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Review: Dorcy Hawkeye Bike Lights

I thought I was doing just fine with my current bike light setup—yes, my front light is secured with electrical tape and it needs to be encouraged to turn on with a good smack or two. And yes, rear lights mysteriously disappear en route between my apartment and the office on a regular basis. Ok, who am I kidding, I need a new bike light system. Luckily for me, I’ve been tasked with testing out a couple different options. First up, Dorcy Hawkeye lights.

1-Dorcy Hawkeye Light

Dorcy doesn’t mess around with lights. The company’s products range from personal flashlights and headlamps to heavy duty spotlights and signal wands (for directing traffic). The Dorcy Hawkeye LED bike lights promise to pack a punch with the front light boasting 200 lumens, guaranteeing to light the path 200 meters down the road and to be seen from even further away—same goes for the rear light.

2-Dorcy lights in package

The Dorcy LED bike light  is not a dainty addition at nearly half a pound including three AA batteries. Even with the option of using rechargeable batteries, I’m not a big fan of battery powered devices, if only because I never seem to have extra batteries when I need them most.

3-Dorcy light out of the package

The battery cartridge has a satisfying barrel-like design, reminiscent of a revolver’s bullet chamber. Not sure why I like that so much, but I do. Though it doesn’t help the overall weight, which seems a bit hefty to me.

5. Dorcy light size

The light itself is much larger than most, nearly five inches long. But this is no ordinary bicycle light, my friends. Thanks to a patented quick release feature, the “durable aerospace-grade aluminum alloy, corrosion resistant” light chamber pops out of the bike clamp, transforming into a handheld flashlight. Snazzy.

With the rubber-padded bracket attachment, the light stayed secured to my handle bars with no obnoxious rattling (which is just the worst) or movement up and down. Dorcy claims that the bracket will fit any bike on the North American market, so I’m guessing this light will fit just as securely on nearly any bike.

4-Dorcy light on roy

The Dorcy Hawkeye features a wide-angle, rectangular light beam rather than a traditional focused beam, which helps to illuminate the entire road ahead while limiting (unnecessary) spread of light upwards. They also claim that this feature “will not blind pedestrians.” I tested this assertion by making my friend, Sarah stand still while I rode toward her, light blaring. Sarah still seemed to cringe way from the light, but once I rode closer, the beam did indeed remain below her eyes.

Dorcy

On to the rear light: the Dorcy Hawkeye Tail Light features three super high brightness LEDs that can be seen from 200 meters away. Like the front light, the rear light’s mounting clamp is tool-free and adjusts easily to fit snuggly on any 24 – 32 mm diameter seat post. Plus, the patented bracket adjusts for a horizontal or vertical orientation.

6-Dorcy rear light

Personally, I appreciated how the adjustable pin and padded clamp allowed me to really crank the bracket on for maximum security. No more losing a rear light on a packed train car or bumpy road! (Notice the velcro remains of a previous light still clinging to my seat post?)

7-Dorcy rear light mounted

For my first ride with these lights, I ventured out through Golden Gate Park to catch the sunset and make sure that it was good and dark for my return ride.

8-Dorcy Light Sunset

Both the rear and front lights have just two setting: steady beam and flashing. As promised, I felt like my lights could be seen from blocks and blocks away. Seriously, I was lighting up reflective street signs as far as I could see (maybe five or six blocks). Also, the front light has two slits on either side, allowing light to filter out and illuminate the area right and left of the rider. While this is a bonus for visibility, I found it to be distracting with the light shining in my eyes.

10-Dorcy light at the beach

For everyday commuting, the front light is a bit large and hefty for my tastes; on the other hand, I would definitely choose the Dorcy Hawkeye for my pre-sunrise rides through poorly lit backroads. Not only would I be well visible to traffic, but my path would also be lit clear as day.

The Dorcy Hawkeye LED Personal Light front bike light retails for $55.00 and can be purchased directly from Dorcy.com—same goes for the LED Bicycle Tail Light, which retails for about $13.99.

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

Final Review: 2014 Jamis Hudson with Slidepad Brakes

We’ve had the Jamis Hudson with Slidepad on test for a few months now, and despite a lot of frigid days, and days that look like this (or snowier), I’ve managed to get enough rides in to get a good impression.

 

Average reviewing conditions. March 17th snow in Virginia!

