Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Adidas Evil Eye Half Rim Pro Sunglasses Review

I have been using Oakley sunglasses since 1989. Like most good things, they rock, so obviously it was a major leap of faith in order to change something that had been a part of my riding since I was a junior. In putting the Cannondale-Sugoi Factory racing team together, I was fortunate to have Ed Waterston from Cycling Sports Group (CSG – Cannondale, Sugoi, Mongoose, GT, Schwinn) in my corner as a kingpin. Ed was responsible for putting together the Adidas deal for Team Sky back when he was in the UK, and was keen for the new team to use the Adidas eyewear.

To be honest, the only thing I knew about these glasses was that a lot of my competition used them. That in itself tells you something as they are obviously appropriate for the task at hand. When Ed sorted the deal for us, I chose the Evil Eye Half Rim Pro A168 S. Fortunately, the colour we chose, “Shiny Black with Green” exactly matches the team kit so styling was sorted in a heartbeat. There is such a range of colourways that exist for this model that you would be really unlucky not to be able to find a colour that matched whatever kit you had.

OK, so out of the box, the following was delivered straight to my door the day before the XCO championships.

• Evil Eye Half Rim Pro A168s glasses with standard LST active Silver lens

• Evil Eye Half Rim Pro LST Bright Lenses

• Evil Eye half rim Pro Crystal Silver Gradient Lenses (these were a bonus set of lenses that were requested)

• Case

• Lens cleaning cloth

• Lens carry bags doubling as cleaning cloths

Out of the box, this is what arrived for me.

Ok, so about the lenses first...

The standard Light Stabilising Technology (LST) Active Silver lens have a nice silver mirror finish and are designed to absorb a fair amount of the light that comes in from the sun. They also have a rose base, which is designed to increase contrast as well as brightening things up so you can see the trail imperfections. These are perfect for sunny days.

The LST Bright Lenses also have a rose base, but do away with the mirror finish. Ultimately, they let more light in so you can see more. They still have the contrast increasing effect. These are perfect for transient condition days, or days when you want things (like rocks and roots) to pop out at you. These transmit 60% of light. The offical blurb is ---- "The LST Bright Anti-fog Lens offers Adidas Light Stabilizing Technology™ and contrast enhancement in fog and diffuse light conditions, this helps enhance your depth perception and spatial awareness for performance and safety" --- that seems about right.

The rose base tint also is designed to have a "vitalizing psychological effect" according to the marketing line. In practice, it has a nice warming affect that stimulates your mind when looking through the lenses.

The Crystal Silver gradient lens was one that I requested specifically for off road use. You know the type. It is 7 am in the morning and you are on the start line of a race that is heading into a forest in the middle of winter, and you are racing for 4 hours or so. These lenses are graded with the tint intensity fading from top to bottom and have a subtle Silver Mirror finish. These are perfect for cloudy days.
The Halfrim Pro utilises a dual lens system. That is, there are 2 lenses. These are replaced by opening a slide operated lock and releases system that takes no time at all to operate.

By closing the arm, you can move the small plastic piece (with the Adidas logo) forward to easily remove and replace the lenses.

Next up, The frame.
The glasses, frame and lenses obviously weigh in at 29 grams. That is light so your head doesn’t get fatigued. Ok, that might be a stretch, but needless to say, you won’t notice these on your face. There is a built in Sweat Blocker, which can be removed. For me, this is a godsend, as there is nothing worse than having your vision blocked by streams of sweat running down the inside of the lens.

In built sweat blocker - no more sweat down the inside of the lens. In the background you can see how the side grippers on the arms stand out from the arm.

One of the Adidas trademarked terms is ‘Climacool’ which relates to their concept of everything having open airflow therefore keeping the user cool. This is evident in their clothing and their shoes. The glasses are no different as between the lenses is a small vent which helps the air flow in and eliminate fogging.

