Monday, 23 February 2015

Review: Scott Kinabalu Supertrac Trail Running Shoes

New kids on the block

Testing the Scott Kinabalu Supertrac
American manufacturer Scott is a fairly new face on the block when it comes to trail running in europe. Inov-8, Salomon, Montane and fresh-faced HOKA tend to dominate the shelves and rails of trail running departments in shops across the UK. I'm sure you'll all be familiar with Scott bikes, which is, along with ski poles and motocross is where their innovate history started. Their track record is spattered with records like first aero handle bar, first full suspension mountain bike and a whole host of records for the lightest bikes. In 2006 Scott created its first running shoe collection which formed the basis for a whole range of running kit. If you're trying to think of a pro athlete that wears them, take a look at Scott athlete Joseph (Joe) Gray, named USA Mountain Runner of the Year five times. Not many people can say they finished 1 minute behind Salomon athlete Kilian Jornet (despite suffering a fall in the late stages of the race) in the Sierre-Zinal, Joe Gray can. Having key pro and semi-pro athletes linked to a manufacturer is key, their feedback and input into designs is one of the key reasons that ensures products are at the cutting edge of design and form.

Scott Kinabalu Supertrac

Putting the Supertrac on out the box I was surprised how comfortable it was, although you can feel a little pressure on the outside of your arch from the eRide rocker in the midsole. Normally I wear minimalist shoes (Salomon Sense) so having this developed midsole was something to get used to. The traditional laces (which feel bumpy, like a snake that's swallowed a basket of apples) combined with a little elastic lace locker over the tongue held the laces tight and not once did they come undone on the trails. The upper part on the tongue (where you tie the lace knot) is more ridged than on most trail shoes and I was concerned that it might rub, but I didn't get any rubbing at all.

The overall fit of the Supertrac is fairly wide, it reminded me a little of an Altura fit which is is becoming quite popular in shoes for ultra so your foot can swell a little without causing problems. I agree this is a good feature for longer, steadier runs but if you want a short, lets have fun rushing up and down steep hills kinda run then they did slip around a bit. Sure you can tie them tighter but it's never quite enough. Considering the extra technology in the midsole they're not too heavy, just 25g heavier than the Salomon Speedcross 3.

It's pretty muddy and slippy on the trails of North Yorkshire at the moment and I was impressed how the grip held up, a lot of the mud round here sticks like uncooked cake mixture to the bottom of a shoe. This often happens at the most inappropriate times and can send you slipping down a grassy bank into a bush, just before you check to see if anyone is looking. The combination of deep, soft lugs and a shiny flat upper sole gives you grip while helping to prevent sticky mud from getting hold. Eventually it does, but to be honest I've not tested a single shoe that has not got caked eventually. The soft lugs proved to be reliable and very grippy on dry rock and not too bad on wet rock either. Having said that a wet rock is a wet rock, they are slippy by nature so I try to avoid them if possible! Overall on grip, pretty impressed.

I did feel like I couldn't run quite how I do in minimalist shoes, the eRide rocker took quite a bit of getting used to. Not that it was uncomfortable or annoying but I was very aware of it and it's effect of almost encouraging heel strike... that could have just been me expecting it to be like that though...

The outer is a tight weave fabric with rubberized strips which provide good protection against rocks, bushes and anything else that you shoes might rub against.

All in all I can see the Supertrac being a great training and racing shoe, particularly for long distances. I would hesitate to use them on road with such a soft rubber compound on the grip... but who wants tarmac when you can have dirt! Look out Europe, Scott is here and judging by this shoe, they'll be here to stay.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Short film shows what great things happen when women and mountains meet

Ellie West filming "From the Heart"
Improvements in equality, particularly regarding gender has been an increasingly important topic over the last 15 years. In the Outdoor world we're finally starting to see decent clothing and kit ranges for women, and not just available in pink (although there still seems to be a fair bit!). Female athletes are equaling and beating fellow male athletes in a wide range of sports and slowly but surely getting the recognition they deserve.

From the Heart is a short film featuring Shepherdess Alison O'Neill (and her famous sheepdog Shadow) who, through hard work, determination and making decisions others would run from, has made a life working with the land. As well as a Shepherdess, Alison is a published author, designer and public speaker who inspires many to reconnect with nature and most importantly have adventures of a scale that they can achieve. In this short film you can meet Alison and find out what makes her tick and watch her roam the magnificent and rarely visited Howgill Fells. The Howgills are a fantastic place to walk, run and explore as well as one of Wainwright's favourite spots.

