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Tag Archive: nighttime safety

Review: ArroWhere reflective cycling jacket

Back at Interbike in September, RL ran across the ArroWhere company. Their product line “caught our eye”, as they say — with bright colors and loads of reflective accents for nighttime safety.

We reached out the the ArroWhere company and they sent us a pre-production sample of their Solid Arrow Reflective Jacket to try out. Remember, this is a pre-production sample, so minor details have changed from the actual version for sale. We’ll get into those changes in a bit.

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First, a bit about the jacket directly from the manufacturer’s website:

-Waterproof and breathable polyester fabric
-Top quality 3M reflective material
-Patent pending ArroWhere arrow design visible at night at least 1/4 mile away
-Lower tail
-Reflective panels and striping
-Fleece lined collar and pockets
-Waterproof zippers
-Zippered armpit vents

The ArroWhere jacket has an extended tail to help fight off splashes. The arms are extra long to provide coverage when stretched out on the bike — a perfect length for me. The jacket has a fine mesh lining to help it breathe. I got a size medium to test, and while it feels a little bit large when I’m standing around, it conforms nicely to me when I’m actually on the bike. There is room for underlayers, too.

The jacket has a fleece-lined collar with a protective zipper garage that prevents throat gouges when it’s zipped up all the way. The handwarmer pockets are lined in the same luxurious fleece, too — great for when your hands need a quick warmup. All the zippers are waterproof and easy to manipulate on or off the bike, including the generously long pit zips for venting excess heat:

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The cuffs have a hook-and-loop adjustment system that snugs them up nicely to prevent wind intrusion:

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This jacket is LOADED with reflective accents. The large arrow on the back gives other road users a good visual indication of what to do when approaching, and the arrow is available pointing right for users in the UK and other areas where driving on the left is the norm. The rest of the reflective trim catches the light nicely. I would have liked reflective cuffs here, though, to help make my arm-motion directional signals more visible out on the roads.

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Now, about the changes in the final jacket: I spoke to Khyle Pinkman, the founder of the company. He said that the production jacket fabric demonstrates better waterproofing than the sample we tested, and also is nicer in terms of overall fabric quality. I did not get to try this out in the wet (yet), so I can’t make any claims about the fabric on this sample.

In addition to safety yellow, the jacket is available in high-visibility orange and in navy blue. It is available in sizes from S to XXL, and female riders rejoice, because there is a wide range of women’s sizes, too! The jacket retails for $129.95, which is right at the price point many similar jackets with fewer features live at. That makes it a good value in my book.

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For my purposes, the jacket is nearly perfect as-is. It helps keep me warm, there’s room for clothing underneath, and the reflective accents are effective at night. Add in the details like the fleece linings and trim and we’ve got a winner here. As I mentioned, if there was more reflective at the cuffs, I’d call it PERFECT.

Check out the full range of ArroWhere jackets by visiting their website. They make reflective vests and backpack covers with the same quality and patent-pending reflective design for additional nighttime safety and visibility on dark streets.

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

Interbike 2013: New lights from Planet Bike

One of the highlights of our Interbike trips every year is to visit the kind folks at Planet Bike. They’re always happy to show off their new products, and they ALWAYS fill our sweaty hands with great swag (we got t-shirts and PB-branded Sockguy socks this year). And, we finally got to meet Mark LaLonde in person…he’s been our contact at PB for a couple of years and has been instrumental in donating products for RL’s Mobile Bicycle Repair Unit.

Here’s Mark at the PB booth:

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Planet Bike’s big news was a couple of new microlights and some updates to the ever-popular Superflash series of lights. Let’s dive in and take a look, shall we?

First up is the Superflash Micro…the same great visibility as the original Superflash, but in a smaller package. These lights take “N” size batteries, and a USB option may be coming soon:

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Speaking of USB, Superflash now comes in a USB-rechargeable version…handy for quick juice-ups at work:

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Here are a couple of Superflash Turbos, but in the new mini-size:

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Planet Bike has updated their popular ALX floor pump…new wooden handles and great features that make these rock-solid for home or shop use:

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Planet Bike has a giant collection of commuter-friendly accessories for almost any application. Head on over to their website for a full look at the many light, fender, and pump options and a whole lot more.


