Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Slacklining - Conditioning and fun?!!

Here is a photo of the result of half an hour of set up in a wetsuit.

What fun! Swimming the rolled up slackline over before fastening both ends around barnicle covered rocks. (Not the best thing for slackline longevity - protection needed for next time!) 

The shame was, that after the successful set up, I was unable to get best use out of it because the tide got too low! I'll definately be going back though!

"Have you noticed how much better your balance is since starting to slackline?", my brother queried, as saw me doing a quad stretch after a cycle ride. I hadn't thought about it, but it clearly has helped! This got me thinking.

Slacklining is an interesting activity. Aside from being absurdly addictive, you'd never expect it to be so tiring! I suppose it stands (or falls) to reason, that with some dramatic whole body movements, constant minute adjustments and mental concentration in keeping your balance, you are actually doing an exhausting amount. 

In being such a work out, it is a fantastic way to condition your body, also utilising unusual muscles. Full body stabilisation is something we are often lacking in our sedentary lifestyles. Conditioning; posture, core work, balance etc (all intrinsically linked), is becoming a major area of significance for modern athletes and in recreation. Just look at the yoga boom!

I was watching the Milan - San Remo, the Strade Bianchi and the start of the 'classics' road racing, and professional  road cycling season the other day and thinking to myself how the multi million pound teams should start introducing slacklining sessions in team training camps. If anything, it would be efficient - combining your conditioning workouts and team building exercises into one. It is superbly social and fun!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Therm-a-rest prolite

What a seemingly quality piece of gear! It looked great on opening the delivery box. What a difference good packaging can make! I suppose one would naturally think of an inflatable mattress as a fragile item, when you are a wild camping enthusiast. Certainly that is the feeling I had - and one consolidated by the endless mention of the risk of punctures in use. Though certainly, on first receiving the mattress it seemed like a great looking mat and felt a bit more robust than expected.

I decided on going with the prolite and it's lesser insulation rating over the prolite plus. I figured the 300gram weight saving and pack size would be beneficial come the warmer months and when the ground is cold and hard, my plan was to combine the prolite with a multimat adventure for extra warmth and protection for the inflatable.

First test was a cycle down to South Devon. A couple of wild camps on route allowed me a proper initial test. Still being early March I thought combining the thermarest with the multimat was sensible for warmth. Disappointingly, despite the extra protection I hoped it might provide, it seems that my mattress has punctured within two uses. Not a great start!

Luckily, it is a small leak and still allows for a few hours sleep before I am required to re-inflate it once again. Not terrible, but not great, particularly when considering the premium price tag of such a product.

I suppose next step is to do as cascade designs recommend and get the thing into the bath and work out whether or not it a warranty issue or whether an attempt at self repair is required.  

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A trailer for my bike

I've just spent two weeks down in the West Country, cycling down, as part of my recent 'man of leisure' existence. On the advice of a friend I considered a trailer instead of doubling up on the panniers and getting a front pair as well. Being that I am hoping to give up my car at some point, I thought about a trailer's potential for carrying heavy and bulky items that panniers simply can't.

With this in mind I ended up going with the trailer option as one of my first intentions was to get my surfboard down to South Devon without a car. Step forward the Burley cargo flatbed.
It was a tough choice, as aside from it being expensive, I was originally thinking that for my upcoming travels, I'd want to travel lighter than a trailer may allow. However, past a point, no matter how many reviews and other's experiences you read, you are never going to know what will work best for you. I suppose the only way I will know is to - at some point - purchase the front panniers and find out for myself; then make a choice based on experience. It could be that they will be appropriate for different uses, lighter panniers for long distance touring, trailer for general use.

This decision all came quite late, even for me. I bought the trailer at 5pm on the day of leaving and started riding at 10pm. It was brilliant, an experience you can only really get if you have no time constraints/plans. My first use of it was pretty dramatic, carrying a heavy and long load for an intended 260 miles of hilly English countryside. A baptism of fire you could say!

So what is towing a trailer behind your bike like. Well I have to say, so far my experience has been superb and the trailer has performed admirably. Aside from the obvious and expected: weight increase; width increase; slow speed and off the bike manouverability issues, it has been a pleasure.

Often times, weight and slight rattling aside, you are unaware that you are towing it is that smooth. Stability is fantastic. Trailer manufacturers suggest top speeds for safety in respect of stability. I think mine is 25 kph (18 ish miles per hour), I suppose as disclaimer type recommendation. However, slowly building up speeds, the Burley cargo flatbed was very stable with speeds above 30 mph, even when accounting for corners and man hole covers, potholes and bumps etc. As long as you are sensible in your riding you should be fine! The other thing to note is that I was particularly careful with weight distribution and packing the trailer, so how it is packed and type of cargo is likely to have an affect. A brilliant purchase so far though!