Tag Archives: Gear Review

On Running Cloudflow Review

The team at On Running Sent me a pair of the new Cloudflows to test this year and put through their paces.  After trying the Cloud Surfers last year I was looking forward to getting my feet in them and doing some miles in them too.

Like the Cloud Surfers they are super light and have similar ‘clouds’ to give you your cushioning.  The colourways are amazing as always with On Running and look like super smart.  I was sent the Blue shoes which look very smart with the flo yellow tongue and heal.

As soon as you pick up a pair of the cloudflows you are very aware of how light and flexible they are.  My last pair became my go to shoe as they felt like slippers. They will not suit all as they have a heel to toe drop of 6mm so have a more race shoe profile.

So straight from the box I used them on a hard track session in deepest winter.  On the 2km run to the track they did feel a little slippy on the tarmac paths but I found this with my last pair.  I was confident and can now say that with a bit of wearing they do bet better.  It is like you need to remove the top layer for them to grip better.

The only issue I had on the first session was the squeak! The dreaded curse of on shoes are that due to the ‘clouds’ you get ‘feedback’ on every step in the wet!  It’s quiet funny and became a talking point with fellow runners saying it was keeping them ‘honest’ as they could hear me approaching!

This only happens in wet conditions and I don’ mind it as a trade-off for a good shoe.  Comfort levels are as expected.  They are comfy with a good size toe box.  No internal stitching means that they would suit Triathletes bar there is not a heal tab as found with the Cloud Surfers.

As well as comfort they feel quick! They have a new design which is meant to help with a natural roll from heal to fore foot.  I’m a forefoot runner so I cannot comment on this but I can say they are super flexible and respond well.

The only downside I have found to this shoe is you can occasionally get stones stuck between the 2 rows of clouds.  There are 2 rows of cloud in the mid part of the shoe and heel, 1 running down either side of the shoe.  There is a 1cm gap between each one down the centre of the shoe.  This sometimes picks up stones on deep gravel but is easy to remove but if you do a lot of gravel running this may not be the shoe for you.

Cloudflows

I currently have done about 80 miles in these shoes and they are still looking smart but do show more wear than expected, I feel the rubber on the sole maybe a little too soft.  I have used these shoes for both short, speed work as well as longer runs and found they suit both.

If you want a low profile, light smart looking training I would strongly recommend you try these out.  They may feel a little odd to start but I’m sure you will like them! Especially when they talk to you in wet conditions!

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Garmin 735xt Review

When I was asked to test the new Garmin Forerunner 735XT for a couple of months I jumped at the chance.  It fell perfectly with the beginning of my journey into triathlon and as I own a VivoActive HR and a forerunner 610 personally neither of these were up to the new challenge completely.

The Garmin team sent me the 735XT Triathlon bundle to test which alongside the watch it came with a Swim and Triathlon heart rate monitor bands.  I had tried using HRM bands in the pool before and found them not to work very well so I was intrigued to see how it faired.  I have to say that the team at Garmin have got the box perfect, it’s sleek and looks desirable and not a huge deal of packaging witch is a great thing too.   With this aside it was the watch I was more interested in!

I like that Garmin’s come with some charge so if you are like me you can put it straight on the moment you get it out the package, it was easy to sync to Garmin Connect and within minutes I had switched to this as my activity tracker too and all my data had been shared with the watch.  I did charge the unit at bed time to make sure I began the next day with a full charge.

My first impressions were how sleek it was.  Looking more like the other round faced forerunners rather than the Fenix I felt this was a great design point as it would be a better size to wear daily and more importantly it had less bulk when it came to removing a wetsuit.  They have removed the touch screen facility which I think is a good idea in a sports watch as I regularity ‘turn off’ 610 when out running.

They seem to have redesigned the strap since the 610 model to a much simpler, more robust strap so this will last much better.  I have used the watch for 3 months everyday wearing 24/7 unless charging it.  I have had no discomfort, irritation or issues.  I’m a little clumsy and heavy handed and the watch still looks like new!

