Category: Accessories

We received the Chatter Tunes a few months ago and once I got in my hands, I knew the perfect bike to install this on. The Sidecar!
chatter tunes on bikecommuters.com

Here’s a product description:

This is a portable speaker that supports Bluetooth® version 2.1. With this Speaker, you can:
1. Play music from a Bluetooth®-enabled mobile phone or audio source that is compatible with A2DP, such as an iPod/iPhone/iPad, Android Smartphone, PC or Mac.
2. Use the ChatterTunes as a speaker phone for a Bluetooth® connected mobile phone.
3. Play music from an auxiliary device connected through the supplied 3.5mm audio cable.

Mounting was pretty easy. The adjustable clamp has rubber grabbing points where it securely held a strong grip on the frame. What I like about the Chatter Tunes is placement if your Smart device. In my case it was an iPhone4. There’s a detachable sleeve that has a clear window to allow you touch access to your apps. The sleeve is strongly attached with a Velcro surface. During our testing period the sleeve never came undone even when we rode over rougher roads.
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Connecting to the Chatter Tunes via Bluetooth was seamless. All I had to do was turn on the unit, then turn on my BT on my phone and viola! I’m playing my tunes! One of my favorite features of this device is that it acts as a speaker phone. With the built in mic, it makes it very convenient to use in my home office while speaking on the phone with clients while needing to type.
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The sound is powerful, crisp and very clear. Chatter Tunes delivers premium sounds. Even when you’re riding in the street, you can still hear your songs.

One of the things we tried was to take a phone call while riding the sidecar. The sidecar only goes about 12mph, so taking a phone call was rather interesting and fun. The person on the other end of the phone can hear a noticeable sound from the road. I can only assume that the vibration from the sidecar traveled through the frame and onto the unit. Wind noise was surprisingly low since the microphone isn’t in direct line of the wind.

Would I recommend Chatter Tunes? Sure! It’s a great device that delivers premium sound and made my rides more enjoyable. It’s great if you just want to cruise or take a leisure ride down to your favorite coffee shop or bars.

With a price tag of $59.99, this makes for an affordable, multipurpose Bluetooth speaker set up. You can use it for your rides or bring it into your home or office.
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FTC Disclaimer

If you spend enough time zipping around town on a bike, you may enjoy the sounds of the city around you, and the sound of the wind whistling past your ears. Have you ever noticed, though, that sometimes that wind noise can block OTHER sounds, like the sounds of approaching cars or other hazards?

That was the idea behind the invention of Wind-Blox, a device that helps block some of that excess wind noise and thus improving safety on the road.

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In a nutshell, Wind-Blox are soft fabric “envelopes” that wrap around the front straps of a cycling helmet. The envelopes are filled with a cushy foam and attach with hook-and-loop material. The Wind-Blox serve as a baffle, channeling excess wind noise past the ear. They attach easily in just a few seconds, and are adjustable along the length of the helmet strap by sliding up or down to maximize wind reduction. The material and the construction is soft against the skin and there was no irritation to speak of.

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Does it work? Take a look at the video Wind-Blox has on their homepage:

While riding around my city, I experienced much the same effect — the “roar” of the wind was lessened, and I felt as if I were able to discern cars approaching sooner and to hear some of the other city sounds that get drowned out by the wind. It seems like a really silly sort of invention, but it does work!

The Wind-Blox come in four colors: Black, Silver-Grey, Neon Green, and Pink, and retail for $15.00 right on the Wind-Blox website. They make a lovely stocking stuffer or small everyday gift for the cyclist in your life.

Remember last week, when we posted our first review of Swiftwick’s socks? I mentioned that there were two more pairs to check out, and here they are.

