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Tag Archive: nighttime bike safety

Product review: SealSkinz Fingerless Cycle Gloves

At the beginning of summer, the kind folks at SealSkinz offered us a pair of their new summerweight cycling gloves to try out. You may know SealSkinz as a maker of waterproof socks, hats, and gloves for outdoor activities such as hiking and hunting, but they’ve also got a number of cycling-specific pieces in their lineup.

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The SealSkinz gloves are lightweight, with a lycra back and a synthetic leather palm that is textured for grip. The middle and ring fingers have extra material at the tops that are fashioned as “pull tabs” to get the gloves off easier. There’s a hook-and-loop wrist closure, and reflective accents on the back of the glove.

The pair I tested is a size Large. They felt true to size, but with a small amount of bunching between the fingers (we’ll get to that in a bit).

The padding on the palm is rather thin, and at first I thought I’d have issues with that — my own hands are not particularly padded, and prefer a glove with dense padding in the palm, where possible. The SealSkinz gloves, despite the thin padding, didn’t let me down in terms of comfort, even for longer riders of 30-40 miles. Beyond those distances, I think I’d rather have something with more padding.

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For those who have read glove reviews I’ve done in the past, you may remember that the nose-wiping area of a glove is VERY important to me, summer or winter. The SealSkinz didn’t let me down there, either — the entire thumb is made of a soft microsuede material, with no protruding seams to rough up the sensitive nose area. I can wipe all day in comfort!

The grip is fantastic with the gloves, as is overall durability. I wore them all summer and racked up serious miles with the SealSkinz, and they still look pretty new, even after a couple of washings. The stitching and seams remained tight throughout the testing period.

The reflective accents on the backs are a nice touch, but I don’t know how effective they might be. The reflective effect is pretty subtle, and I was unable to get a good nighttime photo of the reflective bits in action.

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Perhaps my only gripe with the SealSkinz gloves is the cut of the fabric panels prior to sewing. I did notice a lot of extra material, especially between the fingers. I can’t help but think that the cutting patterns could be refined a bit to reduce some of this excess, helping to streamline them a bit and reduce bunching between the fingers. Since the material is naturally stretchy, this excess material isn’t needed to accommodate wider fingers than my own, either.

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The SealSkinz fingerless gloves retail for $35, and are available directly from the SealSkinz website. As of this writing, they are not in stock and do not appear on the company website even though they ARE a current product. I checked with their PR person just to make sure they weren’t discontinued for some reason. That $35 buys a well-constructed, lightweight glove that is ideal for warm-weather riding. The gloves are 100% designed in Great Britain, with much of the manufacture occurring in Great Britain as well. Take a look at the SealSkinz cycling lineup for a wide range of products to suit any rider at any temperature.

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

Soul Cruzers LED Bicycle Wheel Light Kits: Review

Back in April the kind folks at Soul Cruzers sent us an LED bicycle wheel light kit. Basically it’s designed to light up your wheels by attaching a string of LED lights to your spokes.

soul cruzer LED lights

Their website states the following:

LED bicycle LED wheel light kit. Fits up to 2x 29″ wheels

Red-Blue-White-Green-Purple-Yellow -Pink

Comes with AA batteries, zip ties and EZ to follow instructions

Price $24.95 for a set, both wheels

When I opened up the package to install the lights, I noticed one of the light sets wasn’t working. From the looks of it, the batteries that came with it went bad. I went ahead and replaced them with a fresh set. Soul Cruzers does recommend replacing the “oem” battery with a higher quality like Duracell and the like. After installing the fresh batteries, the lights worked great.
soulcruzer LED lights review

The Soul Cruzer directions say that I need to loop the wire on every other spoke. The bike I installed the Soul Cruzer lights on was my daughter’s bike, the Nirve Ultra Liner.