Quickly scrolling through the options the main new features not seen on other Garmin’s I have had to date were VO2 max predictions, Recovery Time feedback, Stride height, length and count as well as many other measurements that i don’t understand!  It also had all the usual feedback fields that you expect from Garmin.  The main plus point for this watch was the Triathlon setting in the activity list.  The list of activities that you can track are endless, with activities like Paddle Boarding and golf to mention 2.  You can download more via the IQ website too.

tri-route-pic

Connecting to GPS is super quick.  I have lost the need to do the connecting to GPS dance when starting a session, the connection happens within seconds which is great off to how it used to be with the old GPS watch’s.  I also notice the speed it took for it to sync with Garmin Connect.  Now I have sent t back and I have returned to using my VivoActive HR I have realised how much quicker it was to sync!  Battery life o the 735XT is good with it needing a charge roughly every 5 days with me wearing it constantly taking writs HRM data and training at least for 4 sessions a week.  The charging clip has been changed once more but is easy to use and secure, gone of the days of it being knocked and not charging!

The Triathlon setting is a great idea and I found to work well.  In a nutshell when it is in Triathlon mode when you hit go it will track an open water swim, when you push the back button it goes into ‘transition mode’ then hit it again it begins cycle tracking, then transition on the next press before moving to run mode on the last.  This was great for my first race as I could see using the Tri HRM strap how much effort I was putting in and get good feedback on each part of the race.  The results were almost spot on with the race timing too!

Now to the HRM Straps!  As mentioned earlier they sent the Tri bundle with 2 straps a blue swim strap and a black tri strap (blue unit on front of the strap).  The watch naturally finds each band without asking it to and downloads data at the end of a session quickly and easily.  I have never had much luck with a swim HRM before as I have a dip in my chest from an ice-hockey injury, bands have previously gapped as I have pushed off the wall.  The swim band is less stretchy with only a small area that stretches and made from a plastic material which grips the skin better when wet.  You need to wear it fairly tight but I found it worked perfectly.  Wearing the band also gives you further information as stroke rate, max stroke rate and stroke length.

The reason they send 2 straps is that the normal Tri strap will work for Swim, Bike and Run but needs to be worn under a wetsuit/Trisuit within a swim.  Stupidly I never tried the band in the pool under a tri suit to see how effective it was as I think ladies may get away with using this one all of the time under a swimming costume.  The days of the standard HRM bands that just reported your heart rate are now dead! The data you can get from these bands is incredible and if you are a serious athlete the information you and you coach can gain will be very helpful.

The inbuilt wrist HRM I have found to be the most accurate to date I have used.  It doesn’t need to be worn super tight and will track well even during activity (Not in swimming).  I feel Garmin are at the forefront of wrist HRM technology and I have never had an issue.

Just a word of warning I asked the team at Garmin if the bands work with other models, they will but you need to double check there compatibility.  It won’t work with the older forerunner watches or the VivoActive HR to my disappointment!

As I got this watch when I was returning from injury I have been doing a lot of indoor sessions I was impressed at how easy it was to sync the watch to record data from doth the Watt Bikes and Stages indoor bikes in my local gym.  You can choose what data is recorded also.  The indoor pool setting was very accurate too and easy to switch between pool lengths as regularly switch between a 20m outdoor and 25m indoor pool.

Now the 735XT is not cheap, but if you are looking for a watch for triathlon that you can use as a daily watch.  I don’t think you can get anything better.  The functionality and data you can get from it will suit everyone from those starting out looking to improve right up to the seasoned athlete doing some Swim Bike and Run.  If the Tri bundle is too expensive in 1 hit you can buy the straps separately, this will end up being more expensive in the long run but it would spread the cost.  I was really gutted to have to end it back to them and ended up having it for 3 months rather than the 1 that had been agreed and still felt gutted when I took it to the post office!  I’m going to have to start saving up to buy one!

garmin-735xt

Zone 3 Aspire Wetsuit Review

The team at Zone 3 agreed to send me a wetsuit to test for the Triathlon Season so as I have just finished my last race I thought I would post my review! It needs to go back but after using it this summer I really am going to struggle to let it go back!

The team offered to send me the new Aspire model I had seen it had won several awards and had been highly rated by several magazines but as with everything I wanted to wait to see if it was true myself.

When the suit arrived I was impressed by the quality of the box and the fact that you also got a good quality bag.  The team had suggested what size I needed (I suggest you do this or try a few on first) and I have to say it was spot on.  You can see the quality in the suit right from the start.  The neoprene looks and feels very smooth and the lining is of great quality too.  All the joins look very neat and make this look a high quality suit as it is.

