Category Archives: Tools

Oakley M Frame sunglasses – The review

I bought my Oakley M-Frames in 2002 – my first set of big-boy cycling glasses. Let me say upfront that this is a purchase that I have never for a moment regretted. They were expensive but they did the job brilliantly and with style.

But after about 15,000 km on the road they finally failed. The abrasion of lots of tiny dust particles over the years made the mirror finish a bit porous and hard to polish. More importantly the lenses has lost a bit of their coating at the edges and no longer provided a friction fit with the frames. After they fell out on a bumpy road I decided it was time for action. (BTW, this paragraph is a classic example of a #firstworldproblem!)

Photo of Oakley M-Frame
Oakley M-Frame

First a bit about Oakley M-Frames. They were one of the top sunglass models at the time. Like all the competitors they offered outstanding clarity and excellent UV protection, but their key feature was that they had no hinges and did not fold. That allowed the carefully calibrated “Unobtanium” frame to stick to the head like glue without any sensation of pressure. And in 15,000 road km (plus a fair number of lumpy off-road trips) they never once even suggested that they might fall off.

Moreover Oakley was the choice of Lance, and Lance was the greatest cyclist of his era. (And he still is, but that’s a subject for another post).

So that’s why I bought the Oakleys. And now faced with replacing them I looked at the options and decided that I had no reason not to stick with such a well-designed product. I was all set to drop £180 on the latest M2 model but the nice folks at the Oakley shop in Covent Garden mentioned that they could replace the lenses of my 13 year-old no-longer-being-made glasses for a much more reasonable price.

Top quality and outstanding customer service – I think when/if these ones wear out I will be making a bee-line back to my Oakley dealer. Highly recommended.

Photo of Oakley sunglasses.
Oakley war-face. It strikes me that I really do look a lot like my brother!

 

Keywords: Oakley sunglasses, Oakley M Frame

The Rabbit Lever Action Corkscrew

I have tried a lot of corkscrews over the years, and in general I have been disappointed. Most of those available fail in at least one of the two critical criteria: they don’t remove corks cleanly and easily, and/or they are fragile. However I bought a Rabbit a couple of years ago and am finally content. I think the Metrokane Rabbit two-step corkscrew achieves the gold standard.

The most important quality of a corkscrew is that (duh!) it removes corks easily and efficiently. The Rabbit has the key features needed to do the job. It has a slim but strong screw with a coating that allows it to easily screw into even old and hard corks. It is robustly built and very comfortable in the hand. The blade for removing foil is sharp and nicely shaped. The fact that it costs no more than a decent bottle of table wine is icing on the cake.

This particular design is called a waiter corkscrew, but the best examples have a two stage (“two step”) lever action. The Rabbit is a two stage model and it works brilliantly . The two stage action gives you a mechanical advantage that comes in very handy when trying to remove a long cork, such as those used in vintage Bordeaux wines.

rabbit corkscrew

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Moon X Power 500 Cycling Headlight

Moon X Power 500 Cycling Headlight

The winter days are very short in my current location so I asked the guys at Stonehenge Cycles for a recommendation on lights for night riding. I don’t generally ride more than 90 minutes at night so a hub generator would be overkill, but I do need bright lights for the narrow country lanes around Salisbury. And I’m tired of cheap lights that corrode into uselessness because they aren’t watertight. They recommended the Moon X Power 500. The price was £80 at time of purchase, but this has now dropped to the £60 range.

Moon X Power 500 Cycling Light
Moon headlight and taillight

 

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Vortex Razor HD telescope

When you start getting serious about birding you will want to get a telescope. If you want to look at waders (shorebirds, in North American parlance) and see more than just grey dots you will need a ‘scope, and it’s also the only way of getting the close-in views you need to confirm your identification of difficult birds. On a recent trip to Cyprus we were able to identify several sub-species of yellow wagtail because we could “grill” them at length from far enough away that we didn’t spook them.

There’s a direct relationship between price and quality, so as the birding mania bites deeply you may start thinking about one of the top-end telescopes. I had a decent mid-range ‘scope that served me well for several years, but there were many times I had to look through my mates’ Leicas, Swarovskis, Zeiss’s and Kowas to see things that the good old Opticron was missing. The issue with upgrading is that the really good telescopes are eye-wateringly expensive. Buy a new top of the line Swaro and you won’t get much change back from £3000.[1] The best ‘scopes are clearly superior equipment, but they are priced like other kinds of man toys (e.g. golf clubs) – you pay a significant premium for the bragging rights of owning the best.

There was a niche to be filled for a ‘scope with optical quality to match the best, but without the same level of greedy mark-up. Enter the Vortex Razor HD.

Vortex Razor HD, Sahara Desert near Merzouga
Vortex Razor HD, Sahara Desert near Merzouga

 

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