The Salomon Comet 3D Lady GTX are a lightweight hiking boot designed with stability and support in mind. With a high-cut profile around the ankle, a protective rubber toe cap and gore-tex layer for waterproofing, they protect you from the ground and the elements. They are tested by and for women – with a specific last, collar shape and sole hardness based on women’s input.
I have been sent a pair courtesy of Snow+Rock to try out, and I have really enjoyed stomping about in them over the last couple of months.
The first thing to say about these is that they were immediately comfortable. They felt light on my feet and the positioning of the laces meant I got an excellent fit without any difficulty. That “from the box” comfort is down to this boot being fairly soft in construction – a mostly fabric upper with nubuck leather overlays and a flexible sole so you can walk naturally from the first step. This may of course mean that they are not as robust or give less protection than some other similarly priced boots, but you always need to spend time breaking in an all-leather boot, and stiffer soles would mean you feel the ground under your feet a lot less, so I would much rather go for something like these Salomons.
The waterproofing comes from a Gore-tex layer. Some people find the GTX layer mean your feet can’t breathe as well, but I haven’t found that with these; I think it’s the breathable layered upper that means my feet are very comfortable even after wearing these for several hours at a time – although it’s always nice to remove your boots at the end of a long day on your feet. And thanks to the recent weather I can confirm that these are definitely waterproof…!
Underneath I appreciated the well designed lugs which gave excellent grip. The soft sole meant I did have to walk a bit carefully on rocky ground, but on the paths and meadow-type-terrain I generally walk these gave me a good stable stride and I was able to forget about what was on my feet and enjoy the walking and the views.
What these Salomons provide is a nice looking waterproof hiking boot that is comfortable straight from the box. For the kind of walking I enjoy – countryside trails, muddy paths, hills, and a bit of gravel and tarmac thrown in, 4-10 miles at a time, these are ideal. I would also be more than happy to rely on these for a peak or two (or three!).
Find them on the Snow+Rock website for £140.
I mentioned in my post about my dream motorcycling holiday that I need to get myself fitter and stonger over the next year if I am to enjoy it as much as I want to. One way I am doing that is by running – well, jogging – again. I used to run quite a lot, I’ve completed a good number of 10k road races; but once I realised it had become a chore I put my running shoes away for a while and changed to other things. I know running works for me – it’s a great way to get outdoors and it soon ups my fitness level.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been getting back into it. I’m not at any great distance yet – this we’ve I’ve managed two 2.65 mile runs (and I was quite proud of myself for those!) – but this is me starting again having not run regularly for a long time, and not at all for months.
This has all been helped thanks to being sent a pair of trainers to review by SportsShoes.com. In fact I was allowed to choose. Which took a while. There are so many to choose from! So I started with the wet foot test…
To find out what type of runner you are you just need to do the simple wet test, and for this all you need is a bowl of water, a dark piece of paper (a brown or manila envelope is ideal) and your feet. Just dip the sole of your foot into the water, shake off any excess, then press your foot onto the paper/envelope as if you were walking over it. Match the imprint left behind to the symbols to find out what type of runner you are.
It was a bit of an odd thing to do (and it doesn’t replace proper gait analysis, which I have had done before) but according to my footprint I’m a mild to moderate overpronator which means my arch collapses through the gait cycle and my foot rolls inwards. Apparently this is completely normal (phew!) – 60-80% of runners overpronate. I therefore need a running shoe offering support features inside the shoe. Thankfully the trainers on SportsShoes.com are all categorised into the different types so I could simply select this type of shoe and it narrowed my selection to those which would be most appropriate for me.
After considering various brands and styles and colours I decided on a pair of black runners – the Brooks Lady Adrenaline GTS 13 running shoes – I’ve not got any black trainers and I quite like the idea of being a bit understated on my feet for a change.
The bit that makes these trainers good for the overpronator is the PDRB – a triple-density post on the medial side of the shoe for extra support and allow for progressive pronation control and to create a smoother transition through the stride. They also have excellent cushioning via the BIOMOGO midsole, reducing shock and providing a smooth take off and landing, which is ideal for running on concrete and tarmac which is less than forgiving. They’re flexible too, thanks to Omega Flex Grooves, and grippy thanks to the Omni Grooves in the forefoot. Basically these shoes offer support, cushioning, grip and spring.
