Inov-8 Bare-Grip 200 Review **New Version

Bare Grip 200 v2.0

Latest, but not greatest

Inov-8 made a number of changes to the Bare-Grip 200 shoes I reviewed before, including the laces, upper material, lining, and side reinforcement. Now that I’ve had 6 hours in the new version here’s the verdict.

Nice try

There are some positive changes. The side reinforcements should improve durability right at the point that my other shoes wore through, and the denser mesh of the upper (more like Cordura) should take more abuse than the prior version too. The new upper doesn’t conform as easily to your foot, but the smooth laces self adjust a bit to make up for it, so after half an hour I really didn’t notice the difference. They also feel and fit just like the previous version so if the originals fit well these should too. On the surface, a few improvements to the same basic shoe.

But…

One of my favorite things about the green version was how quickly they dried on the trail. Water got in very easily but exited just as easily, so the shoe didn’t hold water and dried rapidly. But the new version has a full lining – presumably for the sockless crowd – and combined with the denser mesh upper it lets water in about 1 second slower, but lets it out far more slowly, so they literally take hours to dry. I’m not a fan of trench foot, and never go sockless on trails, so this is a big negative for me.

Another negative is the new yellow sole. I guess the marketing/design department won this argument because colored rubber simply doesn’t grip as well as carbon black, which makes it a poor choice for a high performance shoe. It makes no difference at all in mud or in many other trail conditions, but on smooth, slick rocks it’s a noticeable decrease which caught me by surprise a number of times in stream beds since I’m so used to the black version. It’s not a dramatic change, and they still grip better than most shoes, but they definitely don’t hold as well as the original version. I suppose the upside to the yellow soles is if you slip and crack your head open the brighter soles will make it marginally easier to find your lifeless body in a gully.

Something that didn’t change is the shape of the shoe, which remains very pointy toed. I’ve tolerated it since they performed so well in other areas but the longer I use minimalist shoes the more I’d prefer a natural/anatomic last.

Overall, it’s still a good shoe – neither negative is a deal killer in itself, and may not matter to many users – but taking one step forward and two steps back doesn’t equal progress to me, so I’m hoping Inov8 will make some course corrections in the next update.

****Update: I made some modifications to the shoes, removing all the lining, some foam padding, and used an awl to stab some holes in the lower rubberized parts of the upper. Drainage is now quite acceptable, though I’m guessing the warranty was severely damaged..

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Pauoa Woods Loop Trail

The quest to clean out my draft folder continues…

I’ve only done this trail once in its entirety so you can guess it’s not my favorite by any means. Yet there are some things of note that make it worth doing – at least once.

The good points:

  1. When you go after some hard rains there is a decent size waterfall, which my picture taken from the top completely fails to convey.
  2. Lots of old Board of Water Supply pipes and structures for the engineering fans. I try to avoid stepping on the oldest pipes since I know at least one person broke through a pipe and got a nasty gash in his leg.
  3. Judging by the tracks and other signs there are more pigs in the back of Pauoa Valley than any other area near Honolulu. If you are quiet and go in cloudier, rainy weather there’s a good chance you’ll see one.
  4. Some nice views of Nuuanu Valley as you go down the ridge toward Pacific Heights.
  5. A number of changes in vegetation and terrain.
  6. Once you get on the loop trail itself you are very unlikely to see anyone else on the trail. Depending on your view of fellow travelers, this may be a plus or a minus.

The bad points:

  1. Burrs, burrs, and more burrs. The Woman’s entire lower body was covered with them at one point on the trail. I didn’t have as much trouble due to a lucky clothing choice but it was still a nuisance, especially since they are generally nonexistent in the Koolaus.
  2. The trail comes and goes at a number of points in Pauoa Valley, often indistinguishable from a pig trail, so it’s a bit of a guessing game to find the right one. If you have no sense of direction or little hiking experience on unimproved trails this is not the one for you.
  3. Unlike many hikes in Hawaii where there are great views every 10 feet, once you leave the ridge above Pacific Heights the drama is limited to the waterfall and wondering if you took a wrong turn.

