BikeCommuters.com

Accessories

Review: Mountainsmith Bike Cube

If you ever travel with your bike — and by travel I refer to packing your bike and gear in your car and driving to the start of your ride — listen up. This past summer Mountainsmith sent me their Bike Cube Deluxe to review. The deluxe refers to a souped-up version of its Bike Cube.

cube

Per the Mountainsmith website,

The Bike Cube Deluxe features a roll-up tool organizer, padded changing mat, a padded eye-wear pocket, specific spots for helmet, shoes, etc., it ensures that you never again show up at the trailhead with just one shoe. The Bike Cube Deluxe offers excellent organization and keeps all the essentials for your next road, cross or mountain bike ride at the ready. Works well as a stand alone piece or in conjunction with our Modular Hauler Systems. Feel like a pro at your next race and arrive in style!

Features:

Tri-panel load access
Organizer pockets for tools, food and accessories
Interior shoe & clothes divider (orig.: interior mesh sleeves for shoes/helmet)
Coated mesh for ventilation
Fleece-lined eyewear pocket
Roll-up bike tool organizer (original: zippered bike tool compartment and tool organizer panel)
Removable, padded changing mat
Adjustable shoulder strap included
Padded haul handle

Materials:

150d Baby RipStop Poly
210d Rip Stop Poly
840d Ballistic Poly (added)

Dimensions: (same as bike cube)

15″ x 15″ x 15″ (38 x 38 x 38 cm)

Volume: (same)

3417 cu. in. / 56 L

Capacity:

All the necessities for your next bike ride

Weight:

4 lbs 5 oz / 1.98 kg (original: 2 lbs 1 oz / .9kg)

I set out to put their advertised claim to the test that this cube would help for ride day – organizing “helmet, pump, shoes, and accessories well stashed and ventilated for that next impromptu outing; spend more time in the saddle and less time gathering up your gear.

The original bike cube comes in basic black; this deluxe version comes in red. Now I’m a sucker for the color red and bikes, so this deluxe bike cube immediately had my attention. Though not exactly something to use for the daily grind of bike commuting, I did find myself using this bag for regular weekend bike adventures (escapes from the urban jungle for daily rides) and even to ride my first ever Tour of the Mississippi River Valley (better known as TOMRV) earlier this year. This cube held all my needed bike gear for the daily outings, plus accommodated my overnight essentials for the weekend TOMRV adventure.

The removable padded shoulder strap (included with this deluxe model, sold separately for the basic) is definitely the way to travel with this cube. It’s like a large gym bag – cube shaped – but I never found it too unwieldy to tote. In the past I’ve sometimes refer to myself as the bag lady… as my former method of toting my gear was to use multiple reusable shopping totes. Though a great method, I often found items getting smashed into the bags and nothing having a definitive place; stuff just landed in a random bag and often was difficult to find. This cube keeps my stuff consolidated in one easy to handle bag — haul by shoulder strap from door to car and then by the handy handles for lifting into and out of the car.

e_2

I found myself improvising with how to best use the pockets and space within this bag. The mesh sleeve for the helmet worked great; the helmet fits perfectly! I also used another sleeve for my gloves and cap. I just put my shoes in the bag (no sleeve). I found myself using the extra mesh pockets to stash extra nutrition (bars, powder mixes) and mp3 player.

It was great to be able to pick up the bag and be ready to go. All my bike gear just stayed with the bag, so no more forgetting my shoes when traveling with my bike (yes – once drove out to a weekend invitational ride sponsored by a local club – only to realize I had forgotten to pack my shoes!).

Now – it’s all there at the ride destination –
e_4

Instead of all those multiple bags I used to carry, Mountainsmith’s deluxe bike cube helps you distribute all those necessities for easy access once you arrive at your destination and need to get ready — to ride, to race, etc. Since I already have my tools in a case and/or in my bike’s seatbag, I did not much use the roll-up tool organizer.

e_5

However, my friend had recently purchased a separate bag to roll and carry his tools and I realize the usefulness of such a compact carrying organizer; I’ve since thought of reorganzing my tool case to travel in this roll-up organizer and using it with my commutes, too.

e_6

I also never used the padded changing mat, which stashes unobstrusively in a side pocket.

e_7

I have friends who mountain bike or who ride cyclocross who would appreciate this pad more than me.

