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Reviews

Planet Bike Superflash “Stealth”

By now, most of you are familiar with the highly-acclaimed Superflash rear blinkie made by the great folks at Planet Bike. This blinkie is widely regarded as the best AAA-powered rear bike light on the market, hands-down.

There’s a new flavor being offered, though, for those folks out there who object to white bicycle components or who want something a little more on the D.L….the Superflash “Stealth”:

stealth

Same great light, with a 1/2 watt Blaze red LED and two smaller eXtreme red LEDs. The rubber gasket sealing the two halves of the light has been improved, too, after some rider feedback suggested that the original gasket allowed water into the case. The Superflash has a unique light pattern, and it is truly DAZZLING. Moe did a rear light comparison back in December, and his article included a video that demonstrates just how powerful this little light is. Check it out here.

superflash stealth

This light is going to look fabulous on my super-stealth weekend commuter…a flat olive-green and black Trek 460!

One thing I should mention about Planet Bike…besides their support for bicycling (donating 25% of their profits to bike advocacy), they are really nice people who care about their customers. I ordered some replacement seatpost and rack brackets so that I could fit my old and new Superflashes on my fleet of bicycles, and when I placed my order the rear rack brackets were out of stock. Not a problem…I’m patient. A day later, Chris Follmer, ordering and customer service guru for Planet Bike, sent me an email stating that he found a spare bracket floating around their warehouse, and he just threw it into my package free of charge. Last time I ordered something from them, they tossed in some free stickers, too. Awesome!

Check out Planet Bike’s complete line of products…from powerful headlights to amazing blinkies to fenders, racks and just about everything else a commuter could need!

Wool Wednesday: Basic Black with SWOBO pt. 1

This Wool Wednesday is a real treat, not only are we reviewing a killer product but Stevil from Howtoavoidthebummerlife answers some questions about Swobo and wool! First, the review!

SWOBO Men’s Short Sleeve Merino Jersey

The Look
When this jersey came in, I was all oohs and ahhs. The black version of the jersey is a no nonsense sharp looking jersey. It’s classy and low-key with subtle contrast stitching to create the lines of the jersey. Restraint seems to be the guiding principal here. No giant Reese’s Pieces on this baby.

The left sleeve has SWOBO embroidered on it and that’s it. This jersey has nothing to prove but gives you a little wink to let you know you’re wearing some quality threads.

The Wool

The feel of the wool is soft right out of the bag. No breaking in or washing in necessary. I’ve owned some older wool jerseys and some early jerseys from Portland Cyclewear that really took a wash or two to get the wool soft. Not so here. The hand is smooth and plush without being overly thick.

The weight of the wool makes it pretty flexible. I did a few long rides in the jersey in temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to the upper 70-s and it performed well. Again, it really depends on your riding style. You could probably wear it lower if you hammer and keep your body-heat up. The nice thing about wool is that even if you’re sweating in it, it will keep you warm. You could also wear it into the 80’s and 90s if you have the zipper down and aren’t completely hammering.

The Fit

For me, I ordered a size larger so the fit is a little looser. I’m not a racer. I’m a commuter and a bike tourist. This really makes it flexible. The extra room lets me wear a featherweight or midweight wool baselayer underneath and coupled with some arm warmers and gloves, I’m good to go into the 40s without the bulk of a jacket.

Does this make a great commuter jersey? Heck yeah. Its flexibility with temperature, coupled with the fact it won’t stank when you get to the office is a great mix. Plus, it doesn’t look like Photoshop vomit. You can ride in the street without feeling like a big sweaty billboard.

Am I going to bring it on my next bike tour? You better believe it. You can wear wool for several days without washing and it won’t be odoriferous like your plastic tuxedo jersey. Plus, it’s black, and it won’t stain as easily 🙂 The jersey also has pockets on the back to carry your phone or snickers for the long ride home.

Pros and Cons

Pros:
-All around great jersey for racing, commuting and touring…can’t go wrong with basic black
-Stank protection…nuff said
-Soft out of the bag…no breaking-in needed
-Performs great in a wide temperature range
-Nice, understated styling you Philistines…

Cons:
-Wool ain’t cheap…price may be a bit of a barrier, but this could be mitigated by the fact you don’t have to buy as many jerseys since you can wear it over and over

Get yours here.

Redline R530 — First Impressions

The other day, our friends at Redline Bicycles sent their R530 to me to test. This is Redline’s version of a European city bike, and it comes packed with lots of features, comfort and utility.

Redline R530

Here’s a quick rundown of the bike from Redline’s website:

-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.
-MSRP $589.99

As mentioned in my first article about the bike, this machine comes with a couple of components not usually seen on commuter bikes…namely, the Shimano roller brakes. In addition, this bike comes stock with a rear rack, fenders and even a handlebar-mounted bell! Apparently, someone at Redline is listening to what folks want in a city bike. Styling-wise, the bike has a very European flavor, with full chainguard and a very upright and commanding rider position. I can hear it now, though: our European readers are probably thinking, “no, it just looks like a bike!”, but to our American eyes, it has a different attitude and aesthetic than a lot of similarly-equipped bikes on the U.S. market.

upright
Very upright riding position

Folks concerned about a harsh-riding aluminum frame need not be worried…this bike is packed with comfort features! In addition to the suspension fork and shock-absorbing seatpost, the saddle and grips are gel-filled and very cushy. The suspension fork may appear to be somewhat gimmicky (I can’t think of too many other city bikes that have one), but it does the job: taking the sting out of rough roads.

fork

About a mile of my commute is over cobblestones and the rest is on Tampa’s legendarily bad streets, and whatever roughness I encounter is pleasantly muted. One of my neighbors, upon returning from a round-the-block test ride, exclaimed, “it rides like a Barca-Lounger on wheels!

The Shimano Nexus seven-speed hub works exactly as expected: totally awesome. It’s relatively foolproof, smooth and provides plenty of gearing range for all but the very steepest hills. The roller brakes seem (for the most part) pretty spectacular, too. They have most of the benefits of disc brakes (good stopping power in sloppy conditions) but without the maintenance and setup hassles, and can be well-modulated from the brake levers. I found the rear brake to have tremendous stopping power, but I’d have to agree with the late Sheldon Brown’s assessment of the front roller brake…it isn’t all that great. Although it does help slow the bike down, it doesn’t feel particularly strong or confidence-inspiring.

front roller brake
the front roller brake

One potential drawback of using roller brakes and internal hubs on a commuter bike is the additional complexity of removing a wheel for a flat. In the front, a minimum of two tools are required to release the wheel from the fork: a 10mm wrench for the brake cable pinch bolt and a 15mm spanner for the axle nuts. In the back, add a screwdriver to the list in order to dismantle the chainguard and get the wheel out of the frame. Granted, many commuters carry a decent selection of tools, but this whole process can be kind of fiddly, especially if you’re running late to work. Perhaps this is why Redline specified tough tires and thorn-resistant tubes with the bike?

In any case, stay tuned for a complete review in the next few weeks. I’ll get some more saddle time on this bike and report in more depth. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this…so far, this bike is a blast to ride — ideal for short- to mid-distance rides where you want to arrive in style and comfort!

sweeet!

Check out the specs on Redine’s website.

Guest Article: Keen Commuter Sandal by Alan Barnard

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: www.keenfootwear.com