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How Much Glide Wax Do We Waste?

Recently I visited a ski shop that  waxes everything for snow sports.  Alpine skis,  XC skis, snowboards, jumping skis, and lots of them. I got a tour of their state of the art shop and saw their infra-red waxing tool.  It was all very cool, but what really caught my ear was the fact that the infra-red waxer cut their shop wax cost by 75%!  That’s huge and it made me think about the pile of shavings I throw away when I wax my skis.

For years I’ve followed the age old ritual of dripping glide wax on my skis, artfully melting and smoothing it out, hoping not to scorch the bases, and then scraping off the excess that didn’t sneak into some mysterious microscopic pores.

A few years back I stumbled on a technique that I call Hot Crayoning glide wax.  In hot crayoning, you rub the wax on, rather than drip it on, but only after you’ve softened it on your upside down iron.  I much prefer this method for a few reasons. It’s faster since you don’t have to flatten the wax ridges that dripping gives you, it’s easier since the iron glides over the smooth coat of wax on the first pass, and you scrape off far less wax. It’s the last point, scraping off less wax, that inspired me to do a little test to see just how much wax I was throwing away.


This is only mildly scientific and there is all sorts of room for error, but the big picture results are pretty compelling.

I set off to the wax cave with three nearly identical pairs of skis, my cherished Rossignol X-Iums, a brand new hunk of soft glide wax, a newly sharpened scraper, and a digital scale that I purchased just for this test.

The plan was to first “zero” the skis by waxing them all with the same base wax so one of my more neglected pair didn’t suck up more test wax. Then I would wax one ski of each pair with the dripped on technique, the other hot the hot crayon.  I weighed the chunk of glide wax before  and after I applied it so I knew how much went on the ski. Then after scraping I did the best I could to gather up all wax, that typically would go straight into the garbage can,  and weighed it. The difference, minus a little lost dust, was what absorbed into the ski.


I averaged the data from all three similarly waxed skis and came up with details that told me what I already knew, we throw one heck of a lot of expensive wax in the garbage.

Here’s how it shook out.

For the conventional dripped on wax job I put 4.1g of wax on the ski and scraped off 2.98g. For the hot crayon skis I applied 2.42g and scraped off 1.26 g.  It’s interesting that for both, nearly the same amount of wax disappeared into the ski, 1.12 g for the drip job and    1.16 g for the hot crayon.

So how much wax do we toss out? The results were scary for me. I know by the time I’m done waxing a few pair of skis I have quite a pile on the floor but I didn’t realize that with the drip wax I tossed 72.6% of the wax I applied,  but with the crayoning it went down to 52%.  52% is a big number but its 57.8% less waste than dripping and the same amount of wax stays in the ski!

Given these numbers,  I won’t be dripping wax anymore, but then I wondered about paste wax.  I love Fast Wax’s Slick Pro wax, and use it a lot between hot wax jobs. The stuff is easy to apply and gives me slippery skis. A few times I’ve gotten to the trail in the morning for a busy day of lessons and realized I forgot to glide wax. A quick coat of Slick Pro and I have slippery skis all day!  So, how do the paste wax numbers come out?

To calculate how much I was applying I weighed the applicator pad when I had it loaded with wax, and then after I’d rubbed it on the ski. Calculating how much I scraped off was easy. Zero.  I’m sure I lost some to the thermo-block and some dust, but nothing I could retrieve and weigh. How much stayed in or on the ski was a different matter.  Just .12g stayed on the ski.  The hot wax jobs melted 1.14g in on average. Those numbers likely indicate that the paste wax is ON the ski rather than IN the ski, but if it’s heated into the base wax might it bond up?  Fast Wax says it’ll last 15-20k and if heated in, even longer.

So here’s the punch line. We throw 50% to 75% of the wax we buy in the garbage can.  At $30 for some Low Flouro, that’s $15 to $22 of each purchase. The Slick Pro with nearly zero waste sounds like the hot ticket, but possibly not as durable.

My new plan is to hot crayon wax in once a while and use Fast Wax frequently to keep ‘em slippery.  That way I’ll have a few extra bucks for the micro brews I prefer over white beer!


