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The Sporting Life

by ikeepittight in Blog Comments: 2 tags: Andersen

By guest KIT blogger, Dave Andersen

When I was a freshman in high school I began experimenting with sports. At first it was basketball, then I dabbled in track and field, then I found my way to cross country running. I immediately fell in love with it. It required hard work, and I liked pushing myself to my physical limits. I found that if I trained hard I had some success in competition. Little did I know back then that this path was the beginning of what would become the defining thread throughout my life. Fitness coupled with competition is what I like to call “the sporting life”.
“The Quest for a Balanced Life

Cross country races led to track, culminating in several NH State Championship races. After a few wayward years I found my way to road racing: 5K, 10K, half marathons, and by age 22 my first marathon. By now I was living in NYC and found myself on a sponsored running team. This was the life, traveling to races with other young guys. However, sport, like life is not always a constant upward trajectory. I got injured and burned out. Life took a turn. A couple of years later I began again. At first I jog-walked a mile. I also bought a bike. It turns out there were run-bike-run races (back then we called them biathlons). I met other like-minded guys and heard about triathlons. I got married. I started swimming. A couple of years later I did my first Ironman. Then another. I began to travel to far away races with my wife.

Fast forward 15 years, 25 marathons, hundreds of running and multisport races, life took another turn. Injury and burnout (again). My wife and I picked up golf and that was our “sport” for several years. It was fun, involved travel to new locations, and a new group of friends. Alas, people grow apart and although we tried, we amicably divorced. Once I got used to my new life I fell back in love with, you guessed it, the sporting life. Running, multisport, even cross country ski racing. Up to this point (age 50) I had yet to try bike racing. Luckily for me my co-worker Gus helped guide me in the beginning. Now here I am with 2 years and 60 bike races under my belt. In a few weeks I’ll start my 2012 race season in the Cat 1/2/3 Marblehead Circuit Race.

I strive to live a balanced life, after all, one thing I’ve learned is that injury and burnout are no fun. Balance and moderation are important. Friendships, family, and work are not to be taken for granted. Still, there is no escaping the fact that when I look back on my life, many of my happiest times are when I have been engaged in the sporting life with friends and family. Many of these friendships have endured through life’s ups and downs. I will share more of this lifestyle choice in future updates. In the meantime, keep it tight!

* David Andersen lives in Boston and works in the educational publishing business. He shares his passion for cycling and sport with a wide range of friends and competitors.


Keep It Light

by ikeepittight in Blog Comments: 0

By guest KIT blogger, Chris Chapron

These days my riding is predominately associated with my commute. Depending on the time of year, at least part takes place before sunrise or after sunset and safety is always an issue when traveling the streets of Boston, Cambridge and the suburbs. I rely on a variety of lights to make sure motorists and pedestrians alike can see me.“Light and Tight”

I started off running the Knog Beetle up front and the Boomer in the rear.

The design is simple, they wrap around the bars and seatpost rather easily and the button cell battery has a good life when using the strobe mode. Their ease of use, reliability and waterproof casing all make these a solid commuting light in low light situations. However, I wanted more power, more “blinky” (“strobing” for you technical folks), as being seen well in advance is my first priority.

So I went back to a tried and true manufacturer of cycling lights that I have relied heavily upon, Nite-Rider. Up front I added the Lightning Bug 3.0.

Like the number says, it uses 3 LEDs with the same type of silicone bar enclosure, battery, and push button operation. I have switched this light frequently to my helmet when riding different terrains. It is far brighter than the Knog, the strobing is more intense and it illuminates farther (yes, I realize I’m comparing a 2 LED light to a 3-LED light). The push button operation can be finicky because I can’t tell the difference between the high and low setting other than both settings are blinding. I have heard and seen the silicone bar enclosure break, however customer service will hook you up. For the rear of the bike, the Cherry Bomb really lets motorists know I’m in front of them.

Of all the red blinking/strobing lights, this light crushes them all for brightness. It runs on 2-AAA batteries and runs for a decent amount of time (I use rechargeable AAA’s). I have it attached to either my seat stays or seatpost so the mounting position is versatile. It has two settings: “on” or “strobing”. The only negative remark is the button to turn it on is too small.

Are there other lights out there? Yes, the supply is endless but the goal is to be safe and be seen.

“Bright and Tight”

The lights mentioned above get me through the commute, however if your ride is going to be epic — whether it’s the weekly night ride at Harold Parker or getting your LSD training ride in before or after work – you want even more power. You want lights that are bright and TIGHT. I won’t compare lumens on the tiny lights mentioned above – it’s something that is more important for technical lighting systems and should factor into your decision.
I personally run the MiNewt pro 750 from Nite-rider.

Four settings for brightness, lightweight and rugged battery so far have survived a few adventures into the woods and one weekend of 24 hour racing. The light is probably the heaviest of the three I mention here so it could get a little awkward when helmet-mounted. 750 lumens is pretty standard for a light of this size, and the LEDs produced a nice crisp light without too much of that HID blue haze from previous lights. At the max setting I get about 80 minutes of consistent power before it begins to fade, however you have the option to switch to lower light settings before you start stumbling around in the dark woods (which is about par for the course for me anyway). Nite-rider offers more powerful lights to fit your illuminating needs as well

“Bright and Super-Tight”

A second lighting system that I have only had the pleasure of borrowing but not actually owning, are lights by Ay-Up Lights.

