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2020 Hurricane predictions and what surfers need to know

You might not be planning on traveling anywhere in the midst of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, but if you’re lucky enough to live near the coast, there’s some important information you need to know about the predictions for the 2020 hurricane season.

It’s been a record-breaking year so far, with the Atlantic season already revealing three tropical storms (Bertha, Cristobal, and Arthur). There’s a lot to look forward to, too – particularly if you like to surf. 

Here’s what you need to know about the 2020 hurricane season predictions. 

What Has Happened So Far

Before the middle of May,  two tropical storms had already formed off the coast of the southeastern United States, both of which produced exceptional amounts of surf. This was only the third time in the last 65 years that two storms were named this early in the season. Both Arthur and Bertha produced notable waves for surf-lovers.

The record was broken before this in 2012 and 2016. 

Then, in early June of 2020, Tropical Storm Cristobal formed and ultimately impacted much of Central America, southern Mexico, the Gulf Coast, and the Midwest, becoming the third named storm of 2020. 

What Do Forecasting Models Tell Us About the Upcoming Season?

According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, there is a forecasted 60% chance of an “above-normal” season. 

What does this mean?

The average hurricane season extends from June 1 to November 30. An above-average year is one that sees increased levels of hurricanes or hurricane-related activity, while one that is below-normal will see much less. 

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center believes there will be at least 13 to 19 named storms. To qualify as a named storm, a storm must have winds of 39 miles per hour or more. Of these 13 to 19 named storms, six to ten could become hurricanes with winds of 74 miles per hour. About half of those are expected to be major hurricanes (category 3, 4, or 5, with winds exceeding 111 miles per hour). 

If that doesn’t sound like a lot to you, consider the fact that the average hurricane season produces only 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes (three of which are considered major).

Why so much activity? NOAA and other scientific organizations say that warmer-than-average waters in key portions of the Atlantic Ocean (which provide fuel for major storms) along with favorable upper-level winds in the tropics during the peak season could be to blame.

Another indicator that it’s going to be a bumpy ride is the fact that Africa experienced a strong monsoon season. Often, tropical waves moving off Africa are fodder for potential storms and can then become Cabo Verde storms.

Then, of course, there’s the absence of El Nino and a trend toward La Nina. El Nino conditions usually suppress Atlantic tropical activity while La Nina conditions usually connect to increased amounts of tropical activity. 

In short, it’s going to be a busy 2020 hurricane season!

What Areas Will See the Most Activity – and When?

As is normal, the Gulf of Mexico and the northwest Caribbean region will be the primary focus when it comes to hurricane development and surf action. You’ll see the most activity here in the early- to midsummer months. 

There’s also an increased likelihood of the United States and the Caribbean receiving a major landfalling hurricane this year, according to Colorado State’s Tropical Meteorology Group. 

Plenty of tropical moisture and warm sea temperatures will breed tropical storms quickly and effectively in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean region. Although July might start off more slowly in the tropics, the month will probably become more active as the month ends and moves into August. 

Things may slow down a bit during the hottest days of summer, though hurricane activity over the Gulf of Mexico is expected to continue. 

However, from the end of August until mid-October, things will get more active as tropical waves from Africa head west and produce activity in the Atlantic. Some meteorologists predict that large, powerful hurricanes will track north over the Caribbean islands before curving back over the open Atlantic, sending waves slamming back toward the East Coast. If the storm tracks west, though, it could deprive the east coast of any notable waves. 

All in all, scientists at the Colorado State University Department of Atmospheric Science believe that the 2020 Atlantic basin will have above-average hurricane activity, with a 69% chance that at least one of these major storms will make landfall in the United States. 

The hurricane season began on June 1 and could last until November 30. The names for this year’s storms include Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky, and Wilfred. 

Sorry West Coasters – you don’t have a great outlook. That’s not unusual, though. The likelihood of a hurricane hitting here is slim to none in the best of years, since the trajectory normally takes hurricanes to Mexico or out into the sea. If you live in southern California, though, you can look forward to summer hurricane swells at south-facing breaks as well as the right-hand point breaks of Baja. 

What Does the La Niña Climate Pattern Mean for This Year’s Hurricane Season?

Forecasters have announced that El Nino is not likely to form this year, which spells lots of activity for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. 

El Nino is a warming of seawater that naturally occurs in the tropical Pacific Ocean. When El Nino occurs, there is usually less hurricane activity in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and the Atlantic. It increases upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic, tearing hurricanes apart. 

La Nina, on the other hand, is marked by cooler-than-average seawater in the Pacific, which increases tropical activity in the Atlantic. 

Interestingly, forecasters have said that this year, the water in the Pacific is either unusually warm or unusually cool. It is, therefore “ENSO-neutral.” ENSO stands for El Nino-Southern Oscillation and is the term for the entire climate pattern that includes La Nina and El Nino.

Best Forecasting and Tracking Tools to Use

Keeping an eye on the progression of tropical storms and hurricanes is smart, but especially so if you are a surfer. In the past, you had to listen to shipping forecasts or study surface pressure charts – something most people wouldn’t want to do. Later, in the 80s and 90s, there were surf telephone lines you could call with surf reports recorded from around the country. 

Today, though, the Internet does it all for us. Now, you can find accurate wave forecasts down to the minute for just about every surf destination in the new world. These are usually uploaded several days in advance to help you plan your surf. 

There are several resources you can use to help you monitor these storms as they form and move across the coast. 

HurricaneTrak

HurricaneTrak by Surfline allows you to track hurricanes as they move across the Atlantic, Pacific, for any other ocean basin. With this program, you’ll learn how to track storms and compare them to classic swell-producing storms to see how they match up.  

With HurricaneTrack, you will get access to all of the latest updates along with helpful tracking tools and historic archives. You’ll be able to use the storm and swell ruler, too, to help you track a storm. 

Magicseaweed

Magicseaweed offers ocean buoy readings, detailed long-range forecasting, hurricane tracks, videos, photos, direct beach reports, live winds, and more. This website will give you surf information for destinations all over the globe. 

Windfinder

Windfinder is a website designed not just for surfers, but also for sailors, windsurfers, kitesurfers, paragliders, and other hobbyists who rely on – as you might guess – the wind. You’ll find waves, wind, weather, webcams, tides, and more all in one handy, easy to navigate website. 

