Saturday, September 17, 2016

For Runners: Apple Watch Series 2 & Sunlight Visibility, iPhone 7 Hands On

Apple Watch
Apple Watch Nike+ Photo: Nike.com Apple.com
The Apple Watch Series 2 was eagerly awaited by this runner as it is supposedly 2X brighter and adds on board GPS and swim rated waterproofing.

Battery Life
Battery life does not improve, if at all, over the original Apple Watch, now named Series 1.
Apple's official tests claim 18 hours of use including a 30 minute workout. If the watch is fully charged in workout mode Apple claims the following:

Up to 8 hours
Testing conducted by Apple in August 2016 using preproduction Apple Watch Series 1, Apple    Watch Series 2, and Apple Watch Edition, each paired with an iPhone; all devices tested with prerelease software. Tested with workout session active, heart rate sensor on, with iPhone. Using the built-in GPS of the Apple Watch Series 2 without iPhone, workout time is up to 5 hours. Battery life varies by use, configuration, and many other factors; actual results will vary.

Not to bad, but no where near a dedicated GPS watch or even the Polar M600 which is rated at 8 hours  on the run with GPS and HR and it is unclear if one can listen to the built in music player for those 5 hours.

Screen Visibility
A big issue for me with the original Apple Watch was screen visibility in sunlight.
It was far less visible than dedicated GPS watches or even the new Android Wear Polar M600. The new Apple Watch has more than double the NIT brightness at 1000 of the original. So, curious I went to my local Apple store to see one in action...

The staff member helping me had a first generation Apple Watch. We set the brightness to identical levels, the Apple Watch 2 demo unit being locked at about 3/4 brightness. Both watches were the larger 42mm size, a 38 mm size is available. We first looked at the watches inside the fairly brightly lit store. The Apple Watch 2 on the right below was clearly brighter and crisper despite having the same resolution screen as the older model. The new model has what Apple calls a "Second Generation OLED Retina" display. More on this later... Both watches have an Ion-X glass screen cover.

Inside the Apple Store: LEFT Original Apple Watch RIGHT Apple Watch Series 2
Next we went out in the very very brightly sunlit mall atrium and started the built in run app.

In very bright sunlight: LEFT Original Apple Watch RIGHT Apple Watch Series 2
While the picture is a bit hard to see both watches were hard to read. We both agreed the older model was slightly easier to see. We were both very surprised. While this is a single test and we can't be positive the demo watch is fully up to speed,in bright sunlight , the new watch is clearly not as bright as the older one and certainly not 2X as bright in these conditions. You can see that there are 4 data fields and the most visible is the yellow color one. As with the new Fitbit Charge 2 having overly small fonts or to many data fields makes readability even more difficult in bright sun.

What may be going on? 
OLED displays unlike LCD's found say on most fitness GPS watches have less reflectance. All or most all of the light you see is generated by the electricity to the pixels in the display. LCD displays have a reflective element to boost what you see. I can only assume that this second generation OLED has even less reflectance but more brightness by spec. Outside there is no way the pixels generate enough visible light on their own. Interestingly the Polar M600 while not having quite the resolution of the Apple Watch, but still very sharp has a  color TFT LCD display and has been adequate in my testing in bright light.
Photo Apple.com Nike.com

There is hope for runners... The Apple Watch Nike+ while having exactly the same display technology as the watch shown above,will, within the Nike+ Run Clug watch app ,have a high contrast yellow on black scheme and will enlarge the fonts to feature one key stat per screen. This should help sunlight visibility.  I wonder if they will also auto adjust the brightness to maximum when in bright light.  I would recommend that if one of the main purposes for the purchase of an Apple Watch is running you should get the larger 42mm size. I should have a sample by early October and will report back the results as the demo watch may have been less than optimized for screen brightness.

iPhone 7



I received my iPhone 7 yesterday and of course took it out for a run today. I upgraded from a 6S and am giving it to my daughter. I updated hers to iOS 10 the day before I received my new phone and almost regretted getting the 7... Everything seemed much faster and the new features make it like a new phone. To many to list but a worthy upgrade.
The iPhone 7 features which seemed valuable for running were the increased water and sweat resistance, no swimming rated IPX 67 so sealed from dust and safe up to 30 minutes in 1 meter of water so even a fall into a pool as Apple showed in their keynote you're fine and of course the improved camera. While I cannot yet judge the water resistance which should mean no more zip lock bag, I did test the camera today and am very impressed with the improved quality of my pictures. While not a perfect test I even snapped a picture while running and bouncing around to test the new optical image stabilization. Here it is





