Why Merino Wool is the Natural Choice for Fitness Apparel

Sheep aren’t frequently celebrated for their endurance abilities, a notion which has sadly and inaccurately been projected onto their fleece. Let’s set the record straight on why Merino wool is the best performance fabric for all types of workouts.

      With the additions of new lightweight options and Merino blends over the past few years, your Ibex Merino-based wardrobe has transitioned from a three-season reserve to a year-round player. While airy in feel, these lighter pieces deliver heavyweight hits of comfort and performance for all of your fitness-focused, sweat-soaked fun.

Here’s why lightweight Ibex Merino wool is the tops for fitness any time of the year.

1)  Most people are familiar with wool’s out of this world performance in cold weather. Did you also know that the crimp and structure of wool fibers have the ability to act as a personal air conditioner? As you work up a good sweat in the heat of summer, Merino wool gets busy wicking the moisture away from your skin. Whatever moisture doesn’t evaporate immediately is stored inside the fiber and away from your skin. As your body generates more heat, the evaporative process intensifies for the moisture stored in the wool fiber. The result is a cooling of the space between your skin and your Ibex gear.

2)  Quick dry conundrum. In the quick dry horse race, Merino wool is just edged out by petroleum-based fabrics. But isn’t the real question how comfortable you are when you’re mid-run, rather than how quickly your gear dries afterward? Merino blows the doors off polypropylene when it comes to moving wetness away from your skin and eliminating the dreaded clammy sensation. Bonus: When it makes sense for maximized, specialized performance, Ibex marries wool and a touch of Nylon to create the ultimate power couple of Merino performance with an amped up dry time and stretch.

3)  Won’t I smell like a wet dog if I wear wool to exercise in August? Simply put: nope. Merino wool has a naturally occurring anti-bacterial that works like a charm in the anti-stink department. Actually, on scent alone, Merino gear can go far longer without a wash than synthetic fabrics. We’re talking days upon days of hard, sweaty workouts without a visit to the wash-o-matic.

4) If wool suits are packed away come summertime, why wouldn’t we do the same with wool base layers and workout gear? Indeed, some of our heavier weight options have seasonal job descriptions. For summer and inside aerobic pursuits, check out the lightweight options, like tanks, running shorts, and a selection of short sleeve tops, bras and undies. A wool gauge of 19 micron or under indicates an appropriate summer weight. Fair warning: super lightweight Merino and Merino blends can be addicting.

5) Naturally the best. Natural fibers from the field versus synthetics from the laboratory? We may be biased, but we’re giving this win to wool.

When your focus is on your run, your yoga practice, your sensei, your boot camp, or your ride, your clothes need to be in the silent, supportive role. They need to keep you dry and comfortable so your brain and body aren’t distracted from the task at hand: having fun, building up cardio, and reaching that invigorating nirvana of sweat plus endorphins.

A photo by Julia Caesar. unsplash.com/photos/asct7UP3YDE

Meaning in Adventure: The Ibex Adventure Booklist

Recognizing that now is the era of the non-reader, the 140 character limit, the visual story-teller, the YouTube clip as cultural reference point, it may serve those that love the outdoors in all forms, to harken back to adventure in the written word. Climbing, skiing, backpacking, paddling all have deep literary histories, headlong pages of embellishment, reflection and the type of self-important navel-gazing that time alone in the wild inspires.

Given that Ibex culture comprises of finding a new take on a traditional natural fiber, we present five adventure books that you either haven’t read, or some classics with our slightly different view of why their pages are worth turning. New to you or not, these are texts guaranteed to make you itch with the urge to get out, to find adventure, and journey to wide open spaces, and to make meaning from time outside.

  the-future-of-ice The Future of Ice: A Journey Into Cold, Gretel Ehrlich (2004)
The silence of the arctic is something few authors convey with books on arctic travel. Cold and solitude win out in classics like Endurance but rarely does an author spend time with the sonic isolation that cold and snow offer. Gretel Ehrlich doesn’t shy away from this and as a result, her look at the meaning of seasons bears an impact that meets a high standard for literature, that it can do things other mediums cannot. Here’s the hiccup: there are endless books that kick off in a playful push of hedonistic delight. This is not that book. As a brand that loves winter, Ehrlich offers up adventure and meaning while considering the real, here-and-now threat that climate change poses to our favorite season. Think of it as a post-modern heir to Ernest Shackleton’s call, this time however, the trapped vessel is any fan of ice, snow and beauty.

