especially popular with bike commuters and bike packers, or bike travellers, as there are now also numerous ways to equip racing bikes or road bikes with bags.

Why cyclocross?

Instead, the question should be: why not? After all, a golden rule among cyclists is that the right number of bicycles to own is N+1. And there should definitely be a crosser in the collection.

All jokes aside. Whether or not a new pair of wheels makes sense is a matter for each individual to decide. But a cyclocrosser can be a great change, especially in autumn and winter – especially for all those who want to keep their beloved racing bike posture or simply prefer to ride on forest tracks rather than asphalt. It’s also great for mountain bikers who have been tempted by a road bike for a long time, but don’t really want to go out on the road.

Finally, a personal recommendation: get handlebar tape that is as soft as possible, as this will significantly increase comfort!

What about you? Do you already have a crosser and enjoy it? I look forward to hearing about your experiences!

STANDING FREELY WITH YOUR CAMPER VAN – A JOURNEY THROUGH THE (CONFUSING) LAWS OF EUROPE

19. October 2020
Tips and Tricks

Recently I had an idea: Why not just pack the camper and drive across Europe? Just travel and stay where I like or love it. The idea is generally not a bad one, but there are a few things to keep in mind, because you cannot simply park your camper or motorhome at the roadside or on the next best parking lot in Europe. In some European countries this is completely forbidden, in others there are strict rules and other countries have time or regional restrictions. So let’s bring a little light into the darkness and share Europe!

Before we start, one more remark: The regulations for camper parking spaces within Europe are sometimes very complex and confusing. This blog post only serves to give a rough overview of the individual countries. Often, however, regulations that only apply to a small region, a community or a specific season are also applicable. It should also be clear that we can only present the official rules and laws here. How they are implemented in the different countries and locations often depends on many factors that can only be summarized in a few cases. So don’t assume that this article is entirely accurate and complete and recheck the exact rules before starting your trip.

So, enough talking, here we go:

BAD NEWS FIRST – WILD CAMPING IS ALSO FORBIDDEN WITH THE MOTORHOME

In many European countries, free standing is unfortunately strictly prohibited. This has many different reasons, which are not always logical. In principle, however, one should stick to the prohibitions here, as otherwise (and especially in vacation regions) disregarding can lead to expensive fines. Furthermore, it probably does not help to relax if you are woken up by a police patrol in the middle of the night and are asked to drive on or to visit a camping site.

Nevertheless, in most countries there are good alternatives to conventional campsites. In many places, municipalities have designated camping sites. These are mostly conveniently located parking lots where standing is allowed for one night. However, if you want to spend the night on a pitch, you should inform yourself in advance what facilities (electricity, sanitary facilities, etc.) are available there and what the basic rules of conduct are. For example, it is often not allowed to put up chairs or extend the awning.

Another alternative in some countries may be standing on private ground. So if you don’t shy away from contact with the local population and have some diplomatic skills, you might have the chance to persuade a farmer or landowner to camp on his land. However, be careful, because in some countries even staying overnight in a camper van or motor home is not allowed.

Netherlands and Luxembourg

My first thought was: “That cannot be true!” I mean, the Netherlands are the camping country par excellence. But in reality it looks like the rules are very strict. In the Netherlands it is not uncommon to be punished with heavy penalties for standing freely. Luxembourg is no exception, so that in good conscience only the camping site or an officially designated pitch remains.

Switzerland

Also in Switzerland free standing is not allowed. Although there may be regional differences with regard to the exact legal situation and its enforcement, standing freely is and remains prohibited. In order to lend additional emphasis to this prohibition, there are signs on almost every parking lot that prohibit the parking of motor homes at night. There is, however, one ray of hope: Switzerland has numerous good parking spaces, which are not only beautifully located, but also surprisingly inexpensive in price.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Unfortunately, there is no precise legislation in the Czech Republic that regulates overnight stays in vehicles. In principle, camping is only allowed on designated campsites or pitches, which in turn prohibits wild camping (even though there is no specific legal text on this). This regulation also includes free standing with the motorhome.

Whoever is just passing through and would like to spend a night in the car (the smaller and more inconspicuous the Womo the better) can possibly get away with the legal grey area of “overtiredness” or “restoration of driving ability”. However, this should really only be seen as an emergency solution and is no guarantee that the police won’t drop by in the middle of the night and ask what’s going on.

IBERIAN PENINSULA

In Spain, wild camping or free standing with the motorhome is generally prohibited. However there is no nationwide regulation, which makes the exact legal situation very unclear. In some parts of the country even camping on private property is forbidden, even if one can prove the consent of the owner. In other parts of the country, the ban on wild camping is seen a little more relaxed. Basically, however, you should visit official camping sites in Spain. It is also important to pay attention to the current rules and regulations, because also here a violation can lead to penalties.

The situation in Portugal is similar to Spain. Standing freely is generally not allowed. Instead, you can fall back on a very good network of camping sites there.
An overview of the sites and their facilities can be found on the website of Turismo de Portugal.

The Balkans

Basically it can be said that free standing and wild camping of any kind is forbidden in the Balkans. Nevertheless, each country has its own laws, which in some places even differ from region to region. What applies where and how is often not clear to outsiders. In Greece, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Hungary you should look for a camping site or pitch. Otherwise, standing on private ground with the consent of the owner would also be an option.

If you already thought: “Damn, these are many countries with strict rules”, it could be even worse. In Bulgaria and Croatia not only the free standing is forbidden, also on private ground may not be spent the night in the camper, motor home or caravan. That is, even if you meet a hospitable population and for example a farmer gives you permission to stand on his meadow for one night, camping itself remains illegal and can lead to the fact that you are woken at night roughly by the police.

YES, NO, MAYBE – FREE STANDING IS POSSIBLE IN THESE COUNTRIES

There are countries in which free standing is neither really allowed nor really forbidden. Some countries allow free standing in principle, but then restrict it again strongly with regional or municipal bans. Others prohibit free standing by law, but do not prosecute it and thus tolerate the actually illegal behavior.

However, it is very important: If you want to stand freely in these countries, do it as unobtrusively as possible. I don’t mean hidden behind thick bushes, but rather that you behave impeccably. So don’t leave any garbage behind, don’t block a lot of parking spaces with your motorhome just because it’s more beautiful then and also hold back with loud music etc. Because one thing you should always keep in mind: One is often only tolerated here and a well-meant gesture quickly turns into the opposite if it is abused.

ICELAND

On Iceland, wild camping, as well as free standing with the camper is officially forbidden. However, this ban has often not been followed in the past, or in other words: free standing was tolerated for one night. In recent years, however, the volume of tourism on the island has increased significantly. This and the unfortunately not seldom inconsiderate behavior of some vacationers led however to the fact that the legal regulation was clearly intensified and is also implemented. In short: If you don’t want to get into trouble here, you should definitely go to a camping site.

FRANCE

Unfortunately, the legal situation in France is totally confusing. Here almost every place has its own regulations concerning wild camping or free standing. That means: First of all, wild camping is not forbidden in principle, but each community decides for itself how to deal with this issue. Each community can also designate special places, locations or areas where camping is allowed. Sometimes these are larger parking lots or the local Camping Municipal. However, camping is forbidden in nature reserves and in the immediate vicinity of springs, sights and monuments.

This does not mean that you cannot stand freely in France, you have to inform yourself on the spot.

A good alternative is also the “France Passion” system. This is a directory that lists over 2000 free parking spaces on private land throughout France. It is not uncommon to find farms or wineries that officially offer one night’s free parking for self-sufficient mobile homes.

