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Accessories

Review: Cycleaware’s Roadie Mirror

Full disclosure: I’ve resisted cycling mirrors for a long time…I’ve never really felt the need for such a device. If I wanted to see what’s going on behind me, a quick turn of the head has satisfied my curiosity. Even when I drive a car, I rarely use the mirrors (other than to check out who’s behind me at stoplights). Chalk it up to years of racing coaches who drilled into us that a quick glance back while holding a line was all we ever needed…coupled with driving instructors who insisted that nothing took the place of a glance back to check out the “blind spots” invisible to mirrors.

So, it was with a bit of trepidation that I received Cycleaware’s Roadie Mirror for review — how was I going to remain objective and give this device a fair shake? Well, the jury’s still out on that, but here goes anyway:

roadie

The Roadie mirror is quite simple…one rubber plug that replaces the left-side handlebar plug on traditional road drop bars and a mirror assembly that fits into the plug. Installation is a breeze (30 seconds max), and the ball-and-socket design allows for quick adjustment and a vibration-free view.

parts

The mirror assembly is solid but lightweight…made out of good firm plastic. The mirror itself is acrylic and is convex-shaped to allow a fairly wide view of the road behind the rider. The whole assembly seems fairly aerodynamic.

How did it work? Well…it certainly offers a pretty wide view of the things going on behind me, but I found that because of the convex shape, I was unable to determine distances of objects behind me and really had to analyze the view in order to make sense of it. I resorted to looking at the mirror and then turning my head to get a better understanding of the goings-on behind me. Kinda defeats the purpose of having a mirror, doesn’t it?

I also found the location of the mirror to be fairly awkward. At the base of the drops, it’s in an area I just don’t look at while I’m riding, so I had to consciously remind myself to look down into that zone. More seasoned mirror users may not have that same problem…

mounted

Finally, I often struck the mirror with my knee or leg when dismounting my bike, knocking it out of alignment. This is a pretty small gripe because the ball and socket arrangement offers very easy readjustment…fiddling with it for a few seconds put everything back in its place.

Verdict? Well, I’m still not a mirror convert — but I can’t blame that entirely on Cycleaware’s mirror. The mirror itself is a clever, well-made product — fairly unobtrusive and easy to adjust. For me, undoing decades of conditioning is the real sticking point…perhaps with a little more road time I will “see the light” and find mirrors like this more useful.

Cycleaware has a wide range of other safety accessories on their site. It’s worth a look. For me, I’m going to keep plugging away with the concept of mirrors on my bike and may give others a try to see what all the fuss is about…

Review: Pedro’s “Trixie” Multi-Tool

Several months ago, Pedro’s sent me a sample of their Trixie multi-tool to test. I’ve used it pretty extensively during the time that I’ve had it.

trixie

The Trixie is laser-cut from hardened tool steel, and it has a black military-style oxide coating to prevent rust. The tool weighs about three ounces and, at 18.5 cm (about seven inches) long, is compact enough to fit in all but the smallest saddle bags.

Pedro’s packed a lot of features into this simple steel tool. It’s got a 15mm axle nut wrench, a lockring spanner, a 5mm hex key fitting and three bolthead cutouts for 8, 9 and 10mm bolts. Oh, and a bottle opener. For folks who ride fixed-gears or other singlespeeds, this may be all you need for emergency roadside repairs, gearing changes and general tinkering (but don’t forget some tire levers just in case!). Perfect for popping the tops off post-ride beers, too.

axle nut end

The axle nut end works perfectly for both nutted-axle bikes in our fleet here…plenty of leverage to get them nice and snug, too. Be sure to turn the tool so the curved backside of the lockring spanner fits your palm and crank away! The spanner is tailor-made to fit a Dura Ace cog lockring…and if you’re familiar with the “rotafixa” method of cog removal, you won’t even need a chainwhip.

The cutouts for 8, 9 and 10mm boltheads are of less utility…frankly, there just aren’t a lot of bolts this size on a modern bike. For those of you with MKS chaintugs (or others) on your fixed-gear, though, the 10mm cutout makes adjusting them a snap. Folks with older bikes might find these cutouts more useful…they fit the cable-fixing bolts on a lot of vintage derailleurs and sidepull brake sets.

cutouts

I’d like to see a few more millimeters of length in the 5mm hex key fitting. I had a bit of difficulty getting tool-to-frame clearance when using this feature in some applications, but that may be a non-issue for many others.

