Alpinestars CR-4 Gore-Tex XCR Motorcycle Boots

Tackling the Bolivian Death Road wearing the CR4 boot from Alpinestars.
Photo: Alex Washburn/Element.ly

My boyfriend and I recently rode our motorcycles from California to Ushuaia, Argentina. Our route was roughly 15,000 miles through every kind of terrain and environment imaginable.

For the trip I had a lot of gear choices to make, but one of the most important was what boots I was going to use. I needed something that would stand up to every possible weather condition and thousands of miles of wear and tear.

After weeks of reading online reviews and consulting with more experienced riders, I found and bought the Alpinestars CR-4 Gore-Tex XCR Boots. Alpinestars classifies the CR-4 as a ‘tech touring’ boot, with a slightly more flexible sole and a shorter shaft. Meaning they don’t provide as much protection as a motocross boot.

This suited me just fine because I figure I needed something that offered some protection but would also allow me to hop off the bike and go for a walk without my feet being reduced to a bloody mess of blisters.

During the trip these boots were with me as I scaled a volcano in Nicaragua, navigated rivers in Costa Rica and crashed while off roading in Colombia. They kept me dry in rainstorms and dried out quickly after each river crossing. What I really appreciated, though, was their performance in the Andes during the late fall.

The ride through the Andes was one of, if not the coldest experience of my life. I wore every layer of clothing I had under my riding suit, doubled up on gloves, and kept my hand grip warmers turned on high the entire time. Even then, I couldn’t ride more than 10 minutes without loosing feeling in my hands. My feet, however, were a different story. On the coldest days there was a slight discomfort, but for the most part my toes stayed happy with the minimal addition of ski socks.

The Elements

  • Great riding boots, but you can also climb volcanoes in them as well
  • They keep the water out and the heat in
  • Held up over 15,000 miles of abuse on a motorcycle
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Photo: Alex Washburn/Element.ly

Chamonix, France is a Trip

Kitsbow Ride T-Topo
Kitsbow Ride T-Topo
Kitsbow Ride T-Topo
Kitsbow Ride T-Topo
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Kitsbow Ride T-Topo
Kitsbow Ride T-Topo
Kitsbow Ride T-Topo
Kitsbow Ride T-Topo
Kitsbow Ride T-Topo
Kitsbow Ride T-Topo

I say Chamonix is a “trip” because you need to vist. It’s one of the most beautiful spots on earth. The town itself is lovely, and it’s surrounded by the towering Alps.

I also say it’s a trip, as in “what a crazy place, man,” because it’s unlike any other city I’ve ever visited. At times it seems like there are more people walking around in glacier boots than tennis shoes. Bright-colored Gore-Tex jackets are the standard uniform.

That’s because the town is an outdoor Mecca. A cable car leaves straight from town and in just a few minutes hauls passengers several thousand feet to an expansive glacier right below the 15,781 ft Mont Blanc. Up top, people have access to all sorts of world-class climbing and skiing routes and thousands of people take advantage of the easy access each year. If skiing or climbing isn’t your thing, the area has also become a favorite for trail runners.

There are several towns here in the United States that are known for attracting an outdoor crowd; Boulder, Salt Lake City, Bend, etc., but none of these towns can hold a candle to the pure density of outdoor enthusiasts that you’ll find in Chamonix.


The Goatheads of Albuquerque

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Photo by: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

I like to sneak away for a lunch ride once or twice a week. It clears my head and makes me feel better about the occasional cervesa. The rides always end up rushed, though, because I need to get out, put in 20, and get back to the grind.

Hurrying tends to causes problems. For example, in my rush to kit up last week I forgot to throw my pump in my back pocket. And as you would expect I got five miles into my ride and flatted, thanks to one of Albuquerque’s notorious goatheads.

These ultra-tough, multi-barded stickers are a huge nuisance for riders here in the Land of Enchantment. They’re everywhere. They grow on a weed that likes the dry, hot climate. They will go through almost anything if you hit em just right. Even the Stan’s in my tube was no match for this thorn.