GREAT BRITAIN

While free standing is possible in many places in Scotland, different regulations apply in England and Wales. So it is important to know the regional differences for Great Britain. In Scotland, if you keep a reasonable distance (of about 15-20 meters) from public roads, do not disturb or obstruct anyone and (if necessary) get the landowner’s OK, you are absolutely on the safe side.

In England and Wales the rules are much stricter. Nearly all parking spaces there have signs that explicitly prohibit standing overnight. Whoever stops here, however, must expect to be approached by the local law enforcement officers. But if you have the permission of the owner to camp on his private property, there should be no further problems.

AUSTRIA

Similar to France, municipalities and communities in Austria often cook their own little soup. Unfortunately, there is therefore no generally valid regulation. Depending on the area, standing for one night is tolerated. In the regions of Tyrol and Vienna, however, wild camping is prohibited throughout the country. How it behaves with the respective regulations exactly, one inquires best locally. In Austria there are also two large camping clubs, which can provide information.

YAY, THEY STILL EXIST! – THESE COUNTRIES ALLOW FREE STANDING

First of all: The fact that free standing is allowed or at least not prohibited does not mean that you can do whatever you want. Not breaking anything, not leaving any garbage behind, not disturbing anybody and behaving inconspicuously are only the basic rules, which one should actually always keep to anyway. In addition, many countries have additional regulations concerning free standing.

BELGIUM, ITALY, DENMARK AND GERMANY

In Germany you are allowed to stay with your motorhome for one night (and no longer) wherever it is not expressly forbidden. Whoever does this, however, should be aware of the exact legal situation, because this “interruption of the journey” officially only serves the “regeneration of fitness to drive“. Concretely: Whoever feels too tired to continue driving, no matter what time of day, should be allowed to stop in a suitable parking lot and rest until they can drive on again.

However, it is always difficult to define where “restoring fitness to drive” ends and where “camping” begins. If you make use of this regulation, you should never put out chairs, extend the awning, start a great barbecue or any similar activity. It is also recommended to “arrive” as late as possible and continue early the next day. As a rule, a standing time of no longer than 10 hours is assumed. So if you are passing through or want to spend one or two days in areas where the official campsites are clumsy, you will certainly get along well with this regulation.

This regulation applies in principle also to Belgium, Denmark and Italy. Unfortunately, in reality, many parking lots are equipped with prohibition signs. In Italy, this is especially the case in regions with a lot of tourism. It is also not uncommon for motor homes to be banned from entering these areas.

NORWAY AND SWEDEN

Also in Sweden and Norway, free standing is subject to certain conditions and should not be equated with the well-known ‘Everyman’s Right’. Staying overnight at a place outside an official camping or parking site is generally limited to one night. It is also not allowed to drive on forest roads, pathless terrain or nature reserves. In many places there are also regional regulations and bans. However, if you set up your caravan near the road away from populated areas in such a way that you do not obstruct anyone and do not damage the ground, you can easily camp here for one night with a motor home.

CONCLUSION

For many countries it is difficult to make clear and generally valid statements. If you are not sure which regulation applies to your vacation country or region, the tourism associations of the individual countries often help. The ADAC also provides a lot of useful information on this subject.

But no matter which local rules apply, one thing always applies in any case: Take your garbage with you and don’t bother or hinder anyone. After all, if you’re traveling in foreign countries, you’ll usually get more out of your vacation if you can make good time with the locals. And in this way it already worked sometimes that after a purchase of fruit, vegetable or wine from the regional producer, the camping permit on the property was given.

If travelling with a motorhome seems a bit too tricky to you and you are still considering switching to a tent, we will gladly forward you to the corresponding article about wild camping with a tent. In this sense “on the road again”…

Modal fabric: What is it?

12. October 2020
Equipment

In a nutshell, modal fabric is a mix of both synthetic and natural fibres.

But, let’s first take a look at how modal came about: It was created in the 60s during a search for new textile materials whose raw materials can be grown in central Europe.

For a long time, the textiles that emerged were used for specialty garments. However, ever since the interest in both an outdoor-lifestyle and sustainability grew, the demand of such fabrics (such as modal) has grown exponentially.

Synthetic or natural?

Modal is a fibre obtained by beech tree pulp, is chemically processed and is one of the nine regenerated fibres distributed in the world that consists of naturally renewable (“regenerated”) raw materials. Some other known regenerated fibres in the outdoor industry include viscose and Tencel. Plus, these fabrics are made of wood’s cellulose and are therefore called “chemical natural fibres” in contrast to pure natural fibres and synthetic fibres.

Modal is a “structurally-modified viscose with a higher degree of polymerisation (above 400 to 700) compared to normal viscose“. Due to this molecular “update”, modal obtains more functional advantages compared to viscose and is sometimes referred to as “the better viscose.” One of its advantages includes its amazing tensile strength when wet, which is especially useful for outdoor use. Also, modal is more durable, abrasion-resistant and is less prone to shrinkage compared to viscose.

In addition, two types of modal with slightly different functional emphases have been developed: a Polynosic (PN) type that can be optimally blended with cotton and a HWM (High Wet Modulus) type, which features a higher breaking strength and tensile strength. You can read more about this topic in the properties section.

How is it manufactured?

As already mention, modal consists of a raw material called beech wood. And, while viscose can be produced from various basic materials, beech wood is specifically used for modal. Now, let’s take a look at the production process: the wood is first debarked and chipped. Then, these chips are processed using a multi-stage chemical solution process and are then spun mechanically with a spinneret to form the fibres. As a result, cellulose fibres are produced.

Properties

Modal has the ability to combine the advantages of natural and synthetic fibres, without taking on any of their disadvantages. So, modal is a lot more durable than cotton, but still offers the equivalent amount of comfort. And, in comparison to other synthetic fibres, such as polyester, it provides just as much moisture management and feels even softer on the skin.

Both comfort and a pleasant microclimate are modal’s greatest advantages thanks to the fabric’s ability to absorb water and to quickly wick away moisture. Plus, modal absorbs 50% more moisture than cotton. Another advantage: the fabric is super breathable, which now brings us to modal’s amazing functionality. Here, many properties can be mentioned, for example, modal is very stretchy, durable, dimensionally stable, insensitive to heat and easy to care for. In other words, you can throw it into the washing machine and in the dryer without fear of damage, shrinkage or change of colour. And, no matter how many times the modal gets wet, it won’t affect its durability.

Up to now, modal has mainly been processed in fibre blends, where it often has a positive effect on the other fibres’ properties. For instance, cotton becomes softer, silk becomes more durable and linen becomes more stretchy.

Feel and comfort

When it comes to comfort, modal is super impressive. Its fibres’ smooth surface ensures not only softness but also comfort and a silky sheen. Speaking of silk, when touching modal, it’ll feel as if you’re touching silk.

So, it’s not surprising that modal is pleasant to the skin and great for both allergy sufferers and individuals with sensitive skin. As a result of its softness, you’ll mainly find modal in your underwear and other garments that are worn close to the skin. And, despite its softness, garments made of modal and modal blends don’t “sag”, but rather provide a great fit. This is due to the fact that the fabric is elastic, maintains its shape and remains comfortable even after several washes.

Modal for outdoor use

Modal is typically used to make underwear, shirts and long sleeves. And, its functionality really shines through with these garments.

Since modal is cooling rather than warming, it isn’t very windproof and weatherproof. So, modal will boast its amazing properties during strenuous activities and in hot temperatures. However, to create warm outdoor base layers, modal can be combined with merino wool to balance the temperature inside the garment (like an air conditioner).

