Category: Reviews

Our buddy Noah over in Kansas City had a holiday-themed post over at his blog the other day…he found some Christmas lights for his bike!

Totally inspired by this, I proceeded to scour the Web, looking for similar battery-powered LED lights for my commuting bike after a search of several local stores turned up bupkis. Yeah, that’s right…I said “BUPKIS”!

Finally, after a good bit of searching, I discovered exactly what I wanted — multi-colored blinking LED Christmas lights powered by AA batteries. I got them from a site called “Deal Extreme”. Right now, there is worldwide FREE SHIPPING on this item!

As Noah indicated on his blog, the battery case for these lights is a bit flimsy and not exactly waterproof. I, too, added a rubberband and a plastic sandwich bag to reinforce the battery case and slipped it into the pocket of my pannier. The full light cable is three meters long fully extended, so I ran the lights up my toptube, around the headtube and down the downtube, securing the cable with a few zipties as I went.

Here’s how it looks:
Christmas lights

Wait — let’s try this poorly-made video to see how things look! The really bright red flash to the right is my Planet Bike “Superflash”:

The picture doesn’t do these lights justice — each LED blinks from red to green to blue, purple, yellow and orange and there are a multitude of flashing patterns!! As I rode home tonight from the annual Hillsborough River Christmas Boat Parade, I got a lot of honks and shouts of “Hey, Santa!” from passing motorists and pedestrians. It was AWESOME! Now all I need to do is grow a big belly and a white beard!

RL picked up a few sample bottles of Purple Extreme bicycle lubricant at Interbike this year, and he sent me a couple to try…I’ve always wanted to try this lube, but was still nursing a bottle of White Lightning along.

Purple Extreme

This is intriguing stuff — the Purple Extreme website claims that the “secret ingredient” is a lubricant made for the harsh conditions of mining operations and offshore oil rigs, where there is a lot of potential for corrosion and dirt contamination.

I took one of the 1 oz. sample bottles and slapped it onto my singlespeed’s chain. A word about the singlespeed drivetrain I’m running: I mixed a 1/8″ BMX chain with a 3/32″ freewheel, a 3/32″ chainring and a 1/8″ fixed cog…mixing the two sizes often creates a lot of noise, and my bike’s drivetrain was noisy as hell! As soon as the chain was well-soaked in Purple Extreme and it was allowed to set for a few minutes, the drivetrain was absolutely silent! Hmmm…this stuff might just work!

The lube itself is a very thin purple liquid. It feels slippery, but is so thin that I was skeptical about its power to do the job — I’m used to thick, goopy liquids like the White Lightning I’ve been using for years (which actually starts off pretty thin, but thickens up as it cures). Well, after about 100 miles, with a couple of rainstorms thrown in for good measure, my drivetrain is still smooth and silent! Skeptic no more, I say!

RL tried some on his mountain bike, and reported that he had to reapply it every 20 miles or so. Apparently, his experience indicates that it doesn’t do quite so well in dirty, dusty conditions. I haven’t been able to try this lube in the dirt, but I can say that at least it doesn’t attract dirt like other lubes I’ve used in the past.

We’ll keep you posted on how this stuff performs over the long haul. So far, though, I’m pretty impressed!

As the resident newbie on bikecommuters.com, I was extremely excited when I was asked to do a review of the Hoss Stallion bike shorts. While I was merely thrilled to be sent a free pair of shorts, I get more and more excited each time I put these shorts on. They are actually designed as mountain bike shorts, but make for a great pair of commuting shorts too. The outer shell is a micro-suede polyester which is really soft and smooth, but dries extremely fast. There is a detachable chamois liner on the inside with a generous amount of padding, so you get the padding of your favorite lycra bike shorts, while getting a cool outer short that looks like a pair of board shorts.

I have only worn these shorts for 3 rides, but I really like them so far. I am a tall and thin guy (6’2″) and so I tend to be really picky about my shorts. I don’t like really baggy shorts, but I do like for them to be long enough to cover my knees when I stand up. I don’t like really wide leg holes either. So far I have felt like the Hoss Stallion was cut exactly how I would want a pair of regular shorts to be cut, which makes me even more excited that they are cycling shorts. They are long enough to cover my knees when standing and at the same time stay away from the super baggy-britches look. This means that there is not a lot of fabric shifting around and blowing in the wind while I am riding my bike.

In addition to really liking the style and fit, these shorts have a really good utility value for bike commuting. There are three easy-to-access pockets on the front of the shorts, all of which can be zipped to keep your keys, phone, etc. from falling out, and none of which are really baggy or deep – this keeps you from having to fish around in your pocket to find your things. There is a velcro pocket in the back of the shorts too. This all means you can easily carry the essential items within reach.