Overall, this is a great tool to have on hand — one device that takes care of a lot of bike-related chores. Simplifying the roadside repair kit is always a good thing, and less tools means less to lose or rattle around in your bag. And, for around $24.00, it’s a pretty good deal for a well-made and sturdy tool.

Pedro’s has a pretty extensive line of other bike repair tools…check ’em out by clicking here.

Review: Ryders Eyewear Vigor Sunglasses

Anyone who puts a lot of miles on their bike will benefit from eyewear. Not only can sun damage your eyes, but vehicles throw rocks, many locations have swarms of bugs we inevitably ride through, and wind can dry our eyes. Even in low-light, some cyclists wear clear-lens protective eyewear.

The climate in Kansas City this past week has been bizarre. We had a 115°F heat index afternoon, a few thunderstorms, and morning lows into the 50s. The morning sun has been up early enough that I end up riding straight into it on my way to work. With lots of saddle time and a wide variety of climates to contend with, it was officially the perfect week to put some new shades to the test. Enter: Ryders Eyewear.

Ryders provided Bike Commuters a pair of their Vigor sunglasses to review. At the $45 price-point, it’s one of their middle-of-the-line models.

Many of Ryders’ models feature temples and nose-pieces with adjustable memory-wire inside. With some tinkering, you can get a very comfortable custom fit. Also, thanks to the water-resistant rubber coating on the contact points, they stick to your face and stay where you put them once you adjust them no matter how much you sweat. These are by far the most secure-feeling shades I’ve worn that cost under $100.

One feature I really came to appreciate on the two sweltering evenings we had last week: the vented lenses. While not a completely unique feature, I really like it when the glasses provide exceptional peripheral vision coverage without suffocating my eyeballs.

Like the true commuter nerd, I rock the mirror for my 29-mile round trip commute. Usually, I have the mirror mounted to the tab you see hanging from my helmet, but my Take-A-Look mirror is also designed to mount to glasses. I actually like this mounting position better, and now that both my morning and evening commute call for sunglasses, I’m going to keep it this way.

These came with a protective pouch that can be used to wipe the lenses off as well as keeping them safe and scratch-free in your bags while you’re on the job. I’m not certain if the pouch comes standard with all models.

I’m not terribly picky about my eyewear — I’ve worn cheap $7 Wal-Mart shades and some that were considerably pricier than these as well. All in all, I’m pretty impressed with what Ryders offers. They also have models with interchangeable lenses, and at least one model that is prescription lens compatible.

Coming Soon: Jango 7.1 Bike Review

Way back at Interbike 2007, Moe spotted an intriguing line of bicycles new to the market…check out his photos from back then by clicking here. Jango, a subsidiary of bicycle accessories juggernaut Topeak, has a pretty neat concept going on, and we were eager to get our hands on their products.

Well, after much speculation and hand-wringing, we were finally able to score a test model just less than two years after Jango introduced the bikes at Interbike! Sometimes things move with strange timing in the bike world…

What we got was a Jango 7.1 in 700c configuration:

jango 7.1

The concept is very cool: what if buying a bike was like going to a car dealer? What if you could walk into a shop, select a bike from a range of models and then select pre-configured “trim packages” or choose dedicated accessories from an extensive menu, all based on your needs? Jango offers seven bike models, nine preconfigured “trim packages” and a list of over 30 unique accessories. That’s a lot to digest!

Our test bike is the 7.1. Here’s a little bit about it from Jango’s website:

Bell: Jango integrated courtesy bell, black
Lights: Jango integrated front and rear LED lights
Pedals: Ergonomic Jango Dual Fit safety pedals
Saddle: Pressure free Allay Racing Sport saddle with AirSpan technology
Sizes: XS (430) / S (475) / M (500) / L (550) / XL (600)
Tyres: Jango light weight 700c x 38c
Wheels: Jango light weight wheel system
Grips: Ergonomic grip
Gears: Shimano Alivio 3 x 8 24 speed
Brake: Levers Jango with integrated bell mount
Fork: Jango suspension fork with magnesium lowers. Oil / Nitrogen hydraulic damping with elastomer spring. Variable compression with lock-out function. 50mm travel
Frame: Jango design with patented modular Plug in Play ports and personalized head badge theft deterrent system. Comfort geometry, high strength 7005 alu, double butted
Kickstand: Jango integrated kickstand
Seat Post: Jango with quick mount socket
Bar/Stem combination: Ergonomic Jango Vario Stem with adjustable angle and height. Forged Alu
Brakes: Jango disc brakes with integrated front disc lock
Colour: Jango Silver