Classification and comparisons

When comparing modal to natural fibres, such as cotton, or synthetic fibres, such as polyester, you’ll notice that modal stands-out in terms of functionality and eco-friendliness. Plus, in the field of synthetic/natural regenerated fibres, modal is a close-second to TENCEL Lyocell. However, the latter fabric is produced exclusively by the Austrian company called Lenzing AG. As a result, modal is likely to be more readily available in the long term and a tad cheaper. In addition to the TENCEL Lyocell, the company also produces a particularly eco-friendly modal fibre called “Modal Edelweiss”.

In terms of sustainability, the eco-friendly modal is better-than-average in terms of water consumption, energy consumption, land use, use of pesticides and pollutants and waste products compared to natural and synthetic fibres. And, unlike synthetic fibres, the production of modal doesn’t involve the use of fossil raw materials, such as petroleum and natural gas. It’s even more sustainable than natural materials, such as organic cotton, because less water and energy are needed to produce and process modal. As an example, the above-mentioned “Modal Edelweiss” from Lenzing was produced in a closed cycle, where 95% of the chemicals were recovered.

Care

As always, when buying a new garment made of modal, you should keep and read the instructions indicated on the care label. Plus, although modal is very easy to care for, you’ll get the most out of it with the right care. So, here are a few simple tips:

  • Washing the garment with the quick wash cycle prevents unnecessary stress.
  • Reducing the spin speed to a maximum of 600 rpm will also reduce stress.
  • Modal can also be ironed at a low or medium temperature. But luckily, ironing is usually not necessary, since the fabric doesn’t crease.

Bike protectors: The best protection whilst mountain biking

12. October 2020
Equipment

Whilst thinking about mountain biking, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the bike and then maybe the helmet, clothes, shoes and so on. But, do you also think about bike protection? In addition to a bike helmet, cycling glasses and gloves, other things will also prevent you from getting bruises, grazes and breaking a bone whilst mountain biking. In other words, bike protection is super important and shouldn’t be neglected.

Body armour, knee pads and elbows pads

If you’re a mountain biker who rides at high speeds on steep and narrow downhill trails or who enjoys jumps at the bike park, then you know that you need to be in control and that unexpected falls can occur. Plus, roots, boulders, gravel and undergrowth usually cover the trails. So, depending on your riding type and style, you may want to equip yourself with different types of protection. For example, you may opt for lighter protective clothing, such as a body armour and knee pads, for freeride and trails. However, comprehensive protection, such as a protective vest, elbow pads, knee pads and shin guards are required for downhill, enduro and riding in the bike park.

A general overview of the different protectors, their functions and areas of use can be found in the following sections:

Knee pads

If your bike slips from under you whilst curving or when landing after a jump, your knees will usually receive the most impact. Not only do they absorb shocks but they may also get scraped on rough grounds. Knee pads therefore have multiple functions: they cushion the impact, absorb generated energy and also protect against skin abrasion on slippery surfaces. However, in order for the knee pads to do their job, they need to fit correctly and cannot slip off during a fall. As a result, mountain biking knee pads are usually pulled on like a sleeve. The sleeve will fit perfectly around the knee thanks to the non-slip silicone coating and hook-and-loop fasteners.

In addition, the major difference between various knee pads are their caps. For example, soft, lightweight caps feature a cushioning foam that is protected by a Kevlar, or another similar textile, outer shell. Heavier and more durable types of knee pads feature a hard-cap usually made of durable plastic. Generally, soft caps are more breathable, while hard caps offer maximum protection, optimal non-slip properties and durability. So, for downhill, enduro and bike parks, you should definitely use knee pads that are equipped with hard caps. And, for freeride, touring and trails, you may prefer more lightweight and breathable knee pads.

Shin pads

Slipping off your pedals can sometimes leave bloody marks on your shins. That’s why some knee pads reach all the way down to your shins to protect both the knees and shins against injuries. Plus, there are so many different types on the market, for example some with soft caps, hard caps or a mixture of both (e.g. the knees have a hard cap, whilst the shins boast soft padding without a cap). There are even knee pads with removable shin guards available. However, shin guards, such as the ones used in football, are not common in mountain biking. In the case of mountain biking, the focus is placed on the knee pads; shin pads are rather used as a protective extension.

Elbow pads

When your bike slips sideways, your elbows can be at risk of being dislocated. So, the design and function of elbow pads are similar to that of knee pads. In addition, many companies, such as IXS, Poc or Leatt sell elbow pads that match the corresponding knee pads in terms of their area of use and design. And, not only do elbow pads defer in the cuff length but also in weight and breathability, similar to that of soft- and hard-caps.

Back protection and protector vests

In addition to head injuries, injuries to the back and the spine are a serious risk for mountain bikers. And, falling over the handlebars can lead to an unpleasant impact, pain and danger to your body. However, whilst wearing a body armour, it’ll absorb the energy of the fall thanks to the cushioning foam padding. Now, let’s take a look at the different models: some feature a lightweight design and are meant to be worn under a bike shirt or MTB jacket. Others are rather breathable softshell vests that are equipped with a removable protector in the back area. In addition, there are some body armours that are designed with a hard outer shell (“turtle design”) and others that are rather soft and flexible. Plus, designs featuring solid plastic can prevent your back from “overstretching” and can protect you against sharp-edged stones and roots. Also, softer designs ensure great comfort and are suitable for daily use.

Protective jackets

Protective jackets provide the best possible upper body protection. They’re equipped with both cushioning parts and hard caps and not only protect the complete arms, including elbows, forearms and shoulders but also the back, chest and ribs. Typically, these protective jackets are worn directly over a breathable functional shirt, so that the jacket fits as snug as possible. And, mountain bikers typically like to pull on a breezy donwhill jersey over the jacket. Also, thanks to their design, the other protectors cannot slip and will always fit perfectly. So, this comprehensive protection will provide you with maximum safety during dangerously speedy descents and falls.

However, protective jackets can be both uncomfortable and too warm for freeride and touring and are better suited for fast downhill rides, difficult off-road trails and in bike parks. Plus, modern protective jackets are usually equipped with an attachment option for neck braces. And, when combined with the corresponding full-face helmet, the neck will be very well protected against injuries.

Protective trousers

Thanks to impact shorts, falls are only half as painful whilst training and practicing new jumps. These fit snug and are unobtrusive when worn under normal MTB trousers. Plus, they feature cushioning inserts at the thighs, hips, seat and the coccyx to provide optimal protection at the areas which are not protected by knee pads or protective jackets. As a result, the impact shorts are perfect for downhill, bike parks and also for four-cross racing. Plus, mountain bikers are typically happy to take on the additional weight and comparably poor breathability in exchange for extra protection.

The best protectors for women, men and children

When selecting protectors, you may need to compromise between different factors, such as protection against injuries, freedom of movement, weight and breathability. For example, the most protective jackets, impact shorts and knee pads with hard caps are heavier and less breathable. However, companies such as O’Neal, Evoc and Komperdell are constantly trying to improve the breathability of their protectors by using both durable mesh and breathable fabrics to make them more lightweight and comfortable.

For enhanced comfort, the protectors are ergonomically adapted to men, women, teens and children. As a result, they’ll sit perfectly on the body whilst on the bike and stay in the correct position even during a small “slide” or fall. The only thing worse than not wearing any protector is wearing one that keeps on slipping and that can easily come off during a fall. So, you should invest in high-quality protection that can be fitted to your size and also offer lots of mobility and comfort.

How to store and care for bike protectors

Many mountain bikers own different types of protectors depending on the type of tour or route they take. And, after a strenuous tour, race or ride in the bike park, the protectors are usually quite dirty and sweaty. So, you should dry and air them out after every use. This will not only extend their life but they’ll also smell less strong in the long run. Also, once the protectors get dirty or start to smell after a few rides, it’s time for a proper wash.

