Monday, May 11, 2015

Gear review

Now that I've actually done a competitive ride with some of this, I can more accurately speak to what I think.  None of these are sponsored reviews, all my own opinions.  If it ever does come up that anything is offered to me in exchange for a review, that will be made very clear from the outset.

Aftershokz headphones: I've never been fond of folks who have earbuds in and can't hear what's going on around them.  But.  These let you hear what's going on around you (albeit not quite as well), plus listen to music/podcasts/whatever.  I started using these for arena work, then for some training rides, and then - what the heck - if we're going to ride by ourselves at NATRC, I might as well get out of my head with some music, right?  I charged them when I first got them, and haven't charged them since.  They ran out of charge halfway through the ride.  Oops; user error.  I know better, too.  Live and learn.  I have glasses, ride with sunglasses over my glasses, wear a headband to keep my hair back, and 100% did not notice these headphones during the ride.  The length of the cord is alternatively too long (when the phone is on my hip, the cord gets under my thigh) or too short (when I have the phone in odd places to take pictures), but both are pretty mild inconveniences that are easy for me to get over.  I'm happy with them and will keep using them.

I should add: I managed to break them a week or so after the ride, but fixed with vetwrap and they're still useable.  Very impressed.

Garmin Forerunner 10 GPS watch: I switched to using this for mileage/speed/tracking at the beginning of the year because MapMyHike isn't playing nice with my iPhone and attempts to resolve the issue with customer service reps have completely and utterly failed.  I like being able to see an approximate current speed.  I wish I could see an overall speed; this watch won't let you do that until you complete the 'run'.  It does show mile split 'pace', and I can mentally track whether we're up or down our 5mph overall speed and get pretty close.  I do believe it's more accurate than MapMyHike, but I continue to import into MapMyHike because I like seeing graphs and data over time.

It's advertised as having 6-7 hours of battery life.  I think it might make it through an LD.  I wasn't able to get it charged up at the lunch stop to use for the second half of the ride, but I'm not entirely sure that wasn't user error (borrowed a different charger, suspect user error given the other device that was plugged in did not charge correctly).  I do wish it would keep recording while charging.

I think this is a good middle-of-the-line option.  I think it's a step up from the phone apps, but I will freely acknowledge it won't do everything the fancier and more expensive GPS units are capable of.  Sometimes I just want to know how fast we're going.  This gives me that.  How fast our training ride was?  This gives me that.  Down the road, I'll likely pick up something newer, shinier, and fancier, but for right now, this (generally) gets the job done with a minimum of fuss at a reasonable price range.

V-Max heart rate monitor: I picked this up after my first LD.  I don't use it reliably in training, because I know that Fetti is generally pretty honest about quitting at 140 at home.  I do use it at rides, particularly coming into vet checks.  It's often said to not ride to the heart monitor.  In general, I agree with that; however, I will admit that on the big hills, I fought with her harder when her heart rate was >140, and 'allowed' (hah!) a trot when she was closer to 120.  At rides, she doesn't quit in all the same ways she does in training, and it's incredibly useful to me to have a visual of how hard she is actually working and how fast she's coming back down.  I've had this one a year and a half, replaced various pieces for various reasons mostly related to losing them, quite happy with it.  (Yes.. this time I had the Garmin watch on the left wrist and the V-max watch on the right.)

Ariat Tioga boots:  I picked these up on sale late last July and started wearing them after Fireworks last year, so I've had them for around nine months now.  They've lasted through a not-very-wet California winter, I can hike/jog in them (slowly!), they provide ankle support.  The laces are about a foot too long, but I still haven't gotten around to replacing them.  These have made it to the nine-month mark when I usually start getting blisters; their time may be coming, but so far so good.  These are not suitable running shoes, but for the occasional hop off and jog with horse, they're not ridiculously clunky.  Comparable to Terrains, I think.  Sizing is also comparable to Terrains, so size down accordingly.  I regularly wear a 9.5 athletic shoe, my Tiogas and Terrains are both 8.5s.

Ariat Terrain II half-chaps: I got these at the same late July sale, same timeline as the Tiogas.  They continue to hold up well.  I had initial reservations about the snaps being stiff.  I still swear at one of the four snaps about half the time, and pretty soon I'm just going to chop it off.  Zippers work fine, snaps seem unnecessary.  The suede at my inner calf that goes against the horse has definitely worn some, but not unreasonably so.  End result: pretty pleased.  I'd replace them with a smaller size if one showed up at a good price, but I'm happy to keep riding and doing chores with my current ones, and don't foresee problems.

I evidently have no photos of the cantle pack on the dressage saddle.
EasyCare Deluxe Cantle Pack: After the booting fiasco at Quicksilver last year wherein I discovered I had no way to carry boots if the cables pulled out, I checked with Saiph about cantle bags and Renegade boots.  Could I fit my large Renegades in the side packs, at least one each, with room for a third in the center?  Yes, she said, yes you can.  So I ordered it, stuck it on the Specialized, and called it good.  It's not as well fitted to the Thorowgood/English saddles, I think, and feels bulkier, but it absolutely did work.  In my case, I ran the straps through the spare billet attachment ring that my saddle has. 

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