Thursday, August 25, 2016

Nathan: LightStreak LED Vest Review

Fall is just around the corner and that means darker mornings and earlier evenings. The shorter daylight could be challenging for some runners since they have to adjust their schedule if they still want to run. I don’t know about you but I’m not a big fan of adjusting my schedule when it comes to my workout, I want things to stay consistent as much as possible and I am more productive by doing so. In my opinion, your schedule doesn’t have to adjust…you just need the right GEARS!

Not only does fall season means shorter daylight but it’s also the time where our visibility with motorists and other road users is diminish. You probably know by now that I’m such a big fan of Nathan. I’m fortunate enough to review some of their products in the past like the Halo Fire Headlamp and the Trailmix Plus Insulated 2 Hydration Belt. This time they sent me the LightStreak LED Vest which is very timing for my early morning runs and late cycling (sometimes), in preparation for my December marathon.

Features
·   Bright safety yellow color and reflective silver panels for 1,200 ft reflective & 3600 visibility.
·    3 front White LED's, 3 rear Red LED's.  
·    Multiple lighting settings (solid, slow strobe and fast strobe) for 2,400 ft of visibility.
·    Lightweight and vented mesh construction.
·    Anatomical shape doesn't impair range of motion while running.
·    Fully adjustable Velcro waist closure to secure vest, prevent bouncing and low profile.

Details
·    LED burn-time
         25 hours on solid light mode
         +40 hours on strobe mode
·    User replaceable watch-style coin batteries
         Front: White LED batteries: (x2) CR2016
         Rear: Red LED battery: (x1) CR2032
·    Weight: 2.2 oz (62g)

Sizes
·    Small/Medium (SM/MD)
·      Large/Extra Large (LG/XL)

Fit and Functionality
Top (L/XL): Bottom (S/M)
Nathan sent me both sizes to try and honestly, I couldn’t tell the difference in sizes when I have them side by side as you can see on the picture. The only difference is that the L / XL size has a bit more length on the waist closure but other than they’re pretty much identical. They could just have this as a “one size” fits all vest for simplicity. As for the actual fitting, I’m 5’-6” (165 lbs) (yeah I’m a husky:-)) and the medium size sits perfectly flat on my outer garment. The adjustable Velcro waist closure makes it even easier to secure and had it closer to my body.






Back
Front 















For safety features, it offers a 3600 of reflectivity from the silver panel and provides much higher visibility with the addition of the front and rear LED lights. The weekend is when I do my longest training hours, I normally do 13+ miles of running and at least 50+ miles of cycling. I prefer to do these trainings early in the morning to beat the heat. As for the LED’s run time, I still haven’t had the chance to replace the battery and I haven’t had any problems yet with the LED lights being flaky contrary to some reviews that I have read. The construction and placement of the LED lights is as good as it gets. I didn’t feel any added weight or constricted my movement while running, it just feels natural and out of the way when I swing my arms. The thing that I really like most with this vest is the versatility and the simplicity it offers, it doesn’t interfere with my running and cycling outfit. I can easily take it off when I have enough daylight and storing it in my pocket is a breeze.

My Verdict
Safety should always be our number one priority and equipping ourselves with the right gear is a must. I highly recommend that you give the LightStreak LED Vest a try. It is one of Nathan's most popular ultra-reflective vest that allows for full range of motion while you train. You get the visibility and lighting in one package…how cool is that? Equipped with high power LED's (front and rear) to help increase your presence to drivers on the roads. Having this vest on me while training gives me the security and peace of mind that I am present and visible with the rest of people I share the road with.

The Nathan LightStreak LED Vest sells for $34.99 and is available in their website and on most retail stores. You can even get this in a much lower price thru Amazon for $24.53. Rest assured that Nathan stands behind their product, as their motto said “No matter how hard you push our gear, we guarantee it”. Nathan will repair or replace at its discretion any manufacturing defect free of charge.