Some protectors can be washed at 30° C in the washing machine. Even protective vests featuring a removable back plate can be thrown into the washing machine. But, washing them by hand with a mild soap and lukewarm water is more gentle on the equipment. It’s also not advised to wash both your clothes and protectors with hard plastic caps at the same time in the washing machine because this could damage both the caps and the machine. Also, after having hand-washed the pads, they should be hung up in the shade till they are completely dry. You should also avoid both placing them in the direct sunlight and tumble-drying them to prevent damage to the material.

As for storage, they should be kept in a dark, dry and well-ventilated room with no direct UV radiation. Here, they can survive winter or wait a while till your next adventure.

Conclusion

Oftentimes, we start thinking about protection once it’s too late – when filled with bruises, abrasions or even after breaking a bone. So, you should definitely think about this beforehand to enjoy your mountain biking adventures to their fullest!

Altitude training – basics, tips and when it’s worth it

1. October 2020
Alpinetrek-Experts

If you’ve already conquered a mountain, then you’ve probably heard this sentence before: “Whew, the air is getting thin up here…” This isn’t noticeable on a classic hill walk or via ferrata but you’ll notice it whilst mountaineering at altitudes between 3,000 and 4,000 metres. But, the air isn’t necessarily getting “thin”, but the number of oxygen molecules per litre of air volume rather decreases with increasing height. So, there’s a decrease in atmospheric pressure. As a result, your body will want to fight this and you’ll notice that both your breathing speed and pulse have increased. So, if you want to prepare for mountaineering, an expedition or longer stays at high altitude, then altitude training is recommended. This training leads to an increase in the number of red (oxygen-transporting) blood cells in your body.

What is “altitude training”?

The definition goes as follows: “Altitude training is the targeted use of an undersupply of oxygen (hypoxia) to the organism as a stimulus to increase performance”.

When should you start your altitude training? And, when will you notice its effect?

Whether you plan on conquering the Kilimanjaro, Denali or Mount Everest in the Himalayas, a tour at high altitudes should always be carefully planned and prepared. And, both your equipment and physical fitness will play a major role in your success. So, to prepare your body for the special conditions at high altitudes, we recommend you follow an altitude training program before going on your tour. Plus, the effect of “thin air” is very diverse. For example, when it comes to endurance sports, altitude training has been known to increase performance. And, acclimatisation has long been used in mountaineering.

In addition, as of 2,000 m in altitude, the “thinner air“ begins to have an effect on the body. Here, both sensitive and previously ill persons will already experience their first symptoms of altitude sickness. And, the severity of the symptoms of acute mountain sickness (AMS) depends on several factors, such as: How physically fit you are and how good your general health is. In addition, some individuals may acclimatise faster than others with the same physical fitness level simply based on their genetics. And, experience may also be a helpful factor. Also, whilst ascending a mountain or trekking at high altitudes, you should take into consideration both the speed of the ascent and possible additional acclimatisation days required.

Regardless of the altitude, the oxygen concentration in the air is at 20.9% all over the world. However, the atmospheric pressure decreases with increasing altitude and the partial pressure of oxygen simultaneously decreases. As a result, this effect leads to an undersupply of oxygen to the body (hypoxia). You can find all important information about altitude sickness in this article.

Does altitude training really improve performance?

Journeying at high altitudes leads to an adaptation process in the body due to the reduced supply of oxygen. This includes a sensitization of the breathing activity, i.e. ventilation, just like when the body is stressed. In addition, the release of the body’s own hormone erythropoietin (EPO) is also stimulated. EPO is produced in the kidneys and takes care of the formation of new red blood cells in the bone marrow. At the same time, the body increases the amount of haemoglobin available. Haemoglobin binds oxygen and has a positive effect on endurance by increasing the oxygen transport capacity in the arterial blood.

Plus, several studies have come to the conclusion that physical exertion under hypoxia leads to changes at the muscular level, such as the increased enzyme activity of the energy metabolism. And, an increase in the muscular oxygen storage, the myoglobin, was also observed.

So, altitude training is perfectly suited for performance-oriented athletes who want to improve their endurance under controlled conditions. In case you didn’t know, altitude training has already been included in the training plans of endurance sports, long-distance running, triathlon and cycling athletes. However, even ambitious mountaineers who want to prepare for a high mountain ascent can improve their performance through altitude training.

Which form of altitude training is the most effective and useful?

In order to achieve the positive effects of your training for improved endurance performance, it’s important that a training stimulus is set under the same altitude conditions. Because simply staying at a high altitude without a specific training stimulus does not bring any significant benefits to improve your performance. So, there’s no use spending a few days in a hut in the Alps and playing cards all day. Running, hill walking and climbing at high altitudes is therefore necessary to achieve your goal.

How long does altitude training take?

Many experts and physicians have different opinions on this topic. A minimum stay of one week to ten days (after sufficient adjustment) is required for maximum efficiency, i.e. to be able to carry out performance-enhancing training. However, stays of three to four weeks would be ideal. In addition, top athletes often attend altitude training camps several times a year. But, this isn’t practical or even necessary for an amateur athlete because it’s so time-consuming. And in general, targeted altitude training over seven to ten days can already lead to the aforementioned positive effects for many athletes. Also, there are even special providers who not only organise high altitude training camps but also provide medical care and give advice to the participants.

How long does the effect of altitude training last?

The duration of both the training’s effects and the adaptation effects remain controversial in the field of science. The first few days after a longer stay at high altitudes involves a regeneration phase, which means that you should reduce both the amount of trainings and the intensity. You may even notice a drop in your performance at first, so a short break can help you get back on your feet. Also, various studies have come to the conclusion that the effect of good altitude training lasts between three and five weeks and probably even longer. Plus, red blood cells (erythrocytes) only live in the body for a maximum of 120 days. As a result, the effects cannot last more than 4 months.

Training with an altitude mask and in an altitude tent

With technical aids, altitude training can be carried out without mountains, be it in the city or at home. There are several products on the market, such as masks or tents that can be used for training and simulate “artificial hypoxia”. For example, a person may ride a bicycle ergometer and breathe through a special mask to simulate reduced oxygen conditions. Plus, there are also tents that can be set up on your bed and will simulate sleeping in hypoxic conditions. Also, some cities now feature altitude training centres that provide special training rooms in hypoxic conditions and can therefore also simulate altitude training.

Since every person reacts differently to altitude and some people even suffer from “altitude sickness”, it makes sense to check your tolerance before going on your mountaineering adventure. Also, a medical check should be carried out before starting your long, high-altitude journey, as well as before a simulated altitude training. So, if you’re preparing for an expedition or high-altitude trek, training in special hypoxic chambers can be quite useful.

Is altitude training harmful? Is it doping?

A long stay at high altitudes always puts a physical strain on the body, unless you were born and raised in regions at an altitude of 4,000 metres and above. So, attending an altitude training camp is therefore recommended and should be planned carefully. Otherwise you may drain your body rather than increase your fitness level. In addition, altitude training is not considered doping and is allowed before competitions. In contrast to doping with drugs or forbidden substances, the athlete only utilizes the natural effects of altitude during altitude training. As a result, both the body’s own processes and adaptation are exerted without the use of substances.

Is altitude training also useful for recreational athletes?

A well-planned altitude training can be very useful for recreational athletes and hobby alpinists. So, it’s important to consolidate your own endurance performance and ensure that it’s at a good level beforehand. In other words, you should do sports, run and hill walk on a regular basis for a few years before considering an altitude training camp. Also, a good state of health along with some experience with training are necessary to achieve a positive effect.

