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Last week I met with one of the owners of the Companion Bike Seat, Michael Babb for lunch. During our meeting we discussed the intricacies of the bike seat and how it became an actual product. We hung out for about an hour eating delicious Korean food that we had no idea what it was called.
Michael gave me a test unit to review and I’ve finally installed it on my wife’s bike. This was the only bike I had in my stable of 15 rigs that would work with the Companion. But more on that later. The installation only took about 10-15m minutes. All I needed were my basic tools such as a ratchet, extension and 15mm socket (for axle nuts). The Companion comes with 5mm allen key so you can tighten the rack onto the pegs.
So let’s go back to what I meant by using this seat on my wife’s bike. You see her Nirve Scurvy was the only bike I have in our collection that would allow for me to install those pegs. I can’t use it with a Quick Release or a bike with a Nexus shifter. Upon my first test ride with me being the passenger, basically all I did was scoot myself far enough to sit on the Companion and I have to say that cushion is like sitting on a pillow. Very comfy and even with my weight (202lbs, 2lbs above the suggested limit), the seat felt stable.
The Companion has an MSRP of $149.95.
I plan on reviewing this in the next few weeks and give you a low down how it does once we put it through the paces.
I thought I was doing just fine with my current bike light setup—yes, my front light is secured with electrical tape and it needs to be encouraged to turn on with a good smack or two. And yes, rear lights mysteriously disappear en route between my apartment and the office on a regular basis. Ok, who am I kidding, I need a new bike light system. Luckily for me, I’ve been tasked with testing out a couple different options. First up, Dorcy Hawkeye lights.
Dorcy doesn’t mess around with lights. The company’s products range from personal flashlights and headlamps to heavy duty spotlights and signal wands (for directing traffic). The Dorcy Hawkeye LED bike lights promise to pack a punch with the front light boasting 200 lumens, guaranteeing to light the path 200 meters down the road and to be seen from even further away—same goes for the rear light.
The Dorcy LED bike light is not a dainty addition at nearly half a pound including three AA batteries. Even with the option of using rechargeable batteries, I’m not a big fan of battery powered devices, if only because I never seem to have extra batteries when I need them most.
The battery cartridge has a satisfying barrel-like design, reminiscent of a revolver’s bullet chamber. Not sure why I like that so much, but I do. Though it doesn’t help the overall weight, which seems a bit hefty to me.
The light itself is much larger than most, nearly five inches long. But this is no ordinary bicycle light, my friends. Thanks to a patented quick release feature, the “durable aerospace-grade aluminum alloy, corrosion resistant” light chamber pops out of the bike clamp, transforming into a handheld flashlight. Snazzy.
With the rubber-padded bracket attachment, the light stayed secured to my handle bars with no obnoxious rattling (which is just the worst) or movement up and down. Dorcy claims that the bracket will fit any bike on the North American market, so I’m guessing this light will fit just as securely on nearly any bike.
The Dorcy Hawkeye features a wide-angle, rectangular light beam rather than a traditional focused beam, which helps to illuminate the entire road ahead while limiting (unnecessary) spread of light upwards. They also claim that this feature “will not blind pedestrians.” I tested this assertion by making my friend, Sarah stand still while I rode toward her, light blaring. Sarah still seemed to cringe way from the light, but once I rode closer, the beam did indeed remain below her eyes.
On to the rear light: the Dorcy Hawkeye Tail Light features three super high brightness LEDs that can be seen from 200 meters away. Like the front light, the rear light’s mounting clamp is tool-free and adjusts easily to fit snuggly on any 24 – 32 mm diameter seat post. Plus, the patented bracket adjusts for a horizontal or vertical orientation.
Personally, I appreciated how the adjustable pin and padded clamp allowed me to really crank the bracket on for maximum security. No more losing a rear light on a packed train car or bumpy road! (Notice the velcro remains of a previous light still clinging to my seat post?)
For my first ride with these lights, I ventured out through Golden Gate Park to catch the sunset and make sure that it was good and dark for my return ride.
Both the rear and front lights have just two setting: steady beam and flashing. As promised, I felt like my lights could be seen from blocks and blocks away. Seriously, I was lighting up reflective street signs as far as I could see (maybe five or six blocks). Also, the front light has two slits on either side, allowing light to filter out and illuminate the area right and left of the rider. While this is a bonus for visibility, I found it to be distracting with the light shining in my eyes.
For everyday commuting, the front light is a bit large and hefty for my tastes; on the other hand, I would definitely choose the Dorcy Hawkeye for my pre-sunrise rides through poorly lit backroads. Not only would I be well visible to traffic, but my path would also be lit clear as day.
Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.
Oh Bike Commuters… they say” April showers bring May flowers.” I say “several months of rainy Portland winters bring out the crazies the first sight of sun!” If you’re not careful, you could end up sun-drunk the the first weekend the of Spring. This year, the trees were blooming, the unemployed were tanning shoulders in the park, and acro-yogis were showing off their moves down by the waterfront.
Can everyone agree that Portland in the Spring is just too much fun? Let’s hope your sunshiney spring commutes are just as lovely as this one was a few weeks ago.
So, my local barista friend and I (yes, I am friends with my favorite barista from my favorite coffee shop … SO PORTLAND!?) decide to joy ride from NW to SW in search of kale-oriented food stands, parsnips, and cherry blossoms. Oh, and maybe stop along the way for some bike selfies and shoulder-sunning. The city may have been putting on the best Spring show ever.
On this particular day, I even decided to bike completely out of my way just to get a little hill-action in. And by hills, I mean climbing a bridge so I could scope out the cherry blossom trees down by the waterfront.
