Tag Archives: gear

Review: Tuvizo Reflective Vest

When running in the dark as the season changes, it’s often most convenient to just grab something reflective, throw it on, and go run.

A lot of running clothes have reflective options, but they can come at a premium. This can really get expensive quickly. Especially when you have to buy high end items like new jackets and other winter gear. This is where a product like the Tuvizo reflective vest comes in. It is a very functional device that you can wear over the gear you already have and remain visible.

Tuvizo reached out to me to try out their running vest. We were unsure of what size I should use because there is some overlap and I fall in the middle, so they sent me both sizes of the reflective vest to compare.

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This was a good idea because it enabled me to see how each would fit, and I have to say, very well. I tried the S/M/L first and wore it with a Brooks running jacket and Under Armour fitted mock and it had no trouble accommodating me. I am fairly large at 6’2″, 195 lbs and wear a large t-shirt. The vest fit with plenty of slack.

I then tried the second vest the next night. This time, I was only wearing an Under Armour fitted Mock. I wanted to see how loose the much larger one was. This one cinched right up just as snug as the other. So, if you are in an area that gets extremely cold and have to wear very thick jackets, you may want to opt for the larger size.

What I liked about both vests were how easy they are to snug up. I don’t like to run with anything loose because it can cause chafing. With the Tuvizo, on the sides by the buckle, I just had to move the buckles and then pull the straps into place. I had them fitted to me in less than 20 seconds, and I’m the type who can get easily confused.

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Another feature I liked were the clasps. Sometimes gear like this is cheaply made and the clasps can come unsecured when you are shifting around or brush against it. This clasp closes up and you have to actually insert your thumb or finger into the top and squeeze both tabs for it to release. It’s very easy to do when you intend to, but won’t easily come apart accidentally.

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The actual elastic fabric is of a good quality. It is thick and feels very well made. I doesn’t seem like it will fray or lose it’s elasticity over time. Actually feel that I could strap a water bottle or the like to it and it would support it fine.

All in all, I think these vests are a really good buy at around $25 for such a versatile piece of equipment. You can wear one with anything and have it for years to come.

The vest is currently exclusively sold at Amazon and you can get it through my affiliate link below:

 

FlipBelt Review – It’ll fit the iPhone 6 Plus

 

Like I found with LaceLocker, sometimes the simplest ideas make the best products. In a day when we are trying to figure out how to carry many varied items, it can be a struggle. We often have to leave something behind.

For example, when I ran my first marathon, I had to make some decisions. Do I want to have my car key and all the gels and skip my iPhone, or do I want to leave a couple gels out. I wound up putting a couple in my short pockets and hoping for the best.

That’s where FlipBelt comes in. It is a really simple concept. It is a band made of EPA Certified, Odor Resistant, Pilling Resistant, Anti-Bacterial High Tech Poly Spandex Fabric as described on the product information page.

All along the belt, are slits that act as pockets. This offers an ingenious method of storing items like your phone, keys, gels and more. There are even hooks to help prevent your keys from slipping out.

One thing really nice about the setup is that the FlipBelt will hold a smartphone quite securely. It also allows you to shift it to nearly any location along your waist. This is especially important if you are using bluetooth headphones like the Thump BLU. You may have to place the phone in a good location to prevent clipping.

Perhaps the most important feature is that the FlipBelt will fit many different sized phones. I tested it out using my iPhone 5s, but with the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus just introduced, I was very concerned about how I could carry them. So I tested with a co-worker’s giant phone – the Samsung Note 2.

Even though FlipBelt does not claim to fit the Note 2 in their FAQ (with some qualifications). I was in fact able to fit the phone — although the FlipBelt looked like a snake consuming prey.

With the iPhone 6 Plus being even thinner than the Samsung Note 2, it should fit in the FlipBelt. It may be a little bit of a squeeze, but the FlipBelt is a definite accessory you can use to carry it while running.

The only issues I can find with the FlipBelt is that it is a quick wicking material and will absorb your sweat. After a hot run, mine becomes a DripBelt. So make sure that you put your electronics (i.e. phone) in plastic bags if that is an issue. They also claim that they will provide a free plastic bag with your purchase in their FAQ, but when I went to the checkout, I only saw the option to buy a three pack. I will email support about that.