For recreational athletes, we recommend not going too hard with the training right off the bat and not to work at maximum intensity straight away. Your own assessment will improve with time and your body will then be able to take on new training impulses.

A summary of altitude training

In conclusion, altitude training can also be used to improve performance in popular sports under certain conditions. On the other hand, on trekking tours to high altitudes on the Andes, mountains in the Himalayas or even on the 4,000 m peaks in the Alps, it makes a lot more sense to reduce the symptoms of acute mountain sickness or to possibly even eliminate them in advance. Lastly, your training goal should be specific and strategic; a simple stay at high altitudes is not enough to achieve meaningful adaptation effects.

The perfect cycling jacket for your next bicycle tour

1. October 2020
Equipment, Tips and Tricks

Not only is it necessary to wear a cycling jacket in the colder months but it can even protect you from an unexpected downpour or cold winds in spring and summer. Plus, only with a great jacket can you complete your tour with the necessary vigour.

You may ask yourself: how should you choose a cycling jacket based on your different requirements? Which details, equipment and other features should you pay attention to before purchasing a cycling jacket? To help you out, we’d like to present to you a few models that are suitable for the most diverse conditions.

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Choosing the right cycling glasses

20. August 2020
Equipment

The trails are muddy and dirt is flying up from all sides because of the terrific tempo – and you keep having to screw your eyes shut because you left your cycling glasses at home again. Something like this has happened to every mountain biker, especially when you’re starting out.

Cycling glasses are one of the most important accessories when you’re out on a mountain bike – or on a road bike, too. We’ll now explain why you should always have them with you, and what eyewear is right for you!

 

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MIPS – Brainy Helmet Technology

16. July 2020
Equipment

Through advances in technology and scientific insights, all sports – along with the materials that go with them – are constantly being developed. This has enormous consequences, especially for skiing. The sport keeps getting faster, you ski down steeper faces, dare to take bigger jumps and do more crazy tricks.

This is all well and good – but the only logical consequence is that the safety technology has to keep being developed, too, so that you’re well protected even at higher speeds. The MIPS helmet system is just such a development.

We’ll explain where it’s come from, what it can do and who it’s suitable for.

What is MIPS?

MIPS is a safety system for helmets of all kinds. It was developed by 5 Swedish scientists from the KTH (Royal Institute of Technology) in Stockholm, and is the result of 30 years of work.

What does MIPS mean?

MIPS stands for Multi Directional Impact Protection System. In plain English, it’s a system that is designed to provide protection against impacts with different directions of movement/ force. These different directions of force are generated when the helmet is hit at an angle.

Standard helmets are best at absorbing static (straight) impacts that hit the helmet at a right angle and do not generate any rotational force.

Static impacts are unrealistic – you mostly hit the ground or other obstacles at an angle – and this is why the MIPS system was developed. It absorbs both static and rotational forces.

How do rotational forces occur?

When impact occurs at an angle, the force generated from the impact is not just transferred in a single direction but in many, because the forces are distributed according to the vector principle. This results in rotational force, which serves to absorb the force of the impact. This force holds great risks because it causes the brain to hit against the outer wall of the skull, resulting in a concussion or worse.

How does the MIPS system work?

The MIPS system is modelled on the human brain. To protect the brain, there is fluid between it and the cranial bone. When the head is hit, the resulting rotational forces are reduced by minimal movements of this layer of fluid, preventing the force from being transferred to the brain.

The MIPS copies this layer, so to speak. This is achieved using a movable second shell integrated into the helmet’s outer shell. This second shell sits directly on the head.

So, when angled impact occurs, the resulting rotational force is not transferred to the head, but is instead reduced through the movement between the first and second layers.

This system is very effective and can easily be incorporated into any helmet.

What are the disadvantages?

Since the system is still in its infancy and is only just starting to be used by helmet brands, at the moment it is still very expensive. There is also no data on the lifespan of the system or whether it must be replaced after every accident. What’s more, there is still the question of how snug the helmet has to be in order for it to provide its full protection.

The only thing you could really call a “disadvantage” is that the helmets are 50-100 grams heavier than regular ones. But for this extra safety, we’re all willing to bear some extra weight, right?

All in all, there are no discernible disadvantages, since this is undoubtedly for own safety.

Who is the system for?

The system is for anybody who wants to be well protected. At the moment, all sorts of top athletes are testing it in their disciplines, but it is establishing itself on the market more and more, and really it’s suitable for anyone. There are already helmets with MIPS on offer for cycling, too. Since the system can be built very compactly, there are no restrictions on who can wear it, either.

What should you consider when shopping for a MIPS helmet?

The helmet should not only look stylish, it should also fit perfectly. Other than that, the same “rules” apply as when you’re buying a normal helmet. You can find further information on this here in our blog.

Where can I buy helmets with the MIPS system?

You can find helmets fitted with the MIPS system from different brands in our online shop. Amongst others, companies such as POC, Giro and Sweet Protection offer helmets with MIPS. There’s a good selection available, so you’re sure to find a helmet with MIPS that suits your taste.

Even with MIPS, you won’t have to sacrifice any useful features, as the helmets mostly have the same features as conventional ones – for example, the POC Helmet Backcountry MIPS Ducroz Edition, which you can find on our online shop. As well as the MIPS system, this helmet also has detachable ear pads, an integrated Recco reflector and is compatible with Beats by Dr. Dre headphones. Plus, the size is adjustable so it can “grow” with its wearer – perfect for kids!

The ski helmet Trooper MIPS from Sweet Protection is a fantastic all-rounder: designed for all kinds of skiing and snowboarding, its size adjustment, carbon outer shell, shock-absorbing lining and cooling system are sure to impress.

The future of MIPS

The MIPS system is bound to become the standard within a few years and will also continue to be improved, because it is a system that really substantially increases our safety and that can be used in any helmet for any kind of sport. In any case, there is incentive for the big players to further develop the system so they can stay competitive in the market for the foreseeable future.

If you have further questions or aren’t sure which product to choose, our customer service team will be glad to assist you. Philip is our inhouse expert when it comes to helmets. You can contact him during the week on +49 (0)7121/70 12 0 or by email.

There is always something happening in the climbing and outdoor worlds. New products are developed, existing ones are revised or improved, and we learn something new every day, too. And, of course, we want to share our knowledge with our customers. That’s why we regularly revise our Base Camp articles. So don’t be surprised if a few things have changed after a couple of months. This post was last updated on 01/02/2016.

How to sh** properly in the woods…

24. April 2020
Tips and Tricks

It’s a perfect day: the sun is shining and you’re heading climbing with some friends. You arrive at the foot of the wall, pack your things and get climbing. It’s your turn to belay first, which isn’t too bad because the sun is so beautiful and a bumblebee is flying around entertaining you as your friends tell stories; life is beautiful. Then suddenly the wind turns and you think Hm, that’s not wildflowers that I can smell.

At some point during the morning, you feel a twinge in your bladder. You run a few metres into the forest and behind the next bush hides a frightening sight – it’s a minefield! White ‘flags’ lined up in rows warn against continuing along this path. You realise where that smell was coming from. Going any further is not an option.

The more people climbing, the greater the problem of what they leave behind. But while it’s relatively easy to dispose of cigarette butts, bottles, paper waste and other rubbish, and these kinds of things will often be picked up by kind passers by, getting rid of poo is a little… harder. Yet this waste is more problematic; not only does it look and smell bad, it can also become a real threat to the environment as well as human and animal health.

Some Facts

“It’s completely natural and will decay, so why clean it up?” This is true, but few people realise that it takes a long time for these things to decay. Tissue, for example, takes about three months. Excrement doesn’t take so long, but will still be lingering after about two weeks.

