15 December 2016

Product Review: Outdoor Tech Buckshot Pro

It's winter.

I'm telling you this because some people live in warmer climates and they may have missed the google calendar notification.

Up here, winter means dark, cold, and... well, that about sums it up.

because of the fact it is winter, the majority of product reviews that will be forthcoming will be of use in either dark or cold. Sometimes both.

Today's product review won't do much to keep you warm - unless you break out some bike-dance moves.

The Outdoor Tech Buckshot Pro is truly a jack of all trades, a veritable Swiss Army knife of bike lights. Not only is it a light for your bike, but it is also a powerbank - to recharge your phone, etc... a lantern for off-bike lighting needs, and last but not least, a speaker.

The flashlight - which plugs into the powerbank output USB port - has three settings, torch, strobe, and lamp (high and low lamp, so technically four settings),

Speaking of the powerbank, it has a 2600 mAh rechargable battery in it, so you'll be able to easily recharge your phone, GPS, or whatever electronic device you have with you.

Finally the speaker. On one end is the light, which obviously you want pointing at the road. The other end is the bluetooth speaker, conviently pointing back at you so you can listen to your music, make calls, what have you while riding.

How does it work? Pretty dang well! The light is bright, almost annoyingly so. I've used the high lamp while camping and it does a good job of illuminating the surrounding area, while the low lamp is dim enough not to wake your sleeping significant other while you fumble around. The speaker, while not excessively loud is loud enough to hear while riding in all but the noisiest environments.

Battery life is good. you can expect 10+ hours from the speaker on a full charge. Adding the light will drop that number, of course. I've had the light and speaker running for several hours before I've needed to recharge.

The Buckshot Pro retails for $79.95, and is available in 5 colors. More information can be found here.

06 December 2016

Pondering About the Cost of Bicycle Parts is a Really Boring Title, but Accurate.

As I was reading a recent Yehuda Moon strip, I felt a strange resonance.

Not the resonance that I drive anywhere in a $40k SUV, because I don't, but the comparison in costs.

For those of us who commute regularly by bicycle, we have minimal maintenance costs, but they do occasionally pop up. Tires, tubes (I direct you to a recent rant), lube, chains, cables etc.. do wear out or break, and need replacing. 

When that would happen, I would feel a pang of guilt and anxiety about needing to spend money on my bicycle to replace whatever needed replacing. But if the car needed an oil change, new tires, engine work, or more frequently, gas, there would be less guilt and anxiety because we of course need the car to get around!

I don't know why I had the disconnect in thinking that my maintenance costs and repairs were superfluous, but for the car they were not. Yes, my commute could be done by a car, but that would increase maintenance costs for the car, and other intangible costs, such as pollution and my waistline. 

Yesterday, I took the folding bike (review forthcoming) out for the commute. It was lightly snowing, and the roads were wet. Needless to say, I arrived to work with a soggy bum. A quick visit to the river in South America, and a pair of fenders are swiftly making their way to me. This time, I didn't think of the purchase as a frivolous whim, but instead as a necessity, and guess what? The guilt wasn't there.

05 December 2016

Product Review: Cycloc Wrap

Today's commute was cold. Not the coldest that I've experienced during my time commuting in winter, but still cold.

Not wanting to roll up my pant legs to expose my bare skin to the bitter wind, I grabbed a product I received at Interbike for just such a purpose.

The Cycloc Wrap is a surprisingly simple device. One of those things that make you think "Why didn't I think of this."

Basically, It is a wide rubber strap with a hole at one end, and a plastic button at the other. There are some other holes so you can adjust the size of the wrap. 

What can you do with it? What do you need to do? It can be used to cuff your pant leg to keep it out of the sprocket, which is what I used it for this morning. 

It can be used to secure a load to your rack, You can use it to secure the front tire to the frame while your bike is in a workstand or on a rack, If it is not long enough, you can hook multiple Wraps together, etc... 

To further the functionality to their form, the holes are large enough to fit a U-lock, so if you don't want to stuff them in a pocket when you arrive at your destination (not like they are bulky or anything), you can lock them up. 

They retail for $14.99. More information can be found at www.cycloc.com

02 December 2016

Cyclists are Awesome

I just lost my wallet.

Seriously. I left my office and grabbed a city bike to ride up to the local 7-Eleven to top off my caffeine reserves when my wallet apparently fell out of my back pocket. I only found this out when I was unable to pay for my Big Gulp.

A ride back down to the docking station, and a walk back up and down the street turned up nothing. Giving up hope, I was just about to start canceling EVERYTHING, when I recieved a text.

Thank you so very, very much to the guy on the red Bridgestone MB-1 for finding and returning my wallet. He said that he saw the wallet, googled my name, found my LinkedIN profile (which I haven't maintained for a few years now), saw that I worked with the Tour de Cure, called them, and they told him my cell phone # which they still had. He wouldn't even accept a reward for returning it. 

People who ride bikes are awesome!

Update: He left a voicemail that I didn't notice before, so I can now thank him by name. Thank you, Mike!

Tales from the Commute - The Non-Rant Edition

What?!? I'm not ranting about my commute? I actually have something nice to say about cars today? Has Hell frozen over?

It indeed seems that when it comes to motorized vehicular traffic, my heart isn't as cold and dead as I thought, and there are still a few cockles in there to be warmed.

