All posts with the keyword ‘Bike’

Sustainable or greenwashed? Outdoor brands in portrait: Patagonia

6. May 2021
Equipment

It is the outdoor paradox: we want to experience and conserve unspoiled landscape, but consume abundant resources to see it with our own eyes. We get upset about summer skiers and roaring Porsches, yet still get on the plane to New Zealand. Whether manufacturers and suppliers of outdoor goods or consumers and buyers: people rave about nature and mountains, but in doing so they also contribute to their endangerment.

Though perhaps there is another side to it. On the one hand, colourful images of waterfalls, forests and mountain scenery fuel the desire to consume and travel, but on the other hand they can also sharpen a sense for the beauty of sensitive ecosystems that are worth protecting.

Not only climate: What is sustainability?

To put it simply: sustainable is when you do not use up resources faster than nature can recreate them – with or without human influence. Selfless renunciation may be urged, but it is hardly heeded, let alone taken seriously. Urging can only successfully be done by credible role models – and there are not many of them. At least, when someone demonstrates it, it is widely respected and admired.

Meanwhile, not even the many appeals to “voluntary self-restraint” to a “reasonable level” usually have any effect. They just smell too much like a moral club, and besides, no one can really say exactly where this golden mean lies anyway. Mostly, attempts are made to operate with a certain “CO2 budget” per capita and year. Reduced to numbers in this way, it seems more feasible, but in my opinion it misses the core of the problem – just like the whole fixation on numbers, CO2 and “the climate” today.

With “climate targets” and maximum “permissible” increases in the earth’s temperature, mankind shows not only that it has good intentions, but also that it is still stuck in the technocentric worldview that created the problems in the first place. Such a worldview believes that with certificate trading and somewhat more efficient technology, the earth’s temperature conditions can be controlled and thus the environmental problem can be brought under control. However, people forget that cosmic influences such as the sun and the earth itself also have a say in such huge ecological interrelationships. CO2 fixation also takes the focus off other problems such as soil sealing or emissions of soot, fine dust and aerosols.

True sustainability must still take other aspects into account as well. This includes not only the three levels of the sustainability model (ecological, economic and social), but also personal and fundamental, non-technical aspects such as questioning one’s own needs and motives. Leading to then, perhaps, not making that impulse purchase or taking that spontaneous short trip halfway around the world. For example, you might ask yourself: do I need this 3-layer high-tech jacket with 40,000 mm water column for my hiking plans? Do I need the water-repellent and breathable down blanket for the camping trip? Does everything always have to be brand new or is a well-maintained second-hand piece enough?

With outdoor clothing, every increase in function often means an increase in chemicals. Let me stop myself here though, seeing as I have unintentionally started to lash out the moral club… My intention, though, is to show that ultimately the main responsibility lies with us as customers, because with all the advertising seduction in the world, no manufacturer and no retailer alone can determine what is made and produced.

Speaking of manufacturers: this article here is to take a closer look at Patagonia’s sustainability efforts – and in subsequent articles, a few more manufacturers will be checked for their sustainability.

Patagonia’s sustainability programme

First of all, no outdoor company can afford a consistently sustainable/ethical raw material, production and distribution chain without demanding exorbitant purchase prices. In this way, sustainability is more of a small special niche aimed at a “high end” clientele. This, however, leads us to the notorious “ransom” of a few super-privileged people.

Real sustainability must work on an efficient, large-scale and low-cost scale. And Patagonia is on the right track here, because their measures are not aimed at exclusivity. In addition, Patagonia does not take the “easy way” of designing only one of many aspects sustainably, thus creating a green image for itself with some “climate-neutral” intermediate product. No, they are committed to more sustainability on several levels and had already begun to do so at a time when only very few globally operating companies thought about such things.

Environmental aspects of sustainability

However, Patagonia, too, has been and still is a growing, globally operating company whose processes and products are not always fully sustainable. Elegantly and diplomatically, this problem is expressed in phrases like “between marketing and environmental protection”. This balancing act includes commitments to various environmental projects such as the well-known donation concept “1% for the Planet”. Its basic idea derives from Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard himself: 1% of the annual company turnover goes to organisations that support environmental protection.

