Posts Tagged ‘review’

North Face Hayasa trail-running shoes - find them at Casa de Pedra in São Paulo

North Face Hayasa trail-running shoes – find them at Casa de Pedra in São Paulo

New running shoes..!


My old Saucony shoes… slightly worse for wear..

My old Saucony shoes have, after a year and bit of solid use running and casual walking, bitten the dust. Shame really as they were great shoes to run in. Nice and light, comfortable, pretty sturdy, and I liked the colour scheme of them. First of all holes started to appear at the front end of both trainers where my big toe is, then  gradually the fabric became weaker and weaker until finally on one of them the side fabric became detached from the sole and the shoe isn’t really useable any more, unfortunately. So it is a farewell to a good pair of trainers.

The North Face - Hayasa Running Shoes

The North Face – Hayasa Single Track Running Shoes

In their place I have got The North Face Hayasa trail running shoes from Casa de Pedra – a nice red colour which stands out well enough as well. Nice and light, with a pretty good grip, strong and also reinforced toe-ends to help protect from bumps and the like (as well as hopefully stopping my big toes from poking holes in to them!). The laces are great – a sort of soft stretchy material which just doesn’t come undone. And very importantly for me, very comfortable with a nice and snug fit. They are most decided neutral in the way they are built, so just about right for my feet. In short, it was love at first fit when I tried them on. I needed to get them before the half marathon in Rio, which I did manage to do. Unfortunately, it was only a couple of days before the race. And it really isn’t recommended to start hard running in new shoes without having worn them in. So on the day before the race, the Saturday, I just walked around in Rio for the day, just trying to get used to them and them used to me. Chugging alongIt seemed to work, though how much this was to do with my “walking-in” or the general ultra-good fit of the shoe, am not sure. As I mentioned in a previous post, I managed to get a time of 1h54m59s – a time that I was very pleased with as I imagined taking two hours and I had not done much dedicated running training, and especially not over that kind of distance. And at the end of it all, my feet felt fine, as did my knees. Just the muscles were tired, as you can imagine! But the shoes had done their job and kept my feet nicely protected with just a couple of toe blisters on one foot, but nothing bad. I never really imagined the North Face making good running shoes, and though these are more for trail running (and have received good reviews for this as well – check this one out), they were great for running along the roads in Rio and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone interested.

Casa de Pedra

São Paulo - Atibaia

<— First article regarding route planning

Two of the other online route planning tools we have used are Bike Route Toaster and Ride with GPS. Both are better than Garmin Connect from the point of view of showing the total elevation of your journey. The former is completely free, while the latter is free to use so you can plan your journey, but if you want to upload routes to your Garmin, you have to pay a subscription.

Starting with Ride with GPS, and this is the tool I have been using most until now (though that might change as in comment to my previous post, Charles ( suggested using Strava… which looks interesting though doesn’t look to be any good for actually planning routes – just for analyzing the ones you have taken). I have used Ride with GPS to plot out initial drafts of the entire 360 Extremes route through from São Paulo to the top of the Americas (345 days, including days off… so quite a lot of individual routes there!). Everything is all there saved, though it would be nice to be able to organize things in folders or something to make it easier to find everything. The planner isn’t really good for cycle paths, though it does let you draw from point to point when there are no roads to follow, so it won’t take you all around the sun to meet the moon. And one thing that I really do like about it is that you can see the grade of the climbs as well, so you get a better idea about how steep the climbs you face really are – not something that appears in the other tools – and oh, yes, you can also use Street View to gain an idea of the roads (wherever Google have gone, that is).

On the left, the data from the GPS after the activity; on the right, the data from the planned activity.
Spot the difference (aside from distance as started 15km from start, after flat roads/gentle downhills)

Like Garmin Connect, you can download data about your daily activities from your GPS to the software, and it can keep track of everything. It can be buggy, however, sometimes and it can be easier just clearing a route and starting again rather than trying to sort out something that when wrong with the route/waypoints. Also, while it shows you the total climbs/descents over the course of a ride, it tends to exaggerate these by a good few hundred metres – the route from São Paulo to Atibaia is shown as +2131m / -2142m, when the Edge 800 altimeter works it out as around +/- 1,300m. Which is right… well Bike Route Toaster seems to support the Edge.