Yesterday, on my commute home, I encountered something that gave me a small bout of the warm fuzzies.  I was riding down one of the roads in my town which has a bike lane. Ahead of me, blocking the lane was a UPS delivery truck. Not an uncommon sight, and anymore not one that I bother myself with getting worked up over. The driver returned to his truck before I reached him, moved about 20 feet further up the road, around some cars, pulled closer to the curb as to be more out of the lane, and then did something that I was actually impressed by. I had to stop and take a picture of it after I passed. 

I give you exhibit A. 

Sorry, wrong Xzibit, I meant this one.

Can't see it? Well, it can't be because of my photographic skills. Still, let me help out.

Before he went into the back of his truck to retrieve whatever packages he was delivering, he folded in his driver-side mirror. I don't know if this is standard practice, or if he saw me coming up the bike lane and was just being a nice guy. Today, I tend to believe it was the latter. 

16 November 2016

Tales from the Commute: The Overly Righteous Motorist

Yes, boys and girls, it's time for another Tales from the Commute.

This morning, I was riding in as is typical.  I was also riding on my normal route, which is typical. And, I was treating the stop signs on the lighter-traffic side streets as suggestions, again as is typical.(I should pause here from the narration and address the previous sentence. Yes, I don't stop at every stop sign or light. Yes, I know that here in Utah it still is the law to stop at stop signs. But, if there is no traffic coming down the cross street, and if there is no traffic turning from the opposite direction, I do not see the point of breaking my momentum and wasting energy. I like to think that I am obeying the law - Newton's law of motion.) 

So where were we? Oh yes, I was riding in, fully aware that I was skirting around the municipal traffic laws on my commute. I came up to the 4-way stop shown in the picture below, traveling in the direction indicated by the red arrow.

Now, at this particular intersection I never stop, nor even hesitate, because as you can see, there is almost 0% chance of any cross traffic, or left-turning traffic because the road dead ends at the high-school ball fields. 

Since today was a typical commute, I was typically not stopping at this intersection, when suddenly I heard a car honking behind me rather excitedly and repeatedly. I look back to see what his particular problem is, and see an older gentlemen sternly pointing and gesturing in my general direction - and in direction of the stop sign. Figuring that I already knew what he was so upset about, I rolled up next to him at the next light to "discuss".

He rolled down his window and I asked him if there was a problem.

"You didn't stop at the stop sign!" 
"Yes, I know, there was no one coming."
"But you need to stop! It is the law!" 
"There was no one coming, buddy! What about you?"
"I stopped at the stop sign. You didn't!"

The conversation was going nowhere, so I rolled on up to the stop sign. Then I decided that I wasn't finished with him yet, so I flipped around and went back to his car. (At this point I should mention that due to several cues, I knew that he worked in the nearby offices of the local predominant religion. This is not to disparage him, or the religion - of which I am also a member - but just to give perspective to my final words to him.) After I motioned him to roll down his window, I told him "Don't forget, 'let him who is without sin cast the first stone.' As soon as you're perfect, buddy, then you can talk."

I don't bring up the fact that I quoted John 8:7 to a motorist simply to say that I know scripture, but to point out that yes, we are not perfect. We run stop signs and do things that are against the law, but so do motorists. how often when we are behind the wheel do we exceed the speed limit? How often do we make that U-turn where we are are not supposed to? How often do we try to race the yellow light so we don't have to stop?

Yes, I don't stop at every stop sign when I'm on my bike, I also don't always obey the speed limit when I'm behind the wheel of my car (as the highway patrol in Orderville, UT are aware). My point is not to be so hasty to judge and point blame. None of us are perfect.

11 November 2016

Product Review: Elevenpine Crankitup Shorts and Liberator Liner

Ah, fall. The days are getting shorter, the weather is getting cooler, and the layers are getting... layered?

Perfect time to talk about shorts.

Since commuting has become my almost exclusive venue for riding, I haven't donned the stretchy pants in over a year - well, except for those dark days of rehab where I was stuck in the basement on my trainer. My commute is only 10 miles each way, and for such a short distance, I don't see the need or logic in kitting up in full Lycra.

Still, having some functionality in my clothing choices is desireable.

In my search for cycling-related products at Outdoor Retailer this past August, I stumbled upon the guys at Elevenpine, they offered some shorts that blurred the line between functionality and practicality.

Their Crankitup shorts offer a casual, relaxed appearance that doesn't look out of place off the bike at the office - well, at least my office. I am fortunate to have a day job where shorts and t-shirts are considered acceptable office attire - or meeting friends.

When you are ready to ride, the zipper on the legs convert the shorts into a more form-fitting cycling short.

This of course has the benefit of reducing excess material from flapping in the wind, but it also more securely holds your belongings in the two deep front pockets (one of them is zippered for more security). It also makes them more comfortable while on the saddle. When you arrive at your location, simply unzip the legs and you are back to wearing a casual pair of shorts. 

The Crankitup shorts feature the afore mentioned front pockets to hold your belongings, they also have belt loops to further the casual appearance of the shorts.

For rides where you feel that some additional padding would be needed, Elevenpine also offers the Liberator liner. The liner has a lightweight pad, and ventilated panels on the sides of the liner and works well under their shorts. As my commute is short,  I usually save padded shorts for longer rides. I did use the liner while I was down in Vegas for the Interbike Outdoor Demo, and was appreciative of the comfort and padding. 

The Crankitup shorts retail for $99, and the Liberator liner goes for $69.

More information can be found at www.elevenpine.com