Patagonia’s main goal is to improve environmental sustainability with a 4-point programme. This consists of the following points:

1 Reduce

This means striving for the longest possible product life. In doing so, the need for constantly new clothes is supposed to be reduced. The famous marketing campaign “Do not buy this jacket” during the 2011 Thanksgiving season should also be understood in this context. I will deal with this apparent contradiction later on.

2 Repair

Patagonia designs many garments so that customers can repair them themselves as easily as possible and supports them with instructions on the internet. In the USA, they have built one of the largest textile repair centres ever where they repair 40,000 garments every year.

Patagonia repairs broken outdoor clothing free of charge in its shops and has been sending a repair service across Europe with the “Worn wear truck” since 2017 (current tour dates can be found here on the company website).

Patagonia also doesn’t mince words when it comes to denouncing other brands that deliberately make repairs difficult in order to get customers to buy new clothing quickly. You can find out more about the Worn Wear activities in this “Bergfreunde” article and this Utopia report.

3 Reuse

Worn Wear also serves as label for Patagonia’s second-hand market. On this platform, used Patagonia clothing is done up and traded. Every Patagonia customer can resell their used clothing here.

4 Recycle

If further use or repair is no longer possible, the recycling option comes into play. Patagonia takes back all garments and recycles them. This saves many still high-value materials from the incinerator or landfill. Patagonia has long produced a large proportion of its synthetic fibres from recycled PET bottles. We have already dealt with the recycling of down at Patagonia in more detail here on the base camp blog.

Social sustainability and employee management

“In 2010, the non-governmental organisation Berne Declaration compared the standards of working conditions in production countries by means of surveys and internet research at 77 fashion labels. Patagonia was ranked in the second best category ‘Average’ out of five. In the 2012 Berne Declaration/Public Eye ‘Outdoorguide’, Patagonia achieved a place in the highest ‘Advanced’ category.”

These Wikipedia statements show the difficulties of monitoring, i.e. the complete control and evaluation of all processes in large companies (with a turnover of about US$ 600 million (as of 2013) and a staff of about 1300, Patagonia clearly belongs to this category). Tracing all the routes and intermediate products can become quite complicated. Patagonia nevertheless strives to make all manufacturing steps transparent and fair – from raw material to finished product. The latter is also reflected in its membership of various initiatives such as the Fair Labor Association, which campaigns for fairer working conditions.

Economic sustainability

Since 2013, the company has been sceptical about the concept of economic growth because there would be a point where growth would directly or indirectly endanger living conditions. Responsible growth would only be growth that takes into account social and ecological consequences. Similar things are uttered in every Sunday speech, but at Patagonia there is a good chance that these words will be followed by action. As the company is and remains privately owned, without the involvement of anonymous lenders who influence business decisions in the background.

Marketing

Patagonia’s marketing can, with some goodwill, also be counted as part of the sustainability strategy as it often targets environmental issues. One of Patagonia’s contributions, which is not measurable but certainly not to be underestimated, is that it has made the outdoor industry and its customers aware of many sustainability issues in the first place.

With the already mentioned “Do not buy this jacket” advertisement, for example, they positioned themselves against the waste of resources and mountains of rubbish of fast-moving fashion consumption. At first, such a contradictory message does not seem very credible, but it was meant to be taken seriously. And if you distinguish between business growth and market growth, it also makes economic sense. Patagonia wants to flourish precisely thanks to its sustainability successes. Chouinard, the company’s founder, sees himself as an entrepreneur in competition with other companies that are forced out of the market by the elimination of fast-moving “meaningless consumption” precisely because of their lack of sustainability. Then the market shrinks, but the company grows.

What do the critics say?

The eye of the critical public is naturally particularly vigilant with a company like Patagonia. In the past, there has been criticism from animal welfare organisations on several occasions. It was justified and was received accordingly. And not in the form of appeasement and relativisation, but in the form of change. In the case of a complaint from PETA about the suffering of sheep in a supplier factory, this wool was immediately taken out of processing. Following complaints about the use of down from live plucking, Patagonia developed the strict “Traceable Down Standard” to ensure a transparent supply chain and the exclusion of force-feeding and live plucking.

