Monthly Archives: July 2015

Rapha Womens 100k Challenge

aka Practice for Long Days on the Tandem

Yesterday, I completed the Rapha Womens 100km Challenge – I cycled for just over 100km.  The purpose of the challenge is to encourage women around the world to get out and ride.  We didn’t have a local ride, and I had trouble convincing any of the ladies I ride with in Greenville to do it the day after a tri (Washington Sprint Tri was Saturday).  Luckily, I talked Andrew into riding it with me on the tandem.  We figured it would be good practice for the thru-hike.  Well I’m glad to say I survived my first ever metric century, and the longest ride we’ve put in on the tandem.

It let us test out our new shoe and pedal setup – Pearl Izumi Project X MTB shoes and Shimano SPD M-424 pedals.  We chose MTB shoes because they have tread which allows us to walk around comfortably during breaks from riding.  These shoes also have a carbon sole, which provides a lot of support for long days.  The pedals we chose have a SPD binding in the middle of a plastic pedal, so the platform is large enough to be comfortable for long days.

As for the ride itself, it was a ton of fun!  The weather was perfect, and the miles went by quickly.  The route we chose took us north out of Greenville through Pitt and Martin counties into Parmele, NC.  Parmele was one of those towns that looked like it had a lot going on 50 years ago, but not since then.  The lack of cars on the road made for great riding!  The last 10 miles were rough, but I think a few adjustments to my gear setup and it’ll be perfect!








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Astral Footwear

For several years, Astral has been making a couple pairs of kick-ass paddling shoes.  I’ve owned a pair of Brewers for a year and a half now, and I love them for fall/winter/spring paddling.  If we didn’t live in Eastern NC where summers are 100+ degrees, I’m sure I would love them for summer paddling too.  Never one to meet a “perfect” piece of gear, there are a couple things I would change about these shoes.  But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Astral Footwear is working on overhauling their brand right now – complete with many new options for shoes.  Our friend Spencer at Effort Media (yes, the same one that hooked us up with the sweet Cannon paddles I wrote about a couple of weeks ago) sent us a couple pairs to try out.  When we saw the press release for the new Loyak, we were stoked.  The shoe is more flexible, lighter duty, and lower profile than the classic Brewer/Brewess – it seemed like the perfect solution for us!

This is just a glimpse of the new Astral Footwear line.  I’ll only go into detail about the models we tested, but the rest of their lineup looks pretty awesome as well!  Check it out here.

So what are we going to do with all these paddling shoes?  We plan to wear our Brewers as our paddling shoe on the thru-hike.  We will be paddling in rocky areas and may need to portage the boat in several places.  The loyak is light and flexible enough that we’ll be carrying these the entire trip as our camp shoe.

So, without further ado, here are our thoughts on the new Astral Footwear models:

M Brewer (2014):

I’ve owned these for over a year now, so I’ve had PLENTY of time to give them a really thorough test.  Until this year, the “W” Brewer was the same as the mens, in burgundy and grey.  These are a closed paddling shoe that target themselves as whitewater paddlers, or anyone having to get out of their boat a lot to portage or walk around.  The soles and upper are both pretty stiff.  Mine have a marking sole to give them more traction on slick rocks.  They have LOTS of drainage holes.  Because of how stiff they are, I prefer to wear them with a lightweight (quick dry) sock, which is why I don’t like them during the summer.  These hold up better and dry more quickly than a sneaker.

I mentioned there were 2 things about this shoe I would change.  First the marking sole.  I understand that having marking sticky-rubber gives better traction, but it marked up the inside of my pretty canoe.  Fortunately, Astral has already taken care of this – the 2015 models of the Brewer and Brewess now have a non-marking but just-as-sticky sole!  The second is the height of the heel of the shoe.  These are cut just a touch too high for me, and the opening of the shoe rubs on my ankle and achilles.  I get around this by wearing socks with them.  Again, this has already been addressed by Astral.  They added a true women’s version of this shoe for 2015, the Brewess.  The new Brewess has a lower cut on the opening and a narrower heel cup, both of which should alleviate the rubbing issue.


I was REALLY excited when I heard about the Loyak being released.  They came with this cool diagram of the features, so I will let it do the talking:


They’re lightweight, low volume, and more flexible than the Brewer.  Andrew and I both have low volume feet, so finding a lower volume shoe is always nice!  They also sport a lower profile than the Brewer, so they can fit down inside a kayak a bit easier.  They drain well and dry quickly due to the drain holes in the front and back.  They have an integrated tongue, so there is no chance of the tongue slipping off to one side.  I’ve stepped in plenty of muck getting in and out of the canoe here on the Tar, and we’ve had no issues with them pulling off our feet.

Overall, we really like this shoe for Eastern NC or warm weather paddling.  It is fast becoming our go-to paddling shoe.


Further thoughts about the M Brewer (2015) to come, once Andrew wears his a few more times…

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