On Cloudventure

on-cloudventure-riversignalWhat they say:

Making the Swiss Alps a little flatter.

Growing up in the Swiss Alps. The On team learned a thing or two about running in the mountains. When we set put to design the perfect trail shoe, we remembered what is important: a shoe so light and fast that you can reach the peak in time to watch the sunrise. Reliable grip for when a thunderstorm catches you by surprise. And clever cushioning to save your legs when you are flying back down to reach the valley before it gets dark.

Introducing the On Cloudventure. Engineered in Switzerland.

Runner profile:  Runners looking for a lightweight trail shoe with full cushioning protection.

6 mm 0.23 in Heel-toe offset

Upper:

— Seamlessly integrated lightweight rubber toe-cap

— Cleverly placed reflective strips all around shoe for improved visibility

— Extended rubber side and heel cage for extra protection

— Comfort liner for embedded fit

— Lightweight no-sew eyestay construction

— Antimicrobial sock liner

Speedboard:

— Provides powerful take-off in complex terrain

Outer layer of the upper is built from engineered mesh. It is water-repellent and breathable at the same time and in the right places.

Toe-cap is firmly fused with the engineered mesh to protect the toes.

What I say:

I previously had very little experience or knowledge of On, I knew of one runner who has used them & although he was positive about them I was a little suspicious that their cloud cushioning system would be a gimmick or worse wouldn’t withstand the mileage I expected from my shoes.

That said, when I was invited along with several journalists & dealers to the launch of their first trail model in the Engadin Valley, Switzerland I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity. For fairly obvious reasons and if I’m honest the shoes weren’t top of that list.

We had a pair of the shiny new Cloudventure Trail shoes given to us & first impressions were good, lovely details proved the attention to details described by the team during the tour of their new offices and they certainly look like a premium running product. Trying them on for the first time they fit like a glove, or more accurately like a pair of slippers. They feature a soft inner lining which would enable you to wear them without socks, but with them they ensure a snug but not too tight fit that added to the instant feeling of comfort out of the box. Walking in them at first was an odd experience, you can feel the cloud collapsing, not with a bump but with noticeable cushioning, particularly on the heel. This doesn’t cause imbalance or instability at all & once you’ve got used to it and as they push back as the regains their shape, what is described by On as ‘snapicity’ it returns some energy.

We took them on a steady hike along a trail just outside St Moritz to try the Cloudventure out before running in them and they performed well, as comfortable as expected, the DWR kept the water at bay admirably & they inspired a quick pace but the real test was to be the next day.

Next morning we assembled early to really put them through their paces, in On Running’s birth place, the foothills of the Swiss Alps. The first couple of miles took us along tarmac tracks & out to stunning trails and single track winding through woodland & along a lake side. The shoes functioned well, 2 things that stood out particularly during this stretch was how confidence inspiring they were on the descents and how well they coped with the different terrains. Many shoes are described as ‘Door to Trail’ but these felt like they met this particular mandate without compromise, unlike many shoes designed for this purpose the transition from the hard man made surface to spongy pine needles was seamless and the Cloudventure appeared to deal with both as well as the other.

After stopping for a breather we headed up a climb, the shoes again did well on the terrain, good enough grip to push up onto the front of the foot to power up the ascent. Briefly anyway until I struggled with the altitude and slowed to a wobble for the remainder of the climb. Reaching the top we had a stopped for a chat & to take some photos & film of the shoes and views.

2016-05-31-09-54-38

I opted for the long course which continued through the woodland taking several ascents between some very fast steep descents. Olivier described their search for the perfect balance between ‘slip & grip’ which in use meant that on the descents there is a certain amount of movement underfoot, which is good on surfaces like the pine needles and dirt but I found they didn’t inspire the same confidence on the rocky ground, particularly wet rock and I struggled on this terrain, especially on the steep downhills. Others were flying down regardless of the terrain, though so this may say more about my technical abilities than the shoes.

2016-05-31-10-37-14

The On Running team obviously have a genuine passion for running and particularly the trails & mountains of Engadin and their enthusiasm was infectious – although the views also helped.

What is my conclusion of the Cloudventure?

They performed very well on the varied terrain we threw at them. By the teams own admission they designed these shoes to incorporate some movement underfoot (in contrast to Salomon for example who build shoes specifically designed to grip & hold) so this will be a factor whether these work for you. I found they were exceptionally comfortable and on many surfaces the movement was welcome as it meant a more natural gait, but it did mean I struggled with confidence on some terrain during fast descents.

