Category: Safety Equipment

Mark from Planet Bike sent me some of their new 25g CO2 cartridge refills a couple weeks ago to try out. PB introduced the 25g cartridges at Interbike last year, and they were so popular that the company started selling twinpacks of them.

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Bike tires are getting bigger so our C02 inflation cartridges are rising to the challenge. Planet Bike’s new 25 gram threaded CO2 cartridge is the right tool for the job when it comes to 29ers and cross tires. It packs enough punch for two large volume tires. You can’t prevent the untimely flat, so you might as well be prepared to fix it fast. We offer the 25g CO2 in a single pack (with insulator sleeve) and in our new 2-pack!

• Our CO2 cartridges work in Planet Bike inflators as well as our competitors’ inflators
• Our CO2 cartridges are tested to the highest standards for durability, safety and reliability. They contain pure CO2 with no oils or contaminants
• 100% recyclable steel cartridges
• 25g CO2 Cartridge, quantity 2

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As PB states, these cartridges are suited for higher-volume tires…something I’m sure many of us commuters can appreciate. Here’s a comparison shot of the 25g cartridge next to a standard 16g unthreaded one (in the middle) and a “Copperhead” unthreaded 12g cartridge at the bottom. The 12g is currently my favored size because it fits completely inside my inflator, and because I can buy a 12-pack of them for about the cost of 2 16g ones (the 12g carts are sold for use in BB pistols). When you’re faced with filling a big tire like a cushy 38C touring tire, a DH monster or a fat ‘cross tire, 12g carts just aren’t going to do the trick.

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The inflator I use is a Genuine Innovations “Second Wind IH”…no longer available, but able to swallow threaded or unthreaded cartridges and also serving as a low-volume hand pump to get things started. I tested the PB 25g carts on my wife’s Electra shod with voluminous Schwalbe “Fat Frank” tires:

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Starting from a dead-flat tire, the Planet Bike 25g cart worked like a charm! I even had to stop to correct an escaping tube, bleeding off some pressure from the valve stem and reattaching my CO2 inflator “mid stream”. The 25g cartridge had plenty of oomph left to finish the job even after my screwup.

Before:
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After (the photo’s a bit deceptive, but the tube is at full riding pressure):
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So there you have it…need to fill a high-volume tire on the go? You could carry a handful of smaller cartridges or just one of these mini-SCUBA tanks from Planet Bike and be on your way in no time!

One word of caution, though: these cartridges get FROSTY in a hurry. Wear a glove or keep a spare piece of innertube in your saddlebag to cover the steel cartridge, or it will freeze to your bare hand.

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Looks like PB has another winner on their hands! A twinpack retails for about $21, so they’re not cheap, but they are competitively priced with other cartridges on the market. And remember, you only need one to get the job done.

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

In two of my semi-recent posts, I laid out some of the choices in traveling by bike with kids, and in choosing a helmet for those pint-sized commuters. Since then, we’ve acquired both a front-mounted seat and a helmet for our youngest, R. We’re in the early stages of use still… but so far so good!

First… the seat. It’s a Yepp Mini we got with our REI dividend (yeah, we shop there a bit!), and it is the coolest bike seat I think I’ve ever seen. I’d assumed it would be plasticky, but it’s actually a pretty soft – but shape-holding – rubber texture. R thinks it’s about the coolest thing ever, and couldn’t stop grinning during our first test ride! The only bad thing about it is we don’t have a bike that it fits really well on – right now it’s on my wife’s hybrid, but she has to pedal carefully so she doesn’t bang her knees, the footrests affect her turning radius (although not terribly), and she can’t slide forward too easily when she comes to a stop. So… we’ll see how it works out. We’re huge fans of the seat itself, but not quite as big fans of how it works with us and our bikes. I’ve got my eye out for a bike it’d work better with though – I figure I can find a used city/cruiser-style bike with a friendlier geometry for less than the cost of the Yepp mini! These seats are hugely popular in Europe for use with Dutch-style bikes – but the Dutch-style bikes here come at a prohibitive price point. I’ll be reporting back in the coming months on what we end up doing!

For the helmet, we went with the Lazer BOB infant helmet, and it’s working out pretty nicely. It fits R a lot better than other helmets we’ve tried, though it’s not as easily adjustable as some (you have to remove the helmet completely to adjust the straps, which is less than ideal), and… yeah, it still looks kinda huge! We’re still working on getting the fit 100% dialed (we make a small adjustment every time we put it on her), but overall we’re pretty happy with it.

Post-ride Contemplation

A while back, ElectroStar sent us their Wireless Signal Pod Turn Signal for review.  ElectroStar is an LED company by background – their parent company, Buztronics, manufactures LEDs for a very wide variety of uses (RL, you should get some scooter lights!) – so we were happy to test out the Signal Pod.  The Signal Pod retails for $49.95, a price ElectroStar justifies given its wireless capability (a wired version sells for $10 less), and comes with the Pod unit, a control unit, a seatpost-mount bracket, and pre-installed batteries. With the controls, you can signal a right turn, left turn, or turn your “hazard” lights on by having everything blink (though I’m not sure I want people to start thinking of me as a hazard as I go down the road!).