Interbike 2013 Coverage Proudly Sponsored by Black Tiger Jerky
Black Tiger Jerky

Interbike 2012: Ryde Safe Reflective Bike Decals

Met up with the Ryde Safe folks and they showed me some of their new products.
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It basically comes down to this, it’s reflective tape that you put on your bike for added night time visibility. What makes them unique is that they offer various colors which stand out.
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This is with the flash on to show you how well Ryde Safe works.
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My favorite part is they have decals for your chain! I asked about grease and all that; they seem to be pretty confident that the stickers would stay on even after applying lube.
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Review: Planet Bike’s Snack Sack

Our friends at Planet Bike sent over their handy “Snack Sack” for us to test a few months ago. Well, it’s time for a review!

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Those of you of the triathletic persuasion may recognize this style of small frame bag…it’s often referred to as a “Bento box”, and is commonly used by triathletes to store energy gels and the like. Don’t let those athletic origins scare you off though, commuters; this little bag is quite useful for a host of other day-to-day items.

First, a little about the bag straight off the Planet Bike website:

–Ideal for ride snacks, phone, keys, wallet, first aid kit, and map
–Internal padding protects cargo
–White liner material makes finding items easy
–Reflective piping
–Hassle free pull tabs and dual zipper leash makes opening easy
–43 cu. in.
–7 inches long, 3.5 inches on tallest side, 2 inches tall on shorter side

Two straps hold it onto the frame, attaching around the top tube and the fork steerer. The hook and loop straps easily slip under cables on the bikes I tried it on (underside cable routing), but those of you with top-routed brake and shift cables may run into issues with cable rub. Once attached, the Snack Sack is pretty secure, even with a full load.

Inside, the bag is lightly padded to protect goodies and lined with white nylon fabric, making it easy to spot small items.

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Up top, the Snack Sack has a zippered opening with tethered zipper pulls. Unzip the bag and leave it unzipped for quick access to items; there’s a backup hook and loop piece to secure the lid from flapping open (under the t-shaped webbing in the photo below):

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Reflective trim (in this case, the bag’s piping) is always a nice feature…Planet Bike is always careful to add some nighttime safety into most of their products, and this one is no exception. A little extra dazzle goes a long way at night!

My wife and I stored our wallets, keys, cellphones, repair kits and a number of other items in the Snack Sack with ease. It’s particularly handy for phones or cameras — easily reached mid-ride and quickly deployed as needed. The bag itself is proving to be quite durable, and at a price of $17.00 or so, it’s very affordable.

And, the Snack Sack, as its name indicates, is also a handy place to store snacks…even White Castle sweet-potato fries with extra salt, the ride fuel of true commuting champions…booya!

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Check out all of Planet Bike’s great products by visiting their website.

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

Bike Your Drive – Top Commuter Basics

Hey there Bike Commuters!  It’s me, Mir.I.Am, and I’ll be the host for our show BIKE – YOUR – DRIVE! (Sponsored by “Log” from BLAMMO!)

Tonight’s guests include the Bike Commuters staff writers: Matt, Ghost Rider, RL, and Elizabeth.  Since we wanted to ride the high of May 2012’s Bike to Work Month (hehe, get it? ride the high, like ride a bike) we thought we’d put together a list of our Top Commuter Basics tips for all you who are biking your drive for the month of May… AND BEYOND.  Make sure to get clicky on the links for more bike commuter basic resources – get ready to bone up on your bike commuting skills, contestants!

“I’ll take Bike Commuting 101, for $500, Trebek!”  Take it away, Sean Connery

1.     Get a Bike – If you find yourself asking “which is the best commuter bike?“, the answer is: Any bike will do!  A hand-me-down, garage revival, or a loaner from a friend.  You don’t need carbon fiber or colorful fixies to get from your house to your work.  Okay, minimum stipulations should include: sufficient air in the tires, brakes that work, and a chain.  Head to your local bike shop to tune-up the rusting garage monster if needed – often times whatever we already have is good enough!  New bike commuters can always graduate to a new bike after they’ve gotten the hang of it.  Try before you buy.

Got questions about what bike to buy? Here’s a handy article that will get you started…sort of a simple “shopping guide” to arm you for your encounters at the local bike shop.

