Thursday, July 24, 2014

XX2i France 2 polarized sunglasses

I am a big proponent of wearing eye protection when needed, that includes riding.  The few times I have ridden without something over my eyes I always seem to end up with something I don't want in them!  I have been wearing either glasses or contacts since I was 10 years old, so I am accustom to something sitting on my face and in front of my eyes.  I also know some people HATE things on their face, so your choice.

I also am light sensitive; meaning I always seem to be squinting in daylight.  If you have ever been on a long road trip, driven or ridden into the rising or setting sun, or just been outside for an extended period of time on a sunny day you know the tension headaches you can get from squinting the whole time.  I especially despise it when squinting with a headache in Chicago traffic when I do drive....still don't understand it.

I have used everything from the cheapo gas station grabs when I am on the road and left my sunglasses at home, to my Oakley Antix with the Iridium polarized lens, and everything in between.  My Oakley Antix have seen better days and the lens is pretty messed up.  There are scratches, chips, and missing the outer film.  While this doesn't destroy the lens in it's entirety, it does cause cloudy viewing.  When I looked at the cost to replace the lens I was unpleasantly surprised, usually over $100 for the Oakley brand lens, cheaper if I wanted something that may or may not work.

In steps XX2i.

I subscribed to their email list and around rolls a 50% deal on any order, so I start poking around their site.  I am all about the obnoxious so the screaming orange really appealed to me.  I also wanted polarized lenses, they had both.  I wasn't a fan of the France 1 or the USA 1, but I wasn't sure about the France 2 either.  Reason being is I "suffer" from something called cranium enormous, meaning I have a big head.  Any childhood nickname revolved around my head size, buying hats was a joke because most fitted caps don't fit unless it is an 8".  I liked my Antix because they looked normal on my head despite their larger frame, so I was worried about the France 2s looking like I was wearing a pair of Harry Potter's childhood glasses.  Thankfully that was not the case.

The color is very subdued online, but that is OK because I prefer the "SEE ME" flair to it.

The company is based in Cali and the glasses are made overseas.  When I placed my order I was very excited to be getting some glasses since at this point I couldn't wear my Oakleys unless it was super sunny out, otherwise the damaged lens screwed up my vision.  I was originally given a date of a few days to ship, which turn into a few weeks overall.  I did email them but their communication was slow and the emails were usually short and rather unfriendly reading.  They didn't give a real answer until about a week and a half of promised ship dates were missed and they asked if I'd be OK to change from the blue tinted polarized lens to the brown.  I agreed and then a few days later they shipped out.

I had it shipped to where I work so I wouldn't have to wait to get home; yes I know lame, but who doesn't love to get stuff at work!

The spread....
It showed up neatly packaged and on time for a postal delivery.  The glasses come with a soft carrying case that can be used as a rag to clean them, a sports band for those stuck in the 90s, and a "hard" case.  I put hard in quotes because while it is a plastic lined, canvas feeling case it isn't hard.  It can be squashed if you were to sit on it, for instance, and isn't hard like my case is for my Oakley Gas Cans.  It will do the job of protecting your glasses and has a zipper instead of a snap hinge like many glasses come with.

The nice thing about the case is it has slots for holding more pairs of lenses.  The France 2 allows you to swap lenses on the go, and XX2i has a myriad of different colors and styles, from lightly smoked lenses to yellow to full reflective to polarized.  I like that I don't need to have multiple pairs of glasses, I can have multiple lenses.  Huge deal if you ride all year round, I fully plan on getting some for the winter months that aren't going to be tinted but so my eyes are protected.  The case does a good job of having the room for another 2 sets of lenses, and they are inexpensive.   The replacement lens for my Antix is $130 on Oakley's site, the lenses for my France 2's run $25 and up.  Can't touch that!

As you can see, the nose piece moves and helps keep
the glasses where you want them

The camera phone still won't catch the awesomeness of
the orange color.
One of the nice features of the glasses is that you can custom fit them to your head.  Both my Antix and Gas Cans don't have anyway to adjust the nose piece or ear pieces.  You just hope they stay in place, which they usually do except if you sweat like I do.  Once I have that rolling sweat going I am in a battle to keep most sunglasses on my head.  My France 2s have adjustable, rubber coated ear pieces and nose piece.  They are easily moved to adjust height on your face, grip around the nose, as well as tightening or loosening their grip above your ears.  I have also noticed the ear pieces are narrower which means they fit around my helmet strap without any issues.  Both my Oakleys will dig into my head and cause discomfort after a while.

