Quick Review: VEGA Essentials Shake

I’m not one to jump on a diet or health-trend bandwagon. Despite having lost 40 lbs at one point in my life, I’ve basically tried to lose weight with a general policy of cutting calories and increasing activity. However, something that has always been a struggle, having a desk job, is reducing my hunger level throughout the day. It’s really easy to keep walking over to the vending machine and grabbing something new every couple of hours. Especially at my current job where we have an awesome self-serve market that filled with all kinds of goodies.

Something I know about myself is that if I can get a decent amount of calories in me, first thing in the morning, I can stave off my snacking till later in the day, or even until lunch time. For a while I was grabbing a breakfast sandwich at the gas station each morning, since it had protein in it that would help satiate me longer However, it was also loaded with cheese and other yummy stuff that probably was self-defeating. So, I decided to try a meal shake for breakfast.

One of the brands I had sampled in the past, and enjoyed is VEGA. In particular, their chocolate flavor is rich and smooth, and doesn’t taste cloyingly sweet. The price isn’t too bad, $36 for 18 servings, which with the addition of milk and a banana, I’m getting breakfast for around $3 each morning. I’m not a huge dairy milk fan (doesn’t always agree with me), so I’m using coconut milk, which gives the shake a bit of a tropical flavor. I could blend my banana into the shake, but I’m trying to be efficient with my time, so I just eat that on the side.

Apart from the solid flavor, I’ve found the texture to be quite pleasant as well. It’s not chalky, and when I shake it in a blender bottle, I’m able to get it pretty smooth. As with most shakes like this, it’s a thick substance, when made to recipe. There’s just no getting around that, but I’ve never felt like the texture is off-putting in any way. One of the reasons I chose their Essentials Shake is because it’s also loaded up with lots of vitamins and is more well rounded than just a simple protein shake. I’m not looking to bulk up, so having a more balanced mix works well for me.

It’s now been a couple of weeks since I started this routine, and yesterday I weighed in at my lowest weight since August of last year. I’m finding that I’m able to keep my hunger more in check in the mornings, and have been able to push my lunch later in the day. I still do some snacking at work, but in general I’m keeping it to just 1-2 per day instead of some times when I’ve been visiting the snacks every hour and a half.

I want to be clear though that I’m also needing to be smart with my other eating. This isn’t some magical diet drink, but a tool that I’m using to get my weight back down where I want it. I still need to keep up my exercising, and watch my calories the rest of the day, but having a solid start has helped a lot to keep me in a routine that works.

If you’re looking to use a shake to supplement your diet, I’d recommend giving VEGA a try. I think it’s a great mix, with good flavor and consistency. It’s reasonably priced, easy to make, and does the job I want it to to.

Quick Review: Chums Surfshorts Wallet

For many years I’ve used a standard trifold wallet as my main way of carrying my “stuff”. It’s served me well over the years, but something that’s always been a problem is the overall thickness of a trifold. Even with minimal items in the wallet, the amount of material alone, creates a package that is quite “bulgy”.

Additionally, as someone who is more active, having all that extra weight on me when running or biking isn’t ideal. Many times I would find myself grabbing a sandwich baggie and just putting a couple cards in there to bring with me when I work out. Plus, I want to keep my stuff from getting too wet and sweaty when working out. A couple weeks ago I decided to take the plunge and get something totally different. 

The Chums Surfshorts wallet is a small pouch style wallet with two zippered areas. One of them has a see-through window for your ID, and the other side is completely closed. Although it does not claim to be waterproof, the closed compartments do keep my stuff dry when sweating or in my pocket when it’s raining. The nylon material is durable, but not abrasive, and feels like it will live up to a bit of abuse.

The biggest change for me though is in the size department. I’m able to put a fair amount of items into this wallet, and it does not feel bulgy or thick at all. I can stuff it into my bike shorts, or my running vest, and I don’t even notice it’s there. I still can’t fit every last thing that I used to carry in my trifold, but it’s made me stop and consider what I actually NEED to be carrying around with me all the time. Most loyalty cards can be loaded into an Apple Wallet, or allow you to use your phone number, and many other cards are used so infrequently that leaving them at home isn’t a big deal.

I’m very happy with the change, and I’m happy I made it. I feel like I have a better handle on what I use my wallet for, and I feel more comfortable keeping my valuables close to me when exercising.

Quick Review: KÜHL Parajax jacket

A couple months ago I started my search for a nice lightweight shell to use when running on cool mornings, or in light rain. I finally made my choice, and I’ve been using the KÜHL Parajax for the past few weeks while Minnesota has been transitioning from Winter to… kinda Spring? Suffice it to say, we’ve been having some odd weather this year, and so having a nice shell has been a huge benefit.

DSC09978-2.jpgI had been weighing my options for a while and settled on the Parajax for a couple of reason. First, like the Houdini it folded into a pocket, but unlike some of the competition the Parajax has a couple of really nice front pockets that have zippers. It was this pocket configuration that really sealed the deal for me.

DSC09985I’ve taken the Parajax out on quite a few runs now, and I’m really liking it. It’s very lightweight, and breathable, but like most shells it helps trap heat next to your body to keep you warm. My usual strategy is to wear it for the first 1-2 miles of my run, and then stow it before it gets too hot that I soak the inside of it with sweat. I missed the window on one particular run and by the time I had taken it off, it was pretty wet inside. Thankfully, the material dries really quick and easy, so all it took was airing it out once I got back home.