Consumer advocates and sustainability portals are quite appreciative. The sustainability portal Utopia.de, for example, confirms that the numerous sustainability measures are neither greenwashing nor image cultivation, but genuine efforts. The Rank a brand association, on the other hand, comes to a critical verdict, which, however, does not seem to have been reached conclusively yet. Again, the divergent results show how difficult it is to assess the effectiveness of sustainability measures.

Criticism in major media such as Zeit.de and Spiegel-Online tends to be undifferentiated and also seems to be partly criticism for criticism’s sake. This is how they write at the Zeit:

“The US company from California sells its customers not only warm and durable jackets, but an image: eco-coolness for politically correct hipsters.”

It sounds as if it is wrong that sustainability can even be “cool” by now. Would it be better if it were still tainted with a musty health food store and Birkenstock image? I don’t quite like hipsters either, so I fully understand this broadside. Nevertheless, it is more a judgement of taste and implies that Patagonia would go the way of the “fashion brand for office people”. If it were, it would certainly be questionable, at least as long as one does not offer pure fashion lines without chemically or resource-intensively achieved functionality. As it is true that technical outdoor clothing is not very useful in the city or when walking in the forest.

Der Spiegel also delivers similar criticism. It also mainly highlights problems and contradictions that affect the outdoor industry in general.

Conclusion

Patagonia can certainly improve a lot and full sustainability is still a long way off. However, if you look at it in relation to the outdoor industry as a whole, the company it doing pretty well. Patagonia is more active than most of its competitors and has been for a much longer time. Omissions and mistakes do occur, but they are not covered up or glossed over, but gradually addressed.

NEVER GO WITHOUT AIR AGAIN: BUYER’S GUIDE TO INNER TUBES

3. May 2021
Buyer's guide

Anyone who has cursed a flat tyre at one time or another knows it: nothing works without air in the tyre; well, except pushing. The inner tube is responsible for holding air inside the tyre, but most cyclists rarely take notice of it – except when there is a hole and a loss of air. Apart from that, the only part of the inner tube that is usually visible is the valve, which protrudes through the rim. The inner tube itself is hidden under the coat and rim, where it performs tireless hard labour and withstands enormous strains and temperature differences during sporting performance. It is also particularly important that it is responsible for adjusting comfort and riding experience. The correct air pressure in the tyre provides damping and grip and influences rolling resistance and roadholding on curves. An inner tube has to perform a good deal, which is why it is just as important to take a look at this part of the bike.

Inner tubes in different sizes

Classic inner tubes are made of butyl rubber. This is a synthetic rubber that has very low air permeability, is very weather resistant and maintains its high stability and elasticity at any temperature.In short: the rubber tube absorbs the air and, generally speaking, does not release it again – regardless of conditions such as winter mountain biking on snow and ice or scorching heat on hot asphalt. In addition to butyl inner tubes, there are also inner tubes made of latex. They are very light, but not as airtight as the rubber ones. For this reason latex tubes have to be inflated more often.

Depending on the type of bike, rim diameter, rim width and tyre coat, cyclists use different sizes and widths of inner tubes. Particularly light and thin-walled tubes are required for certain areas of application. Other cyclists place a lot of emphasis on stability and choose thicker-walled and heavier tubes accordingly. Furthermore, there are different types of valves used on inner tubes:

  • The Dunlop valve (DV) or normal valve (NV) is very widely used for everyday bikes, Dutch bikes, touring bikes and children’s bikes in Germany. It is designed for a maximum pressure of 6 bar and fits into a rim hole with a 8.5 mm diameter.
  • The Sclaverand valve (SV), also referred to as “French valve” and “road bike valve”, has a smaller diameter (rim hole 6.5 mm) and allows a maximum air pressure of 15 bar. Due to its high possible air pressure and the associated low rolling resistance, the Sclaverand valve has long been popular with road cyclists. However, this particular valve is now also widely used on mountain bikes.
  • The Schrader valve is better known to most cyclists as an auto valve (AV). This valve used to be the standard choice for mountain bikes. On the positive side, cyclists with these valves hardly need to worry about an air pump, because their bike can be inflated at any petrol station.

