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Osprey Radial 34 Commuter Backpack Review

By Eric Miller - Thursday, March 27th, 2014 - No Comments

Osprey has been making bike-specific packs for awhile. They have pretty much nailed it with the Osprey Radial 34 Commuter Backpack.

Osprey Radial 34 Commuter Backpack Features

  • Front panel pocket with organizer
  • Padded laptop sleeve and tablet sleeve
  • Reflective detail on front panel
  • LidLock helmet clip
  • Blinker light attachment
  • Built-in, snug-fitting high-visibility raincover
  • Ventilated AirSpeed backpanel
  • Panel loader
  • Zippered side pockets
  • Front panel U-lock stretch pocket
  • Zippered front panel stash pocket with key clip
  • Separate top zip access laptop and tablet compartment
  • Large main compartment with internal document sleeve and mesh organization pockets
  • Radial Modified Air Speed Back Panel
  • Document sleeve keeps magazines and papers in order
  • Internal mesh pocket keeps cords and small gear sorted
  • Large zip access front pocket offers secure storage
  • Front organizer pocket keeps small items secure and accessible
  • Size: 1,953 cu in/2075 cu in (S/M, M/L, 32/34 liter)
  • Weight: 2 lbs 12 oz/2 lbs 14 oz
  • Price: $170

Osprey Radial Commuter 34 Backpack Review

The Osprey Radial 34 Commuter Backpack is absolutely packed with features. The list is long. Osprey did a great job putting this pack together. Here are my favorite features (in no particular order): The mesh back panel is awesome! The biggest downfall of commuting with a backpack is sweaty back. The mesh back panel comes pretty darn close to eliminating this. The pack bows away from your back with the mesh panel sitting against your back. It helps with airflow, especially when it's windy. You'll still end up with a little bit of a sweaty back but it's won't be as gnarly as other packs. With the Radial you'll get a lot of pockets and organization. You get a padded laptop sleeve with a zippered, padded tablet sleeve inside; a big main compartment with a handful of mesh pockets and buckle pocket; a front compartment with a bunch more pockets; a small zippered pocket; and an outer mesh, buckled stash pocket for your u lock or wet items. Two zippered stash/water bottle pockets round it out. There are so many options that after about six months of use I still haven't used them all! It always seems with packs you could always use one more. Not in this case! The LidLock Helmet Clip is pretty cool. I never have enough room in my pack to stash my helmet. The LidLock is a great solution. It's a little tricky to get it in place but once it's there your helmet isn't going anywhere. The first couple times I used it I kept banging my helmet on the wall or desk or door because I wasn't used to having to accommodate for it being on the outside. Definitely handy, especially if you're going to the store or anywhere you need free hands to carry stuff around. The tiny features. In a lot of ways these are what make or break a commuting pack for me. Osprey included a blinky light loop, tons of reflective accents on the back panel and shoulder straps, and the key fob. Don't roll your eyes at the key fob. I have a paranoia about losing keys. The key fob keeps me sane. It does come with a built in rain cover which is nice (and gives a ton of visibility). I have yet to use it, even after a full winter in CO and the big rain storms in the fall. The pack by itself has been sufficiently waterproof. There's a few things I wish the Radial had. The biggest (and almost deal breaker for me) is the bottom is not flat and cannot stand up on its own. When it comes to loading a commuter pack whether you're at work, the market, the library, or wherever, being able to stand up on its own is key. The Radial can't. I would have loved to see a cell phone pocket on the shoulder strap. It does have a loop you could attach to though. Lastly it doesn't have any gear loops or many places to hook bungees. The commuter load gets big sometimes and you gotta bungee things on the back. You can make it work with existing straps but I haven't felt totally confident that things are secure. All that said, the pros definitely outweighed the cons for me. In short, the Radial is a great commuter pack. The Good
  • Tons of features
  • Great commuting focused items
  • Roomy with a lot of pocket options
The Bad
  • Cannot stand on the floor by itself
  • No gear loops for bungees

Bottom Line:

Great pack for a commuter. Buy Now: Pick up the Osprey Radial 34 Commuter Backpack[gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Detours Georgetown Dry Pannier Review

By Eric Miller - Wednesday, May 8th, 2013 - No Comments

If you're a dedicated bike commuter and you ride in foul weather, you know the importance of bags and panniers actually keeping your stuff dry. This past winter I had the opportunity to test out the Detours Georgetown Dry Pannier. The Georgetown repelled everything that Mother Nature (and I) could throw at it.

Detours Georgetown Dry Pannier Features

  • Interior zip pocket
  • Key clip in front pocket
  • Removable shoulder strap
  • Haul handle
  • Roll-top closure
  • TPU-coated waterproof flap
  • Dimensions: 9.5 x 8 x 15 inches
  • Volume: 850 cubic inches
  • Product Weight: 2 pounds
  • Capacity: 22 pounds
  • Price: $105

Detours Georgetown Dry Pannier Review

First and foremost, the Detours Georgetown Dry Pannier is fully weatherproof. I had it out in heavy rains, snow, sleet, plowing through slushy puddles, and even dry, dusty dirt roads and it kept everything (truly everything) on the outside. The only thing I didn't do, was fully submerge it. The Georgetown packs serious weather protection. With the weather-protection comes durability. The pictures to the right are after the winter of use. I used the Georgetown almost daily all winter long and after it's all said and done it looks almost brand new. The Georgetown is very unassuming. Solid black, basic cube shape, and only a few key features. While it's not a feature-heavy pannier, it excels at almost everything it does have. It features a single, open compartment design. The interior does feature a slim, zip pocket and a lot of open space. The 850 cubic inches seemed to swallow gear. I could comfortably fit my lunch for the day, change of clothes, jacket, and some miscellaneous items with room to spare. The main compartment is protected with a velcro, roll-top closure. In a pinch for large loads you can utilize the roll-top for extra room, you just might not be able to close the lid. Over the top of the roll-top closure is a lid that is secured with two buckles. The lid provides extra waterproofing and two webbing attachment points for lashing on extra gear. I would have loved to seen a telescoping lid so the roll-top could be fully utilized but that does add complexity to a design that works very well. The front of the pack does feature a small velcro pocket which is good for keys or other small items you want to have handy. It does come with a shoulder strap, which to be honest, I didn't use a single time, but liked the option. Let's get to the rack attachments. This is what makes or breaks a pannier in my opinion. For the Georgetown I'd give it a B and here's why. For the top bar attachment, this was good. You have a single, spring clasp which is strong and sturdy plus two hooks. What brings the grade down for me is the lower attachment. It's a hook on an elastic. The pro is it'll fit a wide variety of racks. The con is it always requires two hands to take it on and off. When balancing a loaded bike, this was a pain. I did get use to it, but I've used other panniers that have a more "one hand" friendly attachment system. Detours also included some nice reflective accents on the Georgetown. I will admit I err on the side of "more is better" but they do include some. They also include a rear-light strap on the back of the pannier which is my favorite "unspoken feature". I love to see small features like this in design, especially for visibility. The Good
  • Fully waterproof
  • Versatile
  • Durable
The Bad
  • Lower attachment system requires two hands

Bottom Line:

The Detours Georgetown Dry Pannier is hard-working and fully weatherproof. It definitely needs to be in your consideration set for a general purpose pannier. Buy Now: Pick up the Detours Georgetown Dry Pannier [gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Patagonia Light Flyer Jacket Review

By Eric Miller - Thursday, February 28th, 2013 - No Comments

I've been itching to test out some Patagonia trail run gear. This past winter Patagonia gave me the opportunity to test the Patagonia Light Flyer Jacket, their lightweight, minimalist running and cycling jacket.

Patagonia Light Flyer Jacket Features

  • Extremely breathable 3-layer GORE-TEX® Active fabric is durably waterproof and windproof
  • Self-fabric stand-up collar is lined with lightweight mesh for comfort
  • Upper arm zippers can be unzipped to facilitate air flow through the jacket toward the back venting system
  • Comfortable articulated sleeve with fold-over cuff converts to mitt for wet/cold weather protection
  • Small waterproof pocket at center back holds essentials
  • Low-profile drawcord at hem
  • Reflective logos at left chest and center-back neck
  • Deluge® DWR (durable water repellent) finish
  • Fit: Athletic with articulated sleeves
  • MSRP: $279

Patagonia Light Flyer Jacket Review

Off the hanger you can tell that the Patagonia Light Flyer Jacket is packed with Patagonia quality and style. It features an athletic cut and fit, smooth seams and stitching, and is lightweight. The Light Flyer is made with 3-layer GORE-TEX Active and weighs in at a scant 9.1 ounces. It offers full weather protection, laughing in the face of the storm. It sheds rain, wind, and snow with ease. It features an athletic cut for optimal movement while running. Articulated sleeves help with comfort while running or riding the bike. The cuffs are cut long over the hands for some extra protection and also feature a fold-over mitt for even more protection. The Light Flyer also features a drop-tail, giving you extra protection when riding in wet conditions. In terms of fit, I am 6 feet tall, weight 180 pounds, and have a positive ape index (arms are long). I typically wear a size large for the body but need an extra-large for sleeve length. The Light Flyer in large fit my perfectly. Snug enough to not be annoying when moving with just enough extra to not restrict movement, even with a midweight layer on. The sleeves were plenty long but I did find the fold-over cuffs to be very snug. For someone without long arms they likely would be fine. GORE-TEX Active, as you can guess, is GORE's most breathable technology. It did perform pretty well from a ventilation standpoint. To help with ventilation the Light Flyer features two long, vertical back vents that are always "on" and zippered vents in the upper arms. The back vents are a nice touch but I was let down with the arm vents. First, the zippers were extremely stiff. I wasn't able to unzip them one handed, even after months of use. Next when running they almost always folded shut. It's due to the natural curve of the fabric over my arm but they almost always stayed closed. The only times they stayed open was when there was wind, either from the wind or when riding. The Light Flyer features a single pocket on the small of the back. Good placement for running, bad placement for biking if you ride with a pack. I found that the zipper would get pressed into the small of my back which was very uncomfortable. The pocket is small, literally big enough for an iPhone 4 (the iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy S II wouldn't fit) OR a single key and a gel. With the pocket being so small the utility of it was very low. As a daily bike commuter, I always love to see reflective detailing. The logos on the front and back of the jacket are reflective. It's not a lot, but it certainly doesn't hurt to have that extra visibility in low light. Overall I have been impressed with the Light Flyer. Sure there are some smaller features that could be better but overall the jacket is fantastic. The Good
  • Athletic
  • High performing
  • Great weather protection
The Bad
  • Single pocket is too small to be useful
  • Arm vents are hard to unzip and don't stay open

Bottom Line:

For top performance and full weather protection for running and riding, pick up the Patagonia Light Flyer Jacket. Buy Now: Pick up the Patagonia Light Flyer Jacket [gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Merrell Vagaborne Denim Pants Review

By Eric Miller - Saturday, February 2nd, 2013 - No Comments

We all know that riding in a pair of jeans in uncomfortable. They're restrictive, they bunch up, and they don't breathe well. Merrell has been dabbling in bike commute clothing for the past couple of years. This year's Merrell Vagaborne Denim Pants were my introduction to the line. As a daily bike commuter I was eager to get my hands on a pair. Fortunately Merrell sent me a pair to test out this winter.

Merrell Vagaborne Denim Pants Features

  • 98% cotton / 2% elastane
  • Traditional 5-pocket jean construction
  • Straight leg with trim leg modern fit
  • Reflective, vertical interior chain print at hem rolls up to varied heights for on-bike visibility
  • Price: $65.00

Merrell Vagaborne Denim Pants Review

In short, Merrell nailed it with the Merrell Vagaborne Denim Pants. The biggest strength of the Vagaborne is the 2% elastane. It gives the pants just enough stretch that you can swing your leg over your bike without feeling like your legs are tied together. When riding they give just enough when pedaling that you don't have to fight your pants. On top of that, the elastane makes for a very comfortable pant for everyday wear. The jeans feel softer than regular jeans but this doesn't sacrifice durability. My favorite small detail is the reflective seam on the inside of the pants. When you roll the cuffs you expose the reflective stitching on the inside seam that runs down the outside of your leg. It's an added visibility bonus. By itself it's not enough to keep you safe at night but it's a nice addition to your reflective system. Durability is strong. I thought with the softer feel the Vagaborne might wear out quickly. I've been commuting in them a couple times a week for a past few months and there are practically no signs of wear, even on the back where there's the most friction with the bike seat. I do a lot of crawling around on the floor with my kids which is usually a death sentence for pants. There are no signs of wear or fading on the knees. What would I have liked to have seen on the Vagaborne? As is, I think they are a great pant. To make them better I would have added a u-lock loop to the back of the pants. I'd also like to see a zippered option. I'm not particularly fond of the button fly. I'd also like to see an extra belt loop or two. The waist dips between the belt loops. The Vagaborne does come in two colors in the denim version and you can also get them in twill. The Good
  • Stretch for a non-restrictive ride
  • Reflective details
  • Comfortable
  • Durable
The Bad
  • Need an extra belt-loop or two
  • Button Fly

Bottom Line:

The Merrell Vagaborne Denim Pants are an awesome bike commuting pant. Don't bike commute? They are ultra comfy too. Buy Now: Pick up the Merrell Vagaborne Denim Pants[gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Icebreaker SS Roto Zip Jersey Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 - No Comments

The Icebreaker SS Roto Zip Jersey is a bike jersey gone smell free. After a hot summer of testing here's what I found. Oh yeah, Icebreaker kicked over the jersey for testing and review.

Icebreaker SS Roto Zip Jersey Features

  • Material: GT 200 (200g/m2 merino wool, spandex)
  • Active fit
  • Eyelet Panels for venting
  • 1 rear zippered pocket
  • Half-length zipper
  • Recommended Use: mountain biking
  • Price: $119.95

Icebreaker SS Roto Zip Jersey Review

The Icebreaker SS Roto Zip Jersey is almost like the anti-bike jersey. It's loose fitting bike and not flashy. With that said, it's probably more at home on a mountain bike ride than a road ride. I wore mine mainly on my daily bike commute. For mild to hot temps the Roto Zip is light and airy enough to keep you comfortable. The Merino wool fabric is light and comfortable on the skin. For extra venting Icebreaker included the half zip (which is also fantastic for showing off your hairy chest) and some eyelet fabric under the arms and at the top of the back panel for increased airflow. Performance was good. It kept me cool, wicked the sweat away, and stayed smell free. My longest time between washes came in July when I went three weeks riding daily in the Roto. Three weeks of hot summer riding and the Roto was virtually smell free. It was like the Royal Gardens compared to the smell of your typical jersey after 20 minutes of riding. A single pocket on the bottom right side is just the right size for a gel or bar or keys. I found the loose nature of the fit wasn't good for putting your phone back there. It just bounced and tugged all over the place. I like that the Roto isn't flashy, it isn't skin tight, and it performs exceptionally well. The Good
  • Light and airy
  • Smell Free
  • Loose fit
The Bad
  • You won't look like a road warrior in it (if your into that sort of thing)

Bottom Line:

Icebreaker SS Roto Zip Jersey is awesome for a commute or mountain bike jersey. Buy Now: Pick up the Icebreaker SS Roto Zip Jersey[gallery] ...

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Bike Gear

KEEN Springwater II Biking Shoe Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, August 28th, 2012 - 1 Comment

KEEN has been continuing to update and expand their line of bike specific shoes. The KEEN Springwater II Biking Shoe is no exception. At home on the trail or the commute, the Springwater will give you year-round performance.

KEEN Springwater II Biking Shoe Features

  • Upper: Leather, synthetic and mesh
  • Hook-and-loop closure
  • Full-length SPD compatible plate
  • Removable insole
  • Midsole: EVA
  • TPU cleat cap plate
  • Removable metatomical footbed
  • Use: Cycling
  • Outsole: Non-marking rubber
  • Fit Tip: Keen advises this style runs about a 1/2 size small
  • Weight: 18.72 oz
  • Price: $99.95

KEEN Springwater II Biking Shoe Review

The KEEN Springwater II Biking Shoe is a versatile shoe at a great price point. It provides good performance for the money and has held up well over a summer of daily bike commutes and other rides. On the performance side the Springwater II does well. The combination of the stiff, EVA midsole and triple velcro straps provides good power transfer to the pedals. It's not going to be all-star performance, but then again it's not made to be an all-star shoe. As a bike commuting shoe or a recreational MTB shoe, it performs well. I've found conflicting info on sizing. A little bit of research found that KEEN advises to size up a half size but this wasn't the case for me. I typically wear an 11 and the size 11 fit me perfectly. The lugged sole provided good traction in the dirt and sand for the times when pedaling wasn't an option. Riding comfort was high. The shoe has some nice padding in the upper. This does make the shoe "warmer" on hot days but is great on cool mornings. I also think it's going to do well on dry, winter commute days. My big complaint is with the velcro enclosures. I have a "normal" volume foot. To get a snug fit, I had to cinch the straps down so tight and practically ran out of velcro. The two lower straps are held on by maybe a half-inch. This has led to considerable fraying of the end of the closure with the rest of the strap practically brand new (see pic to the right). My other complaint is the shoe is very bulky. It's a very wide shoe. I couldn't find a performance disadvantage to this but it's worth noting. The Good
  • Great shoe for the price
  • Comfortable
  • Sole is long-lasting and provides good traction
The Bad
  • Straps are too long and velcro is too short
  • Bulky

Bottom Line:

For the money, the KEEN Springwater II Biking Shoe is a strong performer and a great buy. Buy Now: Pick up the KEEN Springwater II Biking Shoe[gallery] ...

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Bike Gear

Sugoi RPM Jacket Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 - No Comments

The Sugoi RPM Jacket is a hardworking, full protection jacket. It'll keep you dry, even in the strongest of downpours.

Sugoi RPM Jacket Features

  • Material: [shell] HydraShield (polyester), DWR coating; [collar] polyester brushed microfleece; [reflective accents] 3M Scotchlite
  • Fit: semi-fitted
  • Venting: core
  • Seams: fully taped
  • Price: $119.95

Sugoi RPM Jacket Review

The Sugoi RPM Jacket does exactly what it was made to do: keep water out. The DWR coated shell shed water, even in heavy rains. Off the hanger I didn't notice the jacket "wetting out" at all. I give high marks for keeping water out. Unfortunately the RPM also kept water in. It doesn't do a good job at all with breathability. Pit zips help with venting your core but thats it. The positioning of the vents isn't conducive to strong cross airflow but you do get some. Once I started sweating it was game over. Combine that with humidity from the air and you have a recipe for getting wet. The inside doesn't have a liner so the sleeves stick your arms. One feature I do like a lot is the reflective accents. They are very bright and great for getting attention of drivers in low light conditions. The accents are along the main zipper, a line design down the sleeves, and down the back. The collar is a microfleece that is extremely comfortable on your face and neck, even when it's soaking wet. The wrist cuffs are elastic and velcro. They were easy to pull on over gloves and the velcro is enough to keep the cuffs tight and prevent them from pulling up. The back of the jacket is cut a little longer for additional coverage. The Good
  • Keeps the water out
  • Good reflective detailing
The Bad
  • Not breathable
  • Keeps your sweat in

Bottom Line:

Great at weather protection and reflection, bad on breathability. Sugoi got many of the tiny details right on the RPM though. Buy Now: Pick up the Sugoi RPM Jacket [gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Light n Motion Urban Bike Lights Review

By Eric Miller - Monday, July 30th, 2012 - No Comments

The Light & Motion Urban Bike Lights are excellent examples of bike lights that don't look lame. They are sleek, powerful, and extremely bright. I've been using the Urban lights for about 6 months and here's what I thought.

Light & Motion Urban Bike Lights Features

  • Bulb: LED
  • Lumens: 550, 400, 200
  • Modes: High, Medium, Low
  • Battery indicator light
  • Single-cell Li-Ion Battery
  • USB Rechargeable (cord included)
  • Side safety lights
  • Handlebar mount included
  • Prices: $159.99, $129.99, $99.99

Light & Motion Urban Bike Lights Review

There are three options in the Light & Motion Urban Bike Lights line-up: the Urban 550, the Urban 400, and the Urban 200. They all sport similar feature sets, the biggest (only) differences are the number of lumens and battery life. The Urban line is sleek, extremely durable, and very powerful. The metal case can handle bumps, dings, and drops. Commuter lights need to be durable to get the full value and life out of them and the Urban lights are super durable. A lot of other bike lights look clunky, but not the Urban lights. With three lumen options you can choose the level of light you need. All three models boast 4 settings: high, medium, low, and flash. They are controlled with an easy-to-push button on the top of the case (operable even with gloves on). On the higher powered models you can feel confident riding at higher speeds with the amount of light given. I didn't feel like I was "outriding the light". The case features two yellow "side lights" to give 180 degree visibility. They are nice to have but they are only eye-catching at close distances. I am a big fan of the handlebar attachment. It is a rubber strap and hook closure. It's highly adjustable and easy to swap to other bikes. My biggest grip with other lights is use them on multiple bikes you have to track down other mounts, which can be a pain. The rubber strap pulls double duty keeping the light on the bar and holding it in place. Not once did I experience the light shifting while riding. If the strap breaks you can pick up extras from Light & Motion. After months of use mine is still going strong. Second favorite feature is the rechargeable battery. Light and Motion had the forethought to use the mini-USB for charging. I no longer have to carry a special cord to charge my light. The mini-USB is the same size as many cellphone and other chargers. From dead to full expect charge time to range 5-6 hours depending on your model. Battery life is decent, depending on the model and mode being used. Below is a chart of battery life, by model. An indicator light on the back alerts you to when battery life is getting short.
Urban 550 Urban 400 Urban 200
High 1:30 1:30 2:30
Medium 3:00 3:00 4:00
Low 6:00 6:00 8:00
Flash 18:00 18:00 24:00
The Urban line is fully waterproof. This is a base to even get into the game. I'm happy to say that after a winter and a spring I had zero issues. The Good
  • Bright
  • Durable
  • Sleek
  • Rechargeable
The Bad
  • There wasn't anything bad that stood out for me

Bottom Line:

The Light and Motion Urban line of bike lights is well worth the money. Buy Now: Pick up the Light & Motion Urban Bike Lights[gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Finally a Diaper Bag that Isn’t Lame: Timbuk2 Stork Messenger Bag Review

By Eric Miller - Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 - 3 Comments

Timbuk2 really brought it home with the Timbuk2 Stork Messenger Bag diaper bag.  Finally a diaper bag that isn't lame.  Let's face it, at some point most of us will have kids and we no longer have to succumb to bags that suck.

Timbuk2 Stork Messenger Bag Features

        
  • Durable ballistic nylon exterior
  • Machine washable (Hallelujah!). Remove the changing pad, wash on a gentle cycle with mild soap and hang dry
  • Waterproof TPU liner with tough guy tricycle print
  • True Fit cam buckle eliminates daily fit adjustments, gifting you precious seconds back into your life
  • Grab strap for easy lifting
  • Internal water bottle and bottle bottle pockets. A cold one for you, a hot one for mini-me
  • Padded removable changing pad with an external, stretchy pacifier pocket, two internal mesh diaper pockets and one clear zippy pocket for dirty dogs
  • Slightly padded internal slash pocket against the back wall for the stashing the changing pad, magazines, laptops or ipads (in a sleeve)
  • Clear three-zip front organizer help the sleep deprived find what they need like now
  • Napoleon side entry zipper pocket for grabbing keys or small magical toys without opening the messenger flap
  • Internal zip organizer for storing adult and baby accessories
  • Red key tether clips your keys or pacifier in place
  • Vista loop for blinky lights (or baby monitors)
  • Cross Strap for stabilization included
  • Coordinating Strap Pad included
  • Price:  $139

Timbuk2 Stork Messenger BagReview

The first thing you'll notice is the Timbuk2 Stork Messenger Bag looks like a regular messenger bag on the outside.  Not to sound like the person says "its what on the inside that counts" but the inside of the Stork is awesome.  Timbuk2 put a lot of time, effort, research, and planning to knock it out of the park with the Stork. Holy pockets galore!  Timbuk2 put in pockets, the added more pockets, then added a few more just for fun.  There is literally a place for everything.  My favorite pockets (my wife's too) are the clear zipper pockets.  The "bottle bottle" pocket is lightly insulated to help keep the bottles warm. Then more pockets to help keep you organized. Now if only you could remember where you put the pacifier... I had mixed feelings on the changing pad.  It's large and very cushy which makes changing diapers a nicer job.  Where I found the pad fell short was when it was packed with diapers or wipes.  I could fit two size 1 diapers and a thin plastic wipe container.  With just those few things the Velcro barely closed.  I like to carry more than 2 diapers in a changing pad.  The changing pad does have a couple of nice features:  a carry handle to take it solo, a stretchy pocket for keys or pacifier, and a long, clear zippered pocket.  The pocket does face the same space issue.  If you put much into it the Velcro won't close. The Stork is also a great size.  You can fit a ton in it, but when it's empty it doesn't look bulky.  Our latest addition is twin girls and we can fit everything we need for a day about with the twins plus some items for the big sisters in the Stork plus have some room to spare. When fully loaded the wide strap and matching shoulder pad keep the Stork riding comfortably.  Of course, being a Timbuk2 bag it rides exceptionally well when carried via bike. My wife commented on wishing it came in different colors...I like that it doesn't look like a typical diaper bag.  I love the inside fabric. The tricycles help round out the looks and add a little fun to the design. The Good
  • Pockets galore
  • Well thought out features
  • Great design and looks
The Bad
  • Changing pad falls short on carrying diaper and wipes
  • Only in black

Bottom Line:

Best diaper bag, EVER!  Timbuk2 really knocked it out of the park. Buy Now: Pick up the Timbuk2 Stork Messenger Bag[gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Sugoi Resistor Booties Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 - No Comments

For whatever reason when gearing up for cold or wet rides i never thought about my feet. I don't know how many times I finished a ride with frozen feet. Those days are gone now thanks to the Sugoi Resistor Booties

Sugoi Resistor Booties Features

  • PU coated stretch fleece provides wind and waterproof protection
  • Waterproof taped seams
  • Durable locking zip with guard
  • 3M Scotchlite reflective accents for added visibility
  • Price: $50

Sugoi Resistor Booties Review

The Sugoi Resistor Booties are very simple, yet effective in design. They slip over most technical bike shoes and are held in place by stretchy fabric, elastic, and a rear zipper. I tried them over my Keen commuter shoes and they didn't fit, at all. On road shoes or technical MTB shoes they fit snugly. The PU coating does a good job with shedding water and wind. After a 3 hour wet ride my feet were still dry. The fleece lining provides some warmth, but it isn't substantial. On super cold days I'll pair the Resistor Booties with thick socks to keep my toes toasty. Sugoi included a couple of reflective accents, which are nice, but as a commuter I'd like to see more. If you need the booties it's probably raining which means visibility is lower. More reflective details would be a nice add. The Good
  • Solidly waterproof
  • Good fit
The Bad
  • Could use some more reflective detailing

Bottom Line:

Great option for weather protection for your feet on cold, wet rides. Buy Now: Pick up the Sugoi Resistor Booties [gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Planet Bike Grasshopper Fenders

By Eric Miller - Saturday, March 31st, 2012 - No Comments

The Planet Bike Grasshopper Fenders aren't your typical fenders.  Made of bamboo they really stand out from the crowd.  Planet Bike gave me the chance to test a pair out over the winter.

Planet Bike Grasshopper Fenders Features

  • Fast growing Moso Bamboo makes your bicycle adventures even more sustainable
  • Durable marine grade top coat finish and 3 ply Bamboo laminate construction
  • Hardware is all stainless-steel and pre-installed for hassle-free mounting
  • V-stays on the front and rear fender for added stability
  • Release Tabs on front fender
  • 45mm width
  • Fits tires up to 27"x1 1/4" or 700cx35mm
  • Price:  $134.99

Planet Bike Grasshopper Fenders Review

The  Planet Bike Grasshopper Fenders are nice. Out of the box you'll take one look, give a little whistle, and say "those ae nice!".  The natural look of the bamboo give the Grasshopper a visual aesthetic that other fenders don't have. I don't know how many compliments I've received on the fenders.  "Woah, look at those fenders!" is a common response I've heard.  If you are going for a nicer look, consider the Grasshopper. Aesthetics are one thing but if they don't perform then what good would they be as fenders?  On the performance side the Grasshopper did well.  I'd say 3.5-4 stars.  First off I'm using them on tires that are pushing the size limit.  I have them on my 29er commuter rig which run 700x38 tires.  Even at that larger size performance was decent.  If you stay with the recommended size limit performance will be better (obviously).   I did note a few things.  On plastic fenders they have more of a lip on the edges which helps channel then water down the fender.  The Grasshopper has a small channel down the center but no lips on the edges.  I did get some spray off the edges.  It might be less with smaller tires but worth noting. One other thing I noticed, particularly on the front wheel, is I really need a mud flap.  The fender doesn't quite extend low enough and my feet catch a lot spray.  This could be product of running slightly bigger tires.  In central OR we don't get "that" much rain so I can get by without them.  If you live in wetter climes then pair the Grasshopper with some mud flaps.   Being made of bamboo the Grasshopper fenders are extremely durable and hold up to the elements in a way plastic can't.  After one winter of use they look just as good the day I mounted them. Installation was a cinch and Planet Bike has good supply of small parts if you ever need to replace anything. The Good
  • Look great
  • Durable
  • Made with sustainable materials
The Bad
  • Performance drops as your tires get bigger
  • Need a mud flaps to keep spray down

Bottom Line:

The Planet Bike Grasshopper fenders look great, are durable, and can perform really well with the right sized tires. Buy Now: Pick up the Planet Bike Grasshopper Fenders[gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Detours D2R Trunk Bag Review

By Eric Miller - Sunday, March 18th, 2012 - No Comments

The Detours D2R Trunk Bag is exactly what the name says...a trunk bag for the rear rack of your bike. Whether a bike commuter, recreational rider, or on a tour, the Trunk Bag is a good bag to have.

Detours D2R Trunk Bag Features

  • Capacity: 800 cu in
  • Rear water bottle holder
  • 2 zippered side pockets
  • Bungee cord top for jacket storage
  • Four-point quick release buckles plus a Velcro strap keep the bag securely attached to your rear rack
  • Removable waterproof rain cover.
  • Dimensions: 13 x 7 x 11 in
  • Price: $85

Detours D2R Trunk Bag Review

The Detours D2R Trunk Bag is a nice addition to your cargo hauling quiver. At 800 cu in it has enough capacity to be flexible. It can easily fit lunch, a light jacket, your small gadgets, wallet, keys, water bottle, and a few miscellaneous items. The main compartment is big and open also has an expansion zipper to give a little extra space. The outside features two slim zipper pockets. On the very back is a water bottle pocket. All in all quite a bit of versatility in such a small package. It attaches securely to a rear bike rack via four quick release buckles (two on each side) and a Velcro strap on the front. I was skeptical on the four buckles at first. I thought they'd slip over time but after a few months worth of riding they didn't slip at all. One downfall of the attachment system is it doesn't allow for quick on and off. If I have it full of stuff and need to run a few errands I don't want to leave it on the bike. It was a bit of a pain to take it on and off frequently. To help with portability Detours did include a removable padded shoulder strap and a carry handle. Detours did a stellar job with the visibility of the Trunk Bag. The sides each feature reflective strips and the water bottle pocket also has a reflective strip and swatch on it. I am a huge proponent of "being seen" when commuting. So many pieces of gear only provide a token piece a piping. The Trunk Bag has good reflective coverage. A removable rain cover is included. I never used it though. In the light rains I rode through the bag stayed dry enough. I'm sure it'll come in handy in deluges. The cover is bright yellow to help increase your visibility in the rain. The Good
  • Excellent Capacity
  • Good Visibility
  • Highly Weather Resistant
The Bad
  • Isn't quick to take on/off when out running errands if you don't want to leave it on your bike

Bottom Line:

Overall the Trunk Bag is a great way to get a little extra cargo capacity on your bike. Buy Now: Pick up the Detours D2R Trunk Bag[gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Sugoi Carbon Zip Long-Sleeve Shirt Review

By Eric Miller - Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 - No Comments

Baselayers are essential to a good ride or run. So why not get one that works, is comfortable, and is technical? You'll get just that with the Sugoi Carbon Zip Long-Sleeve Shirt. Sugoi gave me the chance this past winter to test out the Carbon zip and here's what I thought about it.

Sugoi Carbon Zip Long-Sleeve Shirt Features

  • Fabric: FinoCarbon
  • Fit: Slim
  • Flat seams
  • 10" zipper
  • Articulated for free movement
  • Price: $55

Sugoi Carbon Zip Long-Sleeve Shirt Review

I thought the Sugoi Carbon Zip Long-Sleeve Shirt was just going to be another typical baselayer but I was pleasantly surprised. The first thing I noticed pulling it out the packaging was how soft the fabric felt. Putting it on, it's very comfortable. Scoff if you'd like at the "softness" comment but if I'm going to be moving, sweating, and pushing myself, I don't want my shirt to be uncomfortable. The fit is great. It is definitely slim and hugs your body. It's great for performance. I am 6 feet and 180 lbs and the large fits me nicely. I have long arms and the sleeves were long enough for me. One thing I think is missing though is thumb loops. I'm a fan of the thumb loops, especially on colder days. The Carbon Zip did a good job with moisture management. On my sweatiest days it kept up. The FinoCarbon fabric is infused with carbon to help control odor. It is awesome at controlling smells! I could pull multiple uses between washings without making myself wretch each time I pulled it over my head. All in all the Carbon Zip is a great baselayer. I've used it mostly running but have used it biking as well. It works as a good mid-layer on the bike as the fit isn't quite long enough to cover your back on the bike. The Good
  • Great Performance
  • Great Fit
  • Not Smelly
The Bad
  • Would liked to have seem thumb loops

Bottom Line:

Get a baselayer that works. The Sugoi Carbon Zip Long-Sleeve Shirt is awesome. It's comfortable, has high performance, and isn't as smelly as other synthetic layers. Buy Now: Pick up the Sugoi Carbon Zip Long-Sleeve Shirt[gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Marin Hamilton 29er Bike Review

By Eric Miller - Wednesday, December 21st, 2011 - 4 Comments

I've been on the quest to find my "ideal" bike commuting rig. With the Marin Hamilton 29er (2011 model) I've come extremely close.