I’m not sure I can agree they made the Swiss Alps a little flatter but if you run on a varied surfaces on your trail run they are nigh on perfect ‘door to trail’ shoes.

Edit: Since originally writing this review for the launch of the On Cloudventure I have chosen them as my shoe for the Lakeland 50 and Day 1 of the Druids Challenge and other than the right shoe squeaking annoyingly their performance and most notably comfort has continued to impress.

on-cloudventure-men-riversignal

Advertisements

SKINS DNAmic Compression

09192bd8-f00d-40f2-912d-352a520a3497-jpg-_cb273066210__sr970300_What they say:

SKINS new DNAmic range combines compression with vibrant designs to create the ultimate active wear for athletes looking to increase their training intensity. Featuring SKINS revolutionary Dynamic Gradient Compression and a variety of garments to choose from, the SKINS DNAmic range is designed to power you through your warm-up to workout, whatever your sport.

DNAmic Superpose Half Tights are sure to become your new secret weapon. Combining a 4-way stretch athletic short with built in Dynamic Gradient Compression Half Tights for better performance, you’ll be able to go harder for longer in ultimate comfort. The lightweight, quick-dry outer shorts combine effortlessly with the built in compression base layer making the DNAmic Superpose Half Tights perfect for running or strength training.

Enhance your upper body performance with a SKINS DNAmic Short Sleeve Top. By supporting and stabilising the core, shoulders and biceps and wicking moisture to keep you dry, this compression top will be your go-to for under your team kit on game day. Push your upper body harder for longer without the next-day muscle ache in a SKINS DNAmic Short Sleeve Top.

What I say:

I’ve been an avid user of compression gear for the majority of the time I’ve been running, I’m aware that there remains some debate as to the actual benefits of compression but if nothing else I find it more comfortable to wear & being close to the skin should assist any wicking properties. Well the legwear anyway, I’ve generally found compression tops too constrictive which has made it more difficult for me to breathe whilst running.

So when SKINS provided their new DNAmic Superpose half tights to test I couldn’t wait to get out & give them a try, unfortunately the first opportunity to run after I received them was Day 1 of the Pilgrims Challenge – 33 miles along the North Downs Way. Now I know you shouldn’t try new stuff on race day but I just couldn’t resist so it was these I pulled on in the morning.

SKINS DNAmic Superpose half tights are actually 4 way stretch lightweight outer shorts with SKINS Dynamic Gradient Compression Half Tights built in, I have used several pairs of 2 in 1 or Twin Skin shorts and the SKINS Superpose have more noticeable compression than the others, combined with a nice soft feel to the material of the inner short and with no invasive seams they are very comfortable but to be safe I wore my Chaffree Boxers underneath.

I finished the first day slowly but without difficulty and most importantly with no major aches, pains or chaffing. It is impossible to say that it is down to the shorts and I certainly don’t feel the increase in oxygen delivery, decrease in lactic acid build up  or reduction in muscle vibrations but I was surprisingly comfortable and I was amazed how good my legs felt the next morning.

 

I was so impressed that I pulled them on again for the 33 mile run back on Day 2 making the possibly rash decision to wear the DNAmic short sleeve top too. I took it easy to start but felt more comfortable again as the day wore on having no issues breathing in the top, it didn’t ride up at all thanks to the silicon grip around the waist and I felt warm and dry all day. I can’t be certain the compression did what it was designed for but I had less lower back pain than usual & little shoulder ache so I’m not certainly complaining.

So does SKINS DNAmic Compression kit help you go faster for further? I don’t know, but what I can say for certain is I did the 33 miles back on the second day just 3 minutes slower than the first and still had the legs to run strongly to the finish line. Something I am very happy with.

Would I recommend this gear? Well, it’s laying out ready for tomorrow’s race so I suppose so.

Edit: Since originally writing this review of the SKINS DNAmic compression wear the Superpose Half Tights have become my go to running shorts and I completed 7 further ultra marathons in them in 2016. The SKINS DNAmic Short Sleeve Top still makes the odd appearance but generally as a base layer on colder days.