Since the rim hole differs depending on the valve, cyclists must select the inner tube with the appropriate valve. Otherwise the valve would not fit through the rim at all or there would be too much clearance and it would not sit properly in the hole.

When buying inner tubes, three criteria are decisive in addition to weight and material thickness:

  • Wheel size / diameter of the wheels: these values are given in inches. Common values for mountain bikes are 29 inches (29″), 27.5 inches (27.5″) or 28 inches (28″) for road bikes.
  • Rim width / tyre width: depending on the rim width (i.e. the inner width of the rim) and the desired tyre width, the tube must be selected to match.
  • Valve type: this must match the rim hole.

Depending on the area of application, the tubes are designed for an individual maximum pressure. This is where road bike tyres (which are ridden with very high pressure) differ from cyclocross tyres, downhill tyres, trekking tyres or road tyres for everyday bikes. Since the tubes also differ greatly in dimensions (rule of thumb: road bike narrow, trekking bike medium, mountain bike wide), fortunately there is little danger of confusion here. The dimensions of the inner tubes are also indicated on the packaging as well as on the inner tubes themselves. Some tubes are even made to ideally fit several rim diameters. Here, too, the corresponding measurements are recorded on the packaging. High-grade inner tubes from renowned manufacturers, such as Schwalbe, Continental or Michelin, convince with their high quality standards and the associated reliability. With these manufacturers, every single tube is tested for absolute air tightness before it is delivered.

For a few years there have also been some well-functioning tubeless systems around for mountain bike tyres especially. Tubeless means that the manufacturers completely dispense with inner tubes. Instead of the inner tube, air is simply trapped between the tyre coat and the rim.Although the tubeless system requires more assembly work and is associated with higher costs, tubeless tyres are less prone to breakdowns and offer a very good riding experience. While tubeless tyres have been used widely among mountain bikers in France for quite some time, cyclists in German-speaking countries still tend to use the good old inner tube. Some reasons for this could be the simple assembly and the high reliability.

Depending on the bike and the area of use, different rims, different tyres and, of course, different inner tubes are used. This is why we have compiled a compact overview of the different tubes here:

Inner tubes for road bikes

For road bikes, 28″ tubes are mostly used. In triathlon, road cyclists also like to use the smaller 26″ tubes. Since some inch specifications can differ for both the rims and the tyres, road cyclists should measure their tyre size exactly beforehand.

The decisive value is the distance from rim well to rim well. Measuring and converting into inches saves many a surprise when buying inner tubes and tyres. The equally important rim width is usually printed on the rim. Since France has its own measurements in addition to the general deviations with the inch measurements, it is advisable to select the tubes and tyres according to the ETRTO (European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation) specifications. These are given in exact millimetres which makes comparison and selection much more convenient. If you are using high-profile rims, you should also pay attention to the length of the valve when buying a tube. At Schwalbe, for example, these tubes are marked “Extra Long” or “XX Long”.

»Calculating optimum air pressure for road bike tyres

Inner tubes for mountain bikes

Many mountain bikers ride with 26″ wheels, but 27.5″ and 29″ are also widely used dimensions. Using an appropriate jaw width and tyre width, most inner tubes for mountain bike tyres range in width between 2.25″ and 2.35″. The tubes usually offer a certain tolerance and can be ridden with different tyre and rim combinations. However, when installing a smaller tube in a very large rim, the load increases and with it the risk of breakdowns.

Mountain bike tyres offer a good balance of stability and weight at around 150 g to 200 g. Lighter tubes are available, but are more commonly used for touring and cross-country, as their lightweight construction also makes them more prone to breakdowns. Downhill bikes and Enduro bikes, on the other hand, use particularly thick downhill tubes. These are extremely stable, but with their high weight they are only suitable for normal MTB tours to a limited extent.