Marin Hamilton 29er Features

  • Sizes: 17, 19, 20.5, 22
  • Frame: 4130 Cromoly Single Speed 29er, Double Butted Edge Steel Tubeset with Butted E4 Anti-Flex Seat and Chain Stays
  • Front Suspension: Cromoly Rigid 29er, 1 1/8”
  • Brakes Front: Forged Alloy Linear Pull
  • Brakes Rear: Forged Alloy Linear Pull
  • Brake Levers: Forged Alloy 3 Finger
  • Pedals: Composite with Alloy Cage
  • Crankset: TruVativ IsoFlow 1.0 G, 32T with Alloy CG
  • Bottom Bracket: TruVativ with Sealed Cartridge
  • Chain: UG51
  • Cassette: 17T Cog
  • Hub Rear: Sturmey-Archer Two Speed Kick Back, Alloy, 32 Hole
  • Hub Front Alloy Double Sealed, 32 Hole with QR
  • Rims: Alex CA-20, Double Wall, 32 Hole with CNC Side Walls
  • Spokes Nipples: WTB 14 Gauge Black Stainless
  • Tires: Continental Town Ride, 29” x 1.6” Urban
  • Saddle: WTB Vigo Sport with Love Channel and Comfort Zone
  • Seatpost: Alloy Micro Adjust, 27.2mm x 350mm
  • Stem: Marin OS Alloy Threadless, with 31.8mm Bar Clamp
  • Handlebar: Double Butted 6061 Alloy, OS-31.8mm, 25.4mm Rise
  • Grips: WTB Street Smart with Drop Guard End Plugs
  • Headset: FSA, 1 1/8”, Threadless
  • Price: $599
First off, I've been riding the 2011 model and when comparing specs to the 2012 model, they are basically identical with some "accent" differences. With that said, here we go! All around, as a commuting bike, the Marin Hamilton 29er is awesome. It's steel so it can handle the abuse of the daily commute through the streets, it comes with all the attachment points for your various accessories, it's simple in design and components, and almost most importantly, it's fun to ride! Everything I'd expect from a commuting bike. Taking a deeper dive...The Hamilton 29er features a more upright riding position. It's great for around to check your surroundings, looking over/around cars, and other obstacles to your view. The WTB Vigo seat is comfortable, after a few hours running errands I wasn't saddle sore. The bars are fairly wide. If I had the time, I'd probably chop an inch off each end. If I rode in heavy traffic or was riding between lines of cars, I'd go for shorter bars. That said, the wide bars give good control and add to the comfortable riding stance. The Hamilton 29er does come with all the attachment points I'd expect for a commute bike: Front and rear fender mounts and front and rear rack mounts. For being a commute focused bike, Marin did miss a couple things in regards to the mounts. One, on the front fork the distance from the crown to the top of the tire is almost 3 inches! To get my fender close to the tire, I had to go buy a metal mounting plate strap from the hardware store to close the distance (photo to the right). Then the spacing on the rear was a little off and the rear fender didn't fit quite right. I had to do a little tweaking to get it to sit just right. In terms of components, I think Marin did a great job picking most of what went on the bike. Most all of it (exception for rear cog, more on that later) have held strong and I haven't had to do a lot of adjusting. I've put about 500 miles on the bike and there aren't many signs of wear. Sure the components are on the lower end of the spectrum but they are sturdy and I wouldn't want expensive stuff on my commuter. My biggest gripe with the bike is the Sturmey-Archer kickback 2 speed hub and the cog that came with the bike. I love the idea of the kickback two speed. It's extremely handy. You still get the simplicity of riding a single speed but you have a little flexibility in terms of gearing. I love the idea. The problem was, the hub was very finicky at the start. First, a seal came loose and I was dropping grease. I got that fixed. Then it wouldn't shift. It was almost as if something internally broke. I don't know, I didn't know what it was and I didn't dare take it apart. I was given a new hub. Then twice, the rear cog stripped off of the rear axle. The cog that comes with the bike is flimsy. It is held to the axle via three small teeth. When cranking hard (from a stop) the teeth were shorn clean off. I went through two cogs before the bike shop bought me a nice Shimano cog. I haven't had issues with this since. I also haven't had any more issues with the kickback hub. Now more on the kickback hub: it took a little getting use to. It was hard to get the right motion down, the right amount of kickback to change gears. Then I had times where I'd roll back just a hair (not noticing when coasting) and all of a sudden I'd be in the easy gear. Once I got the motions down though it's been great. I mostly ride in the hard gear. The easy gear lets up just enough for hills, headwinds, or tired days. The wheels and tires have been awesome too. Once again, Marin nailed it. Yes they aren't expensive, flashy wheels, but you don't want that for the commuter. You want workhorse and workhorse is exactly what you get. The Alex doublewall rims have run true over the 500 miles I've put them, even after hitting a couple potholes and catching curbs. The Continental Town Ride tires are more puncture resistant that your typical tire which is nice. I have flatted from a staple (you'll flat anyway with from a staple) and a couple of goatheads though. The Town Ride tires are going to be long lasting too. 500 miles and they barely show any wear and tear. My guess is I'll get a couple of thousand miles on them, easy. Front tire attaches via quick release, rear features horizontal, track style dropouts with a threaded axle. Weight wise, it's pretty heavy. Once again though, I don't care for the commuter bike. I'm not weight conscious, especially with the front and rear racks, slime tubes, and Mr. Tuffy Strips. The Hamilton 29er does come with basic platform pedals, I quickly changed these out for some Crank Brothers Candy Pedals. Overall, the Hamilton 29er is an awesome commuting bike. Yes it does have its shortcomings but the pros far outweigh the cons. This is the best commuting bike I've owned and I look forward to years of use out of it.

Marin Hamilton 29er Review

The Good
  • Has many commute friendly features
  • Sturdy/well made
  • Fun to ride
  • Great price
The Bad
  • Fender mounts are a little off, takes some tweaking to get them to fit
  • Sturmey-Archer Kickback 2 speed hub was finicky at first & standard rear cog strips out easily

Bottom Line:

The Marin Hamilton 29er is an awesome commuting bike. It's sturdy, has the features to make it versatile to your commute, and hits a great price point. You'd be hard pressed to go wrong with it as your commuting bike. Buy Now: Pick up a Marin Hamilton 29er [gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Planet Bike Super Flash Turbo Rear Bike Light Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, November 29th, 2011 - 2 Comments

I've said it before and I'll say it again, one of the most important factors to consider when bike commuting is making sure you are seen by those nearby. The Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Rear Bike Light helps ensure that you are. The updated specs and flash pattern plus 100 hour battery life help ensure that motorists will see you from behind.

Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Rear Bike Light Features

  • One Watt Power LED plus 2 red LEDs for visibility up to 1 mile
  • New attention-grabbing Turbo flash pattern
  • Turbo flash mode is highly visible, even in daylight
  • Ultra compact vertical design is weatherproof, lightweight and durable
  • Includes bike mounts and clip mount for multiple mounting options
  • Soft-touch power switch accesses flashing or steady mode for up to 100 hours of run time on
  • 2 AAA batteries (included)
  • Price: $34

Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Rear Bike Light Review

The Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Rear Bike Light is very similar to the "regular" Planet Bike Superflash Tail Light. Same body design, same attachment. The main differences come in the LEDs, flash pattern, and reflector. The Superflash Turbo features a one-watt Power LED, twice the wattage of the regular Superflash. The one-watt is bright! It is still paired with two smaller red LEDs for increased visibility. Even with the larger wattage battery life clocks in up to 100 hours, same as the Superflash. I haven't run the batteries out yet! With that in mind, I haven't been able to test to see if the lights begin to dim as you near the end of the battery life. The flash pattern has been changed up from past models. It is still very attention grabbing and will get you noticed. It can best be described as an off-tempo strobe that alternates between super bright and bright flashes with the one-watt bulb. The smaller lights give a more consistent strobe. Video below demonstrates the strobe. The reflector is clear with a red cover over the one-watt bulb. It is clear on the sides, giving you 180 degrees of visibility from the rear. The Superflash Turbo does come with the bike mount along with a clothing clip on the back of the light so you can slide it onto a pack strap or onto your belt. The clip is replaceable, which is a huge plus for me. I've broken clips on similar lights in the past and have to buy whole new lights to because of this small failure. This really showcases to me the thought that Planet Bike puts into their lights. One downfall is the Superflash Turbo doesn't have a battery life indicator. The Good
  • Super bright
  • Attention getting
  • Well thought out design
The Bad
  • No battery life indicator

Bottom Line:

Be visible with the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Rear Bike Light. Planet Bike makes some of the best lights out there and the Superflash Turbo is no exception. Buy Now: Pick up the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Rear Bike Light [gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Detours Teeco Too Pannier Review

By Eric Miller - Wednesday, October 26th, 2011 - 2 Comments

Once you make the switch to using your bicycle to run errands you will quickly find that you need a versatile bag to take care of your cargo needs. The Detours Teeco Too Pannier is just the bag for the job.

Detours Teeco Too Pannier Features

  • Capacity: 1,600 cu in (26 L)
  • Dimentions: 19 x 13 x 7 inches
  • Materials: Polyester & rubber
  • Attachment: 2 Heavy-Duty Plastic Hooks
  • Price: $40

Detours Teeco Too Pannier Review

The Detours Teeco Too Pannier is great bag to have in your bike bag repetoire. It is built as a "market pannier" to haul groceries or gear. The most distinguishing feature of the Teeco Too is that it's a pannier but also a backpack. It has two backpack straps that stow away in a dedicated sleeve when you use it as a pannier. I love this feature! Throw the bag on the rack and when you get to your destination just pull out the straps and sling it on your back and you are ready to go. The straps are decently thick and comfortable. My heaviest load has probably been close to 30 lbs and it sat comfortably on my shoulders. To stow the straps, just unclip the buckles and stash them away. The Teeco Too also features a thick rubber bottom which is good for durability but also provides a stable base when putting the bag on the group. It won't tip over when it's loaded. Research elsewhere indicates that the rubber bottom isn't strong enough for extremely heavy loads so put something hard like a piece of plywood in the bottom. Detours also included an expandable collor to give a little more versatility for tall loads or an extra full bag. Two "cargo" handles are useful for other carry options. The Teeco Too attaches to your bicycle rack via two heavy-duty plastic hoods. I have mixed feelings about these. On the plus side, they slide right over your rack for easy attachment. They also feature a small lip to help keep the bag from slipping off the rack rails. Now for the bad...the hooks are fixed in place. Depending on your set-up this might not be an issue, however, depending on your bike geometry you could be kicking the bag on every pedal stroke if it's on your rear rack. Also along that same line, racks are built a little differently and cross bars on the rack might be in the way. The other piece I'd like to see is some form of a "sway stabilizer". On inside corners the bag will sway away from the rack. This is an issue with heavy loads as it pulls your balance off and can make navigating difficult. The Teeco Too also features a small zippered pouch on the inside which is nice to hold your keys and wallet. My favorite use for the Teeco Too has been on grocery trips. On a recent trip I was able fit a gallon of milk, 5 lbs of carrots, a stack of corn tortillas, carton of sour cream, 18 eggs, 2 Jarritos, a jalapeno, head of cabbage, two avocados, two bell peppers, a mini notebook, keys, cargo net, mini pump, and a u-lock with a short cable. I probably could have squeezed a few more smaller items in if I wanted too. I was surprised by the capacity. Another plus to the flat rubber bottom is when the bag is loaded, it can sit nicely on my flat front rack. Once again though, it would be nice to able to adjust the hooks in so it could attach when sitting on my front rack. The Good
  • Great versatility - love the pannier/backpack combo
  • Rubber bottom is good for sitting flat and protecting your cargo
  • Lots of capacity
The Bad
  • Rack hooks don't adjust
  • No "sway stabilizer"

Bottom Line:

Even with the negatives the Teeco Too is still a great bag to have, I love mine. It's big on versatility and it's great to have the combo of shoulder straps and pannier in one. Buy Now: Pick up the Detours Teeco Too Pannier [gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Specialized Solar Vita Biking Jersey

By Claire - Thursday, October 20th, 2011 - No Comments

Looking for a versatile cycling jersey? One that will keep you from frying in the sun but won't make you overheat? Or one that you can layer on top of other pieces of clothing in changing temperatures? Check out the Solar Vita Jersey from Specialized.

Specialized Solar Vita Jersey Details

  • Lightweight polyester material provides UPF 50+ protection
  • Full length, semi-locking zipper
  • Specialized logo gripper at the bottom prevents slippage
  • 3 back pockets and additional security pocket to store essentials
  • Long sleeved version delivers extra sun protection, but is lightweight enough for year-round use
  • MSRP: $100

Specialized Solar Vita Jersey Review

As I mentioned in my Best of the Bike Trip article, the Solar Vita Jersey became part of my daily biking ensemble for my 6 week cycling tour of the PNW Coastline. I wore this thing every day! Rain or shine, the Solar Vita Jersey was always my outermost layer to get some visibility. I loved the versatility that this jersey offers- you can wear it when it's warm and not overheat, thanks to the thin material, but you can also toss it over a baselayer on cooler days, and not sacrifice that nice visibility that the bright yellow color offers. The full front zip makes it easy to take the jersey on and off if you're in a rapidly changing climate, or to just get some more ventilation for when you crank up those hills. The pockets are great, fit is great, and the versatility makes this a "must have" piece of clothing for your cycling wardrobe. The Solar Vita Jersey is available in a short sleeve and long sleeve version, and I found that the long sleeves allowed me to keep my arms from frying on the warm days, thanks to the lightweight UPF 50+ material, and also allowed me to use the Solar Vita as a lighter weight long sleeve layer. I enjoyed not having to glop pounds of sunscreen on my arms each day! However, where the Solar Vita really shines is on the slightly overcast days. You know, those days where you don't really think you're going to need sunscreen, but at the end of the day, you discover your arms have turned a lovely hue of red? Well, on those deceptively cool days, the Solar Vita provided just enough warmth and provided the sun protection I needed.

Bottom Line

A must have for cyclist who find themselves outside in a variety of spring and summer weather.

Check It Out

Specialized Solar Vita Long Sleeve Jersey...

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Bike Gear

Specialized S-Works Prevail Biking Helmet

By Claire - Monday, October 10th, 2011 - No Comments

Though biking days for this season are limited for me, I'm still trying to crank out a few last road rides before the weather totally turns and the roads become skating rinks. Before heading out on a ride, I grab my Specialized Prevail Biking Helmet to protect my dome from anything from flying debris to the unexpected spill.

Specialized S-Works Prevail Helmet Details

  • Dual Density EPS Foam
  • Kevlar Inner Matrix reinforcement
  • Mega Pouthport and 4th Dimension Cooling System for ventilation
  • Ultralight Mindset micro dial fit system with height adjustability
  • Tri-Fix web splitter, Instrap webbing attachment and 4X DryLite webbing on straps
  • MSRP $230

Specialized S-Works Prevail Helmet Review

Along with using the Prevail for my daily rides, I used the Prevail this summer on my biking epic from Seattle, WA to Eureka, CA so it definitely saw a lot of use. Part of the daily biking ensemble, the Prevail spent a lot of time on the job this summer, protecting my head from all sorts of maladies. Fortunately, the biking trip was relatively incident free, so no reports on how it functions in a major collision. However, I can report that I loved the Micro Adjust system, which ensured that the Prevail sat comfortably on my head for thousands of miles. I can also report that the venting system is awesome, and my head never really overheated. I liked the lightweight profile of the helmet as well- more often than not, I'd forget it was on my head and be traipsing around camp, hours after getting off the bike, still donning my helmet. Yes, I am that girl. However, the steep price tag of the S-Works Prevail make that lightweight benefit a bit less justifiable for the casual cyclist. Since I'm not a "shave my arms to get rid of extra drag and weight" kind of cyclist, the ounces saved, while a nice bonus, was not enough to tip the scales and suddenly make me think that the $200 plus price tag for a biking helmet should become the norm for everyone. That being said, the features, profile and weight of the S-Works Prevail are fantastic. If you're a dedicated cyclist who looks to shave weight off wherever you can, the S-Works Prevail is definitely the top of the line, lightweight helmet. Just as anything within Specialized's S-Works line, you'll get the best available technology on the market.

The Good

  • 4th Dimension Cooling System and exhaust ports do a great job ventilating- I always had a nice breeze going on my head.
  • Mindset Microdial is easy to adjust, and, for you ladies out there, easy to wedge a pony tail around. Still room for your hair and the adjustment system.
  • Light, light, light! I promise, you'll forget it's on.

The Bad

  • A steep price tag makes these top of the line features less accessible to your everyday cyclist.
  • I found that the Tri-Fix adjustment didn't sit exactly on my head as I would have liked it to, and since it's not adjustable, I couldn't change that. A downside to the fixed webbing system.

Bottom Line

A top of the line racing helmet with top of the line features and a top of the line price tag. If you're looking to save weight, manage your ventilation better, adjust easier, and, hey, match your S-Works Team Jersey as an added bonus, the S-Works Prevail is the helmet to consider.

Buy Now

Specialized Prevail S-Works Helmet...

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Bike Gear

Yakima Highlite 3 Bike Rack Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 - 4 Comments

Looking for a bike rack for your car/truck/van? Don't want to hoist your bikes on top of your ride? Want a rack that will securely hold your bikes and is wicked easy to use? Look no further than the Yakima HighLite 3 Bike Rack. Yakima gave me the chance this summer to test the HighLite and it didn't disappoint.

Yakima HighLite 3 Bike Rack Features

  • One of the lightest hitch racks on the market - under 20 lbs
  • Available in a 2- or 3-bike model
  • Tilts away for rear-of-vehicle access
  • Sliding SWITCHBLADE™ anti-sway cradles eliminates bike-to-bike contact and improve ease of loading
  • TRIGGERFINGER™ technology lets you fold arms down with the press of a button
  • Integrated LOCKDOWN™ security cable included so you can lock bikes to the rack
  • Comes with two integrated bottle openers. Boom. And boom!
  • Fits 2" and 1-1/4" hitch receivers out of the box
  • Optional TUBETOP™ available to carry funky shaped bikes
  • Price: $339.00

Yakima HighLite 3 Bike Rack Review

The Yakima HighLite 3 Bike Rack is the lightest 3 bike hitch rack that Yakima makes. The design is extremely user friendly. The lightweight made it easier to install, makes handling the swing of the rack to get into the back of your car easier, and let's face it, it's a few less pound on the back of the car. The HighLite does come in two or three bike capacities. On the three, I was able to fit three bikes without much hassle. You know on some bike racks where you have to fight to get the last bike on there? Not so with the HighLite. Sure it takes a little bit of thought to get the fit just right if you're loading different bikes to get everything to slide together nicely, but it came without any swearing. The cradles for the bikes are nice. Once the bikes were on and strapped, they held firm. The side that cradles the top-tube and seat tube is adjustable so you can get it to fit almost any angle between the two (or no angle if you're rockin' f/s). The rubber straps are highly adjustable and there was never any slippage. One of the nicest things is it fits 2" and 1-1/4" hitch receivers out of the box. At first I thought it was a little wonky, I will admit. But once I saw how it works, I was a fan. I have a 2" receiver. I just had to slide it in, make sure the depth adjustment was right, and then tighten it up. It works via a "camming device". With a few turns of a lockable knob, the cam pushes out, contacting the sides of the hitch, and securing the rack in place. Just lock the knob and the rack is secure in terms of coming out of hitch and from theft. A small safety pin inserts through one side of the hitch as insurance for the rack sliding out if you didn't crank it down tight enough. Use of the rack has been awesome. I drive a Toyota Sienna mini-van and the rack has been on all summer. It tilts far enough out that I can open the back door to load and unload without the rack being in the way. The latch to keep the rack in the upright position is spring loaded and clicks into place. Just listen for the click and there is no question if it's locked into place. I've had it out for anything from MTB missions, picking up and dropping broken bikes off at the shop, shuttle road bikes around, and it's been awesome. The HighLite also comes with an integrated cable lock. It is just enough to stretch over the top-tubes and will only deter the thief looking for the convenient steal. But it's enough to make you feel comfortable to run into the burrito shop for the post-ride refuel without constantly glancing out the window. For a little more security (particularly for your wheels) you could check out my review of the Kryptonite Modulus 1010S Lock System. If you're heading into sketchy areas or will be leaving your bikes unattended for long periods of time, lock them down tight with additional ulocks and cable locks. I used the HighLite on a 2,000 mile summer road trip and tons of day rides and it's been awesome. I seriously don't have any complaints. The Good
  • Easy to install
  • Wicked easy to use
  • Burly - handled any combination of bikes I threw at it
  • Fits 3 bikes with no problem
The Bad
  • Seriously couldn't think of any
  • You want one? Fine...it doesn't come in a 4 bike model

Bottom Line:

The Yakima HighLite 3 is one of the best hitch bike racks you can buy in my opinion. You would seriously have to try hard to go wrong with it. Buy Now: Pick up the Yakima HighLite 3 Bike Rack [gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Avenir RainCity Panniers

By Claire - Saturday, October 1st, 2011 - 2 Comments

For my 6 week bike trip down the Pacific Northwest Coast this summer, I needed to make sure that I had a waterproof way to store and carry my things. After riding for hours in the rain, nothing will really ruin your evening like unpacking your panniers to discover that your supposedly dry pair of pants is just as soaked as you are. For my trip I had the opportunity to check out Avenir's RainCity Panniers.

The Specs

  • Capacity: size medium= 910 cubic inches, large= 1170 cubic inches
  • Includes reflective light mounting tab and reflective strips on side of bags
  • Roll top opening with single strap closure
  • Includes carrying handle
  • MSRP: $124.99

The Review

After 6 weeks of use, my panniers were still in great shape! No tears in the material, and most importantly, no leaks! They were waterproof throughout the entire trip, for the most part. Though I had no leaks, the bottom of the bag is made of a different material than the sides, and after hours of riding in the rain, that part did get a little saturated. However, I don't fault Avenir for this- it was a LOT of rain. Only on 2 days of our entire trip did I have mildly damp panniers. Avenir also makes a seatbag and handlebar bag of the same material, and I'd have full confidence that those would be waterproof enough to stand up to the PNW elements as well. Overall the access in and out of the panniers was super easy, and I was thrilled to have the RainCity Panniers on the front of my bike, where I kept things that I'd need easy access to throughout the day.

The Good

  • Easy to get in and out of frequently, since the closing system is a single strap. Good for things you need to access a lot.
  • The panniers come with an inner foam piece that adds a little structural integrity to them, especially when you don't have the bags totally full. They'll keep their shape whether you've got a single snack bar or a full cookset plus food inside them.

The Bad

  • Color selection. Most other panniers come in bright reds, oranges and yellows, plus reflective tabs for even more visibility. While the Avenir panniers are black and silver, and the silver is reflective, this doesn't add visibility for daylight hours. Anything to alert motorists to my presence earlier is a bonus, and color would have done that.
  • Attachment system is cumbersome, especially if you are taking the bags on and off quite frequently. While the top attachment point is great, the back of the bag has an elastic bungee that circles around your rack to re-attach to a fabric clip on the bag. Thank goodness I had small hands, or it never would have made it on the bike. Lots of wiggling around to make it work.

Bottom Line

A well constructed pannier that could use a little more color. It's ease of access makes it perfect for a daily commuter bag.

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Avenir RainCity Panniers...

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Bike Gear

Kryptonite Evolution Mini 7 Bike Lock

By Eric Miller - Thursday, September 29th, 2011 - No Comments

As a year-round bike commuter I take bike security seriously. My bike is my mode of transportation. Being married and having a couple kids at home, taking the family car isn't an option (especially since I sold our second car to buy a bike). I want a lock that not only looks intimidating but has the strength to slow down would be thieves. I've found just that with the Kryptonite Evolution Mini 7 Bike Lock.

Kryptonite Evolution Mini 7 Bike Lock Features

  • 13mm MAX-Performance steel shackle resists bolt cutters and leverage attacks
  • Reinforced cuff over crossbar and cylinder for added security
  • Improved high security, disc-style cyclinder
  • High security Bent Foot(TM) design
  • Center keyway defends against leverage attacks
  • Anti-rattle bumpers reduce noise during transport
  • Rotating dustcover protects cylinder
  • Includes versatile EZ Mount transportation bracket
  • 3 keys - one lighted with high intensity bulb & replaceable battery
  • 3.25 in. x 7 in.
  • Price: $64.95

Kryptonite Evolution 7 Mini Bike Lock Review

The Kryptonite Evolution Mini 7 Bike Lock is a strong little lock, with an emphasis on little and emphasis on strong. With 40 years of lock design experience, Kryptonite is a leader in bike locks. The Evolution Mini 7 is the second smallest lock in Kryptonite's current u-lock line. It measures 3.25" by 7" long. It's small enough to fit in your pocket, through your belt, or in a water bottle pocket on your backpack. The benefits of a small lock include greater security against leverage attempts using pry bars or other tools. The main challenge I've found is it's rare that I can fit the lock through my back wheel, seat tube and around the bike rack I'm locking to. The width is usually just not quite wide enough to fit through and around all of that. This would be a negative for me, however, the Mini 7 comes with a 4 foot flex cable. It is just long enough to loop through both the front and rear wheels and slide onto the u-lock. Yes cables are the easiest locks to cut through, however, Kryptonite has tried to offset this by using a braided cable which is supposed to help with cut resistance (I'm taking their word for it, I haven't tried cutting it myself). That being said it's a nice addition to help secure your wheels and it helps counteract the negative of not being able to secure your frame and wheel with the lock itself. The 13mm shackle helps inspire confidence in the lock and is a stronger deterrent providing greater resistance against cutting and leveraging. The bent foot design that Kryptonite employs also helps guard against leveraging the lock apart. The locking mechanism itself is thick and tightly put together which is a security plus. It also means your lock isn't going to rattle when you ride. Kryptonite ranks the Mini 7 as "9" on their 12 point security rating system. There are a few minor aspects to the lock that are very nice: The sheath around the shackle has held up, it helps protect your frame from scrapes and help protects the lock from the weather. The dust guard for the keyhole is easy to use and helps keep it clean. Kryptonite also includes a bike mount for carrying your lock. I haven't used it, I'm skeptical of it breaking. It seems well made, but since I always ride with a pack and sometimes I ride different bikes, I prefer to carry my lock. Kryptonite also includes three keys. One of which includes a small LED light which is helpful at night when your digging around in your bag or or when locking/unlocking your bike. The nice thing about three keys is, chances are you won't have to reorder any keys (unless of course you're really good at losing stuff). If it gets to that point, you can always reorder keys. Kryptonite has a key registry so you can register your keys so if you don't have to keep track of any numbers. Lastly, if you aren't keen on orange and black, Kryptonite also sells different color sheaths for the lock. As you likely know, a determined thief with get through any lock you use. The goal is to make your bike more secure than the bikes around or to lock it in a way to deter a potential bike thief. The Kryptonite Mini 7 with the cable does just that. For most people, it'll be enough of a lock to keep your bike safe and secure. If you live in a high theft area, you might consider going with something stronger. The Good
  • Strong & Secure
  • Included Cable
  • Small Size
  • Well made
The Bad
  • Small size can be tough when locking to larger racks
  • If you live in a high theft area, you might want to couple this with another lock or go with a stronger lock

Bottom Line:

The Kryptonite Evolution Mini 7 Bike Lock is a strong, well-made bike lock. It has become my daily lock and I'd recommend it for all but the most theft-prone areas. Buy Now: Pick up the Kryptonite Evolution Mini 7 Bike Lock [gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Ogio Baja 1650 Hydration Pack Review

By Eric Miller - Monday, September 5th, 2011 - 2 Comments

I've been riding and running with the same hydration pack for the past six years. I found one I liked and like a good marriage partner, I didn't look around to see what else was out there. When Ogio contacted me to review one their packs it was with a little trepidation that I accepted. I didn't want to be unfaithful to the stalwart hydration pack I was using. Enough with the marriage analogy. While Ogio's hydration packs focus on moto they have definitely application to the mountain bike world. I chose to test and review the Ogio Baja 1650 Hydration Pack.

Ogio Baja 1650 Hydration Pack Features

  • Hydrapak reservoir bladder (70 oz) and drink system
  • Sleek air flow profile pack with separate hydration pocket
  • Posh top drop-in audio pocket with headphone port
  • Multi-use large main compartment and posh valuable pocket
  • Dual side mesh accessory pockets and expandable front mesh pocket
  • Adjustable padded shoulder strap with sternum strap
  • Deluxe back padding with air flow channels for ultimate cool comfort
  • Price: $89.99

Ogio Baja 1650 Hydration Pack Review

While the Ogio Baja 1650 Hydration Pack is made for moto it works just as well for MTB. A lot of the features work well for both. I'm not a moto guy so my review is MTB focused. The most striking feature to me is the Hydrapak resevoir. It's one of the best bladders I've used. It is accessed through a zipper on the back panel. This is awesome so you can get to the bladder without messing with any of the contents in the main compartment. Also it's great so if there's a leak your other gear won't get soaked. The bladder uses a roll-top for closure. The opening is as wide as the width of the bladder which makes filling and cleaning (especially cleaning) easy. When it's full, just fold the top twice, slide it into the retaining clip and you're good to go. The bladder is suspended by a small loop and click which keeps the bladder from sinking to the bottom of the pack and bunching at your lower back. Overall, one of the best hydration systems I've used. The big downfall to the Hydrapak system is the bite valve. I found it small, awkward to use with one hand, but more disappointingly, it leaked. Whenever I unlocked it it would contantly drip on my leg. I spent one ride with a wet leg. Then I swapped the valve out for one I know won't drip. It's not a deal breaker for me, just replace the valve. There are numerous pockets to help keep you organized. The large main compartment is big. I've been able to fit a jacket, arm warmers, knee warmers, and a long-sleeve jersey and I had barely filled it halfway. The main compartment does feature a mesh pocket inside to help with organization. It also features a fleece-lined "audio pocket" but for me that had zero use for riding MTB. It would be a good pocket for your sunglasses. There is also a fleece-lined zippered pocket on the outside of the pack. The other outer pocket is a stretchy zippered mesh pocket. So much you can do with a pocket like this. I like the versatility. The two mesh water-bottle pockets went unused by me, but once again the versatility was nice. One glaring omission from the pack is the simple key fob (gotta love the word "fob"). It's small, it's simple, but I like the security it gives me with my car keys. Without it I ride paranoid that I'm going to drop my keys if I open the pocket. Once again, not a deal breaker, but it would be nice to have. The straps are easily adjustable and simple. They kept the pack in place, even with a full bladder (the pack's, not mine). Ogio did put a small outer loop strap at the base of the pack with is perfect for holding a rear blinkie if you're riding home from the trailhead after dark. The Good
  • Hydrapack bladder is solid, easy to clean, and easy to fill
  • Bladder suspension system is good
  • Lots of versatility with the pockets
  • Lot of capacity with out the packing being huge
The Bad
  • Bite valve leaked
  • No key fob

Bottom Line:

The Ogio Baja 1650 Hydration Pack is an solid choice for MTB. It has become my go-to hydration pack for MTB (sorry other pack, I'll use you for trail runs). Buy Now: Pick Up the Ogio Baja 1650 Hydration Pack[gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Kryptonite Modulus 1010S Lock System Review

By Eric Miller - Wednesday, August 31st, 2011 - No Comments

Every bike commuter knows that most important accessory for the commute is a solid bike lock. Without a solid lock you won't have a bike to commute on. In recent years there's been a flood of new and different locks onto the market. One of those locks is the Kryptonite Modulus 1010s Lock System. It's a modular system that you can attach to your bike or your car rack for extra security.