 

 

You’ll remember (or not) that I did an initial review here. Overall, I can’t say that my impressions have changed very much – I still think the general setup is pretty good for the intended audience, and after a decent number of hours/miles (many at slow speed with a 5-year old out in front) I didn’t have any issues crop up. The bike is overall comfortable (though after one 2-hour ride I was getting not-so-happy with the super-cushy saddle!).

There is one significant difference between that initial review and now, concerning the brake setup. After reading my initial impressions, Ian at Slidepad was concerned there might be something wrong with my brake setup. He gave me a call, and we determined that the sliding-pad bit of the brake system had gotten (to use a technical phrase) hung up on something internally – so it wasn’t kicking in full-force. After wrestling with it a bit, I managed to pop it back into place without damaging anything, and voila! I had improved braking performance.

So – that bit of my initial review can be revised. Braking works pretty effectively,the rear wheel does not lock up as much as it was before, and the front-wheel braking kicks in reasonably quickly.

While I was talking with him, Ian also explained that their “improved braking efficiency” claim was made against a bike with rear-brake only (like a lot of the coaster-brake cruisers out there). I’d agree that this definitely beats that setup. However, I think a fairer comparison is against something like the Electra Townie 7D, which is extremely comparable in price (within $20), as well as components (with the exception of the brakes) and general intent. In that case, I don’t think that there’s going to be a big difference unless the rider of the Electra isn’t using their front brake well/at all.

The Hudson in drier (and warmer) times

This brings me to the whole “one brake lever is easier” thing. Yes, it works. Yes, it’s a valid option and frankly I can see it working out for some people (and hey, you have your left arm free to signal turns!). But in general – I still don’t quite buy it. When using Slidepad, it does take a bit of trial and error to adjust to the point where the front brakes kick in, as you go from a light “back only” to a significantly stronger “back and front combined.” When riding at speed, I did sometimes find myself unintentionally slowing much more than I meant to when that front brake kicked in. So in my mind, learning to deal with this isn’t really much less difficult than learning to deal with two brakes. Finally, I really think the whole risk of doing an endo/losing control by means of front brake, on a bike like this, is pretty minimal – the weight balance is so far back that it really takes a lot of effort to get the back wheel to pick up much at all.

In terms of the “simpler” idea on the brakes: my experience with the whole setup having a malfunction didn’t leave me more confident. I was happy it was fixable, but it definitely took more effort than getting a regular set of V brakes set up. Additionally, it’s a lot more obvious what’s wrong with a set of V brakes. I’m sure Jamis dealers will get their mechanics all set up on how this system works – but if an owner of this type of brake system walks into a shop that hasn’t seen it before, I have no idea what their results would be. If all is working fine, it’s not going to be an issue, but I can’t say how often issues might come up.

In the end, this really all comes down to personal preferences (as it so often does!). In this case, I’d prefer independent brake levers for the greater degree of control. However, if a prospective buyer is purchasing from a Jamis dealer, intends to continue to use that shop for service, and likes the whole “one hand two brakes” concept, I’d say go for it.

Review: Dual Action Bike Seat Test Ride

My fellow contributors were more than happy to let me take a crack at the funky Dual Action Seat #400 as my first equipment review.  When I pulled the funny looking Dual Action Seat out of its box, I thought, “this is definitely newbie hazing.” The aptly named seat has two independently moving butt flaps that rotate up and down as you pedal, and the whole thing swivels right to left with the movement of your hips. This is definitely unlike any bike seat I’ve encountered.

Dual Action Bike Seat

The Dual Action Seat is designed as an alternative for riders looking to relieve issues associated with the traditional horn-shape bike saddle. The roomy five-inch-wide seat pads are separated by a two-inch gap intended to reduce pressure on the tailbone and groin area, and the rotating action to limit hip pain. I read up on Dual Action’s website about perineal pressure, and dudes, penile paralysis associated with a traditional saddle is scary stuff!  If this seat helps minimize or eliminate damage to fella bike riders’ delicates, I don’t care how funny looking it is.

Dual Action Bike Seat 2

Dual Action Bike Seat 1

I may not be the target user, but I do love a wide, cushy seat, so I was stoked to give the Dual Action a little, uh, action. Though the seat is geared toward touring or stationary bikes, with a few minor tweaks of an Allen wrench, it can be swapped in for any bike with a straight stem 7/8″ diameter seat post. Including my trusty steed, Roy the Roady.

Emily allen wrenching DAS

It was relatively easy to install. And by easy, I mean it is literally just adjusting two Allen bolts. A little too easy. I didn’t trust the simple directions included with the seat, so I managed to put it on backwards my first go.