Most importantly, I had ample space for clothing — whether it be a change of bike clothes and/or off the bike clothes, extra layers, off-the-bike shoes, etc; I could easily pack enough to account for those surprise weather conditions when traveling with the bike.

There is no right or wrong way to pack this bag — organize it your way to make it work for you.

e_8

There is a convenient pad to divide up the center storage area/pocket, so you can store your shoes and clothes.

e_3

I appreciated all the ventilation this cube offers, too, especially to let my gear breathe and keep my gear from stinking up a “stuffy” bag.

e_9

When I rode TOMRV, this bag got hauled by the vans to and from the overnight destination. At the end of day 1, bags were strewn about a lawn. This bright red cube stood out from the pack – both due to its shape and color

Since it was rainy the morning of day 2 when I had to set the bag outside for the crews to pick up, I simply placed clothing items I didn’t want to get soaked into plastic bags and put them in the cube. Then I put the cube on the top of the heap of bags to be loaded into the truck… and set out – worry-free.

e_10

Conclusion? After a summer of use, the Mountainsmith Bike Cube Deluxe barely shows signs of wear, so this rugged bag is designed for the long haul. It’s a great investment – at an MSRP of $79.95 – if you find yourself driving to the start of trail, ride, or race.

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

Divoom Bluetune Bean Review

This was sent to us to review recently — it’s called the Divoom Bluetune Bean. It retails for $29.99. We agreed to test this because I know there are many of you, including myself, who enjoy listening to music…especially when riding.

Here are the features so you can understand what this is:

    Pocket sized speaker
    Built in Microphone
    Big wireless sound
    Clip on design
    Built-in rechargeable battery
    Sporty look

Bluetune bean

The contents of the package reveal the Bean, clip, USB cable and instruction booklet.
IMG_6391

With the clip, you can pretty much attach this thing anywhere, such as on your backpack or your basket.
IMG_6395

Here are the specs just in case that kind of stuff tickles your fancy:

    Output: 3 w
    Speaker Dimensions: 68L* 45W* 92Hmm
    Frequency range: 80Hz-20000kHz
    Impedance: 4 Ohm
    Charging Voltage: 5V
    Charging Voltage: or AC/DC,
    adaptor=4.2B ; 0.3A

So let’s get down to it. The Bean is cute, it’s pretty durable for what it is. I’ve accidentally and purposely dropped it in my kitchen, on my back porch, and on the street to see how well it would hold up. So far so good. The Bean is still playing music. What’s surprising is how well the sound is coming from this little Bean. The bass is pretty deep and the treble isn’t so high that it distorts at higher volumes.

What caught my attention with the Bean are the Bluetooth features and microphone. I liked that I didn’t have to attach it with a cord to listen to music. Plus I liked the idea that I could take phone calls with this and use it as a speaker phone — that is what sold me on it. Before I go on, I do want to mention the music quality on the Bean is superb! Bluetooth connectivity is pretty easy and battery life is also impressive. They rate it at 6 hours between charges. I’ve had it on at my desk for going on 8 hours and the life indicator still shows about 1/4 left.

The only down side to the Bean is the microphone’s capability. What the caller will hear is a loud buzzing sound. In fact, one of my friends called me on it and he asked if I was shaving. I said “no, why?” He explained that it sounds like I’ve got an electric shaver on. I wanted to hear what he was talking about, so I called my cell phone from my home phone. Sure enough…BBBBBZZZZZZZZZZ. It was pretty loud and the actual mic levels were pretty low. This means that whoever was talking with the Bean would have to raise their voice a bit louder just so the other person can hear you.

