Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

I realize that it is really late in the season to be doing this, but I’m parting out my former winter bike. It is a Novara hybrid with 26″ wheels, and it has Schwalbe studded tires, and Alfine 8 speed gearing. I’ve blogged about this bike in the past.

The studded tires are Schwalbe Winter Marathons. They have three winters on them, but plenty of wear left. $40 for the pair.

The wheels and tires, with the 8 speed IGH and the tires, and the Alfine chain tensioner are $100.

The complete bike is $125. The bike is in fair shape, the hub shifts fine, but the rear brake needs work. Also, I am not including the shifter for the rear hub. You will have to add a 8 spd Shimano trigger shifter. Here is a picture of the worst of the rust on the frame.

Yes that is a Chris King Headset.

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Never too late to do a little work on the Haul a Day to help it survive the winter. First item of business: addressing the fact that the bungee cord that retracts the kickstand gets a bit weak in cold weather. Solution: swap it out for a spring.

For those that are interested, here’s a picture of the specs on the spring that I used.

.53″ x 8.5″ x .054″

Next issue: dealing with a very corroded and worn chain.

I was really happy with the stainless chain that I installed on my Norco, so I searched for an equivalent item for an 8 speed derailleur. The closest thing that I could find was this chain by Wipperman.

Of course I had to check the old chain for stretch, and you can see that it is way beyond the 0.75% that is recommended as the limit. Given that the chain was the original one from April 2014, I figured this was OK.

Here’s a picture of the old and the new chain. They are lined up at the far end, and you can see just how much the old chain is stretched.

In this picture, I’ve lined up the end of the new chain, and the original chain, to show you how much additional chain I had to add. (Yes I had to buy two of the very expensive Connex 8Sx chains).

The new chain looks much better, and it shifts just fine. Fortunately, the chainring and cassette seem fine.

It was a gloriously sunny day today. Just for fun, can you spot the HaD in this picture?

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My winter beater is a Louis Garneau Sub Zero, which I got back in 2013. It has been a good bike, and I like the fact that it came with studded tires. I’ve been using it as a winter bike since 2013-14, but until today this winter had been mild enough that I hadn’t used it much. Yesterday I got a flat, and inevitably it was on the rear tire (since the bike had a internally geared hub). Fortunately I was near Urbane Cyclist, and so I elected to have them change the tire so that I could pick it up today. (Hey it was cold and dark, and I didn’t have the wrench to detach the rear roller brake cable).

This morning they phoned me and said that the flat was caused by one of the studs working its way through the casing.


Looking elsewhere on the tire, you can see where many of the other studs were pushing their way through the casing.


I was told that the issue with this tire is that the studs are not properly bonded it, and they can move around and even rotate in the holes where they sit. You can see some rotated studs (and some missing studs as well) in this picture.


Long story short, I elected to replace both tires with Schwalbe Winter Marathons, that I’ve had good luck with in the past.


Ironically I spend more than half the original purchase price of the bike on these tires, but I intend to get many more winter miles out of this bike.

I can’t generalize that Winter Marathons are vastly superior to the Kenda Klondikes in all cases: I’ve had no issues with the Winter Marathons I have in the 26″ size, but the 406 pair also had some issues with stud induced punctures so I had to install Mr Tuffy tire liners.


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Back in 2013, I just started using a Safe Zone helmet mirror, and I figured it was high time for an update: this mirror is by far the best on the market. As you might be able to tell from pretty much any of the self portraits of me on a bike over the past few years, this is the only mirror I use now. I have one on both of the helmets that I regularly use.



The mirror itself is nice and big, but what makes the whole thing special is the fact that you can reposition the mirror on the fly and it will stay in position.

The one issue that I can see with the mirror is that it is not easily available in Canada. However, if you are lucky enough to live in Toronto, then Matteo of Matteo’s Mobile Bike Repair will be more than glad to sell you one for considerably less that what you would pay on Amazon, or by ordering directly from the company (especially after shipping and currency conversion). You’ll save even more if you meet up with him to pick it up in person.


He said that he is not really interested in making money reselling something that keeps people safe.

Thanks Matteo!


note that I was using velcro to attach the mirror mount so that I could switch the mirror between two different helmets. However, the disadvantage was that the velcro would allow the mirror to wobble a bit. Since I now have two mirrors, I’ve used double sided gorilla tape to mount the mirror onto the white helmet. Normal helmets have enough vents so that you can use zipties to mount the mirror, but the white helmet (a Torch T2, BTW) does not.

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Beryl Laserlight Core

Ive had a Blaze Laserlight since 2014 when I received it as one of the original Kickstarter backers. It’s a light that projects green outline of a bike ahead of the rider. This past year, the same outfit came out with a newer, much cheaper version of the light, the Beryl Laserlight Core. I received the new version, along with a fancy taillight, as a pledge on this year’s kickstarter campaign.

Here is the packaging for the two lights.


The packaging is much simpler than the one for the original, which I thought was a bit over the top. Here is the box for the older light.


