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Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

One of my holy grails is to have a light, high performance folding bike that is easily folded into a suitcase. The Brompton and Tikit each have their advantages and disadvantages, but they both weigh more than about 25 pounds. Last year during STP, I caught a brief glimpse of a 20″ Ti folder, and I was told that it was a prototype.

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Last night I got a note that it was now available for purchase. It is called the Burke 20 folding bike, and this image from their website is very promising

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The claimed weight can be as low as 18 lbs without saddle. Unfortunately, the lowest price on the bike is $5500 US.

It is interesting to compare this bike to the Helix, a Toronto based bike which is promised for production this year, but thus far has not seen the light of day, AFAIK. The Helix has 24″ wheels, a claimed 22 lb weight, and it was advertised at less than half this price point.

 

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Proviz jacket update

Yesterday I was riding along Bloor when I came up behind a rider wearing a bright yellow jacket. It turns out it was one of the new Proviz Reflect 360 CRS jackets, a new version of my jacket, with the “CRS” indicating that it was a bright colour during the day, while still being retroreflective at night. In comparison, my jacket is a dull grey.

I had heard about this new model since I got an email from the vendor offering at an introductory price about six months ago. I didn’t go for it since:

  • my jacket was still going strong
  • a little correspondence with the vendor revealed that it is less breathable than my Reflect 360+, while still being a little better than the older 360 model.

The rider said that he had the jacket for a couple of months, and he pointed me to this video that shows that the CRS is a bit less reflective than mine. Still, the daytime visibility was definitely a nice feature.

My jacket is a little over a year old. I’ve worn it quite a bit, and it is holding up well. The only place where the reflective coating has worn off is in the center of the collar.

This might have something to do with the fact that I’m not very careful when I hang up the jacket. If you always use the loop on the inside of the collar, you might avoid this issue.

The jacket still attracts a lot of attention. More than once in the dead of night, I’ve had drivers slow down, roll down their windows, and ask about the jacket!

I see from the website that the vendor appears to be clearing out the 360+ model in favour of the CRS model.

Might be a good time to pick one up.

 

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Telehex bike tool

The telehex bike tool is a unique, compact bike tool that replaces a full set of allen wrenches. It was launched as a kickstarter back in 2015, and deliveries of the item happened in 2016. 

The original campaign touted the fact that the tool was only 38 g, but the main reason I was interested was that it was extremely compact. For those people who have a minimalist seat pack on their ultralight bikes, I could see that this would be a big plus.

The tool as a series of concentric hexagonal sleeves, and when you insert it into any allen head bolt, after a bit of wriggling back and forth, you find that it has automatically extended the correct size hex sleeve so that you can turn the bolt.

However, unfortunately after a while, my telehex broke, with one of the sleeves coming loose. It was still usable, but I had to take some care in not losing the outermost sleeve.

More recently, telehex started selling a second generation version of the tool. I was told that the materials were slightly different, and that the tolerances had been tightened up so that this would improve both the performance and the durability of the tool. My copy of the new version is black, whereas the older kickstarter model is red.

It’s too early for me to judge whether the newer model is more durable. However, I can note that the design has been tweaked. There are two obvious changes. One is that two of the edges of the casing have been rounded off a bit. This is an improvement as I found the edges of the red one were a bit hard on the hands when really torquing a bolt. The second change is that the key ring aperture is now smoothly integrated into the handle.

The packaging for the retain version looks like this.

 

I will note that it doesn’t work as well if the allen screw that you are working on is corroded, or it there is dirt in the hole where you insert the tool. However, if you have a bike where the bolts are clean and in good condition, it does work as advertised; a bit like magic, really.

You can buy the retail version here.

Full disclosure: Telehex sent me the second generation key for review.

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One of my items on my 2015 list of favourite gear was my Swvre pants. I found them to be warm, and ideal for winter riding. I bought them during a visit to Calgary. When I went to the Swvre website a couple of months ago, I saw that they had midweight regular fit downtown pants and I figured that if they were the same as the first pair, but a little more dressy, that would be a warmer alternative to my three season pants, my Outlier SD’s.

