Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

another sign of spring

Took the studded tires off the Haul a Day today.

Since the winter tires have Mr. Tuffy tire liners in them, I decided to store them with the tubes still inserted. Both my summer and winter tires are loose enough on the rims so that they can be mounted or removed with the tube in place.

All done.

If we have another big winter storm, you can blame me.

Update: and of course it snowed two days later.

but at least the roads are clear, and they didn’t lay down any more salt.

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Wool balaclava from Särmä TST

So it was a bit cold biking into work this morning on world winter bike to work day AKA Friday.

It’s an opportune time to remind everyone that wool balaclavas rock. The one I wore today is a recent buy from Särmä TST. $25 CDN which is an excellent deal. Also shipping is cheap via letter mail ($3) but it does take about two weeks to get over here from Finland. It is thin, but it was almost too warm this morning at -15°C. 80% merino wool, and 20% polyester.

Note that it has the hinged construction that makes it much more confortable if you wear it tucked under your chin, or even as a neck gaiter.

Note that this much more expensive balaclava from icebreaker looks like the same construction, but it is actually sewn through at this point, and so it does not work the same. Boo!

Highly recommended.

Note for readers in the US: the Trew Gear balaclava is also excellent, if a bit more pricey. It is lighter weight, and so far this winter I’ve used it more than the Särmä.

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Lucy doesn’t think so!

I suppose it’s obvious from the picture that I’m a big fan of wool jerseys, Here are a couple of my favourites.

This is perhaps my oldest, a Swobo that is old enough to have been sewn in San Francisco. My wool knickers are of similar vintage.

Millenials have no idea who the Riddler is, as opposed to the Joker.

This one is from a limited run of iBOB jerseys that were made back in the day.

I get lots of comments on this beautiful jersey that was from one of my favourite bike shops in Pacific Heights.

This one is also from another favourite bike shop, and the extra long zipper is a very nice detail.

Until I pulled them all out of the closet for the first picture, I had no idea that I had so many.

Wool jerseys rock.

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A while ago, I had dynamo lighting installed on my winter bike. I used an old light that I had in a drawer for years, and it was a little heavier than the current ones. It also had a plastic mounting bracket.

Plastic can get brittle when it is cold. It was cold last night, and my bike fell over while locked to a bike ring, and the mount broke.

You can see that it actually broke into several pieces, and some of the smaller pieces were missing.

Fortunately, my good friends at Hoopdriver Bicycles had a metal headlight mount from B&M. (they are a great source for high quality bike lighting and many other things).

All ready to go again. Metal also has a ductile to brittle transition, but for steel it is about -30°C or lower, so I should be OK. The steel mount is also much more sturdy to begin with.

Thanks David and Martin @ Hoopdriver!

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I’ve been happy with the two jackets that I’ve ordered from Proviz. Recently I bought a pair of their highly reflective cycling gloves, which were billed to be waterproof and good for colder weather, as mentioned in the nine reviews on their website.

This is what they look like in real life.

First impressions were not positive. I picked the size according to their directions, and they fit in terms of width, but the fingers are very stubby and too short for me. The cuffs are also very short.

In addition, each glove has a pair of fairly stiff pads that make gripping things rather awkward.

Finally, I wore these gloves on a recent rainy/snowy ride, and after only about 15 minutes, they were soaked through. Once my hands were wet, the loose lining made it extremely difficult to the gloves back on.

In terms of warmth, I’d say that in dry conditions, they’d be good down to about 5°C.

So this is the first article from Proviz that I absolutely cannot recommend. I wrote a more measured review and submitted it to their website, but somewhat unsurprisingly, it was not posted.

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The Classon bike helmet was the result of a kickstarter campaign that launched in June 2016. It promised a high tech helmet that had many features, foremost among which was integrated front and rear video cameras, gesture actuated turn signals, blind spot detection, etc.

The campaign raised $149K from 920 backers. The campaign closed on July 2016, and first delivery of the helmet was scheduled for April 2017. What followed was a long series of delays, and many negative comments on the kickstarter campaign website. Having back many kickstarter campaigns in the past (including this helmet) I was reaching the point where I figured the helmet would never come to pass, when I recently got a series of emails indicating that I would actually get my helmet. It arrived last week, about 2.5 years late.

AFAIK up until this point, the only reviews of this helmet I could find on the web date back in advance of the kickstarter campaign, and so they were really previews that must have been based on the videos of prototypes. This preview by a local writer was the most circumspect of these previews. What follows are my initial impressions of the production helmet.

Obligatory unboxing picture.

helmet and charger

The promised weight was 480 grams, but the real weight was 587 grams. This was a disappointment as one of the reasons that I backed the campaign was to have video in a helmet that was not too much heavier than my regular one.

One of the reasons for the weight is that the shell material appears to be about 2mm thick, which is more than most bike helmets.

Those receiving the first wave of shipments were warned that not all the features were live yet. You need an app to interact with the helmet, in addition to the push buttons that you can see under the visor.