Kryptonite Modulus 1010s Lock System Features

  • Lock head with two keys
  • Two noose cables, 3/8" x 3.5'
  • Mounting bracket/transport bracket
  • Price: $39.99

Kryptonite Modulus 1010s Lock System Review

The Kryptonite Modulus 1010s Lock System is an interesting locking system. The lock head attaches to your bike frame or the bars on your car rack. Wrap one or both of the noose cables around your bike and bike rack, insert the deadbolt end into the lock head and away you go. What I like about the Modulus is it attaches to your bike securely. Unlike other locks that use a plastic clamp for attaching it to the bike, there's no chance of it breaking off. It uses a strong nylon strap for attaching to the bike. You still have to have a place to stow the cables, though I suppose you could coil them up, velcro them together, and ride with them in the lock. I don't recommend it though. What I don't like about the Modulus is that it's a cable based lock. You still face all the downfalls that come with cable locks, namely the lower security you get with them because they are easy to snip through. Kryptonite does try to address this by using a braided cable over a twisted cable. The braided cable is supposed to increase the snip resistance but I cannot imagine it would increase it too much. Disclaimer: I haven't ever tried to snip a cable before and I didn't try to snip the Modulus so I could be completely off. Kryptonite rates the Modulus at a 3 out of 6 on their level of security. With that being said about security, the Modulus would be a nice compliment to a u-lock for a more complete security system. The Modulus also has the benefit of looking different. At first pass it looks "tough" and that in and of itself can be a deterrent. Where I really put the Modulus to use though was on my hitch bike rack. It has actually become a permanent installation for me. I feel it provides enough deterrence from someone trying to steal bikes off my rack. My rack does come with a single cable that is only good for looping over top tubes. The Modulus gives enough extra security that I don't worry if I stop for a bite to eat after a ride or leaving my bikes on the rack while running errands. It also helps secure secure wheels while on the rack. The Good
  • Compact
  • Attaches to your bike frame
  • Double noose cables give a lot of versatility for locking arrangements
The Bad
  • Cable lock - lower security

Bottom Line:

The Kryptonite Modulus 1010s Lock System is a good option for car rack locking or is a good companion with a u-lock for a more "total" security system. If your looking for lock versatility, this is a solid choice. Buy Now: Pick up the Kryptonite Modulus 1010s Lock System [gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Specialized SpeedZone Elite Bicycle Computer

By Claire - Sunday, August 28th, 2011 - Comments Off

For 1100 miles this summer, the majority of my daily entertainment came from either the SpeedZone Elite on my Tricross Comp Bicycle or from the beautiful scenery I was biking past along the Pacific Coast. I spent a lot of time looking at this bicycle computer. How many miles have we gone? How far til lunch? How steep is this hill, really? How many feet in elevation have we gained since the last time I looked? The SpeedZone Elite took care of all my information needs on my bike trip.

Specialized SpeedZone Elite: The Specs

  • Wireless function keeps cables off your bike
  • Speedometer- gives you your current speed, plus access to max speed and average speed readings
  • Altimeter- displays altitude, % grade and elevation gain
  • Lap timer and interval functions
  • Temperature gauge
  • Auto sleep/wake mode saves battery life
  • Can mount to either your steerer tube or to your handlebars

Specialized SpeedZone Elite: The Review

Overall, the SpeedZone Elite is a very solid product. I love the big display, the ability to mount to the steering tube, and its wonderful waterproof-ness. It didn't matter how much it poured, the SpeedZone Elite was always ready to start another day and track my miles. I kept waiting for it to crap out as water got into the battery housing, but this never happened. Yahoo! I did not love, however, the installation. I've always had a wired bike computer, which doesn't really require a lot of finesse to set up. The wireless computer proved to be a bit more complicated for me, but with some help of the local bike shop, and a new battery in the wireless transmitter, I was good to go. Personally, I love having a bike computer. It keeps me from being a wuss. At moments where I feel like "I can't possibly go uphill any more," the computer is a nice reminder to man up and keep going. I can look at concrete data, and know, for sure, that I've only climbed 600 feet. No whining allowed when you've only climbed 600 feet, time to buck up and keep pedaling. Or, same thing for distance. It helps me to pace myself, mentally. I know how far I've gone for the day, how much longer til lunch, etc. The SpeedZone Elite provided me with everything I needed to know.

The Good

  • Large display makes for easy reading
  • Steerer tube mount makes for easy installation, especially if you've got dual brakes.
  • More functions than you'll ever know what to do with. There's always something interesting to check out on the display.
  • 1100 miles of riding on one battery. Awesome. I love the sleep feature that conserves battery life.

The Bad

  • The "trip" meter seems to reset after your ATM (Automatic Timer) hits 24 hours. For some reason, the bike computer assumes that after 24 hours of biking time within 1 trip, you must have just forgotten to reset it. This happened to me several times along the trip. Since I was on the road for 6 weeks, my ATM time was certainly more than 24 hours. If you're looking to log an entire tour on one "trip" within the computer, you can't. Fortunately, I had mounted mine for the first time a day before our tour started, so the "odometer" reading was still an accurate reading of our trip distance!
  • The wireless setup was a bit more complicated than I would have hoped, but I think that this may have just been a singular issue, and not a product-wide problem.

Check It Out

Specialized SpeedZone Elite Bicycle Computer...

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Bike Gear

Specialized Trail Shorts

By Claire - Friday, August 19th, 2011 - No Comments

Spandex haters rejoice! Bike shorts with a comfortable chamois and attractive outer shell short by Specialized have still got you covered, without exposing exactly what they've covered to the whole world.

Specialized Trail Shorts Details

  • Detachable liner short/outer short combo
  • Shell shorts made of 100% stretch nylon, and come with a dual sided cinch adjustment at waist to ensure fit
  • Liner shorts made of mesh and Women's Sport chamois
  • 7.25 inch inseam
  • MSRP: $90

Specialized Trail Shorts Review

On my 6 week bike trip, I alternated between the Trail shorts and the BG SL Shorts. Each had their merits, and in the end, I’m glad I had them both. The Trail shorts were the best fitting mountain bike style short I’d tried on of many brands, though still not what I would call a “perfect” fit. The chamois and liner shorts are fantastic- just enough padding to be comfortable, but really unobtrusive overall. I especially enjoyed the liner shorts on colder days, when I used the liner shorts under my Mountain Hardwear PowerStretch Tights. This way, I could still have bike shorts on, and have a pair of long pants on as well. Not only did it eliminate needing to bring 2 pairs of long pants (one cycling specific and one long underwear layer for cool nights), but it was also great for when it warmed up mid-day. I was able to drop trow on the side of the road, remove my tights, and still keep the liner shorts on. In a matter of seconds I could toss on the shell layer of the shorts and I was good to go for warmer weather, without accidentally mooning some poor logging truck driver. Since returning from my epic bike trip, I've had the chance to do some mountain biking up in Alaska. Each day, I find myself reaching for my Trail shorts to toss on and hit the road with. It's nice to know I can go for a good ride, and then head straight to the local watering hole for an apres-bike beverage without having to change, or feel self conscious that I'm parading around town in Spandex shorts.

The Good

  • Detachable liner can be worn under other shorts and pants
  • Minimal chamois provides comfort without actually feeling like you’re wearing bike shorts
  • Of over 10 different brands of “mountain-bike” style bike shorts that I tried on, the Specialized Trail Shorts were the most flattering
  • Pockets! I loved the two front pockets, and always had a CLIF Shot stashed in there

The Bad

  • The adjustable waistband of the shell shorts has a Velcro adjust on it on each hip, which has a tendency to fold back, and consequently, the Velcro rubs at your shirt, pilling it away.
  • Overall, the shorts have quite a large waist, even for a size small. The length and width of the leg section was perfect, but then I found myself cinching the waist-band adjusters to their maximum to get the shorts to stay up.

Bottom Line

Comfortable and versatile, the Specialized Trail Shorts get the job done.

Buy Now

Specialized Trail Shorts  ...

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Bike Gear

Garmin Introduces Edge 200 GPS Cycling Computer

By Jason Mitchell - Thursday, August 18th, 2011 - No Comments

With my recent infatuation with the social cycling app Strava, I've been quickly realizing that my iPhone doesn't make the greatest GPS device. It works, OK, but it often loses signal and causes spotty tracking while I'm trying to KOM a brutal climb. LAME! Garmin has been making GPS-enabled cycling computers for quite some time now -- starting with the professional-featured Edge 800 ($449), then going down to the Edge 500 ($249). Well, now they have answered the call for an entry-level GPS-enabled cycling computer in the upcoming Edge 200 that hits the wallet at a budget-friendly $149. It's definitely time to step up to one of these if I'm going to crush anyone's KOM. Garmin's official release on the Edge 200:

It is an all too familiar situation when you get home from a bike ride and wonder aloud, "I am exhausted, exactly how far did I just go?" or: "I was flying down that hill, I swear I must have been going 30 mph!" Well, now we give you an affordable solution to know those answers during and after your ride. Today we announced the Edge 200 GPS enabled cycling computer. Lightweight and stylish, the Edge 200 features a high-sensitivity GPS receiver, requires no calibration, can be switched quickly and easily between bikes and can be used in all types of weather. “The Edge 200 was designed for those budget conscious cyclists looking for the basics — speed, distance, time and calories,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin’s vice president of worldwide sales. “With no set-up or sensors required, simply switch on, press start and go. The Edge 200 adds so much to your ride that no ride will ever be the same again.” Whether you ride for fun, fitness or to feed your competitive edge, users will love seeing how far and how fast they rode — all without wires and sensors. Edge 200 stores up to 130 hours of ride data and sorts activities to quickly look up the fastest, longest or last ride – providing motivation and inspiration that’ll keep cyclists on track. With a 14 hour battery life, Edge 200 features a USB interface for easy charging and data transfer. Weighing a mere 2 ounces, the Edge 200 is both lightweight and affordable. It features a high-sensitivity GPS receiver with HotFix® satellite prediction – meaning there’s less time spent waiting and more time spent riding. The Edge 200 also allows users to set alerts for distance, time or calories to make it easier and more fun to achieve their goals. The Edge 200 helps cyclists bring new life to old rides with Courses, a feature that lets riders challenge their times on previous rides. A digital cyclist shows their speed relative to past performance, along with an indication of how far ahead or behind they are. These can be taken from rides stored on the Edge or downloaded from the huge and expanding Garmin Connect™ community (http://connect.garmin.com). Here users can quickly and easily log their rides, track their totals, set goals, share rides with friends and family and participate in an online fitness community of more than 70 million activities around the world. Garmin Connect displays metrics such as time, distance, pace, and elevation. This information is shown through charts, illustrations, reports and a variety of map representations including street, photo, topographic, and elevation maps. Use Garmin Connect’s new Course Creator feature to plan new rides or convert a past activity into a Course. The new Edge 200 is expected to be available in the third quarter of 2011 and have a suggested retail price of $149.99.
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Bike Gear

Specialized TriCross Comp Bicycle

By Claire - Tuesday, August 16th, 2011 - 4 Comments

This past summer, I biked from Seattle, WA to Eureka, CA, with total trip mileage coming it at just over 1100 miles. We towed a trailer holding 2 surfboards and took 6 weeks to enjoy this beautiful stretch of coastline, stopping all along the way to surf and hike. No support vehicles, hotels or anything fancy. Just simple, pedal-powered fun. With me for every pedal stroke was The Specialized Tricross Comp Bicycle.

Tricross Comp Bicycle Details

  • A1 Aluminum frame
  • Carbon Fork and Seatpost
  • Internal cable routing- minimizing exposure to the elements
  • Cantilever brakes
  • Roval Pave Wheels with Specialized Borough Pro Tires
For full specifications and sizing details, scope the Specialized Website. They'll give you more information than you ever thought you needed to know about bike features and geometry.

Tricross Comp Bicycle Review

Throughout the summer, I used the Tricross Comp as my touring bike for an 1100 mile bike ride from Seattle to Eureka, CA. I can’t offer a review of how the Tricross specifically performs in Cyclocross races, or for short day rides, but after 6 weeks, I have a good idea of how it performs across multiple situations. I rode the Tricross in Downtown Seattle traffic, out highway 112 in Washington, and then down Highway 101 from Washington to Eureka, CA. If you've ever driven that stretch of road before, you know the conditions vary from beautiful, freshly paved roads to eroded shoulders that have partially fallen off, leaving chunks behind to navigate around, while still avoiding the logging trucks driving 4 inches to your left. Inside of a 15 mile stretch you'll find a beautiful section of slow, rolling hills, a steep grade, and a flat section. I had a lot of "terrain variety!" Now, by no means am I a total "bike geek." I have no vehemently strong feelings about specific componentry, nor do I wish to spend hours debating the pros and cons of specific types of spokes, or something else of that level of detail. What I know about bikes is that I want mine to work. And I want it to feel nice while riding it, be responsive to how I ride it, and I don't want to battle with shifting. I can fix a flat, adjust a derailleur, recable and adjust my brakes, and lube a chain. This is about the extent of maintenance I want to do on a bike, so what I want is a bike that performs in all conditions, and doesn't present problems beyond what I am capable of fixing.

Components

Overall, I was very impressed with the bike. Having owned an old Specialized Dulce as my primary road bike for many years, the first thing I noticed was the difference in shifting. The Tricross Comp comes equipped with Shimano 105 STI shifters. The jump from the shifters on the Dulce (Shimano 2300s) to the 105s was phenomenal. Crisp, effortless shifting. The Tricross Comp comes with a 10-speed Shimano 105 Casette, which allows more gears than the Tricross and the Tricross Sport. More on gearing later...

Wheels/Tires

The Tricross Comp comes equipped with 700cc Roval Pave wheels and Specialized Borough Pro tires. In 1100 miles of riding, I had ONE flat. Yes, that's right. ONE. I wish I could say this was due to careful, well executed riding, or to clean, debris free roads, but, if you've ridden anywhere on Highway 101, you know that idea is laughable. These tires are burly! Glass, shell pieces, tail lights, animal carcasses and other unavoidable road debris were no match for the Bourough Pro tires. They offered great traction in the rain without being so knobby that the rolling resistance became a hassle.

Frame

The Tricross Comp frame is Specialized's standard A1 aluminum frame with a few tweaks. The top tube is wider, to make carrying your bike (for hike/bike and cyclocross adventures) easier. With 40+ lbs of gear already on it, I wasn't carrying my bike anywhere this trip. However, what I appreciated about the frame was the internal cable routing through the frame. Since it rained for a good portion of our trip, it was nice to know that my cables were safely living inside my frame, away from the mud, dirt, road grime and rain. For touring, usually a steel frame is an ideal choice as it absorbs bumps and carries weight better. However, with the exception of a few very rutted gravel roads, I felt the Tricross frame functioned fine for my tour.

Overall Mechanical Impression

Mechanically, over 1100 miles, I had next to no problems. Some initial cable stretch, which is to be expected of any bike, was about the only issue I ran into. The front derailleur was getting a little sassy about 300 miles in, but that was nothing that some minor adjustments couldn't fix. I also had a small plastic ferrell near the micro adjust for the front derailleur bend (and subsequently break), but that was it! The snapped ferrell necessitated a re-cabling around Astoria, Oregon, but all in all, cost me less than $20 bucks for the ferrell, a new cable housing, and the labor for the bike shop to run it through for me. NO complaints here, as I was hammering this bike into the ground on a daily basis. You find me another piece of equipment that performs with so few problems when seeing hard use every day for 6 weeks.

Tricross As a Touring Bicycle

For those of you looking for a touring bike, you know you've got a longer list of "things my bike MUST have" than your average consumer. Some opt to purchase a bike specifically for touring, in addition to the road bike they already own, plus their bike for cross competitions, and oh, yes, probably a mountain bike as well. Don't have the cash to buy multiple bikes, but wanting some flexibility in what you can do with the one you do have? Look into the Tricross. The Tricross is a fantastic option if you're looking to just own one bike, and wanting to have some versatility. With minimal modifications, the Tricross Comp becomes a great touring bike. It's equipped with braze-ons for mounting a rack on the back, and the 2012 model will have front fork braze-ons as well. If you're looking into used models, be sure to investigate which year it is, as all years but the 2011 model have easy front rack capabilities. I rode the 2011 model, which does not have braze-ons on the front fork. Not the end of the world, but it took a lot of work to find a rack that was compatible with the bike, the carbon front fork, and zero front mounting points. In the end, a rack from Old Man Mountain that mounted through the skewer and to the cantilever brake bolts was the solution. The 2012 model will include braze ons on the front fork, eliminating this problem entirely. The gearing of the Tricross Comp functioned fine for my long distance, fully loaded tour. There were some big hills when I would have given anything to swap bikes with my boyfriend, whose lowest gear was about 4 lower than mine, but for the most part, I had no complaints. I was also carrying much more gear than your average tourer, due to surfing equipment (you'd be amazed how much weight two wet wetsuits add...). With an average touring load, the gearing that the Tricross comp comes with will be fine. The Tricross and the Tricross Elite have a rear cassette with 8 and 9 gears, respectively. I'd recommend opting for the comp if you'll be doing longer distance tours on your bike. That extra gear is nice to crank up big hills. Since the Tricross is primarily a cross bike, features like internal cable routing and a wider frame to allow for easier carrying are already built into the bike. The A1 aluminum frame held weight well up to a certain point. If I had loaded my bike wrong, boy, I'd know it. The bike would go from handling an extra 40+ lbs gracefully to riding much like a plastic spoon. With careful loading, the bike carried the weight of me and my gear well, especially for not being a steel frame, as most touring bikes are. Though bumps weren't absorbed as well as they would have been on a steel frame bike, the A1 aluminum frame allows for more versatility in other realms of cycling. My only true complaint about the Tricross as a touring bike comes in when we talk about fenders. Don't worry, yes, it is fender-compatible. All the mounts are there, so you can be sure to toss on a pair and keep you and your gear relatively dry even in the wettest of conditions. However, if you order the Specialized fenders, the Tricross comes equipped with metal fenders, as opposed to plastic ones. Originally, I was stoked- I figured they would be more durable than plastic ones. However, 2.5 miles into a gravel section of road we biked to get to some surfing, I thought otherwise. Metal fenders chatter. Incessantly. Adjustments don't help, it's just the metal moving as you go over rougher terrain. The noise was deafening at times, and my least favorite part of the Tricross setup that I road. That being said- get yourself some plastic fenders and the Tricross is still a great option to take on your tour.

Bottom Line: Specialized TriCross Comp Bike

The Good
  • Your "quiver of one" bike. Take it on a tour. Take it to your local cross series. Toss some skinnier tires on it and use it as your road race bike. Use it as your daily commuter in all weather. For a very reasonable price, you've essentially got yourself 4 different bikes.
  • A1 Aluminum frame absorbs the majority of bumps but keeps a fairly lightweight profile.
  • At $2000 MSRP, a screamin' deal for the frame, componentry and versatility that you get.
The Bad
  • No braze-ons on the front fork on the 2011 model- makes finding a front rack for touring difficult.
  • 700cc wheels make the stand-over height taller, making the Tricross a bit harder to fit if you've a short person with short legs.
Want a bike that does it all? The Specialized Tricross Comp is a versatile bicycle that you can take on your morning ride, to the cyclocross competition in the afternoon or on your six week bike tour.

Check it out

Specialized Tricross Comp Bicycle SHOP: Search for more bike gear....

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Bike Gear

Detours Guppy & Bike Midi Seat Bag Review

By Eric Miller - Monday, August 1st, 2011 - 1 Comment

Isn't a seat/seat post bag a seat post bag? In the midst of a lot of alternatives, you'll find some well made and practical options from Detours. Detours gave me the opportunity to review a couple of their seat bags, the Guppy and the Bike Midi.

Detours Guppy Seat Bag Review

The Detours Guppy Seat Bag (show in blue and green to the right) is a great commuter/city saddle bag. I've put it through a few months a testing on my daily commute. The Guppy is slender and connects tightly up under your seat. I'll admit that my first perception out of the box was that the straps for connecting the bag to the bike seemed hokey. The seat post strap is a thin rubber strap with a hook and loop closure. I thought that it would either come undone, stretch, or snap with very little use. So far after three months of using it on my daily commute it has held strong and secure. The seat rail attachment consists of two Velcro straps that attach down the sides. These hold securely and offer easier entry than the "wrap around" style you see on many bags. Another plus is you don't have a long tail to worry about. One thing about the Guppy is it has very limited space so size accordingly. I have the size medium and had just enough room for a road tube (700 x 32), multi tool, small patch kit, tire levers, and maybe an energy gel. With the gel it was stuffed full. I tried fitting in a mountain tube and I couldn't get anything else in. Space is limited so this will be a single bike use unless you go up to the large. The bag does feature a key fob which is nice. The flap zipper allows entry without loosening the straps. And Detours included some reflective materials which is always a plus in my book for the added visibility. The Guppy does come in three sizes: small (25 cu in), medium (40 cu in), and large (100 cu in).

Detours Bike Midi Seat Bag Review

The Detours Bike Midi has many of the same features as the Guppy but with one major difference. It is a clamshell design featuring a second zipper that offers a 30 cu in expansion. While this is a good idea I haven't ever come across a time where I suddenly needed extra room in my saddlebag. Detours states the intended use of the Bike Midi as "Commuting, around town, touring, event rides". Maybe the expansion has application with touring or events? The Bike Midi has many of the same features as the Guppy including the same mounting straps and reflective piping for increased visibility. There is plenty of room in the Bike Midi to fit a mountain sized tube, patch kit, multitool, keys, tire levers, and more without using the expansion. To really test out the mounting straps I took it on several mountain bike rides. While the bag stayed on the bike I wasn't able to get it snug enough against the seat rails so it did swing around. Yes the Bike Midi isn't meant for MTB but it could still be a concern on a commuter/city bike. The Bike Midi comes in one size that expands from 50 cu in to 80 cu in. Overall I was impressed and pleased with the quality and utility of the Detours seat bags.

Bottom Line:

Detours makes some great seat post bags, you couldn't go wrong with them. Buy Now: Detours Guppy Seat Bag or the Detours Bike Midi[gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Specialized BG SL Women’s Cycling Shorts

By Claire - Sunday, July 31st, 2011 - 1 Comment

Specialized. The Big S. Everyone knows they make phenomenal bikes, but are you familiar with their clothing lines? Specialized not only makes bike gloves, helmets and bike accessories, but they also make some great biking clothes. This summer, on my bike trip, I've been testing the Specialized BG SL Cycling Shorts and the Specialized Trail Shorts. 6 weeks is a long time to spend alternating between 2 pairs of shorts, but I think the Specialized brand is up to the challenge. Years ago, I purchased my first pair of bike shorts. I walked into REI, tried on the first pair I saw, and they worked (or so I thought). Because I am a creature of habit (and because I hate shopping), I purchased the same exact pair of shorts for the next several years. As I wore through one pair, I would wait til that same pair went on sale, and then purchase the same one. If this is you, I am going to make a suggestion- don't do it. Bike short technology has evolved so much over the past few years,  you won't believe the world of comfort you are missing out on. As I tried on the Specialized BG SL shorts for the first time, I realized my standards for comfortable shorts were evolving.

Specialized BG SL Women's Cycling Shorts Details

  • Body Geometry chamois uses dual density foam, with extra padding where you need it, and lightweight padding extending to your inner thighs to prevent friction as your pedal.
  • Fieldsensor fabric is lightweight, thin and breathable, with great wicking abilities.
  • Mesh panels integrated throughout make the shorts even more breathable
  • Wide, women's specific waistband- comfortable and doesn't bunch up.
  • Silicon detail on inner hem of shorts- keeps the shorts in place.

Specialized BG SL Women's Cycling Shorts Review

Throughout my bike trip, I've been alternating between the BG SL shorts and the Trail shorts, and I'm a fan of both, with each having areas they excel at. At first glance, the chamois looks massive, but due to the dual density foam, it doesn't feel that way when you're riding. so long as it's situated in the right spot. The chamois thins out by your thighs, so it's comfortable but doesn't feel like you're wearing a diaper- don't let the appearance fool you. The length is a bit longer than the last pair of short I owned, but it's growing on me. The 9 inch inseam seems to keep the bottom of the shorts at a comfortable place on my thigh. Only problem is the difference in length between the Trail shorts and these... How am I supposed to acquire the sweet cyclist tan line with two differing lengths of shorts? The best feature of the BG SL shorts is by far the lightweight material with which they are constructed. On warmer days, I was still comfortable with the shorts on, and the material feels like you're wearing next to nothing.

The Good

  • Super comfortable when you've got the chamois in the right spot
  • Lightweight and very breathable- after miles of riding, you'll find yourself cool and dry
  • The wide waistband is one of my favorite features. It sits comfortably around your hips, and keeps you from getting an unsightly "muffin top", which seems to happen frequently with my other shorts, despite me being in relatively decent shape.

The Bad

  • $125 for a pair of bike shorts. Ouch. Even with all the functional features and great fit. Ouch.
  • That technical chamois can be a pain in the butt, no pun intended. With that specifically crafted, dual density foam can be fantastic if you've got it all situated in the right spot, it can be as awful as it is awesome if you get it out of alignment. When I first purchased the shorts, micro adjusts on the bike, which I was doing frequently on my 60+ mile days of my trip, would throw the whole thing out of whack, and suddenly I had chamois wedged where I did NOT want it. Suddenly there was high density foam wedged in unsightly places and no padding where I did in fact want some. However, with time, this problem seems to be going away. I've broken the shorts in a bit now, and they seem to find the right spot and stay there, making the whole ride super comfortable.

Bottom Line

A well designed pair of cycling shorts that breathes fantastically while you ride with a spendy price tag.

Buy Now

Doesn't look like any of our retailers are carrying these shorts, but you can score them here on the Specialized Website  ...

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Bike Gear

Avenir Cargo Trailer

By Claire - Saturday, July 30th, 2011 - 1 Comment

When we sat down to plan our bike trip months ago, we continually ran into one problem. How do we get the surfboards to come with us? Sure, they make bike trailers for gear, for dogs and for small children, but no one out there is making a trailer for surfboards (yet).  Finding the bikes, panniers, camping gear, etc, all fell into place, but we were still searching for the best way to transport our two surfboards, both just over 6’ long, all the way down the coast with us. Then, the guys from Avenir got in touch with me to tell me they had something they thought might work… “Right,” I’m thinking. At that point I was getting discouraged, and also getting ready to construct something myself, made of PVC pipe and duct tape. Thankfully it didn't come to that. I discovered they made a cargo trailer that was essentially a box on wheels. Nothing fancy, no weird downward slopes that would angle the nose of the boards right into the ground, no seats for small children that we don’t have or want. Just a well constructed, lightweight, aluminum frame that was high enough away from the wheels that the surfboards could sit perfectly on top of. We had found our trailer.

Avenir Cargo Trailer Details

  • 30x18 inches of cargo space
  • Cargo capacity: 77lbs
  • 20 inch wheels
  • Weight: 22 lbs (according to the box it came in. According to my bathroom scale it was closer to 18lbs)

Avenir Cargo Trailer Review

So, I understand that the majority of people out there searching for bicycle cargo trailers are not looking for a way to transport surfboards 1100+ miles. However, here’s how I look at it. If the trailer can do all that, with no trouble, imagine how mechanically sound and lightweight it would be for you to pull whatever it is your little heart desires, be it surfboards or just groceries from the farmers market. I definitely plan on using mine around town now that it’s back from the bike/surf epic. The Avenir Cargo Trailer comes equipped with a nylon “bed liner” of sorts, plus a bright orange nylon cover. While this material is not 100% waterproof in massive downpours, it certainly puts up a good fight. On all but 2 days of our trip, all the contents of our trailer were dry, even after a hard day of biking in the rain. It also comes with a sweet orange flag. Bonus! The biggest crux we ran into with the trailer was how to attach it to our bikes. The Avenir Cargo Trailer comes standard with an attachment arm that screws down onto the chainstays bike. The tighter you spin the screw, the harder it clamps to your bike. While I am positive that this would work great for around town endeavors (and offer you great flexibility if you want to move the trailer from one bike to another), it wasn’t the setup we wanted for a 1000+ mile journey. Fortunately, Avenir had thought of this already, and makes an adapter that mounts directly to your axle, which you then attach to the trailer with a cotter pin. For us, this eliminated the possibility of the clamp coming unscrewed each day, or worse, coming unscrewed in the midst of some gnarly highway ascent with no shoulder. For those of you who’d like to use the cargo trailer as an around-town grocery getter, or for bike tours, this should be sufficient enough information. Feel free to skip ahead to my summary of positive and negative features of the trailer. For those of you die hard surf/bike fans who’ve been searching for years for a way to make your bike a surfmobile (of which I am sure there are at least, oh, well, 5 or 6 of you), read on to learn exactly how to convert your Avenir Cargo Trailer into the Surfmobile Extraordinaire. After assembling the cargo trailer, we took two regular car top surfboard pads (you know, the kind that DaKine makes), and inserted those onto the top rails of the cargo trailer at both the front and back end. This created some padding between the boards and the metal trailer frame. In all the amazing coincidences, the standard sized surfboard car-top pad length also happens to be the exact same width as the width of the Avenir Cargo trailer body, so it fit perfectly. Next, we loaded all the other gear into the trailer. Then, we put the nylon cover on the trailer, also covering the surfboard pads, leaving us a beautiful, level, flat surface to set the boards on. Last step was to cam strap the boards down just as we would have had they been on the roof rack of my Tacoma. 2 straps, each one looped around each side of the trailer and then coming across, held the surfboards on for the entire trip. We had minimal drag, minimal wind problems, and overall, it functioned amazingly well.

The Good

  • Durable- 1117 miles loaded with gear and surfboards and the only problem we had was a busted spoke 4 miles from our final destination. Zero flats. Zero attachment issues, unlike some other cyclists we met on the road.
  • Lightweight, especially for a 2 wheeled trailer of its size.
  • The only trailer out there that will work for surfboard transit. Trust me. I’ve looked.
  • Collapsible, making storage or travel to and from your actual biking destination easy.
  • 2 different attachment methods ensure that you’ll find something that works for your trailer use needs.
  • A great bargin at $230

The Bad

  • A 2 wheeled trailer offers more rolling resistance than a single wheel, making it slightly more difficult to pull than its single wheeled counterparts

Bottom Line

A bomb-proof cargo trailer at a great price.

Check It Out

Avenir Cargo Trailer...

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Bike Gear

Sugoi Firewall LT & GT Gloves Review

By Eric Miller - Saturday, July 30th, 2011 - No Comments

Sugoi gave me the opportunity to review their Firewall LT Gloves and their Firewall GT Gloves.

Sugoi Firewall LT Glove Review

The Sugoi Firewall LT Gloves are a running/aerobic glove meant for cool weather. The outer is wind resistant and slightly water resistant. While it's made for running, the wind resistance made for warm hands while bike commuting. The inners are a nice brushed fleece which is comfortable. Reflective accents on the index finger and pinky side of the back of the glove help give a little additional visibility in low-light conditions. The thumb features the a "super absorbing" nose wipe which is easy on the cold nose. A velcro closure helps keep the glove on. The drawbacks on this glove for me are sizing and the inter-finger fabric. First and not really important, the fabric used to wrap in between the fingers is sparkly and makes me feel a little bit like Michael Jackson (no bueno). On a more serious note, the sizing seems a little small. I do have big hands with long fingers so take this with a little bit of a grain of salt. The overall length is a little short but not too bad. The fingers aren't cut deep enough. In between the fingers ends up about 1/2-3/4 of an inch short. The width of the glove was a little tight...it's on the verge of being too tight. Overall, this glove provided good hand protection and warmth on cold weather runs. Just be sure to check the fit and keep in mind they run a little small.

Sugoi Firewall GT Glove Review

The Sugoi Firewall GT Gloves is the cold weather version of the Firewall LT. The GT has many of the same features as the LT: reflective accents, nose wipe, velcro closure, soft fleece inner, wind resistance. The difference come with more insulation (slightly more), padding in the palm, a nice pull tab, and leather palms. This glove is truly at home at the bike and on the run. The padded palms help with comfort on the bike, sticky logos on the palm help give additional grip for the bike. Fit is a little better than the LT. The width is a little wider but is still a touch on the tight side. The fingers still aren't long enough, about 1/2 in too shallow for me. I did use the gloves in 20 degree temps on the bike and my hands were plenty warm. Aside from the fit, these gloves performed very well and I'll be using them again next winter.

Bottom Line:

I think both of these gloves are on their way out or are being updated so now's a good time to pick some up. Buy Now: Pick up the Sugoi Firewall LT GLoves Buy Now: Pick up the Sugoi Firewall GT GLoves[gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Best of the Bike Trip

By Claire - Saturday, July 23rd, 2011 - 2 Comments

1117 miles of cycling, 3 States, 2 National Parks, over 50 State Parks later, I have made it back to civilization. My summer's trip and goal of biking from Seattle, WA to Eureka, CA with my surfboard was a huge success! Everything went flawlessly (or darn close to it), and I have some great (and not-so-great) gear to report back about. It's amazing how using something every single day for 6 weeks in can really bring out the good (and the bad)  features of a piece of equipment. Though we had lots of incredible adventures on the bike tour, each day began to take the same shape as the one prior as we learned the best way to manage equipment, time and the correct amount of physical exertion each day. Each morning consisted of waking up, breaking down camp, slamming a cup of coffee and some instant oatmeal for breakfast, and then getting on the road. Our days ranged from 10 mile days to a 118 mile day, depending on the surfing conditions in the area. If it was good surf, we stayed for a few days and enjoyed it, then moved on. If it wasn't so good, we'd move further South until we saw a spot we liked, and we'd post up there. Factors such as friends visiting, good breweries in the area and weather also affected our decisions of how much to bike and when. The day on the bike was spent alternating my gaze between the beautiful views and my bike computer, the only real source of entertainment on the bike. By the time the evening rolled around, we'd hopefully be at a new surf spot, where we'd set up camp quickly, wriggle into the cold, smelly, damp wetsuits and jump in the water for an evening surf session. After that, time for some sort of gourmet meal (usually consisting of pasta and canned chicken in some form), and then bed. Next morning, lather, rinse, repeat. Since I had pretty limited computer access on my trip, I'll be posting several individual reviews as I catch up on writing now that I am back to real society. However, as my trip unfolded, it became very clear that there were some pieces of equipment that outperformed my expectations, and that were crucial to the unbelievable success of our trip. After 6 weeks of the same routine, I started playing favorites with my gear. Serious favorites. So, here they are, the best of the bike trip: my 3 favorite pieces of gear in 4 different categories: camp gear, biking gear, clothing and food.