If I were to rate the Bluetune Bean from a scale of 1-10, I’d give it around a 7. Like I said, sound quality is excellent, but it was the buzzing sound where the Bean lost points.

Our FTC Disclaimer

Review: Hickies Elastic Shoe Laces

Have you ever had your shoelaces get caught in your chain, or wrapped around your pedal, or gotten chewed up by your cranks? I have…all three scenarios and a few more. Sure, there are a couple of creative shoe-tying techniques one could use to minimize such entanglements (or one could just get a chaincase), but accidents DO happen.

What to do? How do we keep our shoelaces protected from the ravages of our bicycles’ drivetrains? Enter Hickies, an elastic shoelacing system. The kind folks at Hickies graciously sent me a couple pairs to try out…one for me, and one for my school-age child to test.

DSC_0138

The Hickies are made of a stretchy and durable elastomer. They basically consist of a looped length with a plastic “head” on one end that the loop goes around. 14 come to each package…enough for a pair of shoes with seven lace eyelets. The packaging is neat (and recycleable!) and comes with clear instructions. Simply lace the Hickies through the shoe’s lace holes and pass the lopped portion around the head. Viola — instant slipons!

All laced up and ready to go:

DSC_0048

The Hickies work quite well — they are incredibly stretchy, so they accomodate a fairly wide range of shoe sizes. How the shoe fits after installing the Hickies, though, will be up to the shoes themselves and your feet. I have fairly narrow feet, and the Hickies were secure without binding. My son LOVES his…no more shoe-tying squabbles in the morning, and plenty of security for playgrounds and P.E. classes! As you can see from the photo below, if the Hickies prove to be too loose, you can try weaving them differently (all covered in the instructions and company website). In our case, the top runs were too loose, and crossing them as shown in this picture took up just enough slack to work:

DSC_0050

If they are too tight, though, there’s no way to lengthen them — I had to remove the topmost run on my shoes since they were too tight to allow my foot to enter the shoe. No worry…the shoes now fit like slippers, with even snugness the length of my foot. This was especially handy during plane trips, where I could slip in and out of my shoes at TSA checkpoints and on the planes themselves.

Over the past couple months, the Hickies have proven to be very durable…no breakages to note. If I had anything negative to say about the Hickies, it’s this: I had the topmost loop pop off the head of the device a couple times when pulling my shoe on. The Hickies sort of roll a bit as my foot slides in, and that was enough to pop them loose. If the groove that runs around the circumference of the Hickies head was a little deeper or wider, that may ensure retention.

Hickies come in a rainbow of colors to match nearly any shoe, and the heads are interchangeable so you can mix-and-match to your heart’s desire. Match your bike, your bag, your shirt, your shoes! The Hickies retail for $19.99 per package, and offer a fun and effective way to eliminate shoelace tangles.

Please take a look at the Hickies website for more details, instructive videos, and their creation story.

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

Review: a Must-Have Mini Pump by Planet Bike

Untitled

And it’s a shiny blue/gun-metal gray color, oooOOooo, aaaAAAAaahh.

Hey bike commuters new and old, crunchy and green, or bright and shiny! For anyone out there who has had to change a flat on the go between work and home, check out this must-have flexible mini pump from Planet Bike: the Air Smith Mini Comp.

At the beginning of summer, RL hooked me up with a “welcome back to the U.S. of A.” Planet Bike care package including mad blinky lights and the Air Smith Comp. Now, although I am typically a fan of hitching a ride on the bus, walking my bike back towards my house, or flagging down strangers with a truck bed (don’t tell my Grandma) anytime I get a flat tire on my bike commute, sometimes you just gotta have a portable bike pump. A floor pump is usually my preference for any flat tire repair kit, but you can’t ride around town looking like this, now can you?