2.     Map it Out – Knowing your route will put your mind at ease like Ritalin on the first day of school.  Check out Google Maps Bike feature for recommended routes in your area, ask an experienced bike commuter to help you pick the most pleasant routes, or contact your local bike organization for comprehensive maps.  You can even take a test ride and bike through your route on a weekend, where you can relax and take as long as you want to figure out the best way for Monday.  We wrote an article a couple years ago about other route mapping Web utilities that may be useful for planning your excursion. For those of you in our audience today with smart phones, click on this link to check out some awesome bikey apps with maps that may also be of interest.

wet commute

Know where you're going before you ride.

3.     Clothing Choice – There are two schools of thought on clothing: those who change at work and those who don’t!  You may consider changing clothes at work if a) you are a “sweater” – any kind of physical activity can make you glisten b) weather is either rainy/snowy or extra hot -OR- c) you just don’t want to wear your work clothes on your bike.  Wear something that won’t rub in the crotch, flap around and snag in your gears or chain, or cuffed shorts/skirt that can get tangled up in your saddle.  If you are biking to work in your work clothes, take it slow and enjoy the scenery!  Liquid soap for a pirate shower in the restroom is easier to carry than a bar, and a small towel to dry off with call be helpful to freshen up.  Cycle Ladies, check out this link for looking fresh after exerting all that energy pedaling to work!  If you are bringing a change of clothes to work, carrying a lunch, or a small dog, jump to item #4!

Puppy transport inspiration!

4.     Carrying Cargo – Whether it’s a rack and panniers, messenger bag, a backpack, or cleverly-rigged purse with small dog, bike commuters need to bring things along the way!  We echo the sentiments of item #1, in that “whatever you already have will probably work just fine.”  Whatever your choice for carrying your clothes, laptop, lunch, or pretty much anything barring children, any backpack lying around the house should do the trick.  The backpack is a great go-to for a no hassle bike commuter cargo containment because a) everybody already has one b) two straps are better than one since they don’t swing around to the front of your body while pedaling -AND- c) you can pretend you are the Rocketeer on your way to work.

From Randonneur to Citaden:  Conversion of a touring bike to city kid and cargo hauler

Rack to the Max: front and back!

5.     Lights – front n’ back. Everyone at Bike Commuters has a passion for blinky lights, make sure you can at least be seen with one white and one red light.  We’ve got so many bike light reviews in our archive that it’s best to just give you the direct link to them all. Here you go…lights for the front, back, sides and everywhere in between!

6.     Invest in a good lock – and learn how to use it effectively. Our article on locking strategy will help you ensure your bike is still there after work. Don’t forget to secure your wheels…we’ve also got a handy article that addresses the various wheel-retention methods.  The best method for avoiding thieves (if your work is okay with it) is to bring your bike inside – unless you work with shady individuals of dodgy moral character.  Scope out the bike parking situation at work, covered bike parking would be best.  Co-workers that are bike commuters may have good tips on the best place to secure your steed.

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So maybe now is not the season to check the weather for SNOW, but you never know!

7.     Check the Weather – before you head out, and be prepared for rain or heat or bitter cold. We discuss raingear, layering for winter weather (not such a big concern now, of course…but file it away for the cooler months), more winter wardrobe tips, and more crucial to the coming months — beating the heat.  Speaking of beating the heat, on a related note, you may want to check out item #8:

8.     Beverages – Depending on how long you will be commuting by bike, a beverage may be necessary! If your commute is longer than a few miles, bring a water bottle.  A cage mounted squeezy water bottle like this one would be perfect.  If you haven’t yet mastered riding with one hand and drinking with the other, you can always grab a swig of water at a stop light or in a greeny pasture.  Another option for carrying a water bottle is to stash them in side pockets on your backpack for easy access (unzipping your bag to search for water at a light could result in fumbling and angry drivers when the light turns green).

The active life...

"Water is the Essence of Beauty...!" - MerMAN.

9.      Repair Kit – any bike commuter should be prepared to tackle basic repair and maintenance issues out on the road, especially tasks like changing a flat. You don’t want to be late to work, do you? Here’s an article that shows a basic toolkit… easy to carry and damn handy when you need it.  There are some great comments in that article, too: simple additions to the toolkit like gloves, a few dollars and – of course – a working cellphone to help bail you out if a breakdown has you stranded.  Remember, it’s quicker to replace the inner tube rather than trying to patch it on the road. You can patch the tube later at home.   If you’re not into toting around 2 tubes, a pump and tire levers, hate getting your hands dirty with repairs, or would just rather opt out for the day in the event of a flat, just bring bus or metro fare and bike in parallel with your public transit system!