With brands like Red Bull showing us their adrenaline filled athletes do things no-one thought possible there's an invisible pressure to be the ultimate or kinda don't bother. If you can jump off a cliff backwards with your eyes closed, carrying a suitcase filled with sushi wearing a parachute or ride a mountain bike backwards through lava while juggling spoons then awesome, go do it. Walking the dog, explore somewhere new, dip your feet in the sea - these are easily achievable adventures that everyone can have (you obviously need a dog for the first example and the sea for the last, but you catch my drift). This is one of the key messages in "From the Heart", yes the film highlights these things from the point of view of a woman but the key message is the same whether you're a guy or a girl.

Great things happen when women and mountains meet - Alison O'Neill, The Shepherdess

You can find the highly sought after tweed clothes and bag that Alison was wearing in the film on sale on her website.

The fantastic music you heard in the background was Cumbrian band Stooshie.
Available on iTunes, Amazon and their website.

The sheepdog, Shadow recently had his first birthday, Happy Birthday Shadow!

Ellie and I run Summit Fever Media, outdoor production company specialising in aerial filming.

Please don't try jumping off a cliff backwards with your eyes closed, carrying a suitcase filled with sushi wearing a parachute or ride a mountain bike backwards through lava while juggling spoons... it's just not safe... but if you ignore me and do it, kindly film it and put it on youtube.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Review: Salomon S-Lab Sense Set

Kit just seems to get lighter and lighter, every time I think things can't possibly get any better, they do! The vest style of packs is something that has always been around but only really taken off over the last few years. Now almost every brand has their own take on this design which keeps the weight high, kit accesible and a comfortable fit on the body.

The Salomon S-Lab Sense Set is an ultra light, minimalist and slimline pack from the Sense range which has a great deal of design input from Salomon athletes like Kilian Jornet. No doubt some of you will have noticed Salomon athletes including Kilian and Stevie Kremer (who wore it when she won the Matterhorn UltraKs) wearing this new pack in pictures all over social media.

Let's start with over all look & feel - you can see straight away that this is a minimalist piece of kit and at 90g it's very light. My first concern was that this lack of weight and solid structure would make it unstable and flimsy but due to the good snug fit and adjustability it sits tight and comfy. If anything it's more comfortable than it's predecessors. It looks slick, and yes it comes in black if you don't like the white look. It's one of those bits of kit that make you feel like a pro in the final stage of the WS100 even if your just chasing the trails round your local park. Let's face it, anything that makes your run more fun is a good thing, even if it is a bit of kit! Fit wise, it comes in two sizes XS/S and M/L, previously I have always found the M/L fit much better but with this pack I found the M/L a bit big and would probably go for the XS/S. To give you an idea of size I normally wear a small or medium size tech t.

Storage is obviously the name of the game and the main function of the pack. It is listed as having a capacity of 1L but after rummaging stuffing the pockets I would say it's at least 1.5L or 2L at a stretch (not including two 500ml soft flasks, which the pack comes with). Theres's a zip pocket on the top right which easily fits an iPhone 4S and is big enough to fit an iPhone 5 ... Not sure about the six! On the opposite side is an open topped elasticated pocket which is good for snacks, a cut down map or gel wrappers when you're finished with them. The two pockets for the 500ml soft flasks are quite snug, good side is this stops them moving around too much but can make it a little tricky getting them in when full. If you plan to swap bottles at CPs or with your crew then I would definitely suggest practicing before hand! It's worth noting that the bottles are positioned more to the front, this means you no longer have to run with your elbows out like a chicken, unless you want to. There is an emergency whistle attached tot the top of one of the soft flask pockets which tucks neatly by the bottle and ticks off one of the mandatory pieces of kit for a lot of races. Two pockets slung under the bottle pouches are good for stuffing minimalist wind-stoppers into but not loose small items as the top is only elaticated and if you're on technical trail stuff can jump out. Two zip up pockets on either side are really easy to get to and have a surprising big space (for a small pocket!). The outer of this pocket is stretchy so you can stuff it, but  remember, like all light weight kit, it's not mega durable and you can pull the stitching!

At first I thought the storage space was a bit too small, but after going out on the trails with it I found myself being able to fit the kit wanted in quite easily. I always used to feel like the 5L vest was too small, but maybe I was just bringing unnecessary things?! Obviously there are times when a pack this small is not appropriate, but for training and many events, even some long stuff this would be a good option to go with.

The fit of it is more snug and tailored than the originals Salomon vest packs, which it needs without the rigidity which it used to have. Main thing is that it's really comfy. With tech t's and mid layers it grips nice and tight but it did slip around a little when a waterproof worn underneath... solution: wear waterproofs over the top!

With a price of less than £100 this is a cutting edge piece of kit for less than cutting edge prices, don't worry you won't need that second mortgage just yet! Overall I was genuinely impressed and after some initial scepticism I was won round by this great new pack!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Review: Salomon S-Lab Hybrid Jacket

Kilian Jornet training in the Hybrid Jacket - Photo: Kilian Jornet
Running Jackets come in all types of designs but they tend to fall into one of three categories. Waterproof, windproof or insulating. Granted, some jackets fulfil more than one of these but they have at least one feature. The new Salomon S-Lab Hybrid Jacket has features of both waterproof and windproof jackets.