The newer version will have a fuel gauge so you know how much power you have left. These are by far the lightest set I have ever used and one of the most rugged. When ordering you can even specify what “beam” you are looking for, narrow, intermediate and broad. Now that’s TIGHT! The battery is stored in an easy Velcro neoprene pouch. The kit came with different mounts: handlebar, helmet, head torch. These were the best lights for helmet use and illuminated the path superbly. I was able to see all the rocks and roots I was about to hit and still hit them anyway. The twin lights are attached to a bar which allows each light to be adjusted independently. I don’t know the lumen rating of these lights, however they were bright. These are manufactured in Australia so you can brag to your buddies how your lights are Aussie tough (I don’t know what that means but it sounds good).

Lastly, there is one last light that should be thrown into the mix: The Lupine Tesla SC 750 lumen light

Unfortunately I haven’t used this light but a close friend swears by it and motorists have surely cursed at him for its blinding bright beam. I have seen him ride and this light has to be bullet proof to withstand the pounding it takes when he is out commuting and mountain biking. They no longer make this particular model light and it has since been replaced by the Piko 3 or Piko 6 but they will still service this light. The circuitry in his light broke, causing it to turn off randomly, customer service mailed him out a new lighting head and all was good as new so they continue to service past products which might lead me to believe they have decent customer service. Now I’m done writing this piece, so get out and ride even if the sun isn’t up, there is no excuse not to now.

*Chris Chapron is a father of two boys, mountain biker, roadie and a daily bike commuter. When not putting the hammer down (PTHD) at work and enjoying time with family, he is out exploring local trails, roads and New England breweries.


Enjoy The Ride

by ikeepittight in Blog Comments: 0

By guest KIT blogger, Nat Miller

All I could hear was my raspy, labored breathing and the thudding of my heartbeat deep in my eardrums. I had long ago punched into my lowest gear and continued to grind up the 45 minute gravel climb, hoping to view the top of the ridge every time I rounded a corner, yet continuing to be disappointed as the serpent-like turns climbed ever-skyward. “Battles in cycling are nothing short of epic.”

I was on a typical early season training ride in the Pisgah Mountains, trying out the new mountain bike I had purchased the day before and realizing how mushy my pasty white legs had gotten over the winter. I continued to suffer for the remainder of the weekend, putting in 8 total hours of ride time in the 36 hours we spent in North Carolina. Despite our agony, it was a ton of fun.

It was during one of the particularly painful climbs of the weekend that I was struck by how all cyclists could be considered masochists. There really is no other explanation for our actions.

Riding at threshold power typically feels like your lungs are coming through your nose. Hitting the deck at speed is similar to jumping from a moving car naked. Bonking may be the most horrible experience on earth, made worse by the fact that you know at least 5 minutes before it’s going to happen with no way to stop it. Often we put in so many miles that various body parts go numb, muscle cramps cause excruciating pain as our bodies yearn for depleted nutrients, and we return with clothes caked with crusty salt deposits, mud, and road grit.

Yet, for our craziness, cyclists remain enamored with the sport.

I rolled through a tight uphill turn, grinning to myself as I dropped a few rings and felt that familiar burn in my upper quads, standing to deliver more power to the pedals. I rocked back and forth, settling into a rhythm and becoming comfortable with my increased level of effort. The road continued to stretch upward in front of me, now beginning to reach into the mist of the mountaintop ahead.

Battles in cycling are nothing short of epic. They are fought over the course of hours, if not days and weeks. The true greats of the sport use strategy to time their attacks, metering their strength before unleashing animalistic bursts of power at the most opportune moment. During these attacks, an athlete’s true mettle is tested, every muscle fiber firing in a bid for the win. Whether it is a mountaintop finish or a drag race for the line, cyclists are known for “leaving it all out on the course.” Rarely do you see a cyclist entrenched in a true battle finishing a race as if it did not matter. The norm is that with every ounce of energy gone, completely wasted, head hanging between sagging shoulders, the loser slowly rolls across the line. Yet even beaten, this athlete knows he can stand proud having given it his all when it mattered most.

As I continued to climb, I forgot the pain in my legs and lungs. I looked at the Rhododendron around me, hearing nothing but the crunch of gravel and the metal-on-metal whir of chain on sprocket. The pile of work waiting at home on my desk? Forgotten. Bills to be paid? Didn’t enter my mind. As I slope around an off-camber bend in the road, daylight begins to poke around the trees at the top of the next, and final, rise.

The truth is, as cyclists we are not masochists. We are not chasing or “embracing” the pain in as much as we are escaping into a simpler, rawer world. Being on a bike and pushing your limits takes you to a place few people today experience. Risking sounding too much like a “Fight Club” reference gone wrong, being on a bike makes you feel alive. You push your body to the point that every neuron is firing in succession…and then you go beyond. You make the town sign, crest the climb, or win the Wednesday night crit and, with arms spread wide in the universal sign of victory, have the realization that you never want to lose that feeling again. Most people will never understand this sensation, but every cyclist knows it intimately.

In essence, this is what “Keeping it Tight” is to me. Balancing a “real life” with chasing the euphoria of my sports. So as I wave to the commuter on the opposite side of the road or slide into my position at the front of a charging paceline, I nod knowingly at the pain my fellow cyclists have experienced simply to achieve that which we call bliss.

Finally, I sit a little straighter and ease the pressure on my pedals. I have crested the climb and now await the remainder of the group making their way to the top. As each member arrives, we soft pedal, sip water, swap “war stories”, and then point our knobby tires down the mountain to reap the rewards of our efforts. An hour later, another lengthy climb awaits our tired legs, but for now, we are simply enjoying the ride. KIT.

*Nathaniel Miller is a full-time technical writer with a passion for the open road, but enjoys a healthy dose of trails on occasion. He prefers gut-wrenching climbs to walks on the beach, 55mph descents to bike lanes, and assumes everyone knows what “riding on the rivet” means. His goals in 2012 include catching a handful more races than last year and riding the same distance the pros do during each stage of this year’s Tour de France.