Overall, the FlipBelt is a very good product that serves a need for flexible, light storage. It is very comfortable to wear and delivers on its promise.

FlipBelts can be ordered at flipbelt.com or from Amazon below. I will get a small commission for the sales.

 

 

Thump Bluetooth Headphones – Review

I visited the Thump Booth at the expo for the Virginia Beach Rock & Roll Half Marathon. There, I had the opportunity to meet the CEO of Thump, Todd Beetcher. His company originally named QAK was a start-up founded in 2011 as mentioned in the 2012 Denver Post article Headphones making noise, and Colorado companies join the party. It is a real treat to be able to speak to the owner of a company about his product. And Todd the “Thump-meister” is excited about his products.

Thump has four models of headphones starting with the entry level wired Thump Rap. Their mid-tier headphone is the Thump Blu — this was the one that founded the company. There is an advanced version of bluetooth headphones with the Thump XTreme. And they also have the Thump Fin which is a self contained mp3 player and headphone set for swimmers.

I am a major music, podcast, and audiobook addict so I bought a pair of Thump Blu to try out. I already have used several types of Bluetooth headphones with the Motorola SD-11 HD Flex being my current gold standard, so I will use them for comparisons.

The headphones come in a very nice reinforced Thump Case, which can be purchased separately. It is very solid, but light and pleasing to handle. It definitely will protect the headphones along with a couple other items.

As can be seen below, there is not a lot of excess packaging. Just the headphones, a quick start card, and the power supply. But not much more is needed. Just press the Phone button and hold until the blue and red LEDs are alternating and then open the Bluetooth settings on your phone. I tested with an iPhone 5s and it worked fine. It should work well with any modern smartphone that supports Bluetooth A2DP. Essentially most smart phones within the past 5 years should support.

The headphones themselves are very light which is good and don’t really draw a lot of attention to themselves. They also are designed to wear either above or below the ear, which is really unique. This enables them to be worn when laying back, dealing with a headrest and they can fit under a bike helmet. I successfully wore them under a bike helmet over the ear and didn’t have a need to try them the other way. I do prefer the sound when they are over my ears.

The sound of the headphones is very good. It is nicely balanced with a full spacious tone. They are not as bass driven as some headphones, but that is not a bad thing. They still sound rich and have good clarity.

One nice feature of the headphones that really like over the Motorola S10s, S11s, or even some Plantronics Backbeat 903+ that I have is the control functions. With all of my bluetooth headphones, I find it difficult to work the volume while wearing them.

I find it so difficult that I actually am in the habit of turning up the volume all the way and then using the volume on the side of the phone to control levels. This is not the case with the Thump BLU. It has discreet volume buttons that are easy to find and manipulate. This is a huge feature for convenience. Another usability feature involves moving forward and backward through tracks.

On the Motorola units, I have to double-tap a button to advance and triple-tap to reverse. I usually can advance fine, but reversing often involves multiple attempts. When running, this is difficult. The Plantronics were so hard for me to manipulate, I forgot how to even do it with them.

The last feature of the phone is a really good battery life. It advertises 7 hours off of a 1 hour charge and I feel it delivers on this. I do find it odd that it uses a USB Mini cable instead of the more commonly used USB micro. Also, while it delivers and excellent battery life, how do you know when the battery is dead? […] Yep. Silence. It’s little disconcerting. You hit play a couple times when the music stops before you realize that the battery is just dead. There is no warning.

The headphones are sweat resistant, but not waterproof. Keep this in mind. If you are planning to run in a heavy downpour, This is the statement on the Website:

Built for active people, Thump Blu is designed to be sweat resistant. We have a lot of runners who ask about rain. The simple answer is put it away. Thump Blu is not designed to be a water resistant device.

Also note, if you are a heavy sweater like I have been in the high heat and humidity lately, you might have troubles. I was running and sweating like mad on tempo run and one of the earpieces stop emitting sound. I thought I might have burned it up. But when I blew on it, some weak sound came out. Later, when I was in the light, I was able to see that within the earpiece is very fine screen. This screen can capture the sweat, which in turn acts like a film and obstructs the sound.

