Archive for category components
Last night I finished my first ‘used bike part’ art project. Of course, I blogged about it here. Truth be told, I started ‘working’ on that project well over a year ago. I don’t know why, but I had a hard time getting the guts to finish it; mostly because I’ve never worked with that medium before. I’ve mostly done portraits and other drawings using colored pencil, charcoal & pastel. I have all sorts of ideas including art, writing & business related. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) for some of you who follow me on Twitter, the creative nature of my brain can be quite evident in my somewhat
reckless random tweeting. It’s just the way my brain is messed up wired. A long time ago, I decided to quit fighting it and learn to turn it into a strength. It’s still difficult to live with as I can’t stay on task on any one thing for very long (unless of course it’s a 5 hour bike ride). My tasks and to-do lists are constantly being updated and organized using my new favorite toy tool Evernote.
I get inspiration everywhere but amazingly enough, most of my best ideas come while I’m riding my bike; whether it’s an art project or a new business related idea. It just doesn’t get any better than that does it? Some amazing artists who are also cyclists also provide me with a lot of inspiration and I’ve met nearly all of them and would love to meet the rest someday. They include (in no particular order):
At any rate, it would appear that my project idea is quite popular. I’m now accepting any old/used bike parts as well as ideas from YOU for bike part related art projects.
Photographer Justin Olsen wanted a better way to take high quality MTB images, so he rigged up a chest mount for his DSLR.
I can’t really imagine riding around with full sized DSLR strapped to my chest – but Justin is getting some pretty cool shots.
Most of you probably have a several weeks of morning and evening light left before you need to start illuminating yourself. But as an early morning commuter (I’m late if I’m not out the door by 6:20) I’ve already noticed the first signs of the disappearing daylight hours. For the last couple of days I’ve been wearing my sunglasses on my helmet for the first 10 minutes or so of my commute and, this morning, I preemptively got my taillight installed on my bike.
When I first started commuting back in January, it was dark when I left. Like night time dark. Like, “what kind of crazy idiot is out of bed, let alone out of the house?” dark. And, as a new commuter I was unprepared for the darkness. Lucky for me, Knog sent us a couple of Boomers (front and back) to test out.
To be consistent with my previous technically specific reviews I will now avoid mentioning the lumen strength of the lights (50 lumens in the front, 15 lumens in the back) and just say that both lights are bright enough to hurt your eyes if you accidently turn them on while in your dark garage. That said, if you were to move the cars out of the garage and hide your bikes somewhere safe, you could turn them on – I’d recommend using the strobe flash feature on the white (front) and the random strobe on the red (back) – turn on some house music, and have a rave (in fact, Knog now offers wearable boomers, I assume these are for the rave crowd – if there is still such a thing).
Really, they’re bright and they flash. It’s fun, just don’t look directly at them.
While the front light is bright, it’s that unfocused bright that means people can probably see you from space, but you’re not going to be able to see the road much better. So, if you commute on poorly lit or unlit roads you’d be better off with a proper headlamp.
The Boomer is simple to install. It’s simple to remove. It’s so easy a hipster could do it – (you’re welcome, Knog, for the new tagline). Basically, for both the front and back Boomer, the silicone casing includes a silicone band and a little hook. So you just wrap the band around the bar or seat post and hook it to the hook. On my bike, this works really great for the seat post and the silicone casing prevents the light from sliding around as you ride. Things are a little different up front. My bike has these fat, oval, “ergo bars” which I quite like for holding onto, but, it turns out, are crap for mounting lights that have a fixed-length silicone band as a mounting device. The band just barely makes it all the way around my bars and catches the hook. When It’s installed, the light always looks like the hook and the band are about have a falling out, but so far it’s never happened.
These thing comes in many colors. Black is probably the most inconspicuous color the sell and white looks pretty ok on my black and white bike, but if you want everyone to know you’ve got your Knog Boomers installed on your bike, even in the day, by all means, get the blue, pink or red.
Other things to note:
If you’ve been paying attention, I’ve mentioned a couple of the light settings, modes, above, but in total there are four options: Constant, Strobe Flash, Fast Flash, and Random Flash. I never much pay attention to which flash setting I’ve got, so I just think of it as on, flash and off.
The Boomers I have take a pair of AAA batteries each. Next to 9V, AAA batteries are the most annoying battery size. On top of the overall annoyingness of AAA batteries, the Boomers seem to run through them pretty quickly (especially if you use the “solid” function). By the end of winter I was in the habit of charging/changing my batteries once a week. Knog offers a rechargeable set of Boomers now, and I sort of wish I had those instead.
