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Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

Maker and Riders is a company is one of many companies that make clothing for cyclists that is meant to double as street wear, or more accurately, street clothes with features that might make them attractive to cyclists. As I am a prior customer of theirs, I got an email a while back advertising their “4 Season AeroDri Wool Trousers“.  Since they looked like a dressier alternative to my default long pants, Outlier Slim Dungarees (SD), I decided to buy a pair.

You can’t really get an impression of the fit of the pants from a picture, but here they are beside my SD’s. Both are waist size 31.

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Taking the Outlier size chart as a comparison:

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the M&R pants measure 16″ across the top, 11″ at the upper thigh, and have a leg opening of 7.25″.  This doesn’t really capture the difference in fit. The SD’s are roomier in the thigh than indicated, partially due to the gusseted crotch, and also the fact that the material is stretchier than the wool blend. The M&R pants also have about 1″ higher rise. I find the SDs more comfortable, due to the differences in fabric and fit. To be fair, these SD’s have seen at least three years of hard wear.

A comparison of weight shows that the SDs are of heavier material (403g vs 327g). This is borne out by the fact that they are warmer than the M&Rs. I bike with the SDs down to -10°C, and I’d say that the M&Rs are good to about 0°C. The M&K’s also do a surprising good job of blocking wind.

The M&Ks are also much dressier, and turning them inside out, you can see that the pockets are generously sized and their material looks durable.

The rubber fly button is a nice touch.

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I’ve also run them through the wash (hung to dry) and there was no detectable shinkage.

In summary, the M&R Aero Dri Wool pants are well constructed pair of pants with enough stretch that they are comfortable while riding. I can’t speak to the 4 season claim since I have not ridden with them in hot weather, but I’d say that they wouldn’t quite do for a Canadian winter. They have the advantage of being much less expensive than the Outlier product, due to the fact that they are sewn offshore. I’ll keep them in the rotation, and see how they do over the long term. They are more suitable for office wear than my SD’s.

Prior posts on pants linked here

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Ever since I had the chance to compare my Bike Friday Tikit to a Brompton a couple of summers ago, I’ve been thinking about getting a Brompton. Last Thursday, I finally caved, and look what followed me home from Curbside Cycles.

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2017 model, nickel black edition, 6 speed. I have a very understanding wife.

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And here I am riding it into work for the first time this past Monday.

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My initial impressions reinforce what I experienced before:

  • the frame and stem are nice and stiff.
  • for me, the riding position is adequately stretched out horizontally.
  • I prefer the 2017 shifters to the earlier version. Ultimately, the shifting is not as nice as the Alfine 11 on my Tikit, but since my commute is flat, it seems that having the hub gear in 2nd and using the derailleur as a half step will be fine.
  • the braking is much better than the Tikit, and I don’t really see a need to convert to disc brakes in the future.
  • not in love with the left hand folding pedal, but I suppose I’ll get used to it.
  • going to have to swap out the saddle before longer rides
  • ditto for tweaking the handlebar position. Ideally I’d want a bullhorn set up like I have on my Tikit, but I don’t want it to interfere with the fold.

Oddly, since switching to riding the Brompton, most of my rides have been faster than average:

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Of course an important part of having a Brompton is to shop for accessories. Since I didn’t immediately want to invest in one of their fancy bags, I was riding to work with my trusty Tom Bihn bag.

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Fun fact: this bag, circa 2004, has a hidden message on the care tag inside, for which the company got into a bit of trouble.

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Just for completeness, I will point out that their current bags have the following tag:

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The bottom line says “Made in USA” in Chinese. The other side has the company motto.

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At any rate, back to Brompton luggage. Most of their bags are designed to be mounted on a carrier block in front of the head tube, and this has the benefit that the bag does not turn with the handlebars. This is like the front basket on my Haul a Day. The bags have a rigid integral frame that quick releases on and off the bike.

Ideally I wanted a bag sewn in North America. Curbside carries the YNOT bag which was ideal since it is made locally, so that seemed to be the top choice. However, a search of the internet also turned up a very sweet bag by Swift Industries. Regrettably, they informed me that it was no longer in production.

With a little more research, I realized that the Brompton bag frame had virtually the same dimensions as my Tom Bihn ID Bag, notably a width of 40 cm, the critical dimension. Thus I was off again to Curbside to check to see if one of the frames would fit by bag.

A quick aside to admire mechanic Eli’s Brompton.

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Back home with the frame laid out on the bag.

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Using a good old sliver Sharpie to mark the necessary cuts

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Now with the frame inserted.

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Of course a real Brompton bag inserts the frame from underneath and there are special straps to hold it in place. However, the fit of the frame to my bag is quite tight and I don’t anticipate any issues. The frame also as a but of a protruding shelf that holds the bag from underneath.

Here is the bag on the bike. The design of the bag is such that the shoulder strap can tuck under the front flap.

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There you go, a bag that hasn’t seen much recent use now repurposed for bike commuting. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Regrettably I see that this particular model, the ID bag, is no longer made. However, the Cadet has about the same nominal width, and the back flap construction is such that it might fit a Brompton frame as it is. If anyone is willing to try it out, let me know if it works.

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Just trying to get as many rides in before the salt descends and I have to put away the Brompton for the winter.

Update:

I found this video

Update #2:

The front bag makes the handling of the Brompton fractionally more stable. I am pleased. Also according to use Killeri on the Tom Bihn forums:

“A T-bag frame does not fit in the back pocket of Cadet. Otherwise the concept feels sound, so a smaller frame probably works fine.”

 

 

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First snow on ground 2017

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A few flurries this morning. Roads are clear though.

Gear for today:

warm and toasty

 

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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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