BikeCommuters.com

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Let it Rain! Sealskinz has me covered.

Hello bike commuters and fellow rain dancers! If you follow these weekly (ish) posts you probably know that I am a fair weather bike commuter. Yes, being a Southern Californian I am not prepared for rainy weather so I just avoid it.

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Well, the fine fellows from Sealskinz thought that I should stop my whining and send me some nice rain gear to test during rainy days. The problem is that it has been over 80 degrees everyday since I got the items so I have not been able to ride with the gear they sent me. Here is the stuff that they sent, I may add that all the products seem to be well made and I can’t wait for a rainy day!

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Starting from my head, I got the Halo Waterproof Helmet Cover. The cover features reflective print as well as integrated LEDs in the back of the helmet.

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For my hands, the All Weather Cycle Gloves in Hi Vis yellow should keep them dry and cozy.

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Having cold and wet feet really sucks, so I got the Road Thin Mid Socks. These socks are supposed to be waterproof and warm.

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I Doubled down on keeping my feet dry and warm so I also got the Lightweight Halo Overshoe covers. These cool covers feature a powerful LED built into the rear.

So I guess I don’t have any excuses anymore since Sealskinz has me covered from head to toes! I will report back on how the items performed in the rain.

Live Video Events

Hello Bike Commuters and fellow social media enthusiasts! Have you ever noticed our Facebook “live video events”? Well you should! Art and I usually head out to different cycling events that we think it would be of interest to our readers/viewers. In case you missed them, here are the videos:

From Pasadena, here is the video of my visit to URB-E:

The local Giant rep visited my LBS, here is a video of all of the new 2017 Giant Road bikes:

A few videos from the Long Beach Electric bicycle expo:

Make sure you follow us on Facebook for more upcoming live videos!

URB-E Visit

Hello Bike Commuters and fellow bike geeks! This weekend I was able to visit a company that had my interest for a while: URB-E. URB-E is a company that makes “compact foldable electric vehicles” in Pasadena California. Pasadena happens to be about a 45 minute drive so I decided to pay them a visit.

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I was greeted by Jonathan, a young associate that really knew his stuff. He was kind to explain the different models of the URB-E line up, the difference between them and I actually got to test ride two of them!

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Let us begin with their least expensive model; the URB-E Sport. The Sport starts at a reasonable $899.00 and you get quite a bit for this price. Major highlights include a 16 mile range per charge, a top speed of up to 14 mph, a basic dampener suspension and multiple USB ports. Here is a video of Jonathan explaining some of the folding features of the sport:

So how did it ride? For such as small wheelbase and small tires I was expecting it to be really twitchy. Yes, the URB-E Sport does not handle like a full size bicycle but it sort of handles like a folding bike. The acceleration of this model is gradual, you don’t get the full torque right of the bat but I actually consider that a good thing. I was also impressed by the URB-E Sport folding capabilities, the Sport -and the other models, fold as small an upright vacuum. You can either carry the URB-E with a strap or you can also roll it. The Sport weighs around 35 lbs, not bad considering that electric bikes weigh around 50lbs.

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The other model I tested was the next model up from the Sport; the URB-E Sport GT. Upgrades include a rear shock, a tuned speed controller and a front kickstand. The speed and range remain the same as the Sport’s. Here is a video of Jonathan explaining the additional features of the GT:

The ride on the GT was totally different, the instant torque changed the handling characteristics making it a little more difficult to ride. URB-E also offer two other models; the URB-E Pro and the URB-E Pro GT. I was not able to ride these models but they have a range of up to 20 miles and a top speed of 18 mph. Prices start at $1,699.

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I know that electric bikes/scooters/vehicles may be a “sacrilege” to us that love to pedal, but I sincerely think that URB-E’s products will be able to get people to leave their car at home, just wait until gas prices go up again.

By the way, I was in no way compensated or sponsored by URB-E, I just really like featuring innovating companies that make their products in the USA. For more information, please visit www.urb-e.com.

NiteRider Sentinel tail light review

It has been a little over eight years since we wrote our non-scientific rear light comparo. Planet Bike’s Super Flash rear light was a top favorite and it is still one of my personal favorites.

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We were offered to review the NiteRider Sentinel rear light featuring lasers. Yup, lasers! In top of the lasers, this light also features a 2 Watt LED light producing about 40 lumens. Let me tell you, even without the lasers, this light is freaking bright. Another cool feature is that the Sentinel is a USB rechargeable light-a huge plus in my book.

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I’m guilty of purchasing those inexpensive Chinese laser rear lights and they eat batteries like crazy, not to mention that the quality of the lights was horrible. Lesson learned.

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We used the NiteRider Sentinel during most of our weekly nightly off-road cycling ride. Our local ride offers a variation of horse trails, small streets and big avenues; a rear light is a must for safety reasons. The Sentinel performed with no hiccups even going through some bumpy trails.

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The Sentinel was also tested during our morning rides to the beach on Pacific Coast Highway. Although the lasers were ineffective during daylight, the 2 watt LED was clearly noticeable.

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Pros:
USB rechargeable
Super bright 2 Watt LED light
Freaking Lasers!
Mount can adapt to most seatpost shapes and sizes
NiteRider Quality
Good run time
5 running modes

Cons:
Lasers are invisible during daylight
A little pricey at $50.00

What I would change:
I think that the concept of having virtual laser bike lanes is a good one, however, I don’t really think that we need a laser on the right side since most of us ride close to the curb. It would also be a good idea if the left laser would be 3-feet away from the bike since a few states have a mandatory 3-feet passing law.

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With its super bright 2 Watt LED, convenient mounting strapping system, USB charging and cool lasers; I can definitely see the NiteRider’s Sentinel being one of my favorite tail lights.
Our review disclaimer.