Here are the advertised run times for the new light, which are comparable to the old light.



Here’s what you get with the new light: a silicone strap type mount, a USB charging cord, and a little bag.


Here is a comparison of the new and old lights.



Here are the respective weights: 104 g versus 210g, including mounts.

Here is a daytime comparison of the brightnesses of the two lasers. The new light is to the left, and has a slightly bluer tone. It also appears to be slightly less bright, although I will have to check this out at night.


Overall, the initial impressions are as follows:

  • The new light is considerably cheaper and lighter than the old. It remains to be seen if it will be a commercial success as the new retail price ($100 USD) is still high for a bike headlight.
  • However, the old light was much more expensive, and in my opinion was rather overbuilt in terms of how it was manufactured. The new light is the product that should have been produced in the first place.
  • If they had also revised the optics for the LED headlamp so that it projects a proper pattern like a quality German light, then that would be a combination that would be well worth the money.
  • The old light had a safety feature that it had to be mounted on the special mount in order for the laser to turn on. This was always a bit of a pain when you wanted to demonstrate the light for someone. The new light does not have this feature.
  • The new light also does not use a proprietary charging cord, which is a plus.
  • The old light emitted a high pitched whine when the laser was on. The new one does not. Granted, the whine was only audible when you were in a quiet environment. It was not audible while riding.
  • It would appear that the company has partnered with some bike share companies to have their laser light built into their bikes, which is terrific as the end user is not bearing the full cost of having this feature.  However, this image from the website is sadly quite deceptive. If you think that you are going to get this degree of visibility in daylight, you are sadly mistaken.

Screen Shot 2018-12-30 at 11.00.20 AM

As a sidenote, here are the contents of the Burner Brake taillight package.


The mount allows the light to be mounted vertically or horizontally.


The weight.


This light is supposed to have an accelerometer built in so that it indicates with the bike is decelerating.

I’ll post an update when I’ve had a chance to ride with both the new front and rear lights at night.

Here are my posts on the older version of the Laserlight

Update: Here are some photos at night.

Against a vertical surface like a garage door, the older green light looks a bit brighter.


However, this is mainly due to a bright spot in the centre of the bike pattern.

When mounted on the bike and looked at from the riding position, the two laser lights look similar.


Viewed from the forward reflecting position, the blue pattern looks brighter, with less intensity in a single spot, and better distribution of intensity across the entire bike shaped pattern.


Thus, the claim that the new model is brighter than the older one is verified, but the difference is not huge.

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Speck vs Tech21 phone cases

I recently upgraded to an iPhone XR (which I’m somewhat mixed about but I like the “Presidio Stay Clear” from Speck. However, I’ve been a fan of the cases from Tech21, a UK  based company from whom I bought two previous cases. I eventually caved a got their simplest case, the “Pure Clear“. So now I have two cases, and I thought it would be interesting to compare them.

Here is the Speck.


and the Tech21.


The Speck case (to the left) is deeper, which probably accounts for a good deal of the difference in weight.


The Tech21 case is specced for drops up to 10 feet, whereas the Speck is up to 8 feet. Furthermore, the phone buttons are much easier to press with the Tech21 case. Thus, I’ll be using the Tech21 case for the moment. As a side note, a similarly simple Tech21 case for my iPhone 6 kept it intact for many years, even when I’ve dropped it while riding a bike; this is why I didn’t bother getting a heavier case.

The only niggle I have with the Tech21 case is that there is an issue with the website. It promised a certain amount for shipping to Canada, and also a certain delivery time. When it claim to actually checking out, the shipping cost when up by a couple of dollars. As far as the delivery time goes, it was much slower than promised, but most of that was probably due to labour disruptions at Canada Post.

On another Apple related note, I love the design of this shipping box for the iPad. It provides protection while at the same time not relying on styrofoam that is generally not recyclable. Someone is going to get an iPad for Xmas, but let’s keep it a secret for the moment.

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Wool dress shirts

I’ve been a big fan of wool for cycling. Practically all my bike jerseys are wool as are most of my socks. Wool has many excellent properties, among which is the fact that it is odour resistant. In practice, I can wear a wool jersey for a week’s worth of commutes without having to wash it, whereas a plastic jersey can get pretty smelly after one ride.

I do have the advantage that I can change my clothes at work. However, it is handy to have clothes that are OK for both the bike commute and the workplace. There are many companies that have promoted clothes that are appropriate for both the work place and the bike commute.

I’ve written in the past about pants, and to make a long story short, for the 75% of the year when I bike in long pants, most of the time my go to pants are the Outlier Slim Dungarees.  I have two pair, one of which is from the original run (2012) with the rivets that were painted. They have held up very well, are comfortable, and are a little dressier than jeans. I also have a pair of Maker and Rider Aerodri wool pants, which I like very much. In the summer, when I switch to shorts, they are the MEC Mochilero’s.