Best of the Bike Trip: Camping Gear

1. Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 3 Tent 2. REI DoubleShot Press Mug 3. Thermarest Women's Pro Plus  

Best of the Bike Trip: Biking Accessory Gear

I rode a Specialized Tricross Comp for the trip that performed amazingly, and a full review of that is coming, but these were the best of the biking-related accessories. 1. Avenir Cargo Trailer 2. Specialized SpeedZone Elite Bike Computer 3. Topeak Road Morph Bike Pump  

Best of the Bike Trip: Apparel

1. Specialized Solar Vita Jersey 2. Mountain Hardwear PowerStretch Tights 3. SmartWool PhD Outdoor Ultra Light Micro Socks  

Best of the Bike Trip: Food

1. CLIF Shot Mocha flavored gels 2. Mountain House Beef Stroganoff Dinner 3. Bacon. In any form.   As I catch back up on writing, I'll have individual reviews of each of these pieces of gear, plus loads more. For now, be sure to check out these awesome products!...

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Bike Gear

Yakima SwingDaddy Hitch-mount Bike Rack – Quick Review

By Jason Mitchell - Sunday, June 19th, 2011 - 1 Comment

When it comes to carrying bikes, my preference is to carry them on back. And, with the bevy of hauling options from Yakima, THULE and others, I don't see why not. I've got Yakima's SwingDaddy top-of-the-line hitch rack in the kiddy for review and man is it packed with features. Lets dive into it a bit. Yakima SwingDaddy Bike Rack Features:

  • 4-bike capacity
  • SwingAway™ technology allows easy rear-of-vehicle access, even when this 4-bike hitch carrier is fully loaded
  • Sliding SwitchBlade™ anti-sway cradles eliminate bike-to-bike contact and improve ease of loading
  • Our finest arm padding ensures superior bike protection
  • TriggerFinger™ technology lets you fold arms down with the press of a button
  • Integrated LockDown™ security cable included so you can lock bikes to the carrier
  • HitchLock included to lock your 4-bike hitch carrier safely to your vehicle
  • Premium metallic powdercoat finish
  • Integrated bottle opener
  • Fits 2” hitch receivers only
  • MSRP: $469

Yakima SwingDaddy Bike Rack Review

My preference, though not always practical, is to use a hitch rack when carrying my bikes. They don't eliminate the need for roof racks, but they sure make things easier while reducing the inevitable garage/bike collision (yup, I've done it and you or someone you know will likely do it too). Dropping the bikes on the back is more convenient in many ways but also becomes cumbersome in some other ways. Those drawbacks are mitigated somewhat with the SwingDaddy (more on that later). The SwingDaddy is what I like to call a "forklift rack". Meaning, the rack consists of two bars (like forklifts) that serve as the carrying platform. This platform features cupped rubber carrying points with rubberized straps to protect your bike's finish. Surprisingly for some, these rubber straps keep bikes in place for long trips. Adding to that, Yakima has developed their own SwitchBlade™ cradles that not only cradle the frame well, but also keep the bike stable so it doesn't bonk into your buddy's adjacent carbon fiber roadie. The SwingDaddy comes unassembled, but no worries, assembly was very straightforward an took less than 30 minutes. Keep in mind that as with all hitch racks, the rack is quite heavy and cumbersome off the hitch. I have seen some interesting products that help improve garage rack storage. One such product is the wall-mounted Rack Stash that essentially creates a 2" receiver on your garage wall (I think it's time to give that a whirl). Back to the rack. On top of the easy-to-use cradle system, the SwingDaddy is a swinger. The entire rack pivots out of the way of the rear hatch for easy access. While this is superior to other racks that simply tilt down, it does have a 2" receiver requirement due to the extra tongue weight when swinging away with 4 bikes onboard. What's sweet about the SwingDaddy is that the bikes and rack get completely out of the way for uninhibited rear access. Rack rattle is also reduced, thanks to bolts and knobs that keep things connected and as rattle-free as possible. Loading up the SwingDaddy is a little more challenging due to the nature of the rack. You must have just the right frame design to make it work right. Full-suspension, non-standard or smaller frames can be problematic. Road bikes and hardtail mountain bikes are pretty much good-to-go, but if you have several full-suspension mountain bikes to haul, you may want to consider the shock location and other frame attributes that could cause problems. Yakima does offer frame adapters for just such reasons, but that's a pain in the butt. The Good
  • Swings out of the way to provide uninhibited rear vehicle access
  • Can carry up to 4 bikes
  • Looks great and is well-built
  • Offers rattle-free carrying
  • Built-in locks keep thieves at bay
  • Thick, tough, rubberized straps keep bikes in place
The Bad
  • Some bikes may not fit well
  • Storing the rack is always an awkward process
  • It does fold away well, but it is still fairly unwieldy when fully-loaded
Buy Now: Search for the Yakima SwingDaddy Bike Rack  ...

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Bike Gear

CamelBak Podium Ice Bottle

By Claire - Thursday, June 16th, 2011 - No Comments

CamelBak sets the standard for hydration while being active, and they've continued to crank out innovative products like new bottles for Summer 2011, including the CamelBak Podium Ice Bottle.

CamelBak Podium Ice Bottle Review

CamelBak's Podium Bottle is the best biking bottle out there. No competition, no questions asked, they've got that nailed. I fell in love with it years ago (read my original review here), and have been a dedicated user ever since. The bite valve is awesome. When you're biking, there's no more “grab bottle with one hand, wrench open with teeth, squeeze some hydration, jam the bottle up against my hip to re-cap it, place the bottle back into its lovely little cage.” Those of you who cycle, you know exactly what I’m talking about! Instead, the Jet Valve, a pressure operated valve allows water out when you want it, and none when you done. Want to make sure nothing's sneaking out if you toss it in a backpack or the back seat of your car? Just lock it out using the "lock" mechanism, and even if there's pressure applied to the bottle, nothing exits. Now, take that excellent design and combine it with technology that keeps your water cold, even in warm temps, and you've got the CamelBak Podium Ice. Insulated water bottles are not a new phenomenon- CamelBak has been making the Podium Chill for a few years now, which keeps your Gatorade/Water/Whatever cool for a while while you're riding in hot temps. Now, the Podium is available in the Podium Ice, which keeps product cold for up to 4x longer than the Podium Chill.

The Good

  • Really does keep fluid cold for a good long while. I'm not exact enough to tell you if it's 4x more than the original Chill, but on a 4 hour ride in 85 degree temps, my water was nice and chilly at the end.
  • Podium design rocks the house. As always.

The Bad

  • $20 is spendy for a water bottle. I don't know if I'd regularly throw down that kinda cash just to ensure cold water. Hydration is hydration to me, and I'll drink it at any temp. Cold is nice, but I'm not sure if it's $20 worth of nice. Perhaps ask me again after 100 miles in 100 degree heat, maybe I'll be singing a different tune!

Bottom Line

Great for long rides in hot hot hot temps. I've got 3 Podiums (both Ice and regular) packed for my bike trip.

Buy Now

CamelBak Podium Ice...

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Bike Gear

Timbuk2 Shotwell Backpack Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, June 14th, 2011 - 2 Comments

The Timbuk2 Shotwell Backpack can haul more than you think. What seems like a smaller pack can mysteriously pack everything you need for a day at work, school, or errands. The Shotwell is lightweight, voluminous, waterproof, and made with the usual Timbuk2 high standard of quality.

Timbuk2 Shotwell Backpack Features

  • Material: Lightweight Mission6 nylon, TPU
  • Volume: 20 L
  • Pack Dimensions: 11.8 x 20 x 5 in
  • Laptop Pocket Size: 12.4 x 17.5 in (Fits most 15" laptops)
  • Ergnomic Shoulder Straps
  • 3 external zippered pockets
  • Internal organizer pockets
  • External water bottle/u-lock pocket
  • Bottle opener
  • Super secret stash pocket
  • Price: $79.95

Timbuk2 Shotwell Backpack Review

When the Timbuk2 Shotwell Backpack first arrived I thought there was no way that I'd be able to use it for my daily commute to work. Once I started loading it up I felt like the guy in the movies packing the bottomless bag. Starting with the outside: the Shotwell features three zippered pockets. The bottom pocket is meant for your laptop power supply, I found it perfect for my repair kit, pump, and bungees. The two upper pockets are perfect for lights, sunglasses, or small items of the like. The one water bottle pocket remains empty for me but it would fit a standard bike bottle or a small u-lock. I have a larger u-lock and no amount of cramming could get it in (nor would I have had the confidence in it staying there if I could have gotten it in). They also have a strap for you to slide on a rear light for the extra nighttime visibility. The backpanel gives just enough padding so your laptop isn't uncomfortable against your back. The big downfall is sweaty back. There's very little breathing with this one. The shoulder straps strike the right balance between padding and comfort. They are just thick enough without creating mirco sweat-forests underneath. They also feature the signature bottle opener and straps for accessory pockets. Inside is where the money is. The stretch laptop sleeve will hold your 15" laptop securely but it isn't fully padded so careful how you load everything else. The big open pocket just keeps eating up your gear. So far I've managed to cram in my laptop, running shoes, running clothes, lunch and snacks, my u-lock and cable, and a couple of books. The inner organizer features the usual pen/pencil slots, a couple of open pockets, and a big zippered pocket. Timbuk2 nailed the style of the Shotwell. It's a mellow design without looking like it came from home ec class. It still keeps the Timbuk2 style but it's nice enough that you could wear it into the office without your boss nagging you about not looking "professional". Overall the Timbuk2 Shotwell is a solid choice for an all-around pack for your daily rides whether that's to work, school, or around town. The Good
  • Compact looking design that can fit a lot
  • Lots of pockets to keep you organized
  • Great Style
The Bad
  • Sweaty Back

Bottom Line:

It'd be hard to go wrong with the Timbuk2 Shotwell. Great pack for daily use. Buy Now: Pick up the Timbuk2 Shotwell Backpack[gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Camelbak Groove Water Bottle

By Claire - Tuesday, June 14th, 2011 - No Comments

Are you a filtered water junkie? But feeling guilty about the massive amounts of plastic that get wasted each year, a fact that goes hand in hand with a bottled water habit? Camelbak has the solution for you. The Groove bottle has a filter integrated into the straw, so you can have one bottle that is reusable, and still get filtered freshness with each sip. The Groove is available in multiple bottle sizes, and follows the design of The Better Bottle. Personally, I do not have a discriminate taste when it comes to water. 15 years of competitive swimming has deadened my taste buds to chlorine, so I'll drink just about anything, pool water included. I do, however, acknowledge, that there are tiny things living in my water that make it smell funky, and it might be nice if they were gone. But I despise plastic water bottles, and have the same 3 water bottles that I've used for years, so I just tote those along and fill them wherever, ignoring any stench or unusual taste that came with it. Until now. Why not filter it? The Groove has made it simple enough and environmentally friendly to drink filtered water on demand.

Camelbak Groove Bottle- How does it work?

The Groove has an integrated charcoal filter within the straw, with replaceable cartridges costing around $5. The filter is inserted into the straw, and you're good to go. Then, the Groove acts much like a smaller version of a Brita water filter- as the water goes through the straw, unwanted odors and tastes are filtered out. By the time it reaches your mouth, you've lost the chlorine, and most bad tastes and bad odors. The difference between the Groove and a traditional water filter is the speed. You can get water up the Groove straw at the same speed as you'd be able to with a regular straw; no waiting for filtration to take place. An important note- this is NOT a filtration device for non-potable water. Don't take this into the backcountry and expect it to remove bacteria and viruses commonly found in streams. Don't take this to foreign countries and expect it to keep you from getting a gnarly case of the runs. Don't put Gatorade in your Groove. All of these things will throw of both yours and your Groove's groove.

The Good

  • Much more eco-friendly and economical way to consume filtered water. The Groove costs $25. Bottled water costs $1.49 at the last gas station I stopped at. If you buy a bottle a day, the Groove has paid for itself in 17 days. You still get filtered water, and aren't filling landfills with your plastic waste.

The Bad

  • The newly designed flip top on the bottle has a gel/plastic covered part that makes it a bit harder to open than the original design of The Better Bottle that just contains the hard plastic. While it might feel a bit nicer, it's harder to open.
  • This particular design of bottle from CamelBak (The lid on any Better Bottle), whether Groove enabled or not, leaks if you tip it sideways. It has to do with the straw and bite valve integration. I have a few of these bottles, and if they're left sideways for a long period of time, you'll have a few drips. Not a flood, but enough to want to ensure you don't leave it in the same bag as your laptop.

Bottom Line

The perfect solution for the filtered water junkie. Am I going to convert immediately and only drink filtered water. Nope. But the Groove will go into my multi-bottle lineup of reusables that I reach for as I'm heading out the door.

Buy Now

Check out the CamelBak Groove or other great CamelBak Products on Gear.com...

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Bike Gear

Sugoi Zap Bike Jacket Review

By Eric Miller - Sunday, May 22nd, 2011 - No Comments

The Sugoi Zap Bike Jacket is just the jacket to help take the chill off a morning ride or to help increase your visibility while commuting home from work. It's lightweight, breathable, and visible. Sugoi gave me the opportunity to test and review the Zap.

Brand Item Name Features

  • Full separating zip with guard
  • Sleek invisible zip chest pocket
  • 1 invisible zip back pocket
  • Contrast elastic bound cuff
  • Hemline finished with dual adjustable shockcord
  • Engineered collar detailed with shaped back neck and soft brushed inside surface for comfort
  • Perforated for ventilation
  • 3M Scotchlite reflective accents for added visibility
  • MSRP: $99.95

Brand Item Name Review

The Sugoi Zap Bike Jacket is good jacket to have on hand. The Zap is lightweight and is just enough to help take the chill away on a cool ride. It can roll up small enough to fit into a jersey pocket or in your pack. While it doesn't specifically claim this, the jacket helps block a light wind as well. To help with ventilation there are two mesh screens that are under the arms and wrap a little towards the back. The Zap is also a great jacket for urban rides. It is highly visible, espeically if you get the yellow color. The Zap features reflective striping along the zipper, reflective accents on the chest, sleeves, hips, and back, and a long reflective piping down the back. In terms of being seen, the Zap in yellow is one the best jackets I've worn. There is a single chest pocket and rear pocket at the bottom of the jacket. The chest pocket is big enough for a cell phone or an iPod (if you ride with one). The rear pocket is larger...big enough for a small water bottle (for context). The Zap is extremely comfortable. The collar is lined with what feels like a microfleece that is soft on the skin. The cut helps keep it out of the way of the helmet as well. The cut is just right for the bike. The front of the jacket is a little short to help keep it out of the way and back is cut long for extra coverage. I typically wear a large jacket and the body fits nicely. It's slim but not snug so there's no flapping in the wind. The sleeves would be the perfect length for me if I was just wearing the jacket around. I have a positive ape index (my arms are long than I am tall) and I usually have issues with sleeve length. Like I said, if I was just wearing the jacket they'd be perfect. But when I ride in the hoods the sleeves pull up some. If I ride on the flat bars they only pull up a little. The Zap will also shed a light drizzle as well. I haven't had it out in heavier rains, but I'm fairly certain it would soak through. For light drizzles though, it's good. At $99.95 it's affordable as well. The Good
  • Extremely Visible
  • Lightweight
  • Fits well & comfortable
The Bad
  • If you have long arms, the sleeves can be a little short

Bottom Line:

If you need a cycling jacket to help cut the chill and make you more visible, the Sugoi Zap Bike Jacket is a sure bet. Buy Now: Pick up the Sugoi Zap Bike Jacket[gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Pedaling & Paddling: Pacific Coast by Bike & Board

By Claire - Friday, May 6th, 2011 - 4 Comments

My two feet have taken me lots of places. Up mountains, across passes, down canyons... I've run, skied, climbed, biked, hiked, and surfed a multitude of places. However, never have my two feet taken me 1000+ miles in one go. This summer, my boyfriend and I have opted to simplify our vacation time and lives by allowing our two feet to dictate the entire journey. No cars. No motors. No gasoline. Just our feet. 1000+ miles of biking. Hours and hours of surfing. Countless trails and hikes. This summer, we'll be biking the Washington/Oregon coastline with our surfboards, living on our bikes and enjoying the bliss that is simplicity.

The Plan

To bike from Seattle, WA to Eureka, CA (the goal being to end up at the Lost Coast Brewery for a celebratory beverage). All in, it should be close to 1200 miles. We'll be riding the coast the whole time, so after leaving Seattle, the plan is to head out to Neah Bay, WA, and then bike south from there. We'll be towing a trailer holding 2 surfboards and taking a full 6 weeks to enjoy this beautiful stretch of coastline, stopping all along the way to surf and hike. No support vehicles, hotels or anything fancy. Just simple, pedal-powered fun. Throughout the trip, I'll have the opportunity to test out some great gear from Specialized, Mountain Hardwear, CLIF, CamelBak, Avenir Accessories, Outdoor Research and Merrell Footwear. Look for lots of reviews during and after the epic!

Got Ideas?

Been on a bike tour before? Tried to tow surfboards before? Just a casual biker? If you've got suggestions for my plan, feel free to let me know. Though I'm an avid road biker, I am an avid day-trip road biker. 100 miles at a time, at the most. Never have I tried to live out of panniers for a six weeks. Got some input? Ideas? Good backpacking meal recipes? Share them with me! The plan is ever-evolving, and I'm stoked for any input....

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Bike Gear

Patagonia R1 Balaclava Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, April 19th, 2011 - 3 Comments

Is it a hat? Is it a face mask? Neck warmer? The balaclava is kind of weird piece of gear, but it's extremely versatile and well worth having. The Patagonia R1 Balaclava is about as straight forward as it gets. I picked mine up for bike commuting this winter and I won't get another winter without it.

Patagonia R1 Balaclava Features

  • R1® stretch fabric (made from 41% recycled polyester) provides wicking warmth, breathable comfort
  • Lightweight and very compact
  • Face opening can be worn above mouth or under chin
  • Fit is smooth and clean without being restrictive
  • R1: 6.8-oz 93% polyester (41% recycled)/7% spandex. Recyclable through the Common Threads Recycling Program
  • 56 g (2 oz)
  • Price: $35.00

Patagonia R1 Balaclava Review

Out of all the balaclavas I researched the Patagonia R1 Balaclava was about as simple as they get. There's a ton of options with a lot of "specialized" uses, depending on what you want it to do. I was looking for something that I could use mainly for bike commuting but could also work for other cold weather pursuits. I liked the simplicity. The R1 fabric is a lightweight fleece with a small waffle pattern on the inside. It's extremely soft to the touch and didn't irritate my face at all. The face mask is big enough and stretchy enough that I could wear it either under my chin or pulled up to my eyes. It was very warm and yet slim enough to fit underneath my bike helmet. With that in mind it would also fit under a ski helmet, sled helmet, or even a climbing helmet. It was warm enough that on my coldest commute day (-7 degrees F) it kept my head and face warm. The extra bonus is when you wear it, you feel like a ninja. The Good
  • Warm
  • Face mask could fit under your chin or pulled up to your eyes
  • Looks really cool
The Bad
  • I couldn't find anything bad

Bottom Line:

What's there to say about a balaclava? The Patagonia R1 Balaclava is a simple, versatile design, warm, well made. Buy Now: Patagonia R1 Balaclava Name ...

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Bike Gear

Innova 700C Studded Snow Bike Tire Review

By Eric Miller - Thursday, April 14th, 2011 - No Comments

After three winters of bike commuting with regular tires I decided it was time to throwdown for some studded snow tires. I was on a bit of a budget and the Innova 700C Studded Snow Tires (AKA the Innova Tundra Wolf Studded Snow Tire) gave me what I needed without breaking the bank. With a softer rubber compound, 110 studs per tire, and a deep tread, the tires excelled through one winter of use.

Innova 700C Studded Snow Tires Features

  • Sizes: 700x35, 700x38, 26x1.75
  • # of Studs: 110 (700x35 & 38) 104 (26x1.75)
  • Weight: About 900 grams
  • Recommended PSI: 65 PSI
  • Use: Winter time commuting & riding
  • Price: $37.99 each

Innova 700C Studded Snow Tires Review

If you are going to be doing any kind of road riding do yourself a favor and get a studded tire. There are a lot of options out there. The Innova 700C Studded Snow Tires came in towards the bottom of the price range, but still provide a good quality tire. I used mine for one full winter and will get at least another winter out them before I have to replace the studs. I'll probably get 2-3 more winters before I have to replace the tires. The studs fall in a parallel lines down the center of each tire with a stud alternating placements on each side of center. On icy and snowpacked roads I found the studs provided enough traction that I could ride with confidence without losing traction. They even held up going around turns. The only time I was slipping and sliding around were the times with deep, icy wheel ruts and the time riding through 16 inches of snow and the snow kept giving way. Judging the wear of the studs, I should be able to get another winter out of them before they have to be replaced. It'll depend on how many dry roads I ride on. The tread is fairly deep and gave good traction in snow and slush. The softer rubber compound also help provide additional traction when it's slick. Rolling resistance is high. I didn't realize how high until I made the switch back to cross tires. The combo of soft rubber, deep tread, and lower PSI made it a lot more work when roads were dry. I know there are a lot more expensive tires out there, maybe next year I'll get some in to review. But for $38 bills a tire, the Innova's were good enough for me. The Good
  • Good tire for the price
  • Good traction
  • Good life
The Bad
  • More studs or different placements might have helped with the deep, icy ruts
  • High rolling resistance makes riding on dry roads extra work

Bottom Line:

The Innova 700C Studded Snow Tires are a great tire for the price and will help you continue to bike commute through winter time. Buy Now: Innova 700C Studded Snow Tires Name...

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Bike Gear

Light & Motion Vis 180 Light Review

By Eric Miller - Friday, March 11th, 2011 - No Comments

The Light & Motion Vis 180 Light is bit unlike any other rear bike light that I've seen. The slim-vertical design, flash pattern, and mounting system differentiated it from anything else I've seen. Once again, I was super stoked that they sent this over for me to test and review.

Light & Motion Vis 180 Light Features

  • Power Source: Lithium ion
  • Burn Time: (steady) 4 hours, (pulse - high) 8 hours
  • Modes: Pulse (high & low), steady, side-lights only
  • Lumens: 35
  • Weight: 110 g
  • Price: $99.95

Light & Motion Vis 180 Light Review

Out of the box you can instantly tell that the Light & Motion Vis 180 Light is different from most other rear bike lights, the design is tall and slim. This is both good and bad. Depending on your mounting location, it might be a little too long to fit. The most distinctive (and my favorite) feature of the light is the flash pattern. Most lights strobe blink, but not the Vis 180. The main red light pulses on and off in a "post nuclear attack warning light" sort of way. It is definitely eye catching. The single, 35 lumen bulb is surprisingly bright too. Another standout feature is the yellow "side-lights" which give the Vis it's 180 degrees of visibility. The goal and purpose behind these flashing yellow lights is to promote side visibility for when you are passing streets and driveways. They do a pretty good of it too. They seem to be brighter than the front light version. One thing to note, depending on your set-up, these lights might get obscured (though this is less of a problem if you are mounting to your seat post). The mounting system is fantastic and one of the best rear light mounting systems I've seen so far. First off, the attachment strap is rubber which gives great adjustability and security. Pair this with the small rubber lining of the light mount itself and once you have it on the bike it's not going to slip around at all. The most ingenious part though is the mounting clip on the light itself. Light & Motion calls it the "Pivot Lock". The slender piece of plastic (sturdy plastic mind you, none of this wimpy thin crap you find elsewhere) pivots up and down and locks into place on some teeth on the back of the light itself (see the second image on the right). This gives the ultimate in adjustability. No matter what your seatpost angle is, you will be able to easily adjust the light so it's facing straight backwards. You could almost strap the mount horizontally and still have the light face straight back. Battery life is good. At 8 hours for the high-pulse it'll have you covered for a long time. It does feature a rechargeable lithium ion battery (hooray) which recharges with a mini-USB cable that matches most cell phones that were manufacture 2010 or later (hooray). The Good
  • Awesome, bright flash pattern
  • Extremely versatile and strong mounting system
  • Good battery life
  • Rechargeable with a common cord
The Bad
  • Light is skinny and tall, it might not fit depending on your set-up

Bottom Line:

100 clams might seem steep but with the Light & Motion Vis 180 Light it will be money well spent. It is hands down on the best tail lights I've used to date. Buy Now: Pick up the [gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Princeton Tec Push Bike Light Review

By Eric Miller - Friday, February 4th, 2011 - No Comments

The Princeton Tec Push Bike Light packs a powerful little bike light punch. The Push is a headlight offered by Princeton Tec that falls between a blinkie and a high-powered headlight. Its 100 lumens help make sure you're seen and that you can see.

Princeton Tec Push Bike Light Features

  • Bulb type: LED
  • Number of bulbs: 1
  • Max light output (lumens): 100 lumens
  • Battery life flashing: 63 hours
  • Battery life on high: 4 hours
  • Battery life on low: 14 hours
  • Batteries: 3 AAA
  • Mounting: Handlebar
  • Weight with batteries: 115 grams
  • Price: $49.95

Princeton Tec Push Bike Light Review

The Princeton Tec Push Bike Light belongs to the line of bike lights that fit between blinkies and "eye-searingly bright" headlights. It features a solid, cylindrical design with a 100 lumen LED. Operation is simple with an oversized on/off button positioned at the base of the cylinder. This design is nice for making changes while riding. It's easy to push while riding fast. It cycles through high, low, flash, and off modes. The case also features two "light pipes" along the sides that emit a flashing red light to help give side visibility. I love the design and thought behind this, but the execution lacked in this instance. The pipes are low to the handlebars and can be mostly blocked from view by your hands. Also the light was fairly dim and not very noticeable. The logic behind the design is sound, hopefully future iterations will include design with the pipes higher up with brighter lights. Flashing mode is highly visible. Take the bright light, add a unique flash pattern, and you will get noticed by vehicles. The handlebar mount is awesome. I've been a fan of the handlebar mount from another company but Princeton Tec stepped it up here. It's easily adjustable and it is extremely easy and fast to install/remove. This is awesome if you have multiple bikes you switch between. The mount is secure and kept the Push pointing right where I wanted it even when riding over rough roads. Battery life on flashing mode is good but I was a little disappointed with the life on 'high' mode. Only four hours? Especially on disposable batteries? Do yourself a favor and buy some good rechargeable batteries and keep spares with you. It is a price you have to pay for brighter lights. One other note: hopefully it was just the light I was sent to test but I came across an issue trying to change out the batteries. A short, partial turn of the light cap is supposed to release the light and allow access to the batteries. On mine the partial turn didn't release the bulb compartment, it just unscrewed the cap. While fiddling around trying to be able to change the batteries the "tabs" that hold the bulb compartment on broke (see the photo to the right). Come to find out the "tabs" are made of plastic. Just keep this in mind and be extra gentle when changing the batteries out. The Good
  • Bright
  • Fast, easy, secure handlebar mount
  • Price
The Bad
  • Battery life on high is a little short
  • Mine broke when trying to change the batteries

Bottom Line:

If you are looking for that "in-between" light that can act as a blinkie but is bright enough to see by when on steady mode, the Princeton Tec Push Bike Light fits the bill. Buy Now: Pick up the Princeton Tec Push Bike Light [gallery]...

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Bike Gear

Pacific Outdoor Equipment Anchorage Courier Bag Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, January 4th, 2011 - 3 Comments

The Pacific Outdoor Equipment Anchorage Courier Bag is the most weatherproof bag I've used for the bike commute. It's what you'd expect from an outdoor company that is packed with bike fanatics. The Anchorage is weatherproof, has tons of capacity, durable, and comfortable. As always I was stoked to receive this bag from Pacific Outdoor Equipment to review it.

Pacific Outdoor Equipment Anchorage Courier Bag Features

  • Material: WXtex fabric
  • Volume: 1709cu in (28L)
  • Bag Dimensions: 20 x 12 x 7in (51 x 32 x 18cm)
  • Shoulder Strap: Yes
  • Access Types: Top
  • Pockets: [External] 1 flap; [Internal] Multiple organizer
  • Weight: 48oz (1361g)
  • Price: $169

Pacific Outdoor Equipment Anchorage Courier Bag Review

The most notable feature of the Pacific Outdoor Equipment Anchorage Courier Bag is the WXtex fabric. Pacific Outdoor Equipment describes the fabric as being "Durable, abrasion resistant 420 Denier Thermal Welded Nylon". Yeah, nothing's getting through this fabric. I had it out in rain storms and snow and the water would just bead and run off. I had no concerns about my stuff getting wet from water soaking through. The WXtex fabric is abrasion resistant as well. I dropped the bag, dragged it on the concrete floor picking it up and setting it down, and there wasn't any scratches or scuffs. Let's talk about size next: this thing is huge! It was able to hold everything on my biggest commute days. One note, being a messanger bag, when the loads got heavy my shoulder did start to hurt (this is an issue with messenger bags in general, not just this bag). The interior features one big open pocket with hard bottom, a zippered-mesh pouch, and three small stash pockets. The interior is covered with the flap but also secured with a big waterproof zipper. **Update: while the Anchorage only comes in one size, Pacific Outdoor does make a couple of other messenger bags, the Vancouver and the Sitka, with similar features that come in smaller sizes. The flap features two zippered pockets. Both are slim with one accessed from a zipper on the outside and one from the inside. To use both pockets you'd have to only put slim items inside. I just put my u-lock in the outside and called it good. On the front of the main pouch there is a zippered access pocket with organizational pockets inside. All of the zippers are burly and waterproof which add more weatherproofing to the bag. The back panel is padded mesh which increases comfort and helps wick away sweat. The shoulder straps features a slideable pad which gives riding comfort but also helps with getting the bag on and adjustments. My favorite feature of the bag though is all the reflective materials throughout the bag. Check out the picture at the right to get an idea of all the reflective materials. The biggest is the logo and stripe on the flap. There's no way a car wouldn't notice this when you riding at night. The main buckle strap features two reflective stripes. The female buckles on the cross-strap are little reflectors. The downsides to the bag are: the combination of the flap and zipper meant that I had to take the bag off to get anything in and out. As a messenger bag, carrying heavy loads on one shoulder can cause pain. It does only come in one size so if you don't want huge, you are out of luck. The Good
  • Extremely weatherproof
  • Tons of capacity
  • Good reflection
The Bad
  • Hard to get stuff in and out without taking the bag off
  • Only one size option
  • Heavy loads=sore shoulder (product of messenger bags in general)

Bottom Line:

Big, weatherproof bag with awesome reflection. Buy Now: Pick up the Pacific Outdoor Equipment Anchorage Courier Bag [gallery link="file"]...

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Bike Gear

Planet Bike Blaze 2-Watt Front Bike Light Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, December 28th, 2010 - No Comments

Planet Bike knows their stuff when it comes to bike lights. The Planet Bike Blaze 2-Watt Front Bike Light is a powerful little package. This light steps up the traditional blinky game with a 2-Watt LED.

Planet Bike Blaze 2-Watt Front Bike Light Features

  • Bulb: 2W LED
  • Modes: High, Low, Flashing
  • Battery Life: High=5 hrs, Low=12 hrs, Flashing=18 hrs
  • Batteries: 2 AA (included)
  • Mounting: Handlebar Quickcam
  • Weight with batteries: 122 g
  • Price: $60

Planet Bike Blaze 2-Watt Front Bike Light Review

My biggest complaint with blinkies is they are usually only good for just that, blinking. If you're ever in a pinch and you need a light to see by most blinkies fall ridiculously short. Not so with the Planet Bike Blaze 2-Watt Front Bike Light. While it isn't my top choice for a primary light it's at the top of the list if you can only have one light and you're on a bit of a budget. The Blaze 2-Watt features a super bright (my terminology) 2-Watt LED bulb. This bulb is brighter than most all of the blinkies I've used on steady mode. For my personal preference it wasn't quite bright enough for me to deem it as my primary light (I ride with one light on steady mode to see by and one on flashing mode to be seen by) it does feature a nice light throw. It provided a nice light throw on the road (partially due to the optically correct lens on the front of the light) but I did find that I could still out-ride the light. What I do like about the light is it is bright enough to work as a solitary light if needs be (most blinkies fall short in this regard). On high steady mode it is bright enough to see by and be seen by. In flashing mode you will definitely be seen during the day or at night thanks to the "SuperFlash" pattern. It features a fast flash pattern that has an alternating "super bright" flash that is definitely attention grabbing. The light does have some side cutouts to help with side visibility. I'm not sure just how much it helps but it's better than nothing. The QuickCam handlebar mount is awesome. As I said in my review of the Planet Bike Beamer 5 Headlight: "This is the best mounting system I’ve used for a handlebar light. At first it does take a little adjusting to get it just right, but then it’s literally two seconds to get it off your bars and onto your other bike.". There is a user error downside of accidentally flipping the cam open, but like I said, it's due to the user. So far battery life is good. I've been using this light (mostly in flashing mode) and I haven't had to change the batteries. Like I've said for most all lights I wish it was rechargeable. Yeah you can use rechargeable batteries but I'd like to have a way to charge it at work if I needed (and yes I could carry spare batteries). If I used it in steady mode more often I would have had to change the batteries a number of times. Five hours of battery life seems low, especially on a light where you potentially need to change batteries. The Good
  • Bright enough in steady mode that you can see and keep a decent speed
  • Superflash flashing mode is awesome...good enough to be eye-catching even in the day
  • QuickCam handlebar mount is the best handlebar mount I've used
The Bad
  • Not rechargeable
  • If you ride fast all the time you can outride this light
  • Battery life in steady mode isn't the greatest

Bottom Line:

If you are on somewhat of a budget or you only want one headlight the Blaze 2-Watt would be at the top of my list. Buy Now: Pick up the Planet Bike Blaze 2-Watt Front Bike Light ...

