Sciences of travel

Adventure travel blog


Wrapped and Ready to Roll

Winter exercise is never easy: you either freeze your tuckus off outside or you breathe in all the moist nastiness that is other people’s perspiration in the gym. Let’s face it: in the winter, everyone flocks to the gym where there is a higher concentration of human beings, a higher concentration of CO2, and a higher concentration of sweat and humidity in the air that no gym ventilation system can really aerate. It can’t be good for you to have a fan blowing on you as you run on the treadmill (that’s how my grandmother said we all get sick). I prefer dressing up warmly and going outside. Even if its cold, I’ll take the outside.

P1010995-300x225Here in Chambéry temperatures can get pretty low at times. There is a lot of humidity in the valleys and it makes the evenings bitter, bitter cold. At times I had to triple-check to make sure the heaters in my apartment were on. What’s fantastic about biking in the cold (or doing anything in the cold) is you get the same rush as skiing: cold temperatures outside while your body cooks nice and warm. The Romans and Nordic tribes knew about the benefits of hydrotherapy, as did the Greeks and Egyptians. The expansion and contraction of blood vessels pushes blood through the body giving you the rush needed to return to your cube and finish the day’s projects, or prepare for the afternoon’s three-hour meeting. Chances are if you try it once you’ll get the taste of it and you’ll keep doing it.

This is what my buddy Marc taught me to do: invest in the gear and get out there. Great summer riding begins with great winter riding and in this video you’ll see a few suggestions of how to go about facing the bitter cold. The panorama and adrenaline rush are worth it. This is a simple ride we often take around Chambéry that isn’t very difficult but gives us a nice two hour spin – especially in the winter time when the cols are snowed in. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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A Tale of Two Tires

Hmm, where to begin. Well, let’s begin with Napoleon III who launched a campaign to Vietnam for Imperialistic means. Since the North was a stronghold, the ships attacked the Southern weaker states and eventually gained ground around what is present day Saigon. From there, between 1859 to 1867 the French expanded their domain in Vietnam, just at the same time they needed more rubber trees for developments back in the mainland. To read more about French Indochina, Wikipedia has a pretty nice wrap up of events here

P1010993-225x300Almost a hundred years prior, back in France, Charles Marie de La Condamine presented a research paper to the Académie Royale des Sciences introducing rubber in 1736. By 1829 rubber in manufacturing is begun by Edouard Daubree and by way of various ins and outs of the development of the company, in 1889 Edouard and Andre Michelin take control, creating what we know today as the fine tire company that has been in business for over 120 years. For more on the development of the tire company read this excellent article by Liz Smith

It’s a fascinating part of history and one that plays a huge role in our daily lives – especially if you like to bike. I’m not here to talk about the history of rubber in France (although, it is pretty interesting for those who didn’t know); I’m here to talk about tires. Two tires. Two French tire companies and why one is better than the other. I average about 7,ooo kms on my bicycle per year (I work outside) and my tools are steel and rubber. Last year Hutchinson created a “Tour de France” edition of their Fusion road tire (which they do every year for marketing purposes?). It lasted a very short while before getting a tear in it. In fact, it wasn’t just a little tear but down to the threads just two weeks after I had put the tire on the wheel (approximately 1500 kms). I’d have a hard time believing a Tour de France finisher – riding approximately 3,500kms over 21 days – would put so much faith into this rubber on the road (unless they have a different type of tire).

However, the Michelin Pro Race have an extraordinary lifespan. I’ve been able to go through a season with replacing the rear tire just once mid-season. The front tire will last well into the end of the season. I have hit rocks and have come screaming down high altitudes without a problem. I don’t really understand the chemistry behind these intense polymers, but I’d believe that 120 years of experience speaks through their product. They’re usually a bit more expensive than regular tires but I think the price is worth it since your life depends on them. So which tire did I put on my bike? The Hutchinson of course: I don’t want to get the Michelin Pro Race dirty just yet. Thanks Chuck.

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