One really nice touch on these trainers I’ve not come across before is the extra little bit for your laces to go through on the tongue. You can see it on the right of the photo below (problem with black trainers is it’s difficult to show all the detail nicely!) – it acts to stop the tongue from slipping round to the side while you run. It’s a really simple addition but it works a treat, these trainers stay put, the laces do their job, and they are as comfortable at the end of a run as at the beginning.
I chose my usual shoe size for these trainers and they fit a treat. When I first put them on I really noticed the support inside – they hold my feet snuggly and have a bit under the arch which stops my foot collapsing as I jog. I say I noticed it to start with as after wearing these trainers for a few miles I now don’t notice it in the same way. Rather I notice when I put on my other trainers on that they don’t have the same level of support, and I miss it – even though my old runners were designed for overpronation, they’re now old and could probably do with being shown the bin. That simple wet foot resulted in trainers that offer me a very smooth ride.
The mesh sections of these trainers are designed to help the shoe fit well on your feet as well as to keep your feet cool. So far I’ve only been jogging in very low temperatures (stupid weather), but I must say that I can really feel the air moving around and through the shoe, keeping my feet happy while jogging.
I’m very pleased with my choice. These trainers are comfortable, offer decent support and cushioning, and I think they look great. I might have only done relatively short distances in them so far but I hope to build that up over the next couple of months as I get fitter, and I have no doubt that these trainers will help me do that.
This is The North Face’s Women’s GTD Long Sleeved Shirt. It is a lightweight running top designed for comfort and protection. Mad from synthetic microfibre fabric it offers UV protection and promotes wicking to keep you cool and dry.
I have been using mine for a spot of jogging over the last couple of weeks and also some walking, and I have to say it is indeed very comfortable. Long sleeves are a necessity at the moment and this top can be layered up on very cold days or worn on its own to keep you at just the right running temperature. I’ve already used it a lot – it also makes an ideal layer under my motorcycle gear.
I wanted to show you a picture of me wearing the top – it really does fit well and looks great (I think so anyway!) – but I look particularly awful in all of the shots and the top is in the wash (again) now so I’m not posting them here. Sorry.
The lady who sent me this top to review said it’s her favourite top at the moment, and I can see why. The shape is flattering, it is a lovely colour – much more interesting than boring black, it has reflective bits and bobs which helps keep you visible, and is made from a comfortable fabric that has good technical specification.
The only problem I have is that it keeps catching when I wash it. It has loads of little pulls and nicks in it now, which is quite disappointing. I suspect this is totally down to my washing machine rather than the top as everything made from this kind of material (including all my thermals) seems to come out with a catch or two. Such a shame as it now looks far less than perfect; I should learn my lesson and hand wash this kind of thing. Ho hum.
Anyway, that aside, I really love the Women’s GTD Long Sleeved Shirt. I’m no long distance running but it matches the claims The North Face make on the website as far as I can tell, and does its job very well. I evem enjoy putting it on and getting out for a little jog! It comes with a big recommendation from me. I shall have to treat myself to another one.
LincsGeek and I have been talking about, dreaming about, going on a motorcycle tour of the west of the USA for years. Years and years. Probably about ten years. Maybe more.
We have always joked that we probably wouldn’t actually get around to going until we both retired, by which time we would be very old and frail to fly over to America to sit on a motorbike for two weeks riding 200-300 miles a day.
But last year we decided that we were just going to go for it. So we started to research our ideas thoroughly, and when we went to Motorcycle Live at the NEC in November we made a point of speaking to a number of tour operators that offered the kind of thing we were after. We decided on the summer of 2014, decided which company and which tour, and then waited patiently for the dates to be released so we could go ahead and book.
On Friday we got the email we’d been waiting for. The tour dates for 2014. Yay!
So, in June 2014 we will be jetting off to Los Angeles with The Lost Adventure to meet our Eagle Rider tour guide and group before we spend 16 days riding Harley Davidson motorbikes through the South West of America. We will see the Grand Canyon, Bruce Canyon, Monument Valley, Death Valley, Yosemite, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and San Francisco. We will ride Route 66 and Highway 1, and cover 2,000+ miles of straight and winding American roads.
I am so excited!
