Saturday, May 19, 2018

Run and Even Swim Ready Earphones from JBL Harman: The Endurance Line & Reflect Contour 2

Article by Sam Winebaum

Harman has released the JBL Endurance line a collection of run, fitness and even swim ready earphones. Aggressively priced with excellent sound they range from the Endurance Run ($20) a very light and comfortable wired earphone to the IPX7 waterproof Endurance Dive ($90) which not only has up to 8 hours of playback time with a 10 minute quick charge for an hour's play but includes a built in 1GB music player which can hold up to 200 songs. The Dive are earphones you can literally swim or paddle board with, no phone necessary!

JBL sent us the Endurance Sprint ($50) IPX 7 waterproof with 8 hours of battery life but with no music player, the Endurance Run, and the Contour Reflect 2 ($90), a sweat proof light over the ear style with a 10 hour battery life.  

In between the Sprint and the Dive is the Endurance Jump ($70), a collar style (shared with the Dive) more rigid neck band earphone with identical battery and waterproofing specs to the Sprint and Dive. The Jump powers on and off automatically with PowerHook tech when the earphones are put on the head and taken off.  The Sprint, Jump, and Dive all have touch no button controls on the right unit and share that 8 hour battery life and swim ready IPX 7 water resistance (30 minutes submerged up to 1 meter).

While of slightly different designs the Reflect Contour and Sprint we tested have one thing in common,  comfortable secure fit with, in just about a first for us, no fiddling with any of the included tips or gels required. Key to this out of the box comfort are the soft very pliable over the ear hooks and soft coatings on all the bud surfaces in contact with and in the ears. JBL calls this technology FlexSoft.
LEFT to RIGHT: Reflect Contour 2, Endurance Swim, Endurance Run
Endurance Sprint ($50)
25 grams
We tested the Endurance Sprint, a wireless earphone which connects via Bluetooth to a music player or phone. It is IPX 7 waterproof ( 30 minutes in up to 1 meter of water) with an 8 hour battery life and with a 10 minute quick charge for an hour of play. The soft ear hook is lightly magnetic and is drawn towards the main body of the earphones so can be clipped to gym bags, purses or packs. JBL calls this tech MagHook.  
To put the earphones on insert the buds and give them a slight twist up in a clockwise direction. JBL calls this tech TwistLock. Quite frankly we found the TwistLock almost unnecessary as even without it the fit was secure and comfortable among the best of any earphones we have ever tested with no pressure in the ear and a locked in secure fit.
The controls are by touch on the right bud. There is no tactile feedback we assume as everything is waterproof sealed. You tap sequences at the center bottom by the JBL logo to activate them. Controls include all the standard music controls including pause, resume, track forward and back, although we found the track change difficult to master on the go. Phone controls include answer, hang up, decline a call. We did not find a voice control (Siri, Google) activation but did on the Reflect and Run. Volume is controlled by swiping at the right side of the L in an up down motion. We found this gesture very difficult as any additional pressure in the area of the JBL logo can easily be interpreted as a tap thus pausing the music. We ended up adjusting volume from our phone.  
Sound quality was very good but a bit thin on bass. We had a sense that the outer wings effectively blocked out outside wind and sounds, a great thing for the sound clarity here, but on the run outdoors we would prefer to have some additional situational awareness as essentially all outside sound was blocked.  In the gym the sound blocking would be great.

Endurance Run ($20)
This basic wired earphone has excellent sound and light in weight at 19 g. It shares TwistLock with the other earphones here for a secure in ear fit. With FlipHook it can be worn in the ear with cords oriented down or by swapping the buds around with the cord behind the ear. We preferred the comfort of behind the ear. The Run shares the FlexSoft coating for comfort on all surfaces touching the ear but we found without a rear over the ear hook they are not quite as pain free as the Sprint or Reflect Contour 
The buds magnetically attach to each other helping to keep the cords untangled and secure them to a bag or around your neck when not using.
Controls include a single press to pause or start music or answer a call. A long press activates your phone's voice control. There is no volume control on the single button remote.
The Run has a standard headphone jack so if you have an iPhone or other phone without a headphone  jack you will need an (easy to lose) adapter. They are sweat resistant but not waterproof as the others in the Endurance series are.

Reflect Contour 2 ($100)
19 g. Available now.

The priciest model tested, but still very reasonable for its features and battery life, the wireless Bluetooth Reflect was our favorite. It is sweat proof with an IPX 5 rating and built of lightweight aluminum. It has the longest battery life at 10 hours with a 15 minute speed charge for an hour of play. 