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Wolfman Mountain Bike 101

The Wolfman Mountain Bike has become quite an infamous course. Frequently after the race, folks tell war stories about some of the classic single track sections, but did you know that over half of the 13 miles are on beautiful two track forest roads, paved roads, and a refreshing walk across the Wolf River?

For first timers, and curious veterans, we’ve put together this How To Guide for a safe and fun Wolfman. Here are some tips on bike set up, advice on riding technique, and strategies on getting through course with style and ease!

Most importantly, make sure your bike is in tip top shape before you arrive. This course can be tough on a bike. If you take your bike in for a tune-up before the race, it’s a good idea to take it out for a shake down ride before race day. If the mechanic makes changes to your bike, like new cables or derailleur adjustments, you don’t want to find out during the race that the cables have stretched or it’s not quite shifting right.
You will want to have a legit mountain bike for this event. It doesn’t have to be all carbon and loaded with the hottest parts, but hybrids and department store bikes will give you grief.
PRO TIP- An adjustable seat improves fun and safety. A “dropper” seat post that you can activate from the handlebar is the best, but a quick release lever on the seat clamp works well too. DETAILS BELOW IN THE TECHNIQUE SECTION.
There are pro’s and cons for each choice, with no right answer for every rider. Here are some thoughts to consider.
-Flats allow you to quickly put a foot down if you get hung up a bit. That can be very reassuring and you might have the confidence to ride through some rough stuff knowing you can quickly put a foot down.

-Flats make it easy to restart after you come to a stop. You won’t struggle flipping the pedal around trying to get clipped in.

-In the rougher sections your feet could bounce around on the pedals quite a bit and you find yourself pedaling with your foot only partially on the pedal.

-Since you’re not clipped into the pedal, it’s not unheard of that your foot slips off the pedal and smacks you in the calf or shin!!

-Being clipped in is very nice on all the 2 track sections. You can relax and spin like you would on the road.

-You’re feet aren’t going to bounce off the pedals so you might be able to keep pedaling through some rough stuff, and you won’t get whacked in the shin as much!

The obvious one is that it can be hard to quickly unclip and put a foot down, especially if you haven’t had a lot of practice doing it under pressure. Falling to the side because you can’t get unclipped isn’t much fun!
-Make sure your brakes are adjusted properly, so they fully engage far before the levers squeeze down to the grip
PRO TIP- If possible, slide you brake lever in towards the stem, so you can grasp the grip with 3 fingers and brake with just your pointer finger.
-I highly recommend a quick release seat clamp or a dropper seat post. For non-technical riding, it’s great to have the seat adjusted like you would for the road with just a slight bend in the knee when the pedal is down. However when it gets challenging, its nice to drop the seat so it’s easier to handle the bike.
PRO TIP- I personally will never again own a bike without a dropper seat post. I feel a dropper should be standard on every mountain bike sold, just like anti-lock brakes on a car. FYI, a dropper post has lever on the bars that allows you to drop the seat out of the way, and then hit the lever and pop it back up to the original height. Awesome!
As a disclaimer, it’s very tough to teach or learn something by just reading. I much prefer to give LIVE lessons so I can help you understand and make sure you’ve got it. Saying that…..here we go.

The Wolfman bike leg has a ton of variety. For much of the ride you can just sit and spin, like you would on a road bike. However, there are lots of sections where real mountain bike skills will come in handy for safety and fun. There are some very rocky sections, some narrow stuff, and some short and steep hills. I’ll do the best I can share some basics that will help, especially if you can get a little practice before the big day.