Before we booked our trip we had to decide which bikes we would like to ride. This is an Eagle Rider tour and so we had the choice of quite a wide range of bikes, but we both decided we should do it properly and choose an American Harley Davidson over a British Triumph or a German BMW. On Saturday our local Harley Davidson dealer – the guys who had loaned me that Sportster Nightster for our Top Down Charity ride back in 2009 – had an open house event which couldn’t have been better timed. LincsGeek had already chatted with Tim Orr from The Lost Adventure who had made some recommendations, so off we went to Lincoln Harley Davidson to sit on some and make our choice.
With a Sportster 1200 being out of the question thanks to its teeny fuel tank (finding a fuel station every 100 miles on a trip like this would really annoy the rest of the group!) I had a sit on the Fat Boy and the Heritage Softail Classic, the two smallest and lightest bigger Harleys available on the Eagle Rider inventory. But of course small and light they are not; 330kg is rather more than the less-than 200kg I am used to.
We had our free hog roast (most welcome!) and then set to choosing the right bike for each of us. I started with the Heritage Softail Classic. I could reach the floor, I could stand the bike up, but I could not reach the side stand to kick it out and put the bike back down again. Oh dear. I could ride the bike for sure, but it is big and fat and even with a 690mm seat height I am still only on the balls of my feet so I’m not sure I could scoot that thing back into a parking space. Not a chance. Moving on!
Next was the Fat Boy. Actually the same frame and tank as the Heritage Softail, it is the same weight and size but without the touring screen and some of the other bits and bobs. The biggest difference I noticed when getting on it was the seat was more scooped, it was narrower, and so I had a much better footing on the ground. Still huge and very heavy, but better. Unfortunately it seems that wasn’t the standard seat, though. Shame! But of the two bikes I preferred it, so that is the one I have gone with. It is a lovely looking machine, and I simply cannot wait to get to LA and take it for a spin.
Incidentally, LincsGeek thought he’d decided on the Road King before he sat on the Heritage Softail Classic – the Road King is simply enormous, and while the Softail is still a big bike he felt much more comfortable on it. So he’s chosen that one.
I know for a fact that if I am going to have the time of my life then I am going to have to be able to manoeuvre the Fat Boy around. I have 14 months to get much, much stronger. I’ve started running again. And I should get to the gym too. This is one adventure I’m going to have to put a lot of effort into to make sure I get the most out of it.
I have another motorcycling adventure planned for this year… The Graham Homes Memorial Ride will be raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support and Cancer Research UK. Please support us if you can.
I have never been a girly girl. I don’t remember ever doing the pink thing. My mum can probably confirm or un-confirm this, but I’m sure that I have always much preferred green or blue or brown or black to pink, and have always preferred getting out and about than painting my nails or wearing dresses. It’s just not my thing; I always prefer a different option.
So when I opened my latest shoe box from Hi-Tec my first thought was… wow… they’re pink. So pink. So very pink.
These are the Hi-Tec Sierra Lite Original, a lightweight suede and mesh walking boot.
Colour aside, they have a great retro walking boot look to them, and are indeed very light. The suede and mesh upper is thin in most places, but they have a padded collar around the ankle for support and comfort. There is a removable sockliner for cushioning and a (bright white) rubber outsole for grip.
And did I mention that they are bright pink?
Hey, I’m up for pushing my fashion boundaries because let’s face it I’ve never actually been fashionable. So I got them on my feet, laced the bright white laces up, and went for a short walk with my sister.
My first impressions were actually very good. Our chosen route was four miles up a steep grassy path onto the ridge close to my house, along the muddy Viking Way, and back down the hill on a tarmac pavement. The mud meant the soles are not so white and the upper is not so pink any more, but they gave me good support and kept my feet dry in the squelchy conditions.
I want to give a specific mention to the laces. Strange, I know. But I found the laces on these boots were a) plenty long enough to tie in a double bow – something that is often not the case and then really annoys me, and b) sat really well on the boot giving me a good and secure fit. The eyelets are in exactly the right place – I had total control over how tight the boot was over the top of my foot and around my ankle, without one being dictated by the other.