My major compliant about the lights is pretty minor. But I have noticed than in certain circumstance the front light will suddenly change modes when you hit a bump in the road. I’ve noticed it seems to mostly happen when the batteries are running low, and I suspect it has to do with the fact that band is stretched so tightly around my fat handlebars. My theory is that the strained band is putting a strain on the rest of the silicone casing and either pulling the batteries out of place temporarily or cause the power/mode button to be depressed over harsh bumps (I’m talking crossing poorly maintained train tracks and jumping curbs). It’s not really difficult to deal with, if the light goes from flashing to flashing, I don’t even notice. The only annoying thing is if it goes from solid to flashing, you have to cycle through all of the modes to get it back to where it was.
I’ve ridden these things in the rain and in freezing temperatures and they held up well against the elements. I fully intend to use them again this winter and would recommend them to anyone shopping for bike lights. At $29.95 each, they’re pretty comparable to mid-range LED cycling lights.
Made from ABS, the case is durable and weatherproof. Overall control of your iPhone is possible through the clear lexan screen cover, that works very well to the touch and I found that I could navigate with gloves on.
I don’t much care about that kind of thing and figure that if you do you can get all that information from the source.
What we’re going to focus on today is iPhone safety and overall dork factor.
Let me just get this out of the way quickly, mounting an iPhone to your handle bars is going to make you look like a dork but, as you probably wear lycra or, at the very least, a helmet that makes your head look like a mushroom, you’re probably used to the judgement of others and don’t much mind a few judging looks from guys with disk wheels and aerobars screaming past you at 21.5 mph – that is if you can even see their judging looks at that incredibly fast speed that requires a $5,000 bike build to even come close to hitting.
The iPhone is big when compared to a standard cycle computer. The Bike Mount makes it slightly larger. If that kind of thing bugs you, go out and by a proper GPS unit and don’t bother with the rest of this review. If, however, you are a bike commuter who likes the idea of having a some GPS tracking available at the touch of a finger and the possibility of easily texting – while stopped, of course – your loved ones to let them know that you’ll be delayed because of a 35 mph headwind, this Bike Mount might be for you.
The Bike Mount is really a mount and a water/shock resistant case for your iPhone 4 (or iPhone 3G/3GS). The phone rests in a removable nest of silicone, complete with cutouts for front and rear cameras and headphone/charger ports. The phone and silicone bed are then enclosed in a hard plastic case with touch-sensitive membrane so you can actually use your phone while mounted.
After more than 50 rides with my iPhone on my handlebars, some of it in the moist early morning, I can vouch for the cases ability to keep my phone dry – and my warranty intact. Additionally, while I opted not to hurling my phone across the room to test the “shockproof” qualities of the case, I did drop the phone one while rolling slowly through a parking lot. The case and phone held up nicely, but I made it a point not to do that again.
The mount itself is my favorite part of the case. It’s easy to get on the bike and easy to move around. Basically, the mount attaches to the bike via a threaded plastic strap. You wrap the strap around the stem or handle bar – I guess you could mount it on the seatpost or downtube if you’d like – thread the strap into a little hole and tighten using provided Allen key – you are warned not to over tighten the mount as, presumably, the plastic strap might break, but I avoided testing that outcome as well. Once the mount is on the bike, the case snaps on via a rotating clippy bit.
Overall, I thought the Bike Mount was well designed and did exactly what I wanted it to do; safely mounted my iPhone where I could see it. The mounting process was easy and didn’t require a bulk supply of zip-ties for when you wanted to move it. In the end, it turned out that – at least on longer “training” rides – I didn’t really love having my iPhone on my handlebars. It’s big and bulky and tends to get in the way, especially when out of the saddle. My commutes were a different story. Having the phone handy on my way home made it possible for my wife to text me, “ride faster, the kids are hungry.” And for me to easily text back, when stopped, to let her know my ETA.
Let’s talk about fenders! That’s right, fenders! I can just feel the excitement. Fenders!
Because my commute bike is my road bike and because things like fenders look awfully silly in a paceline – though I have been on a few rides where a fender on the bike in front of me wouldn’t have been the end of the world – and because we all know that cycling is 1% fun and 99% style, it’s important that the fenders I put on my bike are easy to get off my bike.
The Origami Fender from Portland Design Works is pretty much everything I could ask for from a fender.
The rear fender clips onto the seat post with and adjustable two stage clippy thing (technical term) and includes an little turny bit (again, very technical) that can be loosened to adjust the angle of the fender. In addition to the ease of installation, the PDW Origami fender is low profile and doesn’t turn your sleek carbon fiber road bike into an odd lucking commuting juggernaut.
The plastic fender – and this is true for both the front and rear Origami Fender – snaps on and off the mount and will flatten out in the event you wanted to pack in the a bag and be even more incognito.
Now, the front fender is almost as cool, but I have to admit I haven’t been using it as often. The mount for the fender slides under the derailleur and brake cables on the downtube and attaches to the tube with a couple of silicone straps. Once the mount is on you snap the fender in place. It’s a tiny bit more difficult to get the mount on and off and because I don’t commute in my street clothes and I have a pretty fat down tube I’m not overly concerned with the small amount of road spray that may make it onto my leg warmers. That said, in the event of cycling with real pants on, the front fender would be required.