An emerging issue for iPhone use in winter. The iPhone 7 no longer has a mechanical home button so it cannot be clicked with gloves on according to this Verge article. Some conductive gloves are even said not to work. A work around will surely emerge.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Review: 2 Innovative Soft Flask Run Bottles: UltrAspire Formula 250 & Raidlight EazyFlask

Increasingly bike style bottles and hydration bladders are given way to "soft flasks". Easy to stuff in pockets and even shorts, collapsible, and light they also offer the advantage of carrying multiple potions on  given run: water, electrolytes, gels, or even semi sold food.
I have increasingly gone to flasks and away from hard bottles or bladders for shorter adventures. More convenient, easier to clean, easier to grasp and store on the run when empty. I just stuff them, full or empty in one of the 4 bounce free pockets of the incredible WAA Ultra Carrier Shirt from Rocky Mountain Ultra (review soon).

I tried 2 innovative new soft flasks:
 UltraAspire Formula 250 (left) and Raidlight EazyFlask  350 (right).

Formula 250 from UltrAspire departs from the usual TPU construction of soft flasks as it is made of a soft silicone. There is no discernible taste to water in the flask, unusual. Ultraspire has been in the run hydration business since its beginning, their founder literally invented the first run vest. Completely seamless unlike conventional soft flasks, and with a tear drop shape, it is easy to use and clean. It features handy loops to dry or carry on your hydration pack. The Formula makes a great option for gels, thicker mixtures, semi solid foods, etc... It would be great for feeding apple sauce to small and not so small children as well!

The large flow valve has a secure snapping cap on top of a decently wide cap and rigid collar. It is super comfortable to hold with its soft thick material molding very well to the hand and stuffs  easily into pockets. Ultraspire gave us a very useful tip on how to drink water or electrolytes, non viscous stuff,  from the Formula as holding the body of the bottle when the cap is open sprays liquid. Just grasp the gray cap as you drink. Works well to reduce or eliminate the spray factor but if you use it with liquids you still need to pay attention. The 250 ml capacity is great for a decent amount of less viscous foods and potions.

Available now in one size 250 l. $12.95 Purchase from UltrAspire here
or from Running Warehouse here
Take 10% off by using Road Trail Run coupon code: RTR10

The Raidlight EazyFlask is from French company, Raidlight which is a long time pioneer in run hydration and packs. Little known in the US, Raidlight is now imported along with WAA Ultra, another innovative French brand by Rocky Mountain Ultra.

European love to sip their water from bottles with straws. I do to, especially if the flask is in a vest. Tip the head down and drink, no hands. The EazyFlask is Raidlight's first soft flask and is available in 150 ml $, 350ml, and 600ml sizes. Rocky Moutain Ultra sent us the 350 ml version.

The short straw is insulated with a thin neoprene sleeve. Iparticularly liked the valve flow mechanism. Instead of being on the valve subject dirty hands and clumsiness it is on the stem. Twist the stem and you can go from a strong flow to barely a trickle when sucked hard. It is not a complete shut off valve but close.  A second valve is included with the 350ml  and 600 ml sizes for those who prefer no straw and works a bit better with thicker liquids.The 150ml has the valve with no straw.The bottle, stem and valve are very easy to clean.
EazyFlask 150ml : $13.99
EazyFlask 350ml : $19.99
EazyFlask 600ml:  $24.99

EazyFlasks are available now from Rocky Mountain Ultra here.
Use discount code roadtrailrun10 for 10% off any purchase at Rocky Mountain Ultra
Plus get free shipping on all US orders!

Review: 2 Innovative Soft Flask Run Bottles: Ultraspire Formula 250 & Raidlight EazyFlask

Increasingly bike style bottles and hydration bladders are given way to "soft flasks". Easy to stuff in pockets and even shorts, collapsible, and light they also offer the advantage of carrying multiple potions on  given run: water, electrolytes, gels, or even semi sold food.
I have increasingly gone to flasks and away from hard bottles or bladders for shorter adventures. More convenient, easier to clean, easier to grasp and store on the run when empty. I just stuff them, full or empty in one of the 4 bounce free pockets of the incredible WAA Ultra Carrier Shirt from Rocky Mountain Ultra (review soon).

I tried 2 innovative new soft flasks:
 Ultaspire Formula 250 (left) and Raidlight EazyFlask  350 (right).

