BikeCommuters.com

Safety Equipment

Review: QRide Advanced Emergency ID

Being safe out on the roads is a pretty big deal for most bike commuters. Many of us wear helmets, brighten up the night with blinkies and headlights, wrap ourselves in reflectives, etc. One other safety item folks may overlook, though, is some means of communicating emergency contact or medical information to first responders in case of a crash.

There are a number of products on the market, from bracelets to shoelace tags. A new one is the QR Code-based QRide Advanced Emergency ID. Warren Schimizzi, president of QRide, Inc., graciously offered to send us a trial pack of the QRide’s “QStick” Mini Helmet Stickers for review.

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Basically, the QStick minis are a pair of thick reflective stickers with a unique QR code printed on them. On the back of the packaging is an eight-character identifying code.

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Once the QRide stickers are purchased, the user simply navigates to the QRide user submission form (on their website) and completes the fields. QRide sends a verification email and then you’re on your way! It’s really simple and takes no more than a couple minutes to activate the account.

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Why a sticker instead of a bracelet or something? Well, those of us who have emergency ID bracelets don’t always wear them. I almost never forget my helmet, however…in fact, I can only think of one time in the past decade that I forgot my helmet before getting on the bike. A helmet sticker is perfect for me! And, since the stickers come packaged as a pair, the other one can be added to something else you aren’t likely to forget. In my case, I adhered the second sticker to my Jersey Bin, which always travels with me in a jersey pocket.

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How well do they work? I scanned the stickers with the excellent QR Droid as well as Ebay’s “Red Laser” scanning utility. The QRide code scanned quickly and easily with both apps, and directed me to my personal information page instantly.

I asked Warren about concerns with information security and with HIPAA .

Jack: I want to ask how user information is secured…since it has medical info, do HIPAA concerns have any effect on what QRide does to secure the information?

Warren: Good question. The user is completely responsible for the information that is included on his or her QRide profile. We’ve placed a disclaimer at the top of the online form where this information is gathered that states all info submitted can be viewed when scanned by a smart phone and is essentially “public”. If the user is comfortable putting a certain pre-existing condition or medication (or anything else for that matter) on there they are free to do so, but none of the medical info fields on the form are required.

On the online front; we do not have an online database of users that could be compromised. Each user’s record is an individual URL. We use a large, well-established web host and have every confidence in their security protocols and firewalls. They are protected from hackers and DDoS attack (UDP flood). Their servers are fully PCI compliant to protect user’s credit card information for online purchases as well.

QRide’s QStick Minis retail for $19.95, which includes a year’s subscription to the online information record. Renewals are an additional $19.95 per year. I’d say that’s reasonably comparable to the prices other such emergency IDs charge. Where the QRide might really shine is for folks who travel a lot or relocate frequently (such as myself — with my wife in the USAF, we go where they tell us to). Buying a new bracelet every year or two with revised addresses gets expensive quickly; meanwhile, with the QRide, all you have to do is log into your account and update your info. Easy peasy.

Overall, I am quite impressed with the simplicity and ease of use of the QRide system. I hope I never have to test them FOR REAL…if you know what I mean…but if I do, I’ll be glad that first responders will have quick access to my innermost details.

QRide offers other sizes/formats of stickers. Visit their website for more details.

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

Bandbox Helmet Review

“Ninety-one percent of bicyclists killed in 2009 weren’t wearing helmets.”

That’s a quote from a website dedicated to Bicycle helmet statistics. (According to Bandbox LLC’s website the number is 95!)

It’s sad that that number is so high especially when plenty of styles could be worn to make it more fashionable–there are helmets in the style that skateboarders use to helmets designed by companies with roots in extreme sports like snowboarding.

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But even with the many options available with, people still ignore the dangers of riding without a helmet all for the sake of avoiding “looking goofy”.

Bandbox LLC, a company similar to Rockinoggins, aims to increase helmet use by designing “attractive bicycle helmets”. While Rockinoggins makes add-ons for helmets, Bandbox LLC makes helmets that deceivingly look like hats.

A couple months after Bikecommuters.com profiled Rockinoggins, Dr. Cheryl Allen-Munley sent Bikecommuters.com a helmet to review. And after a couple of months, here is the review for the model!

 

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Is it a hat?

When I first received the helmet, I asked those around me to see what they thought of the helmet. I wondered if people thought it looked more like a helmet or if it passes off as a hat. The result? People couldn’t tell if it was a helmet or if it was a hat. I suppose somebody could argue that the product doesn’t fully meet its goal in that some are not totally fooled but one thing everyone mentioned was that the helmet looked good.

