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Lights

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.

BikeGlow Bicycle Lighting — Review

A few weeks ago, Chris Cobb of BikeGlow sent us a sample of their bicycle safety lighting to test. I’ve had a chance to install it, play with it and ride several nights with it.

bike glow

Powered by two AA batteries, this light kit is comprised of a ten-foot length of EL wire and quick-disconnect battery pack. The light functions in both steady and flashing modes. Included in the kit is a full roll of electrical tape. No mounting brackets are included…the electrical tape is meant to both seal the battery pack and to mount the light tube and battery pack to the bicycle. At very first, I was a bit taken aback by this mounting method, but quickly realized that it makes the light incredibly versatile…no brackets and a full roll of tape means that I can swap the BikeGlow from bike to bike as the mood strikes me!

I had some concerns about water resistance of the kit (I have an uncanny knack for getting caught in the rain), and asked Chris for his input:

One of the beauties of the tape, besides the ease of use and flexibility, is that you can literally wrap the whole battery unit and connector wire in tape. It then becomes completely weather resistant. The light [tube] itself is waterproof.

I haven’t tested the waterproofness of the light yet, but at some point I KNOW it’ll get soaked. I’ll report back if I have any problems with it.

Mounting is simple — simply wind the light tube around the bicycle’s frame, affixing it at a couple points with a strip of tape. Pick a place for the battery pack (the pack comes with a belt clip, too), tape it into place and plug the light tube into the pack. Done!

The flashing mode is more of a pulsing effect — and it catches the eye with a mesmerizing glow. The beauty of EL wire is that it can be used to outline pretty much any part of the bike you want…you could even use the BikeGlow tube to accent your body, your backpack, your panniers or whatever your heart desires. It is incredibly flexible stuff.

The light itself isn’t particularly bright — it doesn’t need eye-searing capabilities like rear blinkies or a headlight. However, it is amply bright enough to help motorists distinguish you as a bicycle in those crucial side-vision encounters nighttime cyclists face, where blinkies and headlights don’t offer much in the way of side visibility.

in action

BikeGlow comes in eight colors: aqua, blue, green, pink, purple, red, white and yellow, giving the color-coordinating cyclists among us the perfect color to accent our bikes. And, for the price of $24.95 for the kit, that’s a pretty good deal for adding some visibility to your night rides. I have been unable to test the battery life beyond running the light for about 8 30-minute nighttime commutes, but BikeGlow estimates that a pair of AA batteries will last 120 hours. Not bad at all!

For more information or to order your very own BikeGlow lighting system, please visit the BikeGlow website.

More Product Reviews Coming Soon

We’ve got a slew of new products that we’re in the midst of testing. Here are a few I’m working on:

Pedro’s Tools
Pedro’s sent us a pair of tools to test…the Vice Whip and the Trixie. The Vice Whip is a clever device intended to replace the pesky and cumbersome chain whip used to remove cassettes and some freewheels. According to the packaging, this tool was designed by none other than legendary mechanic and VeloNews technical correspondent Lennard Zinn.

vice whip

The other tool is “Trixie” — a multitool aimed squarely at the fixed-gear/singlespeed rider. Combining a 15mm axle nut wrench, a lockring spanner, a 5mm hex key, a graduated slot for metric nuts and the mandatory bottle opener, this tool is really all one might need for some quick on-the-road repairs or a fast gear change.

trixie

Bike Glow
This lighting device has gotten some traffic on other cycling blogs, and we were lucky enough to score a sample for review. Based on electroluminescent (“EL”) wire, the Bike Glow kit adds much-needed side visibility to the bike (or rider) for nighttime commutes.

bike glow

IT Clips
These clever little devices from the folks at IT Clips let you put your old inner tubes (and who doesn’t have a pile of these laying around?) back into use by converting them into custom-length bungee cords OR tiedown straps. The versatile IT clip’s design serves as both and comes with steel hooks to facilitate this. Folks who ride cargo bikes or who routinely carry a load on their regular bicycles should find these incredibly useful for strapping down some goodies for the trip home.

IT clip
(sorry about the shaky photo…I drank too much coffee that morning!)

