Category: Accessories

Back in April the kind folks at Soul Cruzers sent us an LED bicycle wheel light kit. Basically it’s designed to light up your wheels by attaching a string of LED lights to your spokes.

soul cruzer LED lights

Their website states the following:

LED bicycle LED wheel light kit. Fits up to 2x 29″ wheels

Red-Blue-White-Green-Purple-Yellow -Pink

Comes with AA batteries, zip ties and EZ to follow instructions

Price $24.95 for a set, both wheels

When I opened up the package to install the lights, I noticed one of the light sets wasn’t working. From the looks of it, the batteries that came with it went bad. I went ahead and replaced them with a fresh set. Soul Cruzers does recommend replacing the “oem” battery with a higher quality like Duracell and the like. After installing the fresh batteries, the lights worked great.
soulcruzer LED lights review

The Soul Cruzer directions say that I need to loop the wire on every other spoke. The bike I installed the Soul Cruzer lights on was my daughter’s bike, the Nirve Ultra Liner.

Though their site states that the LED lights will fit a 29″ wheels, the Nirve Ultra Liner is equipped with 700c wheels and you can see from this photo, the wire doesn’t completely go all the way around. Does it really make a big difference? Well yes and no. If they say it will fit 29″(700c) wheels then you’d think the wire would be long enough, right? But when you light up the LEDs, can you really tell where the gap is?
Soul cruzer LED lights review

To answer the questions above, look at this photo. You can see a gap on the rear tire around the 5:30 position, the front wheel has a gap on the 3 O’clock position. Another thing I’ll mention, the rear wheel has fresh batteries, while the front has the OEM batteries. On a fresh set of batteries they stayed lit for 5 hours, while the OEM batteries started to go dim after 20 minutes of use.
Soul Cruzer LED light review

So how do the Soul Cruzers LED wheel lights look while spinning? Well, I gotta tell you, they do look great! It’s probably one of the better ways to get seen by cars because the bright colors help you be seen by anyone. From pedestrians to drivers, they’ll see you!
Soul Cruzer LED bicycle wheel lights
There were 2 things that didn’t like, for one, the length of the wire. It probably needed another 5-6″ to properly fit a 29er(700c) wheel. I figured Soul Cruzers had probably designed them to fit on the beach cruisers they sell, and those have 26″ wheels, so if you have a 26″ wheeled bike, they would be fine. Another thing was the OEM battery — they really should last longer than what they did. But if you plan on using these lights on a daily basis for your commute or for bar hopping, then I’d recommend using rechargeable batteries.

Other than those 2 things I mentioned, I have to say the Soul Cruzers LED Bicycle Wheel Lights are pretty fun to have on a bike! Oh I forgot to mention that they do have a blinker setting. So you can have one wheel run solid while the other blinks. I actually like the idea that the LED light isn’t just kept in one small container like traditional LED lights are, but these lights allow you to have lights on a larger scale. They would be great to supplement your front and rear LED lights to give you that added visibility.

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A couple months ago, Masterlock offered to send two of their bike locks to us for testing and review. We chose a U-lock and a cable lock, and received the 8170D Force U-Lock and the 8220D Cable lock.

We told the folks at Masterlock that we didn’t have a “bait bike” to really test these locks out with, but that we would engage in a bit of destructive testing, where applicable. They were cool with that. More on that in a bit.

First, the cable lock:

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From the manufacturer’s website:

–Set-your-own password combination cable
–Use letters to create a memorable word combination
–Easy to set & reset
–6′ (1.8m) long x 3/8″ (10mm) diameter braided steel cable for strong cut resistance
–Protective vinyl coating helps prevent scratching
–Mounting bracket included for easy transportation

This lock is perfect for quick, low-crime lockups — as you may know, cables aren’t particularly resistant to cutting and are usually recommended for times when a bike will be unattended for a short time (quick trips into the store, or as a backup for another lock). What’s novel about the 8220D is its use of user-resettable word codes rather than numbers. I had a bit of fun coming up with odd words; my favorite being “STASI” (Cold War-era East German Secret Police).

The lock comes with a carrier bracket for mounting to your bike’s frame or seatpost. My seatpost is clogged with stuff, so I went for a frame mounting. The bracket has a push-button quick release and a corresponding “cleat” on the cable itself to stow the cable for travel.