Holy lacey-flowered wonderland. Was it worth scoping out the trees from above on that little hill climb. From the bridge, I could see piles of white fluffy trees and swarms of nutty Portlanders roller blading, walking, biking, and unicycling. We rolled down to the water to capture some of the shenanigans. Portlanders were definitely out of their minds over the cherry blossom explosions! Every pale-legged individual was donning a pair of shorts or a tank top and laying out like it was a day at the beach. Check this out:
Last stop on this lovely day? How about those PARSNIPS! PSU Farmer’s market for piles of veggies is a must-do for a sunny Saturday. I think I need to get me a Box ‘n’ Rack setup for more pumpkin soup. Parsnip Paleo spicy hummus will have to do until then. I’m not sure that anyone gets more excited about farmer’s markets and veggies and bikes than I do. It may be the ultimate combination: utility cycling, vegetables, and sunshine. My favorite Saturday agenda.
Enjoy the spring time bliss, Bike Commuters. For you year-round die hards, peel off those layers and rain slicks and get some sun in your daily ride. And for you fair-weather commuters, pump up those tires, grease your chain, and get ready to roll. Spring is here, and I hope your city is as fun to ride as mine!
From a Darwinian standpoint, it may be that fear of the dark is an inherited trait, passed down since the beginning of time by those humans prudent and afraid enough of the dark to avoid being eaten by nocturnal predators.
There is definite wisdom in being wary of traveling in the dark. However, humans are able to learn and adapt, and riding in the dark is no exception. Having made some errors and sustained injuries during night riding, I have kept some strategies for riding at night that have helped me avoid major trouble thus far (knock on wood).
RL had posted an article a while back about riding at night and below are the comments taken from that article. I have them summarized below:
Be safe, first and foremost: wear a helmet; find a route that keeps you away from the major streets…even if it means extra miles or time…it’s worth it to find a quiet back street with little or no traffic; wear clear or amber sunglass lenses after dark; put in a little extra thought…use your own super tuned senses and hyper alert riding habits to keep yourself aware of any other moving objects, as well as upcoming potential hazards.
See and be seen: reflective vests; orange reflective triangle pinned to your back, blinkies, DOT reflective tape, reflective stripes; the goal is to light up like a Christmas tree…better a geek with a heartbeat than a macho fixie rider without one; run two headlights (one steady, one blinking); helmet-mounted light to shine into the eyes of oncoming drivers; consider a product made for motorcycles called the “halo helmet band”; have a good back up light.
Be prepared: may get flats at night…so carry a head lamp to make bike repairs a lot easier.
Below are some of my own tips for night riding, some of which echo the advice given above:
1. Slow down. The less you can see, the less time you have to react, so the higher likelihood of crashing if you go at your normal daytime speed.
2. A key distinction with bike lights is being seen versus seeing. Both are equally important. When cars see you, they avoid you. But if you don’t see your surroundings, you risk the chance of an accident.
Example: my blinkies did not help me see a piece of car tire in the middle of my bike lane late one night. It got caught in my spokes when I rode over it, and my bike stopped dead in its tracks, and I catapulted forward. I was also going pretty fast that night.
- As stated above, you can run more than 1 headlight on your bicycle, one flashing to be seen, one steady to see.
- There are a wide range of powerful bike lights, like a 4000+ lumen lamp for a pretty penny.
- Try slowing down just a tad; if I had ridden just a little more slowly, I feel that the severity my accident would have been reduced.
- If all else fails, and you just cannot make out the road ahead of you, try what I call “vicarious lighting.” This technique basically takes advantage of cars’ bright headlights as they pass you or drive towards you from the lane of opposing traffic. By looking at the road as illuminated by these headlights as the car drives ahead or towards you, you can gauge if there are any major debris or potholes lying ahead for the next 10 meters or even further, depending on the circumstances of the car, the curviness of the road, etc. You just have to train your eyes to track the area of the road illuminated by the car and estimate when your bike will reach any area of potential concern or danger. However, use this technique with caution because in the few seconds when the road is not illuminated, you cannot guarantee that a cat, for example, has not scurried in front of your bike.
3. Usually, I bring only one pair of lights (front and rear) and have a USB charger to charge them up at work. But sometimes, I have picked up a riding buddy on the way home who doesn’t have any lights. Or, I am biking in a group and one person’s lights have died. In this situation, I “split” the one set of lights between two people: put the front light on the front cyclist and the rear light on the rear cyclist. Of course, the pair now has to be much more careful about keeping a safe distance from each other.
4. Dooring sucks during the day time, and I’m sure it sucks even more at night. To reduce my chances of dooring at night, I slow down. I also keep a distance from the parked cars on the side of the road and am especially vigilant when a parked car’s lights are on or if I see any movement inside of the car.
5. Last, but probably the most important, in my opinion, is planning. If I am thinking of biking a new route and know I will likely be riding at night, I try to drive the route before biking it. Sometimes, I even drive the route at night if I feel it necessary to scrutinize the surroundings before committing.
Questions I consider while driving and surveying the route:
- Do other people bike this route? If there are and I can safely drive by them, do they seem very cramped for space?
- How fast do cars drive on this route?
- Does it seem safe in the surrounding areas at night? Is it a busy street at night and well lit, or is it desolate and scary?
- What is the quality of the road? If I can feel lots of bumps while driving, it will probably be about 500 times worse on a bicycle. And you run a greater risk of pinch flats, among other bad things.
Thinking about these sorts of issues is critical to preventing major trouble during a commute, especially at night when bad can get worse very quickly if you are not prepared. If any of these questions cause concern, time to look for another route.
If you have any other tips about biking at night, feel free to comment. Do good and ride well.