[Insert Any Book by Jim Harrison] (1971 – 2015)true-north
Chances are, if you asked most outdoor types to name the first book with a Vietnam vet, his lady friend, heavy drinking, and a car filled with dynamite purchased in the hope of blowing up a dam in the American southwest, Harrison’s not the author you’d pick. Yet, Jim Harrison penned A Good Day to Die two years before Abbey’s much lauded, The Monkey Wrench Gang and without the cinematic caricature or overwrought importance. It was Harrison’s novella, Legends of the Fall written in 1989 that gained him the most recognition, at least through a mainstream audience. But for the rest of his leading male characters, Brad Pitt might have been too pretty a hero and that’s where the gritty texts Harrison wrote find their best feel through old growth forests, trout streams and forgotten rural landscapes. Harrison, who died last year, was an unapologetic glutton, a drinker, chain smoker and hard living bird hunter, fisherman, and man of letters in the traditional sense. If his novels don’t move you, his collections of nonfiction and poetry demand a steadfast love of wild places. “The earth’s proper scripture could be written on a three by five card if we weren’t drunk on our own blood.”

into-the-wild Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer (1996)
Before you nod and skim this paragraph having seen Into the Wild on countless other adventure book lists, hear us out. Because it is a polarizing book, replete with countless follow-up articles and arguments for or against its merit. Any argument about Into the Wild highlights the wandering protagonist, Christopher McCandless, as alternatively a mentally ill suspended adolescent, a wise-beyond-his-years sojourner on the hunt for meaning, a happy-go-lucky kid, and a troubled soul. His death from starvation in the Alaskan wilderness catapulted his standing in the outdoor world beyond typical earl adulthood journeys of self discovery into something either pointless and tragic (due to the mapless adventurer dying so close to help) or beautiful and committed. Krakauer, in an interview about the book, made a case for the latter explaining the avoidable death this way, “If you want a blank spot on the map, you gotta leave the map behind.”

deeppowdersnow5Deep Powder Snow, Dolores LaChapelle (1993)
Any serious skier can make a case for organizing a life around sliding on snow. For skiing pioneer, Dolores LaChapelle, her book Deep Powder Snow makes a case for organizing all of life sliding on snow. LaChapelle was a subscriber to the Deep Ecology movement, a philosophical offshoot suggesting a blending of human and natural interests was possible and necessary to solve the environmental ills of the planet. LaChapelle used her pioneering status as a deep powder skier to illustrate a connection to the earth, “There is no longer an I and the snow and the mountain, but a continuous flowing interaction. I cannot tell where my actions end and the snow take over…that’s Deep Ecology.” Deep Powder Snow pauses the philosophy lessons for insights into skiing at the most iconic areas of the American West during skiing’s earliest days in the country. LaChapelle doesn’t rarify all the aspects of her life as a skier; her failed marriage and her avalanche injuries are on display and highlight the precarious balance life requires to carve turns metaphorically and in Alta powder. The outspoken skier died in 2007 at the age of 81 but not before she became a leader in ski mountaineering, an advocate for sustainability, and an icon of skiing history.

the-river-whyThe River Why, David James Duncan (1983)
Even if you aren’t fishing crazy, reading The River Why is an inspiring look into life consumed by the outdoors. Gus Orviston is a fishing genius, a young man coming to grips with the modern world, and a foil for every soul that’s ever wanted to leave the rat race for a simpler life of outdoor balance. He “learned what solitude really was. It was raw material – awesome, malleable, older than people or worlds or water. And it was merciless – for it let a man become precisely what he alone made of himself.”

Use your summer trips to fuel your fall and winter months


Walking hand-in-hand towards the glaciated Northover Ridge.

Each year, I make a list of summer trips that I hope to do. Every day of vacation is accounted for in a plan that is fantastic (but in retrospect, likely impossible). As summer turns to fall, I find myself comparing my list of summer dreams to what we actually did. There are always some great trips crossed off, but there are usually more than a few glaring omissions. I find myself sitting back wondering where summer went, and pretty soon I’m starting to wonder how it is possible that we did so little. When the glass starts to look half empty, I forget the summer’s awesome experiences. I forget the planned trips that worked out well. And I forget the unplanned adventures that are usually the highlight of the summer. Sound familiar?
There is a time and place for lists. Reminders written on a scrap of paper like, “Take out the garbage” or “Pack an extra pair of Ibex socks” are fine. Our counter is littered with recycled envelopes covered in lists of groceries and tasks to do. I sleep better knowing I have a reminder in the morning and I love crossing things off those envelopes! The lesson here: menial tasks and menu items are completely different than the sacred adventures that inspire my days and nights.
gearing up

Day 24 of our Over the Divide trip – Gearing up on a cold morning for our biggest day of the trip.