First up, the Swiftwick Sustain One in black:

From Swiftwick’s site:

The only sock on the market created from post-industrial recycled nylon, the SUSTAIN Line is our finest tribute to our commitment to the planet and the earth-conscious athlete in us all. From our refusal to use chemicals to wick away moisture, to our commitment to being made in the USA – we strive to be carbon neutral in our approach. Our philosophy is to conserve and recycle, while creating the best products you will ever wear, guaranteed.

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Of the Swiftwick socks I received to review, these were my favorites — the fabric is super-soft against my skin, they wick sweat perfectly, the cuff was just the right length, and they are thin enough to fit nicely in tight cycling shoes. I was a bit skeptical about the recycled nylon material at first, but it has proven to be incredibly durable…although it does collect static electricity and attracts dog hair and fuzz in droves when I’m padding around the house. The Sustain’s compression helped cradle my foot arches and helped prevent cramping (as I mentioned in the previous review).

Next up is the Vibe One in black/red/grey:

From Swiftwick’s website:

Unique in the Swiftwick family, the VIBE line is a little more plush, and a lot more colorful. Using a half height terry loop throughout the footbed, the VIBE offers a highly consistent, thicker feeling with linked toe construction and slightly less compression. To carry the color, it’s flat knit, super thin upper is smooth and snug.

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You may have remembered I mentioned in the first socks review that the no-cuff or “Zero” cuff size of the Swiftwick socks wasn’t to my liking? The “One” cuff length, on the other hand, is perfect…nice low tanline and no “Lance’s tall black socks” feel here:

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The footbed area of the Vibe socks is a bit thicker than the other pairs, but not unreasonably so. It’s very comfortable, and the thin upper ensures they will fit nicely into the tightest, low-volume cycling shoes. That extra cush is perfect for hike-a-bikes and for rides that include a bit of standing around or walking (my typical commutes, at least). Again, the compression features really do make a difference, even if the Vibe socks don’t have as strong a “hug” against my feet. And, they look great.

The Sustain socks retail between $11.99 and $16.99, depending on cuff length. The Vibes retail for $12.99 to $14.99, depending on cuff length. All in all, the Swiftwick socks are a great value and their features really make a difference on bike rides. Anytime I can avoid foot cramping makes me a happy cyclist!

Check out Swiftwick’s full line of socks for a variety of sports by visiting their website.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Just before Interbike, the good folks at Bolle sent over a pair of their “Copperhead” sunglasses to try out. We’re big believers in protecting our eyes when we ride, whether it’s to the corner store or across town, so we jumped at the chance to check out a new pair.

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The Copperhead glasses come in a padded case with a microfiber cleaning cloth included. I got the “Shiny Black” color; the glasses come in five other color combinations. The frames are nylon with small hydrophilic rubber pads on the ends of the temples and at the nosepiece to prevent slipping when things get sweaty. The lenses themselves are polarized to help fight glare, and are coated with both anti-fog and anti-smudge treatments. The glasses themselves are suited for smaller faces, like my own — our pal Jim Katz, the PR man for Bolle, helped determine that these would fit my face better than some of Bolle’s other styles.

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As you can see, these are more of a casual style — lending them the ability to go with office attire as well as cycling togs. I found the temples to restrict my vision a bit, which may be an issue for those of you who prize extra peripheral vision while dodging traffic. The frames around the lenses are suited for riding more upright bikes; I also had obstruction issues when I rode my more aggressively-set-up road bikes. Hardcore roadies might be better served by rimless lenses.

Despite the minor issues with the frames getting in the way, the Copperhead glasses fit nicely, provided great coverage for my eyes, and stayed in place. No one wants to fuss with readjusting glasses on the go. The temples hugged close to my head, allowing me to tuck them under my helmet straps (decidedly “un-PRO”, but hey, I’m not fooling anybody).

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The lens clarity is great and the polarization really helps, especially when going from brightly-lit areas to more shaded parts of the road. And the glasses are pretty stylish — I didn’t feel like I was wearing sportswear; in other words, the glasses didn’t clash with my casual work clothes.