Since that first walk I’ve worn them a fair bit around and about, including one Friday when I wore them to walk home from work. I actually ended up walking over seven miles that afternoon, mostly on pavement, and I found them very comfortable for that. I did have a problem with the rubber outsole, though… when it’s damp underfoot that sole turns any metal and even cobble stones into an ice skating rink. I had a few dodgy moments when stepping on manhole covers and nearly ended up on my backside when I stood on a metal strip embedded into the paving slabs – eek! It’s strange because on the grass, gravel and muddy footpaths I was provided with steady grip. Just be careful when walking on normal pavements in the rain…!
I don’t think Hi-Tec have designed the Sierra Lite for long distance treks across peaks or full day hikes on all terrains – they haven’t got the cushioning or support needed for that. What they are is a walking boot absolutely ideal for low level trails and rough ground over short to mid-distances. Think walking the dog across fields, Sunday afternoon walks in country parks and nature reserves, long strolls along coastal paths, that sort of thing. The price certainly reflects that – £49.99 is a perfectly reasonable amount to spend on a pair of decent walking boots for general outdoor use.
If I am totally honest I would never have chosen these for myself – colour aside, I would generally go for something with additional support and more cushioning. But I will say that I do like them. I like the retro-esque styling (they also come in a beige colour!), and they fit really nicely and are comfortable. I’ve even grown to like the pink. A bit.
We fancied a different kind of skiing holiday this year. It took us months to decide where to go. We’ve been to Arinsal in Andorra for a couple of years and thoroughly enjoyed it, but we have really outgrown the slopes and felt it was time to move on. With only a week of annual leave left the USA or Canada was not really feasible in our opinion, and places in the Alps can be so very expensive and incredibly busy. We wanted something fairly quiet, where we could ski nice blue and red runs, improve our skiing but not be pressured by busy crowds.
We eventually settled on Ruka in Finland for a week in January. We booked through Crystal Ski at Thomson, who have had all our ski holiday business so far; we find them very professional and approachable as a company. I still like to go into a Travel Agent to book a holiday package – something about it gives me confidence in what I am booking along with physical tickets and all the information I could need. They are really friendly in the Thomson branch in Lincoln and it’s a joy to go in there and discuss our next holiday destination… Obviously I spend many hours researching holidays online too. I actually found the online price was a little cheaper than the quote I received in the branch, so I simply asked them to match it; they naturally obliged.
The Sunday afternoon flight was around three hours from Gatwick into Kuusamo airport. They know how to deal with snow over there… good job really – the runway was covered and the roads, well LincsGeek and I couldn’t always tell where the roads were and where the verge was! The transfer was just 30 minutes by coach – absolute bliss compared to the four hour coach transfer from Toulouse to Arinsal in Andorra!!
Ruka promised to be a different kind of skiing holiday. Located within Finnish Lapland it is something like 20 miles south of the Arctic Circle and around 25 miles from the Russian Border. A quiet but well used purpose built resort with a range of hotels, apartments and restaurants, the village centre is right at the bottom of the main (front) slope. It’s small but has just about everything you need – a mini supermarket, a couple of pizza takeaways, a couple of fast food chains, and a good handful of restaurants serving a wide variety of food. Most of the village is pedestrianised too. And it is all covered in a lot of snow.
You know somewhere is going to be cold when the travel brochure warns you of the temperatures. I mean, this is a ski resort, it is going to be cold. But we’re talking Lapland here. Average temperatures at the time of year we went are -14 in the middle of the day. While we were there we had -22 on the Wednesday lunch time and it dropped to -28 on the evening we went on the Skidoo ride. Wow. Cold. Seriously, take lots (and lots) of layers, and make sure you have ski glove liners and fantastic socks!
The main thing about this part of the world was simply how beautiful it was. So much snow. So much ice. Everything was covered. The trees bowed under the weight of all the snow piled up on the branches. We were told that on the Friday night there had been something like 50cm snow fall overnight in some places – 20cm on the main slopes – which gave us the opportunity to practice our skiing in beautiful fresh powder. (For the record neither of us has experienced powder like that before; we had no idea what we were doing!!)
