BikeCommuters.com

Reviews

Ostrich Panniers Review

Another video review from Epicurean Cyclist that I thought might fit here too:

PROS:
-Looks darn classy
-Nice heavy material
-Good closures
-Some “overstuffability”

CONS:
-A little too small for longer tours
-Not as quick to remove from the rack, like say with an Ortlieb pannier..but with practice you get pretty fast
-Wish that the lacing was more functional…unlacing would actually expand the bag

Minnehaha Bags — Retro Flavor and Serious Style!

Our friends from Banjo Brothers sent a little tidbit of information our way today. They’re announcing an offshoot company called The Minnehaha Bag Company which will specialize in classic (and classy!) canvas and leather bicycle bags.

These bags evoke many of the styling characteristics of classic bike bag makers such as Carradice, Gilles Berthoud and Ostrich…stout canvas and harness-leather strapping. Mmmm, it’s some good-looking stuff. Details are a bit sparse just now, but the Bikecommuters.com crew will get their dirty little hands on these bags when we meet with the Minnehaha crew at this year’s Interbike. Stay tuned for more details…and in the meantime, feast your eyes on these beauties:

Small Saddlebag:
small bag

Larger Saddlebag:
larger bag

Grocery pannier:
grocery

Traditional pannier:
pannier

Shoulder bag? (not sure what this one is…but that’s my guess; perhaps the folks from Minnehaha will chime in with some additional details):
shoulder

Also, keep your eyes on the Minnehaha Bag Company website for additional details and more photos of these gorgeous bags.

Just Ask Jack — Good 26″ Commuter Tires?

A question I get a lot around here is “what is an appropriate and good tire choice to convert my mountain bike into a commuter?”

Back in the early 90s, there was a tremendous mountain bike boom — everyone wanted one , and now it seems that nearly everyone still has one hanging around in their garage. I’ve long believed that a mountain bike makes an ideal platform for a commuter bike in many respects, and I’ve written about that before. The frames are tough, the 26″ wheels are inherently strong and there are often good mounting points for racks, fenders and other crucial commuter accessories.

But, those knobby offroad tires have GOT to go — nothing soaks up your energy faster than wrestling against tires designed to grab hold of mud and loose sand and not lose traction. A simple swap to a more “road friendly” tire is a quick and relatively painless way to get things rolling faster!

Where do we begin, though? There is a bewildering array of tires on the market, and I’ve been unable to test the vast majority. I tend to buy whatever’s on sale that meets my criteria for a decent commuter tire: puncture resistance, minimal tread and a total width less than 1.5″. So, think of the following as a “roundup” of available tires from several major brands. These are not meant to be endorsements or recommendations; this article is merely intended to guide our readers toward appropriate types of tires for the road.

Strangely enough, there was an article in yesterday’s New York Times about good commuter tires. Check it out by clicking here.

Panaracer
panaracer

Panaracer’s Pasela, Pasela Tour Guard and T-Serv tires are perennial favorites — they feature good durability and great puncture resistance in a variety of diameters and widths. Visit their Urban tires webpage for more details.

Schwalbe
schwalbe

Schwalbe tires get a lot of good press — they were one of the first brands to offer a reflective sidewall, and their tires are legendary for style, durability and flat protection. Heck, they even make carbide-studded snow tires for winter commuting! Check out their complete line of tires on their road tire webpage…lots of styles, diameters and widths to choose from.

Specialized
Specialized

A heavy hitter in bicycling circles, Specialized has a pretty amazing assortment of tires to choose from. Their “Armadillo” and “Flak Jacket” puncture protection systems get rave reviews from riders. I seem to recall that the Armadillo models in 700c are quite popular with fixed-gear riders, as they offer a lot of durability for skid- and skip-stops. Check out their “widebody” and thinner 26″ tires on this page, and their road offerings on this page.

SweetskinZ
sweetskinz

Let’s not forget our friends at SweetskinZ, the innovators in printing a full-coverage pattern on tires, complete with reflective elements. These tend to be a “love ’em or hate ’em” choice for most riders. You either love the way they look or think they’re ghastly. I fall into the former camp, but then again, I’m not known for my fashion sense! SweetskinZ offers only one tread pattern for commuters. It is somewhat of a hybrid tread pattern with a center “file tread” section and short knobs on the outer perimeter of the contact patch. These tires excel on rough roads and offroad hardpack. They’re not particularly puncture-resistant, but I’ve not had any problems with flats. Check out their dizzying collection of colors at their website.

I think of my commuter bike as a “mission critical” device. Because of this, I insist on puncture-resistance in the form of a Kevlar or similar aramid belt, and I’m not averse to additional forms of flat protection. In fact, on my main rig (my Xtracycle), I’ve got Panaracer Hi-Road V tires with built-in puncture resistance, Mr. Tuffy tire liners AND pre-Slimed tubes. I am GETTING TO WORK ON TIME, DANG IT! Who cares that this combination is heavy, dead-feeling and probably overkill? As Moe said in an earlier article, once you’re pushing around 50+ lb. of bicycle weight, what’s a few more accessories?

Most of the big tire manufacturers, both the ones covered above and other companies like Continental and Kenda, offer plenty of choices in just about every size a bicyclist would need: 26″, 29″, 700c, 27″, etc. Good tires are a cheap investment that pays off in “peace of mind”. If any of you have particular recommendations for tires, please feel free to comment below.

Have a cycling-related question? Just Ask Jack! Click on the link in the right-hand column to send me your questions.