Formula 250 from Ultraspire departs from the usual TPU construction of soft flasks as it is made of a soft silicone. There is no discernible taste to water in the flask, unusual. Ultraspire has been in the run hydration business since the beginning, their founder literally invented the first run vest. Completely seamless unlike conventional soft flasks, and with a tear drop shape, it is easy to use and clean. It features handy loops to dry or carry on your hydration pack. The Formula makes a great option for gels, thicker mixtures, semi solid foods, etc... It would be great for feeding apple sauce to small and not so small children as well!

The large flow valve has a secure snapping cap on top of a decently wide cap and rigid collar. It is super comfortable to hold with its soft thick material molding very well to the hand and stuffs  easily into pockets. Ultraspire gave us a very useful tip on how to drink water or electrolytes, non viscous stuff,  from the Formula as holding the body of the bottle when the cap is open sprays liquid. Just grasp the gray cap as you drink. Works well to reduce or eliminate the spray factor but if you use it with liquids you still need to pay attention. The 250 ml capacity is great for a decent amount of less viscous foods and potions.

Available now in one size 250 l. $12.95 Purchase from Ultraspire here

or from Running Warehouse here
Take 10% off by using Road Trail Run coupon code: RTR10

The Raidlight EazyFlask is from French company, Raidlight which is a long time pioneer in run hydration and packs. Little known in the US, Raidlight is now imported along with WAA Ultra, another innovative French brand by Rocky Mountain Ultra.

European love to sip their water from bottles with straws. I do to, especially if the flask is in a vest. Tip the head down and drink, no hands. The EazyFlask is Raidlight's first soft flask and is available in 150 ml $, 350ml, and 600ml sizes. Rocky Moutain Ultra sent us the 350 ml version.

The short straw is insulated with a thin neoprene sleeve. We particularly liked the valve flow mechanism. Instead of being on the valve subject dirty hands and clumsiness it is on the stem. Twist the stem and you can go from a strong flow to barely a trickle when sucked hard. It is not a complete shut off valve but close.  A second valve is included with the 350ml  and 600 ml sizes for those who prefer no straw and works a bit better with thicker liquids.The 150ml has the valve with no straw.The bottle, stem and valve are very easy to clean.
EazyFlask 150ml : $13.99
EazyFlask 350ml : $19.99
EazyFlask 600ml:  $24.99

EazyFlasks are available now from Rocky Mountain Ultra here.
Use discount code roadtrailrun10 for 10% off any purchase at Rocky Mountain Ultra
Plus get free shipping on all US orders!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Review Saucony Triumph ISO 3, Comparison to ISO 2: Slightly- Softer, Bouncier, Heavier, Flexible, More Comfortable

Saucony Triumph ISO 3
The Saucony Triumph ISO 3 is Saucony's premium neutral trainer. This third iteration of the Triumph ISO increases the Everun TPU heel insert size, fine tunes the ISO strap system by removing one strap, and increases flexibility by deepening the forefoot grooves. The result is a slightly softer under foot ride, noticeably more bounce off the heel, more flexibility, a more comfortable upper, and a minor 0.3 oz/8.5 g increase in weight.  Overall the ride and fit is refined and improved in smoothness but is a touch less responsive especially in the mid and forefoot. The Triumph ISO 3 is a great shoe for long easy miles in great comfort. Review of the Triumph ISO 2, my 2015 heavier duty trainer of the year here.

Stats
Men's 9: 10.5 oz /298 g; Women's 8: 9.2oz /26g
30mm/22mm, 8 mm drop
Available November 2017
$150

Upper
Saucony Triumph ISO-Left ISO 3 Right ISO 2
The upper moves from a conventional fairly stiff mesh upper with multiple solid overlays to an engineered mesh upper with fewer and more skeletal overlays at mid foot. Instead of three ISO bands there are now have two with the front band eliminated. The ISO 3 is slightly more breathable. The result is more room over the metatarsals and a bit less of a secure snug fit. Saucony sent me a half size up but I would have been fine if a bit better off at true to size.
Saucony Triumph ISO-Left ISO 3 Right ISO 2
Wider higher volume feet will be happier with the elimination of the 3d strap and its related overlays and more foot conforming, softer engineered mesh upper. Lower volume feet will have no problem finding a good fit but it will be a bit more relaxed, less snug fit than ISO 2.
Saucony Triumph ISO-Left ISO 3 Right ISO 2
The tongue is thinner, a good thing as the ISO 2 had a bulbous over padded tongue. The achilles collar is more sculpted and thinner. There is now a huge and welcome reflective band at the heel.
Saucony Triumph ISO-Left ISO 2 Right ISO 3
Midsole

