Sticking with the running theme, here is my latest shoe to the fleet, the Merrell Trail Glove. This is my second pair, that replaced the first, which was in my last shoe post here. To make a long story short:
I bought my last pair of Merrells in California this summer for work, and because I am a minimalist shoe fan. I ran a little in the shoes, and did not like the feel of them compared to my New Balance Minimus, so I decided that I would wear these to work. After only two and a half months, these shoes started to fall apart. In my book that is unacceptable. After an email to Merrell, I had a form to fill out, and once that was in I received an email to send my shoes back to them for a replacement. Awesome. I really like seeing companies step up with their customer service, and really stand by their products. Well done Merrell!
Apart from looks, these shoes are a little different than the last model. The two seam is more reinforced, and the fit is a little more loose. I probably would have bought a smaller size originally, but after running in them a few times already I like the extra room in the toe area. Hopefully these will last a bit longer than the former model.
After a few runs in them, I still do not like the feel all that much. Especially when they are compared to my Minimus trail runners. I haven’t given up on them just yet, but overall I have to say that I am impressed with how the company operates. That definitely keeps me a fan. Thanks Merrell!
For the last year and a half or so, I have really embraced running. Running is something that I have always done from time to time, but for the first time in my life, I have actually enjoyed it. Maybe it’s because I am now in my 30s, and my body is reacting a bit differently than when I was in my 20s. Or it could just be that running is a very inexpensive, and low time commitment way to stay in shape. Don’t get me wrong, I love mountain biking, but it is very nice to just leave from the front door and hit the road or woods for a quick half hour run. That said, here are the shoes that I have been putting to the test…
Vibram Five Fingers KSO
These are the shoes that made me enjoy running again, and made me hate it all the same. I posted a rant about them some time ago (read it here) and after my little toe issue, I took a nice long break from them. After that break, I started to work them back into my running routine, and now I am back to liking them. These shoes really shine for trail running or hiking, but only when it is dry. Wear these shoes when it is muddy, and you will have a trail running session that is similar to ice skating. Since they are so light, they are also a great choice for having around the campsite after a day in hiking boots.
New Balance Minimus
These are my go to shoes now a days. Primarily a trail runner, I find that these shoes are an all around delight for my feet. They feel very similar to the Vibrams, but with a more aggressive tread pattern, that hooks into the ground very well. Wet trail downhill running? Yes please. These shoes connect with the dirt unlike any running shoes that I have worn. I also like running on the pavement with them, but this is not the popular view on this model.
Merrell True Glove
I have been a fan of Merrell’s products for a while now, and when they embraced the minimalist running movement, I was intrigued with their models. I ended up with the True Glove, and after quite a few runs I decided that these were not for me. The feel of them seemed dulled down, as in the rubber seemed too hard, or not as flexible, and they just did not feel right to me. So, I have been wearing these shoes to work, and after two and a half months they look like this:
These shoes have not held up to a little bit of running, and a lot of time at work. The other shoe has completely separated at the toe from the sole. So add shoes that don’t last and bad ground feel, and that equals shoes that I will not buy again.
Saucony Kinvara 2
After my Vibram incident, I went out looking for a more comfy shoe, and I ended up going with the Kinvara 2s. Compared to all of the shoes on this list, they are like running on clouds. Not a true minimalist shoe, but more of a transition shoe. Any time that I feel like pushing the miles all on pavement, these are the shoes that I reach for.
So there you have it, the shoes in my current stable. I have been running quite a bit more here the past few weeks, mostly due to having a slight tailbone issue, and also due to Venturepax having a running challenge on their site. Head on over to accept the challenge to win some Altra running shoe swag!
Just keep running…
The Surly Troll is an amazing bicycle. Quite possibly my most favorite bike ever. Yes, I just said ever. One recurring problem that I have had with it however, is that when my wheel is positioned a bit farther back in the horizontal dropout, the wheel decides to slip on the chain side. This causes the tire to shift awkwardly and pushes the tire into the chain stay, stopping your forward momentum. While running smaller rubber in the back, this is not an issue, as the wheel can ride all the way forward. But, with winter coming, and I have wanted to roll out on some larger tires, this was just not acceptable. So that said, enter the Tuggnut…
The Surly Tuggnut is a handy dandy $30 piece of stainless steel that fixes this slippage problem and also cracks open those pesky pry off bottle caps on your favorite beverage. It was so easy and straight forward, that I was surprised that it came with instructions. It’s not rocket science, took just a couple minutes to install.
Here are the two things that I do not like about it:
My first complaint is that it has a shiny sliver, chrome like appearance. I would prefer it in black, but to each his own. This one shiny part on my bike will be covered in mud anyway. Second, the bottle opener does not have much clearance with my derailleur, so to use it I will have to turn my bike over like I am changing a tube. Maybe if I would just man up and make this bike a single speed, then I wouldn’t have to worry about that…
Overall, this is a very handy piece of metal, and I am pretty glad that it ended up on my bike. I can now run larger tires without the dreaded wheel rub. And also, I can now drink more beer while on my bicycle. Well done Surly!
