Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Captain Bluetooth's Week in Running: First Impressions Reviews-Salomon S-Lab Wings,Altra Impulse, Ultraspire Lumen 600 "lighted" waist belt, Pearl Izumi

Well the Captain had a fine week in running helped along by spectacular early fall New England weather. As Mrs. Bluetooth and I are preparing for the Mount Desert Half Marathon in October we went for a 10 mile run Saturday along the coast.  With my newly received UltraSpire Velocity pack and Lumen 600 light belt along with Salomon S-Lab Wings trail shoe I was clearly over equipped and strangely shod for road work but got to test!

Salomon S-Lab Wings
S-Lab Wings
At 9.8oz with a 28mm heel, 19mm toe stack with an incredibly supportive upper and a stable firmer platform I am particularly liking the S-Lab Wings trail performance, where it belongs! A lot of shoe for the relatively low weight, finally from Salomon. I have run fairly technical trails in the S-Lab Wings on my usual test route and they have outperformed all the other shoes I have run there this year in terms of overall stability while remaining decently agile and well if firmly cushioned. The S-Lab uppers with their stretch mid foot Endo-Fit inner support sleeve and snug race fit inspire confidence on the trail.  This said those with wide feet may find it Wings a bit too snug, but not me as the intended purpose is fast running over technical terrain.
S-Lab Wings

Designed for the roughest trails and technical terrain I am finding that the Wings will accomplish this mission  Well cushioned they are somewhat firm and blocky feeling in the heel yet still run very well on the road as I found out on our ten miler, none of that heavy duty trail shoe stiffness and harshness. The 9 mm heel toe drop is noticeable due to a combination of the firmness and extra foam on the medial side for a touch of pronation support. A touch softer midsole might improve this fine shoe. Beautifully crafted, light, versatile, and I expect very durable, the S-Lab Wings comes at a steep price of $180.  Likely you really get what you pay for. A finalist for my Trail Shoe of the Year.

Altra Impulse
Altra Impulse

Altra Impulse

The Altra Running Impulse a  8.6 oz 17mm heel/17mm forefoot ($120) Zero Drop shoe has been a very pleasant surprise for me. Designed as a light pronation support shoe using an innovative Varus wedge, I am finding the forefoot stability, contact, and non sloppy yet wide foot shaped toe box outstanding. The asymmetrical lacing likely has a lot to do with the great fit. The heel is quite firm due to the low 17mm heel height. The faster you go the less you notice the heel firmness. Impulse is a very fast, responsive shoe with great forefoot feel and cushioning and as I said a firm but not harsh heel. As I have done with other Altra road shoes, but not trail shoes such as the Lone Peak 2.5 where I find Zero Drop well suited for varied terrain, I  put a 5-7mm thick, 2" long piece of old sock liner under the supplied sock liner as my "Training (w)heels". I miss the heel on the roads, problem solved.

Update: Full review of the Impulse here

Altra Impulse
Pearl Izumi
Mrs. Bluetooth and I are testing some Pearl Izumi apparel: Endurance Fly Shorts with a great no bounce iPhone 6 size pocket, The Flash 3/4 tight here, and the Flash Run Pants.  Pearl Izumi run apparel for fall has bright contrast neon stripes front and back as well reflective elements to help keep you visible on the road. All very comfortable and breathable.
Pearl Izumi 3/4 Flash Tight
Ultraspire Lumen 600

Ultraspire's Lumen 600 (available October 2015 $179) was one of my top illumination and run safety picks of Summer 2015 Outdoor Retailer. This incredibly bright 600 lumen max USB rechargeable waist mounted system puts the light ahead of your feet, where you need it, casting shadows over obstacles, while also helping prevent the tunnel vision effects of headlamps. 600 lumens is 3-4x the illumination of most running head lamps.
It has an up to 8 hour battery life with the battery replaceable if more time is needed and has a water resistance rating of IPX 7 so good to go in rain and snow. The belt is high visibility and reflective and has 2 pockets including one that will fit an iPhone 6 in rugged case, so even when you don't need light it doubles, as a nice race or light carry belt and can be adapted using Ultraspire MBS system to include hydration bottles.

