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.
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!).
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.
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
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.
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…!
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
– Up to 40 hours runtime
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
As with last week’s Planet Bike glove review, I waited and waited for some gnarly winter action in which to test the Planet Bike “Blitzen” shoe covers…alas, an unusually mild midwestern winter left me with chilly temps and some rain, but hardly any snow. No matter, really — my feet get cold very easily and I’ve been in the market for decent shoe covers even before I moved to Ohio. Yeah, even Florida gets chilly enough that shoe covers can be used from time to time…
Here’s a little something about the Blitzen shoe covers straight from Planet Bike’s website:
-Windproof fabric with microfleece lining
-Neoprene front panel for added warmth around the toe box
-Durable bottom with open design for a variety of pedal platforms and cleats
-Full Velcro back closure for greater adjustability and sizing
-Toe box retention strap keeps front of cover in place
-Reflective side logos
The Blitzen shoe covers are a fairly simple affair — a windproof, fleece-lined bootie with an open bottom and Velcro closure along the back to secure the bootie over one’s shoes. The cuff and toebox include neoprene; the former to help protect against cold and the latter to offer better sealing (and a little stretch) to the ankle area. The bottom is open and in reinforced with a rubberized coating. There’s a sewn-on “strap” of sorts to help hold the two sides of the bootie against the shoe inside. This opening also allows the cleat system of your choice to poke through with no interference. There’s also a smaller opening at the heel to allow the sole to poke through. This protects the shoe covers’ fabric from being worn away if you find yourself walking instead of pedaling.
The shoe cover material only has a tiny bit of stretch in the main body, so shoes with aggressive knobby soles can be a tight fit. My Adidas MTB shoes were a bit of a squeeze getting into the size “L” (the Blitzen covers come in sizes S through XXXL, but the site doesn’t indicate exactly what shoe sizes those letter designations actually cover). Once snugged on, there is no excess material flapping and everything was tight to the shoe. Regular “street shoes” may or may not fit within the Blitzen shoe covers; I would imagine something low-volume might fit, but you’d have to try your own shoes to see for sure. These covers are designed for cycling shoes, not “universal fit”, and if you don’t wear cleated cycling shoes, there may be better cover options on the market out there for you.
The covers come in basic black with constrasting-color reinforced stitching, and there’s a handy reflective logo on the side. I’d like to see some additional reflectivity on the back of the shoe (a reflective patch or piping along the Velcro closure). Here’s a shot of the reflective in action:
One thing I discovered is that with shoe covers having an open bottom, wind and cold can enter around the cleat area. The metal cleat and screws can transmit cold right to a sensitive part of one’s foot. My quick remedy for that was remove my shoe’s insoles, then I cut squares of felt to cover the cleat interface from the inside and taped it all down with a couple layers of duct tape. BOOM! Cold transmision conquered!
The covers are not waterproof, but they shrugged off some of the rain I experienced. After longer rain rides, my shoes and feet got pretty wet, but for the shorter stuff it wasn’t too bad…a little dampness here and there that I could live with. I wore these covers down to around 12 degrees, and while they didn’t keep my feet toasty warm throughout, the cold they DID let through was bearable. For me, the low temp for these covers is around 20 degrees…lower than that and I really wished for something more insulated. Not everyone can afford (or needs) a pair of Lake or Sidi winter boots, so these Blitzen shoe covers offer some of the benefits of a dedicated winter cycling shoe without the astronomical price. The Blitzen shoe covers retail for about $45.00, and serve best as a good cover for moderately cold, mostly dry conditions. If you need more insulation, Planet Bike also offers a full neoprene shoe cover called the Comet.
I am so glad Planet Bike took pity on me and offered to let me test both the shoe covers and the Borealis gloves…they made my first real winter in over 20 years a bit more bearable — thanks, PB!!! As always, Planet Bike offers a wide range of products for all types of cycling. Swing on over to their website to take a look for yourself!