If you have been cycling for a while, you probably have some sort of backpack that is made just for your cycling pleasure. I am sure that most of us gear geeks have a Camelback or two hanging out in our gear shed (Two for me!). My latest purchase needed to be a little more versatile than both of my Camelbacks, so I decided to try out another brand, which led me to my local outfitter, Roads, Rivers, Trails to check out the variety of packs. After talking over my wants and needs with their knowledgeable staff, I ended up going with Osprey. The bird geek in me rejoiced.
The Talon 22 is one of their Multi-Use packs, which focuses primarily on cycling. This pack is very versatile in regards to size, fitting in the 1200-1300 cu in. daypack category. This is a size of pack that I am desperately lacking (I am a backpack whore, I’ll admit) and primarily I plan on using it to carry my growing camera gear while on the bike. I also wanted a pack that I could load up for the day, and stay in the woods for a while. This pack fits right in with those thoughts. While it is on the smaller side of the spectrum, it still packs in quite a bit of gear, and I plan on trying to do an ultralight overnight or two with this pack, with minimal gear of course.
Some of the other handy features of this pack are an external hydration sleeve to keep your reservoir separate from your stuff; side pockets with compression straps, with one side having taller tie down points for longer gear, like a tripod; and the handy dandy LidLock, which holds your helmet in place when you are not wearing it. I am a bit confused as to why I need that concept, but it does work nicely.
In this price range of around $100, this is a solid pack so far. I have only had it in action just once, since I just bought it yesterday. Today on a small hike, I loaded it to capacity to see how it felt, and it was pretty amazing. We shall see how that first impression stands up to the tests of time. Stay tuned!
Osprey sums up the Talon 22 with this short video, as well as providing the monotone overdub:
Be sure to check out Osprey at the link above, as well as Roads, Rivers, Trails which is located in historic downtown Milford!
When it comes to cycling shoes, there is a wide variety on the market today. Everything is covered, from SPD sandals to the more exotic Italian leather $400 race shoes. Normally, I believe that you get what you pay for with cycling gear. Fortunately for us frugal folks, when it comes to shoes though, that is not the case.
Mainly in the protective gear buisness, 661 offers a wide variety of products for cycling and motorcross enthusiasts. Out of all of their products, their Expert shoe stands above the rest of the crowd, especially in terms of price and durability.
For starters, I bought these shoes for $50 in 2008. Yes, the shoes above are from 2008. I mentioned durability above, remember? These shoes have been everywhere, west coast to east coast, and places in between. I cannot even begin to think of how many miles are on them. Everything feels like it should with this shoe: Light enough for serious cyclists; a solid, mud shedding tread pattern; options for different cleats and pedals. For $50, this is one of the best deals that I have ever encountered.
A few things that I have found in my four years with them:
First, they are marketed as a SPD style shoe. This is correct, but with a small fault. The tread pattern needs to be shaved away to give proper clearance with the pedal. Nothing that a sharp object and 10 minutes can’t fix, but it does need to be mentioned. Another thing that I found myself wanting was a ratchet strap across the top to tighten up the fit. Again, nothing major, the two straps on my model hold the shoe to my foot quite nicely, and I have never slipped out of the shoe on a ride. It appears that 661 has added another strap, to give the shoe three on the newer model, probably tightening that issue just a bit. Those are my only gripes though. Not bad for a $50 shoe!
Sure, it is not the flashiest shoe on the market and also an entry level shoe, but for $50 it is definitely worth the price. Check them out at the links above, I dare you to find a better deal! I am still wearing mine after four years!
This month marks a full year on the Xtracycle conversion. I have ridden the crap out of this bike, and now I feel like I can make an honest comment on what I like/dislike about it. So that said:
The Xtracycle Freeradical kit is a well packaged, all in one “hitch-less trailer” than makes any bicycle a useful tool for carrying stuff. And by stuff I mean a lot of stuff. The kit is rated for 200lbs or so of cargo, which I did not get up to that weight, but if you can pedal it, it will probably work. Weight is balanced nicely, say for example, if you load a six pack on one side and a load of firewood on the other. Getting started pedaling is a little awkward, but once you are moving you do not notice the vast difference in weight for the left and right side freeloaders(bags). If the weight is balanced somewhat evenly between the two sides, you do not notice the weight at all for the most part. Let’s be honest though, with around 75lbs on the back, you can tell there is some weight, but mostly only on climbs. With all of the extra weight, once you are moving, momentum is your friend.