Featured Product: Monkeylectric LED Wheel Light

From time to time, we get some cool and fun products to ride with and feature on the site. The Monkeylectric M132 is such product.

Here are the product’s features:

· Unique and powerful graphics synthesizer system:
generates thousands of constantly changing patterns and colors
instantly customizable colors, patterns and activity to fit any situation
· 32 Full color, wide angle, ultra-bright LEDs provide nearly 360-degree visibility
· 8 mounting options fit nearly any Road, Mountain or BMX bike wheel
· Ruggedized construction designed for daily use and frequent wet weather
· Vibration-proof 3-point mounting system
· High strength fiber composite construction withstands rough riding
· Hook & loop battery strap keeps batteries secure and easy to replace
· Lead-free, RoHS compliant environment-friendly construction
· Only 65 grams without batteries
· Clear hardcoat over all LEDs keep the lights fully waterproof for the deepest puddles
· Lasts up to 30 hours on 3 x AA batteries, rechargeables provide best performance

I installed the Monkeylectric LED on my DB Transporter-Xtracycle, I figured that the bike is an excellent candidate since I like to cruise with it in the dark.

The LED is fairly easy to use, simple push the power button, select a color, pattern and speed and you are ready to go. One of the things that I really like about the LED is that is really bright and it really attracts attention. As I rode through my neighborhood during 4th of July, I got a lot of cheers from the people that were enjoying the 4th of July festivities outside in their driveway.

The only drawback of this light is that it may make your wheels imbalanced, since I don’t ride very fast on my Xtracycle, I don’t really notice, but here’s what Monkeylectric says about how to handle such imbalance:

Our more casual test riders can’t tell the difference when riding. As with any product you attach to your bike wheel or bike – it can affect the handling especially at high speeds. We recommend that you familiarize yourself with the handling of your bike after installing the m132s.

Any imbalance is more noticeable on high-performance lightweight wheels, and at faster riding speeds. If this is important to you there are a couple things you can do: (1) mount the m132s closer to the hub of the wheel – this will dramatically reduce any imbalance, (2) remove the batteries when you are not using it. the bare unit is only 65g, the batteries usually add another 100g. (3) mount a second m132s, or similar weight, on the opposite side of the wheel.

Here’s a short video of the Monkeylectric in action (Sorry about the fuzziness, my camera is not really equipped to shoot in the dark):

At $64.95 it may not be cheap, but Monkeylectric seems to be sold out due to high demand. I think that if your commute is a short one or a slow one and if you ride at night, you could benefit from the Monkeylectric M132’s brightness making you more visible at night.

Review: Ryders “Oasis” Sunglasses

A couple months back, the folks at Ryders Eyewear sent me a pair of their “Oasis” sunglasses to try out. I’ve been wearing these sunglasses exclusively for all that time…to the beach, to work, on recreational bike rides, to events and out on the town. So, I think I’ve developed enough of an impression to write something about them.

Oasis

Here’s a little bit about the glasses from the Ryders website (these glasses are part of their “Chill Collection“):

    FRAME: GLOSS BLACK, DURAFLEX
    LENS: GREY, POLYCARBONATE, 100% UV PROTECTION
    TINT: 15% VLT
    FIT: MEDIUM
    FEATURES: ANTI-SLIP NOSE PADS AND TEMPLE TIPS
    PRICE: $39.99

Although these glasses are not sport-specific, they seem well designed for active lifestyles. The lens material is tough, the hinges and finish are durable and the temple and nose pads do their thing without slipping.

There are three major attributes I really liked about these sunglasses. First, the lens is almost completely uninterrupted by the nose bridge…that bridge is just a tiny vertical strip of plastic, giving the wearer a great field of view with no obstructions. Here’s a shot of the lens as viewed from the inside:

nose bridge

Secondly, the shape and curve of the lens gave me great peripheral vision. While the temples and hinge area of these glasses are chunky, they are set back far enough in my field of view that I can barely see the edge only if I really crank my eyes over to the side. With other sunglasses I’ve tried, my peripheral vision tended to be obstructed unless I turned my head. Not so with these glasses — I get the full sweep with no head-turning!

Third, the glasses fit very tightly to my face. I have a very narrow face, and sometimes sport glasses stick out past the sides of my head, giving me a rather “insect-like” appearance. Also, if there’s a big air gap at the top or bottom of the lens, this can cause my eyes to tear up when the wind hit them at speed (I like to ride fast…what can I say?). The Oasis lenses curve both horizontally and vertically, snugging up to the contours of my face. In fact, the tops fit so closely to my eyes that I actually have to tuck my wacky, Leonid Brezhnev-style eyebrows in!

Untucked:
untucked

Tucked:
tucked

For those of you who live in hot, humid environments, have no fear…the hydrophilic nose pads and temple inserts WILL NOT slip, no matter how much you sweat. Sunglass slippage is the bane of many a cyclist — it’s a safety hazard! And, while many reasonably-priced sunglasses have rubber pads that claim to be slip-free, they don’t often deliver; good pads are usually in the realm of really expensive sport-specific eyewear. Not so with Ryders…these rubber pads are the real deal.

So far, I’ve been incredibly pleased by these sunglasses. They filter out a good amount of light and glare on sunny Florida days, they stay in place and they keep my eyes from watering. Sure, they look a little “pimp”, but hey — that’s how I roll!

Check out the full collection at the Ryders Eyewear website…oh, and Ryders, if you’re reading this, I’d sure love to try out some of the other models (hint, hint).