Max Gladwell

Entreprenurship and Adventure Sports

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Better Cycling Through Data: Power Meters

October 23rd, 2015 by Max Gladwell· No Comments

Improving power output is one of the few ways to go faster on the bike. Power meters from Pioneer, SRM, Garmin, and Wahoo Fitness are your methods of measurement. 

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Pioneer’s Cyclo-Sphere software interface showing 12 points of directional force and pedaling efficiency for each leg

More power is mo betta. It’s a self-evident truth of cycling: when you add more wattage to the equation, it gets better. You go faster and farther with less effort. You drop your buddies and bag personal records (PRs) on Strava. Ultimately, you have more fun. In order to produce more power, though, you need to do two things: train and measure. I’ll cover the training part in a future post. For now, we’ll focus on measurement.

A new category of training technology, including both hardware and software, has emerged around the measurement and optimization of power output. Quite simply, this is how much wattage your legs send to the pedals at any given moment. This value, combined with the weight of your body and bike, largely determines how fast you go. However, power output can be measured at the pedal, the crank, the bottom bracket, and the rear wheel. It can be measured as a total value or for each individual leg. So there is a lot to consider in making the right choice for your goals.

Following are three power meter systems I’ve been evaluating for the past six to 12 months, along with their corresponding computer head units and software:

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Cheating Death: Essential Mountain Bike Safety Gear

October 5th, 2015 by Max Gladwell· No Comments

The brave new world of mountain biking is more burly than ever. Protect yourself before…well, you know.

The universe of possibility on a mountain bike has doubled or even tripled over the past decade. The combination of highly capable bike designs and equally aggressive trail building are conspiring to push the envelope of possibility. As riders, we have to accept the erosion of our relative ability level if we don’t keep pace. In other words, an advanced rider 10 years ago would hardly be intermediate by today’s standards — standards being set in places like British Columbia, Canada, and Park City, Utah.

For example, getting air is now par for the course…when said course is rated black diamond or above. Whether through mandatory drop-offs or kicker jumps, launching is an integral part of advanced mountain biking these days. And this carries greater risk.

Thankfully, there is also new level of protective gear including helmets, body armor, spine pads, goggles, and gloves to mitigate that risk. I took this bag of protective gear on trips to the Whistler Bike Park in B.C., and then to the Deer Valley Bike Park and Canyons Bike Park in Utah, on a mission to prop up my ability level. Here’s what I found…

A photo posted by Max Gladwell (@maxgladwell) on

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Park City Point 2 Point: Endurance Racing at Level 10

September 28th, 2015 by Max Gladwell· No Comments

Testing physical limits and a purpose-built Santa Cruz mountain bike in the world’s toughest one-day mountain bike race

“How many more miles do we have?” I ask.

I’m at the final aid station of the 2015 Park City Point-2-Point (PCP2P) mountain bike race, an off-road cycling epic unlike any other in the world.

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Photo by Selective Vision

“Does 10 miles sound like a lot?” the race volunteer inquires as a response.

I think about it for a moment. This means I have about an hour to go given my pace. That is, for the past eight hours, I’ve been averaging about 9 mph. Indeed, since the race began at 7 a.m., I’ve covered 70 miles of Park City, Utah’s, finest singletrack trails, climbing and descending more than 10,000 vertical feet at elevations ranging from 7,000 to 9,100 feet above sea level.

All I have left is 10 miles, I tell myself. Just 10 more miles. You can do this, I tell myself.

The PCP2P is perhaps the most technical and physically demanding one-day mountain bike race in the world. According to race organizer Jay Burke, “The difficulty level is pushing a 10. The Leadville 100 [in Colorado] is maybe a six, but that’s only due to the high elevation.” I later confirm this comparison with riders who’ve done both.

Unlike Leadville and other events in this category, the PCP2P course is more than 90 percent singletrack trail. I can’t actually recall riding anything but singletrack, other than to cross a road from one trail to the other. Which means there are no breaks, no rest for body or mind, no sitting in the pack to recover. You are constantly on, constantly focused on the trail and its various obstacles, from roots and rocks to switchbacks and aspen trees. Descending is every bit as taxing on the body as climbing, and a hail storm while traversing Park City Ski Resort at 9,000 feet didn’t make it any easier. Then there’s the atmospheric pressure.

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The Ultimate Bike Commuting System

August 25th, 2015 by Max Gladwell· No Comments

Everyday commuting on electric-hybrid bikes is all about the system of gear in support of the program

Bike commuting is inherently good. It’s good for the environment by reducing traffic congestion and pollution. It’s good for the body by way of exercise and good for the mind by pumping more oxygen to the brain in preparation for the workday. According to a study done by the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Georgia, even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. Nevertheless, bike commuting can be a chore. It’s not something you necessarily look forward to, especially after a hard day at work (or a hard night, as the case may be). Unless, that is, you pilot a human-electric hybrid bike, such as the Specialized Turbo I reviewed last year.

Since then, I’ve surveyed a number of people who commute on bikes like these — bikes that give you superhuman power — and the feeling is unanimous: riding to and from work is the best part of the day.

With an extra 250 watts of power in the form of a silent electric motor, the chore of bike commuting is transformed into an urban joy ride. Hills and headwinds are completely neutralized, and traffic becomes more of a feature than an obstacle. You still have to pedal. You still have to exert energy, but you can dial the effort to your liking as opposed to being at the mercy of terrain, weather, or your individual limits.

In order to fully adopt an electric-hybrid bike commuting program, though, you need a system. You need the proper gear and apparel that make it safe, sustainable, comfortable, and even fashionable. In addition to the bike itself, the following gear is my system for five-days-a-week bike commuting on the West Side of L.A.

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Gear of the 2015 Tour de France

August 10th, 2015 by Max Gladwell· No Comments

The kits, wheels, tires, helmets and shoes that lead to victory in this year’s Tour de France.

It takes years of dedicated training — not to mention a fair measure of natural talent — to ride like a professional cyclist. To ride with professional cycling gear, however, is just a matter of swiping a credit card. In other words, the gear of the 2015 Tour de France is widely available for purchase. Here are a few key pieces, together with the victories in which they played a starring role.

MTN-Qhubeka jersey ($119): I’m typically not a fan of wearing pro team kits. If I’m not actually on the team, why wear the uniform? The one exception is that of African Team MTN-Qhubeka. The nonprofit Qhubeka organization is dedicated to providing bicycles to school children in South Africa who otherwise have to walk an hour each way to school. Plus, the base kit is made by Castelli, which specializes in high-performance road threads.

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Team: MTN-Qhubeka

Key Victory: Daniel Teklehaimanot made history on Stage 6 in becoming the first African to wear the polka dot King of the Mountains jersey.

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