I used the HaroX for commuting to work, going to the grocery, riding with my daughter, bike camping, road riding, and just about everything else you can think of. Only a little bit of off roading, but with it’s extended wheel base, what little bit that I did was quite fun. Not a fast off road machine, but a nice and slow, easy pace to enjoy being in the woods. I would say in total, I have around 1000 miles on the Xtracycle. It rode smoothly with a set of 1.5 slicks, but also very comfortably with a knobby set of 2.1s. I did enjoy it a little more with the larger tires, just because it gave you the option to hit the dirt if the occasion arose.
So with all of the good things said, here is what I was not so fond of:
Right out of the box, it is implied that the Freeradical kit includes everything that you need to get the bike rolling. That is true, but only if you are planning on using rim brakes, and an 8 speed drive train. Since I was using disc brakes, and a 9 speed system, I needed to buy extra cables and two new chains. It would have been helpful to know that from the start. Also, the disc mount of the Freeradical requires a 203mm disc brake rotor, something that I did not think of, since I was planning on using a normal 160mm rotor. All of these were a minor, but more pricey inconveniences that I did not expect. Once that was all taken care of though, it was mostly smooth sailing.
The only other downside for me with this project was the weight. The all steel frame of the Xtracycle adds quite a bit of weight to your bike. Weight that is needed, of course, when you are planning on hauling things. But still, it is damn heavy. Once you are moving it is not as noticeable, but if you need to lift the bike for any reason, or stopping and starting, wow, is it heavy. Honestly though, this is a downside that is also a positive, because it makes your legs strong. But on some rides, I was wishing for a lighter ride.
Add that weight to anything that you might be carrying, and you start to get the commonly observed, “Xtracycle shimmy.” Just a slight, annoying wobble that happens from time to time when carrying weight. I have read that using Xtracycle’s Whatcamacollars helps fix that a bit, but that adds another expense to an already expensive package.
So, would I buy the kit again? You bet. It has been a game changer. Cycling has gone from a sport, to more of a way of living. The bicycle has become a practical tool to use for day to day things. This has probably been one of the best cycling moves that I have made in my cycling life. Very cool product.
That said, I am disassembling the bike, and planning on selling the Xtracycle. I know, lots of praise, then sell it? What the hell? Yeah, a little contradictory. But, I am planning on building a new bike, more of a “do-it-all” bicycle. I love the Xtracycle, but for mountain biking on it, that is not going to happen. My cycling life is needing a lighter, more versatile bike, so the plan is to pull all of the parts, place on a new frame, and sell the Xtracycle and Haro frame as one. Someday, I will build another one…
As for the next bike, I am really excited for it, but I will wait before I let the cat out of the bag…
Finally review time for this piece of equipment. I have been using the iBert Safe-T-Seat for around a year and a half, and sadly, I feel our time has come to an end. Here is what I think about it:
The iBert Safe-T-Seat takes a different approach to hauling kids on bikes. Instead of mounting the seat over the rear wheel, it mounts directly to the stem, in between the arms of the rider. This might make some uncomfortable, but here is why I like it:
The iBert gives your child an unobstructed view of the bicycle ride. Now, you no longer have to make your child stare at your back, or backside, while taking them for a ride. While on our rides, we actively talk about what we are seeing, squirrels, birds, other people, etc. It brings me great joy to roll alongside a team kit roadie type, and have my daughter wave and say hello. It breaks even the most die hard, serious cyclist out of their “zone.”
Another perk of the iBert is if your child falls asleep, you can see where they are leaning, and normally, they will be leaning onto one of your arms. That is a huge peace of mind to me. Think about your child on a rear mounted seat, leaning to the side, and who knows where those little sleepy fingers might end up. No, not your backside, I am talking about spokes here. That would be a tragic incident, even for my full grown adult digits. That in its self is worth the price of admission.
The only downsides to the iBert in my opinion would be minor. One, the little plastic clips that hold the padding to the plastic seat pop out easily, and become lost pretty quickly. I think we only have one of the three left. Not a huge deal, but I feel it should be mentioned. Another downside, which is one of the perks as well, is the front mounted position. This puts your child in a very bad situation if you would happen to wreck your bicycle. But with most things cycling related, just use some common sense and everything will turn out just fine. 3 foot gaps are landed easily, 6 footers are more of a challenge with the iBert. Kidding! I would not even dream of jumping with this seat.
This seat works best on paved surfaces, but on occasion I have ventured onto light, smooth single track, which is a blast. Slow and steady wins the race, stay away from super technical riding/racing, and the iBert will do what it is supposed to do, hold your child safely.
My daughter in Bicycle Times, actually her second appearance!
Again, my daughter and I have used the iBert for around a year and a half, and sadly our time has come to an end. She will soon be switching to a seat on the back of the Xtracycle, hopefully a PeaPod. She is almost too large for the seat, weight wise she is still okay, but unfortunately she is too tall for it. Luckily my On One Mary bars have a nice bend to allow her long legs to be comfortable for the time being.
Our experience with the iBert has been amazing, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to give their child a first person introductory view to cycling. Just don’t try to jump anything…