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Bike Gear

KEEN Austin Pedal Shoe Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, December 28th, 2010 - No Comments

The Keen Austin Pedal Shoes are a far cry from the clown shoes that most people will picture when thinking of bike shoes. The Austin Pedal is a bike commute focused shoe that is stylish and performs well. Gone are the days of click-clacking through the grocery store or slipping around on tile floors.

Keen Austin Pedal Shoes Features

  • Upper: Leather
  • Lining: Leather/nylon
  • Midsole: EVA
  • Outsole: Rubber
  • 3/4 length SPD-compatable plate
  • Avg Weight: 2 lbs 4 oz
  • Weather: Wet-water resistant
  • Price: $120

Keen Austin Pedal Shoes Review

For the past 2 years my bike commuting shoe has been my MTB shoes. My search for a 'normal' looking clipless commuting shoe turned up surprisingly few acceptable results. So imagine my excitement when KEEN offered to send me a pair of the Keen Austin Pedal Shoes to review. Out of the box I am impressed with the Austin Pedal. It's a good looking shoe (my opinion which I've validated with a few others), it feels solid, a look at the stiching and soles and you can tell it's a well made shoe. The Looks: It looks like a 'normal' shoe. If you work in an office where you have to wear shoes nicer than Chaco's or trail running shoes, the Austin Pedal will get you by. The Materials: The leather upper is going to be durable. If your rides are going to be wet it would be worthwhile to treat the leather to help it keep going. The rubber outsole is grippy, despite not being lugged at all. Still be careful in the snow and ice. The mounting plate for your clips is solid and gives solid performance. Performance: As a non-technical, non-performanced based shoe it performs really well. The mounting plate is solid and I didn't notice any flex in it. The rest of the shoe does flex but whatever, it's a commuting shoe. I can still crank hard and the shoe responds. I do cinch down the shoes to get a snug fit. Comfort: The shoe feels good while riding and afterwards. I've worn this shoe all day without any discomfort. One thing I did notice when I first wore the shoe is when walking you can feel the mounting plate through the footbed. This is a little weird but wasn't too bad for me. Walking comfort is pretty good. With the mounting plate the shoe doesn't flex under the forefoot like a normal shoe. This took some getting used to as well. If my day job has me walking all over the place this might be a problem. Other notes: Sizing runs true to size. In a month's worth of use I did wear through the sheathing of one shoelace. Yes this is extremely minor, yes it isn't a make-or-break point but it needed to be noted. This shoe is awesome. The Good
  • Awesome commuting shoe
  • Looks like a 'normal shoe'
  • Great craftsmanship
  • Performs well on the bike
The Bad
  • Feeling the mounting plate through the footbed when walking was weird

Bottom Line:

If you bike commute or run errands on bike and are tired of carrying a separate pair of shoes (or if you are tired of click-clacking through stores in your clown shoes) do yourself a favor and pick up the Keen Austin Pedal Shoes. Buy Now: Pick up the Keen Austin Pedal Shoes ...

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Bike Gear

Planet Bike Blinky Superflash Tail Light Review

By Eric Miller - Thursday, December 16th, 2010 - No Comments

When it comes to tail lights for your bike there are all other lights and then there's the Planet Bike Blinky Superflash Tail Light. Hands down this has turned out to be one of my favorite tail lights, if not my favorite tail light. The combination of super bright (my terms) LEDs, the "sear your retinas" ultra bright LED, flash pattern, and design and this light has earned it's way into my bike light heart.

Planet Bike Blinky Superflash Tail Light Features

  • ½-watt Blaze™ LED plus 2 eXtreme LEDs for visibility up to 1 mile
  • Unique, eye-catching flash pattern
  • Flashing and steady mode
  • Ultra compact vertical design is weatherproof, lightweight and durable
  • Includes bike mounts and clip mount for multiple mounting options
  • Up to 100 hours of run time
  • 2 AAA batteries (included)
  • Price: $29.99

Planet Bike Blinky Superflash Tail Light Review

To be more specific Planet Bike sent me the Superflash Stealth model to test and review (black case with clear cover). This is essentially the second generation of the Superflash but an updated color scheme (I like it better for what that's worth). Hands down the Planet Bike Blinky Superflash Tail Light is seriously one of the best rear lights I've used for commuting. It has everything I'd want and expect from a tail light: It's super bright, the flash pattern is eye catching, long life, weather proof design, excellent on/off button design, and a couple different attachment options. To say all that needs to be said about the flash pattern, check out the video below: Need I say more? As you can see the flash pattern is different, it is eye catching, and the addition of the 1/2 W Blaze LED is bright and mixes it up enough to get noticed (exactly what you want when riding at night). I love the on/off button design. It's a flat button which helps prevent the 'accidental powering on' whilst in your bag. The case is weatherproof and will protect everything from the elements. It's also durable. I've dropped the light a handful of times and it hasn't broken or cracked. It comes with a bike mount as well as features a clothing clip attached to the light. Battery life is long. The one downfall I would say for this light is there is no recharging option. Yes you can get this with rechargeable batteries but I'd like to see a rechargeable option. The Good
  • Super bright
  • Strong Design
  • Eye catching
The Bad
  • Not rechargeable

Bottom Line:

One of the best bike commuting tail lights I've used. Buy Now: Pick up the Planet Bike Blinky Superflash Tail Light ...

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Bike Gear

Polar Insulated Bottle Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010 - 3 Comments

Polar Bottle is the original insulated water bottle. It was an innovation that was so simple I'm betting a lot of companies were wondering why they didn't do it first. Take a regular water bottle and put some insulation around? I bet it seemed too easy and simple that nobody gave the idea merit. Turns out, they were all wrong. Tons of companies have their own variations but there can only be one original. It's finally nice to go out for summer rides and not be drinking 90 degree water when I'm done.

Polar Insulated Bottle Features

  • Capacity (fl. oz.): 20 or 24 fluid ounces
  • Average weight: 5 ounces (20 oz bottle), 6 ounces (24 oz bottle)
  • Material(s): Polyethylene
  • Water bottle cap type: Push/pull
  • Bottle opening: Wide
  • Fits in cup holder
  • Fits into standard cycle bottle cages
  • 100% BPA free
  • Price: $10 (20 oz), $12 (24 oz)

Polar Insulated Bottle Review

The Polar Insulated Bottle is essentially your standard water bottle with an insulated jacket on it. The cap is your standard bike bottle type with a push/pull cap that is easy to open and close with your teeth on a ride. The bike friendly design fits securely into bike water cages and provides a comfortable area to grip if you decide to run with it. The key differentiator is the insulation. The bottle features double-wall construction with a foil-lined insulation layer in between the walls. The double-wall construction acts just like your vacuum sealed thermos keeping your beverage cold (or warm) with a layer of air insulation and protected from the swings in outside temps. The foil liner reflects solar heat which is awesome on the cloudless days of summer. The claim is that it will keep your drink cold twice as long as a conventional bike bottle. I didn't break out the lab coat, thermometers, and stop watches but I will say that my drinks stayed colder a lot longer than regular bottles. The less touted use that I found recently is keeping your drinks from freezing when it's cold out. I just tested this on a 10 degree F bike commute. The water in the bottle didn't freeze. Yeah there was a little bit of icy build-up trying to keep the cap from opening, but it was still pretty easy to open. Now that winter is full-on here I'm excited to still be able to bring water on the commute and not worry about it freezing solid. Coming up soon I have a sub-zero commute so we'll see how it goes. The Polar Insulated Bottle comes in 20 oz or 24 oz sizing. The foil liner comes in different designs so you have some options to choose from. The bottle is 100% BPA free. It also comes with a plastic carry loop but as soon as I received my tester bottle from Polar Bottle I took it off. It'd be nice if you were going hiking or any other time you'd want to clip it to your bag. Oh yeah, and it's made the USA. The Good
  • Keeps your drinks cold (or warm in the winter)
  • Simple, time tested design
  • No gimmicks
  • Secure, bike-friendly design
The Bad
  • Really couldn't think of any negatives

Bottom Line:

The Polar Insulated Bottle is definitely a step up from your standard water bottles. It's worth throwing down the extra cash for the insulation. The first time you finish a hot ride and your drink is still cold (or when your bottle doesn't freeze in the winter) you'll be glad you did. Buy Now: Pick up the Polar Insulated Bottle ...

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Bike Gear

Planet Bike Beamer 5 Headlight Review

By Eric Miller - Thursday, November 18th, 2010 - No Comments

Planet Bike is a very reputable company when it comes to bike lights. The Planet Bike Beamer 5 Headlight is no exception. It is in a lot of ways your standard front blinkie/headlight: It blinks, has a steady mode, uses LEDs, and attaches to your handlebars. Throw in good quality, some nice design features, and a great handlebar mounting system and you have a solid blinkie.

Planet Bike Beamer 5 Headlight Features

  • New 4X brighter Nichia eXtreme V 2.0 LEDs
  • 5 white LEDs make you visible and illuminate your way
  • Flashing and steady modes
  • Quick CamTM bracket mounts, adjusts or removes in seconds w/o tools
  • Up to 100 hrs run time on flashing, 50 hrs on steady
  • Batteries: 2 AA batteries (included)
  • Weight: 95 grams (with batteries)
  • Price: $34.99

Planet Bike Beamer 5 Headlight Review

The Planet Bike Beamer 5 Headlight is a great blinkie. The 5 LEDs are bright. I haven't used the previous model to see if in fact the "300% brighter than traditional LEDs" claim is true, but I can definitely say that they are super bright and brighter than some other LED blinkies I've used in the past. My preferred use for this light is in flashing mode as a light to be seen by. I tried to use the steady mode as a light to see by and I found that it was inadequate in this scenario. It was easy to out-ride the light and it didn't give enough light to really see the details of the road ahead. In steady mode, it is still a good light to be seen by, although I prefer flashing mode. There are a couple of design features that I really like about this light. First and foremost is the power button. The button is flush with the casing and you have to press it in past the casing to operate it. Seems very minor, but this has prevented the light getting turned on inside my bag as things gets jostled around when riding. I haven't had it come on by accident once. With some previous lights I've used the power button is raised off the casing the light was get turned on in my bag frequently. I am very happy to not pull this light out of my bag at night to find the batteries dead. Second design feature that I really like is the cut away on the sides of the light. Combine that with the super bright LEDs and you have good side lighting to help you be seen from the sides. The third thing I really like about this light is the Quick CamTM bracket mount for your handlebars. This is the best mounting system I've used for a handlebar light. At first it does take a little adjusting to get it just right, but then it's literally two seconds to get it off your bars and onto your other bike. It locks down and won't rotate while you are riding. One downside to this that I've come across is there have a been few times when I've flipped the cam lever open while riding and the light has rotated around the bars. This was mostly my own fault as I was monkeying around while riding. The lock to hold the light in place is secure and is strong. I don't think I'll run into any issues with it breaking during the wicked cold months. Battery life seems good. I haven't run it out yet and I've been using it daily for awhile now. I would prefer a rechargeable option, but of course that would increase the price. Definitely pair this light with rechargeable batteries. Overall this is a great light. It is a lot better as a blinkie as opposed to a light to see by. The Good
  • 5 LEDs are super bright
  • Good side lighting
  • Good battery life
  • Quick CamTM bracket is amazing
  • Lower chance of accidental power on in the bag with the flush power button
The Bad
  • Isn't bright enough to light up the detail of the road, use this as a blinkie
  • No rechargeable option

Bottom Line:

The Beamer 5 Headlight is a great blinkie. If you're looking for something to help increase your visibility the Beamer 5 is a great option. The price is good, the design is good, and the Quick CamTM bracket is superior to other handlebar mounts that I've seen. Buy Now: Pick up the Planet Bike Beamer 5 Headlight...

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Bike Gear

Giro and Renowned Designer Paul Smith Launch Bike Helmet Line

By Jason Mitchell - Wednesday, November 17th, 2010 - 1 Comment

While most people are down with the run-of-the-mill helmet options from their local bike shop, sometimes a special-edition lid catches their eye. So, for those interested in a special-edition helmet designed by renowned designer Paul Smith, check this out.

(Scotts Valley, Calif., November 5, 2010)--Giro, the cycling world’s design leader, have teamed up with fashion iconoclast Paul Smith to release three special editions of the Giro Section. An avid cycling fan, Paul Smith fell into fashion as a teenager after a cycling accident put an end to his hopes of becoming a professional racing cyclist. However, to this day Paul remains an strong supporter of the cycling world. Drawing upon Paul’s interest in cycling, Giro invited Paul to design the ultimate, inspirational protective helmet. Paul chose the already edgy, skate-inspired Giro Section helmet which he then customized in three different styles - each feature unique Paul Smith designs. The result was three simple, striking and colorful designs that debuted at the Milan Furniture Fair this past spring. “With cycling becoming ever more popular especially in cities, making a bike helmet which we feel good in is quite difficult,” said Smith. “I think the shape of these helmets is really great and the matt finishes are really good. Apart from offering them in plain colors I have also added some colorful designs to them which I hope add more fun to something which could save your life!” The Paul Smith for Giro Section is available exclusively in Paul Smith shops and online (www.paulsmith.co.uk) for $95.00 About Giro Sport Design Giro®, based in Scotts Valley, CA, is a worldwide leader in the design, development and marketing of premium, high-performance protective gear and accessories for action sports and active lifestyles. We are an innovative and consumer-focused brand, with a mission to create products on the leading edge of inspired design that help you to look and feel your best.
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Bike Gear

Gregory Vibe Daypack Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 - 1 Comment

You'd think that when a backpacking and hiking company tried to make a cycling specific pack they'd essentially just make another daypack. Well, with the Gregory Vibe Daypack all the naysayers can take a seat. I will admit that I was a little skeptical when I first heard about the Vibe. But when Gregory sent one to me to test and review I was in for a pleasant surprise.

Gregory Vibe Daypack Features

  • New proprietary TPU based water and abrasion resistant fabric
  • Zip closure and overflow strap
  • Large front access organizer
  • Interior slit pockets
  • U-lock compatible
  • Side stash pocket
  • Padded mesh backpanel
  • Front clip loop for light
  • Can fit a laptop up to 17"
  • Volume: 1342 cu in / 22 L
  • Dimension: 10.5 x 25 x 46 cm
  • Weight: 835 g
  • Price: $89.49

Gregory Vibe Daypack Review

The first thing I noticed when I put the pack on for the first time was that in a lot of ways the Gregory Vibe Daypack felt like a hiking pack. The mesh backpanel helped the pack ride comfortably and the mesh shoulder straps were contoured to fit around the shoulders and hug my body to keep it in place. These are a couple of features that a seasoned, well-respected pack company would have. The best part of the mesh panel was it helped cut down on the dreaded sweaty back a lot! That's the biggest downfall of using a pack for bike commuting, errands, or any general bike riding is your back will always be sweaty. The mesh backpanel on the Vibe helped keep it to a minimum. My back still got a little sweaty but it wasn't as bad. The Vibe does come with a lot of features that make a great commuting pack. The outer fabric is a tough TPU fabric (think vinyl but it's not vinyl) that is extremely water and abrasion resistant. It would literally stand up to years of use and abuse. The large, main compartment has an inner organizer sleeve (I used this for my u-lock), the top zips shut, and it has an overflow strap. The zip-top gives extra protection from the elements (with messenger bags and flap-top backpacks it always looks like water could come in the sides of the top if the wind was blowing the rain sideways). It also helps keep the small valuables from spilling out when you lay your bag down. The overflow strap is one of my favorite features. Instead of having to lash the extra gear that won't fit in the bag to the outside, just pile it on the top of the main compartment, strap it down and you're good to go. The closure strap for the top flap is extra long so there is no worries about getting the flap down. The front of the bag features an organizer sleeve that has a velcro closure on the top and zipper down the side. It has good organization for keys, lights, wallet, iPod, etc. I like the closures because, once again, it keeps the small stuff in and organized. One of the sides features a narrow, long zippered stash pocket. Lastly, on the front there is a loop for hanging a rear blinkie. I had no problems keeping my everyday stuff organized. I was able to easily fit my phone, wallet, keys, pump, small tools, array of three lights, iPod, and a few other things in and organized. It does feature a laptop sleeve that the specs say can fit a 17" laptop but my 15" laptop didn't fit very well. Another downside to the sleeve is it isn't padded and leaves your laptop vulnerable to the jolts and jostles with the other stuff in your bag. A couple of other minor downsides is the pack lacks any kind of reflective materials. I received the white model which is brighter in headlights, but if you get the blue or black you are out of luck. There is opportunity to work in reflective striping or piping. Also the shoulder straps lack any loops to hook small pouches for your phone, radio, etc. When the pack was fully loaded it carried well. It was a little small for my usual commute (I do carry a lot of stuff so for the average person the size would be just fine), but even so it rode well on my back. There is a sternum strap which I thought was superfluous, but having it strapped helped keep the pack in place. Even on my heaviest days and biggest loads the pack was comfortable. I didn't feel any constrictions or pressure points from the straps. The mesh backpanel also kept uneven loads from jabbing me in the back. Overall I was impressed with the pack. It has the craftsmanship of a well-respected pack company, it is comfy, carries well, and overall is a good pack. There are some opportunities for some small additions to make it a great commuting pack. It is a little small for my typical commute, but I carry a lot of stuff. It did excel when I used for errands and my general riding around. The Good
  • Well-made from a company with a killer reputation for packs
  • Comfy
  • Less sweaty back than other packs
  • Fabric is burly, will stand up to downpours and abrasion
  • Good organization, secure closure
  • Overflow strap for securing the big loads
The Bad
  • Laptop sleeve was a little on the small side and it wasn't padded
  • No reflective materials
  • No accessory straps on the shoulder straps

Bottom Line:

It's a pack made by Gregory, you really can't go wrong with it. It's a great pack for smaller loads, errands, and general riding around. Buy Now: Pick up the Gregory Vibe Daypack ...

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Bike Gear

Planet Bike 8.0 Protege Computer Review

By Eric Miller - Thursday, October 28th, 2010 - 1 Comment

Since I started bike commuting four years ago I've wanted to get a bike computer but I never knew what to get. It seems like there are so many companies, so many styles, and the range of what they track is so wide. I couldn't ever make up my mind. I was stoked when Planet Bike sent me a Protege 8.0 Computer to review. The Protege 8.0 gave me all the info I wanted to know for my commute and kept it in a simple, clean design that is extremely easy to set up and use.

Planet Bike Protege 8.0 Computer Features

  • Auto start/stop and LCD shut off
  • Large LCD screen that shows 5 pieces of info at one time
  • Heavy-duty, oversized wire harness and ultrasonically welded case ensure a durable, weatherproof unit
  • Fits handlebars 25.4-26.0mm
  • Current speed
  • Speed comparator
  • Ride time
  • Trip distance
  • Dual odometer (for 2 wheel sizes)
  • Average speed
  • Maximum speed
  • Clock
  • Price: $29.99

Planet Bike Protege 8.0 Computer Review

The two most noticeable features of the Planet Bike Protege 8.0 Computer are the large LCD screen and the lack of buttons. The screen is big enough that it shows 5 pieces of information at one time. Your current speed always stays on screen as well as the speed comparator. The speed comparator is just and up arrow and a down arrow. It shows how you are doing compared to your average speed. If you are faster, you see up, if you are slower, you see down. It's as simple as that. You can toggle through a few different combinations of the ride time, trip distance, trip odometer, bike odometer, overall odometer, average speed, max speed, and clock. For my bike commute, and all of my rides actually, this is all the info that I want to know. I don't really care about any other fancy metrics that other cycling computers tout. The lack of buttons was the second feature that I noticed. While riding all of the screen views are controlled by pushing the computer forward in the mounting bracket and releasing. Super easy to control and the functionality is simple. Just push to change screens. Want to erase the current ride information? Just push the computer forward and hold for three seconds and voila! No press this button and hold and then press this and blink five times to clear it. Set up is a breeze. The instructions that come with the computer are easy to follow and the set up process is simple. It details how to mount to the bike, gives you the programming information for about 8 common wheel and tire sizes (if your tire size isn't listed the directions to measure are simple), and walks you through everything step-by-step. The back of the computer does feature one small programming button. Another feature that I like is you can program two different tire sizes (essentially two different bikes) into the computer and use the same computer for two different bikes and be able to track your stats for both bikes as well as an overall odometer for the computer. To switch between bikes just press the button on the back of the computer. The display shows you which bike the computer is currently running for. But it does only come with mounting hardware for one bike, you have to purchase the mounting hardware for your second bike. The computer is waterproof which is great for bike commuting. I had it out on a few rainy rides and didn't experience any problems at all. There are a couple of drawbacks that I did find. It is really hard to remove from the mounting bracket. Every time I take it out I have to push so hard I think I'm going to break it. Also it'd be nice to have a backlight when commuting in low-light conditions. And it'd be nice to have a wireless option for this computer. Planet Bike does offer a wireless option for the Protege 9.0 though. Overall, this is a great, basic bike computer. The price is fantastic, it's very easy on the wallet, it provides the functions that I think most users would want, the display is big and easy to read, and it is very user friendly. I don't need to look anymore for a bike computer, I have one that I'll keep using for a long time. The Good
  • Big Screen
  • No Buttons
  • Program for 2 Bikes
  • Easy to Use
  • Easy Setup
  • Price
The Bad
  • No Backlight
  • Wired
  • Hard to remove from mounting bracket
  • Only comes with one mountain bracket

Bottom Line:

The Planet Bike Protege 8.0 Computer is a fantastic cycling computer. It provides the functions that most people will want, it doesn't have the stuff that you don't need, it's extremely user-friendly, and features a great design. Buy Now: Pick up the Planet Bike Protege 8.0 Computer ...

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Bike Gear

Timbuk2 Swig Backpack Review

By Eric Miller - Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 - 1 Comment

The Timbuk 2 Swig Backpack is awesome. I received one from Timbuk2 about a month or so ago to review. I've had one of their classic messenger bags for about 9 years and have wanted to try out some of their other offerings. Needless to say I was wicked excited to get one for review. The Swig takes the classic messenger bag style and functionality and blends it into a backpack that suits the needs of bike commuters and messengers.

Timbuk 2 Swig Backpack Features

  • Super lightweight Mission6 nylon fabric.
  • Padded, low profile internal laptop compartment for full protection without the bulk
  • Timbuk2's trademarked Swing Around Access; grab your laptop without taking off your pack.
  • Lightweight ergonomic shoulder straps are designed to fit people, not robots
  • On-strap bottle opener for party tricks and quick refreshment
  • Accessory loops on straps for attaching gadgets and gizmos
  • Padded back panel with secret small zipper pocket for easy key storage
  • Two large internal compartments and an organization panel for keeping your sh*t together
  • Waterproof TPU center panel
  • External U-lock pocket doubles as a water bottle holder
  • Price: $90 MSRP

Timbuk 2 Swig Backpack Review

From the daily commute to errands the Swig backpack excels at it all. Out of the box the bag seems huge. Once I had it loaded and on my back it didn't seem too big. I ordered the medium and was glad I did. So far it has had the capacity to haul every load I've had to carry, plus a room to spare. One of the photos on the right gives an idea of what my daily load looks like. In terms overall capacity, it can fit a lot. When I stop at the grocery store on the way home from work, I can also fit my helmet and gloves in the pack and still have room. The day I received the pack I had to run to the store to get some toilet paper. Found it on a killer sale and was able to fit a total of 24 double rolls in the bag. Yeah some got squished a little and my lock was halfway hanging out, but I was able to get it all in there. That is the absolute limit of what I could fit. See the photo on the right. There are so many little details that I love about this bag. The laptop compartment is nice and padded. The open-top sleeve makes it easy to get it in and out and the Velcro strap keeps it snug. I do have a 15" laptop and there's room to spare in the laptop sleeve. You could probably fit a 17" laptop in it. The bag does feature an outside zipper to the laptop compartment so in theory you can get your laptop in and out without having to take the pack all the way off. Because of the way the fabric folded it was hard to get the zipper to start. To get it to go the first couple of inches required an awkward reach. Yeah, I just took the bag off. I like the thought though. I've tried to use other daypacks and backpacks for commuting but they always lack the cycle-friendly features. So many of the tiny details that I love are these cycle-friendly features (what would you expect from a bike bag company?). The internal organization pockets for your wallet, keys, iPod, cords, and other valuables. The sleeve surrounding these pockets is big enough for a u-lock and cable. Wide shoulder straps to help disperse the weight of the load without cutting into your shoulders or cutting off circulation. The accessory straps on the backpack straps for hooking on gadgets and gizmos. The pack riding high and flat on your back that helps prevent lower back pain when carrying heavy loads. The small loop sewn towards the bottom of the bag meant to hold a rear light. There were very few things that I found wanting in this bag. I did have the pack out in a couple small rainstorms and it kept everything inside dry. The bag has been tossed around and the fabric is showing no signs of wear. Of the things that I would have liked to see with the pack they were all minor. A "load extender" strap. For those times when you have way too much carry and you have so much that it's coming out the top of the bag, a strap to help cinch it down would have been nice. Also I like to have a few places to hook straps on the outside of the pack. Somethings you gotta haul something big and awkward and you left the bike with the rack at home. The key fob. One thing that I don't like is rooting around in the bottom of the bag for my keys. There are other pockets in the accessories sleeve where they could go, but sometimes those are full. One thing that would be killer is a padded light sleeve. I haven't seen this anywhere, but somewhere you can put your lights where you don't have to worry about something accidentally turning them on and burning out your batteries. The one big downside, which is a downside of backpacks in general, is sweaty back. You know when you get to your destination your shirt is going to be wet. The Good
  • Tiny details that make the daily use of this pack awesome
  • Huge capacity without feeling like you're wearing a duffel bag
  • Timbuk2 quality and reputation
  • Did I mention the tiny details
The Bad
  • Could use additional load lashing options
  • Sweaty back

Bottom Line:

Seriously the best backpack I've used so far for bike commuting and errand running. If you bike commute and you wear a pack, go for the Swig. If you already have a pack, switch to the Swig. Buy Now: Pick up the Timbuk2 Swig Backpack today ...

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Bike Gear

Delta Cargo Net Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 - 1 Comment

Every bike commuter needs a cargo net. It's almost a universal truth. Even if your bike doesn't have a rack, if you wear a pack of some sort, you still need a cargo net. Enter the Delta Cargo Net. Having this net on hand has saved me multiple times when the loads I was carrying wouldn't fit in my pack or panniers.

Delta Cargo Net Features

  • Four tough nylon molded hooks
  • Strech-web secures those hard to hold items

Delta Cargo Net Review

First off, the store pictures only show two hooks, it really comes with 4 (the description says so and mine came with 4). Having this cargo net is better than carrying a bunch of bungee cords. I've use this net to hold stuff down on my rear rack, to hold stuff on top of my panniers, and to even strap stuff to my backpack. Sometimes the path to securing whatever you're hauling isn't clear, but a little ingenuity goes a long way. With four hooks you have so many possibilities for strapping things down. So far I've successful strapped and hauled: books, a box of ski boots, lunch box, various size shipping boxes, my backpack, and clothes. At first I was skeptical of the hooks. I thought for sure they'd break within the first couple uses and definitely after a few months of use. I was completely wrong. I've been using the Delta Cargo Net for awhile now and the hooks haven't broken. I've had it out in the sun, heat, rain, snow, and below freezing temperatures and haven't had any problems with the hooks or the net. The Good
  • Four hooks give more secure connections
  • Hooks are strong
  • Versatility
The Bad
  • Size (if you have a huge load one net might not secure it down enough)

Bottom Line:

If you commute or even use your bike for any kind of utility, you need the Delta Cargo Net. Buy one, put in your pack, and always keep it with you. On more than one occassion you'll be glad you did. Buy Now: Pick up the Delta Cargo Net ...

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Bike Gear

Ellsworth Bicycles Unveils 20th Anniversary Lineup at Interbike 2010

By Jason Mitchell - Monday, September 20th, 2010 - 2 Comments

My friends at Ellsworth are unveiling some great new changes for 2011 across their entire lineup. The biggest change will be in the new SST tubing, which uses shapes and tapers instead of hydro-forming. These new tubes will now feature tapered head tubes, new trick color options for rockers and other bits as well as more standard color options across the line (hallelujah!). I'll be the first to admit that the funky nebula anodized colors are not my favorite and hopefully we'll see more standard colors from Ellsworth going forward. It only gets a quick mention in this release, but the new Evolution 120mm 29er looks to be quite the trail slayer. I love the Evolve 29er, but a bit more travel, new tubesets and a tapered head tube will make it that much better. Read on for a glimpse into Ellsworth for 2011.

SAN DIEGO — September 20, 2010 – Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles will unveil its 20th anniversary lineup at Interbike in Las Vegas (September 20-24) highlighted by its first Slope Style bike, the Momentum, a new 120mm 29er (The Evolution), the 2011 Enlightenment 26 firmtail crossover bike featuring the NuVinci® N360 drivetrain, and anniversary versions of the popular Truth, Epiphany, Evolve and Moment, each sporting new frame graphics, enhanced sst.2 tubing, semi-integrated tapered head tubes and super-formed pivot integrated seat tubes. Ellsworth’s "Made in America" tradition of handcrafting bicycles in the U.S. is front and forward allowing for frame and component customization and the introduction of a complete line of custom colored rockers, sex pins and derailleur hangers. Ellsworth’s new Momentum is the company’s first Slope Style bike - perfect for the Park or 4X. With the pedal efficiency of Ellsworth’s patented ICT suspension, the bike is fast like a hard tail, yet takes the edge off the hits with 120 mm of firm, speed tuned rear travel allowing the bike to carry more speed and stay connected. It’s the perfect ICT embodiment in a full suspension Park style bike. The Momentum will be customizable, offered with several build options, and will feature a custom configured Fox 831 fork and Ellsworth’s custom built All-Mountain wheels. Crafted from Ellsworth’s Rare Earth Carbon, the Enlightenment 26 crossover bike features force directional carbon shaping and lay patterns topped off with internal cable routing to protect the shifting from the elements. The DMS (Dual Mono Stay) firmtail frame design features an element of absorption, without mechanical articulation, that produces an amazing ride whether it’s a quick daily commute or an off-road trek on a favorite trail. The Enlightenment’s unique dropout design accommodates the NuVinci N360’s drive with a belt or a chain. The NuVinci CVP is a significant "shift" in drivetrain technology, transmitting mechanical power with spheres instead of gears. With an unlimited number of ratios available within its nominal 360% ratio range, the N360 enhances the Enlightenment’s performance with seamless, continuous shifting (even under high pedal torque), without power interruptions, missed gears or dropped chains. Ellsworth’s XC, Trail and All Mountain mainstays (Truth, Evolve, Epiphany and Moment) will feature the next generation of the company’s SST tubing (sst.2), which is hand-shaped after swaging and tapering, which gives precise control of wall thickness, over bulk hydro-forming. The shaping allows Ellsworth to create the precise characteristics of life and rigidity in each frame. In addition to new frame graphics and head badges, each frame will feature a new semi-integrated tapered head tube that provides superlative strength for razor sharp handling and increased front-end stiffness, improved overall stack height and allows for an increased bearing surface. In addition, Ellsworth is incorporating a new Pivot Integrated Seat Tube for each model. New super-formed seat tubes are lighter and stronger than ever. “Our 20th anniversary lineup continues the handcrafted, quality and technological ‘Made in America’ tradition of excellence that our customers have known and loved for two decades,” said Tony Ellsworth. “This is perhaps the most exciting model year lineup we have ever produced. Our mountain bikes maintain our tried and true ICT suspension design that provides greater efficiency — for climbing, speed and acceleration; ride quality — incredible handling, traction and control; and reduced rider fatigue — for sustained physical performance. Whether on or off road, our customers riding experience remains paramount to this company. That’s why we’d like to thank our customers for the ‘great ride’ over the past 20 years with a model lineup that pays homage to the past but propels us to the future.” For more information on the Momentum, Evolution, Enlightenment 26 and other 20th anniversary models, contact Ellsworth Handcrafted Bikes at 760-788-7500 or visit www.ellsworthbikes.com. Ellsworth will preview its 20th anniversary lineup at Outdoor Demo West in Boulder City, NV September 20-21 (Booth 2070) and at the Interbike Expo, September 22-24 in Las Vegas (Booth #4575). About Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles, Inc. Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles, Inc, designs and hand crafts its bikes in house providing the highest manufacturing integrity to its state of the art bicycles. Ellsworth, which holds multiple international patents for innovation in design and technology, is also committed to Social Responsibility and Environmental Stewardship, supporting programs to cure cancer, prevent global deforestation and is also headquartered in a solar and wind powered sustainable building. To learn more about Ellsworth Bikes visit www.ellsworthbikes.com, on Twitter "@ellsworthbikes", and Facebook @ “Ellsworth Handcrafted Bicycles”.
More Info: Visit Ellsworthbikes.com...