Here’s a MAJOR difference between road and mountain. On the road we pretty much take a seat and pedal. A lot of our weight is perched on the seat. Mountain Biking, when the going gets tough we stand on the pedals, lifting our butts off the saddle. Sometimes we just hover about the saddle, almost brushing it. Other times, we leave the saddle completely and move our butts back and over the rear tire. When you sit on the seat your weight is applied to the bike at a very high point ( TIPPY! ), when you stand on the pedals and hover your butt, your weight is loaded to the bike through the bottom bracket, ( LOW AND STABLE ). This is a HUGE concept!
Now that we understand standing on the pedals and hovering, we add lowering our chests towards the bars and sticking our elbows out. This lowers your center of gravity and makes you more stable. On the fire roads you can sit up and cruise in a Neutral Position, but when it gets rocky, hilly, and curvy, drop into the Ready Position. Chest lowered towards the bars. Elbows out. The bike will handle much better when your center of gravity is lowered. Try It And You’ll Never Go Back!
I’ll simply say, apply both brakes evenly and gently, MOST OF THE TIME. There are exceptions we can’t get into, but just know that lots of folks only use the rear brake and the the front brake actually has much more stopping power and should be used a lot.
Spin to Grin! A high pedaling cadence is easier on the muscles than a slow lumbering one. In an event like the Wolfman, where you have to ration your energy for a long trip, spinning is a great strategy. A high cadence is also very nice in super rocky sections. Try to look ahead and shift early for uphills so you can climb with confidence and ease.
All of us, even the pro’s, can always get better at this. It’s natural to stare right in front of your tire and what its about to encounter. As much as possible, try to lift your vision and look at what’s coming down the trail. You should scan up and down the trail as your ride. Check on your front tire, check up ahead. Check on your front tire, check up ahead. There are many advantages here, most importantly we subconsciously file a flight plan when we look ahead. In this land of short punchy hills, it can also help you downshift early so you can spin right up the hills.
This might be the biggest tip of all.
I don’t want to scare you, but be prepared for some steep and short downhills followed by steep and short uphills. We also have many longer steep hills and some challenging steep downhills with sharp corners. This tip is all about balance and standing solidly on the pedals. Hopefully the photos will help to explain.
When you climb steep stuff you need to move your body forward and down towards the bars, to keep the right pressure on the pedals. Photo 1 below shows me NOT moving forward or getting low, and functionally I’m actually leaning back because the front end is coming up towards me. Photo 2 shows me still sitting, but I’ve slid to the nose of the saddle and lowered into that ready position. NOTE- This hill isn’t super steep, but as it gets steeper, you get lower. There is a sweet spot where you have good traction and power. a.k.a. BALANCE !! MAGIC!!
This is super important for safety and when you feel how much this helps your handling you’ll feel much more confident. On downhills we do the opposite, and slide our bodies back as needed, straighten the arms and move your butt back. Drop the heel of your front foot to brace yourself. Photo 1 shows me sitting on the saddle on a steep hill. Note that I am perched perfectly to go OTB, Over The Bars, at any moment. In Photo 2, I’ve straightened my arms, moved my butt behind the saddle, and I’ve dropped that front foot to brace. I still could take an OTB trip, but it’s highly unlikely.
PRO TIP- When you hit the single track, drop that seat. If you have a quick release, maybe just take it down and inch or two, so pedaling doesn’t suck too much. If you have a dropper post with a remote on the bars, you got it made. Minimally drop that baby all the way on every steep downhill, and if you’re comfortable using it, I’d drop it ALL THE WAY any time you are out of the saddle cornering or descending.
Most of us are going to be getting on and off the bike quite a bit. There’s a safe way and a scary way. I’m doing the safe way. Basically, when you decide you need to put a foot down, you should stand up, move forward, get your butt in front of the seat, and look where you’re placing your foot, If you stay sitting you have to tip the bike way to the side to reach the ground which often results in a fall. Same when you remount. Get in front of the seat, bring a pedal up to the top of the stroke, stand on that pedal and GO!
Stopping and starting on a downhill follows the same rules as descending on the roll. GET YOU BUTT BEHIND THE SADDLE AND LOW!
Here’s a quick overview of the course and some strategies for a smooth trip.
PRO TIP – If you can come to Langlade for a pre-ride, you’ll appreciate it on race day. Lots of folks come up Labor Day Weekend to paddle, ride, and run. By then the bike leg will be signed, and the run will be marked with some flags.
The course starts with 2.4 miles on HWY 64, which is a nice way to relax and loosen up. If you’re goal is to have a nice trip and finish happy, this is not a time to go too hard. On the other hand, if you are a road cyclist and in good shape, one strategy could be to let it rip on the road and fire lanes to put some time in the bank for when you slow down on the single track.

You’ll grab a right onto some sweet dirt roads for another 2 miles of easy riding. After you cross a paved road, Van Alstine, you’ll soon be guided onto the first sections of the Famous Wolfman Single Track. For a increased safety you may want to drop that seat an inch or two, or get ready to hit that dropper lever! Remind yourself to stay low, scan ahead, move fore and aft on the bike as you climb and descend, and smile.