So being careful with the elevation planning, I would give this 7/10 on the whole though 8/10 for just the route planning – better than Garmin Connect simply because even an exaggerated idea of the total elevation is better than none.

Bike Route ToasterBike Route Toaster is great and easy for quick planning and is completely free. It gives you elevation data, allows you to create course points and warnings, and allows you to work with the “Virtual Partner” on the rides – though we haven’t used this much yet as we generally go at our own steady pace – the importance for us is not speed, rather building our endurance. The elevation data seems more accurate than the Ride with GPS – and is considerably closer to the readings that the GPS gives, so I would trust this much more for getting the most accurate information in planning your ride. It can be slightly buggy and you can’t save routes on to the server, so it is harder to organize and make adjustments to a sequence of different routes as part of a longer journey. Uploading them to your Garmin does saves the routes you create, however. It hasn’t got all the activity analysis features as the others, and also it isn’t the best looking of interfaces in the world, with tacky adverts appearing here and there… but what do you expect? It is free, after all.

6/10 as a general grade because of the lack of features, though 9/10 for just the route planning. Higher than Ride with GPS because you don’t have to pay to be able to upload the route to your Garmin.

I have been playing with some online route planning software in order to plan for our cycle training rides in Brazil and for the tour in the United Kingdom. Why is it important to plan? Not just because of the need to know roughly how far you will be going, but also because a: it is good to know how you are going to get to your end point (particularly in countries and areas where you don’t, for safety’s sake, want to end up in the wrong place, and b: you need to have at least an idea of what the elevation profile will be. This latter point is pretty darn important, as pretty much anyone would be able to ride 100km in a day if it is just going along a nice and flat path. However, if you are going to be climbing up lots of hills and going more than +1000m and 100km in a day, you have to be in decent shape; +2000m/100km in one day: very good shape… anything more and you will have to be in excellent condition…

The software I have been playing around with is Garmin’s own Connect software ( – for when you have a Garmin device;; and As you can imagine, they all have their advantages and disadvantages…

Garmin ConnectGarmin’s Connect tool is good as, even in São Paulo, you can plot routes that will take you through parks (such as Ibirapuera park), and it will recognise these as legitimate to take, and not just the road. You can save multiple routes, and easily see where you have these routes on the world (Google or Bing) map and side-list, so it’s nice and simple. At the same time, as you might expect being from the maker of the Garmin GPS, it is nice and easy to down/upload your routes from/to the Garmin GPS units. You can get a full range of different stats (from temperature profile; elevation; speed; pace; moving/total averages/calories and, if you have the sensors, cadence and heart indicators among others) about the various rides you have gone on as well, and it is great to be able to compare the rides you have done along the same route, and easily see how things have changed.

You can also plan workouts, and keep track of your health progress, but without the appropriate sensors, I haven’t had need to try this yet. The software measures indicators such as Body Fat, Body Water, Bone and Muscle Mass, physique rating, visceral fat, metabolic age and daily caloric intake… impressive stuff, and it says that with a Tanita BC-1000 Body Composition Monitor and a “compatible Garmin watch”, the measurements can be “tracked wirelessly” using the Connect Health system. Even more impressive. Would be very curious to see how it all works, though it is certainly promising. I am straying away from the point of this post though (sorry!), so back to planning rides (though of course, your health is important in knowing the kind of routes you could be doing!)!

Everywhere but the highway

Everywhere but the highway

There are two problems I have encountered: The first is that while it is easy to simply draw lines of the route (where, for example, there is no road or trail marked on the map), here in Brazil at least, it will do everything to stop you plotting a route along a highway. This can be quite annoying as we often end up riding along the hard shoulder of a highway (such as from Nazaré to Atibaia). I guess that there might be laws about this in places, but there should at least be an option.


No elevation…?

The second problem is that, while you get a nice visual of the elevation profile, it does not tell you the total elevation gain/loss for a ride – quite a problem, especially when you are planning long distance rides. Doing 100km with +1000m of gain is one thing… doing it with +3000m is completely different, and you can’t really gauge this looking at just the profile. Maybe the problems are me not doing something right in the software, but I like to think am okay at getting to grips with these things, and if am not doing something right with it, then I imagine that others are having a few problems too!!