Lance did a great first impression review of these same shorts over on mtnbikeriders.com – so check out what he has to say if you want to know how these shorts perform in an off-road environment. Also, check back here to see a full review after I have had time to really check out these shorts.

This has very little to do with bicycle commuting, but the other day my wife bought me a truly BAD-ASS lunchbox that I just had to share with you. For folks who have traveled abroad, you may recognize it as an Indian “tiffin box”, designed to carry multiple courses of a lunchtime meal, or multiple servings of the same meal for a number of people.

Badass lunchbox

Basically, it is two stainless steel bowls with a separating plate — and a lid for the small bowl. The whole thing clamps together with a hinged carrier and integrated carrying handle, keeping everything together. In the above picture, I have my “Russ Roca-approvedtitanium spork wedged under the clamp.

Here’s what the lunchbox looks like when it’s separated — sorry, I ate everything inside. You’ll have to look at your own lunch!

unpacked

The whole contraption (with carrying handle) is about 10″ tall, and the two bowls hold PLENTY of food (RL, I’m thinking of you and your “super-buffet” appetite!). Two drawbacks, though. First, it isn’t liquid-tight (like Tupperware), so it must be carried upright. Second, it’s heavy. Empty, the thing weighs about a pound. For me this is no big deal, since the bike I carry it on weighs about 50 lbs. What’s another pound between friends?

The lunchbox sits on top of my rear rack, or sometimes I slip it into one of the panniers — it’s small enough to fit and still leave room for other goodies. I just throw a bungee cord over it when it’s on the rack and it stays in place.

Ready to roll

My wife found this box on a website called Reusablebags.com, which also sells lots of products made out of sustainable and/or recycled materials, if that’s your bag…ha ha. While we were shopping there, we also bought our son an insulated lunchbag made out of recycled soda bottles…keeping 10 2-liter bottles out of landfills. Yeah!

The folks from Slime recently sent some products for us to try — a “care package”, if you will, of goodies to keep us safe on the road.

I got a selection of pre-filled tubes to try out, a bottle of Slime Sealant and a nifty digital tire gauge.

Tubes

The tubes went in without a hitch — and they’re pre-filled with that lovely green goop, so there is no mess to speak of. I installed these tubes on my dedicated commuter bike which runs 26″ x 1.25″ slicks. Although I haven’t intentionally ridden over anything to test the puncture resistance (and subsequent sealing) properties of the tubes, I do go through some rough areas where there is a lot of broken glass and bits of metal in the road, and I haven’t gotten a flat yet!

I also got a bottle of Slime tube sealant — enough to fill two fat 26″ MTB tubes. I treated my “Bike Snob Disapproved” Patriot MTB to this treatment, since I depend on this bike to get my son to school on time.

Sealant

Getting the Slime sealant into the tubes was fairly easy — the sealant packaging even comes with a valve core remover! I did have a problem once I got the valve cores back in, though. I discovered that the cores “goop up” and prevent the tire from reinflating unless they are cleaned. To prevent this from happening, clean the inside of the rubber valve with a cotton swab before you reinsert the valve core. Luckily, I have a drawer at home full of punctured tubes waiting to be patched, so I just salvaged clean cores from a couple of them and was on my way in no time.

Again, I haven’t intentionally tried to pop one of these self-treated tubes either…but I just might one of the these days to see how the Slime works! I have noticed, though, that on these and the pre-filled tubes that I don’t have to add air to my tires as often, and I have also noticed that there is no difference in “feel” as the tires roll along the ground. I was expecting some wobbling or something, but apparently the Slime coats the tube evenly with no puddling. It pays to ride around the block a couple times just after you fill your tubes to help distribute the goop around the inside of the tubes.

Finally, I have used the digital tire gauge a few times — the tip and digital display light up for nighttime pressure checks! The gauge appears fairly accurate…the readings match both my tire pump gauge and a traditional “sliding stick” tire gauge. The Slime gauge fits nicely in my hand and has a rubbery gripping surface. Best of all, it has an auto shutoff feature so I don’t burn through the batteries!

gauge

These products are certainly worth a try, even for added peace of mind. I’ll report back in a few weeks after I devise some terrifying ways of really testing the puncture-sealing abilities of these products! Back to the Bikecommuters.com Secret Laboratory — surely there’s a box of thumbtacks in there that I could sprinkle on the street?

secret lab