This fall, I have been thinking about ways to focus on the great experiences that we had. These are the positive memories that will propel me through the colder winter months and inspire years of other great summer adventures. Here is what I tried:
  1. 1. Pull the list off the fridge and replace it with a dozen photos from the great trips this summer. In doing this, I found myself asking, “When was the last time I got any pictures printed?” It is great to sit in the kitchen with a morning coffee, and look at a fridge covered in good memories rather than lists!
  1. 2. Pick one trip off the list and squeeze it in before winter. Pack some extra layers and some additional food. Get out there and enjoy it! We are planning to ride the Going to the Sun Highway in Glacier National Park after it is closed to vehicle traffic, because we have heard so many great things about this shoulder season adventure and yet have never done it.
  1. 3. Dream up one trip that is more challenging than anything you did this summer, and use that as your motivation for staying active in the months ahead. One great trip may be easier to accomplish than an entire list. This last point is the most important one, because it diverges from long lists and focuses on the core of the experience – the curiosity, inspiration, and adventure involved in preparing for and pulling off one big, great trip. We learn more when we stretch ourselves and the rewards are amplified when we put ourselves out there. To that end, we have been doing a lot of dreaming recently about a fantastically long and challenging adventure which has me waking up early to go for a frosty morning ride, instead of rolling over in the warmth of my bed. Never underestimate the power of dreams, and keep your lists trivial!

by Ibex ambassador Dan Clark

Follow Dan and his family’s adventures: click here

5 Basic Steps to Start Your First Bikepacking Adventure

One could be forgiven for mistakenly hearing you say backpacking, when instead you were talking about bikepacking. After all, the two sports, at their core, are fundamentally similar. Both require at least one overnight stay, preferably off the beaten track. Both require packs, which you transport yourself, that contain the necessary rations and technical accoutrements to make your trip at the very best enjoyable, and at the very least livable. Both can be dog-friendly. And, at least at the beginning of the trip, both demand of participants only the lure of adventure.

The key difference, of course, is that bikepacking requires a bike. But quickly vanquish any images that might be carouseling through your mind right now of bikes weighted down with heavy panniers and enormous front and rear racks, plodding along the side of the road, looking like overloaded pack mules on wheels. That’s cyclo-touring. That’s different.


So what is bikepacking?

It’s more than mountain biking and minimalist camping combined. Bikepacking emphasizes the word’s prefix: bike. It’s an undertaking that stresses mobility, maneuverability, and off-road exploration, not necessarily just getting from point A to point B. It’s about going way out there and having the right equipment strapped to your bike to enable you to eat well and sleep comfortably in the wilderness at night, so you can get up the next morning to shred singletrack and cruise along on untraveled dirt roads until you arrive at your next night’s resting stop. It plucks a sentimental chord for every kid at heart who fancies his or herself an explorer and a bike rider. It’s a part of cycling culture that’s been around since the dawn of the mountain bike. It’s just that in recent years, advances in gear make it possible to carry everything you need, while cycling clothing, constructed from innovative performance fabrics like Ibex’s Merino wool, ensure comfort and breathability for long distances.

With bikepacking defined and your interest fully piqued, these five tips will help guide your preparation for your first velo voyage.

1. Start with the bike.

Modern mountain bikes are ideally suited for bikepacking. Multiple wheel and tire sizes, advanced suspension systems, wide handlebars, and slacker geometries, allow riders of every size to find a reliable, comfortable, and fun ride. Bikepacking gear (like the equipment you see featured in the video) complements the bike’s performance and handling – an extension of the frame’s design, rather than a hindrance. But if you’re not up for the investment of a new bike, start with the mountain, cross, or gravel bike you’ve got, and work with a bikepacking expert at your local outdoor gear purveyor or bike shop to determine the equipment that’d best suit your goals and your bike’s capabilities.

2. Dress for the ride.

Bikepacking is cycling first and foremost. You’re going to be working your body, hard. So, clothing like denim cutoffs and flimsy tank tops won’t do. Neither will skin tight, Tour de France team kit. The last thing you need on a 500-mile bikepacking adventure is skin chafing, saddle sores, and restriction of movement.

