Category: Reviews

Alan Barnard runs Recumbent Blog…really nice photos if I may add. He sent me his review that should get commuters’ attentions.

keen commuter

Cycling sandals have become increasingly popular over the past few years, and for good reason: they’re comfortable, light, convenient, and walkable. I’ve been wearing Shimano sandals for the past 18 months and I find them to be far more comfortable than traditional cycling shoes, both on the bike and walking about. As Sheldon Brown put it, “These are my very favorite footwear. In the summertime I go for weeks on end without ever having anything else on my feet. Far and away the most comfortable cycling footwear ever.“

I too love my Shimano sandals, but I always felt they’d be better with a closed toe box (a la Keen) to keep my toes a little warmer in the winter and provide some protection in the event of a crash. Consequently, I was excited when I caught wind that Keen was coming out with a “Shimano Killer�? cycling-specific sandal.

Called the Commuter, Keen’s new bike sandal features a full length SPD compatible plate, a thermoplastic urethane cleat tap plate, and an upper that is nearly identical to Keen’s ever-popular Newport H2. (The Newport H2 is half sandal, half trail running shoe, with open straps and a treaded sole similar to traditional sandals, but with an enclosed toe box for protection.) The Commuter goes a step beyond the Newport with a stiffer sole and more compact tread pattern to narrow the overall profile, resulting in greater crank clearance and a more positive pedal/shoe interface (don’t let the narrower outsole scare you; both sandals are built on the same men’s “D�? width last).

The narrower profile is key. My Brompton is outfitted with platform pedals (a necessity due to the nature of the little folding beast) and I found the Newport outsole to be far too wide, with crank interference on the inside and a feeling of tipping off the pedal to the outside. The Commuter, on the other hand, with its narrower profile and stiffer sole, perfectly mates with a standard width platform pedal. There’s also ample clearance with clipless pedals, even on low “Q�? cranks like I have on my Tour Easy (this was a bit of a problem with the Shimano sandal). So, whether you’re of the clipless persuasion or, as Grant Petersen puts it, you prefer to pedal “free�?, the Commuter is a good fit.

Even with an enclosed toe box, the Commuter feels more like a sandal than a shoe. It’s well ventilated and the upper is supple and easily adjustable using Keen’s unique “bungee cord�? lacing system. They can literally be slipped on and off in seconds while being plenty secure for road riding. You do pay a price for the Commuter’s cycling-specific features. Even though it’s not a bad sandal for short walks and even a bit of light (very light) hiking, the wider and more supple Newport is far better for long walks and more demanding conditions. That said, the Commuter is probably the most walkable cycling-specific shoe on the market.

The Commuter successfully combines the ease of use, comfort, and walkability of a sandal with the stiffness and toe protection of a cycling shoe. Because they’re built with the same high quality and attention to detail that is typical of all Keen products, they should provide many seasons of trouble-free use. And who knows, with their enclosed toe box, you might even be able to get away with wearing them around the office!

For more information:

Our good friends at Redline just sent us their R530 urban bicycle to test:

Say, what’s in the box?

Here’s a bit about the bike from Redline’s website…

European Sophistication

Lightweight 6061 aluminum frame that is specially designed for utilitarian use. Shock absorbing Suntour front fork with 50mm of travel. Quiet, “maintenance free,? easy shifting Shimano Nexus 7 speed drive train & highly efficient roller brakes. Easy fit handlebars & stem adjust for comfortable upright riding positions. Sturdy aluminum double wall rims with stainless steel spokes, with flat resistant tubes for trouble free adventure. Comes fully dressed with fenders, rear cargo carrier, full chainguard, & shock-absorbing seatpost. Available in a step thru & 4 diamond style frame sizes (S-XL).

The wheels are 700c for smooth rolling, and this bike is absolutely packed with features, including a couple things I’ve never played with before, such as the Shimano hub-mounted roller brakes.

The bike was well-packed for shipping…bubblewrap and zipties galore:

ready for unveiling

Stay tuned for our first impressions next week and a full review to follow in about a month…but let me leave you with this: this bike is CUSHY and a blast to ride (I took it on its maiden voyage to work and back today)!

ready to roll

Kona Smoke 2-9 out of the box

Has the venerable Kona Smoke improved by sporting 29″ tires? Let’s find out:

Riding the San Gabriel River Trail

About me:I’m 37 yrs old, 5’7″ 165 lbs. My commute is 21 miles round trip and it is mostly flat. I usually ride with panniers and about 15lbs worth of cargo.