Swellnet

Swellnet is an older website, founded in 1998 as a fax and email service. Today, Swellnet offers forecasts for all over the world. 

Surf-Forecast

Surf-Forecast will give you detailed surf reports and forecasts for more than 7,000 of the world’s top surf spots. You’ll get wave maps, wind maps, email surf alerts, and wind alert systems, too. 

MSW Surf Forecast

A free app for both Android and iPhone, MSW Surf Forecast was recently updated and uses your exact location to provide current, updated surf conditions. It will give you information for more than 2,500 beaches around the world – there’s a good chance that your surf destination will be on the list. 

NOAA

The best of the best, and also the most basic and reliable resource if you’re looking for detailed weather information. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, offers all kinds of forecasting data to help you make the most of your surf plans.

How to Track and Read the Swell Forecasts for Surfing

The first hurricane wave models were developed in the 1950s and were based on measurements of significant wave period and height. Later on, starting in the 1990s, computer modeling made it easier for scientists to predict ocean waves and winds.

The best way to figure out whether a storm will be good for surfing is to read the storm. If you see a storm developing, the first thing you need to do is figure out where it’s located in terms of its latitudinal and longitudinal readings. You also need to determine how hard the winds are blowing, and in what speed and direction.

You can find this information with a quick Google search, or by using one of the tools or websites above. 

Generally, the best surf from hurricanes comes from storms that are large with high wind speeds, ideally those that are headed directly toward you with no obstructions to block the swell. However, if a storm is not headed for you, it can still send waves your way. 

Remember that, in the Northern Hemisphere, hurricanes spin counter-clockwise. The dominant swell and wind from Northern Hemisphere hurricanes come from the side of it to the right of its direction of movement. Usually, hurricane swells travel in the same direction as the movement of the storm, but slow-moving or stationary hurricanes can send swells every which way.

Keep in mind, too, that swells decline rapidly in intensity as they travel longer distances from the origin of the storm. The longer and stronger a storm is, the bigger the swell is and the faster it will move, too. 

The speed and direction of movement play a role in how well a storm generates waves, too. Hurricanes generate the most wind and waves in the direction they are moving. In the Northern Hemisphere, for instance, the northeast quadrants will have the strongest winds – but the southeast quadrant will produce the best swells. 

Why? It’s simple. The winds have more time to spend on making the waves larger. 

The best swell is found when a storm is moving into the “swell window” for your specific stretch of coast. You’ll want to keep an eye out for a large tract of open ocean with no obstacles (ie, land) between it and you. When it moves into your swell window, good times are on the way! 

Tips for Surfing

Ready to get out there to experience those epic swells? Follow these tips for the best day of surfing yet. 

Watch the Forecasts

The simplest thing you can do is be prepared when it comes to hurricanes and hurricane surfing conditions. Use one of the websites or apps we told you about to help you get detailed, accurate information – and check back frequently so that you can act quickly as soon as the conditions are right.

Don’t feel the need to go with your gut – you aren’t the Storm Whisperer. Sure, there is such a thing as intuition, but remember that there are professionals out there who are specifically trained to share and track storms. They know what to look for!

That’s not to say you can’t do some observation on your own to determine when it’s going to be the best time to search. Head down to the coast and observe the waves. Know what to look for and watch those swells like it’s your job!

Pick the Right Spot

Figure out where exactly you need to be to enjoy some epic surfing. The best areas tend to be those with some wind shelter as well as some man-made or sea bottom structures that can help the surf. 

Surf Within Your Abilities

This is good advice for surfing in general, but if you’re planning on heading out to experience hurricane swell, make sure you’re prepared and physically up to the challenge. 

Hurricane surf is large and dangerous, and there’s no reason why you should make today the day you test your limits. Remember that steady situations offshore can change rapidly, becoming the stuff of nightmares in a matter of seconds when you’re out there on the water.

Your swimming, paddling, and overall stamina need to be in tiptop shape if you plan on surfing in these conditions. You also need to know how to get out of rip currents, as these are more common in hurricane conditions. 

There are plenty of exercises you can do to get into shape. After all, hurricanes are an athletic endeavor that requires some preparation and a level of physical endurance. Try to get in shape before the season starts by doing exercises like ring chin-ups, front squats, pushups, mobility drills, and dynamic lunges. 

Here are some other workouts you can do to improve your fitness prior to enjoying those swells. 

Keep Your Gear in Good Condition

Now is not the time to head out there with a ramshackle board. You need to make sure your equipment is in good shape so you don’t have to worry about last-minute repairs. These surf conditions don’t come around every day, so make sure you’re ready to enjoy them when they do. 

Choose a board that’s appropriate for the conditions and is sturdily built, too.

Know When It’s Just Too Dangerous

Although seeing a hurricane on the forecast is enough to produce jittery bursts of excitement even for the most experienced surfer, sometimes, you’re going to have to throw in the towel and call it a day. Sometimes, it is simply too dangerous for you to get out there and enjoy a hurricane swell.

Hurricanes sometimes come in too fast, too strong, and too dangerous to make a day on the water worth the risk. If you’re new to surfing or simply don’t know what to expect from hurricane conditions, be sure to talk to somebody with a bit more experience – ideally, somebody who has some local knowledge of hurricane surf and can give you a good idea of what to expect. 

Remember, the summer and corresponding hurricane season doesn’t always present the best time to be a surfer, either. Yes, the sun is out and the water is warmer, but the beaches are crowded and the waves might not be as predictable.

Top 5 spring break surf destinations

Spring may not have made a full appearance in many parts of the country, but for many people, spring break means spring waves.

You don’t have to have a ton of cash or even a lot of surfing experience in order to experience the best that the ocean has to offer. Instead, you just need to hit up one of these top five best spring season surf destinations. Trust us, the waves (and the awesome scenery) we’ll take care of the rest. 

The Top 5 Best Spring Surf Destinations in the World 

1. Fuerteventura

Where: Island of Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain
Cost: Moderate

Accessibility: Moderate 

Consistency: Excellent 

Crowds: Not bad in March 

If you’ve never crossed the Atlantic for a surfing excursion, now might be the time to give it a try. There is so much to love about the Canary Islands, and you really need to see this particular island in order to believe it. 

