Ever had the urge to step out for a run in blizzard like conditions…well thats exactly what happened when we were invited by Nike UK to literally put the new Test The Elements collection to the Test. We headed down to the UK’s only full scale aerodynamic wind tunnel..water guns, ninja masks and lots of wind after the cut…
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As a novice runner, Winter 12 will be my first real experience braving the cold and wind chill during my sporadic midnight runs. Enter Nike to the rescue, this season’s collection is all about staying protected against the elements (without compromising style/comfort).
Upon arrival at the MIRA Technology Park in Warwickshire, my first observation was the level of security. We were kindly asked to tape up our mobile phones to prevent us taking pictures…a necessary procedure in order to protect the ‘state of the art prototypes and technologies of the future’ being tested within the facility from being compromised. This made perfect sense once we passed the last checkpoint, the courtyard was dotted with an assortment of army vehicles and various sports cars whizzing around the MIRA racetrack. I was beginning to wonder what I had signed myself up to.
I didn’t have to wait long to find out. As we approached the 2 full scale wind tunnels, we were informed that these were the same facilities used by James Cracknell and Ben Fogle to prepare for their expedition to the North Pole *YIKES*. The Climatic Wind Tunnel (CWTtwo) is the UK’s only large vehicle full climatic wind tunnel providing simulation of environmental conditions for product development. The tunnel is built primarily for cars, lorries and a good ol’ tank (or two). Our guide explained the importance of testing vehicles under different conditions. A porsche’s performance varies dramatically when maneuvering through the harsh winter landscape of Canada Vs cruising in the tropical climate of Dubai.
The state of the art wind tunnel features an impressive:
• -35 to +50 temperature range
• Up to 100kph wind speed
• Humidity control
• Solar simulation
• Not to mention rain and snow on demand
After a brief tour of the facilities, we changed into our gear followed by a ‘Product 101′ by the Nike Experts. As an unfortunate runner who has experienced the misfortune of wet feet after failing to dodge camouflaged puddles, I was pleased to hear that Nike had launched a ‘Shield Footwear’ collection providing protection not only rain, sleet and snow but also from darkness. Highly reflective and water repellent versions of all six of Nike’s premium running styles including personal favourites FreeRun+3 and LunarGlide+4
The microscopic air pockets in the breathable fabric mean waterproof minus the sweaty feet
Next up is what I consider the ‘pièce de résistance ‘- the Element Shield Max jacket. Going for a jog during summer is an uncomplicated affair…throw on a pair of trainers, shorts and T-shirt *boom*. Winter is a different ball game…you have to consider the freezing temperatures, the possibility of rain and visibility as it gets darker much earlier. The Element Shield Max was designed to tackle such
issues excuses for not running during the unforgiving winter period.
My favourite feature of the Element Shield Max has to be the removable gaiter aka Ninja Mask protecting the face from frostbite without compromising awesomeness. The Nike Experts were kind enough to demonstrate the jacket’s wind and water resistant membrane with the use super-soaker. The Element Shield Max available in two colour-ways (the green below and the black worn by myself) features reflective panels on the chest, rear and sleeves for visibility in low light. Thats what I call a bright idea (Bad puns have become second nature)
Along with a Dri-Fit wool crew, thermal running tights and Elite-Storm sliver-tip gloves (incase you need to tweet during a blizzard), it was time to put the apparel and footwear to the test. The group of 9 journalist and bloggers were split into groups of 3. Luckily my group wasn’t first and I was able to witness the affects of the wind tunnel via the thermal camera system as they gradually lowered the temperature to 3C and increased the wind speed to 70kph.
Jumping on the treadmill, I felt slightly apprehensive…almost like Tony Stark testing out his suit for the first time. As the wind tunnel began to pick up speed and the temperature began to drop…I was surprised by my ‘equilibrium’ body temp. Around the half-mark of my 15 session, the wind chill against my face forced me to switch on ‘Ninja Mask Mood‘ however I found the fabric difficult to breath through.
Overall I was impressed with the performance of the gear. Its reassuring to know Nike clearly backs up its performance claims with extensive research and testing. It is safe to say that I won’t be faced with such conditions in the mild north of London but in the event that I should decide to go for a cheeky run in freezing temperatures and gale force winds…I will do so in confidence