Though their site states that the LED lights will fit a 29″ wheels, the Nirve Ultra Liner is equipped with 700c wheels and you can see from this photo, the wire doesn’t completely go all the way around. Does it really make a big difference? Well yes and no. If they say it will fit 29″(700c) wheels then you’d think the wire would be long enough, right? But when you light up the LEDs, can you really tell where the gap is?
Soul cruzer LED lights review

To answer the questions above, look at this photo. You can see a gap on the rear tire around the 5:30 position, the front wheel has a gap on the 3 O’clock position. Another thing I’ll mention, the rear wheel has fresh batteries, while the front has the OEM batteries. On a fresh set of batteries they stayed lit for 5 hours, while the OEM batteries started to go dim after 20 minutes of use.
Soul Cruzer LED light review

So how do the Soul Cruzers LED wheel lights look while spinning? Well, I gotta tell you, they do look great! It’s probably one of the better ways to get seen by cars because the bright colors help you be seen by anyone. From pedestrians to drivers, they’ll see you!
Soul Cruzer LED bicycle wheel lights
There were 2 things that didn’t like, for one, the length of the wire. It probably needed another 5-6″ to properly fit a 29er(700c) wheel. I figured Soul Cruzers had probably designed them to fit on the beach cruisers they sell, and those have 26″ wheels, so if you have a 26″ wheeled bike, they would be fine. Another thing was the OEM battery — they really should last longer than what they did. But if you plan on using these lights on a daily basis for your commute or for bar hopping, then I’d recommend using rechargeable batteries.

Other than those 2 things I mentioned, I have to say the Soul Cruzers LED Bicycle Wheel Lights are pretty fun to have on a bike! Oh I forgot to mention that they do have a blinker setting. So you can have one wheel run solid while the other blinks. I actually like the idea that the LED light isn’t just kept in one small container like traditional LED lights are, but these lights allow you to have lights on a larger scale. They would be great to supplement your front and rear LED lights to give you that added visibility.

Our FTC Review Disclaimer

Review: LED by Lite – Version 1, kinda…

LED by Lite Bumblebee2

Don't mind my dirty handlebars - here comes the review for Version 1, sort of...

Alright, alright, alriiiiight dear readers if you love blinky lights like crack candy for your eyeballs and safety like I do, you must have been excited when we received a kit of LED by Lite’s System 36 Plus Version 1 to test back in April.  Back in the springtime, RL emailed out to the team and it went a little something like this:

RL: You guys recall that product from Interbike?
http://www.bikecommuters.com/2011/09/21/interbike-2011-led-by-lite/
Well they want to send us a test unit. Anyone want to test it and give it a good shake down? Please respond ASAP.

****10 seconds later to receive message from cyber space and respond INSTANTLY!****

Me: I want SO BAD!!!  TURN SIGNALS!!! please 🙂

I wiiiin.  Like a Chinese Olympic Gold Medalist, I was proud and honored…  But, before we platform dive a triple-and-a-half gainer into this review, let me share a not-so-surprising announcement that I gleaned from the LED by Lite website:

“We want to thank all of you for your support.  At this time we have suspended sales on version 1.  We’re developing version 2 and realigning our distribution chain.”

Booo!!!  Major disappointment that the release of the version 1 Signal kits had been postponed, I cried like any second-place U.S. Olympian taking home a silver paperweight.  However, I think it was for good reason considering the glitches I encountered while attempting to give this product a deserving review.  Anyway, I wanted to share my honest review with your readers – not as rose-colored as usual – in hopes of helping out President Brandon Smith of LED by Lite, since I am crossing fingers for a successful execution for their Version 2 in the future.