Despite the name, you won’t find any tiny yellow birds fluttering around the islands. Instead, you’ll find plenty of sunlight, unfettered beaches, and of course, massive waves. When you visit, you can stay in a variety of cities that flank the Fuerteventura area, including Puerto del Rosario, Morro Jable, and Costa Calma. 

The climate here is heavily influenced by the nearby Bay of Biscay. You’ll enjoy tropical weather all throughout the year, along with surfing conditions that are also top-notch regardless of when you visit. The weather is consistently sunny and you’ll enjoy gorgeous scenery, including volcanic plains along with beautiful and quiet island beaches. 

Because Fuerteventura is somewhat off the beaten path, you won’t be inundated with crowds when you visit. However, you will be able to benefit from unique cultural experiences that are the result of the Islands’ location just on the outskirts of Africa. 

There are a few great places to surf when you visit Fuerteventura, but the best way to find some of this destination’s hidden honey holes is to stop by and ask a local. They’ll have some insight as to the best spots to catch a wave given the conditions of the day. Regardless of your skill level, though, you’ll find plenty of places to go. 

There are not only several beaches that are friendly to beginners, but there are also some that are reef-bottomed and a bit more challenging for those seeking more adventure. Some of the best surf can be found on the North Track of the island, which extends from the town of El Cotillo to the more populated city of Corralejo, winding around the northern tip of the island. You’ll enjoy a ton of breaks, including Generosa and Harbour Wall. 

One of the best spots to surf? El Hierro. It’s located near the city of Corralejo and is a favored spot by locals. Here, you’ll enjoy a famous tubular wave known as La Izquierda, which produces large swells that are best enjoyed by the most daring surfers.

Getting to Fuerteventura isn’t the easiest – flights can cost several hundred dollars depending on where you’re coming from, and the region isn’t serviced by most budget airlines. However, March is a prime time to visit, as rates tend to be lower and the beaches are much less crowded. Luckily, March is also when you’ll catch prime waves (the ideal surfing conditions are found here between October and April). 

When you’re done on the water for the day, Fuerteventura has plenty to offer, too. You’ll be able to enjoy some serious nightlife along with gorgeous hikes back into scenic beaches, volcanic overlooks, and more. 

2. Bali 

Where: Bali, Indonesia

Cost: Not bad during the spring, but can be expensive at other times 

Accessibility: Somewhat difficult to get to 

Consistency: Very consistent

Crowds: Light in March and April 

If you live in Australia, you probably already know what a phenomenal spot Bal is if you want to catch a few waves. 

Bali is a harder-to-reach surf destination if you live in the United States, but that doesn’t mean it’s totally out of reach. This surf destination offers consistent conditions all year round, but is one of the best in the spring because you don’t have to compete with the crowds. 

The low season in Bali coincides with the rainy season, which lasts from October until April (with a bit of a break in December). You’ll experience the fewest crowds and lowest prices at this time. You can get round-trip flights from the US at this time of the year for roughly $700, allowing for an affordable and enjoyable trip if you time things right.

It will take you some time to get there – in some cases, more than 24 hours worth of travel – but you’ll appreciate the time on the plane to rest. You’re going to have some serious surfing to prepare for (and then recover from!). There are plenty of decently-priced hotels in Bali, too, along with various hostels. 

The best part is that March and April are considered “early season” in Bali, so you won’t have to fight the crowds to find a spot to surf. With some of the most gorgeous (and longest) beaches in the world, Bali has plenty of hotels right along the coast. You won’t have to travel far to get to your surf destination. 

Bali’s “wet season” is from November to March. During the wet season, the best surf destinations are on the east coast. You’ll be able to enjoy world-class waves like the Green Bowl, Sanura, Nusa Dua, and Serangan here. You might get more rain during this wet season, but the minimal crowds and awesome waves are worth it. 

When you arrive in Bali, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the low cost of dining, lodging, and excursions. The best surf spots in the city can be found on the southern coasts and surrounding the Bukit peninsula, but be advised that these surf destinations are best for advanced surfaces. There are some serious curls and reef breaks here that you need to be aware of. 

If you’re new to the game, you might want to head to Legian or Kuta. These beaches are more heavily populated, but you’ll find more leisurely sand beaches where it will be easier for you to learn the ropes. 

Head back to your hotel after a long day of surfing, and you’ll find plenty of ways to unwind in Bali, too. There are tons of nightclubs and beach clubs for dancing. It’s not a large city, but it’s relatively safe and has a ton of opportunities for you to experience the country’s unique, diverse culture.

3. Lagos 

Where: Lagos, Portugal 
Cost: Expensive, but cheaper in February and March 

Accessibility: Challenging – can take a few hours to get there from major airports 

Consistency: Very consistent waves in the spring 

Crowds: Plenty of beaches, so it’s easy to find uncrowded options 

Lagos has some of the warmest temperatures in Portugal – even on the water. You’ll love surfing in the bath-warm waters of the Algarve and you’ll love the waves even more. 

A hidden gem in Europe, Lagos is home to beaches such as Beliche, Tonel, and Mareta, all of which are located near the town of Sagres and offer some excellent waves for beginners and experts alike. The very best beaches stretch from Faro, located in the southeastern portion of the city, to Arrifana in the southwest. In this region, you’ll find a variety of waves throughout the year. 

For a more consistent surf experience, head to the Vicentina Coast in the southwest corner of the region. The waves are exceptionally good here in the spring. And if you’re a more experienced surfer, you might want to check out Arrifana in particular, which is consistent at all times – though challenging! 

Some other good surf destinations include Amado Beach, Castelejo Beach (which is, unfortunately, better in the summer) and Beliche Beach, as previously mentioned. Beliche is uncrowded in the spring and is both small and sheltered. 

Lagos may not be the most common spring break destination, and I’ll admit, it will take you a bit of extra time to get there. However, the few extra hours on a plane are worth it, especially if you have a couple of days to spare. The low costs of accommodation, food, and entertainment in Lagos are well worth the travel and you’ll have access to a ton of surfing spots.

After visiting Lagos, you might want to swing by Peniche, also in Portugal. This is another top surfing destination, especially for spring breakers, and was actually the home of the 2009 Rip Curl ASP World Championship event – so you know it’s got to be good! 