The fit was superb.  The 1 piece shoulder felt very comfortable and on first try I knew it would feel unrestrictive in the water.  The body and legs which are thicker to aid buoyancy felt supportive but easy to get on.  The zip was of a great quality and I was able to do it up by myself, this shows a well-made suit in my eyes.

As this was a test suit I was unable to trim it.  Being 5ft 6inches I normally take a few inches off the legs and arms to make transition easier.  The arm and leg cuffs are well designed and I felt this would have been easy and not compromised the suit.

So the proof was in the testing.  I have used this suit on several triathlon races over the summer as well as some open water training, sea swims and a mile sea swim race.

I used this suit first on the first Open water club swim at Budleigh Beach, Devon.  It was a cold, windy day and the sea did not look that inviting.  I noticed not only that it was a warm suit but you really can feel the extra buoyancy in the body and legs and I was able to keep good posture throughout the training swim.

As expected the 1 piece shoulders really allowed free movement in the arms and I didn’t feel restricted at all.  I forgot to put anything on my neck and was worried how sore it would be but I was pleased it was chafe free.  I have noticed on training swims since that as it helps me keep my shape in the water it also makes me faster and less tiring.

The real test for the suit would be both a mile swim race and a triathlon transition.  The suit performed so well on the mile race, as with the training swims I felt buoyant and kept a good position in the water as I swam around Burgh Island.  I never felt cold and the buoyancy helped with sighting in the waves too.

zone-3-suit-and-biI was a little worried about transitions as I had been unable to trim it down but I didn’t need to.  The pro speed cuffs really help with getting on and off quickly.  I never felt stuck in races to get it off.  Getting the suit off was quick and simple.  The stretch in the cuffs allow it to come off quickly even over a clenched fist with my goggles and swim cap in!  The shoulders are so flexible it is easy to remove.

So after using this for a season it still looks like new.  If you follow the care advice and dry it and then fold and store flat I can see this suit lasting for many seasons.  I haven’t used gloves to put it on and have never had an issue of put any nail marks in it.

I will really be sad to send this suit back.  So much I have been looking to buy one for next season.  If you are in the market for a good quality suit that will not only look good but help you swim smoother and faster, then I would really consider the Zone 3 Aspire.

 

 

MP Hand Paddles Review

When i was sent these from the team at Aquasphere to test as part of their new Micheal Phelps range i was surprised on the size.  I have a pair of aquashere ones already which i have found a great help in developing my strength in training but i was worried about these would be too big.  But proof is in the training.

I have used these on many pool sessions now and can feel the benefits to both my speed and strength in the pool.  My first session was a speed pyramid pull session, i wanted to start with a tough session!  I was impressed with the ease of fitting and lightness of them out of the water.  I was worried that you would loose feel with such a big paddle but the added grooves/holes allows you still to get a real feel of the water as you use them.

MP Hand paddles

The straps fit nicely and are easy to get on and off.  They are quick to adjust and it is possible to use the paddles just on the finger grip to help work on technique too.  The main thing i noticed was the ‘bone’ structure makes them feel comfortable and the raised ridges on the palm places the palm in comfortable cupped position.

I have continued to use these on a regular basis and really like them.  I have given my old Aquasphere ones away now as these are the ones i will choose for a session.  For those who do not have a pair of hand paddles, i would look at getting some as they help a huge deal with speed and strength.

Happy Training.

Garmin VivoActive HR Review

So through the @FitnessRewards ½ price Garmin Scheme I upgraded from my much loved VivoSmartHR to the new VivoActiveHR.  The unit has not been available that long in the UK and I had been waiting for some time to be able to buy one with desperate hopes that it would not disappoint me.

As always, the time from order to delivery was swift and I was very excited to unwrap my new toy.  I love the new box designs from Garmin with the clear window luring you into getting the new bit of kit out of the box and onto your wrist.  This had a negative fact for me as I didn’t sync my VivoSmartHR fully before setting the new one up which meant I lost 8000 steps but it was a small price to pay to get the new watch on my wrist.

The new VivoActiveHR does all the smart things that the VivoSmartHR does but with the added bonus of a much larger screen and GPS to make it a great basic training watch.  Personally I feel this may become the watch of choice as a multi-sport watch over the forerunners as the price point (£209) puts it in the run watch market.  You can track daily steps and activity, activity minutes, receive Smart notifications from your phone and control your music to mention just a few.

I noticed the colour screen was clear and crisp straight away and I know some like the square design of the old version but I love the sleeker wrap round design much nicer and more of a daily watch than a training watch.