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Bike Gear

Osprey to Launch Momentum and Metron Bike Commuter Packs

By Jason Mitchell - Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 - 3 Comments

Osprey Packs is diving deeper into the cycling market with some additions to their Hydraulics hydration pack lineup as well as two new offerings in the expanding bike commuting market. The all-new Osprey Momentum and Metron packs will include commuter-friendly features and weather protection that urban hipsters and cubicle junkies will appreciate. Here are the details from Osprey:

The Momentum and Metron series incorporate the superior fit and comfort of an Osprey Pack with the functionality that is particularly geared to the needs of a bike commuter. Momentum The Momentum series is designed with the avid bicycle commuter in mind. Whether the commute is beating city traffic or on rural roads avoiding highway speeds, these packs offer practical solutions for the bike commute lifestyle. Momentum features include:
  • Built-in snug fitting high visibility raincover
  • LidLock™ helmet clip
  • Separate, padded laptop sleeve, with file sleeve
  • Large cell phone pocket on shoulder strap
  • Key pocket on shoulder strap with retractable key clip
  • U-Lock slot
  • 2 side compression straps
  • Padded top and side grab handle
  • Tuck-away shoulder straps
  • Reflective print to front panel
  • Blinker light attachment
  • Front stash pocket with organizer
  • Internal organizer for pump, tubes and tools
  • Zippered Side Pockets
  • Colors: Bamboo and Carbide
  • MSRP: Momentum 26 at $129; Momentum 34 at $149
Metron The Metron brings a street look to bike commuting with a messenger bag inspired flap design. Beyond biking across town, the urban styling of the Metron offers an easy transition to days spent riding transit, hitting the coffee shop, or traveling by air or train. Metron features include:
  • Integrated Raincover in Lid
  • U-Lock storage pocket
  • Padded laptop sleeve
  • Large cell phone pocket on shoulder strap
  • Key pocket on shoulder strap with retractable key clip
  • 2 side compression straps
  • Lidlock™
  • Blinker light attachment
  • Reflective detail to front of pack
  • Colors: Black and Earth
  • MSRP: Metron 25 $139; Metron 35 $159
More Info: Visit OspreyPacks.com...

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Bike Gear

POC Trabec Race MTB Helmet – New Gear

By Jason Mitchell - Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 - 1 Comment

We're in the thick of bike tradeshow season. With Eurobike just completed and Interbike next week, it's all bikes, all the time. From the folks at POC will come the new POC Trabec Race MTB helmet for the "all mountain" crowd. If you aren't familiar with POC, think of a Volvo for your head and if "all mountain" makes no sense, then think of it as someone who rides a bike on trails (that's you!). Here are the details of the all-new POC Trabec mountain bike helmet for those who want Volvo-like protection and also ride their bikes on trails.

The NEW Trabec Race in-mold MTB helmet has been developed in line with all other POC helmets, to provide the highest possible degree of protection without comprising functionality and performance. From the inside and out, the helmet has borrowed its construction from how the skeleton is built, for strength, resistance and durability. The Aramid filament reinforced EPS core is super tough and resilient to any kind of crash. The outer PC shell has optimized coverage without seams or gaps in the most exposed areas. The PC shell bonds both mechanically and chemically together with the reinforced core, giving a very light and strong helmet construction. The vent hole pattern is evenly distributed and optimizes airflow and protection. MSRP: $175
More Info: Visit POCsports.com...

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Bike Gear

Crank Brothers Multi-17 Tool Review

By Eric Miller - Saturday, September 11th, 2010 - 3 Comments

The Crank Brothers Multi-17 Tool is the second largest in the line of multi-tools offered by Crank Brothers. While it is big, it's not actually very big at all. It'll fit easily into the palm of your hand. It features literally almost every tool you'd need to perform simple maintenance and repair on your bike, whether on the road, trail, or in your garage. I actually used the Multi-17 for a few years at my home-shop because I didn't have any other bike tools. With a battalion of 17 tools on it, there's not much the Crank Brothers Multi-17 Tool can't do.

Crank Brothers Multi-17 Tool Features

  • Weight: 168g
  • Length: 3.5" / 89mm
  • Frame: 6061-T6 aluminum
  • Tools: 6050 high tensile steel
  • Chain tool: 8/9/10 speed compatible
  • Spoke wrench: #1, 2, 3, 4
  • Hex wrenches: #2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8
  • Screwdrivers: phillips, flat
  • Open wrench: 8mm, 10mm
  • Torx: t-25
  • Warranty: lifetime
  • Price: $27

Crank Brothers Multi-17 Tool Review

The Crank Brothers Multi-17 Tool literally has just about ever tool you'd need to wrench on your bike on a ride or at home. While you won't want to rebuild your bike with it, the Multi-17 can tackle most tasks. I've used it to swap handlebars, swap clipless pedals, adjust spokes, repair broken chains, adjust brakes, tighten saddles, you name it. When I first got into biking a few years ago I couldn't afford a tool set at home. The Multi-17 handled the job. Pair with with another small multi-tool and most tasks got done. The Multi-17 is burly. It's solid and well-built. All of the tools are made with high tensile steel and the frame is aluminum. The Multi-17 will literally last forever. I've been using mine for a few years and it looks about as good as new. One thing I like about the Multi-17 over their other tools is it's wider, which is easier for me to hold. The frame is etched with a diamond pattern, giving extra grip to what would otherwise be slippery metal. The Multi-17 also comes with a big rubber band that holds the tools in place, but also provides extra grip. With the chain tool I have found that it can be hard to keep a hold of the metal tab when cranking it down when using only your hands. If you have pliers it makes the job easier. You can hold onto with your hands, it's just a little difficult. It is compact enough to easily fit in a saddlebag, no matter how small. You could just as easily throw in your pocket or in the back of your jersey. It's small enough and light enough that you won't notice it. The Good
  • Tons of tools
  • Compact
  • Steel construction will last forever
The Bad
  • If you're concerned about weight, maybe it's a little bulky

Bottom Line:

The Crank Brothers Multi-17 Tool is awesome. It has the tools you'll need to make those mid-ride adjustments and fixes. If it can't do it, you've got bigger problems to worry about. Do yourself a favor and Buy Now: Pick up the Crank Brothers Multi-17 Tool ...

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Bike Gear

Timex Ironman Global Trainer GPS Sport Watch with Heart Rate Monitor

By Eric Miller - Friday, September 10th, 2010 - 5 Comments

Today I received the Timex Ironman Global Trainer GPS Sport Watch with Heart Rate Monitor in the mail. This is the big mammajamma from Timex. I don't know if they'd say it, but this is their top watch. I've wanting to get a training watch for awhile now (you know, something that has more than a stopwatch) but have never pulled the trigger on any. I know people are generally fairly polarized when it comes to their training watches. As of right now I'm neutral. I can't wait to get out and see what this watch (read: mini computer) can do.

Timex Ironman Global Trainer GPS Sport Watch with Heart Rate Monitor Features

  • Featuring SiRFstarIII™ GPS technology, the watch quickly locks on to satellite signals to measure pace, speed and distance in real time
  • Watch measures your location and tracks altitude ascent and descent distances and rates
  • Records up to 100 GPS waypoints so you can find your way home or create custom routes; recall up to 50 custom routes so you can track your pace
  • Included heart rate chest strap takes continuous readings of your heart rate and sends them to the watch so you can monitor how your body is performing
  • Adjustable and flexible elastic strap makes the sensor comfortable to wear; ANT™ technology eliminates cross talk with other heart rate monitors
  • Custom heart rate target zones help maximize performance, whether your goal is to burn fat or train for a race; visual and audible alarms alert you when you fall out of a zone
  • Watch counts and displays calories burned during a training session
  • Customize the display to show up to 4 windows of information so you can monitor pace, distance, split time and heart rate all at the same time
  • Chronograph with interval and countdown timers lets you develop personal workouts that will help you improve your performance
  • Performance pacer mode helps you meet goals and set personal records
  • Watch is water resistant to 50m (165 ft.)
  • Download your workout and route data and analyze it using online training software
  • Customize and manage watch settings using the included desktop software; compatible with Microsoft Windows XP and newer as well as Mac OS X 10.4 and newer
  • Recharge the internal lithium-ion battery by connecting the watch to your computer with the included USB cable or plug it into the wall with the included AC adapter
  • Compatible with Timex bike sensors (sold separately) that use ANT+™ wireless technology; also compatible with third-party bike power sensors using ANT+
  • Watch includes a bike mount
  • Price: $299

First Impression of the Timex Ironman Global Trainer GPS Sport Watch with Heart Rate Monitor

When I first heard about the watch I was expecting something crazy. I don't know what exactly what I was thinking but it's not crazy at all. Take a regular Timex Ironman, blow it up by 4x and you have the Ironman Global Trainer GPS Watch. The Global Trainer GPS watch is big. I mean BIG. It's the biggest watch I've ever put on my wrist. When I first saw the watch I thought it had to weight at least a pound. I envisioned running with it and not being able to keep my arm up. That was quickly dispelled. The watch is surprisingly light given it's size. Timex doesn't provide a weight on its website, neither do a couple of retailers I checked. My mailing scale registers it at 3 ounces. Not too bad for the biggest watch I've ever seen or put on my wrist. I've haven't done a deep dive into how to use the watch yet (that comes after writing this post). After a quick flip through the short user guide provided it doesn't seem like a very complicated watch to use. (Note: I have heard about other GPS watches that are ridiculous to try and use) I am super stoked to get out and start using it. I imagine that there will be a few posts related to this watch after my initial uses and then again after I get more acquainted and log more time in it. I also imagine the uploading and tracking of data will have a post. For those who don't want to wait...Buy Now: Pick up the Timex Ironman Global Trainer GPS Sport Watch with Heart Rate Monitor ...

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Bike Gear

Giro to Launch High-end Road/MTB Shoes for 2011

By Jason Mitchell - Wednesday, September 1st, 2010 - 1 Comment

With superstar Levi Leipheimer dancing in Giro prototypes for the past year or more, Giro makes it official and has released the details on their new high-end road and mountain bike shoe lineup for 2011. These shoes have been tested in The Tour de France, Leadville 100, The Tour of California and The Tour of Utah by Levi himself. With several podium finishes already, the new lineup has an impressive record -- even before the public can get their feet in them. With prices starting at $199, the new Giro shoes won't come cheaply, so they better be comfortable and durable on the trail or on the road. For those of you who remember their first ill-fated attempt at footwear, these shoes have little in common with that pilot project gone bad and look to be a welcomed entry into the high-end cycling shoe market. Look for them at your local Giro dealer sometime in January 2011. Here's a bit more info on Giro's new cycling shoes:

  • Available in seven different models for both road and MTB riding
  • Price range for road is $349 to $199
  • Price range for mountain is $279 to $199
  • Top-end models feature adjustable SuperNatural Fit Footbeds (also available as a separate kit)
  • Two years in development with 16 revisions and thousands of miles of road and trail testing
  • Features a proprietary last designed from the ground-up exclusively by Giro
  • Developed with input and testing from Retul founder Todd Carver
  • Three-time Tour of California Champion Levi Leipheimer was a critical force in the development of the shoes and raced the Tour de France in the Prolight SLX
  • Top-end models feature a high modulus carbon or composite sole designed by Easton engineers
  • Include premium materials such as Tejin uppers, custom fasteners and X-Static fabric
  • Will be sold through approximately 500 dealers in the United States
  • Giro shoes will also be available through dealers in Germany, Switzerland Denmark, Benelux, Scandinavia and the UK
More Info: Download the 2011 Giro Shoes Catalog (4.5 mb PDF)...

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Bike Gear

In For Review: Timbuk2 Swig Backpack

By Eric Miller - Sunday, August 29th, 2010 - 2 Comments

This past week I received a Timbuk 2 Swig Backpack to review. I've been a fan of Timbuk 2 for a long time and have had one of their Classic Messenger Bags for about 9 years. I'm stoked to finally check out one of their backpacks.

Timbuk 2 Swig Backpack Features

  • Super lightweight Mission6 nylon fabric.
  • Padded, low profile internal laptop compartment for full protection without the bulk
  • Timbuk2's trademarked Swing Around Access; grab your laptop without taking off your pack.
  • Lightweight ergonomic shoulder straps are designed to fit people, not robots
  • On-strap bottle opener for party tricks and quick refreshment
  • Accessory loops on straps for attaching gadgets and gizmos
  • Padded back panel with secret small zipper pocket for easy key storage
  • Two large internal compartments and an organization panel for keeping your sh*t together
  • Waterproof TPU center panel
  • External U-lock pocket doubles as a water bottle holder
  • Price: $90
I fully plan on putting the Swig through the ringer over the coming weeks with daily bike commutes to work, grocery runs, errands, park trips, and whatever else I can thing to throw at it and in it. Buy Now: Search for the Timbuk2 Swig Backpack ...

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Bike Gear

Rocky Mountain Vertex 10 Review

By Eric Miller - Saturday, August 28th, 2010 - No Comments

I decided to pick up mountain biking last summer. I needed to buy a bike but I had some specific requirements that had to be met. First of all, I was on a budget, I wanted something well made, and it had to last. I wanted to ride XC so it had to rally XC. After a lot of research (and a lot of bugging my friends who ride) I landed on the Rocky Mountain Vertex 10. With my budget I could get a lower-end full suspension or a nicer hardtail. I went the hardtail route.

Rocky Mountain Vertex 10 Features

    Frame
  • FORM 7005 aluminum
  • ST3 geometry
  • Marzocchi 33 LO fork, 100mm travel w/ lock out
  • Components
  • Shimano XT rear derailleur
  • Shimano Deore Rapid Fire 9 speed shifters
  • Shimano Deore front derailleur
  • Shimano FC-M442 crankset w/ Octalink bottom bracket
  • Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
  • RMB alloy stem
  • RMB xc alloy handlebar
  • Shimano 505 clipless pedals
  • Shimano cassette
  • Wheels
  • WTB Speed disc XC rims
  • Shimano M475 front hub
  • WTB ExiWolf tires
  • MSRP: $1,500

Rocky Mountain Vertex 10 Review

First things first, I made a couple of changes as soon as I received the bike. I swapped out the Shimano hydraulic brakes for the Avid BB7 mechanical brakes and I swapped the Shimano pedals for some Crank Brothers Candy pedals. Everything else I left as stock. Rocky Mountain makes a solid bike. The Vertex falls within Rocky Mountain's "Cross Country" line of bikes. It does fall at the lower end of the Vertex line, however, upon component comparison upgrading to the Vertex 30 wasn't worth the money in my eyes. The different components on the bike weren't really worth the price difference in my mind. I don't really watch weight and middle of the road or slightly better components work for me. I like stuff that works well but isn't finicky and that's exactly what I got with the Vertex 10. The frame is burly, the components decent, and everything has held up so far after two seasons worth of use. I plan getting at least another season in before anything outside of brake pads and tires will even need to be considered for replacement. The Marzoochi fork gives about 4" of travel and can fully lock out. Locking out the fork is crucial for climbing and for any smooth riding that needs to be done. The Shimano XT rear derailleur and Deore front derailleur and shifters fall right in line with how Shimano components perform. After a season worth of use I did need to adjust the rear derailleur but performance has remained consistent. The bike rides very well, it's super smooth, can definitely hold its own on the ups and downs. The Vertex 10 is meant to ride fast and you can definitely push it fast. So far I've been able to hold my own on XC trails riding with guys on full-suspension bikes. I have done a comparison of the '09 to the '10 model and things really didn't change all that much. There are some different component combinations but everything is equal. The Good
  • Solid build
  • Fast Bike
  • Pure XC Goodness
The Bad
  • Of course being hardtail the super rough stuff can get tiring on the back & butt
  • Could be considered a little heavy (if you're a weight-nut)

Bottom Line:

Rocky Mountain makes solid bikes and Vertex 10 is no exception. If you are looking for a XC machine and want a hardtail, you can't go wrong with the Vertex 10. Buy Now: Pick up the Rocky Mountain Vertex 10 ...

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Bike Gear

Crank Brothers Alloy Power Pump w/Gauge Review

By Eric Miller - Thursday, July 29th, 2010 - No Comments

One thing that I learned very quickly, the hard way, when I started bike commuting is you have to carry a pump. I thought I could get away with not taking one with me every ride. I also thought the same thing when I got my mountain bike and was going for a "quick" ride during lunch one day (that was a long walk back to the office). In the world of mini-pumps there's many options. I knew my pump would mostly get hauled around on the daily bike commute so I needed something that wouldn't take a year to pump a tire, it had to be burly to stand up to the daily abuse of commuting, and it needed to have a gauge. I searched around and found the Crank Brothers Alloy Power Pump w/gauge. I chose this particular pump because out of Crank Brothers line of mini pumps it was the one that best fit my needs.

Crank Brothers Alloy Power Pump w/Gauge Features

  • Maximum Pressure: 130psi (9 bar)
  • Valves: Presta & Schraeder
  • Material: 6061-T6 aluminum
  • Air switch: high volumn / high pressure
  • Mounting Bracket: included
  • Weight: 173g
  • Price: $38

Crank Brothers Alloy Power Pump w/Gauge Review

This was the first mini pump that I have purchased and I have only ever used one other (another Crank Brothers model) so keep that in mind. In terms of my needs: burly, ability to pump up a tire in less than a day, and have a gauge, the Alloy Power Pump has met my expectations. I've been hauling mine around for about 2 years now and so far the name and some paint have rubbed off the handle. It definitely holds up to the rigors to daily use. I've handled both metal and plastic pumps before and I like metal. Yeah it may weight a little but I think the metal is definitely more durable. The Alloy Power Pump does feature a twistable head with a Presta adaptor on one side and a Schraeder adapter on the other. Just a simple twist and you can pump up either valve. Probably my favorite feature is the adjustable air switch. Located at the base of the handle there's a dial you can turn to one of two positions. The first position is 'high volume'. You use this when first pumping up the tire and you want to get a lot of air in with each pump. The second position is 'high pressure'. When the going gets tough just turn the dial and you start pumping less air with each pump but it comes in at a higher pressure. With mini pumps without this feature getting a road tire above 30 psi is a rough, I couldn't do it. With the air switch it's no problem. I chose the Alloy Power Pump because of the longer handle. This has it's pros and cons. The pros are you get more air in with each pump, thus taking less time and less work to fill up your tire. The cons are it's longer and weighs more. The pump either has to strap to the bike (mounting bracket included) or go in a pack. It doesn't fit very well into a jersey pocket and it definitely won't fit into a saddle bag. Second favorite feature is the gauge. I had a floor pump once without a gauge. Nothing quite like the 'squeeze test' to see if your tires have enough air. The gauge takes all the guess work out. Plus when I'm using a mini pump I like to know how much longer it's going to be to get the right pressure. The Alloy Power Pump is well made. It's been strapped to a number of bikes, been thrown in the bottom of panniers for a year, dropped on the road a few times, and the thing keeps chugging. I haven't broken anything on it and it still works like brand new. My main gripe with the pump is the mounting bracket. It mounts via a couple of zipties. While I love zipties, the big drawback is what to do if you have multiple bikes. I don't always ride with a pack or panniers. Nor do I always ride with a jersey. I'm not one to buy a pump for each bike so switching from bike to bike is a pain. A velcro strap for attaching to the bike would be killer. What I do like about the mounting bracket is it's also a protective cover for the gauge and pump head. The Good
  • Burly, has stood up to 2 years of abuse
  • Air switch
  • Metal
  • Longer pump action
The Bad
  • Mounting bracket only attaches with zipties making multiple bike attachment a pain
  • Weight (if you're counting that)
  • Takes more effort than a CO2 inflater

Bottom Line:

The Crank Brothers Alloy Power Pump w/gauge is burly, durable, and great to use. In the world of mini pumps it stands near the top. Buy Now: Pick up the Crank Brothers Alloy Power Pump w/gauge ...

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Bike Gear

Camelbak Podium ChillJacket Insulated Bottle Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, July 13th, 2010 - 3 Comments

I was a little skeptical when I picked up the Camelbak Podium ChillJacket Insulated Bottle. It's seems too simple, why haven't companies been doing this since the beginning? Camelbak made the promises and then they delivered.

Camelbak ChillJacket Bottle Features

  • Insulation to keep drinks colder longer
  • JetValve: i.e. No spill lid
  • Hydroguard coating to inhibit the growth of bacteria
  • Price $12

Camelbak Podium ChillJacket Insulated Bottle Review

The ChillJacket looks almost like any other bike bottle. To not sound like a cheesy, feel-good person, it's what's on the inside that counts. The bottle is wrapped with double-walls filled with insulation, providing the insulation to keep your drinks colder longer. The tags on the bottle claim 2x as long, the Camelbak website says "hours". I didn't get out the thermometer or the stopwatch, but the difference is significant. Kept my water cold all day while playing at the river. Camelbak also coated the inside of the bottle with HydroGuard. It's a coating to inhibit the growth of bacteria. This doesn't provide an excuse for keeping a funky bottle, you still have to wash it often. The JetValve (no-spill lid) is awesome. Just twist the nozzle one way and the water flows smoothly. Turn it the other way and nothing will come out. I gave it the highly scientific and precise "tip upside down and squeeze hard" test and not a drop came out. This would be killer on MTB rides where it always seems your sugary, electrolyte drink always seems to seep a little making a sticky mess. I am skeptical about how well the bottle will stay in a bike bottle cage. The indentation on the bottle doesn't seem significant enough to keep it in place. I plan on testing it out as soon as my bikes arrive from across the country. I am also skeptical about the JetValve use one handed. If the valve was open would it really keep everything in on a bouncy cross-country ride? It'd be fairly difficult to hold onto the bottle and open with one hand while riding. I'll probably just keep it open the whole time. The Good
  • My drink isn't warm after sitting in the sun for 5 minutes, or even 30 minutes, or even an hour
  • No spill lid keeps everything inside
  • Did I mention keeping your drink cold?
The Bad
  • Might not sit in a bike cage very well
  • One hand opening while riding would be hard

Bottom Line on the Camelbak Podium ChillJacket Insulated Bottle

I can't wait to be able to drink cold drinks in the middle of the sweltering summer rides. I'm definitely picking up a few more of these bottles. Buy Now: Pick up the Camelbak Podium ChillJacket Insulated Bottle and keep your drinks cold....

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Bike Gear

Osprey Manta 25 Hydration Pack Review

By Adam Buchanan - Thursday, July 8th, 2010 - 3 Comments

Riding with a backpack has never been more trendy thanks to the Osprey Manta 25 Hydration pack. Personally I really don't care to shove loads of junk in my jersey pockets. Its uncomfortable and I know one of these days they will tear apart. If you're on the fence about riding with a pack or not, hear me out. The Osprey Manta will do you good.

All Mighty Guarantee

My favorite thing about Osprey is their promise. Whether if your pack was purchased in 1974 or yesterday, Osprey will do what they can to fix a problem or replace the pack. You can stitch that on a pillow and put it on the couch.

Osprey Manta 25 Review

The Airscape design is flat out impressive. It keeps the pack away from your back which not only keep you cool but feels good too. The recommendation from Osprey for how much weight to carry is just under 20 lbs. I would disagree with that. The straps aren't sturdy enough to handle that kind of weight and unless you're adventure racing, who wants to pack 20 lbs. around? The integrated rain cover is a little gimmicky. A cool idea but in my opinion I'd much rather have a really trimmed down pack with a stout design to carry bike tools, water, and bars. The pack has plenty of room for a rain jacket which I would prefer. But hey, I live in New Mexico and probably don't deal with as much rain as most. I wish the compression buckles were eliminated or more discreet. For a good sleek pack they just stick out too much. I used the Manta 25 for the last 3 weeks while working in the field. I carried supplies, an iPad, and water and even though it wasn't heavy, the Manta just didn't feel right hiking. I really wouldn't consider this a hybrid bag due to having very low profile shoulder straps. However for riding a bike it makes up for not serving two masters. The sunglasses pouch really won me over. It has a 'no scratch' fabric on the inside keeping your lenses safe. Fancy pants.

Osprey Manta 25 Specs

  • Weight - 2 lbs. 4 oz. - would be less if they chopped a couple buckles off.
  • Magnet holder for hydration hose.
  • Lycra stuff pouches.
  • Harness Pockets
  • HydraLock hydration system.
  • Helmet Stash belt loop.
  • S/M - 1300 cu. in. :: M/L - 1500 cu. in.
  • $140 clams

It's All In The Hip Belt

The Osprey Manta has plenty to say when it comes to features. Take the hip belt for example, very thin comfortable strap perfect for being hunched over on a bike. I do wish companies would back off on the side pull adjustment for the hip belt, I can never find the dang strap and can't seem to get it tight around my 19 inch waist. Ok... 32 inch waist, you got me. This low profile strap is not ideal for hiking in my opinion. I would rather have something a bit more thick to support a heavier weight.

Hydration Station

The pouch for water is very slick and easy to use. Osprey designed their water pouch to actually fit your back, hmm who would have thought? Osprey thats who! It also helps with keeping the flow of water steady which I noticed big time while I was using it. With the hydration bladder included, $140 is quite the bargain for such a well designed pack.

Osprey Manta 25 Bottom Line

If you want more of a hybrid do it all pack, the Manta 30 is probably your best bet. For biking, the Manta 25 has that sleek design that stays out of the way. The curved frame really is the reason I would ride with an Osprey rather than a Camelbak. I'm already hunched over riding my bike, the Manta 25 moves along with me making this the best biking pack I've come across. BUY NOW: The Osprey Manta 25 Hydration Pack will exceed your gear junkie expectations. ...

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Bike Gear

Pedro’s Blowout Bag Review

By Eric Miller - Saturday, June 12th, 2010 - 3 Comments

To me a saddle bag is a saddle bag is a saddle bag. What really sets them apart from each other? Capacity, attachment, and materials. The Pedro's Blowout Bag nails it with all three. You get large capacity (If you buy the large), seat and seatpost attachment that is solid, and it's made from recycled tubes. It's hard to beat that.

Pedro's Blowout Bag Features

  • 3 sizes: 25 ci, 35 ci, & 50 ci
  • Materials: Recycled tubes & nylon

Pedro's Blowout Bag Review

The thing that drew me to the Pedro's Blowout Bag was the recycled tires. I loved the idea of it. In terms of durability I think the nylon will wear out faster than the tubes. I bought the large and I have enough room to fit a spare tube (mtn or road), tire levers, patch kit, two multi-tools, some change, a gel, and room to spare. If I had one I'd be able to fit a CO2 inflater and a couple of cartridges. I do have a friend who has fit a Crank Brothers Power Pump in hers. The bag also features a small reflective strip around the logo on the back of the bag, increasing your rear visibility at night. The Good
  • Recycling old tubes
  • Large has good capacity
  • Durability should be high
The Bad
  • Have to loosen the strap a lot to unzip it

Bottom Line:

A saddle bag is a saddle bag. Get one that reuses materials, holds what you need, and should last a long time. The Blowout Bag is it. Buy Now: Pick up the Pedro's Blowout Bag ...

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Bike Gear

Park Tool Multi-Tool – MT-1C Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 - No Comments

The Park Tool Multi-Tool - MT-1C is about as minimalist as you can get with a bike multi-tool. The thing reminds me of a skeleton key or something you'd see on an Indiana Jones movie or MacGyver. It may look simplistic but it's got the Park Tool quality and name behind it. It has the basic of the basics that you'll likely need when out on a ride.

Park Tool Multi-Tool - MT-1C Features

  • Cast Steel
  • 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 mm hex wrenches
  • 8, 9, 10 mm box end wrenches
  • 1 flathead screwdriver
  • Weight: 54 grams
  • Price: $9

Park Tool Multi-Tool - MT-1C Review

Really what is there to say that hasn't been said above? Simple multi-tool for carrying around with you on every ride. I did buy a bigger multi-tool but that really became my 'at home bike tool' (what can I say, I don't really have shop tools at home). Out on a ride though, I haven't used anything on the larger tool that I didn't have on the MT-1C. That's not to say that something won't come up. I have had a couple of times where it's been nice to have more than one tool. When it really comes down to it this is a great back-up tool to have with you. At $9 I have one in each of my saddlebags. It's been useful and has the basics of what I need. Park Tool designed it in a way to have the most useful configuration. However, there have been a handful of times where the tool has been awkward to use or almost didn't fit where I needed it to go. That being said if you want a back-up to take with you or only have $10, this is the tool to get. The Good
  • Basic sizes of the most common tools
  • Park Tool Quality
  • Price
The Bad
  • Limited number of tools
  • Can be awkward to use

Bottom Line:

Bottom line is this is a handy tool to have on hand with you. It can handle the basic jobs and most of the most common issues while out on a ride. If you are only going to have one tool though, it'll be worthwhile to get something a little bigger. This is a good secondary tool to have on hand. Buy Now: Get the Park Tool Multi-Tool - MT-1C ...

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Bike Gear

Cateye Liteset EL135/LD130 Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 - No Comments

Every person who rides bikes on the road should have a front and rear blinkie. We have a hard enough time getting seen by drivers and pedestrians when it's full daylight, why take chances when it's night or the light is low? Enter the Cateye Liteset EL135/LD130. The EL135/LD130 is solid front and rear blinkie set that is reasonably priced and will help increase your visibility with others on the road.

Cateye Liteset EL135/LD130 Features

  • Front Light:
  • Three LEDS
  • Wide Beam
  • Flashing & Steady Modes
  • 320 Hours Life on Flashing Mode
  • 80 Hours Life on Steady Mode
  • Handlebar Mounting Clamp
  • 94 grams
  • 2 AAs, included
  • Rear Light:
  • Three LEDs
  • Three Modes (Two Flashing, One Steady)
  • 150 Hours Life on Flashing Mode
  • 75 Hours Life on Steady Mode
  • Seatpost & Clothing Clamps
  • 35 grams
  • 2 AAAs, included
  • Price for the set: $30

Cateye Liteset EL135/LD130 Review

When it comes down to it the EL135/LD130 is a no frills, standard blinkie light set. It's a workhorse. I've put it through hot summer days, high humid days, freezing winter rides, snow, and monsoon-like rain and they keep right on flashing. The front light in steady mode wasn't bright enough to light up the road for me by itself, but I do use it in combination in flash mode with another brighter light to light up the road in front of me. One thing I will say about the front light is the 'lock' that keeps it in place when in the clamp is a thin piece of plastic, if this breaks (which mine did when I went down somewhat hard on an icy day) then there is no way it will stay in the clamp. I think it was the combination of the impact of the fall and the plastic being frozen. I only use the rear light in flashing mode. There are two flashing modes. One is where all three LEDs flash on and off at the same time. The other is a pattern where one LED lights up at a time. I prefer the former because I feel like it's brighter than the other, but that's just my opinion. The seatpost clamp does adjust on a horizontal axis so you can adjust it to point straight back, regardless of the angle of your seatpost. Like most things I've reviewed so far I've been using these lights for a couple of years now and they've been solid. They are made to be blinkies, that's what I've used them for. If you're looking for something to see the road by, then buy a different in addition to getting these blinkies. These will definitely help increase your visibility. The Good
  • Long Battery Life
  • Bright in Flashing Mode
  • At 30 bills, you can't go wrong
  • Clamps are have a large adjustment range and come with a few rubber shims to accomodate slimmer bars
  • Overall long life
The Bad
  • No battery life indicator
  • No rechargeable option (unless you use your own rechargeables)
  • If 'locks' break then you have to buy a new set

Bottom Line:

Everyone needs a set of blinkies and at $30 everyone can. The Cateye Liteset EL135/LD130 is a set that you can't go wrong with and can stand up to years of use. Buy Now: Pick up the Cateye Liteset EL135/LD130 ...

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Bike Gear

NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USB Bike Light Review

By Eric Miller - Saturday, June 5th, 2010 - 1 Comment

The NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USB Bike Light came out right when I was needing a new bike light. It's super small, lighter in weight, and packs a retina searing punch for such a small light.

NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USB Light Features

  • Light Output: 110 lumens
  • Battery Life: 3 hours
  • 1 LED Headlamp
  • Li-Ion Battery Pack
  • Handlebar Mount Strap (Mine came with three)
  • Wall Charger
  • USB Charger
  • Battery Charge Indicator

NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USB Light Review

I bought the MiNewt as a handlebar light to replace the hiking headlamp I was using on my helmet. Prior to that I had been using a front blinkie on steady mode. The MiNewt Mini-USB packs a powerful punch for being such a small light. It gives strong light output for almost the entire lenght of the battery. I didn't really notice any light dimishment until the very end of the battery life. Some lights give a wide swath of light but that isn't the case with the MiNewt Mini. The beam of light is a focused, spot beam. Within that spot of light I could see the road very well. I felt comfortable riding at higher speeds knowing that I would be able to see what was coming up. The regular MiNewt Mini is meant just for handlebar mounting, they made the MiNewt Mini-USB Plus for helmet mounting...it comes with a strap to mount to your helmet. With the regular MiNewt, though, I was able to get it on my helmet securely. I just used the handlebar strap for the light and the battery mounting strap around some of the vent holes and it works just fine. I did ultimately decide to use the MiNewt as a helmet mounted light. I use a light that gives a wider swath on the handlebars and like the focused beam of the MiNewt on my helmet to shine where ever I am looking. I also get the added benefit of being able to look at motorists who are about to turn onto the road and know that they are definitely seeing me. As a single, solitary light the MiNewt Mini-USB wasn't enough for me. However, I do err on the side of more light to see and more importantly to be seen. NiteRider does make a whole family of MiNewt bike lights that range from 100 lumen single lights to 200 lumen single lights to 400 lumen double lights. My favorite feature is the USB charging capability. I was able to charge the light while at school if I needed and it was easier and more compact to carry the USB cord as opposed to the wall charger. An added bonus for me was the USB cord was the same size as my Blackberry Pearl charger. The Good
  • Bright Little Light
  • USB Charger
  • Worked on my helmet without the Helmet Kit
  • Price
  • Size
  • Weight
The Bad
  • Not as bright as other lights
  • No dimmer settings to help conserve battery life
  • Spot beam is bad if you want a wide swath of light

Bottom Line:

If you are on a budget and need a bright light, the NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USB Bike Light is the light to get. Buy Now: Light it up with the NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USB Bike Light. ...