PRO TIP- RIDE WHEN YOU CAN WALK WHEN YOU NEED TO. Stepping off the bike or walking sections isn’t failure. It can be a great strategy and a way to stay safe. A few years ago I learned that I wasn’t a whole lot slower off the bike than on, in some situations. It was muddy as hell, super slick, and the bike would hardly roll. I was on and off for miles. A guy came up from behind, happily jogging with his bike and sailed past me! “Well that looks better” I thought and joined him for a nice trot to the river crossing. No one ever fell off their bike while pushing it!
For another 4 miles you’ll be riding a lot of single track with some dirt roads in the old tornado path. Soon you’ll cross HWY 55 at the 7.4 mile mark. OVER HALF WAY ! This is where the more challenging stuff lives. What’s nice is that the single track sections are separated by little sections of two track, so you’ll get lots of little breaks.

The first challenge, soon after you cross the highway, is a pretty tough climb. For now I’m calling this Bitch Hill, but I’m sure it’ll get called lots of things on race day. For a lot of us this hill may not be ridable so if you can’t make it, relax! You’re in good company. This probably isn’t the time or place to bury yourself. There’s a lot of race in front of you. Its not technical, but its a long steep bugger with some false summits.

For the next 3 miles you’re in and out of various single track sections. This is the time to keep things in perspective and Ride When You Can, Walk When You Need To. Don’t burn a lot of energy fretting about things. This is a tough part of the race and you’re goal should be to be safe and get to mile 11.4, when you leave the single track behind! Cruise down the dirt road to the river crossing and YIPEEE!, just 1.6 miles to go!!

There is a little more flat single track right before the river, but it isn’t too hard. Just a little riding on the islands, carry your bike across the main channel of the river, spin up the last dirt road, and you can finally hand the bike to a wonderful volunteer!

Don’t worry, the fun’s not over! You’ve still got the gorgeous Trail Run before you cross the finish line and can finally say…

Dan LaBlanc
IMBA ICP Level 2 Instructor
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The World’s Toughest Funnest Outdoor Sport

Group of skiers

The October 2016 OUTSIDE Magazine ran an article RANKING THE WORLD’S TOUGHEST OUTDOOR SPORTS. “Oh No” I thought, here it comes again! I reluctantly read on, hoping the answer would not be what I anticipated, but sadly there is was. The WINNER IS…..da da da….NORDIC SKIING! We’ve all heard for years about what a great all body workout XC skiing is, and it’s true; XC recruits all sorts of body parts and movements that can challenge our muscles, brains, and cardio that, if one desires, can lead to an amazing workout.

As a lover of XC I wish we would quit talking about how TOUGH it is and start talking about how FUN it is. I’m so nuts about all the romantic stuff of XC that I want to get everyone out to it. So many times in lessons, I’ve had students come reluctantly because some friend or family member is dragging them there, but once they step through the curtain and into the Winter Wonderland, they feel the magic. When I hear “this is so cool”, I get a smile on my face knowing that they feel XC. It’s the beauty, the glide, the quiet, the friendship, the nature, the cold, that they are enjoying, not how tough it is.

I fear we are marketing this wonderful sport all wrong. I enjoyed all the info in the Outside article because I love the fitness element to all of the outdoor activities I choose to do, but is labeling a sport as THE TOUGHEST getting more folks off the couch and into the woods? If I’m that guy that hasn’t been too active, and wants to get up and start moving, I’m surely not going to start with the World’s Toughest Sport! How about the Worlds Funnest Sport? That sounds good!

So to all you avid skiers, let’s make sure when we are telling coworkers, friends, and family about our amazing weekend of skiing that we focus on the MAGIC that new skiers will, hopefully, feel when they step through the curtain into the Winter Wonderland. That’s what will get more folks in the woods, not war stories of how far you went and how trashed you were. Then, when they give it a shot and feel the magic, they can let the Funnest Sport in the world take them down whatever path they desire. Racing isn’t necessarily the final destination for everyone, but that’s another article for sure.

Full article link:
Outside Magazine: Ranking the World’s Toughest Sports

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