DABS Instructions

The movement of the butt flappers seat pads is a bit strange at first and I spent a while finessing the proper installation angle.

Dual Action Bike Seat 3

Roy with DABS

Roy with DABS 2

Once I had Roy all geared up, I took him for a spin. The seat felt more precarious than I had anticipated. While the up-and-down movement of the pads felt natural with my pedal movements, the swivel action along the vertical axis was disconcerting. I felt like I was constantly falling off the seat. It didn’t help that I was slipping from the slick fabric of the seat itself—fyi, yoga pants and gel seat coverings don’t work well together (and I imagine a snazzy pair of spandex bike shorts might have the same issue).

Emily on DABS

The more I rode, the more comfortable I became with the seat’s movement; however, I just couldn’t shake the precarious feeling of the swivel motion. I felt like I was fighting the side-to-side motion, having to bring my hips back in line after each pedal rotation. Rather than enhancing my natural movements, I was having to work to stay on my seat. As for comfort, I wish the pads had been more naturally contoured—rounded or tapered toward the front. The squared edges tended to poke and rub uncomfortably for me. Also, the seat itself is heavy, adding weight to my fairly light road bike and making it more difficult to haul up and down stairs (which I have to do to board the train on my commute).

After putting in quality time with the Dual Action Seat on Roy, I realized it wouldn’t be a permanent seat swap for me, but I wanted to get a second opinion. So I mounted the seat on our office spin bike and persuaded my boss (yep, my boss), Jim to give it a try and let me know what he thought.

Jim Dual Action Bike Seat 2

Jim Dual Action Bike Seat 3

An avid road cyclist and fellow bike commuter, Jim gave the Dual Action Seat a trial run. After getting accustomed to the seat’s movement, Jim had a similar discomfort with the swivel motion of the seat. He suggested that if the seat resisted or sprang back to neutral after each pedal stroke, the rider’s hips would still have the benefit of natural motion without strain of realigning the seat back to a centered position. Sounds clever to me. Overall, I think he’ll stick with his current saddle too.

I have no doubt that the Dual Action Seat design will continue to improve and serve as an alternative to the traditional bike saddle. While this inventive seat might not be right for me, if it can help riders keep riding without pain or medical complications, I am all for this wonky seat. And if you happen to be looking for a bike saddle to reduce pain while riding or said medical complications, you can purchase the D.A.S. Model #400 for $239.00 with free shipping. A bit pricey, but it does come with a 30-day money back guarantee.

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

On Test: 2014 Jamis Hudson with Slidepad Brakes

So during Interbike (remember Interbike?) RL and Jack got to see some Torker bikes equipped with Slidepad technology. Most of you were drooling over the Torkers… but we also were intrigued by the Slidepad stuff, and now we’ve got our hands (well, my hands) on a new-for-2014 Jamis Hudson equipped with Slidepad brakes.

The slide pad for Slidepad.

So how does Slidepad work? Basically, when you engage the rear brake, one of the pads slides forward (pad sliding… Slidepad… get it?) and puts tension on a cable from the rear brakes to the front. So – your rear brake always engages first (and with more power), then your front brake engages with slightly less power. You can check out Slidepad’s video for some in-action views.

Since I’ve received this bike, I’ve been hit with a nasty 3-week cold (residing primarily in my lungs, of course!) and then subjected to snow and ice… so I haven’t had as many chances to ride it as I’d have liked. However, I’ve gotten out on the bike a few times and can offer some preliminary comments on both the bike and the brakes. I’ll be riding it over the coming weeks, and will let you all know whether my initial impressions hold up and what else I notice!

First… the bike! The Jamis Hudson is a comfort/cruiser-style bike with a MSRP of $480 – so about what you’d expect for a decent entry-level bike. This is NOT a bike that’s marketed to most of you with your serious-commuter cred… it’s aimed at getting your mom/brother/grandma/friend who hasn’t ridden a bike in 10-50 years back onto one. So, it’s got a basic 7-speed grip shift, 26″ wheels, the Slidepad brakes, a cushy seat, and laid-back pedaling position. It’s easy and comfortable to ride, as long as your ride isn’t going to be too fast or too far. Perfect for jaunts into (a nearby) town or around the neighborhood with the kids.