Kona Smoke with accessories.

About the Bike:

Frame sizes: 14″, 16″, 18″, 20″, 22″. 16″ Tested
Frame tubing: Kona Cromoly Butted
Fork: Kona P2 29er Disc
Headset: TH
Crankarms: Suntour CW-XCC-T208
Chainrings: 48/38/28
B/B: CH-46
Pedals: Kona Jackshit
Chain: KMC Z-72
Freewheel: SHIMANO HG-30 (11-32, 8spd)
F/D: Shimano Altus
R/D: Shimano Altus
Shifters: SRAM MRX
Handlebar: Kona Riser
Stem: Kona Control
Grips: Kona Mooseknuckle
Front Brake: Tektro 855AC
Brake Levers: Tektro RS-384A
Front hub: Formula
Rear hub: Formula
Spokes: Stainless 14g
Tires: Continental City Contact 700 x 47c
Rims: Rigida Cyber 10
Saddle: Velo Comfort
Seatpost: Kona Thumb
Seat clamp: Kona Clamp
Color: Smoke Grey
MSRP: $369

Weight with rear rack, top tube bag, mirror and light: 34lbs

Highlights: Obviously, the price of this bike is a huge selling point. For the price of about 6 gasoline fill ups you get a bicycle that is very well-equipped and ready to take you to work right out of the box. The combination of the steel frame, 700X47c tires and the Velo Comfort saddle made this bicycle very comfortable and a pleasure to ride on a 21 mile commute.

Velo PLUSH saddle, plush indeed.

I’m a stickler when it comes to saddles, but just like the saddle from my old Kona (I still have it), it is very plush and what I would call ‘beginner commuter’ friendly.

Kona Jackshit pedals.

Most entry-level bikes feature cheap pedals. Not the Smoke 2-9; you will be riding on Kona Jackshit pedals that are very sturdy and those little studs really grip the soles of your shoes.

Sram Gripshift Max 8 speed shifters

SR Suntour Triple Crank/Altus front derailleur

Altus rear Derailleur

Since most of my commute was flat, I found myself riding the big ring most of the time with occasional downshifts . The Gripshift/Altus combination worked rather well; the shifting is not the smoothest or fastest, but it was definitely reliable. If your commute is rather hilly, I have no doubt that the gearing of this bike will conquer most of the ugliest hills.

Loaded Smoke

Lowlights:I don’t really have anything bad to say about the Smoke 2-9 — the only thing that annoyed me was the occasional noise and vibration that came from the fenders. If you buy this bike from a shop, make sure that your mechanic really tightens up the screws and adjusts the fenders so they won’t rub against the tires. I wished that a rear rack would come standard with the bike; there are a few other bikes that come with one as a standard feature.

Final thoughts: I still believe that the Kona Smoke 2-9 is an awesome commuter bike for the money. It is comfortable, reliable and well spec’d. Did the 29″ inch wheels improve the bike? Oh yeah, the bike is faster and the geometry was not radically affected. So if you are looking for a bike that will not break your bank or your back, the Kona Smoke 2-9 is it.

For more information, go to

KHS Green with the Cateye Mirror

Nothing embodies Bike Geekness like the rear view mirror. Whether worn on a helmet, drop bars or bar ends, if you have a rear view mirror, you are pretty much a Bike Geek.

Kona 2-9 with the Cateye mirror

Some may argue that having a rear view mirror is unnecessary, or that it could be a distraction, but for me, the rear view mirror is my friend. Due to my arthritic condition, my neck’s range of motion is quite limited so looking over my shoulder is quite difficult, a rear view mirror facilitates lane changes and when it would be prudent to ‘take the lane’.

DiamondBack Transporter, yes, the same Cateye Mirror

Another advantage of having a rear view mirror is being able to look out for the right hookers, no not the type that was hired by the former major from NYC, but the buttholes that love to make a right turn in front of you. I’ve tried mirrors that attach to the helmets, mirrors that attach to sunglasses but I found that the Cateye BM-500G has been perfect for my type of commuting and I highly recommend.

A while back I talked about the Road Rash kit and how we thought it was a great idea, but didn’t want to get hurt in order to review it. Well over at, Priscilla had the privilege to test it out due to a bad fall on her recent mountain bike race, in which she placed 3rd by the way…
road rash kit

Read more about it HEREwarning, pictures on that article are just as gross as the one above!