They also fit my head really well, so my fellow large cranium individuals, rejoice!  You won't have to spend a small fortune on sunglasses that don't accentuate your head size, only your cool factor.  They fit well and the polarization is great, on par with the more expensive Oakleys.  Not as nice as the high end Iridium lens, but it holds its own.  Better than my standard smoked lenses in my Gas Cans.

As for finish, well they don't cost $250 and that is obvious.  Some of the edges aren't perfect, the lenses are a hassle to remove and they both don't come out the same way.  Meaning one came out really easy and the other took some finagling to get out.  They don't have a hinge that will break away instead of breaking, so I'd suggest not using these in a situation where you will have a lot of physical contact.  The adjustable nose piece can get out of whack easily, so you might have to move those around from time to time.  The coloring was even all across the lens and frame, and the rubber parts were a really nice white and seem to repel getting dirty.

The cool thing about XX2i is that they offer a 1 year trial period, meaning you can return them in that time, and a lifetime replacement on the frames and lenses.  That's right, lifetime.  You break or scratch them, they replace them.  Now I have been pretty rough with these over the last few months but I haven't had any issues or scratches so I haven't put that to the test.  I will say they are a great alternative to the more expensive brands out there, especially if you are on a budget or lose sunglasses easily.  The warranty doesn't seem to have a rival, and overall they are a good buy.

My only complaint was with the time it took to get them to me.  Had they been forthcoming with the fact they were waiting on parts I'd understand.  I work in a field where we can be backed up because we are waiting for raw material, which then screws everything up!  However if that is the worst of it, they will get my business again because they made up for it in a great product.

2014 Trek 1.2 vs 2014 Trek 1.5

So if you mosey on over to Trek's website you can take a look at the specs and such on the 2014 Trek 1.2 and 1.5.  Things are apparent like the colors of the bikes as well as the difference in how the bike is equipped.  Outside of that the bikes are almost identical, except the tires.  The 1.5 has some Bontrager R1s on it, which are very nice indeed.

I originally picked up a 1.2 from Village Cycle in Chicago.  This was my first new road bike and first with the fully integrated STIs, up till now I was rolling around on some ST2300s on my converted mountain bike.  The shifting is a vast improvement over the 2300s, but I found it finicky and not really supple.  At least not as much as I would have expected it to be.  The other issue I found is the trim setting is no where near as nice on the Sora shifters as it is with the Tiagra.  The 1.2 also only has 9 speeds instead of 10; I know, doesn't sound like a big deal but the gaps are apparent when you are looking for that gear to spin in at a consistent speed.
The picture doesn't do it justice, honest.

The 1.2 I feel has better paint, at least color wise.  It was a eye popping blue and white, white bar tape, and matching black and blue rims.  The paint had some metal flake in it so it really shone in the sun and was a definitely highlight of the bike.

The seat was a little lacking and I feel too padded for a road bike seat.  I eventually swapped in a Selle Italia SLR Flow that feels really nice, there'll be something about that in the near future.  The seat is also wide, so beware my fellow narrow butt-boned peeps, you'll want to change out the seat or face saddle sores.

For comparison the Trek 800 converted, lovingly named the Shrek Antenental Contilope, mainly because I originally built the bike with parts from a Schwinn Continental and the Trek 800 Antelope.  It was slightly too small so it is up for sale and may find a new home in about a week.  Still rode the North Shore Century on this, commuted like crazy, and before I converted the bike to a drop bar I rode the single tracks at Peninsula State Park in Door County, WI.  All around great bike and I can only hope it goes to a great new owner.
What I used to roll around on.  Great ride, but a size too small

Well after about 2 weeks on the 1.2 it was ready for the 30 ride tune-up that Village Cycle offers on their bikes bought from them.  Well I logged onto their website to get their phone number and lo-and-behold they are having a sale!  On all their bikes?!  What!  Well, lets see what they have going on.  Hmmm, they have my 1.2 for over $100+ cheaper than I paid, but that 1.5 is now within my original budget....I gave them a rang.  See Village Cycle doesn't allow test rides, but they do give you 7 days to return any bike for a refund, and 30 day exchange on any bike.  So I inquired as to whether I could get store credit in the difference or the exchange for the 1.5.  Well, they said bring it in for the 1.5, and so I did.  Plus the 1.5 was $10 lower than my original price on the 1.2, they gave me $10 store credit....whaT?!  Very unexpected.