Instead, go for dynamic and durable cycling-specific performance bib shorts or shorts with a chamois for your lower half, and progressive, moisture-wicking, comfortable jerseys with back pockets for your upper half. Technical pieces like Ibex’s short sleeve and long sleeve Spoke Full Zip jerseys, coupled with a natural fibers/spandex blend Bib Short are capable pieces for all-day riding comfort and performance, whether your bikepacking amidst the lush hardwood forests of Vermont’s Green Mountains or maneuvering through the sun-drenched red rocks of Arizona’s desert. Remember, weight and space are at a premium, so think at most only one change of clothing. If stops at towns along the way are part of your itinerary and walking around in bike clothing isn’t for you, consider the Crosstown Polo jersey, which blends cycling-specific functionality into a post-ride polo shirt. The patrons at the pub will never know the difference (except for that dried mud on your legs, of course).

3. Understand the different types.

Your next step is to figure out what kind of bikepacking you’d like to try. Bikepacking can be categorized into three specializations: multi-day mountain biking; ultralight, race, and gravel; and expedition and dirt touring.

Multi-day mountain biking is bikepacking’s one-size-fits-most description. It evokes the sport’s main tenet – to carry just bare essentials for overnighting so that the bike is free to perform the way it’s supposed to while riding during the day. Some multi-day mountain bikepacking trips require careful logistical planning while others may be the result of a spur of the moment decision. These are trips that might be 50 miles over the course of two days or several hundred miles throughout a month.

Ultralight, race, and gravel bikepacking is the competitive side of the sport. It’s less concerned with exploration and more with speed. It features light, high-performance hardtail or full-suspension mountain bikes piloted by trained athletes looking for personal bests on mapped routes. Courses comprise a combination of trail and gravel and paved roads.

bikepacking in packrafts in canada

Ibexdude bike-packrafting in Vallee Brad du Nord


Expedition and dirt touring is all about distance, exploration, and living on and off the bike. Think Ferdinand Magellan, Leif Ericson, and Marco Polo exploring by bike. Riders will need to bring some additional gear for these longer range trips that don’t compromise their bike’s performance.

4. Map out your route.

You have two basic options for route design: a loop or out-and-back, and a through route. Loops start and finish in the same place. No worrying about how to get back to the car. These routes are typically good for those with limited time, and are available in one form or another in most states. Through routes will take more planning, especially determining how to return to the starting point once you’ve reached the trip’s terminus. Most of the famous routes are located within the mountain and west coast states.

5. Familiarize yourself with weather patterns.

The weather determines when to go. But it’s anything but predictable, which is why you’ll need to be prepared for most kinds of conditions. If you’re route takes you into the mountains in the summer, be ready for cooler temperatures and even snow at high elevations; or, if you’re traversing the desert, make sure that you’re prepared physiologically for the unrelenting daytime heat. Pedaling a bike along rough back roads or trail when the temperature isn’t cooperating, at either end of the thermometer, is going to slow your progress way down..

Go long. Go ride.

Invest in high quality bikepacking gear and riding clothing that’s built with weight savings, packability, and versatility in mind. Make sure your bike is in optimal condition, which means taking it to a shop for a tune-up or once over. Recruit a couple of friends. Plan a route. Determine the day and time you’ll depart, and predict your return. Be brave. Be bold. Push off with your planted foot and bikepack your way into a new age of exploration.

Special thanks to the folks at Outdoor Gear Exchange, support your local bike shop!

Ibex/Noble introduces Wool Denim jeans


Working with Noble Denim, we developed something that has never been done before; a Wool Denim jean. Limited edition, these jeans are more then meets the eye.

The Wool Denim Noble Collab is a mid-rise, modern classic fit with room to breathe through the thigh. Slightly tapered from the knee down. Finished with copper rivets and buttons, Amish branded Wickett & Craig leather patch. Crafted by Noble Denim of Tennessee.

Watch the video (above) to learn more and SHOP THE COLLAB (http://shop.ibex.com/m-wool-denim-noble-colab)

wool denim front ibex noble wool denim jeanwool denimwool denim ibex noble wool denim ibex noble wool denim

Over the Divide

Time is a friend and foe.

We wait through the long dark nights of winter dreaming of the days of summer – a blissful time filled with infinite opportunities. Now that the summer is here, we have to figure out what to do with all of the potential (and quickly before the sun starts to slip away).