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The carrier bracket seems a little chintzy (as do the lock brackets from most brands ), but the cable itself is lightweight. The bracket should be able to withstand this sort of weight. If you choose not to use the bracket, the cable coils up into a neat package for storage in your panniers or backpack.

As this is a cable, there was no point in attacking it with tools. I’ve seen (and experienced) much stouter cables cut with simple hand tools. Again, think of cable locks as a low-crime “quickie” or a backup to a beefier lock, and you’ll be fine.

Next up is the Force U-Lock:

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Specs from the manufacturer:

–Fusion U-lock
–Hardened steel body resists cutting, sawing and prying.
–Double locking shackle for superior pry resistance.
–Disc key for superior pick resistance.
–Vinyl coating for weather and scratch resistance.
–Carrier bracket included for convenient storage.

On paper, the 8170D seems like a good enough lock: good keyway type (disc rather than tubular) and the features one would expect from a sturdy bike lock. In practice, however, this one is perhaps not so tough. The first alarm bell was “hey, no anti-theft guarantee?” Surely, not all locks come with such a guarantee, but that guarantee has become the industry hallmark for a tough lock, and the lack of it should tell you something about the quality of any given lock.

Size-wise, the body is wide enough to swallow the front wheel, the frame and a secure post. Remember that the more space you take up within the U, the less room a thief’s prying tools have to work with.

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The mounting bracket, as may be expected, was fairly useless. I’ve never seen a serious cyclist use one, as most of them lack security over bumps or are made of flimsy materials. The included bracket here was no exception; it hogged a lot of frame space and comes with a cheap metal cam to secure the lock within the bracket’s body. I bent the cam lever the first time I used it and still couldn’t get the U-lock securely into its slot. Do yourself a favor: just bungee the lock to your rear rack, toss it into your pannier, or do as I do and leave a U-lock at all your common lockup points (I’ve got U-locks scattered all over the city).

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Now, onto “destructive testing”. I’ve got a sizeable tool collection, and what I was going to try with this lock was a series of tests, starting with bolt cutters, then a hacksaw, then a prying tool or bottle jack, and finally an electric cutoff wheel. First up: 24″ bolt cutters with a jaw capacity of 10mm.

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Let’s get something clear right up front — many of you know that I am not a particularly large or muscular person. At my heaviest, I weigh somewhere under 150 pounds. Well, it came as a shock, then, when I applied a bit of force to the handles of my bolt cutters, I could feel the jaws digging right into the steel of the U-bar! I peeled off some of the vinyl coating and discovered two clear indentation in the steel. I moved my tool over to the other side of the shackle, braced one cutter handle against the ground and pumped a couple times with about 50% of my body weight. SNAP! The jaws clamped shut onto empty space!

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At this point, the lock was defeated; so rather than trying the other tools, I called it a day.

Let’s be clear about another important point: ANY lock can be defeated given enough time and and arsenal of tools. The toughest lock on Earth is no match to an electric cutoff wheel…but in my humble opinion, a U-lock should be able to withstand a fairly casual application of bolt cutters. Let’s say, then, that this Masterlock U should only be used for “moderate security”…perhaps where there is nosy foot traffic near the lockup point, or a lowish-crime area. This is NOT an overnighter’s lock, in other words.

Retail price for each lock is right around $16.00. That’s pretty cheap! Are there better locks on the market? Of course — in the lock world, you do get what you pay for. Both of these locks are suitable for casual, quick lockups…but neither lock would I trust to secure my prized bikes overnight or in high-crime areas.

Not sold on these models, but are a fan of the brand itself? Have no fear: Masterlock does have a number of other locks in its stable, including stout ones with sizeable anti-theft guarantees. Check out the rest of their lineup by visiting their website.

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

We didn’t send anyone to this year’s Sea Otter, but writers from our sister site Mtnbikeriders.com went and covered a lot of goodies in the mountain-biking world. One of the items our pal Art spotted was Koala Bottle — a magnetic bottle/cage system for bicycles:

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Here’s a bit straight from the manufacturer’s website:

Koala Bottle is The Magnetic Bottle (TM) that attaches to your bicycle, tethers to your aero bars and much more.

