Thursday, September 18, 2014

REI's Introduction to Mountain Biking Class

REI course instructor, Justin briefs us on mountain biking basics.
We had absolutely gorgeous weather for the REI Introduction to Mountain Biking Class last Sunday, September 14th. Up in the mountains of Lewis Morris County Park the air was crisp and cool with very little humidity when the class started at 10 am. REI provided the mountain bikes and helmets for us, so we simply came dressed in our cycling jerseys, mountain biking shoes and hydration packs. I would also recommend bringing an energy bar, pair of cycling gloves and ChapStick Hydration Lock Sunscreen SPF 12. Apply sunblock before heading out. Here is the link to how I packed for REI's Outdoor School HERE

Kestrel Heat Index reading is a comfy 57.6 degrees.
Heat exhaustion didn't seem too likely at these cooler temperatures but as I've said before, September can be tricky especially at this elevation (500+ ft). Starting out very cool in the morning but by midday feeling like the middle of summer. So I kept checking throughout the day and the Thermal Work Limit continued to read above >220 (W.m -2) or "Unrestricted". This means no limits on self paced work or exercise for trained, hydrated athletes. Most everyone had a hydration pack so no problems there.

REI Instructor Ty (yellow jersey) demonstrates mountain bike maneuvers.
Field Maneuvers
First we road uphill to an open field to learn basic mountain bike handling and maneuvers we would need later for the trail ride. We learned proper shifting, braking, manual and pedal assisted wheel lifts which helps when clearing logs and exposed roots. Using real obstacles, we were able to practice these newly learned skills until we got them right. The instructors also road along side us to see if we were executing the moves correctly. Justin even showed how to gracefully take a fall on the bike! These guys are really dedicated.

Putting our skills into practice on the trail.
Trail Maneuvers
After training in the field, the next logical step is to test these skills on an actual bike trail. We took the Yellow Trail at Lewis Morris County Park which is known as one of the best mountain biking terrains in New Jersey. I have to admit that the field skills we practiced came in handy here, especially for clearing logs and large rocks. The trail itself is very scenic and reminds me those in Turkey Swamp Park in Central NJ. These Morris County hills are quite a bit steeper than those you'll find at lower elevations though.

Gina making her descent on the trail.

I enjoyed this class all the more as REI outfitted us with helmets and Novara Mountain Bikes for the day so there was less for us to pack and travel with. I'm primarily a road cyclist and use Polar Bottles in the frame cage. This doesn't work for Mountain Biking! Get yourself a good hydration pack like a Platypus or my Antidote 100 oz which allowed me to haul water for both my companion and myself for the day. I carried my reservoir in the REI Women's Flash Sport 15 which is the lightest pack I own. The back is well meshed and vented so I wasn't sweaty. The strap pouches kept my bite valve, snacks and camera remote within reach the whole day. 

REI's Flash Sport 15 accommodates most hydration packs

Camera Equipment
All of the on location photos and videos were taken with my little GoPro clone, the eXpo Mini Action Cam which Justin attached to my handlebars before we got going. This will be replacing my DSLR Camera for all outdoor events and expeditions as it offers a crisp 20 MP resolution as well as sharp video imagery in wet and rugged environments. Very easy to take pictures with the eXpo even while the camera was in video taping mode. I did this while riding on the road back to the park and just wanted to take a still to capture the moment. Here it is:

Road photo taken while filming video with the eXpo

Technical equipment for the day.
Technical Equipment
As you may know from reading this blog, I do a lot of outdoor expeditions especially in the fall and winter months. Having a camera in a protective waterproof case is going to be sweet! 
I also always bring along a way to keep tabs on changing weather conditions. You can not always rely on a phone app which only tells you the conditions at the nearest weather station, not necessarily where you are at the time. We all know the feeling of having a signal lost in the mountains. Then what do you do? My cellphone also does not have an impeller to measure wind speed which further shows its limitations.

If I'm going to be out for the day or overnight, you better believe that I will be bringing a pocket weather tracker! Conditions can change in a heartbeat and storms can come up out of nowhere. Kestrel Meters are practically bombproof, can be immersed in freezing cold water and still function. Very lightweight, they are quite easy to take along and perform multiple functions for such a small unit: temperature, heat index, humidity, wind speed, barometric readings, altitude, dew point, etc.

Last Challenge of the Day - Stream Crossing Video
I took the eXpo out of the handlebar bracket to film everyone crossing the little stream as our final challenge which everyone completed with flying colors. It was very rocky with a steep incline after the water so it is much more difficult than it looks here.

Special thanks to REI for hosting this class for us and providing such an enriching outdoor experience for fitness enthusiasts of all levels. Learn more about REI's Outdoor School Classes, Membership and Travel opportunities at or

See the NEW eXpo Mini HD Action Cam at

Visit Nielsen Kellerman online at to see all the Kestrel Pocket Weather Trackers available.