However, I’ve had somewhat less success with shirts, particularly those than can pass for dress shirts. Here I’m going to comment on the various wool dress shirts that I’ve tried over the years.

The first dress shirt I bought that was 100% merino was from Wool&Prince. They attracted some press around the time they launched back in 2014, with the founder wearing the same shirt without washing it for an extended period of time. After reading reviews like this one, I decided to order both a check sports shirt and an oxford styled button down.

Here is the W&P check sports shirt.


It has held up pretty well over the years. However, the dress shirt was a sad story. I sent it out to be dry cleaned, but I think that the cleaner put it through a regular laundry cycle, and it came back massively shrunk. You are get an idea from this picture.


Since it was ruined anyway, I tried to wash it again, and then hang to dry, just as I did the check shirt, and it shrank even more. Therefore I’d say that you have to be very careful when sending out a wool shirt for cleaning, and make sure that they dry clean it. I asked the company about this, and they said that other customers had not had this issue.

The next shirt I’ll talk about is one from Icebreaker. This is one of their Departure shirts. They come in patterns that make them more of a sports shirt. The one pictured is a style from at least three years back when the chest pocket was rather unusual. The current models have a more normal chest pocket.


The plus of this shirt is that it has a very fine weave, and drapes like a fine cotton shirt. There are two slight disadvantages: one is that for me the sizing is a bit off. I wear a 38″ jacket, and usually use a M sized shirt. but the sizing seems to run large in this shirt. I wear a small, and it fits a little narrow across the shoulders, but the M is way too large for me. Try before you buy. The other comment that I’d make is that the wool is marginally scratchier than some of the alternatives.

The next two shirts are from Outlier. I started buying from them back in 2010 because I believed in supporting North American manufacture. Back in the day, each shipment would also come with a little card signed by Tyler. Now the last two items that I bought from them were sewn in Portugal. Oh well…..

The first wool shirt I bought was their “merino/co” wool cotton blend.


Of all the wool shirts that I have, this is the one that is the closest to an absolute straight swap with a regular cotton button down. The drape and texture of the fabric is the same, but it doesn’t have to be washed nearly as often.

The second one was their S140 Hidden Pocket Pivot. Here I’m picturing it over the Wool&Prince shirt to show that it is cut slimmer.


It is a lovely shirt, but the drape is not very crisp. It is more like the ultimate flannel shirt if you can imagine it. The other comment is that I wish I hadn’t opted for the hidden pocket style. Part of the placket is doubled and is quite difficult to button.


Finally, I bought a wool/cotton blend shirt from Rapha that doesn’t appear to be made anymore. There are lots of unusual features of this shirt, not the least of which are the snap closures under a hidden placket.



I like this shirt but I haven’t worn it enough to judge whether the snaps will hold up over the long run.

Here are the relative weights of the shirts (all size M except the icebreaker which is S)

Shirt Weight (g)
W&P 225
Icebreaker 251
Merino/Co 354
S140 347
Rapha 361
Cotton 281

“Cotton” is the weight of an Outlier cotton pivot shirt, which is similar to the Merino/Co in terms of cut.

Here are some close up pictures where you can see the weave of the fabrics.


Three outlier shirts Left to right: s140, Cotton, Merino/Co. You can see that the weave on the cotton shirt is considerably coarser.


Left to right: Merino/Co, W&P, Icebreaker. The W&P shirt has the coarsest weave.

Note that in all of the above pictures, the shirts were washed and then hung to dry without ironing, which is my usual care routine. They might look wrinkled, but upon wearing they will relax and look fine.


I’d say that for suit and tie occasions, none of the shirts would really compare with a permanent press high quality cotton dress shirt, especially one with a fused collar. However, all of them would be just fine for office casual. I work in a university environment so that works for me.

For me, I can’t really wear a cotton dress shirt more than two days at most as I start seeing “ring around the collar”, whereas for the wool shirts, I could conceivably wear any of them for a week before I’d feel the need to wash them. YMMV. The wool shirts are also more resistant to wrinkling. In practice, I keep two of them in the office so that I can switch back and forth, and bring them home once or twice a month.

In terms of personal preference, I like the Merino/Co for a solid colour shirt, and the icebreaker for a sports shirt.

If you want a button down shirt that has relatively high wool content, then go on over to the Outlier space on reddit, and bug them to make their merino/co pivot shirt again.

If you want more of a sports shirt, then Wool&Prince seems to be fine, but I had the aforementioned shrinkage problem with one of their shirts. Icebreaker is an alternative if you are happy with the fit. I’ll also note that the Icebreaker shirts often go on sale in the off season. I also have two of the short sleeve version of the Icebreaker shirt that I really like for summer.

The ideal application for all of these shirts is for travel, where just once of these shirts would be fine for up to a week long trip.

The other area where wool is an absolute slam dunk is for socks. My favourites are the argyle wooleators from Defeet. I get lots of compliments from them.


Here is a review from 2014 that covers some of the same brands that I’ve mentioned here.

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