Safety?

Bandbox Helmets adhere to the U.S. Law–the CPSC Standard which stands for Consumer Product Safety Commission. http://www.bhsi.org/standard.htm#CPSC

But there is one thing that may prevent some buyers purchasing a Bandbox Helmet–the helmets do not have a surface that can slide upon impact (Bandbox Helmets have fabric for an exterior instead of plastic) I personally think that anything that can increase helmet use is okay so if not looking cool/fashionable is preventing a bicyclist from wearing a helmet, I recommend purchasing a Bandbox Helmet.

 

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Can I use it everyday?

Because the helmet is not ventilated like performance helmets, getting a sweaty head can be an issue. I personally wouldn’t recommend to commuters that like to go fast or to those that have commutes that are longer than 5 miles. Perhaps I’m being nitpicky but I certainly don’t want to arrive to work being more sweaty than I need to.

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Bottom line?
I think it’s an excellent product. It fills a need in the market for helmets since plenty of people hate the idea of looking stupid or foolish (use whatever adjective you like) in a helmet. We all agree that any cycling death should be prevented especially if it’s something as simple as wearing a “stupid” helmet.

Our FTC review disclaimer.

Orp Smart Horn – soon to be tested here

Orp in red. Also comes in asphalt black, frostbyte white, safety cone orange, wail blue, snot green, and worm white (glorp)

With 5 days to go on this Orp Kickstarter campaign, the Orp Smart Horn is soon to go into production and we’ll be getting one to test!

As a safety conscious cyclist I value that this product attempts to make cyclists both more visible and audible on the roadways.

THE IDEA: Make bikers more visible and /or more “hearable”.
THE SOLUTION: A combination dual tone, high decibel bike horn and front beacon light.
Meet Orp.

As creator Tory Orzeck says on the page:

“Really long story short, we developed this super loud, dual decibel horn. Only after that did we discover the Piezo speaker and its circuitry barely taxed the battery to drive the sound. Sitting right there in front of us, we had everything we needed to add LEDs. So, we ended up combining two products: a beacon light and a horn into one small and (we think) beautiful product.”

This product was thought up in Portland and we’ll certainly put it to the test in Chicago.

Just the other night I was nearly right-hooked by a driver insistent on getting into the right lane to make a turn. He had just passed me and then nearly pulled in front of me. Not even my two front LED blinkies and bell got his attention; my yelling and the screeching of my squealing brakes did get his attention – “WHA…WHOA…LOOK OUT!” (or something to that effect)


Orp’s Horn has 2 modes: soft and WAY loud

The Wail Tail is the ergonomic and intuitive switch controlling the horn.

When you need to alert other cyclists or pedestrians, a small displacement {up or down} of Orp’s Wail Tail produces a friendly chirp at 76 decibels.

When you’re in traffic, and you need to let cars know where you are, then just push a little harder {up or down} and Orp’s “HERE I AM!” sound emits an ear blistering 96 decibels. This is FAR louder than the most popular bike bells.

I could use a horn!

Product Review: Cycle Cuffs

For those of us who don’t live in SoCal or other similarly moderate climates, riding in longer pants is somewhat inevitable. If we want to keep those pants clean and not tangled in the chain, there are a couple options. One is a chain guard – and if you’ve got one you pretty much can skip this article! However, those don’t come on most bikes made in the U.S. so most of us make do with rubber bands or the slightly-more-advanced reflective velcro bands found in many bike shops. The problem is that while those keep your pants cuff out from getting caught in the chain, they generally don’t keep your pants leg clean. What to do? Well, the guys at Cycle Cuffs think they’ve got a solution to that problem for you!

The Cycle Cuffs generally come in pairs (though you can order a single if you really want). There are now several options available in terms of color (I reviewed the “future classic,” which is a basic black ripstop polyester fabric). They all come with velcro attachment, reflective stripes at top and bottom, and a large ring in the middle. The ring is so that they can be threaded onto a lock (U-lock or cable) and they stay with the bike. I was initially skeptical of this feature (and wasn’t sure about the styling), but ended up routinely locking the Cycle Cuffs up with my bike as that was the best way to not accidentally leave them at my desk!

So how did these do on the bike? Very well actually! They were easy to attach (loosely, so they don’t crease pant legs), stayed on without a problem, and kept my pants legs grease-free and crease-free. Over the past couple months they’ve become part of my normal bike-to-work gear, and overall I highly recommend them to keep your pants cuffs/legs clean and out of the way of the chain. Yes, they’re a bit more expensive than a basic reflective strap (and run about the same per cuff as the Leg Shield I tested earlier this year), but I think they’re more effective than either, and I plan to continue using mine until they wear out (unlikely to be soon, they seem quite tough!).