Special thanks also to Topricin who provided travel packets of all their first aid and pain cremes for the class. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Protein Power: Cluck n' Moo Burgers for Your Training Table this Fall

Cluck n Moo Burgers have 52% Less Fat than standard all beef burgers.
September 18th is National Cheeseburger Day! If you are cross training, you may want to celebrate with a lower in saturated fat alternative. Cluck n' Moo Burgers give you all the taste of an all beef pattie but without: Antibiotics or Hormones, artificial ingredients or additives and all that beef-fat, 

Cluck n Moo on my Panini Grill
Cluck n Moo Burgers lower your fat intake by adding lean chicken to the beef. I make a similar pattie with turkey and beef. This is just as delicious. I sprinkled the Cluck n Moo Burger with a little roasted garlic and Applewood Rub. I drizzle a bit of coconut oil on top and add a few peppers and onion slices to the grill. Any excess oil easily drains off.

You get four 1/4 pound burgers per package.

Cook until thoroughly done in the middle as this has poultry added and requires a longer cooking time. Go Paleo and serve on a salad or the I did here on whole wheat toast.

Either way, these are delicious and a great source of lean protein and iron with 34% less calories than your average beef burger. Check them out at

Cluck n Moo Burger topped with sharp cheddar cheese

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Packing for REI's Outdoor School: eXpo Mini Action Cam and Kestrel Heat Stress Tracker

Pyle Audio eXpo Action Camera and Kestrel Heat Stress Tracker
I'm getting ready for REI's Outdoor School this coming weekend by packing some technical gear that is made for use in all sorts of climates and terrains. I am taking the Mountain Biking Class which is being held in the high elevations of Morris County, New Jersey. I'm originally from that part of north Jersey as we call it and I can remember going up to Eagle Rock, South Mountain and other wild life reserves in the area. It is a very challenging zone for hiking and mountain biking but the view is beautiful!

eXpo Action Camera by Pyle Audio
This is a new piece of technical equipment that I am bringing along in place of my DSLR camera which I used at the InterBike/Outdoor Retailers Charged Up Media Event and The Woman's Story. This new action camera is being called the "GoPro Clone" but actually has a higher mega pixel resolution than the GoPro. You can choose between 20, 14 and 5 mega pixel images on the eXpo while the GoPro Hero3 Black Edition only goes up to 11 MP. Likewise you can choose from multiple video frames per second with the eXpo - 60, 50, 30 or 25 while the GoPro Hero3 gives you only 30 video frames per second max. Just on these two features alone, the eXpo clearly distinguishes itself from the GoPro. 
eXpo Full HD Mini Action Cam in its waterproof case
Underwater eXpo
Right now I have the eXpo outfitted with the handlebar brace for the Novara mountain bikes we will be riding for the course. Before that, I used this camera underwater in our pool utilizing its waterproof case shown in the photo above. Look closely at the upper left hand portion of the screen and you'll see the green Wi-Fi bars all lit up. This is synced with the wireless remote allowing me to start or stop filming and take photos even while the video taping option is in play. Brilliant! This camera comes with all the mounting accessories you will need to turn it into a serious helmet or bike cam for both road and off road use. Check out the eXpo Full HD Action Cam PSCHD90 at

Underwater photo with the eXpo Full HD Action Cam PSCHD90 at 

Coming up out of the water shot with the eXpo

eXpo Action Cam and Wi-Fi Remote. Bag: Mountainsmith Focus Camera Bag
Kestrel Weather Meters - Heat Stress Tracker
One of the issues I've seen from participating in several outdoor adventure events is heat stroke. It can sneak up on you as it did for me when I was competing in the Woods Hollow Mountain Bike Classic race. I was in the Sport or Advanced Division which was twice as long as the intermediate section. Yes, I was rather naive back then.

Yes, I won in my division!
It was very hot as it was held in July. I didn't have a hydration pack, only a few water bottles. There were hydration stations but you really needed to haul your own! About half way through I began feeling sick to my stomach. I know part of that is growth hormone being secreted but it can also be a sign of heat exhaustion. I was on a closed race course in the park but what if I were out on the road in traffic? The results could have been very different.

Kestrel 4400 Heat Stress Tracker
Someone should really have been keeping an eye on the heat index for that race as the afternoon temperatures soared into the 90's. A lot of riders simply quit and went home, it was just too hot and difficult. Just on account of the adverse heat index, the race should have been rescheduled.
So for REI's Mountain Biking Course, I'm bringing a Kestrel 4400 Heat Stress Tracker. It fits in my pocket and gives real time weather information with conditions based on where you are at the moment. This is important because you can have a wide range of weather conditions and variables going on at distinct altitudes and elevations within the same zone. The Kestrel Heat Stress Tracker calculates those parameters for you such as: temp., humidity, air velocity, altitude, barometric pressure, pressure trend, wind chill and speed, relative humidity and waterless WBGT (wet bulb global temperature) plus several more values to access the Thermal Work Limit and Heat Stress Index exactly where you are. Crucial information to assess how safe it is for athletes and outdoor enthusiasts to be participating in strenuous exercise.

User Screen showing: temp. humidity and dew point
September can be a tricky month because the days often start rather cool. You dress accordingly for the temperature and conditions you encountered upon arising. However by mid-afternoon, you may feel like it's the middle of summer. This is why this month can be so dangerous for outdoor fitness training and events. So my Kestrel Heat Stress Tracker will be keeping tabs on conditions all day long for the REI Mountain Biking Course on September 14th,whatever they may be. Check out more pocket weather trackers and meters at Nielsen Kellerman online at

Keeping on top of the weather on the road. Kestrel 3500