»Determining optimum air pressure for MTB tyres

Inner tubes for trekking bikes and touring bikes

High reliability and a pleasant riding experience are crucial for cycling tours and cycling journeys. Tyres and tubes are mostly 28″ and weigh only about half as much as MTB tubes. In addition to good durability and stability, high-quality trekking tubes ensure low rolling resistance.

Inner tubes for children’s bikes

Depending on whether the children’s bike is an everyday bike, a mountain bike or BMX, the tubes for children’s bikes are sometimes made more robust and sometimes a little lighter. Inner tubes for children’s bikes start at 10″ or 12″ and are usually suitable for several wheel sizes. The tubes for youths’ bikes are available up to a size of 24″ – after that, with 26″, begins an area where youth and adult sizes are starting to overlap.

Inner tubes for e-bikes and fatbikes

With e-bikes, strains on tubes and tyres are greater than with conventional bikes due to higher average speeds. Tubes must therefore be particularly resistant and durable. Above all, this applies to e-bikes, which have a license for motor assistance up to 50 km/h. On a fatbike, not only are the rims and tyres oversized, but so are the inner tubes. For a rim size of 26″, there are tubes between about 3.5″ and 4.8″. Of course, fatbike tubes are heavier than ordinary MTB tubes – but they fit the entire fatbike set-up without compromise.

Changing and patching an inner tube

Repairing inner tubes is simple and can be done with little effort by any cyclist. Due to this simple handling, the pro-tube version is still the most widely used. All that cyclists need to change the inner tube is a repair kit with appropriate materials for patching and a few tyre levers to gently remove the tyre from the rim. Many tyre patches are self-adhesive and are stuck onto the damaged area like a sticker. Afterwards, the inner tube is ready for use again in no time and can be installed and inflated. Small holes in the tube can be repaired in this way. Only in the case of longer cuts and damage to the valve a new inner tube is often needed.

Conclusion

This small overview shows that there are a lot of things to consider when it comes to valves and tubes. It is important that both components fit, not only in terms of their size, but also in terms of the bike’s area of use. Do you have any experience with inner tubes, or do you have any unanswered questions? – Feel free to leave your comments!

Buyer’s guide to bike brakes: disc or rim brakes?

15. April 2021
Buyer's guide

Disc brakes or rim brakes? This is the question that every cyclist encounters probably at least once in his life. To answer this question, we will take a closer look at and compare both brakes today.

Which system is best for mountain bikers and road cyclists?

While the question of disc brakes or rim brakes is still hotly debated on for racing bikes, disc brakes have been firmly established on mountain bikes for many years and are indispensable for downhill, Enduro and freeride cycling.

When the mountain bike was designed in the 1980s, the bikes were equipped with rigid forks and cantilever brakes, which used cable pull and later on occasionally hydraulics on the rim for braking. Alongside the increasing spread of suspension forks on mountain bikes and full-suspension bikes, disc brakes largely displaced rim brakes. Both systems were adopted from motocross motorbikes and adapted to the bicycle dimensions. The suspensions allowed better damping, higher traction and thus also much higher speeds off-road. Therefore, the development of disc brakes for mountain bikes was the next logical step in order to be able to optimally control the high speeds and strains.

The advantages of disc brakes on MTBs

On long and steep descents, rim brakes tend to heat up the rims a lot. This can lead to reduced braking performance or even damage the rim, tyres and brake pads. Even in wet conditions, disc brakes are vastly superior to cantilever brakes or V-brakes. Disc brakes for mountain bikes are sometimes equipped with cable pulls for power transmission. High-quality brakes, however, are usually hydraulic systems that use a special brake fluid to transmit power. The following overview shows the positive effects of a brake system with disc brakes on MTBs:

  • Mountain bikers need less finger force for the same braking effect. The brake levers are often designed so that they can be operated with one or two fingers at most. This means that the other fingers remain on the handlebars and the bike can be ridden safely.
  • The rims are not abraded by the brakes and even a slight imbalance (“eights”) will never cause the brake to wear out on the rim.
  • In wet conditions, the pads of the disc brake achieve significantly better brake values due to a higher surface pressure.
    On long descents, the rims do not get hot and cannot be damaged. The heat development is concentrated on the brake discs.
  • Usually the brake pads on disc brakes last longer. Changing the pads is very easy as well. Brake discs are also very durable.
    Thicker tyres are no problem for the disc brake compared to the rim brake.