Koala Bottle is designed for safety and ease of use! The magnetic ring on the bottle provides 360° of contact and is designed so that you can easily drop the bottle into the cage when you are finished drinking. When you hear the ring click and engage the magnets you know that the bottle is firmly attached.

A magnetic bottle, you say? Why, didn’t another company try this a while back? And probably a couple before that? Yes…the concept has been tried before, and while the idea has its merits, most of the previous incarnations were hamstrung by proprietary bottles or other glaring problems. Not so with Koala Bottle — they really seem to have this thing figured out!

First off is Koala’s choice of bottle — the industry-standard Specialized BPA-free bottles with a soft, high-flow valve. They are branded with the Koala logo. No proprietary bottles here — so if you lose it or the bottle becomes uncleanably funky, you can toss it and replace easily (more on that in a bit).

Second is the cage itself — it’s of a fairly minimalist design, with stubby arms to help support the bottle. Up near the top of the cage are two very strong magnets that cling to the steel ring around the bottle itself when the bottle is inserted/dropped into the cage. Koala thoughtfully molded the cage with holes and long slots (and even provides longer-than-usual mounting screws) to fit almost any bike with brazed-on waterbottle mounting points. You can see the magnets and the mounting options in this photo:

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Back to the bottles for a bit — the secret is the steel ring that fits around the neck of the bottle.

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Koala sells replacement rings or complete bottles…or you can install the original one onto any standard Specialized bottle by following these quick steps:

Pretty slick, eh? Those Specialized bottles are everywhere, too — many bike shops and companies who have their own branded waterbottles start with Specialized “blanks”.

For those of you who might be concerned with the retention aspects of the magnetic cage, fear not. I filled up a bottle and rode my mountain bike up and down local stairways, curbs, deeply potholed streets and other urban hazards. The bottle never once shook loose. In fact, the magnets in the cage are so strong that an empty bottle is a bit of a struggle to remove from the cage! When it’s time to replace the bottle in the cage, you don’t even really have to line it up…just get it in the vicinity of the cage and let those powerful magnetic fields do their thing. Snap! This is definitely a benefit when you’re sipping in traffic on your commute; the last thing you want to do is fuss with your bottle.

Why would someone choose such a bottle system? It doesn’t really save weight; the cage comes in somewhere around 55 grams, which is a bit heavier than other plastic cages and similar in weight to typical aluminum/steel cages. Where this system shines is on bikes with limited clearances, like on small frame sizes. Since the bottle can come out of the cage sideways, no clearance above the bottle is needed. This also shines in the offroad world, when frame triangles on suspended frames are too tiny for traditional waterbottles and cage systems.

The Koala bottle is designed and manufactured right here in the U.S., and sells for $27.99 (21 oz size) or two dollars more for the 24 oz. size. Not a bad deal at all. This system definitely has a home on a couple of my bikes — I am sold on the concept!

Check out Koala Bottle by visiting their website.

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

I hope everyone has been enjoying their winter commutes…and I hope everyone has been staying on top of winter bike maintenance!

As many of you in colder climates know, road conditions can take a real toll on our bikes at this time of year: from sand to slush to salt and snow, there’s a lot of nastiness we have to contend with on our routes around the city. Regular (meaning at least weekly, or sometimes DAILY, depending on conditions) maintenance makes a huge difference in how our bikes ride over the winter and could mean the difference between pedaling to work or having to catch the bus.

In my neighborhood, I have salt to contend with — as I live near a very high concentration of U.S. servicemen and women, the roads in our area are heavily salted. After all, the military needs to get to work on time in any weather! All that salt is brutal to bike drivetrains, though…a day or two of neglect and you’re looking at a frozen, rusty mess that may not be salvageable.

In the interest of keeping things clean and functional, the good folks at Finish Line and White Lightning both sent cleaning products for us to try out.

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First up is the Finish Line “Starter Kit 1-2-3“, consisting of a small bottle of multipurpose degreaser, a small bottle of Teflon-based dry lube, and a handy cleaning brush. The degreaser is mixed with water and the stiff-bristled brush is used to scrub the chain, cogs and chainrings. Finally, the lube is applied and allowed to set.