10.     Rules of the Road – So now that you’re ready to hit the road in style on two wheels, let’s keep you safe on the road.  Check out our Commuter Tools Page for state-by-state bicycle laws.  The League of American Bicyclists has a simple 6-point Rules of the Road list to help keep the ride safe and fun:

1. Follow the law.
2. Be predictable.
3. Be conspicuous.
4. Think ahead.
5. Ride Ready.
6. Keep your cool.

Plus more Ride Better Tips page offers specifics on riding to the right, signaling, traffic and much more!  Be aware while riding, always be scanning the road for debris, obstacles or jerks.

11.     Get a Bike Buddy – If you don’t feel safe getting out on your bike alone, consider a bike buddy! Chicago has a new program called “Chicago Bike Buddies“. In addition to helping you plan your route and help you gear up for your commute, a buddy also offers support and helps keep you safe out there. There is safety in numbers! Seek out or start a similar program in your neighborhood, or just reach out to anyone else you know who bikes to help get you started. Most of us cyclists love helping fellow cyclists…

Asian Love

Accountabili-buddy. Bike Commuters Unite!

Well contestants and viewers at home, thanks for tuning in on this week’s episode of BIKE – YOUR – DRIVE (Sponsored by “Log” from BLAMMO!)  We hope you enjoyed our show and learned some snazzy Top Commuter Basics Tips – this show is made possible by viewers like you!  For more information on how you can become a Bike Commuter, check out our final link from the League of American Bicyclists.  Make sure to bike your drive next week: same bike time, same bike channel.

Review: Monkeylectric’s M210 “Mini Monkey Light”

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.

MonkeyLectric’s “Design a Pattern” Contest

Our friends at MonkeyLectric are having a contest:

Create a pattern and enter it in our contest. You could win a Mini Monkey Light and even get your pattern included in the final product!

Use the grid template and color palette below to draw your pattern. You can print out this file and use markers, or open it in your favorite image editing software.

Submit your pattern at MonkeyLectric.com/contest to enter the contest. The top five entries will win a new Mini Monkey Light! Entry deadline is October 30.

Full details, template downloads and other tidbits are available on the MonkeyLectric website. Also, there’s a great gallery of current entries to get your creative juices flowing.

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Princeton Tec PUSH Review

Now that the sun is going down earlier in the day, having a good light system can help you see and be seen on the roads. ThePrinceton Tec PUSH was sent to us to see if it was up to par with bike commuters’ needs.

Princetontec Push

SPECIFICATIONS
POWER 100 Lumens
LAMP Maxbright LED
BURN TIME 63 Hours- 4/14/63 hour run times
LIGHT MODE High, Low, and Flash mode- Side-view windows create 260 deg of visibility
BATTERIES 3 AAA Alkaline or Rechargeable
WEIGHT 115 Grams
MSRP: $50, but can be found online for as low as $34 (Google it)

One of the things I liked about the PUSH is the fact it is self-contained. I don’t have to mess with battery packs and wires.

Princetontec Push

Here’s a neat little feature: a side-view window with a flashing red LED light for added visibility. Does it work? It does; when I asked people if they could see the red light from the side as I was riding by, they all agreed that it does pop out. I like the idea of the side view because we pay close attention to front and rear lights, but not enough on side markers. The red LED gives drivers an additional way of seeing you.

Princetontec Push

100 lumens is pretty bright in my opinion. But it’s hard to capture that on the camera. However, 100 lumens is bright enough to see with and when you switch to flash mode, cars will certainly see you from a distance. I would like to point out that since the light was mounted on my cyclocross bike, I rode the local mountain bike trail system using the PUSH as my primary light. The PUSH lit up the trail with enough light where I could safely see and travel at the speed that I normally ride the trail with.

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Overall, the Princeton Tec PUSH, is a pretty good light. It serves as both a BE SEEN and TO SEE light system for your bicycle. As I mentioned, it is bright enough to use for mountain biking. Battery life on it is pretty spot on with what the specs show. The MSRP is around $50, but after Googling it, I found it for about $34! I would definitely recommend this light to anyone who is in the market for a decent light system at a great price.

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