After I wore them for a bit, our friend Wesley (an alumnus of our mountain bike racing team) reached out to us — he was training with the U.S. Navy near Chicago and desperately needed a pair of sunglasses he could wear out on the water. Always one to support our troops, I got the glasses into Wes’s hands in short order with the request that he snap a photo wearing them in uniform:

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Wes reported that the glasses worked perfectly for him, and also looked pretty snappy with his “blueberries”. I wholeheartedly agree!

The Bolle Copperheads retail for around $99, and are available directly from Bolle or at retailers near you. If you’re looking for a casual pair of sunglasses that have performance features, but you’re not sitting on a fortune, these might do the trick nicely.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Surely you know that we’re big fans of fenders around here…they keep you and your bike happy and dry and clean, even in the worst weather. And, most commuters see them as a “must-have” accessory for a commuter bike. We couldn’t agree more.

Mir’s recent article about her quest for fenders got me to thinking about more fenders for my own fleet. I happen to have a few road bikes I sometimes use for commuting, and on rainy, yucky days I do NOT like to bring them out of the garage. Cleaning my shiny, sparkly road bikes is a chore I do not like. What if I could find full-coverage fenders for one of these skinny-tired roadsters?

First problem: the bike I wanted to add fenders to does not have eyelets on the fork or rear dropouts. Second, there’s not a lot of clearance to work with. Third, some of the other fenders suited for these kinds of situations aren’t full-coverage, and can be fiddly to install/maintain/stay in place while riding. I wasn’t about to have to deal with that, so off I went to the Intertubes to search out a solution.

Enter the SKS Raceblade Long. Full-coverage, easily removeable if needed, good reputation from a company that knows a thing or two about fenders. I took a trip to my friendly neighborhood Performance Bike to spend some holiday gift card money, and they gladly ordered me a set to add to my bike. About $60 and a couple days later, I was ready to install them.

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The SKS Raceblade Longs are made of chromoplastic, with stainless steel stays and hardware. They clip to small metal bridges that are mounted under the brake bolts and to metal tabs that are held in place by the wheels’ quick-release skewers. The concept is very similar to the legendary “River City Reacharound”, but there is no cutting of fenders required. Here are a couple shots of the clips and the way they mount to the brakes:

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Each fender is in two pieces; a longer rear section and a shorter front section. Each fender is supported by a double, adjustable stay set in stainless steel. SKS thoughtfully supplied soft plastic mudguards to screw onto the ends of the fenders:

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Installation is pretty simple: loosen the brake mounting bolts, slip the bridges in and tighten the bolts down. The bridges come in three lengths to fit most bikes. At the wheel, remove the conical springs from the QR skewers, and fit the mounting tabs underneath the skewers:

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The fenders clip directly to those bridges and tabs, and feature quick release buttons to remove them rapidly if desired:

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I installed the Raceblade Longs yesterday, and took them out for a test ride today. The ground is still damp from snowmelt and rain, so I could really see how clean they kept me and my bike. What’s the verdict? They work! No muddy stripe up my back or in my face, and my bottom bracket area is pretty clean.

The Raceblade Longs are not perfect, of course. Right at the brake bridge area, there’s a pretty sizeable gap in coverage (necessitated by the design and lack of clearance on modern road bikes). I found a lot of road spray and goop covering the brakes that will need to be hosed off periodically.

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The rear fender stops short behind the seat tube (again because of the design), so the back side of the bottom bracket shell gets a layer of road “deposits” on it:

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Also, the front stub of the front fender rattles like crazy on rough roads. It’s pretty annoying, and I will try to figure out some way to quiet it down, perhaps with a shim where the bridge enters the back of that stub.

Obligatory Mir.I.Am-style crappy cameraphone pic:
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Dings notwithstanding, I think these are a pretty good solution for people who want to ride their roadies in all weather conditions. They cover enough that maintenance and cleaning are reduced, and mount solidly enough for year-round use.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.