 

 

The Official Montane Spine Race Film

What they say:

Simply put it is the story of Britain’s most brutal race.  Follow the athletes as they get to grips mentally and physically with The Spine Race 2015, as they learn to cope with sleep deprivation, the threat of hypothermia, the highs and lows, experience the incredible & unique camaraderie, the relationships that develop and the life changing experience, which is The Spine Race.

Summit Fever Media is a small independent adventure film company based in North Yorkshire, UK. The team consists of Ellie & Matt who own Summit Fever Media and we have Jez and Jamie, two of our crack team of freelancers. Within the team we have two drones, which will be able to give incredible footage of the wild areas of Britain, from a perspective rarely seen before.

We have worked on The Spine Race for the past two years, building up relationships with runners who are returning in 2015, the organisers and support team, and knowledge of the course.2015-09-05 15.22.50-1

What I say:

Have you noticed that cinema’s these days are full of movies about super heroes, from Avengers to X-Men and everything in between? Well, this is the chronicle of a completely different breed of real life super heroes.

As they say “simply put it is the story of Britain’s most brutal race” told by following the competitors as they progress through the race. This however doesn’t capture the essence of what it is about. Matt & Ellie skilfully capture the bleakness & beauty of the Pennine Way in January. Merged with the sparse soundtrack of nature at its wildest, the film manages to portray some sense of the extremely challenging conditions the racers are battling.

Throughout you view or are told about what makes this race (& the film) special… the people involved. It cleverly blends action with interviews not just with the competitors, but all those that make the race happen or the volunteers that help & support. The GoPro camera’s given to some of the competitors give a glimpse into the mind of the competitors & the trials, tribulations & thought processes they go through. These recordings  combined with the footage from check points provide a number of inspiring, poignant or amusing moments, one of the key things that struck me when watching this film (other than the wind) is the humour the runners and volunteers maintain.

I was lucky enough to see this film at the Like The Wind Magazine London Premiere & must add, if you have the opportunity to view it on a large screen then it’s well worth the effort, The impact of the conditions is that much greater than the small screen & as they’re currently on tour, they should be coming to a venue near you soon.2015-08-12 21.43.44The Spine Race bills itself as Britain’s most brutal race. It takes in the entire 268 miles of the Pennine Way from Edale to Kirk Yetholm non-stop in the middle of winter. And as the heroes undertaking this have a time limit of just 7 days, I for one am not going to argue with this.

So I end with a solemn warning.

Regardless of the clear brutality shown in all its gory glory by this film, if like me you enjoy a challenge, the second those credits begin you’ll be searching to find out how you go about entering…

Brooks Glycerin 13

What they say:

Step into men’s Glycerin 13 running shoe and into new worlds of comfort. We’ve pushed the limits of our 3D Fit Print technology to create a newly enhanced, seamless upper for streamlined support. The dynamic saddle wraps the foot in secure comfort and the wraparound collar adds the finishing touch for a perfect blend of Ideal fit and plush comfort. Underfoot, the Super DNA midsole provides 25% more cushion than our regular DNA for the ultimate in smooth rides. Ideal Pressure Zones in the outsole optimize pressure distribution from heel to forefoot and the rounded heel helps keep your body in its Ideal alignment.

  Super DNA midsole provides the ultimate adaptive cushioning

  Rounded heel offers better alignment, minimizing stress on joints

  Ideal Pressure Zones disperse impact for an effortless ride

  Conformable saddle construction gives your foot a snug fit

  3-D Fit Print overlays on the upper add flexibility and structureBrooks Glycerin 13

What I say:

My overwhelming impression of Brooks Running shoes is the passionate loyalty they have from their users; it always appears that once you convert to Brooks you become a devotee, more so than other manufacturers. However, I have a confession to make… the only Brooks shoes I’d owned before I was given this pair of to test & review are a pair of Pureflow that I don’t really get on with that well.

So it was with some trepidation that I took the Glycerin 13 for their first outing, but I shouldn’t have worried, for a couple of reasons they immediately suit me very well.

  1. The heel to toe drop is 10mm which is in the region I’ve discovered over the last few years of running suits me very well. More than this causes me injuries & much below generally doesn’t have enough cushioning for the kind of distances I enjoy the most.
  2. They’re designed for runners with a medium to high arch – I have a (very) high arch & this again has caused me problems with some shoes leading to injuries & requiring orthotics.