Ultraspire Lumen 600

Lumen 600 with iPhone 6 in rugged case in pocket

Ultraspire Lumen 600

Crafted of aircraft grade aluminum the light rotates up or down 90 degrees to get the beam close or further out from your feet and is easily removable to function as flashlight.  
Ultraspire Lumen 600

Very bright right down where it matters.

While on a short night road test run I was amazed at the clarity of the path ahead but did notice that the light bounced more than a headlamp beam. This did not appear to be an issue on the road as the actual path in the center was always clearly illuminated. We will be sending the Lumen 600 for technical trail testing in Colorado along with last week's Pelican 2780 with its downcast second lamp also intended to get the light down right in front of path of travel. The Lumen in also available in a still very bright 170 lumen version... the Lumen 170 at $99 with a max 6 hour battery life from alkaline. 

See last week's Captain Bluetooth coverage of the Ambit3 Run GPS watch and Pelican 2780 headlamp here

The Salomon S-Lab Wings was a personal purchase at a discount from retail. All other products mentioned were provided at no charge to RoadTrailRun. The opinions herein are entirely our own. Road Trail Run is an affiliate of the merchants below and as such receives commissions on products sold.

The S-Lab Wings is available from Running Warehouse here. Purchases help support RoadTrailRun


Jeff Valliere said...

Great info.

Pearlizumi: I love their new(er) pocket system offered in several of their shorts and tights. You can load them down will gels, gloves, wind shell, phone and whatever else you can fit and there is essentially no bounce, even at full speed down technical descents. This style has become a must for me, I now have 7 or 8 pairs with these pockets (including tights).

S Lab Wings: now you make me wish that I had chose those instead of the S Lab Ultra SG. I like the SG, but have found that after only ~20 miles on rocky, technical terrain, the tread is already starting to chunk off. I don't know if this is common or not, or just a fluke, but I would be really disappointed if I had dropped full price on these. Since they were free, I'll not worry about it obviously, but perhaps the XT Wings is a bit more durable?

Lumen 600: I am really eager to check this out, not just for the light, but also for some of the other features you mention. It will be tough for me to send this one back! ;)

Andrew said...

You should try out some headlamps that orienteering runners use, which would be much better suited to trails (or off trail in the woods) than your recent test lights. Key characteristics are:
- 1200+ measured/actual lumens on high, so you can run it on 50% at about 600 lumens most of the time for about 3 hours on a 2x18650 Li-ion battery pack, and bump it up to 1200+ lumens when needed (lasts about 1.5 hours when battery pack is new). You might be surprised at how inadequate 600 lumens is on a trail, especially when the ground is wet.
- Broad, totally smooth beam pattern that has a broad, bright middle that is aimed up the trail (a long way, with a wide spill that lights up the ground right in front of you and provides a lot of light on the sides to eliminate tunnel vision. This is the part of the beam you would use to read a map when orienteering - it won't be too bright even at full blast. Trail/off trail use needs a broad beam so you can orientate yourself, route find, and see eyeshine from potentially dangerous animals like bears and moose.
- Proper location is on your head, preferably elevated higher on the forehead. Like you have found, the waist is too bouncy. The shadows cast by low mounting may see beneficial when you don't have adequate lumens, but it is actually distracting. With enough light, and having the light a bit high on the forehead, you don't get the flat light issues.

Here is a recent discussion:


I'm the one that recommended the Gemini Duo. Most others agree that that double Cree XML2 lights are the best format for the money.

Sam Winebaum said...

Andrew thanks for your comment and info. Very helpful to get more options in the mix. Jeff who chimed in above is going to test the 2 lamps we have (Pelican 2780 and Ultraspire) plus a Petzl Nao or RXP in Colorado. He runs technical trails at night. I am in NH right now so most of my night running is road so the belt is a good choice as much of the need is for safety. Come winter I will nordic ski and also run wide packed snow trails where not much light is needed and far out view is best for nordic. I can well remember not 8 years ago the barely 100 lumen lights and what that was like! For trail running I usually ended up with a headlamp and a tactical flashlight, so the belt is appealing for trail based running and the road.
Would you be willing to send some thoughts on the Gemini for the light round up and review to come? Your perspective would be much appreciated. Thanks!