I have worn the watch every day and night since its purchase and find it very comfortable and easy to use.  I found the syncing with my iphone very easy and navigating through the menus child’s play.  I am a big Garmin fan and I know some prefer other platforms for their feedback but I find the Garmin Connect app simple, smart and versatile.

I guess the real test came with training, as I have moved into triathlon I wanted to get a watch that could record all 3 training disciplines so I was keen to try all three.  The display is nice and big and easy to see both on day and night runs and using a rubber bike mount I could see the read out with ease when on the bike.  It has settings to track every activity you can think of and also you can download more in the IQ app.

I find that the GPS connects super quick and I no longer have to do the ‘standing for a signal’ dance pre runs as I have with Garmin’s of the past.  Garmin have really worked on this over the models.  The same can be said for the optical HR.  I haven’t done a direct comparison with a HR Strap but I’m happy that the range is very close to that of my strapped GPS.  (Optical HR does not work on swim mode)

I was more intrigued to see how it would fair with the swim.  The VivoActiveHR is not set up to log Open water swimming but can record pool swims, however I have now downloaded an app from Garmin IQ Store which supports the watch for this but at point of writing this I have not tested it out.  So the pool length can be set for different pools which is ideal as I train in both a 25m and 20m pool.  I was really impressed with accuracy and feedback you get on swim sessions and this has really helped me to improve.

The IQ app is great, simple to use and gives you lots of options to personalise your watch.  As Garmin develop more watch’s the watch faces and apps become even more varied, all that I have found so far were free too.

I have found the battery live to be good.  I tend to stick it on charge every 5 days while I sleep as I have become less transfixed by my sleep patter as of late.

So was it worth the wait? I absolutely love it!  It is simple to use ideal for day to day use and is great to indoor swims, runs (Indoor and out) and Rides.  If you are looking for a stylish day to day watch that can track steps and intensity as well as then switch into training more without the bulk of a training watch I would look no further.

Gear Review: Skins A400 Long Sleeve Compression Top and Power Shorts

When I was given some of the new Skins A400 Compression range to test for @UKRunchat I was intrigued on how good it really was.

As a compression gear user and believer I was really interested in seeing if the hype behind Skins gear was just that or backed up.  I chose a long-sleeved A400 Compression top (£85) and a pair of the A400 power shorts (£75) as I’m not a tights wearer.

When they first arrived I wasn’t too impressed by the packaging.  They come in a large cardboard box which looks good and is well presented but personally I like less packaging as this is better for the planet and makes it product costs a little cheaper.

Once you get over the excess packaging and get to look at the kit you notice that it is very well made and you can see the quality in the material.  Sizing is a little tough and when I first tried them on the top and shorts felt VERY tight but of course they need to be to have the desired effect.  I soon felt comfortable and forgot about them as I headed out on my first run in them.

I used them for the first time on a 10 mile run, the longest I had run in 2 months, even though I was slower due to fitness my legs felt fresher than I expected at the end and also I was surprised with the fact I had very little DOMs in the days after.  My first run in my Skins was on a warm evening, I was a little concerned on wearing a long sleeved top as I overheat but it was fine as the material is designed to keep you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot.  The panels under the arms and back help to keep you cool.  My only issue with the top was that I have short arms for my chest size (Large) so I had material gathered at my wrists.  I liked the gripper at the bottom which stopped it from riding up.

I chose the power shorts as I have short legs (5ft 6in) so I find normal compression shorts too long.  The shorts fit me really well and stopped about mid-thigh.  The material felt stiff and did not look or feel thin.  There is no waist draw string but I had no issues with riding up or slipping down with these shorts as I do with some other brands the design and fit mean there is no need.  They were really comfortable and will now become my short of choice for speed and hill sessions as this particular short has been designed to help with power, power and speed.

So far I have done a mix of long, hill, speed and gym sessions in them and so far they have washed really well.  I have friends who swear by their skins gear and say it lasts really well, even within contact sports like rugby.

In summation, I would like to see Skins use less packaging as this was my only grip but the quality and performance of the garments is better than the other brands I own.  I know can see why they are so popular and so many people spend the extra money to buy them.  Until now I was never convinced that they were worth the extra money but I now can see they are.  I would suggest trying it on before buying to get the right fit but remember it needs to be tight!

Happy Running 😉