Tag Archives: gear

Burying the variable

15 Jun

I’ve gone faster than ever on my last two rollerski trainings. First up Grefsenkollen and then along the valley floor in Maridalen. The only problem is figuring out why. On the one hand my experience in the Norges cup race in Askim gave me a new burst of inspiration. Getting slaughtered by 20 year-olds left me fluttering  between despair and renewed resolve. But the balance finally went resolutely toward the latter. And now I’ve got a new drive to work hard.

Moreover the weather has been chaotic which has pushed me to train in a more varied and probably more complete way. I’ve done a mix of spinning classes, Ski-Erg and short and long rollerski trips.

Finally there’s an equipment factor. I just got new wheels. Beautiful things. Each machined from a single block of aluminium. Lovely, shiny and precise. And they feel divine. They make fast comfortable.

So has my speed increased because of easier rolling wheels? Or is it just the extra training. Hard to say.  But for what it’s worth, my average speed on my Maridalen route has crept up from 15,8 to 19,2 km/h in a little less than a year’s time.

More idiot bravado from Petter Northug

5 Nov

More idiot bravado from Petter Northug. After a hard, uphill rollerski training with slow wheels in Val Senales, he was quoted as saying “medium-rolling wheels are for women”.

I wonder what Marit Bjørgen thinks:

As for me,  I normally use SRB SR02-Flex rollerskis that come with quite slow rolling medium wheels:

They are exceptionally smooth rolling on rough asphalt and have an incredible ski-feel. Since I bought them directly from the manufacturer, I was able to get the Start brand speed reducers specially mounted (which required a custom-milled metal adapter).

However on the rare days when the road is completely dry I like to use my old Swenors with fast polyurethane racing wheels from Roll’X:

It feels great to run free and fast. And, as an added bonus, it dicks with the brains of the over-macho wankers you come across in Maridalsveien who want a rollerski race with everyone they meet.

Just doing my part to combat the galloping Norwegian-Northug-Syndrome that has spread throughout the valley!

Rollerski fashionista makeover

4 Nov

I found this thoughtful gift in my mailbox today as I was rushing home to rollerski before the sun set. Vastly more aesthetic than the construction-worker type safety vest I had been using. That one might have actually increased the risk of car-related incidents. With such a mix of Lycra and building trade attire I’m sure more than one driver was tempted to lift his hands from the steering wheel and mime the letters Y-M-C-A. Get your vest here.

The other nice thing today was rolling on a mostly dry road. I’ve been condemned to rubber wheels because of all the rain and damp misery lately. And with those on a really wet road it feels like your legs are stuck in mud. But today rollerskiing, even with rubber wheels, felt nearly effortless.

The only issue was that the public works people have been spreading far too much salt on the roads. When I stopped to turn on my speed reducers, I found one of them was corroded stuck. So I turned around after deciding it wasn’t worth the risk going down the nasty hill before me with a blind corner and ice starting to form.

Got home just as it was getting too dark  to see road hazards clearly. Glad I was visible. And stylish.

Wheel doping, fårikål and other addictions

11 Oct

When I moved from France to Norway my dear French colleagues warned me that I would die from malnourishment. The Norwegians eat “caramel cheese”, they told me in such foreboding tones as to make you think the Nogs were guilty of crimes against humanity. En France on ne rigole pas avec le fromage!

And it’s true that Norway often fails in the food category. The Norwegian food aesthetic generally involves taking a perfectly good piece of fish and doing something unholy to it. Like burying it or soaking it in caustic soda (lye).

But when people who are generally bad do something good, we should encourage them. Case in point, Fårikål, a Norwegian recipe that approaches genius.

Fårikål means “mutton in cabbage”, and that’s exactly what it is. If you count strictly, there are only five ingredients. But simple can be good. Really good.

But the minimalistic brilliance of fårikål doesn’t stop there. It’s a lifestyle recipe. A ski-lifestyle recipe.

Let me try to explain.

It takes five minutes to prepare fårikål and five hours to cook it. And it smells so good that if you hang around waiting for it to cook you will surely go mad. So, the solution is to throw it on the back burner and then go out and (roller)ski for a LONG time.

Then, when you get back, cold and exhausted, your nutrient-starved brain will wonder who’s cooking such nice-smelling food as you approach your door. And, finally, when the warm embrace of fårikål goodness floods around you as you stumble inside it will dawn on you that you have made it. And that it’s ready to eat. Valhalla here you come!

