BikeCommuters.com

Safety Equipment

Review: Wind-Blox wind-reducing strap attachments

If you spend enough time zipping around town on a bike, you may enjoy the sounds of the city around you, and the sound of the wind whistling past your ears. Have you ever noticed, though, that sometimes that wind noise can block OTHER sounds, like the sounds of approaching cars or other hazards?

That was the idea behind the invention of Wind-Blox, a device that helps block some of that excess wind noise and thus improving safety on the road.

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In a nutshell, Wind-Blox are soft fabric “envelopes” that wrap around the front straps of a cycling helmet. The envelopes are filled with a cushy foam and attach with hook-and-loop material. The Wind-Blox serve as a baffle, channeling excess wind noise past the ear. They attach easily in just a few seconds, and are adjustable along the length of the helmet strap by sliding up or down to maximize wind reduction. The material and the construction is soft against the skin and there was no irritation to speak of.

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Does it work? Take a look at the video Wind-Blox has on their homepage:

While riding around my city, I experienced much the same effect — the “roar” of the wind was lessened, and I felt as if I were able to discern cars approaching sooner and to hear some of the other city sounds that get drowned out by the wind. It seems like a really silly sort of invention, but it does work!

The Wind-Blox come in four colors: Black, Silver-Grey, Neon Green, and Pink, and retail for $15.00 right on the Wind-Blox website. They make a lovely stocking stuffer or small everyday gift for the cyclist in your life.

Review: Bolle “Copperhead” polarized sunglasses

Just before Interbike, the good folks at Bolle sent over a pair of their “Copperhead” sunglasses to try out. We’re big believers in protecting our eyes when we ride, whether it’s to the corner store or across town, so we jumped at the chance to check out a new pair.

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The Copperhead glasses come in a padded case with a microfiber cleaning cloth included. I got the “Shiny Black” color; the glasses come in five other color combinations. The frames are nylon with small hydrophilic rubber pads on the ends of the temples and at the nosepiece to prevent slipping when things get sweaty. The lenses themselves are polarized to help fight glare, and are coated with both anti-fog and anti-smudge treatments. The glasses themselves are suited for smaller faces, like my own — our pal Jim Katz, the PR man for Bolle, helped determine that these would fit my face better than some of Bolle’s other styles.

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As you can see, these are more of a casual style — lending them the ability to go with office attire as well as cycling togs. I found the temples to restrict my vision a bit, which may be an issue for those of you who prize extra peripheral vision while dodging traffic. The frames around the lenses are suited for riding more upright bikes; I also had obstruction issues when I rode my more aggressively-set-up road bikes. Hardcore roadies might be better served by rimless lenses.

Despite the minor issues with the frames getting in the way, the Copperhead glasses fit nicely, provided great coverage for my eyes, and stayed in place. No one wants to fuss with readjusting glasses on the go. The temples hugged close to my head, allowing me to tuck them under my helmet straps (decidedly “un-PRO”, but hey, I’m not fooling anybody).

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The lens clarity is great and the polarization really helps, especially when going from brightly-lit areas to more shaded parts of the road. And the glasses are pretty stylish — I didn’t feel like I was wearing sportswear; in other words, the glasses didn’t clash with my casual work clothes.

After I wore them for a bit, our friend Wesley (an alumnus of our mountain bike racing team) reached out to us — he was training with the U.S. Navy near Chicago and desperately needed a pair of sunglasses he could wear out on the water. Always one to support our troops, I got the glasses into Wes’s hands in short order with the request that he snap a photo wearing them in uniform:

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Wes reported that the glasses worked perfectly for him, and also looked pretty snappy with his “blueberries”. I wholeheartedly agree!

The Bolle Copperheads retail for around $99, and are available directly from Bolle or at retailers near you. If you’re looking for a casual pair of sunglasses that have performance features, but you’re not sitting on a fortune, these might do the trick nicely.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Review: ADS Sports Eyewear’s prescription Oakley sunglasses

Ok, it’s been a few weeks since we gave you our first look at the prescription Oakley sunglasses provided by ADS Sports Eyewear.

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As I mentioned earlier, the process to select a pair of prescription cycling sunglasses is easy — ADS walks you through the entire process, from selecting the frames, to entering your prescription. As many of you may know, ordering things online without the ability to try a product on can be daunting. Luckily, ADS offers a “Try Before You Buy” program, where they will send samples of the frames you choose before making the the prescription lenses. The only cost for that program is the return shipping (details available in the link above).

One thing that ADS does, unlike some other companies, is grind their own Oakley sunglasses lenses…even lenses that are outside Oakley’s own limits in terms of prescription strength. And ADS has some technology tricks up their sleeves; they use a couple of techniques to make the lenses clearer and thinner than a number of their competitors. They use a combination of free-form digital lens surfacing and lenticular free-form lens shaping (best explained by visiting ADS’s handy tech pages). I will say this: gone is the distortion and nauseating feeling I got from another pair of prescription wraparound sunglasses. The ADS iteration, with the free-form surfacing, means I have a much larger “sweet spot” that isn’t distorted in the corners and edges of my vision. This makes a HUGE difference to me.