The biggest change other than the upper is unseen. The Everun TPU heel insert is doubled in size from the ISO 2.  The result is a bouncier heel reminiscent for me of the adidas Energy Boost, with its own flavor or TPU midsole but more subtle here as the TPU in the Triumph is well encapsulated and doesn't rely on plastic piece to stabilize it as adidas does. As with ISO 2 there is also Everun top sole between sock liner and midsole.
Saucony Triumph ISO-Left ISO 2 Right ISO 3
There is different sculpting and design of the midsole side walls. The ISO 3 is not as stiff torsionally as ISO 2 was, again a more relaxed smoother transition being the result but maybe not quite as snappy as the ISO 2.
Saucony Triumph ISO-Left ISO 2 Right ISO 3
Outsole
The Triumph ISO 3 carries forward Saucony's excellent Tri-Flex design now found on pretty much all their shoes. The ISO 3 has wider forefoot landing rubber strips than ISO 2 with deeper flex grooves. 

The rubber up front is now slightly inset into the midsole and angled forward at the leading edge to assist toe off.  As before in ISO 2 there are 2 densities of rubber with harder rubber from heel to midfoot and at the toe with softer rubber under the forefoot.
Saucony Triumph ISO-Left ISO 2 Right ISO 3
The mid to rear of the foot outsole is narrower more carved out than ISO 2, with a deeper central carve out both contributing to a somewhat smoother if softer transition area. There is plenty of rubber for many miles of use. 

Ride and Recommendations
The Triumph ISO 3 is on the soft side but is plenty stable. The larger Everun heel insert provides a welcome, well tamed heel bounce towards transition and one more noticeable than in the ISO 2. At the transition to toe off things are not quite as snappy as ISO 2 for me, but the difference is subtle and only felt running one of each version on different feet. This slight lag in response could be due to the more substantial Everun as it extends into the mid foot and more the flexible deeper grooved forefoot, maybe in combination. The adidas Boost serious run shoes all feature some Torsion plastic in the mid foot to snap things forward and stabilize the foot. This or a shorter Everun insert might help the transition.
The new ISO Fit configuration is a distinct if a bit more relaxed improvement over the already excellent ISO 2. 
The somewhat softer more relaxed ride distances the ISO 3 from the snappier somewhat firmer Ride 9 (review here) and the firm heeled soft forefoot ride of the Zealot ISO 2 (review here) thus providing clearer choices for Saucony fans. We can't wait to see where the all Everun midsole Freedom ISO fits in (preview here).
The Triumph ISO 3 is one comfortable, capable shoe for long miles and recovery runs at slow to moderate pace. The larger Everun heel insert and upper changes are a distinct improvement over ISO 2 but the transition to toe off could use some snap. It is a great shoe for heel strikers (like me), heavier neutral runners, and anyone wanting a very durable, comfortable, well cushioned ride.

Sam's Score 4.7 out of 5
-0.15 for weight, at this point I notice weights above 10 oz and the ISO 3 gains 0.3 oz to 10.5 oz
-0.15 for somewhat sluggish and soft transition and toe off.
The Triumph ISO 3 was provided at no charge to Road Trail Run. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

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Thursday, September 08, 2016

First Thoughts. What Apple Watch Series 2, Nike+Apple Watch, and iPhone 7 May Mean for Runners

I have been updating the new run tech gallery I wrote for Competitor all month. Yesterday I listened in to the "unveiling" of the Apple Watch Series 2 and iPhone 7.  The gallery is here with an update for the Apple announcements and also includes updates for new Garmin and TomTom GPS watches, Fitbit Charge 2 and more.

The addition of GPS, a 2X brighter screen and full swim rating helps the Apple Watch join the big boys of fitness.
It's key limitation still appears to be as before,  battery life as while there was no mention in the presentation I am reading elsewhere it is likely to remain unchanged, at least in every day wear about a day or so.
Also no mention of any changes to the wrist heart rate monitoring accuracy. I found Apple Watch 1 fine in day to day wear but not as accurate or reliable when running. Testing will tell on both of these key elements.

The iPhone 7 is now dust, splash and rain proof so far better protected as we run.  I may be able to do without my zip lock bag with this model.

Of great interest is the Apple Watch Nike+. Essentially the base $369 Apple Watch with Nike band and their Nike+Run Club app pre installed. I think the screen should be decently visible in bright light .but testing will tell


For some fun below screen shots of apps leveraging the GPS capabilities. The experience is clearly far richer and more dynamic than any other fitness watch. Many more run and fitness apps sure to come

View Ranger
This hiking app gives turn by turn directions, climb progress updates, off route alerts, and descriptions along the way(where available)





Pokemon GO
Easily play the popular game as you run or maybe more likely walk.