This menu indicates what works so far: safety lights, turn signals, and the front video camera. The phone talks to the helmet via bluetooth, but a wifi connection is also needed to upload video from the helmet to the cloud. You can view the videos on the phone app, as well as downloading them onto your phone and eventually to your computer.

This is what the safety lights look like turned on, front and rear. I would say that they are pretty minimal.

The turn signals were a bit less straightforward. The text promised that you could actuate the turn signals by gestures. However a post delivery examination of the video on the campaign website shows that the gesture is not merely a hand signal for the turn, but the rider is bringing his hand up to the helmet before signalling the turn. Sure enough, there are photo cells on the visor, and you need to bring your hand very close to them to actuate the turn signal.

When I did an on the road test of the turn signals, I found that it was best to actually touch the visor in the right spots. Whether or not you think this makes more sense than using a handlebar mounted switch like the lumos helmet is up to you.

Up until this point, this is a helmet with about the same functionality as the Lumos. The acid test is the front and rear video (front only for the moment). Here is the video from a test ride. I will note that I had to convert the video was downloaded to a mac and then converted from .mpg to .mov format so that the aspect ratio was correct upon uploading to youtube. The quality of the uploaded video is very similar to the original.

The quality is not quite what you would want in order to be able to clearly see the license plates on cars passing by. It is certainly not as good as the videos that I’ve seen from gopros, or similar clones. However, once both front and rear cameras are working, this could be a usable record in case the rider were to be involved in a collision.

The business of viewing the videos is also still a bit quirky. After taking a video, it does take some time for it to show up on the phone menu. Sometimes I’ve had to close the app and then open it again for the video to appear. The formatting of the video is also not completely sorted. When I view a video on the iphone XR, the whole frame is not visible. More seriously, there are some strange things that can happen to the aspect ratio when you download the video to your computer from the phone. One tip: don’t use the “add wifi” button more than once; you should toggle the wifi on and off with the switch above it. Otherwise you’ll find yourself constantly having to re entire your wifi network and password.

If you are not one of the original kickstarter backers, is it worth it to put down $149 at this point to get one of these? You should be aware that the company that makes them, brooklyness, now appears to be an e-scooter vendor. However, kudos to them for actually delivering something to their kickstarter backers. One hopes that they do have enough cash to actually fulfill all their pledges, and that they can survive long enough to make the firmware updates to turn on more of the originally promised features. At this point, I’d be happy with both the front and rear cameras working. Note that they say that the helmet can store up to 5 hours of video, but the battery life on the helmet is only about two hours.

Update: note that if you got a helmet in the second batch, it came in a plain box with bubble wrap, and you got a nice helmet cover.

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Proviz Reflect360 CRS Jacket Review

I’ve loved my Proviz Reflect 360+ jacket for how reflective it is. However a couple of weeks ago, after almost four years of hard use, the front zipper failed, and so it was time to shop for a replacement.

Naturally I wanted to get another Proviz jacket, but the question was which one. Originally I chose the 360+ over the 360 since it was advertised as being more breathable. Since that time, Proviz also released a series of coloured jackets that were also reflective, called CRS. To make things even more confusing, CRS was now available in both 360 and 360+ versions.

I would have defaulted to a yellow 360+ CRS jacket, but for whatever reason, they didn’t make the 360+ version in yellow. So I spent a little more time looking at the various choices.

Looking at my old jacket, the most worn section was the back of the collar where the coat was often hung over a hook. You can see the reflective coating has worn off.

That’s when I noticed that some of the black dots were also worn off, leaving actual holes in the fabric. I surmise that the breathability of the 360+ fabric has something to do with the dots, since the 360 fabric doesn’t have dots.

Because of this discovery, I decided to go for the non 360+ version, and I chose a yellow CRS jacket. It arrived today. The cut is similar to the old jacket, but the body is definitely longer, and the sleeves might be a bit longer.

You can see that the yellow fabric does not have the dots. I’m hoping that this will make the jacket a little more durable. The yellow fabric is thinner than the Reflect 360+ fabric; this is borne out in the weights of the jackets: the yellow one is 503 g, versus 603 g for the older one. (both size men’s M)

So what about reflectivity?

You can see that the old jacket is more reflective.

Here is a comparison of from left to right, reflect 360+, reflect 360+ CRS in green, reflect 360 CRS in yellow, and a dog coat across the top in reflect 360. This represents the full range of fabrics offered by Proviz (I think that I’ve given them enough business).

Now the same picture with flash:

It is clear that the non coloured fabrics are considerably more reflective than the CRS fabrics. Interestingly, the yellow CRS jacket is more reflective than the green vest in the 360+ fabric. The green vest looks dark, but you can see that it is still brighter than the white envelope to the upper right. Therefore, if you want the maximum reflectivity, you have to live with the grey daytime colour. If you want colour during the day, then you can go for one of the CRS products, or Proviz also makes some jackets with a combination of bright yellow and reflective fabrics.

This video posted by someone else in 2017 shows that the difference between the CRS and non CRS fabric is less at a distance.

I’ll report on how the new yellow jacket performs. I anticipate that it will be less breathable than my old jacket, but that is not going to be a big deal during the winter.

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