Skiing (and boarding) wise you have quite a large area to explore, with a good mix of blue and red runs and a few blacks too. There’s a good sized ski school with its own green slopes, and a couple of ski hire shops to get you kitted up. We used the Piste Rental Shop as this is the one Crystal use – we’d prebooked our ski hire when we booked the holiday. It seemed to be the busier of the ones in the village, but there was no wait when we went to get our skis. LincsGeek has his own boots so he just needed skis and poles, whereas I needed boot as well, but I was looked after by a great bloke who got me set up in no time. I always struggle with ski boots; my large legs mean I have a problem with certain boots as they don’t do up at the bottom of my calf. This wasn’t an issue thankfully as after failing with one pair of boots the guy in the hire shop could see the problem (“my legs are too fat” doesn’t always translate well) and without embarrassing me swapped my boots over and I was on my way. We were both told that we could go back and swap our equipment any time if we wanted or needed too, which was a good thing to know.
Slopes and Lifts
From Ruka Village you have the choice of two chair lifts – A and B – that are your doorway to the slopes. You can explore the whole resort by using a variety of chair, t-bar and button (platter) lifts. I don’t think we are unusual in that we really hate t-bar and button lifts, we will go out of our way to avoid them if at all possible, and thankfully the slope map showed a good number of chair lifts that meant we had plenty of kilometres of runs open to us. Unfortunately on the Tuesday the main chair lift – lift N – was closed for maintenance so we had to use a t-bar and a button to make our way back to the main slopes. We did it… but didn’t like it! The six man Ruka Express lift is a bubble lift and so has the canopy that comes down over you to keep you warm (well, warmer!) whilst sat still. The bubble means it closes when it’s windy, which it was for another couple of days, but by then we had worked out other routes around and only rarely had to use the dreaded t-bars! A good tip is to check the slope information on Ruka.fl each morning (also displayed on various screens around the Village) as they update it with any run/lift closures.
Once up on the slopes you are in amongst absolutely beautiful tree lined runs and the most amazing snow-covered vistas I’ve ever seen. No runs are very long, but they are really lovely, some are wide, others are narrower and take you into the forest areas. There’s also lots of off piste to explore, although we’re not quite ready for that yet! The slopes you can see from the Village are all red and black, the reds being perfectly skiable for an intermediate skier (even in the very strong winds we had a couple of days); but to help beginners there is a new green run that winds down the side of the hill to bring anyone less confident back into the Village. LincsGeek and I mainly stuck with the blues (the blues were very gentle, definitely on the green side of blue) and nice reds (a good mix of a little tricky and just fast), although we did both attempt a short black on the front slope which was a little scary!! I think it’s fair to say I’m stuck in the skiing rut that many people say is difficult to progress beyond – but I’m happy with my current limits at the moment.
Our favourite runs were probably the longish blue down to Vuosseli via the narrow Rosa and Rudolf run through the trees (past the reindeer pen), red run 13 at Saarua which is fairly short but allows for some decent speed, and red runs 1, 2 and 3 on the front slope which are actually all the same as they cross/weave/merge. Blue run 30 is a nice way to get across to Masto, although the day we went up to Masto peak was so windy I was pushed back up the hill!
Apart from skiing tree lined runs there is a super pipe and several park areas, a mogul run, and the biggest jumps I’ve ever seen in real life. Needless to say we aren’t quite at the point of flinging ourselves into the air (on purpose!) yet but it was great to watch others attempt and conquer those things. There is also a FIS run down the front slope and it was brilliant to watch a team – Russian – training on that. So fast! Oh and there are two ski jumps too, leading down into Ruka Ski Stadium, but neither were in use while we were there.
The slope maps, as always, are not that easy to follow; the lines on the map don’t translate well to reality, but you can generally see the bottom of the run from the top so it’s not easy to get lost. Quite a lot of the time during our week there we had lifts, runs and vistas to ourselves, other times we shared with just a handful of people. It was bliss! It did get busier at the weekend but everyone spreads out and I don’t remember queueing for a lift once.
But a Ruka holiday isn’t just a ski holiday. It’s also a place to enjoy traditional winter activities and excursions. There are miles and miles of cross country skiing trails and skidoo runs, and a plethora of other winter sports to take part in such a snow shoeing, ice skating, ice karting and so on. We pre-booked two activities for our week away; a night time Skidoo ride and an afternoon at a Husky Farm including a 5km ride on a Husky sled. Both activities were done through Crystal with the local Sufari Shop, and we were really impressed with the organisation and our guides were fabulous. I’ll dedicate a separate post to the excursions soon but I’ll just say here that if you go to Ruka you absolutely have to experience both the Husky sled and a Skidoo – both were absolutely fantastic experiences.