It should be noted that Swvre now produces the bulk of their stuff offshore, although their black label line is still sewn in LA. For these pants, there is about a $40 difference between the domestic and imported versions. Furthermore, the imported versions have waist sizes in 1″ increments, whereas black label only comes in even sizes.

Here are a few pictures that I shot when I got the new pants.

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The downtown pants are the black pair to the left. You can see a zipper on one pocket, and the lack of reflective belt loops.

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the little dart on the knee of my other pants is missing for a cleaner look.

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There are slash pockets that look dressier, as well as a small coin pocket.

So far, so good. However, before I ordered them I tried to get some info from Swvre to verify that they were in fact the same fabric as my other pants, but I got no response. The new ones seemed much lighter than the old. Sure enough, when I put them on a scale I got: (left to right) Swvre downtown: 337g (31W, 32L), Outlier SD’s: 412 g, and older Swvres: 438 g. So clearly then are not the same pant as my older pair. To be precise, I’m not sure what the model of the older pair was.; they could have been a “three season pant”, but they are clearly lighter than their current winter weight pant.

Riding with the new pants, I got the impression that they were colder than the older pair, but slight more wind and water resistant than the SD’s.  So far so good.

However, after cold water wash and hang to dry, the new pants shrunk in both length and width. The length was particularly bad. Below is a picture of the old and the new pants, after the new pants have been washed twice. You can see that the new pair has shrunk in inseam length about 3.5 cm.

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In summary, I’m afraid that I can’t recommend the Swevre midweight downtown pant. It has all the good features such as 4 way stretch fabric and a gusseted crotch that is ideal for biking. However, the shrinkage is not satisfactory. I’ll stick with the older pair of Swvres, and my SD’s for warmer weather.

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Tried and liked 2016

Looking back at all the gear reviews I did in the past year, there are a couple of bike related items that I can recommend to anyone.

First up: cargo slings by Carsick Designs.

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These bags replaced the ones that came with my Haul a Day that had more or less worn out after about a year of service. They are much better built, are wider, and carry more stuff. Also, you can get them in a variety of colours. The safety orange ones I got were a custom order for a slight upcharge. Despite the weakness of the Canadian dollar, these bags are worth the extra cost.

Raincapes: I’ve blogged about the advantages of raincapes before. This year, Cleverhood came out with a budget option called the Cleverlite that is still sewn in the US. My review compares it to a couple of other options.

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BTW if you are in Toronto, the Cleverlite is sold at the Spacing Store, alongside its fancier but more expensive sibling.

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If the made in North America factor is not important to you, then I can also recommend the raincapes by Impac that are sold thru the Bike Doctor in Vancouver.

As I’ve noted before, one thing that you can do with any raincape is to find a way to fasten the centre of the front hem to the vicinity of the centre of your bars. This keeps in draped properly, even if you aren’t using the thumbloops (for example where you are signalling a turn). I sewed a patch of velcro to the cape

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and I have a loop of double sided Velcro strap on my bars so that the cape is fixed like so:

Wool balaclavas: This is somewhat of a holdover from previous years. However, I got a new one this year that has a four piece design that allows it to be used variously as a balaclava or a neck gaiter. If you are interested in the details you can read this breathless description from Outlier. Mine was from Trew, but I see that it has disappeared from their website. The construction also lets me pull it down under my chin with less tension than a regular single opening design.

Since the TREW is no more for the moment, a good alternative is the one from Wind River. Also note the Safe Zone mirror on my helmet: the only mirror that is adjustable on the fly.

Charlene Seat Pack from Porcelain Rocket.  I added this to my Tikit so that I could stow a toolkit and still leave plenty of space for a light rain jacket and snacks, or even a baguette. It is very well constructed, and much lighter than an old Carradice seat pack that it replaced. Note that MEC has started to carry this line. Also note that although these are not sewn in Calgary anymore, they are still made in North America.

Proviz Reflect 360+ Cycling Jacket.  Retroreflective fabric all over.  Enough said.

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The jacket, together with front and rear dynamo lighting and my Torch T2 helmet keeps me plenty visible at night.

Here is my favourites list from 2015.