I haven’t quite made it though an entire winter with these fenders – I’ve been riding with them, as needed, since early February, but the durable, lightweight plastic fenders seem to be holding up pretty well. The rear fender is not quite as straight as it was when I first got it – it tends to get pushed a little out of shape in my bike locker – and the front fender only gets used on the wettest of days. But, they are super lightweight, well designed and worth the reasonable price – $20.00 for the front and $25 for the rear).
Before I wrap up, I should also mention that PDW sent a Magic Flute along with the fenders and while I’m not quite ready to write a full review – I haven’t had a puncture since I got my hands on it (perhaps that’s what’s magic about?) – I will just say that it’s a pretty clever little mini-pump.
I forced a test with it this weekend and, while I hate pumping up road tires with a mini-pump, I was able to get the PSI up to 80 pretty consistently before my arm wanted to fall off. But that’s not the clever part. The Magic Flute takes threaded CO2 cartridges through a twist valve on the end of the pump. Ensure the valve is twisted to the closed position, thread in the CO2 cartridge and twist the valve open to release the air. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked; there was no leakage to speak of as I twisted on the cartridge and filled the tire. The Magic Flute, because it’s magic, works with both Schrader and Presta vavles, thanks to a reversible thingy (I really do apologize for being so technical today).
Admit it, that was all a lot more exciting than you thought it would be.
I started this experiment a few weeks ago and jumped in with both feet. Sure, I’ve opted to drive in to work on more than a few occasions, but mostly I’ve been pretty dedicated to my mission. After six weeks I’ve identified a small handful of things I couldn’t commute without:
Lights – Leaving at dawn and coming home at dusk, sometimes in a asphalt gray jacket, lights are a must. It’s not so much about my ability to see the road as it’s about other people able to see me. I’m currently using Knog Boomers, mostly because they’re easy to put on and take off the bike - important because I use the same bike for commuting that I use for all my other road rides and lights in a paceline can really
mess with your aerodynamics make you look like a tool.
Jacket – Duh. It’s cold, it’s wet. Wear a jacket. I live in northern California where the summers are hot and dry – I’m talking ZERO inches of rain from June to September – and winters are wet and mild. As a result, dropping a few hundred dollars on a full winter kit including spiffed up yellow cycling jacket has never made a whole lot of sense to me. I
don’t didn’t ride as much in the winter and didn’t really need anything special April through November. For the last 6 weeks I’ve been wearing a light-weight waterproof shell that wasn’t specifically designed for cycling. Sure, you might get a slightly better on-the-bike-fit and better breathability with something designed specifically for riding, but the important thing is that you stay warm and dry.
Caps – Speaking of warm, is there anything worse than cold ears? A cycling cap may not be your style, but on a chilly morning something to go over the ears and block the helmet vents is required.
Bag – We already know I’m smitten with my Chrome Citizen. It’s a great bag that is holding up well to daily use. But a bag is a personal choice one that’s as much about style and personality as it is about comfort. Get a bag that fits your crap – chances are you might already have one. Just like the jacket, it doesn’t really matter if it was “made for cycling,” just as long as it’s comfortable on the bike.
Kit – Lycra and chamois. For me it’s the only way to go. I know that there’s an entire industry out there designing street clothes that also work well on the bike but that’s far too urban and hip for me. Dual purpose shoes and pants that don’t crease after seconds in the saddle might be good if you’re riding your bike short distances at a time and making several stops throughout the day, but for me it has to be cycling shorts and a jersey. Of course, I wouldn’t wear my top kit out as I drag my 17 pound bag through the gritty, greasy streets. Instead, I’m focused on comfort and durability.
Gloves – Of the long fingered variety. While I’m beginning to think along the same lines as Sam w/r/t fingerless cycling gloves, long fingered gloves are a completely different story. The pair I have aren’t particularly comfortable and seem to restrict finger movement but they do keep my hands warm – too warm on some mornings. The first pair I’d purchased were more comfortable and more flexible but also not even close to warm enough. I’m beginning to think cold fingers are, in fact, worse than cold ears.
Tires – Just before I started bike commuting I logged 3 flats – two rear and one front – in 4 rides. I promptly replaced my tires with a pair of GatorSkins – I’ve only been using them 6 weeks or so and withhold official judgment but hear, pretty consistently, that I shouldn’t have a problem with excessive punctures.
So that’s it, the six things you need to cycle commute…well, and a bike. But you don’t need a steel frame, single speed bike or a touring bike with panniers and fenders welded to the frame. You don’t need a comfort bike or a road bike or a mountain bike or a folding bike or an e-bike…All you need is a bike. The one you already have in the garage is fine.