Let’s talk about SPECS, baby:

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

When I received the semi-sweet chocolate kit, I assembled it according to the diagrams that came in the box.  Brandon Smith emailed me to tell me that it was the second calibrated set to be released from their home base in Utah, and the buttons may need a little “breaking in,” but other than that, it should be pre-programmed and ready to go!  Apparently, my skills of reading graphic instructions (just put this nubbin into the little clicky clacky over there, zip tie this doo-dad and stick it to the frame with some butterscotch) was sub-par to say the least.  Apparently, allen-keying together a ZORGLFJORD from Ikea is no indication of your skills for correctly assembling the LED by Lite 36 plus kit.  I emailed Brandon the following photos for a quick diagnosis:

LED by Lite Bumblebee8

LED by Lite Bumblebee5

LED by Lite Bumblebee4

Problem #1: I could only get the front lights to work and was having a terrible time charging the battery pack enough that it could be unplugged from the wall to light up even just the front.  Brandon checked out the photos and told me I had one of the connections backwards in the “Y” shaped cable.  They are working on better diagrams to provide with Version 2.  After all was good and righteous, I then discovered that the dashboard buttons I received weren’t syncde up with the battery pack, so I sent all the black boxes back in exchange for new ones.  Problem 1 solved – properly plugged in and rigged up with a synced up dashboard.

Olympic Qualifying Move:  Brandon was very helpful and promptly answered my emails and could even figure out the problem despite my craptastic photo skills.

Problem #2: As for the battery pack charging, I figured out that if I left it plugged in standing vertically, it charged overnight.  Although, one swift paw of a kitty cat could set me back for the whole night again, so I charged it in a hidden spot, inaccessible to kitties.  Problem 2 solved – or so I thought.

Problem #3: Excited to show off my new blinkers to all those between my house and a dinner party in Makiki, I took the lights out for a 9pm test ride, only to find that (apparently) Problem #2 had caused me to lose battery power after 15 minutes of my 25 minute ride – good thing I had my backup everyday lights and the charger in hand.  Crash landing avoided!  I patiently charged the LED by Lite set up at the house (eating left-handed and playing slow-motion charades to give the charger it’s best chance), waiting for a successful test ride home!  Problem 3 avoided with helpful advice from Michael Westin in Burn Notice.

Olympic Qualifying Move: These LEDs are BRIGHT and make you feel like a bike commuter in Tokyo Drift with Paul Walker and Vin Diesel.  SBS (straight baller status) for brightness!  See and be seen!

LED by Lite with Rear Rack

Image from LED by Lite website. Cables accommodate xtracycles and rear racks!

Problem #4: All charged up and ready to roll home, turn signals and all, I get hit with a sheet of late spring rain like a power washer at a Chevron drive-thru.  I’m talking Hawaii downpour, if ya gnome sayin’.  I couldn’t see anything in front of me, and the controls to press buttons on the dashboard were the least of my concerns, so I blinked without taking advantage of the turnsignals all the way home.  Since my bike is fenderless (I stampede in the rain and change clothes when I get home) and the LED by Lite battery pack was tucked right under my seat, the entire system was moist to put it lightly.  Also, Brandon mentioned that Version 2 will include waterproof connections along the cables.  The entire battery pack was done after the first night.  Damnit, and I just got the rear lights working again!  Brandon solved the issue by sending me yet another battery pack.  A week or so later, I finally got to do some “normal” test rides.

Highlights and Recap: All color commentary aside: I had high high hopes for the LED by Lite kit, with wireless remote dashboard and turn signal capabilities.  They weren’t lying when they said this thing is bright!  Running the lights in the daytime, I even heard pedestrians shout “Hey look, the bike has turn signals!” so people do get the picture.  If charged properly it lasts at least a full day (several 10-20 minute jaunts per day).  It is easy to dismount the lights (just rip em off the rubbery stays) but time-consuming to take all the cables down since the connections are not waterproof, and often I leave my bike in an uncovered parking spot.  When I was dismounting everything from the bike except the rubber holds for the LED strips, I would remind myself of how much time I would have to take to find a parking spot if I were in a car instead… Patience is a virtue!  Water is a big issue that they need to correct in version 2 that would help with battery pack failure as well as speed of dismounting the system, since the cables could stay attached to the bike.  The dashboard is odd – buttons are hard to push – making it inconvenient/distracting to light up the signal prior to turning.  Overall, it’s not of the quality one would expect for a $100+ light system.   Let’s hope Version 2 ends up taking home more golds then Michael Phelps instead of disappointing like Version 1.  You can do it Team LED by Lite!  Go for the gold!