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My trusty winter steed

We’ve gotten two storms worth of snow in the last three days, and it’s been fun being out and about with my winter bike: a Louis Garneau  Sub Zero. It came with Kenda Klondike studded tires, which are a bit narrower and knobbier than the Schwalbe Winter Marathons on my previous winter bike, and they’ve been fine in a variety of snowy conditions.

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The only additions that I’ve made to the bike are a rear rack, a Japanese kickstand, and Handlebar Bootie pogies that are now sold under the Metal Tiger brand.  The pogies add an easy 10C to the temperature rating of my gloves, and they cut the wind besides.

Also, I swapped out the galvanized chain (that rusted solid after two seasons) with a stainless chain.

I don’t ride this bike nearly as much as my other bikes (since I only ride it during the winter, but I’ve managed just enough so that I’m under $2 per ride).

The only other things I’m going to add are mudflaps to keep my feet drier on those days where there is a lot of snow melt in the bike lanes. Perhaps Buddy Flaps, which have done really well on the pink bike.

It’s also really important to be highly visible, especially during near whiteout conditions. I’m a big fan of my Torch T2 helmet, and my Proviz Reflect 360+ jacket. I also use a Safe Zone mirror, which is the only helmet mirror that can adjust on the fly. For those folks in Toronto, you can check out the mirror at Hoopdriver Cycles or Urbane Cyclist.

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Ride on, and ride safe!

and keep in mind that the next World Winter Bike to Work Day is February 10 2017.

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Oculus bike headlight

One of the earliest kickstarter projects that I backed was for an American made high intensity bike light. The campaign ended in Oct 2012, with a projected delivery date of January 2013. However, the delivery was repeatedly delayed, and in the end I did not get anything for my initial $161 US pledge. However, just a couple of months ago I received an email that the original vendor was starting to sell a second generation version of the light. The only compensation for original backers was a discounted price. I took the chance of throwing good money after bad, and after payment of an additional $67.50 I received the light in short order.

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Inside the box, the light with integral mount and two batteries.

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The light looks solid, although there is a bit of the homemade feel to it.

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We’ll see how long this plug attachment lasts.

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The light weighs 255g with the mount.

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Here it is mounted. If you use the appropriate amount of silcone wrap, it stays in position pretty well.

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The mount is part of the light, so when you take it off the bike, all that is left is the silicone wrap.

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Here is the beam pattern.

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Compare this with a Planet Bike Blaze 2W.

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Or the Ixon IQ Premium.

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The last time I compared several headlamps, the brightest one was the PDW Lars Rover 650. The beam pattern is circular, and I’ve set a shutter speed and aperture so that just the central hotspot is visible.

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Now the Oculus at the same camera settings, on the brightest of five settings.

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By eye, the brightness of the Lars Rover 650 at its highest setting (nominally 650 Lumens) is between the 2nd and 3rd brightness levels for the Oculus. As another comparison, the Oculus on the second lowest level is about equivalent to my Lumotec Eyc dynamo light.

Here is a blurry picture while riding of the Oculus beam on the second lowest setting, and the Eyc beam deliberately pointed off to the right so that you can see both beams separately.

The beam pattern of the Oculus doesn’t have the sharp horizontal cutoff of the german lights. It looks like five overlapping tightly focused beams. The upper two look like longer distance spotlights, and the lower row of three fills in at closer distances. It is a very effective beam pattern.

In summary, the Oculus puts out an impressive amount of light. Somewhat surprisingly for a light that was originally designed four years ago, the performance/cost ratio still appears to be higher than other comparable lights, such as those from Light and Motion. (The retail price of this 1500 lumen light is $150 US.)

However, the long term durability of the light is unknown as you are essentially buying a light from a home builder.

If you are one of the original Kickstarter backers, there’s not much to be said. Kickstarter gives no guarantee that the items promised are actually delivered. Given that at least some of the backers got their lights, I wouldn’t put this campaign on the level of the cooler, or the Pebble watch. If you never got a light, you can contact Barry, and you’ll be given the same options as I had.

On a somewhat related note, I went over to Hoopdriver Cycles and I saw that Knog is now selling the retail version of their Oi bike bell. The small bell in particular is both louder and more sustained than the ones I got from Kickstarter. I guess than we Kickstarter backers are a bit out of luck on this campaign as well.

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