Right after one of the first rides.


There is a major difference in the shifting between the Sora and Tiagra in areas like smoothness, precision, the material used in the shifters, and the feel.  Where the Sora uses more plastic, Tiagra uses more metal and you can feel the difference in shifting response as well as braking.  The bike stops more solidly and the shifting needs little to no additional pushes to take up any slack.  Plus you are able to, though not fully, shift under some power.  With the Sora it seemed I had to all but stop pedaling, or really lightly spin, to get it to shift without skipping.

The Tiagra allows for the rider to almost use the full cassette in both the big and small rings without any chatter, thanks to the trim features on the front derailleur.  I get some very slight chatter if I cross-chain from the small to the 2nd smallest gear, and it does rattle when in the smallest rear in the small front.  The big gear allows for one trim in and you can almost run the full cassette there as well.  With the quick shifting you can move around the cassette and chain rings with ease and not miss a revolution.

The tires on the 1.5 were a big improvement, although not huge, they did grip better in turns and felt more locked to the road that that of the 1.2.  Taking turns at higher speeds, sharp maneuvers and grip when wet were improved, even though the R1s didn't have any "tread".  They have a sort of bumpy surface but not the traditional cutouts like the tires on the 1.2 had.

July 4th ride with some friends; such a glorious morning!

Overall if a 1.5 is within a price range it would be well worth it.  From what I was told Shimano will be updating its line of shifters and derailleurs in the upcoming year.  That means Dura-Ace becomes Ultegra, Ultegra 105, 105 Tiagra, and so on.  The 2014 Sora was basically Tiagra from the last update.  Could be interesting to see what the 2016 models come with.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What's this all about? Why another blog by a cyclist?

I am sure if you are reading this you have read other blogs, some probably a lot better looking or formatted than this one.  Maybe by people who have been blogging for years or are journalists for a living.  I will tell you I have been blogging for a couple of years, since my first born can into the world in 2012, and I am far from a journalist.  If you don't believe me just wait until you see the spelling, grammar, and other errors that will pop up that I will miss.

Plus I type with a Chicago accent according to my wife, don't know what that exact means or if it is an insult or not......I'll roll with it.

Why do I want to blog about cycling?  For a few reasons.

  1. It is healthy.  I dropped over 50 lbs and kept it off because of cycling.
  2. It is good for the environment.  Now before you label me a tree hugger I still own a car, I work in the automotive racing industry, and I will eventually own another race car.
  3. It is a good financial path.  My wife and I chose to sell one of our cars that needed work.  Why?  Because we live less than 5 miles from where I work, the car needed more work than was worth it (over a grand for a 14 year old car with 200k+ on it), and we don't NEED 2 cars.
  4. It is a great stress reliever.  My family and friends notice I am much more relaxed, I don't complain about parking, and the city of Chicago meter parking doesn't apply to me.  Plus what traffic?
  5. Did I mention no traffic?
  6. I feel I bring a unique view to cycling in Chicago.  I cycle for commuting purposes but also enjoy a fast ride clad in lycra with other cyclists.  I have lived in the city since my birth, and have the viewpoint of being a cyclist AND a motorist (cager).
  7. I bring a view on being a bigger guy (6' and 220 as we type this) and know what it is like to ride with groups of the skinny-minny racers in tight clothing while I am not equipped like they are.
  8. And other reasons I am forgetting......

I plan on reviewing products, services, shops, paths, and anything else that can bring a Chicago specific and centric view to cycling.  I hope to allow for ideas to flourish in anyone who reads this blog, as well as allow for other riders to know what Chicago for some is all about.  I don't pretend to speak for everyone, nor will I speak for anyone other than myself (duh!), but I am sure many will be able to relate.