It is noticeably light at a mere 19 g. It was the most comfortable to wear. It combines a very soft, light over the ear hook with three sizes of Freebit enhancers which are in ear wings along with three sizes of silicone ear tips.  JBL calls this approach DualLock. We found the fit out of the box the most secure and most comfortable as not only is the earphone supported over the ear but gently within the ear by the Freebit enhancers.
The 3 button remote was easy to operate with big tactile buttons and includes access to phone voice control.
The ear hooks are soft and thin. I was able to comfortably wear them with eyeglasses and even sunglasses over the eye glasses! The cables are reflective.
The Reflect Contour features JBL Signature Sound. as do all the earphones here ,which was rich if a bit thin on bass for our tastes. The lightest in weight of the three we tested at only 19 grams, extremely easy to fit, comfortable to wear, and with an outstanding battery rating, the Reflect Contour 2 is a great workout companion. 

Reviewer Bio
Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun. He has been running trails and roads and run shoe and tech geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half as well as 2 days after his 61st birthday a 3:40 marathon.  He also runs trails in rocky rooty New Hampshire and smooth Park City, UT. 

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Friday, May 18, 2018

The 5 Best Light Performance Trainer & Road Racing Shoes of 2018, So Far!

Article by Sam Winebaum

2018 Racers and Light Performance Trainers are not left out of the general running shoe trends towards more comfortable yet secure uppers and lighter, more dynamic and cushioned midsole materials. Increasingly rare, and not included in this article, are classic “racing flats”, close cousins of track spikes, those often very firm, highly responsive shoes with tight even painful uppers. Races and speed work are never easy but at least your feet and even your legs can be less the worse for wear than in these fast choices, weighing no more than many of those flats. In fact, for many, these foot and leg friendly high-performance shoes can be used for races and your faster training, not what could always be said about those classics.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Bolle Reviews: 6th Sense Sunglasses with Modulator Brown Emerald Lens & Trackdown MTB Helmet

Article by Jeff Valliere

Bolle 6th Sense with Modulator Brown Emerald OLEO AF lens
27 grams
$189 with Modulator lens, $179 with non Modulator lens.

The 6th Sense is marketed toward cyclists, but I found that they are an excellent choice for running/trail running, or just about any other outdoor activity, and of course cycling.

The 6th Sense is very light at 27 grams with a frameless design for unobstructed, wide field of vision and come in a variety of colors and lens options including the Modulator lenses below, as well as fixed gradient lenses.

The Modulator Brown Emerald lenses in the 6th Sense I tested are anti fog and have a light transmittance range of 27%-9% which I found to work very well while trail running with the lens transitioning quickly, but imperceptibly, in changing light conditions.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Altra Running Escalante 1.5 Review: A Refined Upper. Same Dynamic Zero Drop Ride

Article by Derek Li, Dave Ames and David Henry

Official Weight: 7.9 oz. / 224g; 6.5 oz. /184g
Stack Height: 24mm heel / 24mm forefoot, Zero Drop (including sock liner)
$130.  Available July 2018
Altra says: updated knit upper and mid foot strap, sleeker heel cup, increased breathability.

First Impressions

Derek: This is my first time trying the Escalante, and I was really looking forward to it after all the raves reviews I read of version 1. I did briefly have a feel of the new Escalante Racer at the London Marathon expo a few weeks back, but it felt a little too low in the stack department for me. With the Escalante 1.5, I can see that there is definitely more foam underfoot, which seems to make all the difference to the feel. The color I received was a sort of dark grey, which works fine for me. Maybe a little on the vanilla side, but I know the Escalante colors tend to be more muted anyway. Initial step-in feel was good. The fit is true to size, and overall shoe volume works out very well for me. I was able to get a secure lock down in the heel without having to put much tension into the lacing. Just walking and jogging around in the shoe, the bouncy feel of the EGO foam is immediately noticeable without any bottoming out. We are off to a good start! My shoes came in at 8.4oz a piece for a US9.5, including EVA sockliner.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

ON Running Women Apparel Review: A Cut Above!

Article by Dominique Winebaum and Sally Reiley

Editor's Note: Dominique and Sally run year round outdoors in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Colorado and Utah and are never found on treadmills, no matter the weather. Sally is a 5 time Boston finisher (3:29 PR 2017) re qualifying in each race, all in the last 6 years. Dominique is a lifelong runner with a 3:16 PR who runs 4 days a week.