Also, note that the Thump Blu should not be worn in the front of the body in the belt buckle region. Due to the electronic placement, you will likely experience clipping (where sound cuts out for short periods). This is because your body is a giant bag of water and that can obstruct the signal. This is very common with bluetooth headphones and something I have suffered with all of them but the Motorola S10 and S11 series.

Overall, the Thump BLU is a solid product and a good entry level headset in the world of bluetooth headphones. It has a reasonable price in an area where $100+ is the typical starting point and sounds very good.

They can be ordered at http://thumpu.com or at Amazon using my affiliate link below:

Garmin Vivofit, or Farewell to my FitBit Flex [Updated]

It pains me to say, but I think I am moving on. I have been using a Fitbit device every day since January of 2012 as I mentioned in my two podcast appearances on RunBuzz and Everyday Runners. It was a critical device that combined with MyFitnessPal enabled me to lose substantial weight and ultimately become a runner.

But, sadly I have now gone through 3 of them and they are not cheap to replace. The first one a FitBit Ultra literally broke to pieces and I had to strap it together with packing tape. The second one, the FitBit One squirted out of the stupid belt clip and vanished into the ether. And now the third one, a FitBit Flex will not hold a charge. Of course I am outside of any warranty.

This got me looking around and I started to really wonder about the Garmin Vivofit. Pete Larson wrote the review Garmin Vivofit Activity Tracker Review: A Runner’s Perspective and that sent me into action. I had a rewards kickback from BJs and they just started carrying them, so I decided to try one.

Since I am already in the Garmin ecosystem, it was really the only other option for me (I had a Striiv for a while and had a terrible time with it).

Since I am a bit obsessive about my step tracking, I decided to wear both of them on my wrist for the rest of the day when I bought the Garmin. Then I decided that I really should keep wearing them both overnight and all day the next day so I could get a true side-by-side comparison. My wife thought I looked quite silly, but she is getting more used to my foibles.

The first day I wore them together, I didn’t do any running. The step count was extremely close Fitbit 6127 and Vivofit 6105. Now, I did have to bounce the Vivofit up and down just over 2000 times to get the steps to sync when I got the new device, so obviously, it’s not apples to apples.

On the second day, I started to see the real differences between the devices. First, the way they handle sleep tracking is different. Fitbit gives specific data along with graphs while Garmin Connect only shows a graph. I find this to be a real shortcoming for the Vivofit.

Vivofit sleep information appears on Garmin Connect. It looks nice, but lacks the specificity of Fitbit.

Notice the problem with the type of data. The chart on Garmin Connect looks nice, but it lacks details. This causes the results to be misleading. If you go by the Garmin Connect chart, I slept 7 hours and 25 minutes. A decent nights sleep — I prefer 8, but can get by on 7 fine.

But the Fitbit data shows a different story. It has a total of actual sleep being only 6 hours and 43 minutes. This is a big difference. It also gives actual times awake and the number of times being restless. You can try to extrapolate this information from the Garmin chart, but why?

Since Garmin has the data to make the chart, why can’t they just provide the raw data?

The stats also diverge when it comes to trends over time. Garmin gives the very basic number of hours.

Fitbit on the other hand gives very specific information. I find it remarkable that Garmin makes watches that track numerous variables like heart-rate, cadence, time, distance, and now even vertical oscillation, VO2 Max and ground contact time. Yet, they give such rudimentary information for the Vivofit. It’s almost like there are different development teams for each device. Hopefully this changes over time.

Moving on to step tracking. This gets interesting. On day two, I ran just over 6 miles and had both devices on. The rest of the day was moderately active. Fitbit steps versus Vivofit. They don’t exactly line up (Fitbit is on the left).

There’s almost a 2000 step difference or nearly a mile. What is really interesting is that I decided to compare the Fitbit app alone using the M7 chip in the iPhone 5S against the Garmin Vivofit. The resulting discrepancy is reversed as shown below.

The difference is nearly a mile and a half… How far did I walk? I have no idea. I guess I will just have to try and make it a lot and let the differences sort themselves out.

When it comes to a step breakdown throughout the day, Garmin Connect does an excellent job of displaying data.