The counter-clockwise route – which I would recommend – goes from the Kalawahine Trail at the top of Tantalus Drive after crossing the bridge (next to the little telephone road), then to Pauoa Flats Trail, before handing a left on Nuuanu Trail. Rather than taking the popular route from the top of the ridge down to Nuuanu Valley, continue along the ridge toward Pacific Heights. The trail down into Pauoa Valley is pretty obvious, and the waterfall isn’t too far after the trail turns back into the valley. Not long after the waterfall the guessing games begin, before eventually climbing back out of the valley to Kalawahine trail, not far from the Tantalus Drive trailhead.

Here’s a tip for poorly marked trails: Pig trails can be so heavily used they look like the trail you should be on, but pigs are short. If you find a lot of branches hitting you in the face and torso it’s generally a good bet you are on a pig trail and it’s time to turn around and try again. Humans won’t put up with that for long.

Lastly, a note about ribbons: Ribbons in the woods near Honolulu are most often left by evil ribbon fairies, and are therefore as likely to mislead you as help you.  Humans no longer have to worry much about being tracked by predators and it shows in the trails they leave. Keep your eyes open and try not to rely on ribbons to tell you where to go.

Kalawahine intersection

Fungi

Overly attractive

Not a fish eye lens

Follow the pipe

A waterfall with no frame of reference isn’t much of a waterfall

Town view – Kona weather version

 

 

Swissstop BXP Brake Pad Review

BXP pads are the latest from Swisstop designed for aluminum rims. It’s surprising there’s any room left for improvement in something as simple as brake pads, but these pads achieve another small step up from the already excellent GHP II pads. They’ve been out for over a year now so I’ve had time to put a few thousand miles on them in a variety of conditions.

Pros:

  • Less grabby in wet conditions
  • More linear feel in hard braking
  • Slightly shorter stopping distance.

Cons:

  • Cost (as always)
  • Squeal a little louder than GHP when hot, though generally less

I’ve gone through pads at a similar rate to the GHP II, so that worry didn’t materialize, and BXP pads do seem gentler on softer aluminum rims (like the Stan’s Alpha 340 rims I’ve been using).

After I wore out the first set I started using the BXP pads only on the front brake, with cheaper black Swissstop or Koolstop pads on the rear. The combination works quite well, maybe even preferable if you’re a little ham-fisted on the rear brake, so it’s a good way to decrease the cost of your addiction.

Koolstop dual compound are still a great choice for the budget conscious, but if you’re willing to fork over the cash the BXP pads are the best I’ve found for aluminum rims. Of course there’s always next year…

A Harsh Reminder

I’m taking a break from my break to bring up an important and frequently forgotten rule, unfortunately inspired by this: Hiker who died after falling from Palolo trail ID’d

I was first made aware of this rule by a man working for the electric company way back when they had to physically climb up the utility poles to do repairs.

The Three Point Rule

It’s quite simple: Maintain three points of contact at all times! One hand and two feet, two hands and one foot – in dire straits I suppose one hand, one foot, and your teeth could count. Holding onto someone else only counts in a life threatening situation where the other person volunteers to risk their life to save your stupid ass. Any time there is even the faintest, farfetched possibility of danger this rule must be followed without fail.

The point of the rule is if one point of contact fails you still have two more to save yourself. This also requires maintaining your balance to avoid over-reliance on those three points of contact. Therefore, leaning out to take a one-handed picture defeats the purpose and breaks the rule because if your handhold fails you’re done. Three points of contact are your insurance policy, but having insurance doesn’t mean you’re free to start a bonfire in your living room.

When I talked that lineman he was nearing retirement and had never had an accident on the job. He told me the most dangerous time was when the new guys had been on the job just long enough to get comfortable. They’d been told the rules and heard all the horror stories but they’d almost invariably stop following the rules because they no longer felt the same fear as when they were new, and before long they’d fall.