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Bike Gear

Cutter Tech Knickerbocker Gear Review

By Eric Miller - Saturday, May 29th, 2010 - No Comments

Hehehe, you're wearing knickers. Yes, yes I am. Yes you may get teased by the unaware when you wear the Cutter Tech Knickerbocker but on the inside you're laughing at them. The Knickerbocker is one of the greatest products for bike commuters.

Cutter Tech Knickerbocker Features

  • Polartec Power Shield Stretch Woven with Hardface Technology
  • 6 pockets (2 front, 2 back, 2 cargo)
  • Ergonomic Fit
  • U-Lock Snap on the back pocket
  • Price: $149.95

Cutter Tech Knickerbocker Review

First off, in the interest of disclosure, I used to work for the company that owns Cutter. In no way have I been compensated or otherwise influenced for this review. Now that's out of the way lets get to the good stuff. The Knickerbocker features the Polarguard Powershield Stretch blah blah blah...big fancy name for super stretchy fabric. I have had zero restriction problems, Polarguard absolutely slayed it with this fabric. You can swing your leg over your bike without busting a seam or feeling like you have 80-year-old joints (sorry 80-year-olds). You can also move around on the bike (stand, sit, pedal, etc) without any restriction. I used to commute in plain clothes and riding in khakis was a pain. I have about 75 days riding in the Knickerbocker and they look as good as day 1. They are extremely durable and have held up well to the daily abuse. I've worn them in all conditions from hot humid days, to cold rain, and in a couple of cases, snow. They do repel light moisture so offer protection in a light drizzle. Another big benefit of the Knickerbocker is the length. During cold weather rides they keep your knees covered and warm. Nothing like cold, creaky knees to take the fun out of a ride. The Knickerbocker has killer style that works commuting, road riding, mountain biking, walking around the grocery store, whatever you want. No more getting mocked when you show up in your 'bike pants'. In regards to fit I normally wear 34" waist pants and I wear a medium in the Knickerbocker. They fit nicely and are just a little big (read: just right) around the waist and they hang just below my knees. The Good
  • Super stretchy fabric
  • Killer Style
  • Durability
  • Lots of Pockets
The Bad
  • Only near black color (gets hot in the sun)
  • A little spendy

Bottom Line:

These are the cycling bottoms to own for commuting and general riding around. They are spendy but worth the clams you'll shell out for them. Buy Now: Do yourself a favor and buy the Cutter Tech Knickerbocker now. ...

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Bike Gear

Deuter Rack Pack Bike Bags Review

By Eric Miller - Tuesday, May 25th, 2010 - 1 Comment

I've been using the Deuter Rack Pack Bike Bags for about the last year and a half on my daily commute. I started using panniers because I was sick of sweaty back, a sore back from heavy backpack days, and sometimes I needed to carry more. I made the switch and I haven't looked back yet. I looked at a number of different offerings but was on a little bit of a tight budget and the Deuter Bike Bags fit what I needed in terms of budget, size, and use. Panniers are a great way to get the load off of your back and onto your bike.

Deuter Rack Pack Bike Bags Features

  • Ortleib Quick Lock Attachment System
  • Front and Top Pockets
  • Reflective Logo
  • Integrated Rain Cover
  • Asymetric Design to Maximize Heel Clearance
  • Side Mesh Pocket
  • Volume: 2950 cubic inches for the set (1475 cubic inches each)
  • Weight: 4 lbs 3 oz
  • Price: $164.95 (pair)

Deuter Rack Pack Bike Bags Review

I've used these bags for the past year and a half on my daily bike commute. I have probably about 320+ days of use out of them so far. It started when I had a full-time job but then transitioned to being a full-time grad student. My average daily load is my school bag with a netbook, handful of manila folders with papers, a textbook or two or three, netbook cord, wireless mouse, pens, and pencils in one bag. The other bag carries my school clothes, bike lights (one handlebar, one helmet), lunch, snacks, and raingear if necessary. I usually have some room to spare too. The outer pockets are big enough to hold four blinkies and my keys each, with room to spare. The lid is big enough to carry my mini pump, wrench, cargo net, patch kit, handful of zip ties, and pollution mask, with (you guessed it) a little room to spare. Deuter packed a lot into a slim design. The bags look fairly small but they can carry a pretty big load. The Ortleib Quick Lock Attachment System is amazing. I've seen what some other panniers use and it looks like a hardware store hack job compared to the Ortleib system. It does take some adjust and a little fine tuning but it took me maybe 10 minutes to get it dialed. Then from there it's easy on and off. Just pick up the webbing handle and the bags slide on or off. One thing to be cautious of: the lower tab has to be adjusted just right or when you hit some bumps the bags will slide a little and the lower attachment will come free of the rack. The Rack Pack Bike Bags come with the 'integrated rain cover' which is a rain cover folded up and store in a zippered compartment on the bottom of each bag. I've never actually used them. I've used the bags through snowstorms, slushy roads, and rain in UT and never had any problems with leakage. Then I took the abuse up a notch when I moved to Cincinnati for grad school. I've had the bags through torrential downpours with nary a leak. Lately I have noticed the bags getting thoroughly soaked and they could probably use a DWR refresher. After a year and a half of abuse I think this is reasonable. The Microrip fabric has held up to the abuse as well. I did make one hole in the bottom of the bag (completely user error) but other than that there aren't any rips, tears, snaps, or really any signs of wear. The description says they have an asymetric design so you can swap back and forth if you have heel clearance issues. The problem with this is if you use the mesh pockets for anything in quick reach, if you swap sides the pocket ends up in the back. The one benefit is then the reflective logos face the rear. My wishlist for these bags would be more reflective detailing. The only reflection on the bag is small logo on each bag. Make an integrated shoulder strap for commuters. The carry handles are good an all, but when you've got a heavy load and a little bit of a walk it's be nice to sling the bags over your shoulder. I know I know, "these bags are made for touring so quit your whining commuter". I'm just saying it'd be a killer feature. The Good
  • Ortleib Quick Lock Attachment System
  • Massive capacity for a slim design
  • Fantastically waterproof even without using the rain cover
  • Extremely durable
  • Straps are fixed so there aren't any danglers
  • No more sweaty back
  • No more sore back from heavy loads
The Bad
  • The only reflective detailing is a small logo on each bag. Give us more visibility!
  • Because the straps are fixed there is limited height adjustment. It's hard to get tall things in the bag
  • No integrated shoulder strap

Bottom Line on the Deuter Rack Pack Bike Bags

The Deuter Rack Pack Bike Bags are money! They've been through a year and a half of commuting abuse and they are going strong. They are well worth the money and I'd recommend them to anyone who was going to buy panniers. Buy Now: Pick up the Deuter Rack Pack Bike Bags today and say goodbye to ultra-sweaty back forever....

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Bike Gear

Zipp Launches 404 Carbon Clincher Wheelset

By Jason Mitchell - Monday, May 10th, 2010 - No Comments

Looks like the folks at Zipp are at it again... launching their new 404 Carbon Clincher wheelset that's said to offer all the benefits of a deep-profile design, but offer handling akin to a wider rim. More details below. Zipp Press Release:

Zipp Speed Weaponry has revealed details of the company’s highly anticipated 404 Carbon Clincher, the first deep-profile carbon clincher design to offer the superior aerodynamics, ride quality, strength, and handling of a wide rim body. Available now through authorized Zipp retailers around the world, the 404 Carbon Clincher employs a radical new aerodynamic rim profile, dubbed Firecrest™, and exclusive materials technology developed in collaboration with Zipp’s composites supplier. As a result, the 404 Carbon Clincher reaches an unrivaled level of performance for clincher wheels and a total weight of just 1557 grams, putting it among the lightest deep-profile carbon clinchers available. Zipp Technical Director Josh Poertner said, “This is a product that a lot of people have been waiting for, and we wanted to give them something unlike any other wheel on the market. We spent two years optimizing our carbon clincher technology and it’s probably the biggest leap forward we’ve ever made.” To address the differences in airflow patterns between clincher tires and tubulars, Zipp engineers developed the fully toroidal Firecrest profile with a complex set of high-radius curves that adjust the width of the rim from 25.5mmm at the braking track to 27.5mm at its widest point. This wider, less tapered version of the proven hybrid-toroidal profile used in Zipp’s previous clincher wheels particularly improves the aerodynamics of the rear wheel as it rotates within the frame and makes the 404 Carbon Clincher by far the most aerodynamic clincher wheelset in its class. The new rim shape also directs airflow so precisely that handling is noticeably improved. As Zipp discovered with designs like the Paris-Roubaix-winning 303 Tubular, a wider rim also increases lateral stiffness for sprinting and cornering yet offers greater vertical compliance for more control and comfort on rough surfaces. With clincher tires, the wide rim design offers even greater benefits, as the tire takes on a more stable shape that places more rubber on the road while cornering without adding rolling resistance. Increased air volume also reduces the likelihood of pinch flatting compared to narrower rims. Because clincher tires are more susceptible than tubulars are to the effects of heat buildup from heavy braking on carbon surfaces, the 404 Carbon Clincher is manufactured with a heat-resistant resin based on the materials used in motorsports brake systems. During the development process for the 404 Carbon Clincher, chemists and engineers from Zipp’s composites supplier made repeated visits to Zipp’s R&D lab to test and refine the new technology, which offers more consistent braking performance and prevents spikes in tire pressure on long descents. According to Jim Douglas, Zipp product manager for wheels, “The versatility and popularity of the Zipp 404 made it a natural choice for carbon clincher. The performance characteristics of the 404, combined with the functionality of our carbon clincher and Firecrest rim shape will make it a success among triathletes and road racers alike.” Indeed, the 58mm-deep 404 has long been a favorite of Zipp athletes for long-course triathlons, field sprints, rolling breakaways, and even mountain stages. Like all Zipp carbon wheels, the 404 Carbon Clincher uses rims manufactured in-house by Zipp, premium Sapim CX-Ray spokes (16 front/20 rear), and US-made hubs with Swiss steel bearings. Suggested retail price is $2700 U.S. per wheelset.
More Info: Visit Zipp.com...

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Bike Gear

Gargoyles Cardinal Sunglasses Review

By Jason Mitchell - Thursday, April 29th, 2010 - 1 Comment

Gargoyles, you say? You mean those glasses made popular in the 1980's by their military-grade lenses and pro wrestler styling? Yup... those are the ones. Well, after a brief disappearance, Gargoyles is back with the same dedication to performance and optical quality. Over the past few months I've had a chance to test the new Cardinal multi-sport sunglasses from Gargoyles (part of their Instinct Collection). The wide-coverage and curved-lens design of the Cardinal offers sweeping peripheral coverage that is matched by a select few sunglasses on the market. Gargoyles Cardinal Features:

  • Lightweight flexible Nylon frame material
  • Pin Stop Hinge
  • Dual Toric 210º Vison Shield Lens
  • Shatter-resistant ballistic defense lenses
  • Soft rubber Temple tip inserts
  • Non-slip Adjustable nose pads
  • 100% UV Protection
  • MSRP: $110
My test pair are black with the green lenses, which provides a really dark and stealthy look. I might say that the green lens tint is a tad dark for all-around use as shadowed areas became too dark. In bright sunlight, that isn't much of an issue -- there are other lens options available in a less-dark shade, if you prefer. While I don't prefer the green lens, there may be some advantages. This was taken from the Gargoyles Web site:
The Gargoyles trademark Green Lens provides the wearer with a unique balance of target and background brightness. Designed for the Field of Play, the Gargoyles Green Lens helps you locate and track objects in motion against a variety of outdoor backgrounds including Earth, sky and water. Our green field of play lens has a transmission which is tailored to accommodate playing field sports and outdoor activities where tracking objects in motion is critical. The Green Lens controls low-level blue light while the middle range of light is selectively manipulated to provide optimum visual stimulation and distinctive object illumination.
While many sunglasses feature non-adjustable nose pads, the Cardinal's stand out with their easily-adjusted noses. You can expand, contract or even move them forward or back for the proper, slip-free fit. Grippy ear pieces also help keeping things in place while running or biking. To be honest, I'm not super-keen on the styling, but that's a personal preference and you may like the looks on your face for your intended purpose. They are on the midrange side as far as price goes and are widely-available online or directly through Gargoyles. The Good
  • Wraparound styling provides excellent protection
  • Good optical quality
  • Adjustable nose piece fits nearly any face
  • Extremely-durable lenses
The Bad
  • Not so hip styling
  • Green lens is really dark, in my opinion
Buy Now: Visit GargoylesEyewear.com...

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Bike Gear

Polar Introduces CS500 Cycling Computer Video Link

By Jason Mitchell - Tuesday, April 13th, 2010 - No Comments

Polar has long been the market-leader in heart rate monitors and training devices. They have also had a handful of cycling-specific watches and computers, but the new Polar CS500 really hits the cycling market hard and fast with its innovative design and overall function. The all-new CS500 cycling computer includes all the metrics you'd ever want or need to know for your next road or mountain bike ride. With its large screen, expandable pods and unique rockered function switch, this new cycling computer will be the athlete's choice for hard-core training and performance. You can't have everything, but the only thing I would like is an integration with the Polar G3 GPS unit for mapping--guess you can't have it all. The total package looks great!

Polar CS 500 Features

  • Rockered switch for easy navigation
  • Utilizes W.I.N.D. technology for intereference-free transmission
  • Oversized face with large readout
  • Altimeter and barometer
  • Heart rate features: Automatic target zones (age-based), HRmax (age-based), HR alarms, OwnCal, OwnCode, OwnZone, upload to polarpersonaltrainer.com
  • Cadence sensor
  • Speed sensor
  • MSRP: $319.95 (available May 2010)
Full Press Release Below:
Lake Success, N.Y. (April 13, 2010) – Polar (www.polarusa.com), the leader in heart rate monitoring and fitness assessment technology, today announced the launch of the CS500 – a new cycling computer that is the first in the market to offer rocker switch operation and a sleek, extra-large display screen. The CS500 is also compatible with the wireless Polar Power Output Sensor W.I.N.D., which provides the rider with cycling power, enabling the highest level of professional training. Event riders have long desired cycling computers with simpler button-pushing and a display screen with large, easy-to read digits – especially at high speeds. The CS500 meets these demands with two exclusive design features. First, with an extra-large and aerodynamic display – the CS500 offers outstanding visibility, and allows more information to be viewed on the screen, creating a data-rich, cycling computer. Second, the diamond-shaped handlebar unit sits on a pivoting, two-way rocker switch. When cyclists want to change the screen to view different data, they no longer have to take their hands off the bars – they simply use their thumb to lightly tap the left or right side of the CS500, and the screen instantly flips to reveal a different set of performance data. With this unique design, cyclists can better concentrate on their ride. “With the CS500, Polar is revolutionizing the way cyclists view, track and monitor their data,” said Jeff Padovan, President of Polar USA. “From design to functionality, cyclists can train at a higher level with features including the industry’s first two-way rocker switch that allows users to easily view data and rich feedback such as speed, cadence and power. Additionally, the option to add accessories separately gives the cyclist the flexibility to customize their training based on their changing needs.” Designed with competitive riders in mind, the CS500 combines the precise and leading Polar heart rate technology with advanced cycling features. The CS500 tracks speed, distance, cadence, heart rate, calories burned, incline, altitude, ascent and descent and temperature. Up to four different data points can be displayed on the extra-large screen and using the auto-lap splits feature, miles automatically roll-over and cyclists can see a snapshot of their data per lap. To simplify training at the right level and help cyclists get a better workout, the exclusive Polar OwnZone® feature provides a personalized, target heart rate recommendation on how hard to ride. When paired with the Polar Power Output Sensor W.I.N.D., a separate accessory, the CS500 can track high-level cycling data such as power output. With power meter compatibility – available at an affordable price – the CS500 can evolve with a cyclist, as they become more advanced and their training needs expand. The CS500 syncs with polarpersonaltrainer.com, which is a free, online training journal, where cyclists can easily set goals, track progress, analyze results and challenge friends to a common goal. After a workout, data is uploaded to the site via the DataLink, a new wireless communication device from Polar, which includes Mac compatibility. The DataLink plugs into the USB port on a computer, and automatically detects the CS500 in the room, instantly uploading new workout files to a user’s personal profile. In conjunction with the CS500, polarpersonaltrainer.com has been redesigned with new, cycling-specific features, such as “Training Load,” which helps cyclists make smarter decisions by interpreting how hard a specific workout was, and advising when you have recovered from the previous workouts. Utilizing Polar W.I.N.D. technology, the CS500 eliminates the issue of data drop-outs or cross-talk between cycling computers, as the powerful, 2.4 GHz transmission signal ensures disturbance-free training. The new Dual Lock Bike Mount, made of reinforced composite metal, guarantees sturdy, rock-solid attachment to the bike, making it ideal for both road and mountain biking. The CS500 can easily be customized and used on up to three different bikes, and also features a “Drink Reminder,” prompting cyclists when hydration is needed during a ride. To see a video of the CS500 in action and its unique functionalities, visit the Polar USA YouTube Channel. The CS500 is available as a base set, or bundled with a cadence sensor. The base set includes the handlebar unit, WearLink W.I.N.D. fabric chest strap, CS speed sensor W.I.N.D., and Dual Lock Bike Mount, and is available for a suggested price of $319.95. The CS500 cadence set is available for a suggested price of $359.95. The Power Output Sensor W.I.N.D. is available as a separate accessory for a suggested price of $359.95. The DataLink is also available as an accessory, for a suggested price of $54.95. All products are available online or at specialty stores. About Polar Headquartered in Lake Success, NY, Polar USA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Finland-based Polar Electro OY, which invented the first wireless heart rate monitor (HRM) in 1977. The leading Polar heart rate monitoring and fitness assessment technology delivers unparalleled insight into the human body. Our wrist-based training computers provide valuable guidance and feedback, enabling individuals to improve their fitness level, overall health and well-being or sports performance. Polar products and technologies are key to the success of leading fitness facilities, athletic teams, corporate wellness facilities, health insurance providers and thousands of physical education programs around the country. Today, Polar training computers are the number one choice among consumers worldwide.
More Info: Visit PolarUSA.com...

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Bike Gear

In For Review: 2010 Kona King Kahuna 29er

By Jason Mitchell - Thursday, April 8th, 2010 - No Comments

While Utah's glorious Wasatch Mountains got pounded this week with over 3-feet of powder in 24 hours, I sat in my office staring at the handful of mountain bikes that have seen little dirt so far this year. The first one on the list is a top-shelf scandium-framed 29er from Kona: the King Kahuna 29er. The frame is identical to last year's, but with a much sexier bronze paintjob (I think) and a few other changes. The overall spec is very trailworthy with Shimano XT/SLX drivetrain and the new Easton XC Two 29 wheels mated to Maxxis Aspen 2.1 tires. Another noteworthy upgrade from last year is the 15QR front axle on the Fox 32 F29 fork (still 80mm) which helps the front end track better and provides more confidence-inspiring handling. I'm looking forward to putting the King Kahuna through its paces over the coming months--trails are just now starting to thaw, so real-world testing is just around the corner. My rides thus far have been great, so stay tuned. 2010 Kona King Kahuna Features:

  • Frame: Kona race light scandium butted
  • Fork: 80mm Fox 32 F29 with 15QR
  • Wheels: Easton XC Two 29
  • Drivetrain: Shimano XT/SLX
  • Brakes: Shimano SLX
  • MSRP: $2799
More Info: Visit KonaWorld.com...

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Bike Gear

RockShox Domain Dual Crown: Park-friendly Platform Gets Burlier

By Jason Mitchell - Thursday, April 1st, 2010 - No Comments

Just got the word on the upcoming RockShox Domain Dual Crown fork. Park riders will rejoice with the durability and stiffness of the new Domain fork and their wallets will easily plunk down for this reasonably-priced park-slayer. More details on the RockShox Domain Dual Crown:

Introducing the new Domain Dual Crown, same Domain characteristics brought up to a 200mm dual crown chassis. The tried and true long travel single crown grows up! We started with all the core features of Domain: hardened steel upper tubes and easily adjustable compression and rebound damping. Once we had those key features in place, we sprinkled some of the most exciting parts of the BoXXer’s World Cup winning chassis on top! Assembled, this new dual crown offering will be the smoothest most durable park weapon in the wild. Features:
  • Proven park durability
  • Dual-crown 200mm chassis
  • 35mm tapered steel stanchions
  • BoXXer-based chassis
  • Aluminum 1-1/8 Steerer
  • 20mm Maxle Lite
  • Coil-sprung
  • Motion Control IS
  • Includes short and tall crowns, 2 tuning springs
  • MSRP: $660 USD
Buy Now: Search for RockShox Forks...

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Bike Gear

SRAM is at it again… 2×10 Coming to X7 in 2011

By Jason Mitchell - Wednesday, March 17th, 2010 - No Comments

I'm totally and completely onboard with SRAM's new 2x10 XX drivetrain (read my thoughts from Interbike 2009) as it makes complete sense. Who can argue with eliminating duplicate gear ratios, simplifying front shifting and dropping weight? I know I sure can't and neither should you. I just got word that for 2011, SRAM will be introducing a 2x10 version of their workhorse X7 drivetrain. By coming in with the X7 announcement, it's only a matter of time (weeks, days) before we start hearing about X9 and X0 2x10's as well. While X7 isn't as sexy as the XX grouppo, it sure will save riders a ton of coin while providing excellent performance. Lets face it, the current X7 is going to perform as well as the X0 grouppo from 2-3 years ago (or better), which is still pretty darn good if you ask me. The crew at BikeRadar.com broke the story on the X7 announcement, so if you want dirty details, click here. Otherwise, check out the photos of the new 2011 X7 drivetrain and hang tight... it's gonna get even better in SRAM land. Buy Now: Search for SRAM Components...

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Bike Gear

Norco CRR 2 Road Bike: Indeed, Norco Makes Road Bikes

By Jason Mitchell - Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010 - 5 Comments

While Norco is well-known for their gnarly North Shore freeride and downhill mountain bikes, they offer a full fleet of bikes for street, bmx, cruising and even have a respectable road program. While other "mountain bike manufacturers" may also have a token road bike or two, Norco has four full-carbon road bikes, three scandium cyclocross bikes, three touring bikes and two performance aluminum road bikes to go along with their expansive mountain bike lineup. Since Norco doesn't have a huge presence in the States, let me educate you a bit. They are one of Canada's largest bicycle manufacturers with a full lineup of bikes in every shape and size and a full lineup of accessories and clothing under the Axiom, Mace, Adams and Bike Guard brands. Over the years, I've established a strong relationship with the crew at Norco and have exposed many to the beauty of their bike designs and their cool nature as singletrack-hungry Canadians. They ride and they ride hard, but at the end of the day, the entire crew at Norco--including athletes--are down-to-earth and personable. I like that and am stoked to have a new Norco roadie in for review this year.

About the Norco CRR 2 Road Bike

Utilizing an entirely-new carbon platform for 2010, the CRR road line utilizes a new EPS Mandrel system for even layering with Thermoplastic Mesh for dispersed stress forces. What does that mean? Well, according to Norco, that means lighter, stiffer and stronger frames than ever before. This new carbon makeup is used in both the CRR road and XC carbon mountain bike frames. On top of the new makeup, you also get BB30 bottom-brackets and integrated seat masts. Unwrapping the Norco CRR 2, I was really impressed by the overall package. For $2040, you get a heckuva bike with full Shimano 105, Ritchey cockpit, FSA cranks and Shimano wheels. I'm excited to get on the road with the CRR 2 and see how it performs... I can't wait for the carbon goodness to soften the road chatter while also providing instant reaction-times for snappy climbing and handling. Key Specs of the Norco CRR 2:
  • High-modulus carbon-fiber frame/fork with HTR technology
  • Ritchey Comp cockpit
  • Shimano 105 drivetrain
  • Shimano RS10 wheels
  • FSA Gossamer cranks
  • FSA headset
  • MSRP: $2040 (find a dealer)
More Info: Visit Norco.com...

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Bike Gear

Mace Mirage Mountain Bike Gloves

By Jason Mitchell - Friday, February 26th, 2010 - 1 Comment

Most of the big bike manufacturers have their own clothing and accessory lines. Some simply use their own brand for these products while others maintain a separate brand to allow them to reach out to different markets or market segments. Take Mace Gear, for example. Mace is the clothing and accessory arm of Canadian bicycle manufacturer, Norco Bikes. While I've long been a fan of Norco, I'm just now getting introduced to their Mace line and am liking what I'm seeing. Mace doesn't target the XC racer-type of mountain biker, but really reaches out to the downhill, freeride and all-mountain riders (e.g. you and me) with casual-yet-functional mountain biking gear.

Mace Mirage Gloves

Take the Mirage gloves... They are a snug-fitting lightweight design made for all-mountain riding. No bulky padding or armor here, just texturized rubber and breathable fabrics used in perfect strategery. The terry-cloth thumb can wipe your brow while the rubbery grip pattern on all fingers and palm will ensure consistent grip and brake feel. Articulated knuckles add to the overall package. Solid mountain biking gloves, indeed.
Mace Mirage Glove Features
  • Imitation patent rubber back.
  • Sublimated tree graphic.
  • Expandable finger gussets.
  • Loads of terry for sweat absorption.
  • Synthetic patent leather.
  • Sublimated polyester mini mesh.
  • Amara synthetic leather
  • MSRP: $35 (USD) / $39 (CAD)
For now, you've got to either be Canadian or nearly-Canadian to get ahold of Mace Gear, but look for more dealers in the States soon. Or, check out Bellingham-based FanatikBike.com to buy Mace Products. More Info: Visit MaceGear.com...

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Bike Gear

Topeak JoeBlow Sport Floor Pump

By Claire - Wednesday, February 24th, 2010 - 2 Comments

I've been a road biker for a while, and am just getting into mountain biking. I recently purchased a Specialized Safire Expert to add to my collection of bikes, and am loving it! For as long as I can remember, my roommates have also been cyclists as well, so any time I've needed to air up my tires, I've grabbed their floor pump, given it a few good pumps and been on my way. However, I recently moved, and when I went to hop on the roadster for a beautiful early morning ride out in Colorado, I realized I had no floor pump. No floor pump, no air, no ride. I was not a happy camper. However, that afternoon, I was even more upset when I discovered buying a floor pump came with about as many choices as buying a new truck. All I wanted was a decent quality floor pump that I could use to pump both my road and mountain bikes (read- Presta and Shrader valve compatible), that I didn't have to pay an arm and a leg for. Since I'm not out every day on my bikes, the idea of spending $75+ dollars on a floor pump was less than appealing to me. After some expert consults, I made my choice, and went with the Topeak JoeBlow Sport Floor Pump.

JoeBlow Sport Floor Pump- The Specs

  • Comes with a steel bar and a steel base, so you won't snap it right after the 1st use.
  • Twin Valve- Compatible with both Presta and Schrader valves. You don't have to have the washer adapter, you just switch sides of the hose!
  • Easy to read gauge. It's big and easy to read while you're pumping, which is nice.
  • Comes with ball/air bladder needles, in case you opt for a game of Volley Ball after your ride... Not something I've done yet, but hey, everyone likes options...
  • After about 6 months of use 2-3x a week, getting tossed in the truck multiple times, and taking a beating in the sands of southern Utah, my JoeBlow Sport is still in great shape.
  • Price = $39. Very reasonable

Overall

A great pump at an even greater price. You don't have to sacrifice performance with this guy. I've yet to find any serious drawbacks with my Topeak JoeBlow Sport Pump.

Buy Now!

Topeak JoeBlow Sport Pump...

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Bike Gear

Kuat NV Hitch-mount Bike Rack

By Jason Mitchell - Friday, February 5th, 2010 - No Comments

Hitch-mounted bike racks will solve world peace, cure AIDS and all that stuff... that's a no-brainer. But, will they rack your bike and give you a high-quality trailside workstand at the same time? With the all-new Kuat NV, you get a sturdy two-bike hitch rack with a built-in bike stand. Take that, Thule and Yakima! Kuat has been beating the lightweight bike rack drum for awhile now--it's time people payed attention to the music they are playing. I'm a HUGE fan of the Yakima Holdup and the Thule T2, but they are bulky and heavy. While the Kuat NV doesn't shave tons off their weight, it is lighter (you've got to have some heft to carry your bikes) and add on top of that a trailside bike stand and there may just be no comparison--except the price (more on that later). I've yet to see one in person, but Robb over at Bike198 posted some initial thoughts and I've been eying the Kuat site to wrap my head around everything. I'm liking what I see. Kuat NV Specs

  • Heat-treated aluminum construction
  • 2-bike capacity (optionally expandable to 4)
  • Accepts 20-29" wheels
  • 60 lb single bike capacity
  • Built-in cable lock
  • Hitch stabilizing cam system
  • 13" bike spread for scratch-free carrying
  • Folds up for storage
  • MSRP: $495 (yeah, that's the only bummer)
Recent Press Release on the Kuat NV
Springfield, MO – January 28, 2010 – Küat Innovations which makes lightweight, stylish, easy-to-use racks designed by cyclists for cyclists is ready to equip vehicles with its newest bike rack: The NV. “Like all of our products, the NV brings fresh new ideas to bike racks. We want to give people more than they expect,” said Justin Kosar, operations manager of Küat Innovations. Made of heat-treated aluminum, The NV platform rack offers a variety of new features. It accommodates two bikes with a roomy 13 inches between them. Extra add-ons allow the rack to carry additional bikes. In fact, it can haul any two-wheeled contraption weighting up to 60 pounds, with 20-inch to 29-inch wheels, and without a motor. The rack includes a repair clamp so cyclists can service their bike anywhere they can park. Plus, it features a built-in, robust integrated cable lock. The rack requires no tools to install using a hitch cam system and quickly folds up for storage and folds down for trunk access. The NV is available at many fine retailers for $495 MSRP. To find one near you go to www.kuatracks.com.
More Info: Visit KuatRacks.com...

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Bike Gear

CamelBak Podium Bottle

By Claire - Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010 - 1 Comment

I have learned that all plastic water bottles are not created equal. I'm not talkin Nalgene-type plastic bottles, but the squeezy plastic type that you'd usually bring with you on a bike ride or a run. When CamelBak asked me to test out a Podium Bottle along with their Delaney Plus running belt, I didn't think much of it. Figured it was just another plastic squeezy bottle with a CamelBak logo on it. I couldn't have been more wrong. I've only really used that type of plastic bottle for bike rides, and I had perfected the maneuver of "grab bottle with one hand, wrench open with teeth, squeeze some hydration, jam the bottle up against my hip to re-cap it, place the bottle back into its lovely little cage." Those of you who cycle, you know exactly what I'm talking about! I first used the Podium Bottle on a century ride when I was running out the door, and grabbed it by accident, thinking it was my usual bike bottle. 3 hours later, I was stoked to have made that mistake. The coolest feature of the Podium Bottle? You get to skip the "wrench the bottle open with your teeth" and the "jam the bottle on your hip to close it before placing it back in the bottle cage" steps! The Podium opens and closes with a valve called the Jet Valve, which operates using pressure. You squeeze the bottle, or suck on it for some water, and the valve opens, allowing water to flow freely. The instant you stop, the flow stops, and the valve is closed. No more opening and closing! I was really impressed! So impressed, in fact, that I started carrying my Podium with me other places. First, it was just a bike bottle. Then, it came with me on all my runs (even those that I didn't bring the Delaney on). Then, it also got tossed in my backpack for yoga classes. Next, it was living in my TimBuk2 bag, and coming everywhere with me. I'm currently commuting about 2 hrs a day to and from and internship, and I love my Podium bottle, simply for hydrating in the car. I don't have to fiddle around with opening and closing a bottle if I want a drink while I'm driving, I just grab my Podium. Comes in handy when I jump straight off my bike and into the car for my hour long commute every morning!

CamelBak Podium Bottle

  • Jet Valve allows for easy access to water, and has a lock off feature, for when you don't want anything getting out of the bottle.
  • Bottle is lined with HydroGuard, intended to prevent the growth of bacteria that give bottles that "old, stale water funk."
  • Bite valve is made of medical grade silicon, so when it's closed, it's closed. There's no sneaky leaks of water or gatorade to drip out onto your frame as you're crankin out the miles.
  • Available in an insulate version called the Podium Chill, that keeps drinks cold for hours.
  • Around $8.00 per bottle= relatively affordable!

Buy Now

Check it out! The CamelBak Podium Bottle...

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Bike Gear

2010 Niner Jet 9 29er to Ship in April

By Jason Mitchell - Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010 - No Comments

After riding the original Niner Jet 9 a little over a year ago (and completely loving it), Niner had a bit of an engineering snafu. It turns out that the Jet had some unforseen manufacturing defects that began to surface. Instead of trying to hide the problem, Niner stood out in front and was 100% honest with their customers about the issue--offering them replacement frames of their choice, discounts galore and everything you'd expect from an honest, forthright company. For everyone's sake, lets move on... 2010 marks a new dawn for the killer Niner Jet 9 XC 29er trail-gobbling machine. This beast is really an all-mountain slayer in big-hooped 29er XC clothing. While Niner says it is race-worthy (which it is), I'd call it one of the finest all-mountain 29ers available today. The changes made to the 2010 model are astounding and are the results of all the work done on the new RIP and WFO models. You'll find tapered head tubes, gussets and a completely re-engineered well, everything! The 2010 Niner Jet 9 will hit dealers in April. You can pre-order one now from your local Niner retailer. More Info: Visit NinerBikes.com...