Jamis Hudson Sport


At nearly 30 lbs it’s not a lightweight beast (even though it’s got an aluminum frame!), but that doesn’t matter because it’s not supposed to be. It comes in one basic size, and that size is quite adjustable thanks to the quick release seatpost and the quill stem that has a few inches of adjustability in it. It seems like it could work for anyone in the 5′ – 6′ range pretty easily (possibly more, but I haven’t had any of those folks available to try it out!). It also comes with one of the nicer stock kickstands I’ve seen.

Now… the brakes! So I’ve got to say up front – I have to look at these from the perspective of the aforementioned non-riders rather than my own. I’m not going to be swapping out my disc brakes for these things, but again I don’t think Slidepad expects me to.

The good:
– The brakes work. The bike stops as advertised, and the front wheel does not lock up at all. Yes it’s only one bullet point… but it’s a pretty darn important one!

The neither-good-nor-bad:
– I have to say I don’t know quite where the “efficiency” claims come from. Certainly the bike stops in a reasonable distance, but I’m quite confident I can stop faster on my other bikes than on this one.
– If you’re not going fast, the front brake doesn’t engage at all, because there’s not enough force on the back brake to move the slide.

The bad:
– As a consequence of rear-wheel-first braking, it’s actually pretty easy to lock the rear wheel up – so I would definitely not want this system if I was going to ride in wet/icy/snowy conditions, where a rear-wheel slide could potentially be worse than a locked front wheel.
– The basic Tektro brake lever is one of my least favorite ones out there. Swap this out for an Avid Speed Dial lever and I’d be a much happier camper!
– The brake system is so interdependent that it makes what is usually an easy job – setting up a pair of V brakes – kind of a pain in the butt. To get everything the way I wanted it, I had to set both front and rear brakes VERY close to the rim – and I still don’t get full braking power until the lever nearly hits the handlebars (though I suspect part of that is the fault of the lever, see above). To most riders of this bike this won’t matter… but I’m betting their mechanics (probably their bikey friends, aka our readers) won’t appreciate it that much!

One of my test riders takes the Hudson for a spin


Despite my complaints on the brakes, this is an overall decent setup for a new rider (and that rider probably won’t have any issues with complaints 2 or 3). I had a couple of not-new riders (but riders unaccustomed to cruiser style bikes) check it out, and they both thought the bike was comfortable and the brakes didn’t give them a problem. I suspect most prospective buyers for the bike and brake system will feel somewhat the same way.

 

 

Product Review: Continental Super Sport Plus Tires


SONY DSCSo a lot of us commuter types end up riding road (ish) bikes with road (ish) tires. Unfortunately, this often means we end up using road tires meant for racer folks, not commuting folks! While they’re not the only players in the game, Continental definitely brings a good solution to market with the Super Sport Plus tires we’ve had on long-term test. They’re equipped with an anti-puncture belt, which according to Continental is “Nearly impenetrable.” The Super Sport Plusses (henceforward referred to by me as SSPs) have just enough tread to lend a bit more confidence on the slightly-sketchy stuff (for super-sketchy stuff you’d be better off with something like this, or possibly this!). The SSPs also come with extra-thick tread – something us commuters can appreciate (because hey, tires can get expensive!). My set was 700×25; they also come in 700×23 and even some 27 inch sizes for those of you riding what I’ll call… “classic”… bikes.



So how do they ride? Well, I mounted them up to my old Bridgestone single speed to test them out, and the verdict was… Smooooth. Also pretty fast for a tire that isn’t that lightweight (no I didn’t weigh them, who do you think I am?). Riding unloaded, I was able to maintain pretty respectable speeds over the course of an hour or two. Recommended inflation on the 700×25 size was 95-120 PSI, but I found 90-95 was the sweet spot for me.
SONY DSC

In terms of wet – they work well there too. No real sense of lost grip (though I’ll warn that might change with the narrower sizes – it’s hard to tell what was because of the tire and what was because of the tire size). I would recommend against snow though (sorry E, they’re not gonna be your Chicago winter tires!).

The verdict on flat protection? Well, it’s always hard to prove a negative… I didn’t get any flats on these! I’m not usually riding any glass or tack-studded roads though, so it’s hard to say. I did hit one sharp-edged bump at about 20mph… so I CAN say at a minimum that they don’t pinch flat easily!SONY DSC

Street price for these babies seems to average around $30/tire, though there are a few deals out there depending on which version you’re after. My verdict? Worth the money. You won’t find a heck of a lot that’s much cheaper, and knowing that you’ve got quality tires under you is worth quite a bit.
SONY DSC

 

 

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