Because everyone uses different helmets and different shaped faces, the Evil Eye Half Rim Pro has a couple of really handy adjustable features. The arms feature a three-point adjustment mechanism which allows them to rotate through roughly 9 degrees with 3 solid clicks (tri.fit) to let you know that you have selected a particular slot. This is handy because you can adjust it either to fit your helmet and face, or adjust it to suit specific conditions, such as a muddy race, where there is always annoying mud flying everywhere, but always manages to get up underneath the bottom of the lens into your eyes. No more with these glasses and this little feature! There is also a ‘Double Snap’ nosepiece that allows you to fine tune the nose to glasses interface.

side view, displaying the Tri.Fit adjustability. You can see that the arm is fully 'up'. You can move it to 'centre' as well as fully 'down' through 9 degrees of motion.
A major feature of these glasses is the ‘half rim’ concept. Essentially, the bottom of the lenses do not have any frame around them. Why is this good? Well, you increase the peripheral vision for starters. This is what allows you to scan the trail up and down with no obstructions. It also ‘feels’ lighter and more ventilated which is a bonus. If you want to read an interesting article on what a ‘lower frame’ may do to you when you are riding, check this out:

The inside of the arms have a rubber gripper which is sort of shaped in a serrated way in order to provide a lot of extra grip. This means that it stays in place and doesn’t move around. The arms are also ergonomic and fit very evenly over the helmet strap and around the side of the face above the ears.

The inside of the arms have a handy rubber gripper that sticks fast
In use.... in short, these are amazing. Now, I do need to say that I am getting these as part of a sponsorship deal and therefore it would not be in my best interests to say anything negative, however, I really, really like them and there is nothing that I dislike about them. They sit really light on the face. This is the first thing that appeals to me. The lack of a lower frame is the second thing that I really like. This just opens up my peripheral vision just allowing me to scan the trails a lot better. When I had them on with the helmet in the middle of the race, I did not even think about them: that is always a great thing. A major bonus for me, and therefore a huge selling point is the removable sweat pad. This thing just works!! I do sweat a fair bit, so having the capacity for this sweatpad to soak up all my hard earned efforts is awesome, as it stops it running down the inside of the lens compromising my vision.

 A quick piece showing the unique features of the glasses

So, the executive summary is that these glasses are great. For cyclists, these glasses are among the best. You have a lot of adjustability, they only weigh 29grams, multiple lens choices with the ability to easily swap them out based on conditions, plus they come in a multitude of colours which should allow you to shrink away, or match up super pro team style!

The other reason to consider these glasses is due to the association with mountain-biking that Adidas fosters with their Evil Eye Trail concept. These are superb trails that exist in mountain bike destinations across the world. The trails are designed to showcase what can be done to make trail riding incredibly stimulating. It is always good to support brands that support the sport!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Australian Championships - Olympic Cross Country 2013

Stromlo was once again awarded the location priviliges of hosting the 2013 Australian Mountain Bike Titles for Olympic Cross Country, Downhill and Eliminator.

Personally, I was struggling with getting a good run of riding off road. A few untimely injuries had left me really sketchy with regard to my skillset for riding well off road. The injuries had involved crashing where there shouldn't have been crashes. Both times opening up massive gashes that required stitches to fix up. That sort of stuff can knock you around a bit with regard to confidence as well as just getting enough time on the bike off road. The other injury was my tricep which was a bit more recent and had actually been torn whilst riding up the World Cup climb. In turn, it had contributed to me crashing in a handful of location on that same ride leaving me battered and bruised and seriously considering other forms of entertainment.

However, I built a bridge and got over it. You just have to. Last week I went out to Stromlo to scope out the course to be in use. I took the 26er hardtail out to see if that would be a nice little weapon on the tight and technical trails up on Stromlo. When I got out there, I realised that I couldn't ride anything properly. There was no rear brake! All it did was slide through the rotor, unable to skid the rear wheel. Good brakes are crucial on such technical terrain, so I gave up trying to pretend, rode home and got the 29er, then rode back out and did 4 laps of the course.

At this stage, the course was still really raw, and whilst I managed to ride all A lines at least once, I was inable to piece them all together on a single lap. No big deal, it would be how it would be on the day.

On Wednesday, I did a pretty solid time up Black Mountain, which as Trevor Rix says, is the only hill in Canberra to gauge your form on. The gauge said everything was pretty good.

On Thursday I went out scoped out the course, which at this stage was nicely marked out with all the bunting. The World Cup climb was in a much improved state and I managed to clear all A lines on the first go. That was vastly different to just 4 days ago. In addition, there were sections that were concreted in, such as hammerhead, which changed things up hugely.