You can easily see how your activity is spaced throughout the day and each bar displays actual numbers if you hover. I especially appreciate the Breakdown screen which offers a basic snapshot of activity balance in a day.

Fitbit does a great job as well, giving a straightforward view of activity throughout the day, but I give Garmin the edge.

Another option that both Fitbit and Garmin Connect offer are badges. I stopped tracking my Fitbit badges a while ago because I have had one a long time and attained many of them.

My Garmin badge collection has just started, so I’ll have to see what they offer over time.

The big differences between the Garmin Vivofit and the Fitbit Flex has to be the screen and battery life. The Vivofit has an easily readable screen that even has a red bar that builds across to help inspire the wearer to get moving.

The Flex has a series of dots that symbolize 2000 steps for each. The Vivofit also has screens to display the number if steps away from your goal, the number if miles, calories burned, time of day, and date.

For me, the blockbuster feature that has sold me on the Vivofit is the amazing battery life and the fact it is replaceable. The Fitbit Flex has a built in battery that I had to charge every 4-5 days. Of course, it would lose it’s charge at the most inconvenient time. I would forget that I had it charging and then start walking around without it — thus not tracking my steps.

Garmin claims that the Vivofit battery can last up to a year. If it only lasts half the time, that’s a huge win for me. Plus, the battery is replaceable. Maybe I won’t have to replace this device. I can just change the battery.

It wasn’t an easy decision to go with the Vivofit, but the battery life is what ultimately won me over. Now I just have to find more stepping friends who have the Vivofit…

For an extremely thorough review of the Vivofit and it’s functionality, you may want to check out DCRainmaker’s Garmin Vivofit In-Depth Review.

UPDATE: Ray Maker aka DCRainmaker also reported that you can get the Vivokeeper, a free safety band to prevent the clasp from popping apart accidentally for free from Garmin.

You can purchase the Vivofit from Clever Training now for $99. I receive a small commission for any that you buy at no added cost to you.

Vivofit available now at Clever Training
Vivofit available now at Clever Training

 

LaceLocker – One less thing to worry about

Sometimes, the highest praise I can give something is that I don’t notice it. It seems contrary, but it’s often true. Brilliance comes with the obvious. If you can look at something and say, “well, that’s obvious and someone would have come up with it in anyway,” ask yourself why no one has. That is good design.

LaceLocker is a simple product that perform a basic task – you just attach it and forget about it. Here is their video that sums up the process of putting them on your shoes. The video is 18 seconds long and a fair gauge of how long they take to install.

StashSports sent me a pair to try out for review. After receiving them, I decided to use them on three different pairs of shoes made by three different companies to see how they performed with different footwear.

I started with my Brooks PureCadence 2s. As you can see, they hold the laces in place and when I ran, there was no flapping about. Overall they were a great success – super match.

However, when I used them on my Saucony Kinvara 3s, they don’t fit quite as well. They only held on to one row of laces. The tongue holder prevents the device from sliding under a second row, and it’s not quite long enough to catch the third row. I wear a size 13 running shoe, so that may not be an issue for smaller feet. Also, even though it was only being held with one row, it did hold the laces securely for a good 10 mile run with some definite headwinds. It just wasn’t as aesthetically pleasing.

For my third set of shoes, I chose my Altra Torins. On these shoes, the tongue holder was in the way again, but there was plenty of room to slide it under on the side. Again, the laces stayed in place and there was no trouble.

I really like the fact that I can move the LaceLockers from one pair of shoes to another with ease, so one can buy a single pair and get full utility out of them if on a budget. I think that they are priced very well and can represent a savings from having to buy special non-slipping laces for each pair of shoes. I also like the fact that you retain the ability to retie and adjust your laces quickly. When I have my shoes double-knotted, I have to almost make sure that they are welded perfectly in place because I won’t be changing the configuration any time soon.

The product is actually so simple that I could have summed up the whole review in a short tweet – “LaceLockers, they’re simple and they work.”

They can be purchased for $7.95 and up on their website – http://www.lacelocker.com/purchase.html.

One interesting option is that they allow custom orders – http://www.lacelocker.com/customorders/ That could be a really neat item given out at races.