In addition to the immense advantages for mountain biking, disc brakes also bring with them some small disadvantages:

  • They are heavier than rim brakes and also more sensitive (e.g. when transported with wheels removed).
  • The entire brake system is technically more complex and requires more know-how, more experience and more time for maintenance and care.
  • Brake pads for disc brakes must be run in to develop their full braking power. This requires a little patience, but can be done easily by any mountain biker.
  • Hubs and spokes are subject to greater strain with disc brakes than with rim brakes.
    Good disc brakes are more expensive than rim brakes.

Different disc brakes: brake discs, brake pads, brake fluid

Even though mountain bikes systems may look very similar at first glance, there are some fundamental differences that are particularly important when converting and modifying the braking system.

Most brake discs are made of stainless steel. Besides differences in design, they also differ in their diameter. This in turn changes the braking power of the entire system. Simply put, this means: larger brake disc equals stronger braking power. However, larger brake discs also weigh more and cannot be combined with any suspension fork on any bike. The general standard constitutes 180 mm discs or 203 mm discs. There are two different types of mounting for the discs on the hubs, known as “IS2000” and “Centerlock”. With the IS2000 system (6-hole), the brake disc is attached to the hub with six M5 Torx screws. Shimano’s Centerlock system, on the other hand, uses a special locking ring with a multi-tooth profile. With the Shimano Centerlock, the brake disc is mounted and dismounted in no time. The 6-hole mount, on the other hand, has the advantage that an M5 Torx screwdriver is often available more quickly than the special tools for centre lock systems.

Depending on the brake system, mountain bikers can choose from a wide variety of brake pads. In principle, there is usually a choice of sintered pads or organic brake pads. The metallic pads (Sinter Brake Pads) are insensitive to heat and very durable. However, they need more time to run in and put more strain on the brake discs. Organic brake pads (resin brake pads) consist of organic fibres and synthetic resin. They are particularly quiet and can be run in very quickly. In wet and sandy conditions, however, they are usually somewhat inferior to sintered pads.

The brake fluid in disc brakes for mountain bikes is either mineral oil or DOT. The guidelines for brake fluids laid down by the Department of Transportation (DOT for short) actually refer to cars and motorbikes, but are equally valid for mountain bikes. Different brake fluids are used for hydraulic disc brakes (e.g. DOT 4, DOT 5.1), which are not always compatible with each other. Other manufacturers, such as Shimano or Magura, rely entirely on mineral oil. These brake systems require very little maintenance and the brakes often do not need to be bled for many years. Brakes with DOT filling, however, are different: since the fluid is hygroscopic (i.e. it “draws” moisture from the air), these brake systems must be serviced at regular intervals.

Disc brakes on a road bike

While disc brakes have long been established on high-quality mountain bikes, disc brakes on road bikes are still far off from being established to the same extent. However, the interest of road cyclists in disc brakes is growing continuously and the range of sophisticated braking systems offered by manufacturers is increasing accordingly.

Light and reliable rim brakes have been standard on road bikes for amateurs and professionals for several decades. Road bike rims are therefore equipped with a special braking surface for the brake pads to press against. Mostly, these surfaces are made of aluminium – but sometimes individual alloys or carbon are used instead. Carbon fibre is known for its high strength and low weight. In wet conditions, however, the braking power of an aluminium braking surface is noticeably more powerful. One disadvantage of the rim brake is the restriction in the choice of tyres, because road bike tyres for rim brakes must not be too wide. Road bikes are made of increasingly stiff materials to ensure ideal power transmission. At the same time, the cyclist’s comfort always lessens. Wider tyres promise better damping and adapted riding comfort – but cannot be fitted with rim brakes.