DSC09982I haven’t yet tried it in the rain (beyond a quick picture for this post), but like most of these shells, it’s mean to be water resistant, not fully waterproof. For something that is fully waterproof I’d need to look at other option. I’m OK with that though, and I’m sure if I got caught in a rain storm it would provide enough protection to help get me back to safety.

The Parajax is a bit more expensive than some of the other options, but you can usually find it on sale, or discounted with a coupon. It’s a great, durable, jacket and my only regret is waiting so long to pick one up.


Quick Review: Bontrager Interchange Deluxe Plus Rear Trunk Bag

A couple of years ago I decided to get a rack on my Trek FX7.2 to enable me to carry more stuff when using my bike for commuting or running errands. Since my bike is a Trek, I got a Bontrager rack. However, to save a few dollars I ended up getting some semi-decent bike panniers from Banjo Bros. to tie me over until I figured out what I really wanted.

This past April, there was a sale going on at Freewheel Bike on the Bontrager trunk bags. My friend Chuck has an Interchange bag and loves it. So I decided to head over to the store and check out the selection and see if I found something I liked. I did some examinations of the three different models, and as soon as I showed my wife the features on the Deluxe, she insisted I invest in the higher end model. I’ve been using it for a few weeks now, and I couldn’t be happier.

DSC09244The Bontrager Interchange Deluxe Plus rear trunk bag is the top of their Interchange line. The Interchange series simply means that it hooks into a Bontrager rack easily and quickly, without any velcro straps. The front of the bag hooks into the front metal loop on the rack and then it clips into place on the rear. It’s a super simple system, and it’s solid and foolproof.

The main compartment is around 10L of capacity, and I use it to store all the essential bike gear, such as tire levers, CO2 canisters, and a spare tube. The beauty though, of this model, is the expanding side panniers that allow you to increase your total storage to a full 36L. You unzip the side pockets, and they expand into a full pannier on each side that velcro’s to your frame at the bottom. It’s quick and easy to expand, as well as simple to pack away again.

DSC09247I used this rack for a shopping trip this past Sunday and the expanding capacity was perfect. I used a single pannier for my laptop on the way down to the co-op and coffee shop, but then once I finished shopping I extended the other pannier and loaded it down with groceries. I also had a fair amount of space left over in the main trunk that I could use as well. It was the perfect amount of space for a small grocery shopping trip. If I hadn’t had my laptop with me, I could have even fit more into my bags, but as luck would have it, I didn’t need the additional space.

DSC09246-2My bike was pretty weighed down by the time I started heading back home, but the bag stayed put, and I never noticed any type of rattling as I rode. As I rode I also encountered another wonderful feature of this bag… a rain cover. I came across a short sprinkle on my journey, but all I had to do with pause quickly and pull out the hidden rain cover that is stored under the lid. It doesn’t cover the side bags, but the main trunk stayed nice and dry.

Despite the expense, I can’t say enough good things about this bag. I love not needing the full panniers for most casual rides, but love the flexibility to expand my storage when I need it. I’d recommend keeping your eye out for a sale to ease the sticker shock, but even at full price, it’s a great piece of gear that I hope to use for a long, long time.

Shoe Review: Saucony Peregrine 7 ICE

This past winter I was looking for a new trail shoe for my runs on the local trails, as well as something that I could use on the roads around my house when they’re in sorry shape from a big winter snow or ice storm. I came across the Saucony Peregrine 7 ICE shoes when searching online, and since they were on sale, I decided to pick them up and give them a try over the colder months. Although this review is focusing on the version 7 of the shoes, there doesn’t appear to be many changes in the new Peregrine 8 ICE, so I would expect that everything I’ll say here applies, minus the rock plate that left the Peregrine for the v8 edition.

One of the things that appealed to me about the idea of the ICE shoes was the Vibram Arctic Grip outsole, which claims to be able to grip ice much better than a regular outsole. I got a chance to run on ice a little this winter, and found that the shoe performed OK, but it didn’t quite live up to my expectations when it came to gripping ice. Maybe that’s because I never noticed the times when it added grip, but overall I still felt like I had to be somewhat careful, or switch over to using my screw shoes, for really icy conditions.

However, I did find one scenario where these shoes completely blew away my expectations… wet and slippery boardwalks. As spring dawned on the area, I found myself at a local trail that has many boardwalks along it. These were all soaking wet which usually means that they’re phenomenally slippery. However, the Peregrine 7 ICE shoes acted like sandpaper and gripped the wood amazingly. I still took my time and was careful on the boardwalks, but at no point did I ever feel even a bit of slippage. It was really amazing, although an unintended benefit of the shoe.

From a fit and comfort perspective, these shoes are what you’d expect from the Peregrine line. They’re soft and light, and feel nice and responsive. The standard lugs are well sized for light trails, and the shoes react well when climbing and turning around rocks and roots. With a 4mm drop, the shoes feel low, but still not zero-drop territory. I never had any ankle or Achilles trouble, despite being more of an 8mm guy.

I’m on the fence as to if I would buy these again. They got a lot of use this winter, and I loved wearing them, but I’m not sure the ICE technology was worth the extra premium (had I not gotten them on sale). If you can find these on clearance, you can’t go wrong, as they’re a solid trail shoe. You might get some benefit from the ICE protection, but even if you don’t, they still will give you many miles of durable use.