All lights blazing

Out of the box, things looked good – the LEDs were very bright, and the wireless signal works from well over the required distance (I tested it at up to 30 feet).  It mounted to my bike fairly easily as well, and the signal buttons were pretty intuitive.  I also liked that the turn signal was sequential – each chevron lights up in sequence, making it very clear which direction you’re turning! Unfortunately, that was where the good things ended (had I known this, I would have taken more pictures earlier on… sorry folks!).

Pod controls

One of the advertised features is that the Pod beeps when the turn signal is on.  While some sort of noise is definitely a good feature since you can’t see it, the beep is incredibly annoying.  It’s not bad if you’re taking a turn on the go, but sitting at a traffic light for a couple minutes is somewhat brutal.

The noise wasn’t the worst part though – the worst part was that it only has a seatpost mount, and when I got on my bike the backs of my legs hit the pod!  I’d like to say it’s because I’m just so muscular, but I’d be lying…  I’m sure it works for some bikes, but it didn’t work for my commuter… and I’d never thought it was an unusual design.

All set up… and in the way

Determined to get this thing through a more extended test, I jury-rigged a setup (using an old piece of PVC and an extra stem I had laying around) to attach the mount to the back of my Burley trailer.  I had trouble getting the signal mount off my handlebars though, and ended having to cut one of the bolts off.  Before I could get a replacement bolt in, my kids (ages 9 months and 3) bumped into the signal pod (still mounted on the back of the trailer) a couple times and broke that bracket.  SO… that was the end of the test for me – and somewhat of a deal-breaker, since if my 3-year-old can break something by walking by it, I know it’s not going to stand the test of staying on the trailer for a long time.

Signal Pod on the Burley

While I can’t give this a huge thumbs-up as is, I think there are 4 things that could make these some killer lights:

1. Different brackets.  Almost everything else I buy to put on my bike (lights, fenders, computer, etc) comes with multiple mounting options or at least a flexible fit system – I think this should too.  I’d especially like to see a rack-mount option – most commuters use rear racks, and what’s on the rack often blocks the view of a seatpost.

2. Durable construction.  I won’t say I never break stuff… but I don’t usually break stuff unless it’s on my mountain bike and I crash.  These lights are meant for commuting – they should be able to take a hit from another bike in a bike rack, for example.  Currently, the brackets just aren’t durable enough.

3. Incorporate some bar-end signals for forward and side visibility.  When sitting at a stop sign, I still had to use hand signals, since those coming from other directions couldn’t see the light.  I’d be excited to buy something with that capability – and ElectroStar already makes bar end lights.

4. Change the beeping noise!  Yes, it’s a minor complaint, but I was frankly relieved when I didn’t have to listen to it anymore.

LEDbyLITE

System 36 Plus Bike Light & Turnsignal Kit – Ultimate Blinky O-face.

WOOOOHOOOOOO!  Look out night riders, we have been ogling the LED by LITE Bike Light Kits since RL spotted them at Interbike last year! And we all know that a great set of blinky lights is a must-have for all ye Cycle Monsters out there bike commuting in the darkness.  The good people from LED by LITE (pronounced “lead by light” in case you were confused like me) have sent us a System 36 Plus demo kit to test out!  Let’s check out the obligatory cut and paste specs from their website, since I know I would be too lazy to browse the site for data if I were reading this post! (wink face):

System 36 Plus

Price:
$150.00
Weight:
2.00 LBS

This shows how the system works. The 48 System Plus is pictured, which has longer LED strips than the 36 System Plus we'll be testing.


Product Description

System 36 Plus

The LED By LITE bike light Systems include up to 36 state of the art, High Intensity LEDs to provide a cyclist with the most radiant 360 degree “to be seen” visibility. The LEDbike lights are encased in  flexible polyurethane/silicone straps making them waterproof and extremely durable.

The LED bike lights are powered by our BlackBox, a 12 Volt single cell Lithium Ion Battery Pack, which produces intense lighting without sacrificing run time. The technology of the microchip circuitry includes “dimming pulsating” modes, not blinking on and off. The BlackBox can be recharged with the wall adapter or from a computer using a micro USB cord.

The Plus of this system is our innovative LBL Wireless Dashboard.TM A wireless controller mounted on the handler bar controls both pulsation mode and directional turn indicator system. Your bicycle becomes a more relevant vehicle for the road. The LBL System 36 Plus improves your safety as a cyclist by illuminating your turning intentions and helping you to see and be seen.

  • Total of 36 LEDs front and rear
  • Weighs in at 250 grams
  • 12 Volt single cell Lithium rechargeable batterypack

Full Mode 3 hrs, Front on Rear Pulsating 4.5 hrs, Front and Rear Pulsating 6 hrs

  • Easy to detach cables, for quick system setup and break down
  • Wireless Dashboard: Turn on and off Pulsation and turn indicators

*Price subject to change after pre-sale ends

*Using your arm is still considered a universal turning signal

Blinky Light Lust!! I – I – I Lufff Eeet! <3

Thanks LED by Lite – shout outs to Salt Lake, UT! I love blinky lights more than robots that do chores for me! I think I might buy the postman a 6-pack of beer.  Until the review…!