The general feeling you get when running in them is smooth. Despite my best efforts I’m an out & out heel striker, particularly when tiring but the heel to toe transition in these remains smooth throughout, which translates to a comfortable ride. They have good flexibility in the toe box for long days out too.

The material they’re made from is unlike most other shoes I’ve worn recently. The outer is, like the ride, smooth & slick not the more common mesh materials used in my other shoes. I assume must be down to the 3D screen printing techniques applied in their manufacture. The lining as you would expect from a top of the line shoe is very soft, in fact the only area of the shoe that isn’t soft or smooth is the heel. This has a rigid support built into it, which I have to say, I love. It seems to stop any movement & helps the foot feel secure, a great touch.

I went half a size up from my ‘normal’ & I’m still not certain I needed too, but it hasn’t caused any problems.  I’m sure I’ll be thankful for it when I do start racking up serious miles in them & my feet swell.

All in all they feel well thought out & very well put together; they definitely live up to the label of premium.

But am I a newly converted Brooks devotee? It’s too early to tell, but these shoes are a great step in that direction.

Iffley Road Drirelease Classic T-Shirt

What they say:

Designed to perform effortlessly and look good run after run, the classic running tee is made from bespoke technical drirelease fabric that is lightweight, soft and durable. This tee shirt has a slim yet relaxed cut and trademark longer sleeves.

Available in 7 colours inspired by the British elements.

Bespoke drirelease fabric
Signature tri-stripe hanging loop
Discreetly embossed Iffley Road roundel
In-seam valuables pocket designed for a key and credit card
Curved back hem
Made in the EU

Our classic tees are the perfect running t-shirt, combining top performance fabric and an elegant slim cut. Made from our bespoke drirelease® micro-blend they are soft, light and highly wicking. A near invisible in seam pocket is perfect for car keys, credit card or a single gel.


20150417_123508What I say:

Just receiving & opening this drirelease classic t-shirt from Iffley Road is an occasion. It arrives packed in a luxurious looking box with a hand written note on a postcard & a replica of the race number Roger Bannister wore when he broke the 4 minute mile at Iffley Road Track in 1954. So special in fact I decided to wait until my birthday before testing it properly.

When I first took the t-shirt out (on my birthday) I was, I am embarrassed to say, underwhelmed. In this current culture with breathable panels, flashy reflective material, supposed performance enhancing additions & go faster stripes all the rage this offering from Iffley Road seems somewhat… classic. Examine a bit closer & classy details are in evidence, such as the embossed logo & loop on the reverse but this shirt is on first examination is a fairly standard shirt.

Then I put it on.

And had to check I was still wearing it.

I don’t think I’ve ever worn a top that felt so comfortable, light & airy. So much so that you do genuinely forget that you’re wearing it. I always say that this is the highest compliment you can pay performance clothing… but this does make completing a review of it quite difficult, so I concentrated a little harder.

The fit is as you would expect from a tee of the name, classic. I wear a medium & if fits perfectly. While running it moves, but with a soft swishing as opposed to the heavy bouncing that other heavier shirts do and there is no rubbing or abrasion anywhere. It feels like you’re not wearing it at all. It has a fairly wide neckline, which I had thought would be a problem but actually aids breathability & even though I’ve been out in it during the recent high spring temperatures we’ve been blessed with I felt remarkable comfortable running in it.

Which leads me on to those unseemly sweat marks & smell. No. None.

There is a small zipped pocket, which through design is hidden. I’m not a huge fan of pockets on shirts as I find the bouncing of whatever you put in them irritating, but the addition is convenient to store necessities if you don’t have a pocket on your shorts & wasn’t overly uncomfortable or distracting on the move.

All things considered this is a standard looking running shirt created from a highly functional & lightweight fabric making it a pleasure to wear whilst exercising. It is a true classic.