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

FSA: SL-K Compact Handlebar Review

It is no surprise that carbon fiber is the real deal. It is highly likely that you’ll find this piece of material in most sports especially if you’re into cycling. I couldn’t imagine how cycling would be today if we are still using the good ol’ steel. It’s heavy and very unforgiving to the body…the saying that “I’m beat up” after each ride would be more predominant if our technology didn’t evolve. Most cyclists, as we all know are weight weenies and I do understand that since I am one of them:-).

Carbon technology has evolved thru the years and FSA (Full Speed Ahead) is one of the leading companies that pioneered such advancement and designs. We all know that carbon is the preferred material by many cyclists not just because of its minimal weight but mainly it helps in dampening the road vibrations compared to other materials. This will save you a lot of energy in a long run (wattage for my power geek peeps) and better control on the bike.

I’ve been using the FSA components, mainly the cranksets, on the three bikes that I currently have and I’m so please with their performance. This is the first time that I have used the SL-K compact handlebar and I was thrilled to see the difference. Though it altered my hand position a bit, the change is much better and I have more comfort when going on the drops.

                The SL-K Compact handlebar is a single-piece monocoque construction that is made of unidirectional
                carbon fiber for stiffness and Kevlar for superior strength. 

Features
Specifications
·         Continuous unidirectional carbon fiber   
·         Kevlar monocoque construction
·         Reinforced and textured clamping area
·         120mm wide round center section makes
it easy to mount accessories
·         125mm drop
·         80mm reach
·         31.8 mm diameter
·         4o outward bend


The stem clamp area has a gradual transition to a flatter top. This flat section is ideal for smaller hands and I found it easier to grab compared to some big rounded tubes that could be even bulkier once the bar tape has been put on.

                The shifter / brake lever clamp area are textured for better grip which eliminates over-tightening.
                However, there are no tick marks to how far up or down your clamp is, so you might have to use a
                long level bar to make sure it’s even. 

                The drop section has a relatively flat area that makes it easy grab and control when you start grinding on 
          your sprint and on the technical descent.

                Located along the bottom is the recessed area where you can tuck and route your cables. I tried my best 
           to let the cables sit along that recessed area for a cleaner cockpit look.  

                This is how it looks like before I put on the bar tape.

                And this is the finished product.

With all the time I spent putting it on my bike and hundreds of miles testing, here are some of the things I found:

The Good
·         With the compact bend, the 80mm is easy for small-handed people to reach the brake lever.
·         It is a lot easier and pleasant to transition from the top to hood to drops with a shallow drop of 125mm.
·         The long sweeping 4o bend of the bar offers a more relaxed wrist and hand positions while on the drop.
·         Because of the shallow drop, it encourages more time to be on the drops. It also prevents the over-bending that could cause lower back issue for some.
·         It really dampens the road vibration and less fatigue on my arms and shoulders.

The Bad
·         I wish they could have done a lot better on the cable routing by having the option to run it internally. But nonetheless, this is more of a cosmetic side that doesn't affect the performance.
·         The clamping area doesn’t have tick marks to gauge the levers if they are evenly positioned.

My Verdict
The SL-K Compact Handlebar may not be your top of the line handlebar but it gives the same benefit of the top notch handlebars in the market today. It helps in dampening the road vibrations which makes it more comfortable on my arms, shoulders and wrists especially being on the saddle for so many hours.

I love the extended flare and perfect bend shape of the drop that is almost horizontal to the ground. This creates an even relaxed wrist and options to change my hand positions while on the drops. The shallow drop of 125mm encourages more time to be on the drop and more forgiving on my lower back. I don’t have any back issue but having the option not to bend too much from my waist just to reach the drop is a big plus to me. Having a shallow drop also gives me the advantage of not compressing the angle between my torso and hips which helps me deliver more power on the pedals.

The SL-K compact handlebar sells for $300 on Competitive Cyclists but you could probably get it cheaper by visiting the dealer stores near you. Thanks for reading and I love to hear your feedback, so feel free to post your comments below.

As an extra bonus, here’s a quick video courtesy of FSA…Enjoy!