So, if you’re looking to add another staple to your commuter saddlebag/toolkit, check out the specs below on this clever stroke of PB genius:

Planet Bike Air Smith Mini Comp

  • Rotating valve head and hose makes it easy to use.
  • Retractable hose protects tire valve and allows for a powerful and comfortable pumping position.
  • Stow-a-way adaptor converts Air Smith to presta mode.
  • Using adaptor head with compressor is helpful if you have tubeless tires and need to reset the bead.
  • Stashes easily in a jersey pocket or backpack and mounts to your bike with included bracke
  • Composite handles
  • Includes mounting bracket

SKU #1037

$16.99

Those guys at PB have done it again. It may not seem like it, but that little flexi-hose at the nozzle makes this compact pump a must-have for commuting. “Why?” you ask, “Please, Mir, tell me it’s the bestest in the westest?!” Okay, I’ll tell you, but only because you asked so nicely…

Untitled

See that little shadow in the corner? Yeah that’s me. SPLADOW! Check out this rad mini-pump with flexi-nozzle action!

After you have given your flat tube a good 50-100 pumps (or 49-99 pumps), the flexibility of the hose allows you to spaz out as much as possible without accidentally disconnecting the nozzle from the presta/schrader valve. And let me tell you, am I some kind of spaz. Pumping up a flat tube enough to get me to my destination with this guy went from pain in the ass (translation: skitching with strangers would be preferable) to not so bad (translation: not worth a potential kidnapping).

Untitled

Anyway, not every roundabout comes with a tune-up station like this one in Asheville, so hold on to your pumps, bike commuters, you better have a flat tire solution on you at all times! It turned out, in the second to last week of our summer class, I got a nasty flat riding down the steep hill near my house. Since the bus in Asheville is less than rapid and nowhere near convenient, I hoofed it back up the hill, only to realize there was no floor pump in sight. Luckily, I had the Air Smith Mini Comp and a spare tube.

Untitled

Here is a pic I took when I changed the flat at home, pumped up the tube enough to get me down to the gas station and the 25 cent air compressor machine on my Asheville Bianchenstein.

The flexible nozzle would also be helpful if you just needed to pump up your tires if they were a little low. The rotating valve head also limits spaz-related disconnections mid-pump. And for its size, the Air Smith Mini Comp doesn’t wear you down to the point of annoyance, but is pretty reasonable for those of us who don’t carry CO2 cartridges at all times. The pump is lightweight yet durable, and, like many PB products, comes with a mount if you’re opposed to stashing it in your backpack.

As for the Bianchenstein, we made it down to the gas station for the air compressor with only minutes to spare and rode in to work on time.

Untitled

Hey, a cycle ladies gotta do what a cycle ladies gotta do… when she has a flat tire and no floor pump in the house in Asheville, NC. Thank you, Planet Bike, for getting my back tire back in business!

Overall: This bike pump is a must-have for any commuter toolkit. If you don’t wanna get stranded like Dave Matthews, for less than $17, get yourself a Planet Bike Air Smith Mini Comp and get back on the road! This pump will forever be in my backpack from now on.

 

 

Need to carry a suit? Here’s a product for you

There’s a lot of Eurobike coverage all over the web right now…tons of new bikes and parts being revealed in advance of our own Interbike visit in a few weeks.

Almost all the coverage I’ve seen has been racing-oriented — new race bikes, new racing kit, new racing components. What about us commuters? What’s new for us?

One thing that DID catch our eye, thanks to the good folks at Bike Biz, is a clever new way to deal with fancy work duds. Do you happen to work in an office where formal attire is required? Struggling to juggle your bike commute and your need to wear a suit? Enter the Freefold:

Presumably, the Freefold works on business suits/attire for men AND women.

There are a couple of kludgy bags on the market now that purport to make suit-carrying easy…and while they work adequately, this Freefold system seems very simple and VERY versatile (you can fit the folded assembly into any messenger bag, backpack, or pannier). This might be just the thing suit-wearers have been looking for!

We’re going to reach out to the Freefold people and see if we can run into them at Interbike. Who knows, we might be able to score a test version to show you.