This applies to any risky endeavor really. Your level of comfort doesn’t change the nature of the situation. Comfort is more a function of familiarity and ignorance than actual risk. Follow the rules and live to risk another day.

Skechers GOBionic Review

Skechers GoBionicI have to admit it was very difficult for me to even go in the store to buy these shoes. I don’t like Skechers style, marketing, or target demographic, and that attitude wasn’t helped by some marketing materials I saw that said something about spending “Daddy’$ money.” However, I always felt the Nike Free was a good idea gone wrong and from what I’d read about the GoBionic shoes it appeared they might have gotten it right. So far I’d say they have.

Since I’d been using the Inov-8 F-Lite 195 for a couple of years (review here), I wasn’t expecting to need any time to transition to the zero drop GoBionic, but I definitely did. In my case at least the extreme flexibility of the GoBionic required quite a bit more foot strength than the Inov-8. On uneven ground the difference is particularly noticeable. Where the Inov-8 195 tries to twist my ankle, the GoBionic instead allows my foot to flex more to deal with it. My depth perception isn’t what it used to be so the increased feeling of stability is a welcome relief.

One thing I noticed immediately is they are more comfortable running than walking. They have no drop from heel to toe (11.5mm thick), but the heel is rounded and therefore has very little padding. Though it’s obvious walking around, the first time I tried them I naturally started running with no heel strike so I’ve never felt it when running. Of course that change in mechanics is probably also part of the adaptation period I experienced.

Cons:

  • Sole is a good rock grabber, as you can see in the photo.
  • Godawful style. Stylish running shoes tend to either look flashy and fast or conservatively stealthy and these manage to do neither. The gray shown is the least objectionable I could find.
  • Cheap laces
  • They’re Skechers for god sake.

Pros:

  • Very light. 5.815 oz for size 8.5 US (they run large).
  • Extremely flexible and comfortable sole. Unlike the Nike Free, if rocks don’t self eject they’re easy to twist out.
  • Upper sheds dirt well
  • Roomy toe box
  • Durability seems good for the weight
  • Reasonably priced given the competition, and the fact that running is like light bike parts – the less [weight] you get the more you pay.
  • One of the few totally flat, cushioned minimalist shoes

I liked them from the start and now that I’m [mostly] adapted they are easily my favorite shoe to date. Hard core minimalists can complain about reduced proprioceptive feedback all they want but I don’t think humans have had nearly enough time to evolve for running on pavement, and the cushioning of the GoBionic makes them a great minimalist shoe for running on pavement.

Skechers site has the rest of the details here.

Chain-L Chain Lube Review

Chain-L

Generous sample size

My previous favorite bicycle chain lube was Slick Willy Slush Armor, which was the only lube I’d found that kept the chain quiet after eight hours in the rain. But since it was hard to find, even without the irrelevant search results the name generates, I decided to give Chain-L a shot.

It’s not impressive at first glance – it looks like a thick motor oil homebrew – and it feels sticky to the touch so it seems like it would be a real dirt magnet. But in use it’s been great. I put it on my chain a month ago (~35 hours ride time), haven’t reapplied it since, and the chain is still quiet despite three soggy rides in the last week. There are a few steps required when applying it to avoid a messy chain, but for once I risked the associated testicular shrinkage and read the directions. In this case it was worth it since to my surprise my chain actually looks cleaner than ever and any dirt wipes off easily with a paper towel every other ride or so.

It’s somewhat smelly if you park your bike in the kitchen but otherwise I’ve had zero complaints. I’ve put Chain-L on all our bikes now and I highly recommend it if you demand your bike be seen and not heard.

Dear Santa…

If you’re wondering, Fairwheelbikes has these cables which I really NEED for my mistress. Teflon is so 20th century.

Diamond Like Coated Stainless Steel Cables

KCNC has made a dramatic improvement over traditional cable design with an extremely low friction and very durable coating. This coating is a mix of DLC (Diamond like carbon) and other compounds. The result is an incredibly slick cable with a coating that cannot be scratched off. The finish is dark brown with a subtle glitter-like sheen.