I had my kids pick out the Oakley frame color and lens color from the many choices on the ADS site. Being children fascinated by bright colors, they chose white frames, blue earsocks and lurid violet “Iridium” lens coating. Alas, since these aren’t Oakley factory lenses, Iridium coatings were not available. Perhaps that’s a good thing; my fashion-sense is already somewhat impaired. I’m not sure I could pull off loud Bootsy Collins reflective coatings! On the plus side, my new glasses DO match my helmet:

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I was, however, able to get polarized lenses. Those lenses also make a giant difference in vision quality for me. Many of my rides go from bright sunlight to darkened wooded trails and back at the blink of any eye. Also, there’s a lot of shiny tarmac around this part of Ohio. Polarized lenses cut the sheen off the pavement and seemed to help with the transitions between light and dark as I rode. So, I felt as if I was able to ride with more confidence. An unanticipated benefit: I now have a sizeable advantage when I go fishing; I can see those little swimmers under the surface of the water with these polarized lenses!

As for the glasses themselves, they are Oakley’s usual high quality: stout frames, great slip-proof earsocks and nosepieces, and rock-solid hinges. The Half Jacket 2.0’s lens shape is, I feel, a substantial improvement over the previous version. There’s a little bit of extra coverage in the lower corners that keeps eye-watering winds to a minimum. The frameless lower portion of the lens is great for cyclists, as well…a nice unobstructed view of the road ahead while you are in a riding position.

ADS Sports Eyewear glasses aren’t cheap…prescription eyewear featuring name brand frames and lenses never are. In my case, the frames and lenses ran around $400. ADS does have some great warranties and “best price” guarantees, but what they really excel in is “value-added features”. They offer a huge selection of frames and coach the buyer through every step of the process…before, during, AND after purchase. I was rather blown away by their customer service; they answered a bunch of questions of a technical nature without me identifying myself as the reviewer, and they made sure I was satisfied with my prescription. They even offered to regrind the lenses if I had so much as a doubt they were incorrect (my lenses weren’t…right on the money the FIRST time). So, the whole package is worth the price of admission.

If you’re in the market for some sport-specific prescription (or even non-prescription) eyewear, ADS is a fantastic source. They have a huge selection and so many positive features that you’d be hard-pressed to find a better place to get outfitted. Swing on over to their website to get a feel for the wide variety of brands and colors they offer.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

First Look: Prescription sunglasses from ADS Sports Eyewear

About a month ago, Michael from ADS Sports Eyewear contacted us to see if we’d like to try out a pair of prescription sunglasses. Seeing as I may have the worst eyesight of the entire staff, I happily volunteered.

I had an old pair of prescription sunglasses that I wore to drive (gasp!) a car, but never wore corrective lenses for cycling — except for my regular eyeglasses at night. Back in March, I finally bought an updated pair of “sport” sunglasses to ride and drive with, and was dismayed to discover that there was a lot of peripheral distortion in the lenses. ADS Eyewear claims to have solved that particular problem with their wide range of brands and styles, but we’ll get to that in the formal review later.

The process to select a pair of prescription cycling sunglasses is easy — ADS walks you through the entire process, from selecting the frames, to entering your prescription. As many of you may know, ordering things online without the ability to try a product on can be daunting. Luckily, ADS offers a “Try Before You Buy” program, where they will send samples of the frames you choose before making the the prescription lenses. The only cost for that program is the return shipping (details available in the link above).

I choose two pairs to try out, the Oakley Half Jacket 2.0, and the Adidas Adivista. I had tried a pair of non-prescription Half Jackets in the past and liked how they looked and felt, and was eager to try the newer model. I was unfamiliar with the Adidas pair, so was open to the idea of test-fitting them.

First, the Half-Jackets:

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Next, the Adidas Adivistas:

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After consulting with the folks who help me make the tough decisions (my wife and kids), it was unanimous: prescription Oakley sunglasses!

As I mentioned earlier, the ADS Eyewear site is chock-full of handholding resources — they describe their processes and policies clearly, and offer a pretty stunning array of options.

Stay tuned for the review of the prescription pair once I have had time to ride with them. In the meantime, swing on over to the ADS Eyewear site to check out their offerings.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Review: Two bike locks from Masterlock

A couple months ago, Masterlock offered to send two of their bike locks to us for testing and review. We chose a U-lock and a cable lock, and received the 8170D Force U-Lock and the 8220D Cable lock.