Ruka Suites Apartment
Accommodation wise we chose the Ruka Suites and were put in 37A and we were really impressed. It was a really lovely, well-appointed apartment in the same block as the supermarket so we didn’t have to go outside to get anything we needed. Behind our front door, which used a code entry system so we didn’t need to carry a key or key card around with us (a good idea when skiing!), we had a lounge/kitchen/dining area, two bedrooms – one double and one with bunks, a shower room and sauna, a loo, and plenty of storage space. The brochure said it would sleep four to six (four in beds, two on the sofa), and we reckon it would sleep four adults in comfort (the bunks were full sized). It was very clean and the furniture was all traditional Finnish design – straight lines, very practical. The kitchen area comprised a hob, fridge, microwave and dishwasher, along with crockery and cutlery etc; not very big but it was fine for us and we could have cooked a selection of evening meals should we have decided to! The apartment block had ski lockers so you didn’t have to lug skis and boards up into the rooms, and there was a drying cupboard in our apartment so we could get our kit (most importantly, our boots) dried out each evening. Being a Finnish apartment we had a sauna which was a real luxury, and there was a balcony although to be frank we only used this to look at the thermometer which was attached to the wall! Technology wise we had a television and DVD player in the lounge area which showed a number of English speaking channels, and there was wired broadband which we magically turned into wireless courtesy of our Airport Express which we took with us. It was a very relaxing place to spend the week as we did not have to please anyone but ourselves.
Food and Drink
We did this holiday self-catering as when we worked out pricing we decided it wasn’t worth upgrading to the next level, and while we had lots of plans to cook meals ourselves to keep the cost down what actually happened was we ate out every day! We had ordered the grocery pack for our arrival, which was a good call as when we arrived at just after 9pm the shop was closed and the restaurants were winding down for the evening – it contained bread, milk, cheese, ham, jam, cereal, biscuits, tea, coffee and juice and kept us going for breakfasts and some lunches. We used the supermarket to get snacks and drinks throughout the week, just buying what we fancied at the time – mostly chocolate and jelly sweets.
Eating out in the evening was mainly done in the Colorado Bar and Restaurant. We were going to try all the restaurants in the Village but actually kept going back to the Colorado because the setting, food and service was very good. The menu was traditional American food – ribs, burgers, steaks – with a Finnish twist in places. The first night we were a little concerned as we seemed to be the only people in there, but it did get busier as the week went on (although we never waited for a table). It wasn’t cheap (nowhere was cheap, this is Finland, and it’s Euros), but we ate very well and the food was worth the money we paid. Ruka Village can obviously cater for many more people than were there that week, it was pretty quiet, I’m not sure how busy it gets in the Finnish school holidays.
We also ate in the Rukahovi which was nice but the setting wasn’t as comfortable, and we had the lunch time soup buffet in the Piste Restaurant two or three times which was really nice – all you can eat soup and bread is just what you need when it’s -22 outside! We tried the Kotipizza takeaway on the night of our Skidoo excursion as we wanted something quickly – our pizzas were made and cooked to order in a few minutes and were very enjoyable. The food at the Hillside Family Restaurant (at the bottom of the Vuosseli slopes) wasn’t brilliant to be honest. When we needed to warm up we tended to go into the Piste Bar for a hot chocolate, which was very chocolaty and so good.
Splodz Blogz Verdict
The one question we have been asked over and over again is – would you go back? And the answer is very easy. Yes. We definitely would. We would love to. We had a fantastic week, loved the surroundings, enjoyed the skiing, were able to relax and rest (which is not always easy on a ski holiday!), found the excursions loads of fun, and liked Ruka Village itself. It would be a really nice place to ski with a group of family and friends where everyone’s level of skiing is different. You could enjoy a lovely holiday in Ruka without even putting a ski on which makes its appeal even wider.
No doubt the place will get busier as more of us Brits find out about it and more than one plane a week flies into Kuusamo, but we’re told that it hardly ever gets really busy and there are very rarely queues for the lifts. We are so glad we discovered Ruka.
A polite reminder that photography is all my own (or LincsGeek’s) work and therefore we own all copyright associated with it. If you would like to use any of my photographs please contact me first.