The story behind Veloloop

Sometimes, as bike commuters, we meet the most interesting people at stoplights. Maybe it’s because we’re not ensconced in metal-and-glass shells, so we seem more accessible. I’ve met my share of folks at stoplights; just ask my friend Gordon R, who sometimes posts here as “The Other GR”. We met at a stoplight in Tampa and became fast friends.

A few weeks ago, I was out riding at an unusual hour (for me), trying to get some night shots of a dynamo light I am testing. At a stoplight, another cyclist rolled up behind me and asked me about the light. We got to talking, and he mentioned that he is the inventor of the technology behind Veloloop.

Have you seen this thing? Veloloop uses radio signals to communicate with the induction loops that control stoplights, and triggers them in a way that bicycles sometimes cannot on their own. Turns out the inventor lives a block away from me, and holds a variety of patents. He wishes to remain anonymous for the time being, but was gracious enough to answer a few questions for Bikecommuters.com. Veloloop has already received favorable press in a number of news outlets, including Outside Magazine and Bike Radar.

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A couple of weekends ago, my neighbor and I met and he demonstrated how Veloloop works. I hung back to watch so as not to inadvertently trigger any stoplights. I can say that the device really works — my friend would roll over the induction loop, the light on the Veloloop device would blink for a bit and then go steady, and the crosswalk countdown timer would start ticking away. Seconds later, we had a green light to proceed!

BC: How did you come up with the idea?

Many years ago a co-worker asked if it would be possible to do something like this. There are other approaches in the patent literature, but I found them to all be a little less than elegant. I’ve done a fair amount of radio design, and I had studied how to make radios that transmitted while they received, and eventually I realized how to apply that knowledge to this problem.

How long have you been working on Veloloop?

I spent a significant amount of time over the 1999-2008 timeframe learning how traffic sensors work and exploring various ways to electronically activate them. Then about two years ago Nat Collins approached me because he wanted to do something similar and had seen my patents. So, we cooperated and developed a practical version.

How does Veloloop work?

First, you have to understand how the loop sensors work. They are really just big metal detectors. They transmit a high frequency signal into a loop of wire beneath the road surface. That loop has an electrical property called “inductance”. Inductance is a measure of how much magnetic field is creted by a current. When a car drives over the loop, the inductance changes. It actually goes down. This is because the metal in the car intercepts some of that magnetic field. The sensor detects this sudden change in inductance.

There are several ways to do this, but usually the sensor’s own frequency depends on the inductance, so it can notice a sudden change in frequency to indicate vehicle presence. The key thing here is that it’s a high frequency signal, and the inductance changes when a vehicle is present.

The Veloloop has a transmitter. Once it figures out what frequency the loop is using, it sends back a signal at *almost* the same frequency. In fact, the signal it sends back deliberately varies its frequency, a little high, then a
little low, etc., just to be sure all bases are covered. It is able to keep listening while it transmits to make sure it is still over a sensor and near the right frequency. This transmitted signal gets picked up by the loop in the ground and looks to the detector like a sudden change in inductance. Voila, the bicycle gets detected.

How prevalent are inductive loop traffic sensors in the U.S.? Are there other technologies to detect cars and bicycles at intersections?

They appear to be going away in some areas, and are being replaced by vision systems. Vision systems are often unable to detect bicycles and have trouble with accumulation of dirt. Inductive sensors are still common in many places and there are several well-established companies making them and coming out with new models. I expect them to be around for a long time.

What is some of the backlash you’ve seen regarding press coverage of the Veloloop in news sources? Any persistent myths that bicyclists repeat?

Much of the backlash comes from the fact that often proper placement of the bicycle over the sensitive part of the sensor is adequate to generate detections. So, there is a perceived lack of need for an active device. There is also the stupid idea that if you don’t get detected, it may be permissible to run the light.

In reality, there are many detectors that are just unable to detect bicycles regardless of placement, and many situations where it would just be a whole lot safer, faster, and more convenient to get detected. This is where the Veloloop can help. It also takes a burden off of traffic departments who often have trouble fiddling with sensitivity.

Oh, and then there’s the “magnet myth”. This is the urban legend that says that putting magnets on your shoes will somehow trigger the sensors (Editor’s note: I was guilty of believing in this myth — had a hard-drive magnet glued to the bottom of my cycling shoes back in Florida). As I pointed out, the sensors use a high frequency signal while a magnet produces a static field. They are not the same. This old idea is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of electromagnetics and has been disproven many times. What probably happens is that someone glues a magnet to their shoe or frame, and then proceeds to place their bike over the sensitive part of a cooperative loop, and gets a detection. They think it was due to the magnet, but in reality it was the placement (or the car that came by in the opposite direction). Enough people have done the scientific test with just a magnet without a bicycle at a deserted intersection, to debunk this one.

Anything else we should know? Any improvements in the works, or other details to share?

We’ve looked at eliminating the loop and using the bicycle frame as an antenna. That would involve some big up-front costs to make a special transformer, so we didn’t start there. We are also looking into the motorcycle market. We’ve have a lot of inquiries there. Neither of us (the Veloloop developers) are motorcycle owners, so we don’t have first-hand knowledge of the requirements.

Recently, the VP of engineering at a major induction loop manufacturer contacted us to test one of the Veloloop devices. He can tell us just what effect the unit is having on their sensors (trigger, error condition, etc.).

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Editor’s note: The Veloloop’s Kickstarter campaign is struggling a bit — so there’s still time to contribute if you’re interested. We’d like to thank the developer for taking time to demonstrate the device and for answering our questions. We’ll have a followup once the induction loop manufacturer submits his report, too.