4. Rincon

Where: Rincon, Puerto Rico

Cost: Affordable 

Accessibility: Easy 

Consistency: Excellent, but some variability depending on the beach

Crowds: Moderate

Puerto Rico is a domestic destination that is perfect for surfers hoping to stay a bit closer to home during spring break. Although it’s only a few hours away on an airplane, Puerto Rico has a vibrant culture that will allow you to experience something truly one-of-a-kind. 

This region has some of the best surf destinations, with its lukewarm water and excellent waves. Not only will you have access to an excellent party scene and tourist destinations, but you’ll be able to enjoy other water activities like paddleboarding, bodyboarding, and snorkeling, too. When it comes to nightlife, Rincon has hundreds of entertainment options, including music venues, nightclubs, and more. 

Since it’s so close to the mainland United States, Puerto Rico is easy to get to and affordable to visit. If you want to stay out half the night and then go surfing the next day, Rincon is your best bet. With fun waves in both March and April, Rincon is a popular destination. 

Flights to San Juan are the cheapest, but flying into Aguadilla will save you some time – it’s just thirty minutes to Rincon as opposed to more than two hours from San Juan. Either way, you’ll likely pay only a few hundred dollars for round-trip airfare, making Rincon the perfect choice for cash-strapped college students looking to catch the wave of a lifetime on spring break.

5. Cancun 

Where: Cancun, Mexico 
Cost: Affordable

Accessibility: Very accessible 

Consistency: Moderately consistent spring waves (dependent on weather)

Crowds: Can be somewhat crowded during spring break 

Long considered a hot destination for partygoers, Cancun is beginning to take the lead as a top spring season surf destination, too. There are excellent waves here throughout the year, but especially in the spring. 

Because its reputation as a surf hotspot is relatively new, you won’t have to fight the crowds out on the water (although the beaches themselves can sometimes be packed). You’ll love the nightlife when you head in from the water, too, as Punta Cana (the main party zone of Cancun) is easy to get to.

It sounds like an odd place to surf, but really, there are plenty of places to catch a wave in Cancun. One of the best spots is Playas Balleneas, which is far from the downtown and has a small parking lot (meaning you won’t have to compete with swimmers when you get here). It’s a great spot for all skill levels and waves can go from three feet to seventeen feet in a hurry! 

Regardless of the beach you choose, consider going before 12pm or after 4 pm. That way, you won’t have to worry about competing with the crowds. All beaches are easily accessible by foot, taxi, or bus, making this one of the most accessible surf spots on our list. 

Read reviews when you book your hotel in Cancun, as there are some unsavory parts of the city you’ll want to avoid. The best places to stay include the Zona Hotelera and the downtown El Centro. Getting and staying here are both affordable, as are dining and local entertainment. The area caters to surfers, too, so you won’t have to worry about finding the best spring season surf destination once you arrive, either. 

Spring Surfing: Fewer Crowds, Better Waves, and Lower Costs

No matter which of these top five spring season surf destinations you decide to try, you’re sure to make some awesome memories. Surfing in the spring is not only a great way to save money on your travel expenses, but it also means better waves, fewer crowds, and in most cases, waters that are just as warm as they would be in the summer. 

So what are you waiting for? Pack your wetsuit and book a ticket soon. There’s never been a better time to experience the best waves the world has to offer.

How to choose the best mountain bike

Believe it or not, the first mountain bikes were only produced in the 1980s. While it seems like this sport has been around forever, the reality is that mountain biking is still constantly evolving. 

Therefore, knowing how to choose the best mountain bike isn’t as easy as you might think. If you’re in the market for a new (or your first!) mountain bike, the large selection can be overwhelming.

However, starting with the basics of mountain bike design – and being honest with yourself about how you intend to use the bike – can help you find the best mountain bike for your needs and budget. 

Here’s what you should be looking for. 

Consider the Type of Bike for the Type of Riding

Before you can understand how to choose the best mountain bike, it’s important that you realize there are multiple types and styles out there. Think carefully about how and where you intend to ride your new bike. 

A few of the more common types of mountain bikes nowadays include all-mountain and enduro bikes, downhill bikes, XC (cross country) bikes, and somewhat new to the scene – E-bikes.

While there are some less popular alternatives you might also find in stores – like single speed mountain bikes, dirt jumping mountain bikes, and fat bikes – you’re best off sticking to this list if you’re a newbie to mountain biking.

All Mountain/Enduro

An all-mountain or enduro bike is one that is designed specifically for steep, difficult trails. Usually, these bikes perform exceptionally well when traversing downhill but are also efficient and lightweight enough to perform well on the uphill climb, too. 

These bikes are usually offered in a full-suspension format. They typically have double-reinforced wheels, along with air-spring suspension setups that are heavy-duty for better downhill performance.

Enduro and all-mountain bikes are best for people who enjoy tough, difficult descents. They are also best for people who plan on racing, and while they’re great at the descent, the uphill can sometimes be a bit more of a challenge.

Downhill

Ask someone unfamiliar with mountain biking, and they’ll likely refer to just about any bike as a “downhill” bike. But as you probably already know, a downhill mountain bike has a very specific design for a very specific goal.

This kind of bike is designed to do one thing and one thing only – attack steep, aggressive downhill terrain extremely fast.

Of course, it’s also meant to do so as safely as possible, and as a result, it’s equipped with all kinds of features to help you navigate the steepest, technical terrain. With around 200 mm of suspension travel, these bikes typically use coil-sprung suspension systems that maximize your support and reaction.

Pedaling ability isn’t as important here – you’ll have gravity on your side. Stability is really key. Downhill bikes are fingered to tolerate a massive amount of roe. Therefore, they are heavier for rigidity and have fork legs that typically extend above the head tube before being braced back together in a double-crown or triple-clamp fork.

These are the best possible bikes if you like going downhill on difficult terrain – and you like doing it as quickly as possible. You might just need a bit of a push to get to the top!

XC (Cross Country)

An XC, also known as cross country, mountain bike is designed for efficiency. This kind of bike is geared toward covering as much ground as possible, as quickly as possible. It can be used in the mountains and on the trails as well as in a formal competitive racing.