Ingredients:

  • Some cheap, fatty, bony cuts of lamb or mutton
  • A big, smooth-leaf cabbage (chou lisse, pas frisé)
  • Whole peppercorns
  • Salt
  • 50cl water

Directions:

Put the fattiest bits of meat fat side down in the bottom of the pot. Cover them with a layer of wedges of cabbage. Throw a little salt and some peppercorns on top of that. Then add another layer of meat. More cabbage wedges on top of that with again a sprinkling of salt and whole peppercorns. Keep filling the pot like that. The topmost layer should be cabbage. Toss in the water and put on a low flame. (Roller)ski for at least five hours. Come home. Eat. Can be served on top of boiled potatoes but I like mine straight up.

This all leads me naturally to the subject of rollerski wheels. My new record performance Sunday on Grefsenkollen wasn’t achieved by pure, honorable hard work. No, it was doping. Wheel doping. But can it be cheating when it feels so good? My advice, come to the dark side and buy yourself some speed. Olivier from Roll’x is helpful and knowledgeable and can surely tell you what’s legal in a professional race if you’re going to participate in one. I’ve heard he has a secret, illustrious, mistreated-fish-eating pro client. But even as a humble amateur my experience is that climbing big hills is so much more pleasurable with fast PU wheels. While I just did my fastest time ever on rubber wheels this evening, the motivation was purely and simply the unpleasant feeling that I was standing still compared to the sensations I had going up Grefsenkollen on fast wheels yesterday.

But like any potent performance enhancer, there are side effects. Remember speed kills. I’ve seen my life flash before my eyes when going over rough asphalt at 50km/h on a downhill. And there’s a definite addiction factor too. Once you taste speed you don’t want to go slow. But you must. If slow rubber made you fast then abandoning it means becoming slow again, even on fast wheels. So there, you are warned. But it’s like ice cream on a hot summer day, so you’ll cave in.

Yeah, well, except that ice cream doesn’t take all the skin off your butt when you’re not careful with it…

Rollerski Jura

3 Oct

Cool rollerski footage from the Jura Mountains in France, not far from where the Transjurassienne ski race takes place. The guy in blue and white is Olivier from the Roll’x inline skate wheel and rollerski manufacturer.

It’s really interesting to train with harder polyurethane racing wheels like the ones I bought in France from Roll’x. Skating at higher speeds, particularly when climbing, encourages smoother technique. With slower rubber wheels I get impatient and increase my step frequency too much. Moreover, racing wheels have a sharp contour so they track really well on the pavement.

The only issue with the new wheels is that they go fast. Really fast! But that’s exactly what you want for a rollerski race on a safe circuit where cars are not a problem.

On the other hand, maybe you can just try the speed reduction techniques adapted to harder P.U. wheels that Olivier demonstrates in the video.

New poles, new power

10 Jul

Bought new carbon rollerski poles. These will replace my faithful aluminium ones. Carbon are lighter and stiffer, but also more fragile.
Aluminium were a good choice in the beginning when I crashed more frequently. I won’t say I never fall anymore. That theory is wholly disproved by the recent Spain incident. But now it usually only happens when I take risks or (bane of my existense) fail to spot a particularly nasty piece of gravel.
So while I think I’m ready for carbon I’ll keep my alu poles as backup. Once seeing a colleague break his carbon poles five minutes into a his first ski with them on tarmac only confirms that this is a good idea.
I try to avoid being sucked into Norwegian gear fetishism. People here buy more sports equipment per capita than anyone in any other country. I don’t believe that the latest or most technologically advanced gear is necessarily significantly better than than the high middle range equipment I usually buy.
Still, I nonetheless like my carbon snow poles. They are light and seem to transfer power well. Carbon is now standard for cross country poles and not any special luxury.
But I really did not expect particularly improved performance with the new rollerski poles. One helping factor is that they come with a harness for the hands instead of a simple strap loop. It was nevertheless good I previously avoided anything that tightly attached me to my poles because I had the habit of planting them in drainage grates. Were my hand strapped into the pole, that would have meant at best a broken pole and at worst a dislocated shoulder.
Another benefit of the new poles is that with their lighter weight they produce less shock when their tips hit the pavement. That should be good for avoiding tendonitis.
But the biggest and most surprising plus was that I went significantly faster without greater effort. I had only planned a quick trip around the neighbourhood but ended up going up Grefsenkollen. Even though I didn’t push my pace very hard, I logged my lowest minutes per kilometer time ever on that route. I would not have believed it if I didn’t see it on Runkeeper. So I guess in some cases gear can make a big difference.