So overall?

The software is free… if you have bought a Garmin GPS unit. For a free piece of software it is good and it is great in the post-ride analytics, especially if you have all the appropriate sensors. But as you most likely would have forked a couple of hundred dollars or so on a new unit so as to be able to use the software, then you might expect the two points I mentioned to be ironed out – you are not going to be spending money on a GPS unit if you are not going to be going anywhere…

With this in mind, I would give it a solid 7/10, and will take a look at Ride with GPS and Route Toaster next post…

Garmin Edge 800

Another new acquisition is something that is already useful for training and will be very useful for the cycle tour of the UK and the entire journey: a Garmin Edge 800 GPS unit. We have just the unit with the bike mount – you can get it with heart and cadence monitors for it to provide a good overview of your training developments, though we will get that later. For now, just the GPS unit itself is good.

Garmin statsThe unit is touch screen, shows the map of where you are (precise city navigator maps are available for download from the Garmin website), and it is incredible as to actually how precise the location is: the unit records your journey can you can review it on the computer when you get back home – when you do, you can see even when you just headed back a metre or so to check something…

It took a while to detect the satellites when we first set it up, but after that, it has been quick. Hopefully when we are in the UK it will have no problems in picking up the different satellites up there. You can plan your route using the Garmin software, though there is other better software that you can use online – but I will talk about them in a bit (though the main problem is that in planning the course through being able to see the elevation profile – incredibly important for working out how hard a ride is going to be – distance is far less important!).

Uploading routes is straightforward enough, then you just find your route and you’re ready to go, with the route and cues showing nice and clearly on your screen. If you don’t have a route, you can start the timer and record a new one following the path you take – very simple to do.

At the end of it all, looking at the journey you have taken back on your computer, (opposed to when you are planning) you can see the elevation profile (with total elevation gain/loss) of where you have been and all sorts of nice information about the route – total time; total time peddling / total stops; average speed / temperature / pace… and as you do the same courses over time, it is great to be able to compare everything, as all is tracked. It will also show the number of calories it calculates that you burn during your training session – how accurate this is, however, is another question as many reviewers commented that the best algorithms for calculating this have been patented by other companies…

Plenty of other Garmin units out there, though definitely would recommend this if you can afford to fork out a bit more. Here in São Paulo, Casa de Pedra sells the unit along with other Garmin models – check them out on their online store.

Also, you should be able to check out the last route we cycled using the GPS at this link… São Paulo – Atibaia – 25 Nov 2012.

Garmin charts

Atibaia map

Nothing too extreme here, the story and adventure is over, so now it’s time to evaluate the gear!

The good:

Marmot “Never Summer” Sleeping Bag

I’ve relied on this wonderful down sleeping bag for a couple cold-weather trips now. Rated at 0 degrees F, it’s always a pleasure getting cozy in the bag and waiting to warm up. Once enough body heat radiates around the bag, I stay toasty warm all night. An added plus is that the bag can also zip from the feet up so that in warmer weather you can vent out the extra heat. The only downside that I noticed (and that other reviewers had mentioned), is that the bag can collect water fairly easily. Keeping the bag dry is of the utmost important, and more attention must be paid to water than you might with a synthetic bag.

Rab-Polartec Hat

When I was learning how to climb trad in New Paltz, NY, I spent a couple of minutes looking around it’s must-see climbing store, Rock and Snow. On a rack with what seemed like a thousand other hats, I pulled out this thin little $15 hat and tried it on. From there, well, the rest is history. It wicks water beautifully and traps in heat like no other. On cold days when biking to work, it fits snugly underneath my helmet. I’ve also been using it as my “dry” hat – the hat I put on when I stop for a rest and I’m sweating. It keeps me warm and helps dry out my hair.

Check out the Thermarest Z-lite and it's conforming features!

Mountain Hardware Liner gloves

I actually don’t know the name of these gloves – I only know that they have the famous Mountain Hardware “nut” logo on them. I picked them up at an REI Garage sale to be used as liner gloves inside my mountaineering mittens. Within or without the heavy-duty mittens, these thin gloves stand their ground. I’ve used them skiing and cold-weather hiking and they withstand a fair amount of wetness before I feel it on my hands and it affects my comfort level. In drier climates they are fantastic at wicking away moisture from hands and keep them happy and dry when dexterity counts. Great biking gloves.