If you’re shopping for a cross country bike, know that a hardtail (no rear suspension) is the preferred suspension of choice, but there are plenty of full-suspension designs, too. These usually have roughly 8–100 mm of suspension travel and have lockout switches to prevent the suspension from taking away your energy as you tackle easier sections of the rail.

These bikes also tend to have larger wheels – typically with a diameter of 29 inches to improve efficiency – along with light tread and fast-rolling tires. They can be more difficult to control on steep descents, especially because they have thin tires and shorter-travel suspension. However, most come with a wide range of gears to give you better control over your speed, too.

Although E-bikes are relatively new to the mountain biking scene, they are nevertheless growing in popularity. There are models for all kinds of purposes mentioned above.

E-Bike (Electric Assist)

These bikes include both a battery and a low profile, frame mounted electric motor to give you an extra boost when pedaling uphill or freewheeling down. You can adjust how much assistance you receive by adjustment of the motor controls, usually found on the handlebars.

E-bikes are heavy with the added battery powered motor, but you won’t mind the extra weight when it comes to reaching the top of the tallest mountain! They’re best for riders who want to access places that would typically be off-limits if you were traveling on a non-powered mountain bike, too.

Wheel Size

You’ll find mountain bike wheels in all sizes, from 24” to 29”. 24” tires are pretty uncommon and usually reserved for child-sized mountain bikes. The small wheels help accommodate the shorter leg length of a young child. Otherwise, the three most popular wheel sizes include 26”, 27.5”, and 29”.

26”

Not too long ago, almost every single adult mountain bike had 26” tires. Although that’s now a thing of the past, it’s still a size that you’ll frequently see in stores.

27.5”

A 27.5” tire is the perfect compromise between a too-small and a too-large mountain wheel. It is the real “Goldilocks” of the mountain bike world. This kind of tire is more maneuverable than a 29” wheel, yet easier to use on difficult terrain than a 26”.

29”

A 29” wheel may take a bit longer to accelerate, but once you get going, you’re going to cover ground much easier than if you had 26” wheels. They are great for long rides and traverse over obstacles with ease. They are popular among cross country bikers and can be found on bikes with all suspension types as well.

Hardtail or Full Suspension

There are technically three kinds of suspension systems you might find on a mountain bike, but one is not all that common. You are most likely to find a suspension that can be described as a hardtail or full suspension system. 

A hardtail suspension bike is one that has a suspension fork setup located at the very front of the bike. The rear has no suspension, which gives it the name “hardtail”. The front suspension fork is designed to absorb all of the impact from the front wheel with this type of setup.

Since a hardtail bike only comes equipped with half of that of a full suspension, it’s usually less expensive than a full-suspension bike. Not only can the suspension get pretty pricey at times, but there are also fewer parts to deal with, which usually means less maintenance. Most cross country mountain bikes are hardtails as this makes it easier to transfer power between the rear tire and the pedal stroke. After all, efficiency is the name of the game when it comes to cross country mountain biking.

Full suspension is, as the name suggests, a mountain bike with suspension in both the front and rear of the bike. This makes for the smoothest ride, as it reduces the impact on the rider and increases the reaction on the rails as well. Many riders don’t prefer full suspension bikes because they feel as though the bike bobs up and down too much during the ride and takes away from efficiency in doing so.

In rare cases, you might also find a “rigid” mountain bike. To be blunt, this kind of mountain bike has no suspension at all. It’s a type favored by some people because it is easy to maintain, usually less expensive or for the more avid biker, the challenge it brings through rough trails. However, it’s not going to be a comfortable to ride on rough terrain if that’s what you’re looking for.

Frame Materials

Though admittedly less important than the wheel size and suspension type, the material that your bike frame is made out is also a significant factor. Aluminum alloy is the most common material that companies use when constructing mountain bike frames. It is lightweight and durable while also being inexpensive.

That being said, you may find mountain bikes made out of other frame materials, too, including titanium, carbon fiber, and steel. Titanium is the most expensive material you’ll find, and while it’s one of the strongest and lightest, it’s only going to be found on a super high-end mountain bike. 

Carbon fiber, on the other hand, is also lightweight and strong, but it can also be quite expensive. It requires a lot of time and money to manufacture a frame made out of carbon fiber. Similarly, steel alloy, though inexpensive and equally tough, is too heavy for most mountain bike frames and therefore, is typically used for downhill bikes that need added rigidity.

Brakes

Mountain bikes can have two types of brakes – disc brakes or rim brakes. Disc brakes are most preferred on mountain bikes as they provide better response and stopping power, although some entry-level mountain bikes still come equipped with rim brakes.

Disc brakes are those that have pads designed to grip to a brake rotor, which is mounted on the wheel hub. There are two types of disc brakes – hydraulic brakes which are stronger and have the ability to self-adjust, while mechanical brakes need manual adjusting.

As previously described, there’s a reason why most professional mountain bikes have disc brakes. They offer more consistent braking and they also perform better in wet, steep terrain. Rim brakes, on the other hand, (though inexpensive and moderately easy to fix) gradually wear out the wheel rim and offer less stopping power.

Gears

You can usually buy a mountain bike that’s a single speed to up to 30 or more gears. The more gears a bike has, the more complex it will be – both to use and to maintain – so keep that in mind.

When deciding how many gears you actually need, think about how fit you are – and be brutally honest with yourself. You also need to consider the terrain. If you aren’t the best at climbing steep hills and the trails you’ll be riding have more of them, make sure you choose a mountain bike that has more gear variations. This will help you get to where you need to go a bit quicker and with less effort to conserve your energy.

On the other hand, if you are extremely fit and looking for the added challenge or just don’t plan on riding trails with steep climbs, a mountain bike with fewer gears may be an ideal fit.

Sizing/Fitting Basics

Perhaps the most important feature to look for when you’re learning how to choose the best mountain bike is to consider its fit and size. You can have the most tricked out, expensive, and high-performing mountain bike in the world – but if not sized correctly to fit you, all the features you’re paying for will be almost useless.

A bike that fits well will be one that you really enjoy riding. It can improve your handling and make you more confident (and safer) out on the trails.