Will the Cycle Cuffs revolutionize your cycling experience? Probably not… but they don’t need to, because what they’re meant to do they do really darn well, and sometimes it’s the little things that can make the difference.

Kona Project 2 Messenger Bag Review

Photo Credit: LSJ Photography

It’s long overdue but it’s time for the final review of the Kona Project 2 Messenger Bag! The folks at Brenthaven and Kona teamed up and created the Kona Project 2 Messenger Bag and were nice enough to send us one to test! I wrote my first impressions of the bag awhile back and gave an opinion of it. After some time, my impression has stayed pretty much the same—I like it.

Style meets function

The first thing I noticed about it is how stylish the bag is. To my hipster friends who treat bicycles as an accessory like some who purchase cars that “fit” their personality, this messenger bag is a good complement to their everyday life. Like I mentioned before, it’s got a very streamlined design—nothing looks out of place from the trapezoidal shape of the bag to the inclusion of metal buckles and emblematic light in the middle.

It’s quite a spacious bag. Even the two zipper-pockets (shown below) were quite roomy; in the larger zippered compartment I was able to put in two medium-sized shirts unfolded without a problem. In the smaller compartment, a wallet, cell phone, toothbrush and toothpaste can fit. The bag’s main compartment is kept closed by three things—Velcro, two buckles and two side magnetic flaps. Inside, the bag is separated into three compartments with the middle being a “pouch” that can be closed via Velcro.

15.4 inch Laptop, Size 10 Shoes, 34x30 Jeans, 2 Shirts + Book (not shown)

Cellphone holder + 2 Adjustable Straps

Turned around, the bag maintains its functionality. The wide adjustable strap is held together by a big metal buckle. The strap also has a pouch for a cell phone. The bag also has an additional smaller strap that buckles onto the main strap to keep the bag stable while riding.

Here are the specs (again):

  • Name: Kona Project 2 Messenger Bag- Blue
  • Model #: 6102
  • Weight: 3.2 lb.
  • External Dimensions: 21.5″ W x 16″ H x 8″ D
  • Fits laptops up to 16″
  • Built in safety light with replaceable battery compartment
  • Bomber, water-shedding 1000D Cordura fabric
  • Waterproof internal compartment for laptop, electronics
  • Comfortable shoulder strap with quick release phone pocket
  • Large capacity, expands to 1300 cubic inches
  • 100% lifetime guarantee and then somePatent pending magnetic Hydro FlapsTM keep your gear dry

Very much a cyclist’s bag

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“Okay, okay, we get that it looks good and functions like any other bag but how is this a cyclist’s bag?”

When I first received the bag, the first thing that I wanted to know was how this bag was any different when compared to my current laptop-backpack. This meant: did I notice how uncomfortable I was with the bag on during my commute? Or is it such a good fit that I don’t even notice that I have it on? I did a couple tests to find out. One test was to overstuff the bag, and the other test was to only put in essentials for work.

For the first test, here’s what I put in the bag (about 30 pounds):

  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • Pair of Shoes
  • 5 shirts
  • 2 pairs of socks
  • Toothpaste, toothpaste
  • Bike supplies: oil, degreaser, naval jelly, chain-tool, Allen keys (I know it’s overkill)
  • Laptop + charger

And then I was off for a short ride. During the ride, I found the bag to be so heavy that I had to stop to give my shoulder a break. With each bump in the road, the pain I felt increased. I had to stop and switch shoulders three times in order to finish the ride despite the well-padded strap.

Loosely Worn

Even though the bag is durable enough to withstand over thirty pounds of load, I would only recommend a lighter load equivalent to a laptop + charger, a change of clothes and a pair of shoes. In other words, try to keep the bag’s weight under fifteen pounds.

That said, I think my opinion on how much load I would carry with the Kona Project 2 would change if the bag had two straps that distributed the weight better like a backpack.

On a side note, I used the bag much like a duffle bag while spending weekends at a friend’s and it served me well. Since it could hold more than my backpack, I found the Kona to be much more useful than my backpack.

So, in short, the Kona Project 2 Messenger Bag is well-designed and quite suitable for the commuter on a bicycle. The guys at Brenthaven designed the bag with storage, visibility and style in mind and it shows. For the commuter who does not have to carry that much stuff and can afford a hundred dollar bag, this bag is worth a look.

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