Aftershokz Bluez2 Bluetooth Headphones Review

What they say:

AfterShokz Bluez 2 Bluetooth Headphones

AfterShokz Bluez 2 open ear wireless headphones combine the convenience, reliability and performance of Bluetooth wireless connectivity with the comfort and safety of open ear bone conduction technology to provide consumers with an entirely new way to stay connected. Unlike conventional Bluetooth headphones and earbuds that use the eardrums to transmit sound, Aftershokz Bluez headphones utilize patent pending bone conduction technology to deliver sound through the listener’s cheekbones to the inner ear. This enables anyone using them to make/take phone calls and stay connected to both what they are listening to and the outside world – from warning sounds outdoors while walking or driving to a nearby colleague in an office setting.
We can’t say we invented bone conduction, but our technological enhancements certainly push its boundaries. Our patented design guides mini vibrations through your cheekbones to your inner ears, delivering stereo sound without plugging or covering them. Sound waves travel directly to the cochlea, bypassing the eardrums completely—an alternative for anyone concerned about potential hearing damage caused by traditional headphones and ear buds, and even a solution for those with certain forms of hearing loss.
Most bluetooth devices are designed for use in one ear, but AfterShokz Bluez sit comfortably in front of the ears and provide listeners with a stereophonic sound experience. The innovative and elegantly simple design of AfterShokz Bluez open ear headphones is built around a beautifully designed, highly ergonomic, extremely stable, one-piece warparound headband. The open ear design and the light weight of AfterShokz Bluez make them extremely comfortable and stable, even when used over extended periods of time.
AfterShokz Bluez open ear wireless bluetooth headphones deliver the safest and most comfortable way of staying connected on the planet.

 

Features

OpenFit™ OpenFit™ makes it possible to experience ambient sound awareness without any limitations, through a design that offers extended comfort and a secure fit—vital for high-impact activities or long-term wear.

PremiumPitch™ PremiumPitch™ is our unique development in bone conduction audio, where remarkably clean sound and discernable bass comes from patented dual suspension beryllium copper infused transducers.

Custom Equalization Custom equalization adjustments take that a step further, allowing you to tune to preference at the touch of a button.

LeakSlayer™ Though a range of sound leakage is common with most all headphones and ear buds, most of us don’t want to share our music and conversations with others nearby. LeakSlayer™ technology significantly reduces natural sound leakage, effectively allowing you to keep sound to yourself.

Sweat Resistant Nanotechnology treated to repel sweat and other moisture, rest assured these headphones will play on through your most rigorous sweat sessions or even the elements.

Audrey Says™ Voice prompts that are meant to be more than a companion; these are designed to add ease to the user experience. With accessibility in mind, Audrey Says™ guides through power, pairing and playing, and will even alert you when you’ll need a recharge.

Complete Controls A multifunction button delivers complete control of music and calls right from the unit, which means your mobile device can remain safely tucked away during use.

Bluetooth® Your wireless freedom doesn’t have to be plagued by traditional limits. Confidently stash your mobile device anywhere on your body—or even just somewhere nearby—without the inconvenience of signal drops and music skips.

Microphone Dual microphones deliver clear communication even in noisy environments.
image

What I say:

I’ve now used these for a variety of sessions, including a 10 mile race in fancy dress & in short I think they’re amazing.

On first trying them they’re rather odd, very different from standard in-earphones that I’ve used to date. They have a very clear, high quality sound which appears to originate from the centre of your head, but the fact that you can also hear what is happening around you takes a little while to adjust to. Thankfully, it isn’t long before you get used to this & are able to reap the many benefits of these headphones.

A lot of my running is done on singletrack country lanes & the Bluez 2 have been a revelation, I can now get into a groove without having to continuously check over my shoulder or have cars sneak up on me unheard. One of the greatest compliments I can pay running gear is that you forget about it & this is exactly what happened when I wore them in the race. As they’re Bluetooth no cable got tangled, they were comfortable throughout, they resisted my copious sweating in a furry suit, I could listen to music whilst hearing the support from the crowd & hold  conversations with other runners & #ukrunchat’ers along the way without having to remove the headphones.

I haven’t yet tested the full life of the batteries but having used them for almost 2hrs the power is still high.  With a claimed life of 6hrs it’ll be enough for all but the very slowest to complete a marathon & on standby the power lasts for at least a week. The headphones are pretty simple to set up & use straight out of the box and basic operation is easy although the controls aren’t the most intuitive with a few small multi functional buttons. One final thing I was impressed with was the distance they’ll connect to a device, I left my iPod in the house while on the turbo trainer in the garage, that’s a good 10 metres & 2 brick walls away & the connection was fine… the only concern with this is you could drop your mp3 & be well down the road before you’re aware its gone!

Lets address the elephant in the room, these are not the cheapest headphones on the market, but their quality performance & functionality make them well worth the price tag & I genuinely can’t recommend them enough.