Similarly, as a parent entrenched in diapers and strollers, it is hard to imagine the distant horizon when our babies will strike off wobbly and independent. But the time comes soon enough and we have to figure out what to do with all of the youthful energy. Beyond putting things out of reach on the counters, our family solution has been to set out on adventures every summer. It is a wonderful puzzle figuring out how to cram in maximum outdoor hours before our hibernating tendencies kick in. Northern paddling adventures have been our go-to staple because we can easily pack the family and lots of goodies into a canoe and disappear for an entire summer. Unfortunately, we discovered a problem last summer. That wobbly independence caught up to us and the kids couldn’t cram their legs in with all the food. We needed a new type of adventure to fit the kids.


Climbing Against the Odds on Mt. Shasta

On June 22, 2016, a team of men and women will attempt to reach the summit of Mt. Shasta, a 14,179 ft. peak at the southern end of the Cascade Range. This annual mountaineering expedition is Climb Against the Odds, sponsored by The Breast Cancer Fund.

Both breast cancer survivors and those who have been directly affected by the disease will challenge their physical limits and raise money in support of breast cancer prevention. And while each member of the team carries their own reason to reach the top, climbing together provides a support system that will help them summit together. This teamwork and motivation is exactly  what the The Breast Cancer Fund stands for in their ongoing work and dedication to preventing the disease.

The Breast Cancer Fund is adamant about eliminating toxic chemicals and radiation in our environment as a means to prevent breast cancer. As a natural fiber company, prevention is at the core of Ibex’s values. Ibex has been a longtime supporter of Against the Odds and The Breast Cancer Fund because they advocate for a mission that Ibex believes in: Passion, teamwork and ambition can accomplish great things.

Mother’s Day Outdoors

We all appreciate the moms in our world. Picture a Mother’s Day morning of fresh flowers, a steaming coffee delivered to the bedside, and time to relax as a family. This year with a little advance preparation and a nose for adventure, the fresh flowers could be growing beside your tent door and the coffee prepared on a camp stove. Everything is sweeter in the great outdoors, so why not celebrate that special lady with a night under the stars?


Here are 5 tips to make it happen:

1.       Pick a local campsite: Sometimes we look far afield for our adventures, but there are often some great spots close to home. If the site is near enough, you could set up camp in advance and make it a complete Mother’s Day surprise.

2.       Get the kids involved with the preparation: Get them to pack their own clothes and a few toys or games that you can all play at the picnic table and around the fire.

3.       Pack the car with big Tupperware bins: Keep things organized with all the cooking gear in one bin, food in another, and maybe a big duffel bag for pillows and sleeping bags thrown on top of everything.

4.       Simple gourmet: You can easily whip up a gourmet meal for mom using a frozen container of home-cooked pasta sauce, fresh pasta and fire roasted garlic bread. Then in the morning, serve up a yogurt and granola parfait with fresh fruit and a steaming hot coffee with fresh whipped cream.

5.       Last but not least, take some warm clothes: Spring mornings can be cool, so wrap that mom in your life in wool from top to bottom and maybe even a Wool Aire Hoody so she will be cozy while sipping her morning hot drink.

Your weekend away over Mother’s Day will be free of distractions and filled with quality-time. It could become a new family tradition!

Photo and Words by Dan Clark, Ibex Ambassador.

Supporting Outdoor Experiences for New England’s Kids

It’s a party! As New Englanders, we at Ibex are over-the-moon happy to welcome Big City Mountaineers to the East Coast. Bienvenue and wilkommen!


Big City Mountaineers (BCM) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to sharing outdoor experiences with urban youth. The adventures they facilitate are focused on mentoring, life skills, self-esteem, collaboration, independence, and breathing in fresh air far away from city life. BCM works primarily with kids who are underserved in their communities by helping them to discover their own potential, and to begin developing the skills they’ll need to see that potential to fruition. 

The New England program is the newest expansion for the Boulder, Colorado-based organization, which also has operations in Minneapolis, Denver, Seattle, Portland, and the Bay Area. 


“We are honored to have a number of great sponsors, donors, and volunteers from the region,” said Bryan Martin, executive director of BCM. “As we looked at the landscape for where to expand our operations, New England was a natural fit. There is a great outdoor community in the region, it’s home to many iconic outdoor brands, and there is clearly a need to engage youth in Boston and many of the other urban centers in the region.”