On Thursday afternoon, I raced the local short track event out at Isaacs, and opened the pipes up a bit with some good solid efforts. To this day, I really like supporting the local racing scene, and the vibe here is pretty chilled.

Saturday morning turned out to be really interesting. It was cold for summer. It was overcast. It was humid. The trails, however, were dry and sketchy which is standard Stromlo. This was good.

When the race got going, straight from the gun I knew things were going to be ordinary. Sometimes you get a feeling in which you just feel blocked. Today was one of those days. When you get dropped going up the first 500 metres of trail, you realise that the next 90 minutes or so will be super long. At this stage, I went to plan B which was to not go too deep and just to slingshot positions once the singletrack arrived. As expected, I latched onto the end of the conga line that was struggling to negotiate the concertina affect of the singletrack and the technical sections.

Back in contact with at least a handful of riders I made sure to just limit the losses. Unfortunately, I just could not 'go'. There was a lot of effort being expended, but the fluidity and explosivensss required for good cross country racing was just not there.

The next 3 laps were just an awful affair, and I considered pulling the pin on one occasion whilst trailing way back in 2nd last position. But, that would just be a cop out, and ultimately, I would regret it later on, so I kept going. I was technically riding ok. I was able to hit my lines and get a bit of flow happening, however, it just seemed like I was riding in slow motion.

At the start of the 4th lap, I started to feel a bit better, and the flow started to come a bit as I saw a few riders up the hill and actually started to feel as though I could raise the speed a bit. Unfortunately, if you want to race XCO properly, you need to go fast at the start. 4 laps in just won't cut it. And doing negative splits really just confirms that you didn't go hard enough at the start.

In the last 2 laps I managed to claw back 5 positions. That made me feel slightly better, but it didn't take away the empty feeling of not being able to ride to your potential or expectations. The last lap is not the lap to finally 'feel' fast. Even then, it is just relative to the other laps.

I managed to finish 19th overall in a stacked Elite field. When I scanned the start list initially, there were 25 great riders in the field all of whom I respect greatly, and I honestly was hoping to not finish last. Best case scenario, I would have liked to have tried to nudge the 10th position. Today was not the day.

Even on the bad days, I will always put in what I can. The teller that it was a blocked day, was that at the end, i didn't feel like I had been run over by a truck, which is the true sign that you have raced an XCO properly. No pain at all.

Fortunately, I do know what caused me to feel blocked up and this is something I have control over for the next race. The lesson learnt has been documented and should not occur again. Even when you want to race fast and strong, it sometimes just doesn't happen. It feels worse when it is a 'once a year' race like the National Titles.

Right now, writing this will assist me to get on with my training for the next race on the calendar which is the Capital Punishment 100km race. This, I am looking forward to. The next few weekends will involve a bit of course recce for this event as it is in the Canberra region. It wil be a great opportunity to spend some good time on the mountain bike!

I would like to also acknowledge and thank all of the supporters who were out on the course screaming and yelling encouragement to me as well as all of the other riders. I truly appreciate it all and it probably contributed to me keeping going when I was having a bit of a crappy performance.

A huge thanks as always to those who support me through the good and the bad. Cannondale, Sugoi, Adidas, SRAM, Frameskin, The Cyclery, Enduro Bearings, Lonsdale St Roasters and Kylie for slinging bottles unselfishly so I didn't get thirsty!

Alright then, that's that off my chest! Dumping my thoughts into the blog is way better than paying for couch therapy!!

Railing a rocky section on the World Cup course at Stromlo - photo by Russ Baker 

Enjoying some of the track and the race. Last lap cross-up over the gully jump on the Luge Track - photo courtesy Jarrod Hughes

Monday, February 11, 2013

Rocky Trail 100 – Stromlo 10 February 2013

I had seen this race happen over the last 2 years, but it always happened to be running at times when I had other races on. I really like racing at Stromlo so it had to be added to the race list for 2013. Through summer I have been racing on Thursday afternoons at the local Short Track series and last Sunday I raced at an XCO at Sparrow Hill. On Saturday I rolled along the Bakery Bunch with Andrew Hall talking the usual crap about crap. Needless to say, in summer, there is no shortage of riding and racing opportunities.
The Rocky Trail 100 race has a few different categories for different choices that people have. 33, 66, 99 and miler options were on offer. With a track length of 25.9km though, the total course length lulled you into a false sense of reckoning that it could be easy. But, Stromlo is never easy and the organisers put together a course that had about 600m climbing per lap and no real places where you could recover or have it easy.