Mountain bikes are usually sized in a basic system of small, medium, large and extra large. These are similar across brands and correspond to your height. The shorter you are, the smaller your bike needs to be. If you aren’t sure what size will work best for you, the best thing to do is check with the manufacturer as some sizes differ by manufacturer. Most will include size charts that will tell you the ideal range for each size.

If you fall between sizes, size down unless you’re young and fast growing. It’s easier to make adaptations to a bike if you’re working with a too-small frame versus a too-large one.

Of course, another idea to tell how well your mountain bike matches your size is to head to your local bike store. It’s quite easy to obsess over the features of a mountain bike in-store, but unless you get to try it out in real-time, you’re not going to have any idea of how well it will work for you.

How to Choose the Best Mountain Bike

Before you pull out your wallet, make sure you are selecting the best mountain bike for your needs. Obviously, your budget will be a primary concern, but there are many other factors to consider as previously described. Make sure the bike is constructed of the right frame materials and geometry, has the proper suspension setup and wheel size, and adequate gears and brakes for the type of riding you’ll be doing most. And most importantly, be sure it is sized correctly.

And remember, lots of features on these mountain bikes can be customized. If you find a bike that meets 99% of your expectations, you may be able to make slight changes through the dealer or manufacturer to meet that last 1%, too.

Lastly, enjoy the ride!

How to train for high altitude mountain climbing

Want to know what it takes to get to the top?

The top of the mountain, that is. If you’re interested in taking your mountain climbing to the next level, you may have considered a trek up one of the world’s most famous 8000+ meter summits. From North America’s Denali to Mount Everest in the Himalayas, the globe is filled with challenges for you to explore.

However, high altitude mountain climbing is unlike any other sport in that it demands a great level of basic fitness – and preparation – before you can begin. There is no “couch to Denali” plan and you aren’t going to be able to summit Annapurna without some serious preparation.

Knowing how to train for high altitude mountain climbing will not only equip you with the skills necessary to have an enjoyable trip – but to survive the trek, too.

Here’s what you need to know. 

Understand the Basics and the Risks 

If you’ve never hiked beyond 6000 feet, know that high altitude hiking is a different beast altogether. For every inch you creep higher above the surface of the ocean, the air has less and less oxygen. These changes appear incrementally as you hike upwards, but they have a compounding and significant effect on your aerobic functioning. 

Although you may have been a medaling marathoner when you were exercising at sea level, you’re likely to struggle walking up a slight incline once you reach 10000 feet. Add to that the fact that you’re probably going to be carrying a heavy backpack, and you’re definitely going to feel the burn in both your legs and lungs. 

High altitude mountain climbing is not for the faint of heart. You probably already know this, but it’s important to familiarize yourself with the very specific risks of the hike before you get out on the trails. Remember, Dr. Google probably isn’t going to be able to help you when you’re at 9,000 feet and suffering from severe symptoms. 

Know what a sick person at altitude looks like and familiarize yourself with the steps you should take if you or a member of your group becomes ill. 

The most common type of altitude sickness is acute mountain sickness. It feels a lot like a hangover and may cause symptoms like exhaustion, nausea, or headaches. While this is not a severe condition, it needs to be treated and addressed with haste because it can precede a more serious condition, like high altitude pulmonary edema or high altitude cerebral edema.

High altitude pulmonary edema is when liquid seeps into the lungs and causes severe exhaustion and trouble breathing. The most telltale sign of this sickness is a cough that produces frothy foam. If you or a member of your group develop this condition, it is not the time to push through it and soldier on – it’s time to turn around and head home as quickly as possible.

Another condition that warrants an immediate descent is high altitude cerebral edema. This sickness can be more difficult to diagnose, but it causes incoordination and confusion. Usually, you’ll notice it if one of your group members begins to exhibit slurred speech or starts stumbling as he walks. 

This is a very severe condition and indicates that death is near, so again, immediate descent and seeking emergency medical attention are imperative. 

Now, remember, these conditions don’t strike everyone, and these guidelines aren’t meant to scare you. However, it’s important to be aware of the risks of high altitude hiking so that you can take the appropriate steps to prevent and treat any issues that arise. 

Start Hitting the Gym…A Lot

High altitude mountain climbing is not for the faint of heart – nor is it for couch potatoes. Now is the time to get in the best shape of your life. You are going to need to balance mental preparation with physical training. A combination of strength training, conditioning hikes, cardiovascular workouts, stretching, and circuit training are what you need to be successful. 

When we say hit the gym, that doesn’t – and shouldn’t – mean that your exercises should be limited to an indoor setting, either. There are all kinds of ways you can improve your physical fitness and some of the best will happen outside. The very best way to prepare your body for high altitude hiking is to improve your VO2 max.

VO2 max is the very top level of oxygen that your body can consume. The better your VO2 max, the more oxygen your body can absorb and the more efficient you will be when hiking at high altitudes. 

Boost your fitness by running, swimming, or cycling. Maintain a solid pace and minimize rest breaks, which will help improve your cardiopulmonary system. Remember – it’s supposed to be hard. 

Do Some Trial Runs and Simulations

One of the best ways to train for high altitude mountain climbing is to put yourself in your future shoes…or pack. Remember, carrying 40 lbs at sea level might feel like a cinch, but once you get to 10,000 feet, it’s going to feel like you’re carrying twice as much weight. 

While you can do your best to minimize the gear you take with you on the trails, the reality is that the necessities need to stay with you. So you’ll be carrying a pack that is going to get significantly heavier as you ascend the mountain. The best way to train for this heft is to start training with some weight while you’re at home. 

Add some weights or even some gallon jugs of water to your backpack. Do your workouts wearing the backpack. Again, it’s going to be a challenge, but you’ll feel much more prepared once you hit the trails. 

Find Some Hills

The best way to prepare for high altitude hiking is to start hiking mountains. The reality, however, is that most people aren’t lucky enough to live close enough to a mountain range where 6000 feet hikes are possible every weekend. 

Unless you live in the Rockies,  it’s probably going to be tough for you to find large mountains to hike on a regular basis to prepare for your high-altitude hike. However, even the littlest bump in elevation can help improve your aerobic fitness. Try to add 1000 feet each training weekend and remember that even small mountains count. Doing aerobic workouts even above just 3000 feet can help train your body at becoming more efficient with less oxygen in the blood. 