The advantages for road cyclists using disc brakes are therefore:

  • Freer choice of lightweight rims and wider tyres. The braking surface is no longer attached to the rim. This makes the wheels more durable (no wear on the brake flanks and no heat build-up through braking).
  • Better riding comfort through wider tyres without creating more rolling resistance.
  • By shifting the weight from the brake flanks (which are omitted) to the centre of the wheels (brake discs), the rotating mass shifts towards the centre of the wheel. In terms of total weight, there is only a slight difference depending on the brake. However, the wheels are easier to accelerate with disc brakes and require less effort to steer.
  • The braking performance is also very good in wet and dirty conditions.

In addition, there are advantages and disadvantages that also apply in the area of disc brakes for mountain bikes. Easy operation and very good braking performance stand opposite higher purchase costs and greater maintenance effort. When searching for the lightest combination of wheels and braking system, rim brakes are still ahead. However, the weight of setups with disc brakes decreases from year to year. The question of absolute weight will therefore become superfluous in the near future. The trend towards using disc brakes on road bikes is unmistakable and affects amateurs, recreational road cyclists as well as professional cyclists. At the very latest since German sprint specialist Marcel Kittel caused a stir with disc brakes on his road bike at the Tour de France 2017 and at the Dubai Tour 2017, the topic has been the subject of hot debate more than ever before.

BICYCLE CARE INSTRUCTIONS

9. March 2021
Care tips

Spring is just around the corner and both trails and roads are slowly becoming passable again. So, it’s time to get the bike out of the garage and get fit again. After all, it has been standing around almost all winter and now needs some maintenance.

With a few easy manual tricks, the bike is ready to go again in no time and you can swing into the saddle. How does it work? Like this:

1. Basic cleaning

Depending on how dirty the bicycle still is, you can first use a sponge and brush and clean the frame, fork and rims with water or special bicycle cleaner . You should not use any aggressive cleaning agents, such as chain cleaner, as these can attack rubber seals – washing-up liquid is absolutely fine. Cracks, deformations or other suspicious spots are best checked by a mechanic.

2. The chain

If the chain is very dirty, you can clean it with a special brush or toothbrush. Chain cleaners, like this one from Finish Line, also remove old oil residues. If the chain is not very dirty, a cloth is sufficient. Then you should treat the chain with chain oil or grease. Simply hold the inner link plate of the chain and turn the crank. Excess material is removed, because it attracts dirt. Make sure that no oil gets on the brake, especially when using spray oil!

But even with the best care, the chain will wear out at some point. When this happens it must be replaced (often in combination with the chainrings and sprockets). It is not only important to find the right chain for the respective system (9-speed, 10-speed, 11-speed…), but also the correct chain length. You can find out everything about changing the chain and how to calculate the correct length with our chain length calculator.

3. Gears

First you should check the gear cables. These should not have a kink and should be easy to operate. If the latter is not the case, you can treat the cables as well as the front derailleur and the gears with some thin oil. If this doesn’t help, you should take a closer look at the gears.

4. Brakes

You should first check the brake pads. If they are worn out, they need to be replaced. On classic V-brakes, this can be seen by the fact that the transverse grooves are no longer visible. To do this, simply open the fixing screw of the pads with a suitable Allen key and take out the pad together with its holder and replace it. It is best to adjust the brake so that there is a maximum distance of 2 to 4 mm between brake pad and rim and the front part of the pad (in the direction of travel) touches the rim first. This prevents annoying squeaking.

Maintaining disc brakes is harder, but should still be carried out regularly. You should also check the pads for wear and replace them if necessary. Usually you have to carefully turn the piston and the brake calliper with a screwdriver. You can tell whether the brake needs to be bled or not by if the distance between the brake lever and the handle is less than a finger’s width. It is best to consult a specialist.

5. Wheels

Spokes and rims also wear out over time and must be checked. You can check whether the tension of the spokes is correct by pressing two adjacent ones against each other. If these can be pressed against each other easily, this may be an indication that the tension is too low.

The rim can easily be checked in two ways. First, grab a flat screwdriver and hold it against the rim with a two millimetre gap. To make sure it is tight, simply lean it against the frame or luggage rack and fix it with your fingers. Then turn the wheel. If it touches the screwdriver or is not missing much by then, the wheel could have a lateral runout and must be centred.