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Bike Gear

Ibis Mojo HD Revealed

By Jason Mitchell - Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 - No Comments

After much speculation and impatience by Ibis enthusiasts worldwide, Ibis has finally announced the details of the all-new Ibis Mojo HD. Looks like it will be available in March and come in at $2399 with Fox RP23 shock. The full details of the Mojo HD is available over at IbisCycles.com. I saw the Mojo HD in person while at Interbike last Fall and as a Mojo owner, I'm stoked on the longer-travel design. While I've yet to feel like I'm bottoming-out my Mojo, an extra bit of plush with the same efficiency sounds sublime. And, the frame continues to be as sexy as all get-out. Head on over the Ibis Web site for more details about the new Mojo HD. More Info: Visit IbisCycles.com...

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Bike Gear

Crank Brothers Iodine All-mountain Wheelset Review

By Jason Mitchell - Wednesday, December 16th, 2009 - 3 Comments

The proper wheelset is critical to overall bike performance. It may cost a lot, but think about it... the wheels are darn important. Next to the frame and fork, the wheels are the next most important parts of your ride quality. Flimsy, cheap wheels will ruin your ride quality faster than a Deore rear derailleur ever will, so spend wisely. Now the Crank Brothers Iodine's have been matched to my new Ibis Mojo for the past 6 months. When I first got the bike assembled in all its glory, I couldn't keep my eyes off it. The burnt orange Iodine's were just the perfect match with the natural carbon fiber black of the Mojo. The whole package just looks amazing. I wasn't the only one... most everyone who saw the bike commented on how cool the wheels were. While looks are great and all, they don't get you much when the trails get gnarly. In every riding condition, I've been super-impressed with the ride quality of the Iodine's. Rolling quality is outstanding as these wheels seem to roll on and on by themselves. The rear hub provides fast and smooth engagement under all load conditions--steep climbs, fast rollers and downhill transitions. Quick adjustments in rocky sections to avoid pedal-strikes are met with a solid drivetrain no matter the location. The only negative of the freehub is the volume as you're coasting downhill. The tell-tale whirrrrrr is really quite loud. My riding buddies have commented multiple times on the loudness, but if that's the only flaw, it's pretty minor. Other than that, my initial set of 15mm end caps were machined a little off, so I had to spend a few minutes hand-sanding the inside diameter to remove a few microns. A second set of caps were much better, so it appears to no longer be an issue. I just love laying into corners with the Iodine's as they track straight and true no matter how hard-pressed. Tracking through rock gardens and rough terrain, the Iodine's simply hold their line. Drops and jumps are also met with solid hoops underfoot. Everywhere from the epic downhill of the Wasatch Crest Trail to the winding singletrack of the Ridge Trail 157 and fast loops in Corner Canyon have been perfect for these wheels. I've yet to ride these tubeless (I know, I know...), but will change to tubeless in the Spring and post a follow-up. The Good

  • Lateral stiffness
  • Tracking through the rough stuff
  • Smooth rolling
  • Unique design
  • Quick freehub engagement
  • Easy to service and/or replace bearings
  • Amazing good looks (the wheels or me?)
  • Tubeless-compatibility
The Bad
  • Loud freehub
  • Proprietary spokes may be difficult to find in a pinch
  • Color options may clash with your ride
  • It'll cost ya'

The Final Word: Crank Brothers Iodine Wheelset

If you're in the market for a new set of high-end all-mountain wheels, give the the $950 Crank Brothers Iodine wheelset a fair shake--they roll well and adeptly track through rough stuff. Buy Now: Search for Crank Brothers Iodine Wheels...

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Bike Gear

Performance Kids Balance Bike Review

By Jason Mitchell - Wednesday, December 9th, 2009 - No Comments

When it comes to teaching your kids how to ride a bike without training wheels, all kinds of images come to mind of scraped knees and elbows and hours of trying over and over again. As my kids have gotten older and have started riding their own bikes with training wheels, I didn't want to doom myself to an all-day bike riding event--instead I opted for the balance bike strategy. Balance bikes come in different shapes and sizes with some of the first ones on the market being made of wood. Yeah, you could just buy a kids bike and remove the crankset and chain, but at some point you'll have to re-assemble it. And, in my case that would mean disassembling and re-assembling 4 times over the next 4 years. So, I ordered up the Performance Kids Balance bike because it's built solid, yet lightweight and it's white with boy or girl sticker options so my boy won't have to ride around with a pink bike with tassles. Getting the bike out of the box and ready to ride was easy. Just insert the stem and bars, put on the front wheel, pump up the tires and then insert the seatpost/saddle combo and that's it.

The First Few Rides

For the first few days, my 4-yr-old daughter would keep saying, "Daddy... the bike is broken... can I ride my other bike? The other bike had pedals and training wheels, so I talked her out of it saying, "This is your new bike... it's fun, right? Get back on it and you'll soon be scooting all over the place." To this, her response was always, "OK, Daddy." and off she went struggling her way along the sidewalk. After a couple of days, she began to get the hang of it and could at least keep the bike upright. After a week, she was comfortable enough to lift her feet off the ground for a few feet at a time and just coast. And, after two weeks, she was pushing herself around so fast on that bike, it was crazy. She'd put her feet on top of the forks and just coast for 50 feet or more.

The Transition to Big Kid Bike

Once she became all-to-comfortable with the balance bike and could steer and coast without a problem, it was time to remove the training wheels of her 12"-wheeled bike and have a go at it.  Of course, I talked it all up and helped her feel confident she could do it. The moment of truth came and all it took was one lap around the neighbors houses with me holding onto her seat, then she was pretty much off on her own. It took a few days for her to get the whole stopping and starting processes dialed in, but she learned how to ride without training wheels in 2 weeks--almost completely on her own. I highly recommend the use of balance bikes to teach your kids how to ride. They are fun, lightweight and teach them balance in a non-threatening way. The bike feels very sturdy and is actually built by Raleigh Bicycles, so the welds and construction is a billion times better than any Huffy or Murray bike on the market. It feels lightweight too, which is a plus for kids who will have to pick it up and push it around. The $79 price (current price may be lower or higher) is also reasonable--especially for me since I'll have 4 kids using it in the coming years. Buy Now: Search for the Kids Balance Bike from Performance Bike...

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Bike Gear

Cycling-to-skiing cross over jerseys – am I missing the point?

By Brig Graff - Tuesday, November 10th, 2009 - 3 Comments

I've got some central pieces of clothing that keep surfacing - no matter the season, no matter the sport. One of those is a Pearl Izumi Optik Jacket which I use for biking, running, and even backcountry ski touring. But what I don't see is why so many companies make so many niche-focused pieces for each of those individual sports, when they all seem to require similar performance. Lightweight, compact, breathable, warm. So...why isn't someone making something billed as a cycling-to-skiing crossover mid layer? Sure, a bike jersey or jacket might require a shorter cut in front than a ski jacket. Same with climbing (I learned that the hard way when I bought a Mountain Hardwear climbing jacket for skiing, and the front always rode up above my belt buckle). But I think having a form-skimming thermal cycling jacket that's a little long in the front is a small price to pay to make it worthy of skiing cross over. So this year I'm looking for a great versatile base-to-mid layer for ski touring, trail running, and even a bit of cold weather cycling. I want it to be bright-colored for when I'm in avalanche country. And I keep coming back to cold-weather cycling jerseys and jackets as my best options. Check out the Forza Thermal Jacket, or the Capo Atlas Thermal Jacket, or even this cycling jacket by Castelli. Maybe I'm just uninformed, but for now I'm thinking that cycling gear is the first place to look for versatile base and mid layer items. So that's where I'll keep searching. And to all you clothing manufacturers out there -- if you have some mid-layer jackets and such that are designed to be crossover items for multiple sports, let me know! Sorry if I'm just missing them....

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Bike Gear

Bike Brake: A Simple Rubber-band Keeps Your Bike in Place

By Jason Mitchell - Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009 - No Comments

I just heard about this nifty little contraption... the Bike Brake. Seems like a no-brainer to have in your pocket for parking your bike, photo shoots or standing against a wall in your garage. We've all had our bikes wander on us after we set them against the rear bumper or a wall, but this little number looks to be an easy solution. However, a heavy-duty rubber band can really do the same trick. More Info:

In September 2009, Bike Brake introduced their new bicycle parking brake for use on bicycles not equipped with kickstands. Designed with a low profile to remain on the grip, it is durable, lightweight, and un-obstructive. Bike Brake features two grab tabs to easily lift and extend around the brake lever to keep the front wheel from spinning, greatly stabilizing the bicycle when stood upright. Now available in nine colors Bike Brake fits both road and mountain bikes. “Bicycles are very expensive and there is always the potential for them to fall when temporarily parked. This can scratch the bike or often the car it rests against,” said Kendall Kelsen, President of Bike Brake. “It takes less time to apply the Bike Brake than to attempt a good bike balance. You can be confident your bike will stay in place.” Bike Brake can be used when preparing for a ride, taking a break, performing maintenance, or storing the bicycle. There is also a theft deterrent factor when the bicycle is unattended. MSRP is $2.99 each.
More Info: Visit BikeBrake.com...

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Bike Gear

2010 Scott Scale 29er Hardtail – Quick Review from Interbike 2009

By Jason Mitchell - Monday, October 26th, 2009 - 2 Comments

As Scott's first foray into the 29er market, they decided that they wanted to attack the entry-level market with a killer-looking and performing bike at an amazing pricepoint. Well, I was floored when he said the MSRP would come in at $1649. To get it to that price, the parts spec is pretty pedestrian, but the frame, fork and wheels are solid. Here are a few specs on the test rig (they vary slightly from production):

  • Hydroformed tubeset
  • Slightly curved seat tube for improved tire clearance and shorter chainstays/wheelbase
  • Trail-friendly geometry
  • DT Swiss 485D wheelset
  • Rockshox Reba SL fork w/remote lockout (100mm)
  • Avid Elixir S brakes
  • Schwalbe Racing Ralph 2.25 tires
  • Weight: 26.21 lbs
  • MSRP: $1649

Scott Scale 29er Review

Scanning over the Scott lineup at the demo, the Scale 29er was tops on my list--even before I knew it was a budget-friendly spec. Just in time, the 29er appeared and Adrian gave me the lowdown. As Scott's first 29er, this one is poised to take advantage of the current 29er wave by offering a knockout pricepoint with a solid bike. Going over the frame details, it has all the makings of a great bike with hydroformed tubes and trail-friendly geometry. Even the paintjob is stunning--not your typical $1500 rig as far as looks go. Slipping out on the trails, I was quickly reminded why the 26er hardtail should die a slow death... 29ers just make everything smoother and faster. This bike was an effortless climber and just felt comfortable. It felt like a great bike with the ability to rail corners and maintain speed in a way only 29ers can. I was able to power up some good terrain and climb anything I wanted. And when the trail turned downhill and the turns made their way down the desert singletrack, the Scale 29er felt poised and comfortable. This bike is a well-executed entry into the market... hopefully the future holds a carbon 29er from Scott because that would truly make this bike that much better. Good Scott Scale 29er
  • Comfortable trailbike
  • Well-mannered and smooth
  • Great looking overall package
  • Amazing pricepoint means easy entry into 29er land
  • Well-executed aluminum frame with solid geometry
  • Fast and fun
Bad Scott Scale 29er
  • Entry-level parts
  • With Scott's carbon expertise, I'd expect a carbon frame option
  • A little heavy, but lightweight parts = expensive

Bottom Line: Scott Scale 29er

This bike has a ton of potential and at a killer pricepoint to boot. If you're thinking hardtail, skip right past the 26ers and look on over at the new Scale 29er--you'll be hard-pressed to find this much quality, value and fun on the market today. More Info: Visit ScottUSA.com...

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Bike Gear

Yakima Quick Back 3 Bike Rack

By Adam Buchanan - Tuesday, October 13th, 2009 - No Comments

Hatchback bike racks usually intimidate the hell out of me. More straps than a 1998 internal pack and rickety bars that look sketch. And how do you secure your $3,000 carbon girlfriends with this failed eagle project? Well I think Yakima is on to something with the hatchback rack genre, ladies and gentleman; The Quick Back 3 Bike Rack is beckoning. If you are wondering if a 2 or 3 capacity carrier would be best I personally like the 3 just because you never know what biking hitchhiker you'll pick up. Unless you are 100% certain for the next lifetime no more than 2 bikes will be toted by your vehicle. The other thing I like about the 3 model is if there are only 2 bikes it really spaces them out and it's not a struggle fitting them on. Installing the Quick Back Like the name, strapping on this puppy is quick. The half-circle arm is easy to adjust for a Subaru, Honda, '79 Pacer, or whatever you are pumping gas into. The Quick Back even welcomes VW bus style flat surfaces. Yakima really made this an all around rack which makes it worth the money, ahem...$199. The hatchback style is cool too, especially when Subaru is keeping you up at night with their FAILING 2010 rack. The security straps are plain jane. Slip them through a couple cracks in the rear opening and hope to high heaven some teenager doesn't try out his new butterfly knife on them. Hopefully in future years Yakima can figure out a way to really beef these up. Micro cable with electric shock? There are clips on each strap so when you wrench down to make the rack snug, you can tuck in the slack. It use to be cool to buzz down the highway with bike straps free flowing rasta-style but after a couple trips to Moab the ends get frayed. Good luck switching out frayed straps on a rack system like this. Holding the bikes I'd be very interested to hear any stories about bikes falling off your car. No need to name brands, but here at gear.com you can find a shoulder to cry on...after we have a good laugh. I actually drove into underground parking with my Gary Fisher loyally attached to the top. I was going around 10mph and it popped clean off. My reflector got a little scuffed but luckily nothing else perished, other than my pride. The Quick Back is solid. The two straps that hold the bike to the bars beefed up from other rear access racks Yakima has come out with. A warning with the rubbery straps is that if you aren't using your rack store it indoors. Those straps can get hot and easily crack in the sun. The Quick Back straps are going to last longer but its still the same material being used. After all, you don't have to have the rack on 24/7 to look tough, those dolphin stickers your lady put on the bumper says it all. Telling the future of the Quick Back

*holding my Macbook Pro to my forehead Johnny Carson style* "Carting bikes on my Subaru. Official bottle opener. Ramming weapon for demolition derby." *opens Macbook* "Three roles of the Quick Back."
Don't be afraid of hatchback bike racks any longer. Pack the brews and drop the old bike rack off at the thrift store on the way to the trail. BUY NOW: The Yakima Quick Back Bike Rack - $199....

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Bike Gear

2010 Yeti ASR 5C Quick Bike Review – From Interbike 2009

By Jason Mitchell - Monday, October 5th, 2009 - 9 Comments

My quick one-day trip to the Outdoor Demo came and went in a flash, so it's quite appropriate that most of the bikes I chose to ride were carbon-fiber beauties dialed in for uptempo singletrack assaults. The all-new Yeti ASR 5 Carbon was definitely tops on my list of must-rides at the demo. After catching up with owner, Chris Conroy and domestic sales master, Seth Mukai, I got the low-down on the new ASR 5 C. Billed as a long-legged XC bike that's built burly enough to handle all-day adventure, yet still capable on the race course, the full-carbon frameset is superlight (4.7 lbs.) and downright sexy. Yeti knows how to build dialed-in single-pivot mountain bikes and the new ASR 5 C is no exception.

Yeti ASR 5 Carbon Quick Review

The ascent out of the mayhem of the demo booths was met with a responsive and fast climber. This bike shows its XC lineage in its efficiency and quick handling. One onto the twisty, rocky singletrack of Bootleg Canyon, the bike continued to shine. Right at home with narrow desert ribbons winding through unforgiving rocks and "no fall zones", the ASR 5 C took me up West Leg Trail without so much as a flinch. The rear wheel stayed firmly planted in the desert sand and rocks and propelled me with ease. Quick, steep ascents were no match for this bike. When the trails turned downhill and the real fun began, this bike felt absolutely solid under pressure. I enjoyed railing it down the swoopy singletrack and dropping small ledges along the way. While the suspension is very compliant and can take some abuse, I still felt like I needed to be careful which line I chose to take. It's not the kind of bike that can take the burliest line without so much as breaking a sweat--you've still got to finesse it down the rough stuff. The Good
  • Love the feel of the carbon fiber frame
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Travel sweet-spot... not too much, not too little
  • Very balanced feel both up and down
  • Tracks through winding singletrack with ease
  • Loves to be pushed hard
  • Efficient climber and cross-country trail slayer
The Bad
  • Gotta pick your lines through the rough stuff (not really a bad thing though)

Final Thoughts: Yeti ASR 5c

This bike loves to be pedaled hard and fast both uphill and down. I really dig the balanced feel of this bike and its ability to ascend up virtually anything yet still give you enough confidence to tackle rough terrain. Buy Now: Search for Yeti Bikes...

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Bike Gear

Keen Commuter Bike Sandals

By Claire - Sunday, October 4th, 2009 - No Comments

I've never owned a pair of traditional Keen Sandals before (I'm more of a Chaco gal), but when Keen released their Bike commuter shoe, I was excited to try them out! The idea of being able to bike to class in sandals, and then not have to change my shoes when I got there was really appealing to me. Normally, I'd wear my biking shoes, and toss a pair of sandals in my pack, and then proceed to offend everyone in class as I took my stinky bike shoes off and transferred to the sandals in the first 5 minutes of class. It's a wonder people still sat next to me by the end of the semester. However, with the Keen Commuter Bike Sandals, that's no longer a problem! The Keen Commuter Bike sandal resembles Keen's traditional sandals, but with a few tweaks. First, the Bike Commuters are significantly more narrow and form fitting to the foot than a traditional pair of Keens (a great features for those of us with really narrow feet!). Second, the platform that the shoe is constructed on is much stiffer (for support and strength when biking). Third, the lacing system isn't the traditional elastic lacing- it's a regular shoelace to prevent give when pedaling uphill, but still with the quicklock system at the top. I was impressed at the overall pedaling efficiency when using these around town- it felt just like I had my regular Specialized bike shoes on. I'm hoping to use these on a longer bike touring trip this coming summer. They seem ideal for longer rides where you'd need a multi-functional shoe.

Keen Commuter Bike Sandals

  • Perfect for days when it rains a bit during the commute! The Keens dry out fast and have a hydrophobic foam on the upper of the shoe, which molds to your foot and dries fast when wet. No more soggy bike shoes.
  • Cleats are set into the shoe, so you can walk around without making that clacking noise down halls, or hike small distances in them without the cleats being a problem. FYI- Cleats are sold separately, and the drill pattern is for SPD cleats.
  • Webbing allows for great airflow on the warmer days.
Check 'Em Out! Keen Commuter Bike Sandals...

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Bike Gear

Julbo Dirt Polarized Sunglasses Review

By Adam Buchanan - Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 - No Comments

If you were to search for clarity in the dictionary there is a picture of the Julbo Dirt sunglasses. Ok not really, but that is the best way I can describe the Zebra lens they come with. Good rugged design made for...well, playing in the dirt. At first they look a little bulky on the side of the frame but the durability that comes with that makes it the ultimate mtn. bike shade. The wide design is also nice for blocking peripheral sun rays that could quite possibly burn your retinas. Julbo is more commonly known for their glacier glasses with the famous leather side patches. With the Dirt, Julbo integrated that idea but with a stylish hybrid frame for all around use. Hmm which lens? I had the chance to try out the polarized Zebra lens which is always a good choice for driving, fishing, and riding. The photochromatic lens changes as more UV or less UV rays hit the lens. For example if you were to walk indoors with a photochrom, the lens would lighten up and you can achieve true creepiness at the grocery store. To me polarized is a great all around choice and easier on the wallet. Julbo offers anti-fog with their photochromatic which is something to consider if cold weather use is in your future. The other plus I noticed about the Zebra lens is the coating material is different than per se a Smith lens. When I clean the lens I haven't seen any peeling like I use to see with my Smiths. I don't think there is anything more disheartening than have splotches of missing coating on your lens. Julbo has made the lens coating more burlier than the rest. Paris Hilton factor Big glasses are sort of the fad lately, well the past 3-4 years. Personally I got sucked in the Paris Hilton crew about a year ago and once you go with a big lens with wide face coverage it's hard to wear tiny glasses again. The Dirt has that big coverage but not in an overbearing way. After all, these things need to fit under a helmet. The larger coverage helps in a protective way. I've been hedging junipers (worst bush in the world) in my yard and the clippings can be quite pokey and annoying. I didn't have to get the big nerdy safety glasses to cut a couple bushes because the lower part of the frame comes about 2mm within my upper cheek. Julbo Construction I've seen the snap in hinge design on sunglass frames which makes the frame more forgiving if your hard on sunglasses. The Dirt is made with two screws per hinge which I prefer. The hinge type seems to feel loose after a while and if you break a the little insert the frame is done. Little screws are annoying to tighten and are easy to loose but they are easy to replace also. The earpieces have a smooth rubber that doesn't pull on hair when taking on and off. The rounded frame arms keep the Dirts secure on the face also. My only complaint is the earpieces aren't adjustable and feel too tight. If Julbo could put a slim metal piece in the end of the side arm you could customize the fit. Overall I am really pleased with the Julbo Dirt. Stylish. Durable. Bomber lens. Interchangable lenses are cool and all, but if you could have once lens to do it all, why not? Julbo takes it back to basics with the Dirt which is what we need. BUY NOW: The Julbo Dirt Polarized Sunglasses....

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Bike Gear

Mountainsmith Recycled Day Pack – Gear Review

By Adam Buchanan - Thursday, September 24th, 2009 - No Comments

What has 25 water bottles, a lumbar strap, and three zippers? The Mountainsmith Recycled Day Pack of course! Except the water bottles are in, well, a different form. Pretty impressive Mountainsmith has stepped it up by re-using that much plastic for their bags and still sustain a good performing waist pack. The pack can be used for just about everything. I have seen photographers pack this full of padding to rally a SLR camera, moms packing it with diapers, and soil scientists using it to carry planting supplies in the field. Compared to the previous models of the Day lumbar pack, I noticed this model has a zipper upgrade making opening easier with one hand. The straps are trimmed down a bit also, it can be annoying when you have an airport travel bag that seems to have unnecessarily long straps flopping around. Light or Heavy, it doesn't matter When I hit the farmers market to pick up my favorite cranberry-jalapeno salsa, I sport the pack on one shoulder briefcase style. After picking up the freshest produce I throw the shoulder strap across the chest to help carry the extra weight. Then when I want to buy that really heavy rock sculpture I strap on the lumbar strap to transfer the weight on the hips. The Day pack exceeds versatility expectations. The Day pack offers 854 cu. in. capacity compared to the trimmed down sister version, the Tour, coming in at 488 cu. in. If you aren't carrying 850 cubic inches of stuff around you probably want to nab the Tour pack. If the Day pack isn't filled up it can be a bit annoying with the sagging empty space. The outer yellow bungee has been great for attaching a rain jacket and the lower compression straps help suck in the un-used space. The top gear loops are very easy to grab on to when passing the bag to someone else. Compared to the Osprey Float bag, the Day gear loops are way better. I can never seem to grab the Floats tiny top gear loop and end up grabbing a handful of material. The Day shoulder strap comes off literally with a snap which has been really nice for hiking use. Other waist packs have their shoulder straps sewed on making them less versatile. The lumbar straps also tuck away when not in use, nothing says 'gomer' more than un-used straps flopping around while at the coffee shop. My Criticism To make this bag more competitive against other waist packs I would include a cell phone holder. I know us outdoor gear freaks all think we don't carry a cell phone, but lets be honest. Mountainsmith makes the Amp Cell Phone holder so maybe retailers might consider selling it as a coupled deal to keep up with the times? However maybe keeping them separate would be cool to mix and match colors and give us the ability to put the holder exactly where we want. The inner hideway pocket is made with a nylon that I think could be replaced with a felt material that is attached to the inner wall of the pack rather than the outside wall. I found when I had my keys in the pocket it was a pain opening the zipper and retrieving other stuff inside. More colors than a kaleidoscope Mountainsmith offers a TON of colors to choose from in all their waist packs making this a great gift idea to fit any personality. I like their design and I'm glad they are keeping it the same. I really hope they don't do multi-color in the future, their style is untouchable. BUY NOW: The Mountainsmith Recycled Day Lumbar Pack....

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Bike Gear

Cervelo Athlete Kristin Armstrong Wins Womens Individual Time Trial at 2009 Road World Championships

By Brig Graff - Thursday, September 24th, 2009 - 2 Comments

Kristin Armstrong, reigning Olympic gold champion and famed Cervelo road cycling athlete, won the Women's Individual Time Trial at the 2009 UCI Road World Championships in Medrisio, Switzerland on September 23rd. She rode with intensity in her gold medal performance in the Olympics in Beijing, and that same drive was clearly with her today. Widely expected to retire, Armstrong is certainly going out on the top of her cycling game. She completed the 26.8km course in 35 mins 26 seconds, an average pace of 45.4kph, to capture the rainbow jersey. In second place was Noemi Cantele from Italy, and placing third was Linda Melanie Villumsen of Denmark. Armstrong took home the gold from the Road World Championships once before in 2006 in Salzburg, Austria. Following the win today she said:

"It does not matter what year and how many times you are world champion, it is always the best feeling in the world. Today was an amazing day. The stars were aligned and of course I had a little bit of luck on my side. I could not have become World Champion today without riding the fastest equipment possible. The Cervélo P4 was my machine today. I was equipped with Zipp wheels, Vittoria tires, Shimano di2, fi'zi:k saddle, Rotor Rings, and a Catlike helmet - amazing equipment. Thank you to all of my sponsors - THANKYOU!"
Search for cycling gear....

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Bike Gear

Why is ski and bike protective gear so expensive?

By Brig Graff - Wednesday, September 16th, 2009 - 6 Comments

I have to admit that I love football season. It means the temps start dropping, rivalries heat up, and old friends start emailing each other again. It means speculation and conspiracy theories about the BCS and all that drama runs rampant. It also means any underdog can triumph so I'm watching my Cougars, Huskies, and Utes with lots of anticipation! And fall always means that you start into that great time of anticipation and gearing up for ski season while the smell of snow is in the air.... Having suffered four major shoulder injuries in my skiing career (not unlike a typical quarterback might suffer) this fall my eye is on some of the good protective gear that's out there. My favorite brand is POC. They make gorgeous and functional helmets, gloves, and gear for ski racers and downhill mountain bikers. But I am shocked at the prices. Over $300 for an armor shirt? Almost $200 bucks if you want a set of elbow pads and knee pads? So this fall I was looking at football gear and I see Reebok making sets of shoulder pads for juniors for sale around $50 (see third pic at right). Sure, it doesn't have the spine guard. But couldn't Reebok integrate some spinal protection, lighten up the structure and profile of the shoulder pads, and still come in under $100 with a bike/ski offering? What about brands like CCM that produce hockey and lacrosse protective gear? I've got to believe they could do it too. And skateboarding is a great example of competitively priced armor -- you can find sets of of knee/elbow pads from Pro-Tec or Triple Eight for under $40. It may not be as full-featured as other brands, but it is half the price. Maybe I'm missing some technological wiz-bang thing that POC and others have, but I'm glad to see Race Face making something that at least approaches that price point: The Rally Body Armor shirt that is currently going for about $120 from JensonUSA (see pic of black armor shirt at right). Maybe I'll have to check it out. And if any of you can guide me into understanding why POC and some others have such high prices, please comment below and point me in the right direction. I guess I just don't know what justifies the prices of some armor brands out there....

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Bike Gear

Relaj Ergonomic Water Bottle Promises Safety, Aerodynamics and Improved Hydration

By Jason Mitchell - Monday, September 14th, 2009 - 3 Comments

I just got the following product release from Relaj who is launching a new, ergonomic water bottle to enable safer hydration wile riding and keeping your eyes on the road. Looks like a great product. Here's a bit of history:

The wheels of Relaj began turning in 2007. Its principal owners, Bruce and Becky, had a 14 year old son, Alex, who’d been peddling all over the steamy Tampa/St. Petersburg area, sometimes riding as much as 50 miles on an old, tattered, beach cruiser. Life changed dramatically for Alex that Christmas when he was given a brand new road bike. His riding distances increased, and a few months after his 15th birthday he expressed a desire to become a professional cyclist. Thrilled with his newfound passion, his parents hired a coach to help him train safely and effectively. One of the coach’s first tasks was to cajole Alex to hydrate properly, especially while riding long distances in the scorching Florida sun. It took a while, but Alex finally took heed of this important message. Then, one July afternoon while watching a racer struggle to get water from his bottle during the 2008 Tour de France, he turned to his parents and matter-of-factly asked, “Why doesn’t someone invent a bottle that I can actually drink from?” When asked to explain, he replied, “Well, I can’t get water out of the bottle without tipping my head way back, and then I can’t see the road.” The safety implications of his response were clear, and further research uncovered a myriad of other performance-related factors with the bottles and cages currently used by cyclists. However, one glaring flaw stood out – the only way to drink from the bottle was to squeeze it intensely while tipping the head back, causing the rider to abandon the optimum aerodynamic position, and making it difficult, if not impossible, to keep sight of the road. Convinced all these issues could be fixed, serious discussions began about a startup enterprise. A new family business was incorporated in August of 2008 and, shortly thereafter, a very talented product design firm in Merrimack, New Hampshire was hired. Their collaboration resulted in a top-to-bottom overhaul of this highly visible, yet often overlooked product category, and two new products — the Relaj Water Bottle and the Relaj Water Bottle Cage — revolutionizing water bottle shape, style, and functionality. Patents are pending for both products.
Buy Now: Search for Water Bottles...

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Bike Gear

Yakima Introduces HighLite Lightweight Hitch Bike Rack

By Jason Mitchell - Wednesday, September 9th, 2009 - 3 Comments

Everyone who has driven with a roof-mounted bike rack will, at some time or another, experience a mishap. This could be relatively minor (hitting the clearance sign at Taco Bell or major (crashing full-speed into your garage... uggh).  There's just no way around it... if you haven't done it already, your time will come, my friend. Luckily, my one incident wasn't with my nice bike, so I wasn't too bummed, but it did do $1000 in damage to my Outback (not sure which is better). While I really dig hitch-mount bike racks, both the Thule T2 and Yakima Holdup weigh a TON. They are burly as all get-out, but they weigh a ton. I know my wife can't get the Thule T2 on without my help and I'd rather not have to lug such a beast around either. To reduce this, Yakima has just introduced the new HighLite hitch bike rack:

The HighLite (MSRP: $299 2-Bike, $329 3-Bike), an aluminum hitch rack, is one of the lightest hitch racks on the market, making it easy to carry and install. This is especially important for women, aging baby boomers and consumers that prefer a lightweight, rear of car option that allows bikes to be loaded at hip level. The UpTight™ hitch knob increases stability by expanding (and wedging) into the corner to fill any gaps in the hitch receiver, while the SwitchBlade anti-sway cradles protect against bike-to-bike contact. The LockDown cable and HitchLock secure both the rack and bikes for added peace of mind. The HighLite is available in a two-bike or three-bike model, fitting both 2” and 1.25” hitch receivers out of the box. The narrow arms fit most bike types and the TriggerFinger release folds the arms down. The rack also tilts away from the car for better access to the rear of the vehicle. HighLite comes in silver or white and includes bottle openers at the end of the cradles for enjoying post-ride beverages.
It's still a "forklift rack", so it won't work with all frame types, but I'm looking forward to hefting this new hitch rack and feeling the difference... I know my back will thank me. Buy Now: Search for Yakima Bike Racks...

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Bike Gear

2010 Niner AIR9 Carbon 29er Unveiled at Eurobike

By Jason Mitchell - Friday, September 4th, 2009 - No Comments

With Eurobike going strong this week, 'tis the season for new bike gear. It's always a bit of a letdown when cool stuff leaks out of Eurobike because Interbike is still a couple of weeks out. However, sometimes it's good because I get a head's up prior to going as to what to look for at the show. Hot off the press is the official release of the 2010 Niner AIR9 Carbon in all its sexy goodness. I'm not a 26-inch hardtail fan at all, but a 29er hardtail is a different story and a carbon-fiber 29er hardtail is even better. Look for more details as they come in, but here are a few specs on the all-new Niner AIR9 Carbon. Niner AIR9 Carbon:

  • High modulus carbon fiber
  • Bio-Centric EBB bottom bracket for geared or singlespeed use
  • Tapered steerer tube
  • Built around 80-100mm forks
  • Internal cable housing
  • Colors: Tang or Vanna White
  • MSRP: $TBD
More Info: Visit NinerBikes.com...

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Bike Gear

Arc’teryx Accelero Jacket Goes Full Zip for 2010

By Jason Mitchell - Thursday, August 20th, 2009 - 2 Comments

Small tweaks and a full zipper makes the Arc'teryx Accelero Jacket a welcome improvement over the Accelero Pullover (one of my personal favorites). This lightweight and breathable material sheds water extremely well and breathes like a mesh shirt. Wind resistance is minimal--just enough to keep the chill off, but perfect for a cool morning or a light rainstorm. I love my Accelero Pullover, but the full zip should make this jacket that much better. Buy Now: Search for Arc'teryx Jackets...

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Bike Gear

Merrell Spokes Commuter Bike Polo Shirt

By Jason Mitchell - Wednesday, August 19th, 2009 - No Comments

With more and more people bike commuting, the market is ripe for cool innovations like the Merrell Spokes polo shirt. On the surface, this shirt seems like any old polo shirt, but don’t let that fool you, it’s got some great features for bike commuters and loungers alike. Take the plaited Opti-wick material used in its construction, which mates soft cotton outside fabric with a polyester inside for moisture and odor management, add on top of that a grippy material on the back hem that prevents plumber’s crack and a small zippered pocket for lip balm or keys and you’ve got a solid shirt for the town or the trail. It’s not cheap at $69, but it’s got some unique features not found on other shirts. Look for it in Spring 2010. Buy Now: Search for Merrell...

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