Will tampering with Andrew's spare bike in the background. Robyn practising her bottle slinging technique.
One good thing about this race was the 9am start time. This allowed me to have a relatively late lie in before hauling over to Stromlo. After sorting drinks etc and a basic warmup, I jumped onto the start line and got ready for the countdown. The 100 and 66km racers were lined up together, which would ensure that the start would be pretty quick. We started out on the road crit track before dropping off onto a fast downhill fireroad. 30 seconds later after a few jockeying moments, we were into the singletrack.

Start line tough guy show-off. There's only one guy flexing in this photo!
The course took in all of the standard switchback singletrack that the front side of the hill had on offer. Shaun Lewis had taken the initiative and was choosing to lead from the front through the singletrack. Following him was Kyle Ward (100), Jarrod Hughes (100), Scott Chancellor (100), Troy Herfoss, Garry Millburn (66), Anthony Shippard (66), myself (100), Jayden Ward (66), Will Bowron (66), Nathan Spencer (66), Jeremy Ross (100) and Jason Chalker (100). This order might be out by a couple but it is pretty close. It stayed this way all the way up the climb with everyone following super closely on the wheel in front of them and it wasn’t until the descent down Pork Barrel before the gaps started to appear.

The fireroad after the descent brought the first opportunity to grab a drink, but you still couldn’t afford to cruise yet. At this stage I was following Garry Millburn and Anthony Shippard through the tight twisty, rocky singletrack. Just before we hit Terminal Velocity, we came across Chancellor who had managed to cop a front flat. After Double Dissolution I saw another rider, who I thought was Jarrod Hughes, but turned out to be Troy Herfoss who had copped a rear flat. These two were wearing really similar coloured kit so it was tricky to tell whilst drifting around the off camber right hand corner.

This would have to be a berm that is a favorite with photographers at Stromlo. The braking bumps were horrendous here!
One thought I had during the week was puncture protection. Stromlo is notorious in my own personal experience of being a sidewall shredder. I don’t think there is any other place where tyre choice is so crucial. When I ride here, I like to run brand new tyres (if possible) and ones that have extra sidewall protection. Since my tricep tear, I have ridden off road properly twice, so I knew my skills might be a little shady, so I opted for the massive carcass of a Schwalbe Racing Ralph 29 x 2.25 in a snakeskin sidewall. I also chose to run it at 19psi in the rear. It weighs a ton, relative to my normal lightweight tyres, but I know that I won’t be able to flat it. The low pressure, was to enable me to get as much float and grip as possible on the rear tyre at Stromlo.

I would lose a smidgen of time here and there due to the weight, and maybe in the accumulated fatigue over the course of the 4 hours, but that came with the peace of mind that I wouldn’t waste 3 minutes at the side of the trail fixing a flat.

During the first lap down Party Line I managed to throw the chain and have it caught between the chainring and the crank. No stress. Hop off the bike, rejig the chain, then get back on. That also meant getting back on the wheels I had dropped. 30 seconds later, and I was back on the train with Garry, Anthony, Jayden and Will. I did have to keep in mind though that these guys were dong the shorter race and just to keep to my feeding strategy. First lap in, and I grabbed new bottles and gels to keep me going for the next hour and 20 minutes or so. Robyn slung me the pickups super quick and I was off on my way. During this time, Will had just shot through, Garry was gone, Jayden was slightly up the road, and I managed to get back onto Shippard’s wheel.

Climbing up the singletrack. Could be just about anywhere really.
After the first bit of singletrack, I rode off from Shippard in search of Jayden’s wheel. I could still see Will up the road so just wanted to keep the same pace as these guys doing the shorter race. I caught up to and stayed with Jayden up the climb and we could see Will up ahead every now and then. Jayden slid out on a corner, and I popped through and tried to get back some time on Will. At this time, Chancellor started to claw back some ground after his earlier flat, and came back on the Missing Link climb. He was hauling and obviously was trying his best to get back to the leading group of three. At this stage of the race, I was doing all the mental calculations to see how long the race would take, and what sort of food and drink quantities I had to get down my gob.