Let’s do a simple calculation. We are at a beautiful climbing wall. Every weekend, about 100 people come here to climb. If everyone left their business, that would be 100 dumps and 100 tissues. As these dumps take a long time to disappear, that’s 400 dumps a month. Just think about how the forest will look and smell after one season. Admittedly unbleached toilet paper decays faster, but even that takes a few weeks and it doesn’t look nice.

Tissues are also questionable from a sustainability standpoint because of the manufacturing process. A lot of water, energy and wood is used in their manufacture. In addition, dangerous substances are discharged into water bodies through chemical treatment. You can find more information on the Federal Environment Agency’s webpages.

The unhealthy business…

Actually, there is not much negative to discover about excrement, stool or faeces – apart from the fact it’s just gross. In the ecosystem, faeces play an important role, for instance as fertiliser or as food for fungi and mites. The scarab beetle even uses excrement to reproduce by laying its eggs in it.

However – and this is where it becomes problematic – excrement can also transport a lot of nasty substances. Simply put, it contains everything that our body either cannot digest or simply wants to get rid of very quickly. Therefore, countless bacteria, viruses, bacilli, parasites and other unpleasant things can be found in faeces. It becomes particularly unpleasant when pathogens travel and enter areas where they are not actually native.

But animals do it?

Yes, animals also poo in the woods, but that’s not a reason we should; the comparison is flawed. Animals also transport pathogens in their faeces, so water from streams near grazing fields should not be drunk unless it’s been filtered.

And, animals usually spread their excrement over large areas. A deer has the whole forest at its disposal, while climbers are usually limited to a few square metres near the wall.

And, animal waste can also be pretty nasty. Many farmers have to deal with dog poo which contaminates their hay.

So, what should you do?

  • Use suitable facilities: take some time after a good breakfast to do your business in the comfort of your own home. If you’re not ready at that point, maybe you can stop at a service station on the way. Some areas have even installed toilet facilities. Granted, they may not have the most pleasant odour, but it’s for a good cause.
  • Distance matters: going a couple of metres further into the woods has never hurt anyone – except maybe in bad horror movies. Stay away from the nearest water and any favourite bushes. If you are above a body of water, you should take extra care to ensure sufficient distance between yourself and the water. When i

    t next trains, your waste will be washed in and travel along the whole water course. And nobody wants that.

  • Burying: Dig a deep hole (30 cm) and do your business in there. Digging a hole has many benefits. The poo decomposes much faster, animals cannot dig it up so quickly, the rain does not wash it away and it spares others from seeing and smelling it- and stepping in it. But what should you dig with? Approach shoes have pretty hard soles, sticks can be helpful, or if you know you will be digging for a long time, you can get shovels for that purpose.
  • If you can’t bury it: sometimes the ground is too hard and too dry to dig a deep enough hole. In that case, you’ll have to take it with you. You’ll need a bag (plastic is recommended) and the aforementioned shovel. Wrap the bag around the shovel, pick it up and then roll the bag back so it encases everything. The mine is wrapped up. When you next reach civilisation, you can dispose of it. If you’re away for a longer time, we recommended bringing an extra box to store the waste.

I know it’s not particularly appetising, but, hey, it’s natural and you should be able to do it if you’re tough enough to take on this kind of adventure.

The supposedly easy choice of the right outdoor socks

8. April 2020
Buyer's guide

Walking socks – not a lot to talk about, right? But if you take a look at any manufacturer’s description of their latest high-tech socks, you’ll probably lose all hope. Hundreds of material combinations, plus a wide variety of yarn counts and innovative product treatments make the once ordinary knitted sock from yesteryear a product that now requires a great deal of advice. It might be hard to believe but choosing the right outdoor socks is an underestimated task.

What should walking socks do?

The first question is: are you looking for socks for hillwalking, which are normally worn with mid-cut, lightweight and breathable shoes? Or are you shopping for more serious trekking tours where you’ll be carrying a heavy backpack? Or do you need socks for a winter hike?

Die richtige Outdoor-Socken findenFirstly, there is a right answer for all these uses. In general, however, an ideal sock should protect the foot from friction and therefore, from blisters. It should offer cushioning around the heel, support for the ball of the foot when rolling and it should quickly transfer moisture outwards. This last point is particularly important, because you lose up to a quarter of litre of moisture in sweat from your feet every day.

It makes sense then that the vast majority of manufacturers of functional socks rely on synthetic fibre materials whose core competence is the transfer of sweat. These make the perfect team with a suitable pair of Gore-Tex shoes. In addition, there are various proportions of elastane (for stretch socks), merino wool (and not just for the feel-good factor) as well as treatments of all kinds (e.g. Polygiene) to prevent odours and more.

Sock Buying Essentials

Point 1: a wrinkle-free fit! No matter what kind of trip you’re planning for, your socks – thick or thin, synthetic fibre or merino wool – must fit perfectly. If they wrinkle at the toes or anywhere else, this results in unpleasant friction and pressure points, which can lead to blisters. Good shoes mean nothing if your socks don’t fit.

Die richtige Outdoor-Socken findenPoint 2: with or without padding? As a rule of thumb: the heavier bag on your back, the better the padding on your socks should be. There is a wide variety of designs – with more cushioning in the heel area, the midfoot and/or the toes. For summer day trips in low mountain ranges, you can definitely go for a thinner pair with little or no padding. If you’re heading off on a trekking tour with a tent and sleeping bag on your back or walking in winter, you should pick a thick pair of socks and also make sure the padding fits well for you!

Point 3: the material. Polyamide, polyester, merino, elastane? This is a personal choice. All materials have their own pros and cons, it’s all about the perfect blend. Polyamide, for example, is generally more abrasion resistant than polyester and is mainly used in particularly stressed areas such as the heel and toes. Merino at the ankle and midfoot provides comfort and padding, while a stretch-polyester blend on the instep improves fit and breathability. In addition, there are inserts which increase the compression pressure to promote blood circulation. Every company has their own recipe for the perfect outdoor socks!

Trivia and practical tips and tricks

Three simple questions to find the perfect socks:

  1. Which season am I walking in? This helps decide whether the socks should be thin or thick and whether they should have a higher content of virgin wool (in winter).
  2. wool_compression_socksWhat kind of touring am I planning? A hiking tour with light footwear? Then a mid-cut pair with little to moderate padding is recommended. A difficult mountain or trekking tour? Then go for a shin-high pair with more padding. Ski touring or trail running? Compression socks can be very useful.
  3. What kind of shoes am I wearing? Even the most breathable pair of socks isn’t much use if you’re wearing full leather shoes. Socks with a higher proportion of virgin wool and padding to reduce friction and pressure points would be appropriate here. For breathable and lightweight Gore-Tex shoes on the other hand, I prefer socks with Coolmax, Fibretech or similar polyester/polyacrylic fibres.

I shouldn’t complain either when my good old cotton socks feel like heavy, wet rags after 800 metres of ascent because of dripping sweat. The right combination of shoes and socks makes the biggest difference – and this is something that everyone has to find for themselves.

And last but not least two comments on frequently asked questions: Never wear freshly washed socks! this may sound disgusting to cleanliness champions, but there’s a serious reason behind it: detergent residues in the sock fabric can attack the sensitive foot skin and when mixed with sweat, can cause irritation. You can easily avoid this by wearing your walking socks at home after washing and before the next trip.

The second point is about the debate on wearing two pairs of socks at the same time. I don’t want to take sides at this point, but I’ll weigh up the advantages and disadvantages from my own experience. When military service still existed and young recruits had to march 30, 40 or 50 kilometres with luggage, we were instructed to wear two pairs of socks if we had problems with blisters. And lo and behold, I have never had problems with blisters – despite or perhaps even thanks to wearing two pairs of coarse cotton socks together.