Friday, August 12, 2016

Nathan: TrailMix Plus Insulated 2 Hydration Belt Review

We all know that hydration is essential in all endurance sports, and long distance running is no exception. It is a no brainer that you need to have some sort of fluids with you if you want to survive and endure this beloved sport of running. How we carry our fluids is actually the challenging part that most runners face. I have tested a lot of hydration systems even before I started blogging and sometimes it is really hard to find products that really works well. I was searching for some products to review and came across with Nathan TrailMix Plus Insulated 2 Hydration Belt. The timing couldn’t be any better since we’ve been hitting triple digits lately and running with this type of hot weather condition could be challenging sometimes.


Features
·  SpeedFit holster with two 10oz / 300ml Fire and Ice reflective and insulated flasks ensure quick one handed access.
·   Zippered pocket with key ring clip and front stash pouch for gels, compatible with iPhone 6 Plus.
·   Ergo-shaped, soft mono-filament belt offers multi-directional stretch that eliminates bounce.
·   Dual shock cords with one-pull tension lock for energy gels and glove storage.
·   Double- wall flask construction keeps fluids cooler, 20% longer than other insulated flasks.

Fit and Functionality
The Nathan TrailMix Plus Insulated 2 Hydration Belt is a one size fits all that is fully adjustable and is the first ever double wall flask. The insulted flask keeps the fluids cooler by 20% longer than other insulated bottles and it offers 360 degree reflectivity for those early and late evening runs. It features a mono-filament stretch material which keeps the belt from bouncing, it is one of the most critical aspects when designing a belt type system. It is secured by a clip type locking devise and getting the right fit is as easy by pulling the extra strap. Never did I experience it getting loose the entire run.


Other belt systems that I have tested come with a small pouch that sometimes serves no purpose to me and I ended up taking it out…not the TrailMix Plus Insulated. It has a decent size external mesh pocket with three separated compartments. The zippered pocket (with two separated compartments inside) can even hold some of the biggest phones in the market today while the outside compartment (secured by a Velcro) is a bit smaller in size but is perfect in holding gels and gummies for easy access. It is also equipped with shock cords (on both sides) to hold extra stuff like gloves and my Buff headgear.


The TrailMix Plus Insulated has two 10oz bottles and first thing that came to my mind was the weight. Any long distance runner can tell you that adding extra pounds can sometimes compromise your performance. But there is a balance in that, it depends on where the weight is located, the design of the TrailMix Plus Insulated was very well-thought. The bottles sit snug on the left and right of my lower back and the pouch on the center. The contour shape of the bottle gives an extra fit and snug as well. During the run, the bottles stayed perfectly on the holster and never got ejected. One notable thing to mention is the ultra-soft perimeter binding of the mono-filament material that prevents me from chafing…you know how it feels:-).

I was really surprised that even with full bottles, it created no bounce and even more surprised when I emptied the first bottle. I thought that the uneven distribution of the weight will make it bounce but I was wrong. Even with one hand operation, the bottles were so easy to access and getting a quick sip from a large “push-pull” cap is a breeze. Water comes out by a gentle squeeze and it will deliver the right amount of fluid without the experience of getting choke. Here's a short video courtesy of Nathan Sports.


My Verdict
I have tested the TrailMix Plus in several occasions especially on my long runs during the weekends. I didn’t experience any problems like bouncing and bottles being ejected from the holster. I can say that this is one of the most comfortable hydration belt systems that I have tested and honestly speaking, I couldn’t find any fault or suggest to make this product even better. The balance and the location of the weight are excellent and with the pouch that is capable of holding a good amount of my running essentials is a definite plus in my book…this TrailMix Plus Insulated is already PERFECT in my humble opinion.

The Nathan TrailMix Plus Insulated is available in their website and on most retail stores for $64.99, you can even get this in a much lower price thru Amazon for $49.91. I love my TrailMix Plus Insulated and this is definitely on my “go to” gears when running. Rest assured that Nathan stands behind their product, as their motto said “No matter how hard you push our gear, we guarantee it”. Nathan will repair or replace at its discretion any manufacturing defect free of charge.

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think.