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gear review

Gear Me… Merrell Trail Glove

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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!

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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.

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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!

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Gear Me… Running Shoe Showdown.

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…

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From bottom to top: Vibram KSO, New Balance Minimus, Merrell True Glove, and Saucony Kinvara 2.

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:

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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…


Gear Me… Osprey Talon 22 first impressions.

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!


Gear Me… 661 Expert shoes.

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!


Just Riding Along… Banjo Brothers.

The Minehaha bag from Banjo Brothers.

While waiting for a certain rear rack to come back into stock, I turned my consumer attention towards saddlebags for my Brooks B17. Saddlebags seem to be a great option for commuting, and they also seem pretty handy for bike camping. Unfortunately, not too many companies throw out a decent, large quality bag without breaking the bank. That was my thought, until I stumbled onto Banjo Brothers.

Banjo Brothers carries quite a variety of bicycle related bags, including their Minehaha line, which focuses on the older style, canvas bag. This is their “medium” model, which holds 650 cubic in. or 10L if you prefer the metric system. Large enough for a couple spares, my camera, some tools, and some spare clothes. With room for more. I feel that this bag with my small, front panniers on a rack will give the Troll a great bike packing setup for some overnight trips this summer. Now if only I can figure out what to do with my tent…

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What sets Banjo Brothers apart from other companies in my opinion though, is their customer service. After receiving my bag in just a couple days, I realized that I was missing the seatpost strap. After a quick “tweet” letting them know the issue, I had my missing link practically the next day. Super fast! You normally don’t get service like that very often.

If you are in the market for a canvas bag, check them out. Quite a bit cheaper in price, but way above and beyond in customer service and quality. They definitely have my business in the future!

Just keep spinning…