Finally, you should try moving it now it is installed. If there is lateral movement, you should adjust the hubs or check the quick release or the wheel bolts to make sure they are tightened correctly.

6. Tyres and inner tube

First check whether your tyres have enough air. A poorly inflated tyre will ride worse and wear out faster. You can usually read the maximum pressure on the tyre flank. As the maximum pressure is not always the optimum pressure, it makes sense to determine it specifically. Depending on the type of bike, tour length, load and terrain, this value can vary widely. We have collated all the important information on tyre pressure for you in our calculation tools. You can use these to quickly and easily calculate the ideal air pressure for your wheel: Mountain bike, Road bike, Touring bike.

If larger cracks are visible in the tyre or if it is very worn, it is better to replace it completely, as foreign bodies can collect in it, causing even more damage.

If the inner tube is punctured, you can patch it up with a simple set like the Tip Top – bike repair kit – as long as the hole is not too big – or simply replace it completely. If you are unsure, pump up the tyre in the evening and leave it overnight.

7. Headset

If the handlebars jerk or wobble when braking, the headset may have come lose. To tighten it again, you must loosen the screws on the stem and tighten the vertical headset screw with short turns. But careful: If you tighten them too much, the steering can be impaired. Don’t forget to tighten all bolts again. A tip: lift the wheel and tap the handlebars. If it turns to one side by itself, everything is fine.

8. Bolts

Last but not least, you should check the quick release, seat clamp and other bolts. It is best to always work by hand and not with an electronic screwdriver. This prevents you from overtightening bolts.

Bike care: Professional maintenance is essential

Even if you regularly maintain your road or mountain bike at home, it can’t hurt to take to a mechanic once or twice a year – preferably before and after the season. The professional can check the bike much more reliably for any defects and also adjust the gears and brakes to their optimum settings.

PACKING LIST: MOUNTAIN BIKE DAY TOUR

9. March 2021
packing list

With a mountain bike, you can head out on almost any terrain. Whether you want to explore gravel paths, take off into the mountains, or head deep into the forest on wooded tracks, off-road bikes can take you anywhere. The following packing list is designed for tour-oriented mountain biking, it is not a packing list for a day in a downhill park or similar.

Cycling clothing for mountain bike day trips

Option 1: Good weather









Option 2: Cooler temperatures with rain showers (in addition to “Good weather”)






Option 3: Continuous rainy weather (in addition to “Good weather”)







Provisions



Bike Equipment










Other Equipment






Creating a packing list for mountain bike day trips is not an easy task. An MTB tour in the middle of summer has completely different equipment requirements than a tour in late autumn. You should therefore consider as carefully as possible in advance what to expect on the planned tour. How long will your tour be (do you need lighting), what weather conditions do you expect to encounter (rainwear, warm spare clothing, sun cream) and what terrain can you expect (protectors)?

Of course, you could simply take as big a rucksack as possible to be prepared for all eventualities, but that is not very helpful. After all, the laws of gravity also apply to mountain biking, and every gram saved in a rucksack makes the uphill passages easier and saves energy. Over time, every cyclist will discover their own personal balance between weight-saving and comfort.

Of course, safety always comes first, you should never skimp on a bike helmet, for example! You also need the most important repair tools because you never know when and where you’ll need them. Don’t forget a small pump, tire levers, a multi-tool, spare inner tube and repair kit either.

You also need to consider food and drink in advance. If you don’t expect to come across guesthouses or supermarkets en route, you need to make sure you have enough food and drink. If in doubt, fill up your water at every opportunity along the way.

The better the tour is planned in advance and the more you know about your route, the less time you will spend during the tour looking at the map. When considering your route, you should also consider the local nature conservation rules and show respect for the environment and people! Depending on the area, there may be designated mountain bikeroutes to ensure that mountain bikers and hikers don’t get in each other’s way.

The evening before a tour, you should always take a quick check over your bike! Inflate the tires (How much air pressure?), check the gears and brakes and oil the chain. It is also worth taking a look at the condition of the tyres – if they are completely worn out or already have small cuts, now is the last chance to change them.

Have fun planning your tour, packing, preparing and of course cycling!

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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