In my own time, I enjoys hikes and hill walks in a proper, modern pair of walking socks – and lo and behold, they were also great. The most important thing is that the socks and shoes fit perfectly. Recently, I was embarrassed to have problems with pressure points whilst mountaineering (admittedly, I was wearing pretty new mountaineering boots). And who would have thought it, all my worries were forgotten with a second pair of socks…

The sole’s worn out, but the shoe’s still good? Which brands offer resoling services?

20. March 2019
Care tips

Even the highest-quality shoes have their limits, and those limits can be as low as a couple hundred miles. After a certain amount of wear, soles can show major signs of wear and tear, especially in the areas where they’re subjected to the most pressure. The material can even begin to crumble right before your very eyes, with scratches and holes developing on the rubber rand. All in all, things can start to look pretty grim down there after a while. Even with all that happening to the sole of the shoe, the nicely broken-in upper can escape virtually unscathed and have tons of life left in it.

As products of the throw-away society we live in, most of us would probably just toss the run-down shoes in the rubbish bin and go buy new ones. After all, there’s hardly anything quicker or easier than just getting rid of them.

How about you get the shoes repaired instead? After all, getting them repaired can be significantly cheaper than buying a brand-new pair, especially when it comes to expensive, high-quality mountaineering boots. This option not only saves resources and saves you money, but also allows you to get the most out of a good pair of boots. Of course, there’s always a third option. You could just keep on wearing them until they officially kick the bucket. Of course, I wouldn’t recommend that. You wouldn’t want your boots falling apart as you’re climbing steep, rocky terrain, nor would you be doing your feet and ankles any favours walking around in boots with worn-out and potentially deformed soles.

When is a repair worth it?

As you probably already know, shoe soles wear out much faster than the rest of the shoe. When the tread is worn down to the point that it is hardly visible anymore, then it’s definitely time for a new sole. At this point, you should also have a look at the lower portion of the shoe for any other signs of material ageing. Of course, this is easier said than done. Oftentimes, signs of ageing can’t be seen from the outside because they’re developing on the inside as well. This has less to do with physical strain and much more to do with moisture.

There’s even a technical term for the moisture-induced deterioration of the inside of the sole (more specifically: the midsole and heel wedge), namely hydrolysis. Hydrolysis is something you want to avoid at all costs. In fact, it’s the main reason why proper care, thoroughly drying your shoes (during and after your trips) as well as storing them in a dry place are all so important!

Whether and when it’s worth it to get your shoes repaired is, of course, a question of cost as well. The costs depend on what kind of shoes they are and how many parts of the sole need to be replaced. In other words, getting a pair of walking or trekking boots repaired will be cheaper than crampon-compatible mountaineering boots.

Climbing shoes are usually the cheapest to repair. Replacing the worn-out sole of a climbing shoe will usually run around €20-€60. It’d probably be cheaper if you just went to your local cobbler, but cobblers usually lack the expertise in climbing shoes and mountaineering boots. It’s really hit or miss. For quality brand-made mountaineering boots, sole repairs can cost around €40 to €80, depending on the repairer and the time needed to finish the job. Online, the prices can skyrocket up to €100. That may sound like a lot of money, but when you think about how much you’d have to spend for new boots, it’s still much cheaper.

If your shoe has a membrane (e.g. Gore-Tex), make sure the shoes are still waterproof before getting them repaired. If they’re not, it might be a good idea to buy new ones instead. Obviously, this is a non-issue with full leather boots or those without membranes.

How do repairs work? What are the possibilities?

In principle, replacing the sole of a shoe is very simple: The old, damaged sole is sanded down or removed, and the new one is glued on – that’s about it. However, in practice, it can be much more difficult than it sounds, even if nothing else has to be replaced. That being said, it’s best to leave the whole process to professionals who are not only familiar with the process and the sole unit but also capable of replacing the shoe rand.

To get the shoes into the hands of a professional, you can usually go through the retailer you bought them from. The dealer will then send the shoes to the manufacturer. Collection or shipment of the repaired shoes will also be handled by the dealer. Returning the shoes to the manufacturer directly is only possible in rare cases, which is why several shoe manufacturers list authorised dealers on their websites. We’ll have a look at the requirements of renowned mountaineering boot brands in the Alpinetrek shop in the final section of this article.

Alternatively, the following three options remain:

  • Send it in to an online repair service for climbing shoes and mountaineering boots: This is a relatively safe option, but not the fastest or the cheapest.
  • Contact a cobbler in your area and ask if they can repair climbing shoes/mountaineering boots: It’s kind of the luck of the draw, but you might just get lucky. Keep it mind that you probably won’t get the brand’s original sole when it’s replaced. That being said, this may not be the safest route, but could very well be the cheapest and the fastest.
  • Do it yourself: Not only does this option involve using adhesives, like Freesole, but there’s also really no guarantee of success, even if you’re only replacing the outsole. Just how difficult the process can be is clear by how many people have been unsuccessful. Just read some of the posts on this topic in outdoor forums and see for yourself! Another reason for not DIY-ing it is that you’ll probably have to get other parts of the shoe replaced as well, like the midsole and heel wedge, which is where things get extremely complicated. Not only do we lack the tools to do it properly, we also lack the knowledge. But, if it really is only the outsole that needs to be replaced, you could try replacing it using this guide (German link only).

Exceptional case: Warranty

If the sole of the shoe becomes unusable within the warranty period, despite normal and “proper” use, there may be a defect in the design, allowing you to file a warranty claim.

If you bought the defective shoe or boot from Alpinetrek, they will do everything in their power to help you with a warranty claim! If the warranty claim is justified, you are entitled to a replacement or a refund, if the former is not possible. If you can file a warranty claim, do not attempt to get the shoes repaired by anybody other than an authorised professional, as any improper repairs performed by unauthorised service partners will make the warranty void. Even if the shoes are returned to the retailer, it is more likely that they will be exchanged than repaired.

Further information on this procedure can be found on the Alpinetrek warranty claim page.

Information regarding different manufacturers’ warranty policies can be found in the last section of this article.

Can all shoes be repaired? What kind of construction does the shoe have to have?

Usually, it is only possible to resole shoes with a “cemented” or ““double-stitched” construction. These constructions connect the insole, outsole and other lower parts of the shoes in such a way that a clean separation and renewal of the sole is possible.

Another kind of construction is known as Strobel, which doesn’t allow for a shoe to be resoled. At most, you could have the outsole sanded or glued. The Strobel construction involves the outsole being applied without glue using injection moulding, which makes it difficult to remove. This construction is used for softer and more flexible footwear. You can easily recognise Strobel shoes by the seam that runs along the inside of the shoe between the upper and the insole. To see the Strobel seam, all you have to do is remove the footbed. With the cemented construction, you’ll see the insole, but you won’t see any stitching.

List of the manufacturers that replace soles

If you’re the proud owner of a high-quality pair of mountain or trekking boots, chances are you can get your shoe resoled by the manufacturer. However, this service is only offered by some of the high-end manufacturers. All the other brands will give you a replacement pair, provided your shoes are still under warranty. Once the warranty has expired, getting the shoe repaired will be difficult, to say the least.

In the following, you can find out how some of the best brands in our shop go about repairs:

Hanwag, Mammut and Lowa offer repair services outside the warranty period of two years, but it is not free. How much it costs depends on the individual case. Repairs can be arranged directly with the manufacturer, but it usually takes several weeks.