Dominique: Shorts season is upon us here in New England so we were particularly excited to test the ON Running Shorts, Performance-T, and Weather Jacket part of ON's Essentials collection. This is the perfect running outfit for beach weather – it gets hot and humid in the summer in New England! Before the heat hits we also got a chance to also test the Shorts and T in Canyonlands National Park and the jacket on cooler misty days on the North Shore of Massachusetts.  I was born in Switzerland and started my running career there so ON as a Swiss based company sure brings back memories. I know Swiss quality design when I see and wear it!
ON Running Shorts ($80)

Sally: As ON states, these running shorts are reduced to the max. They are incredibly light and feel like you are wearing nothing (didn’t North Face have a line of performance clothing entitled “Better Than Naked?” - well, ON achieves that in these pieces!). There is total freedom of movement, and a wide comfortable waist band complete with drawstring for custom fit and a moisture-sealed zip pocket at the back.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Saucony Ride ISO Review: The ride improves yet again! The upper challenges.

Article by Sam Winebaum and Dave Ames

Saucony Ride ISO

Sam:  The Ride ISO is designed to provide a lively, cushioned training ride and underfoot durability for day in day out training at moderate to faster paces. 
The Ride is Saucony’s entry into the daily trainer sweepstakes competing with shoes such as the Brooks Ghost, Asics Cumulus 20, Skechers Ride 7 Salomon Sonic RA, and New Balance 880.

With the ISO version, essentially Ride 11, the big news is a new ISO Fit upper, small changes to midsole geometry and bigger changes to the outsole coverage and geometry. Do these changes help the Ride retain our Ride 10 review title “What a Daily Trainer Should Be”. Read on to find out.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Under Armour UA Scrambler Hybrid Jacket and UA Atlas Gore Active Jacket Review

Article by Jeff Valliere with Sam Winebaum

We have been impressed with Under Armour's new run and mountain focused apparel. We recently tested the ColdGear Reactor Exert (RTR review) which has proved to be one of the most versatile, broad temperature range, light insulation options we have ever worn. We were eager to see what UA had come up with in outerwear.

Under Armour UA Scrambler Hybrid Jacket
6.06 oz. / 172 g Men's Medium
Jeff: This hybrid jacket comprises of two different materials, strategically arranged and constructed to achieve a balance between waterproofing key areas, while maintaining breathability.  The hood, shoulders and upper sleeves are made of Pertex Shield+ 2.5 layer laminated waterproof breathable fabric that effectively deflects falling rain and snow, while the remainder of the jacket is made of a more breathable single weave fabric that deflects moisture and wind effectively, but is not as impermeable is the Pertex Shield 2.5.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Altra Running Torin 3.5 Review: One Shoe, Two Fine New Upper Flavors

 Article by Sam Winebaum

Altra Running Torin 3.5 Mesh and 3.5 Knit
The Torin now comes in two flavors with Altra calling out the Knit for "Comfort" and the Mesh for "Speed". The Torin is a well cushioned, 28 mm heel/ 28 mm forefoot Zero Drop daily trainer. The overall specs don't change from the 3.0 although we note some subtle and welcome changes in ride in both and in cushion in the Mesh.

What is new are very comfortable new uppers with an engineered mesh upper in the Mesh and an engineered knit upper in the Knit. The Knit weighs approximately 0.4 oz more than the Mesh with the Mesh 0.6 oz more than the Torin 3.0 but both still come in below 10 oz. so a lot of shoe for the weight. To hold the foot on these pliable uppers with no overlays with minimal heel counters, higher ankle collars along with two new internal A straps are incorporated at mid foot on both sides. Please read on for the details and for how they run.
LEFT Altra Running Torin 3.5 Knit                        RIGHT Altra Torin 3.5 Mesh

Sunday, May 06, 2018

ON Running Men's Apparel Review: Top Notch, Swiss Engineered Run Threads!

Article by Jeff Valliere and Sam Winebaum

ON Running Apparel
ON is well known for its Swiss Engineered running shoes. Of particular note are the shoes always spectacular uppers. So it is no surprise that ON has incredible run clothing. ON Running Pants (RTR review) have been a winter goto for the last two years for their light weight, wind resistance, and wide conditions and temperature range. On Running apparel is of the highest quality and comfort, is beautifully designed with excellent materials and features specific to running.  We think is worth its premium pricing.  We take a look at their 2018 men's apparel line with a review of the women's offerings also coming soon to RoadTrailRun.

ON Men's Performance T ($80)
Available at Running Warehouse here
PC: ON Running Performance T
Jeff: The ON Performance T is super light and very well ventilated.  Initially I was a bit surprised by the very unique feel, impossibly thin and making me wonder if it were made with recycled plastic.
Everything about this shirt is minimal, with a nearly non existent collar, arm hems and hemline, welded seams for comfort and a mesh back panel and laser perforations for ventilation. Comfort is as good or better than any shirt I have ever worn, venting in unrivaled, it is fast drying (almost instant) and to top it all off, the ON Performance T, in my opinion, is about the most stylish shirt in my overflowing drawer. Weight is nearly nothing and when running, it never crosses my mind that I am even wearing a shirt.