Michael Phelps Gold Medals

LEDbyLite - go for the gold in Version 2 - we're counting on you!

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

Reflective DIY “Get Visible” – Photoshoot

3M Scotchlite tape - what a stealthy reflective cheap trick!

Okay Midnight Riders… it is wintery and darker than usual at the end of our work days this time of year.  In the spirit of digging up things in our past like you all have been posting for our Bike Commuters 2000th post Giveaway, here’s the follow-up to our article on Reflective DIY Tape! So: for Raiyn & his stealth reflector bling power and all the other Bike Commuters out there, I finally got ahold of a photomaker and snapped some photos!  I also got ahold of a magic wand. Check out the the effectiveness of the easy bibbity-bobbity-boo Scotchlite 3M reflective tape Makeover:

Version 1: No flash, living room lights on.

Dayman.

Version 2: With flash, living room lights off, awesome magic sparkle power ON.

Fighter of the Nightman! aAAAaaaa!

ShaBAM:  bright at night, but the 3M reflective tape blends in during the day too!  For more archive digging, check out my favorite BikeCommuters.com gateway articles, Moe’s Rear Blinky Comparo or Jack “Ghost Rider” Sweeney’s Planet Bike 1W Blaze Review. Stay bright, night commuters!

Hasbro... maybe they will make a "Lite-Brite" movie since they already made "Transformers"

Fashionista Meets Hi-Viz Yellow? Supermodels look good in anything…

SOOOOOOOOOOOO a friend of mine emailed me this link to an article from a design blog called www.coolhunting.com.   Funny, the title of their blog conjures images of the highschoolers in trucker hats with red flannel and rifles more than their self proclaimed synonymousness with “with seeking inspiration.” Oops, guess I just have deer on the brain!

Corset time, suck it in cycle ladies! I guess this works for those who don't wear backpacks to commute.

Anyway, the article highlights VESPERTINE, a fluorescent hi-viz inspired “chic” clothing company for women cyclists out of NYC.  Not gonna lie, I myself have dreamed of a number of staple items in my closet coming in reflective 3M piping and hi-viz yellow on several  occasions.  However, I would never have guessed in a million century rides that someone would actually fabricate them for purchase online in exchange for hundreds of dollars!!!  Here’s what VESPERTINE has to say about their flashy selves:

Also good for pedestrian crossings. "BRING IT MACK TRUCK! I have a superstar like Mario Brothers! It's ON!"

Entirely  Made in New York City’s garment district, Vespertine uses sustainable materials, like our eco-circle 100% recycled polyester, as well as exclusive fabrics sourced from small European mills and beyond. Our highly reflective materials are from 3M and ANSI and EN 471 compliant.

Envisioning urban landscapes illuminated by eye-catching, traffic-stopping duds, Vespertine is convinced that safe is chic and cycling is a revolutionary act which sets good karma spinning. To further this vision and spread our love for the ride, we’ve pledged 1% of our profits to the extraordinary non-profit World Bicycle Relief.

The truth is, this vespertine model would look hot in neon body paint on her commute; she probably sweats iridescent simple syrup.

Okay… aye forgibb you for your high priced sexy reflective women’s cycling gear because 1% is donated to World Bicycle Relief.  Whaddya say BikeCommuters readers and Cycle Ladies?  Ridiculous? or Fashionista Genius?  You know my answer, 300 bones for a neon yellow ostrich vest?  No thanks, I’ll save that cash moolah for a touring trip, thank you.  And on to the photos where supermodels look good in everything:

No helmet hair here, ladies! Oh how I do LOVE hologram shiz like Lisa Frank!

Ostrich PARTY!!!!

Speaking of Lisa Frank: apparently pink vest also works in daytime for sassy vesperTEEN on and off the bike.

This does, however, make me inspired to sew reflective piping onto my normal everyday clothes and sit on a concrete seal in a playground… or not. I’ll just buy my crazy spandex from Vamos Threads on etsy.