La Sportiva and Boreal do make repairs outside the warranty period upon request and only in rare cases. All other manufacturers only offer repairs within the warranty period and with restrictions. There include: Edelrid, Haglöfs, Salewa, Martini (very slow), Duckfeet (refers you to cobblers in Germany if you’re at fault or the product is no longer under warranty), Mavic, Montura (very slow).

That’s about it all the info I have on the world of shoe repairs. It may seem a bit complicated at first, but with the info from this article – and a couple of phone calls to the dealer or manufacturer – getting your shoes resoled should be a piece of cake.

Here are some of the things I found out whilst researching:

  • Lowa: can be contacted directly without having to contact the retailer first. If you would like to have your Lowa shoes resoled, you can contact the Lowa service department directly for an offer.
  • Hanwag: offers resoling for all models, but there is no way for you to arrange it with the manufacturer. The shoes must be sent in through a dealer, who also provides information as to the exact costs.
  • Mammut: has detailed information on the repair process listed on their website.
  • Meindl: also offers resoling services for all models, but the shoes have to be sent in through a dealer.
  • Garmont: doesn’t provide any repair information.
  • According to Salewa, they have “(…) established a local specialist with (their) own branch in each market since 2014 that trains partners and provides them with the necessary spare soles and parts. The fixing of new soles can therefore be carried out flexibly and quickly thanks to short transport routes.
  • Salomon: here you will only find general warranty and repair information.
  • Scarpa: does not provide repair information, but does have a dealer search function (German link only).
  • Aku: does not provide repair information, but does have a dealer search function.
  • Dachstein: does not provide repair information, but does have a dealer search function.
  • Keen: does not provide repair information, but does have a dealer search function.

Any questions? Feel free to comment below!

Aramid/Kevlar: A Super Material for the Outdoors?

28. February 2019
Equipment

A lightweight, cut and puncture-resistant fabric that is used for bulletproof vests, heat-resistant uniforms or even aircraft construction. Yeah, at first glance, aramid, otherwise known by the brand name Kevlar, seems much more suitable for superhero costumes than for outdoor sports. But the properties of this very special fabric come in extremely useful in a variety of outdoor products, including gloves, trousers, helmets, backpacks and cordage. In other words, it’s definitely worth taking a closer look at aramid and how it can benefit us mountain and outdoor athletes.

What is aramid?

In a nutshell, aramid is a kind of polyamide and thus another one of the numerous hydrocarbon or petroleum-based polymers. On Wikipedia, the definition is a bit more precise, but more complex:

Aramid fibers are a class of heat-resistant and strong synthetic fibers. […] The name is a portmanteau of ‘aromatic polyamide’. The chain molecules in the fibers are highly oriented along the fiber axis. As a result, a higher proportion of the chemical bond contributes more to fiber strength than in many other synthetic fibers. Aramides have a very high melting point (>500 °C).

Why is it called an “aromatic polyamide”? Good question! This group of substances (at least in parts) actually releases intense (scented) aromas, which are often perceived as pleasant. As interesting as this may be, we’re much less interested in the smell than we are in the material’s functional properties.

But before we get to the most interesting and relevant ones, here is some more information on the development of the material: In the mid sixties, the American DuPont Group conducted quite a bit of research on the practical use of aramids. In the process, they developed the best-known kind of aramid Kevlar and made it ready for commercial use. Kevlar is presumably the only trade name you as an outdoor enthusiast have ever heard, seeing as this aramid fibre is often used in outdoor and mountaineering products. Actually, Kevlar is the only aramid fibre found in this area, which is why we’ll focus primarily on it and leave aramid products, like Nomex, Teijinconex, Twaron or Technora to fire fighters, soldiers and astronauts…

Production

The production of aramids is diverse and complex, to say the least. They are produced more often as fibres than as films. In the complex world of fibre science, a distinction is made between low-modulus and high-modulus fibres, the functional properties of which differ somewhat from one another.

High modulus fibres are spun from a liquid crytalline solution of poly-paraphenylene terephtahalamide in concentrated sulphuric acid. After the surface treatment, high-modules fibres are mechanically stretched to yield a highly oriented polymer. The “high degree of orientation” makes for a clean-looking pattern. The exact geometry is just as characteristic of aramid as the golden yellow colour, which brings us to the properties of aramid.

Properties

In their own description of their Kevlar product, DuPont emphasises that these fibres are “better, stronger and safer” in the great outdoors: “DuPont™ Kevlar® aramid fiber allows people to Dare Bigger. It’s used to make a variety of clothing, accessories, and equipment safe and cut resistant. It’s lightweight, durable and extraordinarily strong. Yes, it’s best known for its use in ballistic and stab-resistant body armor, as Kevlar® brand aramid fiber continues to evolve and allow heroes to be heroes. But it’s also on the ski slopes, the switchback trails, in demanding desert terrain, even the outer limits of space.

The wide range of applications is due to the fibre’s high (tensile) strength, high impact resistance, medium to low elongation, the good vibration-dampening properties and heat resistance. Instead of melting, the fibres begin to carbonise at about 400°C. Neither solvents, fuels, lubricants, salt water, fungi or bacteria can do much harm to aramid fibres. They are only sensitive to some strong acids and alkalis. In other words, aramid is very tough.

When it comes to compressive strength, however, aramid fabrics are more middle of the pack and fairly poor in terms of UV resistance and water absorption (up to 7%). UV radiation leads to the fibre losing up to 75% of its strength. However, this can be counteracted relatively easily by means of UV-absorbing coatings or laminates. In general, aramid can be easily combined with other fabrics, which means that its functionality can be optimised and expanded in many different ways.

Applications

The unique properties of aramid make it ideal for a wide range of applications, including construction and industry applications. The sports and outdoor industry love the material for its toughness, tensile strength and low weight. Aramid fibres are used for cords, paragliding lines, sails, bicycle tyres and more.

The Kevlar elements in textiles serve primarily as reinforcements that protect the body and increase the lifespan of garments. The Kevlar reinforcements are particularly popular in cycling, motorcycle and motorsports apparel as well as in high-wear areas of outdoor trousers and backpacks. Kevlar stitching is used in ski and via ferrata gloves as well.

Because the material is so tough, there is a certain amount of stiffness to it. This can definitely be a plus, but there are some downsides to it as well, especially in the outdoors. This is illustrated by the example of the relatively new Kevlar cords, which are also available as sewn cord slings in various sizes. The core is made of aramid, while the sheath is made of polyamide, as is the case with “normal” cords and ropes. The aramid core is brownish in colour, so it’s easy to distinguish from the conventional, dazzling white polyethylene core of your usual cord, rope and webbing material.

The 5/2014 issue of the German-language DAV Panorama magazine highlighted the high strength and high cut resistance of the material as some of the main advantages. Plus, the material is not only very abrasion and heat resistant, but it also boasts a tensile strength far greater than that of polyamide cords. Kevlar cords also offer a much higher breaking strength than conventional accessory cords with the same diameter.

As a disadvantage, Panorama magazine points to the greater amount of sheath slip shown by Kevlar cords when compared to pure polyamide. They also point out that the quasi-static material is not to be used in dynamic belays for leaders.

Because of its lack of elasticity (more precisely: low elongation to break), Kevlar is not suitable for dynamic ropes. But, the material’s stiffness really comes in useful for rock tunnels or rappelling off an Abalakov set up.

Conclusion

When it comes to strength, durability, longevity and safety, there’s hardly a material better than Aramid/Kevlar. Its properties can be extremely useful in certain outdoor situations but less so in others. It doesn’t have as many applications in the outdoor industry as it has in cycling and motorsports, occupational health and safety and other areas, but it’s still quite useful!

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