Monday, February 21, 2011

Merrell Trail Gloves review

A quick review of the Merrell Trail Glove minimalist trail running shoes.

After reading a few reviews of these shoes I was curious enough to fork out the money for them (Barefoot Running University and I run far.)

On your foot

The fit is snug in the heel and the laces really grip around the mid-foot and arch. I only have the Vibram FiveFingers and walking shoes to compare to, maybe regular running shoes are more like this too, but they are different to anything I have run in before. The toes have tonnes of room and are completely free to move, but don't slide around at all because the midfoot is held solidly.

They breath pretty well, a lot of the upper is mesh/fabric, the tongue's a bit thick so they're pretty warm but regular shoes+socks would be worse.

They let a bit of dirt in around the ankle and I think through the mesh/fabric (I wear them without socks), but because it can move around inside the shoe easily I don't think it's as annoying as when wearing Vibrams.

Most of my shoes are 43 or 44 (Vibrams are 42), and I got the Merrells in size 44 to make sure my toes would have room to splay and wouldn't hit the end heading downhill. This was a bit of a mistake, the way they fit means you won't slide inside them and the bit of extra length means I catch my toe on steps a bit more than I'd like. Not a show stopper, I just have to lift my feet higher.

On the ground

The sole has a bit of cushioning and feels a little soft on the footpath, but you don't notice it as soon as you get off road. It's much thicker and stiffer than the Vibrams, with less ground feel, but still very flexible and nothing like a normal running/trail shoe.

The tread has maybe 2-3mm deep chunks, bigger on the toe and heel. It's very curved and foot shaped, no attempts to control side ways stability or pronation, which is great and they are a tiny bit lighter than Vibram KSOs.

They feel bombproof, no fear treading on rocks/stones/sticks and I'm definitely not going to catch my little toe again like I did wearing Vibrams.


So, these are pretty much exactly what I've been waiting for. I'll only wear them on rough/rocky trails, and they're not "barefoot" by any stretch of the imagination, but they are great minimal shoes and the biggest problem I can see is that I'm going to be exhausted, the Vibrams give you an excuse to slow down occasionally "to negotiate tricky terrain" :)

Dandenong Ranges

Friday, February 04, 2011

LED Bike Light update

My home built LED bike light performed well for many years, but when I got my new bike, the battery holder and handlebar mounting solutions no longer functioned adequately so it was time for a redesign.

I had been planning on a new simplified version, eliminating the micro-controller and putting in a simple dimmer potentiometer. It turned out I never really used the battery monitoring features and simply used a multimeter to decide when to recharge, and using a dimmer would allow setting the brightness easily and quickly and also allow the "high beam" mode to remain on through hazardous sections when necessary.

I was still pretty keen on building this myself as all it really required was cannibalising my old light for parts and making a new case. Commercial solutions had dropped a lot in price but are still many times more expensive than DIY (a few friends have these AYUP lights for example and they seem great).

Then I discovered semi-cheap LED torches as an option and ended up buying a Fenix LD20 LED torch and a small clamp from Ebay (that I can't find again, glad I bought 2...)

This puts out almost exactly the same amount of light as my old version but is in a small waterproof and easy to use package. As a bonus, it's a torch I can take camping etc. too.

I'm simply rotating through the NiMH AA batteries from the old light and am a bit disappointed with the battery life, seeming to have to change them more often than I'd like, but that's pretty quick and an extra set of batteries isn't too much of a struggle to carry around.

All in all, for $80 you can't go too wrong.