Thermarest Z-lite

Really? Thirty US Dollars at REI? What a steal! The reviews of everyone else live up to the quality of this sleeping bad. You can see in the picture how it conformed nicely to my rocky, uneven bed and left me comfortable and warm all night. The way it folds up, along with the egg crate design makes it great to sleep on or simply use it to rest against a tree. Must-have for any backpacker, alpinist or adventurer.

MSR Pocket Rocket and GSI Soloist

A classic low-cost stove for any outdoor enthusiast, I was unsure how well it was going to do in the cold, snowy Devil’s Path conditions. From set-up to boiling (we melted and boiled snow), we were ready to eat within 15 minutes. The GSI Pinnacle Soloist (or Dualist) make this setup a great pair as the stove conveniently fits inside to pot. Easy to store, carry and assemble. Although for the 360Extremes expedition,

Oodles of Gear

I’m not sure how this will work at high altitudes or extremely cold temperatures.

Patagonia Capilene 2 pants

I got these randomly for Christmas but they are now my go-to for a warm base layer. I can wear them, sweat a bit, rest, and they will be completely dry without donning or doffing any layers. As with anything Patagonia, it stands up to it’s quality, now it’s time to see if it stands up to the test of time.

The Bad:

Polyester “heavy duty” pants

Never buy outdoor pants at Kohls or Walmart or any department store that has an outdoor department. Others may have had better luck at these stores with layering pants, but I, sadly, have not. The polyester, “work-mans” outdoor pants got wet and didn’t dry at all. Thankfully, I had an extra pair.

EMS Wool Socks

For around the house, lounging and casual wear – I love these socks. They’ve kept me warm with my Merrell Barefoots and compress enough to wear with my Miura climbing shoes on cold days. However, on this trip, they really didn’t stand up on their own (pun intended?). Once they got a little wet, they stayed wet well into the next day and nothing worked for drying them out. I’ll keep them and continue to use them, but extra care will be taken to keep them dry. Update: days later after returning home, I found a hole in one of them….

My trusty "Never Summer" front and center (well, to the left).

The Ugly:

Sorel Timberwolf boots – cold when standing still, bad grip

Let me start by saying that for the price, these boots are great. I’ve had bad experiences with boots and most of the time my feet are cold and wet. The great thing about these boots is that my first experience with them was the Devil’s Path (see what happened to my Merrell Isotherm 8s after hike number 2), and I only had one small blister on my big toe, left foot. So point one for comfort without breaking in. Second, they kept my feet dry the entire time despite wet, sometimes slushy conditions. If I was moving, my feet were warm and dry. Here’s the ugly: when I stood still, my feet got cold quite quickly. Maybe some sweat had condensed inside (I didn’t seem to notice any dampness), but either way, my feet got cold.

Second, durability. After what happened to my Merrell’s, I wanted firm soles and durable boots. These seemed to deliver both – the soles were firmer than most boots and the material had few seams. These all seemed like great features, again, especially for the price. The ugly that threw me off was not either of these things – I still hold they boots can be great light weight mountaineering boots (I have yet to test them with crampons) – but the lack of traction. I found myself slipping more than I felt comfortable. The more I walked, the more I lost some confidence in the boot’s traction. I’m not about to throw them in the “retired” bin just yet though. After all, I’ve only tested them once! I put these in the ugly category because they need further review.

Marmot Bastione Jacket

Another REI garage sale buy, and for $60 it seems like I couldn’t go wrong. I love Marmot, and the reviews I quickly read about the jacket seemed overall positive. The jacket’s fleece liner with shell seemed of good quality and well constructed. I used when I was out skiing once and there did not seem to be any big flaws. All good things, right? In the end, when I stood still, this jacket did not provide a lot of insulation. To be short, this is a great around town jacket/shoveling the drive way but it’s bulkiness, weight and seemingly lack of insulation left me doubtful in bringing it on my more extreme outings.

When all's said and done