In celebration of the launch, Ibex is throwing at party/soiree/welcome wagon at our Boston store, and YOU are invited to join. To learn more about BCM and the New England program, please come by and learn how you can be one of the people who make the magic happen.

Where: Ibex Boston Store, 303 Newbury Street, Boston

When: Saturday, May 7, 2016

Time: 7:00 – 9:00 pm (EST), stop by any time

More info: Click here to see the party invite and RSVP


If you’re not in Boston this weekend, there are other ways you can support Big City Mountaineers. They’re always open to like-minded sponsors and annual donors. You can volunteer to be an adult mentor on a BCM expedition. And, you can participate in one of the BCM signature fundraisers, Summit for Someone, where you climb a peak, honor someone you care about and raise money for kids who may not otherwise have access to the same opportunity. 

For more information about the party, head over here. Hope to see you there! 

For more information about Big City Mountaineers, click here.  

Yay, Earth! Give to #WeKeepItWild, Get Sweet Gear

This Friday, April 22nd, is Earth Day. Before you head out on whatever adventure your weekend will bring, we invite you to swing by www.ibex.com to see if any new gear sings the siren song of desire.

It’s not like us to encourage computer time when you could be playing outside, but it is for a darn good cause. Ten percent of all the online sales made with Ibex on Earth Day will be donated to the #WeKeepItWild campaign, a promotion to benefit The Conservation Alliance.

Why? To help protect the places we all love to play.


By treating yourself to some new threads this Friday, you’ll be supporting the planet and joining your fellow humans in showing solidarity to protect wild places. Heck, if you join the movement with a new cycling kit, running gear, travel threads, workday outfits, or whatever else strikes your fancy, you’ll not only be showing solidarity, you’ll be contributing cold hard cash to the cause (don’t worry – we take care of the details). Plus, you’ll be looking good doing it.

So come on over to shop at www.ibex.com on April 22nd, and 10% of all online sales will go directly to #WeKeepItWild. If new gear isn’t in the cards for you this Friday, how about helping to tweet the good word or share a shot of your favorite wild place on Instagram?

In the immortal words of Dr. Seuss, “Sometimes you don’t know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” Carpe this Earth Day and make every moment (and dollar) count.



How to Prep for Riding Your First (or 50th) Gravel Race

While most of us celebrate four seasons, Russians apparently go for six. Rasputitsa occurs twice a year, like two pieces of soggy bread sandwiching the frozen expanse of a ham-fisted winter. These rasputitsa mud seasons are so intense across the realm of the former USSR that they’ve earned special designation synonymous with quagmires, un-crossable roads, dank melting snow, ceaseless rain, and an unspoken understanding that nothing but heartache awaits you outside.

Sounds like a perfect name for a bike race.

Three short years ago, two Vermont guys embraced the Russian concept of “it’s so miserable, it’s fun,” and started the Rasputitsa Spring Classic, a gravel road race, out of East Burke, Vermont and the epic Kingdom Trails. It’s 45 miles of gravel, dirt, pavement, anaerobically-induced hallucinations, and if the pictures don’t lie – donuts.*

We joke about the misery. The Rasputitsa is hard without a doubt, but it has quickly become one of the best gravel races in the country. The challenge and the grit of gravel races tap into the same energy of freedom and strength that made us all fall in love with riding in the first place. So whether you’re hoping to catch a no-show spot for April 16’s Rasuptitsa, or setting your sights on a gravel race elsewhere, here are a few tips on how to set yourself up for success.


Photo by FlickR user RLevans,  CC by 2.0

You’re going to need new tires. There’s no way of saying this without it sounding dirty: save yourself heartache by selecting the best rubber for the task at hand. Call the race organizers for beta on the road surfaces because each substrate will challenge your tires in different ways. Just like in any other discipline, you’re weighing the pros and cons of tire pressure, rolling resistance, and puncture resistance. If your bank account or garage space prevents you from setting up your own bike shop-worthy selection of tires and tubes, prioritize puncture-resistance for gravel riding. Every set up will have its strengths and weaknesses, but tubeless tires (and compatible rims) are the most universal choice for serious gravel riders. Good resource: http://ridinggravel.com/graveltires/

Comfort is your friend.
Despite all the talk of suffering and the photo reels of pain-contorted faces, place your personal comfort as a top priority. By definition, gravel races are bouncier than road and longer than most mountain bike affairs. When you begin training, experiment on all of your rides – mountain, cyclocross, fat, touring – until you know which one you’re most comfortable on over long periods of time on inconsistent, hard surfaces. Then play around with that bike’s positioning – especially handlebar height and positions. If you’re gunning for the win, other factors will come into play. But if your neck is so jacked you can’t finish the race, a sleeker set up isn’t worth it.