You can see Salomon athlete Kilian Jornet here training in the S-Lab Hybrid Jacket on the bike. Let me give you a quick run down on some of the features of the Jacket:

  • The front and outer of the sleeves are made from a stretchy waterproof fabric
  • Laser cut holes by the cuffs and under the arms provide additional breathability
  • Elasticated cuffs, elasticated hood headband
  • Elasticated waistband which the jacket can be rolled down into when worn
  • Windproof fabric on the rest of the jacket
  • Athletic fit (for swinging arms and the like)
Let me cut to the chase, the Salomon S-Lab Hybrid jacket is for the runner that has all the kit. Having only partial waterproof fabric, untaped seams and laser cut holes means it doesn't comply with FRA (fell running association) rules or race requirements where a waterproof jacket is required. Rules aside, the fit of the jacket is comfortable while running, your arms can swing around without tugging on the shoulders and the fact it rolls down into the elasticated waist belt is neat.

I did struggle to find the right conditions for it, I know that sounds like it makes no sense. The autumn here in North Yorkshire has brought us the initial wave of cold weather and rain. I only really felt comfortable in the Hybrid jacket when it was cold and misty/very light rain. In heavy rain water came through the laser cut holes in the sleeves and soaked my arms. the lack of a visor on a hood meant the rain also was straight in my eyes, also a bit annoying!

The elasticated band in the hood keeps it firmly on your head, this was good and comfy but made it awkward if you wanted to wear a buff/hat on your head too.

The S-Lab Hybrid jacket suits cold and drizzly type weather but not particularly tolerant of other conditions, so this might fill a gap if you have a waterproof and windproof already.

Personally, if it's a short run, I'd rather go without any jacket (maybe take a waterproof). As for longer runs, I'd take a fully taped waterproof, as the conditions where I run can change dramatically in a short period of time..... it does look good though.... ;)

Thanks for reading/watching!


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Win a Pair of Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 3!

If you fancy winning a pair of the brand new Salomon S-Lab Fellcross 3, as worn by International Salomon athlete Ricky Lightfoot then you're in luck!

All you have to do is guess the weight of my pair with socks after a very muddy run in the Yorkshire Dales. To find out how to put in your entry and take a look at the muddy shoes simply click on the picture below or visit the Castleberg Outdoors Blog

Good luck!



(Full review coming soon...)

Monday, 28 July 2014

Review: Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin M Belt Set

New for the Spring 2014 range of Salomon trail running kit was the S-Lab Advanced Skin M Belt Set. Waist belts have the tricky job of carrying a reasonable amount of kit, for example Fell Running Association (FRA) kit, without moving around much and remaining comfortable.

Running over technical terrain with a full belt pack is a good way to put it to the test. It's not uncommon for them to bounce around, rubbing on your waist or if you're really unlucky spilling kit all over the trail.

The S-Lab Advanced Skin M Belt is a development of the previous S-Lab waist belt. The increasing demand from runners to have a compact and comfortable way of carrying kit when on the trail has lead to belts like this one becoming well established.

Belt packs have been a big part of the Fell Running scene for a long time so the concept is nothing new. The Salomon take on it has several features which you notice quickly. First off the width of the belt all around the waist is much broader than normal packs which use thin webbing and a buckle.

I found this extra width gave two advantages - comfort being the most obvious one as it spreads the pressure and increasing stability. This is a big factor for me as I find a bouncing pack incredibly irritating and one reason why I previously had avoided waist belts.

There is a deceptively large amount of space in the pack, being constructed from elasticised materials means that there's plenty of give if you want to ram it to the brim but equally will hold small amounts of kit stable.

Access on the whole was really easy, to get stuff out with it still on and while running was pretty easy. The only time I found it difficult was when wearing thick winter gloves the small zippers were hard to hold while on the move.

You will have seen Salomon athletes using this waist belt as, like all S-Lab products, it's athlete designed. This encourages the fast and innovative progress in trail running kit design from the pointy end.

Included with the waist belt is a 500ml Soft flask, as testament to their popularity these awesome bottles have now been copied by every brand. With your 500ml of water, snacks and kit packed into this neat belt you can stretch your legs for those long runs without worry. They also make a great option for racing, there is absolutely no doubt that being lighter is a great way to be faster and especially for marathon distance these can be an ace solution.

At 130g this pack may be heavier than others on the market, but it more than makes up for it in space and comfort. If you're looking for a new pack it's well worth trying out the S-Lab Advanced Skin M Belt Set, especially if you love running in remote areas.

Happy Running!