The higher the better, but any hill will do. Find a steep hill land run, bike, or hike up it regularly. Try to incorporate hill workouts into your training at least three times a week. 

If you live in the city or a total flatland environment, work with what the urban gods have given you – run up a tall set of stairs! You can even frequent the Stairmaster at the gym – ideally set at the highest setting. 

The key is to work yourself to exhaustion, however, to better prepare your lungs and muscles for the high altitude hike. 

Fuel Properly 

Any kind of exercise demands the proper fuel, but it’s especially true when you are mountain climbing. You’re going to be eating and drinking a lot more than usual, so now is not the time to cut calories. Not only will your body be burning energy more quickly, but you’re going to need more water, calories, and nutrients just in order to function. 

That’s compounded if you’re hiking in a very cold environment, too. Fill up your pack with plenty of carbohydrate-, protein-, and sugar-loaded snacks. Candy bars, jerky, and nuts are great choices. The average person burns around 2500 calories on a normal day. Add a pack of 50 pounds when hiking over level terrain, and you’re going to burn 4000 to 5000 calories. 

Throw in some elevation, and that total is going to nearly double. You may not be used to eating that many calories, so it’s smart to acquaint your body with the bump up in nutrition during your training. This can prevent digestive upsets when you get out on the trail. 

Prepare for the Elements

Do some research into the climate of the area in which you will be hiking. Although there are some similarities between the most popular peaks, not all high altitude ranges are the same. Mount Everest, for example, is known for being windy and cold. 

While summer is considered the best time to hike some peaks, like Mount Denali, it’s not ideal when it comes to Everest, as humidity is nearly 100% during the summer monsoon season. Other mountains, like K2, are almost impossible to climb without being caught at least once in life-threatening weather. 

Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Make sure you have plenty of SPF, even if it seems cloudy. The sun’s rays will be much more potent when you’re at a higher altitude. All conditions, from wind to precipitation to temperature, will reach their extremes when you’re up that high.

Make sure you have enough gear to protect your entire body, including clothing that is both wind- and waterproof, along with extra hand warmers, wool socks, and thermal gloves. 

Don’t Forget Hydration

Once you start hiking into a high alpine zone, you may not think about hydration quite as often. Just because you’re not sweating buckets, though, doesn’t mean you should ignore your hydration. 

On the contrary, in fact. Once you start reaching higher altitudes, you will need to urinate more often. This is a natural biological response to being high in the air. As the air gets drier, the moisture will leave your body more quickly. 

Therefore, it’s important that you not only hydrate well during your hike, but also during your training. This will get you in the habit of hydrating so it’s easier when you’re focused on that summit. Consider investing in some hiking gear that’s designed specifically for hydration to make the task more convenient when you’re on the trail. 

Learn Basic First Aid 

In addition to recognizing the signs of altitude sickness that we mentioned above, it’s also important that you familiarize yourself with the basics of first aid – especially as first aid applies to high altitude mountain climbing.

You have no way to predict how your body will be impacted by the change in altitude. Bring an altitude aid like Diamox, which is a medication meant to be taken when you are hiking above 8000 feet. This can help reduce symptoms and make the hike a little bit easier on your body. 

You should also bring along first aid staples like cough drops, digestive aids, bandages, and ibuprofen. Before you head out on your trip, make sure you’ve brushed up on all basic first aid procedures, including treating and dressing a wound, CPR, and even splinting, if possible. There is no such thing as being too prepared when it comes to high latitude treks.

Recognize Your Limits 

The reality is that high altitude mountain climbing is not for everyone. You have no way of knowing whether you will make it to the summit – and back home – alive unless you have already succeeded in doing so. There are too many variables that can come into play. 

However, you can improve your odds by making sure your body is physically prepared for the challenge. Visit your doctor before you begin your hike and make sure you don’t have any conditions or illnesses that could interfere with your trip. Once you head out on the trails, don’t be afraid of turning around if you don’t feel well.

Sure, it can be disappointing to not make it all the way to the top. However, being able to make that decision is one that could save your life. Something as simple as a lingering headache could be your body’s way of trying to tell you that continuing on is a fatal mistake. 

Start Slow and Breathe in Deep

You’ve spent so long preparing for the hike – so why rush it? Instead of pushing yourself to get to the top as quickly as you can, take things slowly. You’re probably only going to do this once, so try to enjoy it. Not only are you going to feel slower when you’re hiking at high altitude, but there’s no benefit to pushing your body more when it’s already maxed out. 

Don’t rush things. Take frequent breaks, take deep breaths, and stop to enjoy the scenery. This is a once in a lifetime experience, and you’ve worked hard for the right to enjoy it – so make sure you do.

Why CBD is becoming so popular among the top athletes in extreme sports

CBD and Sports: 6 Ways CBD Benefits Athletes and Fitness  

Extreme sports athletes put a lot of stress on their bodies, both to a positive and negative effect. Whether it’s snowboarding or mountain biking, training puts your body through the stress that allows you to perform better. But, physical trauma and prolonged wear and tear can lead to pain and injuries. In search of a way to improve performance, speed up recovery, and deal with pain, many people are looking to CBD for answers. 

So, What Exactly is CBD? 

For anyone looking to improve their performance and find that extra edge, there’s a supplement on the market that provides unique benefits to athletes and fitness enthusiasts: CBD. CBD has gained massive momentum in recent times with athletes like Mike Tyson and Nate Diaz endorsing and promoting CBD use in sports. 

CBD is more than just a buzz word in the wellness world; it has proven physical and mental benefits. CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the many chemical compounds found in the cannabis Sativa plant. It’s a naturally occurring substance often used for pain relief and to encourage calm and relaxation. Unlike delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is another major compound in the cannabis plant, CBD is not psychoactive. What this means is that CBD doesn’t have the same psychoactive properties that THC does. You won’t feel things like euphoria with CBD.  

CBD for Athletes: What Does it do in the Body?

Whether you’re a pro athlete, a weekend warrior, or a motocross enthusiast, rest, and recuperation is an essential part of fitness. Anyone who has trained too intensively will be all too familiar with feelings of tiredness, achiness, or even feel a little queasy. Many individuals reach for a couple of pain killers like Advil to soothe things over. CBD offers a more natural, potent, and less toxic way to manage inflammation and improve performance. 