My first stop was the local Albuquerque police substation just a few hundred feet up the road. I was hoping there were bike cops. Unfortunately, I ran head-long into a grouchy secretary who claimed all the bike cops were gone.

I then called my mother-in-law for a ride, but she was at tennis. I called my father-in-law, but he didn’t answer. My regular riding partner was in the middle of a photo shoot and my brother (I’ll remember this bro) said he was busy.

Running out of time, and losing my patience, I called a cab. They arrived in 10 minutes and shuttled me and my poor bike back to the house.

It was a $15 dollar mistake I’ll never make again.

Finger crossed.

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Photo by: Jakob Schiller/Element.ly

From SFO to Italy With a Thule Bike Bag

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Wheeling your whip up to the airport check-in counter seems more harrowing than any mountain pass. I feel less in control of my bike than at any other time in my cycling life. How much are they going to charge me? Did I pack securely enough? Will my ride arrive in one piece or fifty?

Of all the things that could go wrong, trusting my two-wheel to the Thule RoundTrip Pro 100501 does not seem to be one of them. Their new soft sided, airport-approved, wheel-equipped wonder bag seems to be just enough and not too much at the same time.

I recently put it to best kind of test during a trip from San Francisco to Italy and still can’t believe how smoothly the whole thing went. It was a breeze to pack up because Thule includes a mobile “repair stand,” which you use to take apart and reassemble the bike. The stand is not a place I would want to do anything but the most simple of tasks, but it came in super handy for a last minute derailleur adjustment. It packs nicely into the rest of the bag for transport and gets the job done.

Beyond the fact that the bag kept my ride safe, I also like it because it rolls up and can be stuffed into a corner of the garage when not in use. That’s a real asset for someone who loves bikes, biking, travel and travel biking, but has a limited amount of space.

Just remember, although the Thule worked flawlessly for me on my international trip, and even though those lovely baggage folks went through the bag like a pack of gorillas and got grease on things which were not intended to be lubed, this thing is not ready for the riggers of actual shipping via UPS or FedEx. So don’t try.

The Elements:

  • Soft-sided bike case that gets your whip to where you are going with minimal hassle
  • Everything is thought out, from how the zippers allow one side to flop open to how the legs of the repair stand help add strength to the sides of the bag
  • Roll on up to the ticket counter and try your luck
Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.lt
Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

My Love Affair with Campagnolo

Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly
I can’t stop wearing their logos, even though I haven’t ridden a Campagnolo gruppo in years.

I have a love-hate relationship with Campagnolo.

I haven’t ridden a Campy-equipped bicycle since I gave my Eddy Merckx Century TSX to my brother over 15 years ago. That beautiful piece of history had Delta Brakes, Record downtube shifters and Campagnolo’s aero seatpost. I loved that bike, but it shifted like ass, those brakes took their sweet ass time to slow you down and was heavier than a huffy beach cruiser.

I still long for the days when Campy dominated the tour and outpaced Shimano on just about every riders lust list. But alas, now they are a distant third behind Shimano and SRAM in market share. Hell, it is almost impossible to find a bike shop these days with a Record or Super Record-equipped bike on the showroom floor. Which is sad, considering they are back in the game on all fronts but availablity.

Campagnolo’s newest offerings are bejeweled and, by all accounts, work flawlessly. But I wouldn’t know. Haven’t ridden the new grouppos. I’ve had the pleasure of holding them in my hand, but that’s about the extent of my knowledge. I still buy Campagnolo t-shirts and for the brief period of time they tried to get into the apparel market, I bought some of their kit. And I cheer for Vincenzo  Nibali, not because I am fan of the horribly ugly kit he wears, or because he is stunningly good looking, or because I am tired of the Froome/Contador story, but because he rides Campagnolo like the great Tour riders of old.