Photo by FlickR user RLevans,  CC by 2.0

Speaking of comfort: how you ride helps, too. One tip we picked up from the organizers of the Iditarod 200 Gravel Challenge is to practice pushing slightly lower gears, with less spinning overall. The lower cadence helps smooth out the terrain a bit.

You are your own Sherpa. Most gravel races are still pretty low-key affairs, which means you’ll be running self support-style. As you tweak your eating, drinking and clothing needs during your training, pay attention to how you carry all this stuff on your bike, too. You rarely see backpacks in gravel racing because who can deal with 100 miles of sweaty back? Maybe you? Most gravel riders lean toward frame bags to balance the bounce and the weight distribution.


Photo by FlickR user Tony Rocha,  CC by 2.0

Do you need a specialized gravel bike? Across the board, no one will tell you that you need a specialized gravel bike right out of the gate. While it may be something to consider down the line, you’re going to be fine with a few modifications for comfort and performance to whatever (adequate) bike you have right now. Race profiles can help determine if you switch out a cassette to a climbing focused ratio or not.

Embrace the spirit. Eh…we know you will. Happy riding!


*No promises on those donuts, by the way.

Björn Bauer is Stranded in the Backcountry

Gotta get up to fall down. Photo by Björn Bauer.

The premise: “Stranded in the Backcountry” is Ibex’s mash up of the New York Times’ “Three Days In…” series, NPR’s Desert Island Discs, and our own bias for skipping out on society every now and again. Whether it’s a stroke a good luck or your worst, extroverted nightmare is entirely up to you.

Who: Björn Bauer. Skier. Climber. Photographer. Sometimes in that order, sometimes not. Colorado native. Ibex influencer. Potential life coach for Kanye West. Generally out for good times. Sometimes fully clothed, sometimes not. Self-described “swashbuckling outdoorsman and intrepid adventurer.” We second that description.The only details we we might add are gastronomic genius (!!) and questionable literary taste. Read on.

A quote from Björn that pretty much sums it all up: “Maybe a deep fryer and alcohol wasn’t a great idea, but it’s too late to look back now.”

Check out Björn’s photography and blog at www.bjornbauer.com. Do a little socializing at Twitter and Instagram.

Ibex Question (IQ): Of all the real or metaphorical desert islands in the world, where would you choose to be stranded?

Björn Bauer (BB): Backcountry hut in winter

IQ: How do you feel about three days alone?

BB: I wonder who’s going to win at Monopoly.

IQ: You get to pack one piece of outdoor gear. What do you bring?

BB: I would bring along Coleman’s Propane Fry Well deep fryer, because everything tastes better deep-fried. [Editor’s note: Amen, Mr. Bauer, amen.]

IQ: What luxury item do you pack?

BB: Since I’ve already set the pace with a deep fryer, my one luxury item would be a Dark & Stormy kit. Some healthy ginger beer and high-octane rum would go a long way to keep my sanity and sedate my rambunctiousness.

IQ: How do spend your days in solitude?

BB: My main mission would be to try and not get hurt. Maybe a deep fryer and alcohol wasn’t a great idea, but it’s too late to look back now. Step two would be snow angels, followed closely by finding Waldo.

IQ: What book do you hope is on the bookcase?

BB: Where’s Waldo: The Fantastic Journey. Hands down the greatest literary venture of our age.

IQ: There’s no Internet, but there is a working CD player. Which album (or three) do you hope is on the shelf?

BB: Anything by Lana Del Rey. Her music makes me feel like I’m in a damn movie.

IQ: On the flip side, which song – if played on endless repeat – would make you run naked and screaming from the hut after three days?

BB: Tik Tok, by Kesha. That song is the whole reason I got stuck in this hut in the first place.

IQ If you could have anyone in the world join you, who would it be?

BB: I think I’ll get in trouble for not saying my girlfriend, but Kanye West would be great to have around – just to watch him struggle with life things.

IQ: What’s the first thing you do when you return to civilization?

BB: The first thing I would do is go to the florist and buy a nice bouquet of flowers for my girlfriend – to make up for not bringing her to my hut.