I had put my Garmin on with one of the screens displaying temperature. Being a natural ranga, I have my limitations in the heat and know that when certain numbers are reached when under threshold, I tend to suffer a bit. On the 2nd lap it was still only about 27 degrees, which was more than fine. For reference, on the 3rd lap I saw that it was 37 degrees. That would probably get a tennis match suspended due to excessive heat.

Heading up to Slant Six for the 2nd time, I could see Will ahead and saw Jayden walking his bike back to the start, the victim of a flat. Stromlo claims yet another tyre. Onto the road crit track and into the safety and comfort of transition I was craving the drinks I had for the 3rd lap. I grabbed a full bottle of Skratch, some caffeine gels and a full bottle of water. The water went over the head and the torso, and a little down the throat. The realisation that another lap was due became apparent. I was now alone. The 66km riders had finished their race. There were 4 guys up the road from me, at least a couple somewhere probably within striking distance behind me, another hour plus of racing to go. Head down and keep pushing through the pedals. At I crested the hill near the observatory Kylie handed me a bottle and a gel, and her and Blairy said that Kyle’s lights were out and that he was fading fast. Alright then, challenge accepted. A minute later railing a braking bumped berm my new full bottle ejected. That’s pretty rare. I think that has only occurred never! A quick grab of the brakes and run back up the hill to get the bottle, then back on the bike in hunt of Kyle. Half an hour later!! I finally came across him. He was broken by the wombat (Shaun) and was limping home. He waved me through and gave me some words of encouragement.

Right now I just buried myself to finish off the last 20 minutes or so of the race. When I got to the final descent, I let out a shout of relief. That last lap with the 37 degree temperatures had caned the hell out of me. The lack of pure mountain biking this year so far had made itself told in the lack of arm strength and added fatigue. In a positive, the tricep held up over the course of 4 hours, so that made me pretty happy that it is strong enough for the rigours of pure mountain biking that is due to come over the next few months.

Final results from the Elite 100km (which was actually 79km)
All up the race was a shade over 4 hours, with the last lap being a major blowout due to the heat catching up on me. I probably blew out 4 minutes or so due to a bit of cramping, and general fatigue. Lesson learnt for next time in the same circumstances. Maybe next time I would also run a slightly lighter rear tyre, but this has its own extra challenges, risks and stresses.

The race was pretty slow due to the technical nature and all of the climbing. Only Shaun was able to average over 20km/hr for the duration of the race.

I would go so far as to say that this race was in my hardest 5 of all time. That is a big call, but it was mainly down to the heat, the technical terrain, my personal physical condition 9coming back from injury) and possibly a few other things that made it this way. What does that mean really? Not sure. Except to say that, I really like racing in cold conditions, my arm should get better and I probably need to ride a bit more technical terrain should mean that things can only get better from here.

Race stats:

  • Distance: 79km
  • Duration: 4:04:23  
  • Average Speed: 19.15km/hr
  • Placing: 4th 
  • Gels consumed: 12
  • Electrolyte bottles consumed: 4 and a half
  • Water bottles consumed: 1 and a half

Later that afternoon, I felt pretty awful to say the least. I’m not sure if it was a combo of dehydration and sun exposure, or something dodgy that I had eaten, but all I wanted to do was have a spew! Come to think of it, that same feeling had enveloped me earlier in the race. At about 8:30pm, it was time to empty the tank. Out it came, and finally, I started feeling better. No more headaches, no more throbbing temple, no more hot\cold sweating. #serenitynow.

All in all, this is mountain biking.

A tough course.

A full day out.

Good people.

Good times.

Great/interesting life experiences.

I’ve also got to mention that this is the first Rocky Trail event that I have ever been to. I came away really impressed with how friendly and easy going Martin, Juliane, and their crew of helpers were. This gave the event such a good vibe across all levels.

A big thanks to:

• Robyn and Kylie for feeding me at the bottom and the top of the mountain. No way I can do this stuff by myself. These guys are the best.

• Andrew Hall for pre race banter and crap talk

• Superb guys who look after my cycling needs.....Cannondale Australia, Sugoi, Frameskin, Enduro Bearings and The Cyclery – all making the times on the bike easier.