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Review: Koala Magnetic Waterbottle System

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.

Review: Cleaning products from Finish Line and White Lightning

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.

Noxicare™ Natural Pain Relief: Review

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.
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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:
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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.
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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.

FTC Disclaimer

SOL Republic Master Tracks Headphones Review

Now I’m sure you’re wondering why BikeCommuters.com is reviewing headphones. Typically it’s frowned upon to wear earbuds and headphones while riding your bike, in fact in some cities it is illegal and not to mention, potentially dangerous since you can’t hear your surroundings. But we decided to review them for mere fact that we like music. This review touches the lifestyle aspect of bike commuting. Simply put, once we get off our bikes we’re listening to music in the office, school and at the coffee shop.

Sol Republic sent us the Master Tracks headphones. The MSRP is $199.99.

Unboxing reveals the Master Tracks. It comes with the headband, drivers, cord, and carrying case.
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What’s interesting about the Master Tracks is that the drivers(speakers) slide onto the headband for a custom fit.
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They fit over my ears perfectly and the drivers have a soft cushion to provide comfort. The cord has a three button remote that allows you to adjust the volume, skip music tracks and answer/hang-up calls.
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Once the Master Tracks are on your ears and they are plugged into a device, then the magic happens. Immediately I was hit with a sound quality that I have never heard before! Deep bass, perfect mids and high treble are combined to produce a sound that is just like putting of set of studio grade speakers to your ears. The noise cancellation effect of the drivers help reduce any noise that may be present around you.

To my surprise the Master Tracks still had some amazing power and sound even if it was just getting its music source from this small iPod Shuffle. I was able to compare the Master Tracks against the Beats by Dre HD, Sony X headphones and the Skull Candy Avaiator headphones. None of these other brands came close to the sound quality that Sol Republic’s Master Tracks produced.
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So if you’re looking into getting a pair of headphones so you can listen to music while relaxing or at work, then you may want to consider SOL Republic Master Tracks for the mere fact that the sound quality is way better than those of the other leading brands like Beats, Sony and Skull Candy. I’ve been genuinely impressed by its performance as well as the styling.

FTC Disclaimer

1500 Lumens Headlight

This is the Serfas TSL 1500 light that was tested on our sister site. Its worth considering if you’re shopping for a new light.
Serfas 1500

1500 lumens
4 Hour Quick Charge
Ram Air Cooling for Increased Brightness and Longer LED Life
Included Quick Release Handle Bar Mount
Included Easy Adjust Helmet Mount
3 Foot Extension Cable Included
Modes: Overdrive, High, Medium, Low and Flash
Weight: 480 Grams with Bracket
Run Times: Now up 3 Hours – 12 Hours Maximum (Depending on Setting)
MSRP $390
serfas true 1500

Read about it HERE.