CBD is a cannabinoid. All cannabinoids produce effects in the body by attaching indirectly to receptors within the body, called CB1 and CB2. The human body can produce certain cannabinoids. External cannabinoids such as CBD can affect the body through triggering the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a biological system we all have that maintains balance in the body, including things like immune response, appetite, and metabolism.  

It doesn’t matter if you’re a climber or love to surf, you know the incredible amount of training you have to put your body through to achieve the type of experience you want. Recovery, rest, and pain relief all play a huge role in athletic performance as well as general wellbeing. 

6 CBD Benefits for Sports and Fitness 

Although there’s a ton of information out there on CBD claims and benefits, it can feel a little overwhelming where to look. Learn more about how you could use CBD to improve your sports performance and overall health. 1. Speed Up Recovery 

When you train, you push your body and break down muscle fibers so that you can grow back faster and stronger. But anyone who pushes their body knows that this comes with its own difficulties. If you go too hard, recovery can take you out of the game for days. 

The physical stress you put your body through increases oxidative damage. When there’s too much oxidative damage, it can result in slow recovery and harm your performance. CBD may help to reduce oxidative stress, which could help athletes recover faster.  2. Promote Relaxation   

Another way CBD may benefit recovery is by promoting muscle relaxation. After a grueling session, it’s common to experience cramps and soreness that can make even simple everyday tasks feel more difficult. Fortunately, CBD appears to be a potent relaxant. It’s thought that it promotes relaxation by influencing the part of the nervous system that calms the body.  

Although research into CBD is relatively new, studies increasingly show that it can play an active role in aiding muscle recovery, both before and after a training session. By promoting relaxation, you can reduce muscle tension and spasms. 3. Reduce Inflammation and Pain  

A bit of inflammation can be good for athletes and intensive training. It helps to encourage positive training adaptations. However, too much and prolonged inflammation in the body can hinder performance, slow down recovery, and lead to pain. Research suggests that CBD could be a promising treatment in reducing inflammation. This is especially useful for people training intensively and conditioning their bodies to the extreme.  

One of the most common types of pain athletes experience is inflammatory pain. This happens when you have worked your muscles and body to the max. Commonly, over-the-counter drugs are used to treat inflammatory pain, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). However, long-term use of these types of medicines is associated with stroke, heart attacks, kidney damage, and more. 

Researchers are starting to think that CBD could be a more natural, less toxic way of dealing with inflammatory pain. CBD looks to be as effective as standard anti-inflammatory drugswithout the side effects.    4. Improve Sleep Quality  

Getting more high-quality sleep is one of the most effective ways to achieve greater training gains and push yourself further. Sleep tends to be the first thing to drop from our priorities when we’re busy. In a sleep-deprived world, hitting your recommended seven to nine hours can feel like a struggle. But, sleep is crucial and sets the foundation for your overall health. 

To understand how CBD could improve sleep, let’s think about what causes a lack of sleep. Things like stress, anxiety, caffeine, and medication can all interrupt our sleep-wake cycle, leaving us tossing and turning at night. While research on CBD and sleep is still developing, it’s thought that CBD may improve sleep quality by treating the causes of insomnia like stress, anxiety, and depression. 

Research published in 2019 looked into the effects of CBD on sleep and anxiety. The study looked at 72 participants who experienced either anxiety or sleep issues. It found that after taking CBD for one month, 79.2% experienced lower levels of anxiety, and 66.7% reported better sleep. 5. Balance Mood 

CBD doesn’t just support your physical wellbeing but your mental health too. Everyone has those days when we’re feeling anxious or stressed. It can put us off leaving the house when the call of the couch is too appealing. This can really get in the way of staying active and doing the activities we love so much. Anxiety affects about 40 million U.S adults, and although it’s highly treatable, only a fraction of people tend to get help. 

Research suggests that CBD may help with motivational disorders and even certain forms of anxiety. If you find that you experience pre-competition jitters or low mood affects your athletic performance, CBD may be able to provide relief and promote a more optimal, balanced mood. 6. Protect the Central Nervous System     

The central nervous system (CNS) consists of the brain and the spinal cord. It takes in information through our senses, processes it, and then triggers a reaction like moving your muscles or causing you to feel pain. When you overstimulate the body, say through training, the CNS becomes more active. Chronic overtraining and not listening to your body to take a break can result in central nervous system burnout, making you feel slower. The recovery process is the key to avoiding CNS fatigue.  

Preliminary research suggests that CBD may help to prevent CNS fatigue by helping to balance neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. It may even help support a tired nervous system.  

How Can I Use CBD to Boost My Performance and Recovery? 

New CBD-containing products hit the shelves every week. So, what should you use? You can get CBD in multiple forms, including capsules, oil, or in pills. Some sports drinks have even started infusing them with CBD. Beyond CBD oils, there are also creams and lotions you can try out. How you ingest CBD can affect the speed in which you experience the effects. You need to decide if you want to rub it on for muscle relief or swallow it.

There is currently no standard recommended dose when it comes to CBD. This can make dosage a little tricky. As CBD products aren’t properly regulated, there can be some irregularities in the amount of CBD in different products. Ingesting CBD through capsules is one of the more precise ways to measure how much CBD you’re taking. 

If you’re new to CBD, most brands recommend starting at a lower dose. Gradually, you can increase the amount depending on the effects you experience. Starting with 5-10mg is a good place to begin. It might not be perfect to start with, but through trial and error, you can figure out what works for you and your body. 

As CBD is a subjective chemical, it can affect everyone differently. Therefore, the above dosage guidelines are more of a starting point. It’s something that you will work out along the way, but always start with the lowest dosage suggested on the product instructions.

The Bottom Line

To sum it up, CBD could mark a significant turning point for how athletes recover from training and exercise. Sports like mountain biking and snowboarding require extensive training that puts your entire body under pressure. Whether you love to hit the trail at the weekends or just need a general boost, CBD can benefit your overall health and wellness.

We still have much more to learn about how CBD works and how we can utilize it to maximize recovery and performance. But, as you can see, athletes can potentially benefit immensely from CBD to not only improve their body but balance the mind and reduce stress too. Now that you know about the benefits of CBD, it’s time to see how it could transform your life.