Stay tuned for reviews of these items (and a few more) within the next couple of weeks…

Monkeylectric M133 LED Bike Light: First Impression

Back in July, the cool folks at Monkeylectric sent us a few of their M132 LED bike lights to try out. Moe wrote up an article about it then.

I got an M132 in the mail in August and slapped it onto my Xtracycle. After one hard rainstorm, I had a “freak failure” when one of the soldered switch legs corroded, causing a loss of contact. Granted, this was an unusual occurence, so I contacted Dan Goldwater, founder of Monkeylectric, to get his insight into things. Dan was quick to offer me the opportunity to test the revised M133 model and a prototype waterproof battery-holder cover. I must add that I sent the failed unit back to Dan and he got it to work again by lightly brushing the corrosion with a toothbrush, so there was no “catastrophic, unrecoverable failure” here.

What’s different about the M133? Well, it has beefier switches that are reportedly much more water-resistant than the older M132:
switches

It has a revised battery-holder with extra “lips” to help retain the batteries at higher wheel RPMs:
retainer lips

Also, a couple extra programmable patterns were incorporated into the memory of this device. Let me tell you this: the colors and patterns in this device are mesmerizing — I blew through a set of batteries just playing with this amazing light before I ever mounted it on my bike!

The prototype battery-holder cover is made of rubber and it is designed to seal most of the moisture away from the batteries and their contacts. Dan estimates them at around 90% waterproof, and I’d agree…I’ve been through a few medium-intensity rainstorms with the lights now and I haven’t seen any evidence of water or corrosion in the battery-holder. Dan also mentions that they’re working on incorporating a snap-on cover that mounts partially underneath the battery-holder during assembly and this new setup should be almost completely waterproof.

Mounting these lights is a breeze. Simply select an area on your wheel and ziptie the device in place with the included ties and rubber vibration-isolating pads. The whole process takes about two minutes.

Let's roll

The M133 has nine user-selectable patterns and sixteen colors to choose from. The user can select 1-4 patterns and 1-4 colors at a time or the device can be set to randomly cycle through all 16 colors and 9 patterns. There’s a lot to play with here. In addition, there are three separate “speed” menus; they allow the selection of the speed of pattern-changing, color-changing and overall “mood” (simple or complex patterns). Finally, there are two intensity settings: regular and extreme. In regular mode, a set of batteries should last 15-30 hours. In “extreme” mode (which is quite eye-searing), the batteries can be expected to last 4-6 hours. The regular or high-efficiency mode is plenty bright, though — and the lights will spread a bright patch 3-5 feet to each side of the wheel while it is in motion.

Here’s a couple still shots of the lights in action. First disclaimer: the colors are much more vibrant in real life and the patterns even more complex.

pattern 1

pattern 2

For even better photos, please visit our friend Derek Pearson at Bikerubbish.com. The guy is a professional photographer (rather than a point-n-shoot hack like me), and he was able to catch nearly the full intensity of these wonderful devices.

And, here is a Youtube video that gives you an idea of what these lights look like in action. I was dismayed to realize that the video didn’t accurately reflect what these lights are capable of, and Dan explained to me that, “the reason is that most consumer video cameras shoot at 30 frames per second, but your eye is closer to 10 frames per second. So your eye sees a tracer that is 3 times longer.” Basically, in real life the lights trigger a tracer effect that fills in any gaps in the pattern…it’s quite striking!

For reference, I have two lights mounted. They are both set to display all 16 colors and all 9 patterns randomly at medium-high speed.

The lights are packaged with an excellent instruction/programming and installation guide and all the necessary hardware needed to mount the lights. And, customer service from Monkeylectric is top-notch…they quickly answered any questions I had and handled my device failure with aplomb.

Do these lights work to help keep a bicyclist safer at night? Well, I’ve had a lot of amazing reactions…pedestrians hollering at me, motorists pulling up alongside me to ask about the lights (motorists, I appreciate the curiousity, but please don’t roll up next to me — it startles the hell out of me!). Visibility with these lights is quite astonishing, and the light is visible from the front and back as well as the sides.

We’ll see how these devices hold up under Florida’s grueling conditions…but for now, I’m hooked. These lights are fun, colorful and really make a bicyclist stand out in the dark — that’s a win-win in my book!