We told the folks at Masterlock that we didn’t have a “bait bike” to really test these locks out with, but that we would engage in a bit of destructive testing, where applicable. They were cool with that. More on that in a bit.

First, the cable lock:

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From the manufacturer’s website:

–Set-your-own password combination cable
–Use letters to create a memorable word combination
–Easy to set & reset
–6′ (1.8m) long x 3/8″ (10mm) diameter braided steel cable for strong cut resistance
–Protective vinyl coating helps prevent scratching
–Mounting bracket included for easy transportation

This lock is perfect for quick, low-crime lockups — as you may know, cables aren’t particularly resistant to cutting and are usually recommended for times when a bike will be unattended for a short time (quick trips into the store, or as a backup for another lock). What’s novel about the 8220D is its use of user-resettable word codes rather than numbers. I had a bit of fun coming up with odd words; my favorite being “STASI” (Cold War-era East German Secret Police).

The lock comes with a carrier bracket for mounting to your bike’s frame or seatpost. My seatpost is clogged with stuff, so I went for a frame mounting. The bracket has a push-button quick release and a corresponding “cleat” on the cable itself to stow the cable for travel.

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The carrier bracket seems a little chintzy (as do the lock brackets from most brands ), but the cable itself is lightweight. The bracket should be able to withstand this sort of weight. If you choose not to use the bracket, the cable coils up into a neat package for storage in your panniers or backpack.

As this is a cable, there was no point in attacking it with tools. I’ve seen (and experienced) much stouter cables cut with simple hand tools. Again, think of cable locks as a low-crime “quickie” or a backup to a beefier lock, and you’ll be fine.

Next up is the Force U-Lock:

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Specs from the manufacturer:

–Fusion U-lock
–Hardened steel body resists cutting, sawing and prying.
–Double locking shackle for superior pry resistance.
–Disc key for superior pick resistance.
–Vinyl coating for weather and scratch resistance.
–Carrier bracket included for convenient storage.

On paper, the 8170D seems like a good enough lock: good keyway type (disc rather than tubular) and the features one would expect from a sturdy bike lock. In practice, however, this one is perhaps not so tough. The first alarm bell was “hey, no anti-theft guarantee?” Surely, not all locks come with such a guarantee, but that guarantee has become the industry hallmark for a tough lock, and the lack of it should tell you something about the quality of any given lock.

Size-wise, the body is wide enough to swallow the front wheel, the frame and a secure post. Remember that the more space you take up within the U, the less room a thief’s prying tools have to work with.

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The mounting bracket, as may be expected, was fairly useless. I’ve never seen a serious cyclist use one, as most of them lack security over bumps or are made of flimsy materials. The included bracket here was no exception; it hogged a lot of frame space and comes with a cheap metal cam to secure the lock within the bracket’s body. I bent the cam lever the first time I used it and still couldn’t get the U-lock securely into its slot. Do yourself a favor: just bungee the lock to your rear rack, toss it into your pannier, or do as I do and leave a U-lock at all your common lockup points (I’ve got U-locks scattered all over the city).

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Now, onto “destructive testing”. I’ve got a sizeable tool collection, and what I was going to try with this lock was a series of tests, starting with bolt cutters, then a hacksaw, then a prying tool or bottle jack, and finally an electric cutoff wheel. First up: 24″ bolt cutters with a jaw capacity of 10mm.

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Let’s get something clear right up front — many of you know that I am not a particularly large or muscular person. At my heaviest, I weigh somewhere under 150 pounds. Well, it came as a shock, then, when I applied a bit of force to the handles of my bolt cutters, I could feel the jaws digging right into the steel of the U-bar! I peeled off some of the vinyl coating and discovered two clear indentation in the steel. I moved my tool over to the other side of the shackle, braced one cutter handle against the ground and pumped a couple times with about 50% of my body weight. SNAP! The jaws clamped shut onto empty space!

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At this point, the lock was defeated; so rather than trying the other tools, I called it a day.

Let’s be clear about another important point: ANY lock can be defeated given enough time and and arsenal of tools. The toughest lock on Earth is no match to an electric cutoff wheel…but in my humble opinion, a U-lock should be able to withstand a fairly casual application of bolt cutters. Let’s say, then, that this Masterlock U should only be used for “moderate security”…perhaps where there is nosy foot traffic near the lockup point, or a lowish-crime area. This is NOT an overnighter’s lock, in other words.

Retail price for each lock is right around $16.00. That’s pretty cheap! Are there better locks on the market? Of course — in the lock world, you do get what you pay for. Both of these locks are suitable for casual, quick lockups…but neither lock would I trust to secure my prized bikes overnight or in high-crime areas.

Not sold on these models, but are a fan of the brand itself? Have no fear: Masterlock does have a number of other locks in its stable, including stout ones with sizeable anti-theft guarantees. Check out the rest of their lineup by visiting their website.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.