As many of you may know, we here at Bikecommuters.com are huge fans of the creative geniuses behind Monkeylectric. We’ve been lucky enough to test out their original M132/133 wheel lights, and we’ve visited with the Monkeylectric crew at Interbike over the past few years.

When they announced the new M210 “Mini Monkey”, we clamored for a chance to get a review sample. Lo and behold, about a month after Interbike 2011, one appeared on my doorstep. I’ve been running this thing ever since and am ready to share my thoughts and photos with you.

First off, a bit about the new M210:

– 10 Ultra-bright color LEDs
– Hub-mounted battery pack
– Stainless steel anti-theft strap
– Waterproof!
– Up to 40 hours runtime

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The M210 comes in simple packaging — a bag for the light head and battery canister, a smaller bag for the hardware and a simple header card that unfolds to reveal complete instructions in a variety of languages. While the light head is smaller than the original M132/M133 (10 LEDs — 5 on each side — down from the 32 LEDs on the original model), it still packs a nighttime punch. This new model addresses most of the concerns some of us had over the original model — particularly waterproofing, balance, and theft prevention.

Here’s the light head — covered in a thick, rubbery waterproofing material that seals all those chips and circuits from the elements. The switches are beefy and easy to manipulate:

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Here’s the battery pack — a canister that straps to the hub with zipties and a soft rubber cradle. The battery canister holds a cartridge of 3 AA batteries (alkaline or rechargeable) and seals up tight:

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One cord travels from the light head to the dongle on the battery canister, and the connection between the two is waterproof. And this connection is TIGHT — it is quite difficult to separate the two parts once they’ve been connected.

Splitting the light head and battery compartment into two components over the original’s “all on one” approach has greatly helped with the overall balance of the light. With the original M133 installed, I was able to discern some faint high-speed wobble on lightweight wheels (that wobble was mitigated when I installed the unit on some heavy disc wheels on my Xtracycle. With the new unit, I didn’t notice any wobble, even at relatively high speeds. Score a win for the folks at Monkeylectric!

Another plus of the split configuration is this: back in Florida, I was forced to traverse some DEEP rain puddles from time to time. Old streets, heavy rains and a substandard drainage system meant that some of the roads on my commuting route were flooded. Some of those flooded areas were nearly hub-deep, and my old unit would get submerged. I had to be diligent about cleaning the battery contacts to keep them from rusting. I don’t have to worry about that anymore — the truly sensitive parts are encased in waterproof materials and the contacts are inside the sealed canister at the hub.

The light can be programmed to display up to 15 different 8-bit patterns (skulls, hearts, and many more) in a choice of colors, or you can do as I did and skip the button-pressing and let the light cycle itself through all the choices. As with the original M132/M133, the M210 has two intensity modes — regular and “turbo”. The “turbo” setting blows through batteries much more quickly and is eye-searing in brightness, but the regular setting is bright enough on its own to spill out a pool of light to either side of the wheel. I took some still shots so you can see just how intense and colorful the M210 is when spinning:

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And, as is my style, here is an unedited and rather crappy video of the Monkeylectric light in action — believe me, the “real life” effect is vastly more stunning. It doesn’t help that my neighborhood is lit up like an airstrip (streetlights every 50 feet or so):

Mounting the light head is a breeze — it sits between spokes and is held in place by rubber pads and zipties. Getting the battery canister mounted on the hub is somewhat more difficult…the more spokes one has, the more difficult it can be. Even with my long fingers, getting everything set and cinched up took a few tense moments. Once the canister is mounted, you will only have to worry about changing the batteries from time to time, and that isn’t as difficult…screw off the cap and replace the cells. Here’s the canister mounted to my front hub:

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I was happy to see the addition of the stainless steel “anti-theft” strap — basically a metal ziptie — in the package. While I’ve never had a Monkeylectric light stolen, I am sure others in more urban areas might have to worry about such things. The steel strap is surprisingly difficult to cut with wire cutters (I sacrificed mine in the name of science), so it really does provide a measure of theft deterrence.

As I mentioned earlier, the instruction sheet foldout is detailed and easy to follow. And, it comes in several languages:

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As we’ve discussed over and over again here, there are not enough products on the market to help with that crucial “side visibility” — while many front and rear lights spill to the sides, additional safety for nighttime commuters is always a good thing. And this is where Monkeylectric’s products really shine (pun intended). The M210 provides an incredibly effective means to get you noticed out on the darkened streets where you live, all the while having fun with patterns and colors! The Monkeylectric M210 retails for around $50.00, and is worth the price of admission. Another hit from a great bunch of creative folks!

Now, if we can only get the crew to let us borrow one of their “PRO Series” models….

Visit Monkeylectric for more details, images and video of their lights in action.

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