With the bike, we also got a large case of assorted accessories, from cargo-carrying bits to lights, security gear, fenders and a computer. We’re going to have a lot to share, so I’ll try to break things down into a series of articles covering the bike itself, the accessories and the overall experience.

In the meantime, check out Jango’s website for a good overview of their concept and their wide range of models, trim packages and accessories. And stay tuned…the test riding has already begun!

Review: Planet Bike’s “Blaze 1W” Headlight

A few months back, Planet Bike sent us two versions of their “Blaze 1W” headlight to test. Russ got the dynamo-powered version, and I got the battery-operated model.

blaze 1w

The light is only a bit bigger than many of its cousins; a slightly wider body and about 3/4″ longer than other PB lights. Much of this extra length comes from a cast aluminum heatsink that separates the head of the Blaze 1W from the rest of the body. Here’s a comparison shot of the Blaze 1W next to two other PB lights, the Beamer 1 and the Beamer 5:

comparo

The light has two brightness settings and one flashing pattern. The flash setting is the same one used by Planet Bike’s class-dominating “Superflash” taillight, and it sure gets attention…two half-power blinks followed by a full-strength blast. A friend riding in front of me stated, “it’s like being chased by the paparazzi!”

Other similarities between the Blaze 1W and other lights in the Planet Bike line include power from 2 AA batteries (I use NiCad rechargeables) and the exact same handlebar mounting clamp. I’m not a huge fan of the mounting clamp; while it is adjustable to fit a wide variety of handlebar diameters, I’ve found the mount can slip if you don’t get it as tight as it’ll go. I learned a trick from our longtime reader and friend Quinn McLaughlin…his suggestion was to add a strip of hockey-stick griptape to the handlebar just under where the clamp sits. This works like a charm and eliminates any of the slipping gripes I have with the PB mount.

I was excited to try this high-powered light — having used only low-power LED lights for years, I’ve often “outrun” the beam as I ride home from work in the dark. And, truly high-powered lights can be tremendously expensive, keeping me away from them. PB intends this light to to split the difference between “to see” and “to be seen” lights on the market…with a 1-watt Blaze LED, this light cranks out an impressive blast of light.

Let’s compare that beam to the other PB lights I have on hand…my nighttime picture-taking skills leave a bit to be desired, but I hope you’ll get the idea. In the following photo, I have the Blaze 1W, the Beamer 5 and the Beamer 1 arranged from left to right. Using freshly recharged batteries and a white backdrop, I’ve got the following beam comparison:

beam comparison

Hard to tell which is the brightest, isn’t it? I thought so, too, so I set up another comparison between the two I considered brightest, the Blaze and the Beamer 1. These next two shots are from a distance of 25 feet in near-total darkness. First, we have the Beamer 1:

beamer 1

The bicycle the light is aimed at is barely visible (but my “yard art” shines nicely!). Now, let’s take a look at the illuminating power of the Blaze 1W:

blaze 1w

Perhaps still a bit hard to tell, but in real life the difference is pretty impressive! Details are far more visible than with lesser-powered lights…and this extra visibility is crucial for dark commutes on poorly-lit routes where cracks and road hazards loom.

It is possible to “outrun” this light, too…but you’ve got to be traveling pretty fast to do so. And, of course, this light isn’t suitable for offroading or 24-hour racing…it’s not THAT bright. For around-town riding, though, if you really need more light than this baby puts out, you’re looking at big bucks for another brand’s HID/LED lighting system.

For bike commuters on a budget, this light is totally worth the price and should be at the top of your list for affordable nighttime riding. It offers impressive performance at a fraction of the price of a really high-end light system. Even if you only use the Blaze 1W in flashing mode, you WILL get the attention of motorists — this light is well-neigh impossible to ignore.

Check out more information on this light and the rest of the line of commuter-friendly products by visiting Planet Bike’s website.