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The brush and diluted degreaser made short work of the chain and gears…the bristles on one end of the brush scrub three sides of the chain at once and also get both sides of the chainring, while the long, stiff bristles on the other end reach down into the cogs and derailleur bodies to scrub out embedded grime. The degreaser itself seemed to work quite well in dissolving caked-on crud:

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I should add at this point that I rarely clean my chain in this manner during more temperate months — I’ve long been a user of “homebrew” (1 part synthetic motor oil to 3 parts mineral spirits), which both cleans and lubricates the chain. In the interest of cleaning off the salt and creating a bare, clean chain to try out the Finish Line dry lube, I strayed from my normal maintenance routine. The lube provided in this starter kit seemed to do an adequate job in keeping my chain quiet and smooth, and also seemed to attract less grime than the wetter solution I usually use. That’s a plus when the streets are covered with grit and salt crystals. I could get about 75-100 miles between applications with the Finish Line lube in these miserable winter conditions, so I’m suitably impressed.

Next up is the White Lightning Bamboo Cycle Wipes. I got the single-use packet to try out. Inside the packet is a woven sheet about 5″ x 7″…made of waffle-textured bamboo. It’s saturated with a mild solution to cut grease and grime. Here I am starting with a really yucky bike:

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I gave the bike a good once-over, and it came out quite nicely. These Cycle Wipes were especially effective at cleaning tire sidewalls and the brake tracks on my rims…where so much grossness accumulates after a wet, slushy ride. Here’s what my baby looked like after a good wipedown:

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I was pretty amazed at these Cycle Wipes — they cleaned the whole bike and got snagged repeatedly on teeth and other pointy bits, yet never tore or shredded. The single wipe simply kept on absorbing dirt. Still, I would have liked to have another one on hand to really pretty things up, but hey, my bike’s just going to get dirty again in a day or two!

Here’s the long-suffering wipe after a hard workout. You can see that it survived some pretty rough treatment:

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The Finish Line degreaser and the White Lightning Bamboo Cycle Wipes are both 100% biodegradable, a plus in my book. The Finish Line starter kit retails for around $20.00 — with 3 to 4 degreasings and a whole season of lubing possible with the amounts provided, that’s a decent deal. The White Lightning wipes come in a variety of packages, from a 6-pack box of single packets to a 25-wipe canister. I believe the single packets retail for less than a dollar apiece, and other reviewers report that they can be washed and reused for general purpose cleaning (although I didn’t try that). Keep a packet in your saddlebag for quick roadside cleanup or in your shop toolbox to keep your bike shiny and fresh…the cleaning solution is gentle enough for skin and tough enough for grimy parts.

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

Back in late 2012, the folks of Noxicare asked us to review their pain relief product. I agreed to the review on the simple fact that I’ve got some cycling related injuries where the pain never really went away.
noxicare

Here are Noxicare’s selling points. You can see the natural ingredients HERE:

Noxicare™ means fast, natural pain relief with:

• NO known side effects
• NO prescription needed
• NO greasy feel or strong smell
• NO harmful chemicals
• NO lab-produced pharmaceuticals
• NO more pain

Price: 3.5 fl. oz (100ml) $26.95

Types of pain Noxicare works on:
howpainworks

One of my injuries was from a bad mountain bike crash I had in 2009. I was doing some downhill mountain biking and I went down hard. I tore my left calf muscle which ended up taking me out for the rest of the racing season. Since that injury, I will still feel pain on occasion. Sometimes I’ll wake up and it just hurts. Other times it comes on during a long ride.

Another injury I have is on the same leg but in my knee. I know I injured it years ago when I thought that doing skid stops on my fixie was cool. All that did was mess me up and years later I’m paying for it.
noxicare review

When I got the Noxicare, I was excited to see what kind of relief it would provide my injuries. As they claim, it’s odorless and not greasy. Their website says “Noxicare relaxes the muscle and reduces inflammation to alleviate pain, while working to increase blood flow to calm painful nerve endings.” I applied it to my affected areas to see if it would help lessen the pain.

Truth be told, I’m not really certain that Noxicare worked for me. Here’s what I mean: The pain I experience comes and goes throughout the day. It’s been like that for years and the only products that have worked for relief are Ibuprofen or Bengay. After applying Noxicare, I didn’t feel relief within 30-60 minutes. So I don’t know if using Noxicare gave me the placebo effect or not, but I’m just not convinced that it really did anything for me.

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