Friday, December 29, 2006

Over Exposure

Right before Christmas, I was treated to a new arrival for the light review. Exposure Lights (made by USE in England) sent out their Enduro Turbo and Joystick lights. Both of these lights use Li-Ion batteries and are completely self contained -- their batteries are housed inside the light housing.

The Enduro uses two 5W LEDs and the Joystick uses a single 3W LED.

Enduro specs:
Claimed total weight (light, battery and mount): 295g
Claimed burn times:
Turbo: 2hrs, 30 minutes,
High: 4hrs, 20 minutes,
Low: 8hrs, 40 minutes.

Enduro Turbo:
Here you can see that the lenses are different. One is a spot, the other a flood:

Joystick specs:
Claimed total weight: 105g
Claimed burn times:
High: 2hrs, 20 minutes,
Low: 7hrs, 30 minutes.

The helmet mount is a novel one that doesn't use velcro, allows for full adjustment of the light and doesn't weigh very much at all.
Frankly, I like this mount quite a bit. It's unobtrusive and just plain works. Also, you can pull the light off quickly for double duty as a hand held flashlight. More on the beam patterns and overall brightness to come.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Banjo Brothers Commuter Backpack

If you were to browse the commuting forums on Bikeforums.net and RoadBikeReview.com you'd think that everyone uses a rack and panniers to haul their stuff back and forth to work. It turns out, though, that that isn't the case. I, for one, prefer to use a backpack. It gives me the flexability to swap bikes on a moment's notice -- you know, in case I have a flat on one bike, I can then take another -- and it keeps my bikes lean and mean. I don't like weight on my bike. Some would argue that it doesn't matter, weight is weight, but it turns out that it does. Keeping the weight off of your bike helps the maneuverability of the bike, and this is especially important off road -- and I do commute off road as often as possible. So, there are my reasons for using a backpack. Now the question is, which backpack?

Banjo Brothers thinks that they have the ultimate commuter pack, and they might be on to something. If you look a the specs, they seem to have all the bases covered. Even the $80 price seems to be about right.

It has a cavernous main pocket that rolls closed for waterproof-ness.


The main pocket also uses the bag-within-a-bag approach so seams can't leak, either. Let me tell you, this works and works well. Lately, I've been keeping an eye out for Noah and his animals... it's been raining a whole bunch and my clothes and electronics have stayed nice and dry.

There is a large flap that then closes over the top of the rolled main pocket and continues down the back of the pack. The outside of the large flap has two racing stripes that are very, very reflective. They are good for additional piece of mind at night.

(photo taken without flash)
(photo taken with flash)

The large flap also covers two smaller organizer pockets and the pen holders. I use the smaller pockets for a CO2 cartridge, Crank Brothers pump and keys. I don't use the pen holders because... well... I have pens at work and pens at home so I don't feel the need to haul them back and forth.



On the side of pack there is a pocket that is meant for a U-lock. It doesn't close at all, but I still use it for odd and ends, like a battery for my helmet light, since I don't carry a lock. I am fortunate enough to park my bike in my office.

If I were to change anything about the pockets I would eliminate the pen holders and add another pocket there and I would put a Velcro patch to the side pocket so that it could be closed, if so desired. Granted, if you are commuting to school and not to work, then the pen holders might be nice. And, if you carried a lock -- most do -- the Velcro might be in the way, but those are my thoughts on the matter.

Moving around to the front of the pack, the shoulder straps are generously padded, as is the back of pack. The straps are also very, very adjustable, I can't think of any size person that this pack wouldn't fit. Also, the pack is meant to ride low, so the extra length of the straps is very nice. There is a removable waist strap.

Overall, while a little on the heavy side, the pack does a nice job of keep the elements out, and your stuff organized. If you are looking for a backpack for commuting, you should really take a look at this pack.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rollers: A new experience

Day One
This year, I have been teaching child #1 (Number 1) how to ride a bike. It is thrilling to watch Number 1 struggle with the fear and excitement of the new-found freedom of riding a bicycle without the aid of training wheels. It is also slow-going. Each time I take Number 1 out, I am able to let go of the handlebars and seat for very long stretches at a time. Of course, as soon as Number 1 realizes that I'm not holding on, there is stiff mixture of fear and panic which is followed with, almost always, a close call.

Mounting my bike on the rollers wasn't as hard as I thought. I strategically placed them near the corner of a wall--a very handy place to hang on to. With my free hand firmly on the rear brake lever, I got on without hesitation and without incident.

I should point out that my only exposure to rollers up to this point has been through a good friend of mine who has been riding them six days a week for the last 15 years. He rides no-handed about 90% of the time. I was full of confidence when I released the brake (not the wall, mind you) and began to pedal.

Surprisingly, this didn't feel like riding on the road. Well, at least, not any road I've been on. My bike seemed to want to flop all over the place. I felt certain death reaching out with its cold hands from every direction. Suddenly, my cluttered office/storage room/bike room seemed full of objects situated around the room so as to maximize the likelihood of maiming me when I--and this part was feeling pretty certain--crashed.

My grip on the wall tightened. I wasn't going to let go for anything. I started to realize that filling a water bottle was a waste of time. There was no way for me to get it. I needed that hand on the wall to stay there. I needed the hand on my bars to stay there. I wasn't going to shift gears. I wasn't going to move my body at all. I wasn't even going to look anywhere else besides the roller directly beneath my front wheel.

My heart-rate was racing, though I wasn't working very hard. This was excitement--fear-of-impending-death excitement. My whole upper body was very tense. It seemed to me that riding rollers was going to be a full-body workout. I'd have to remember to place them near a wall on the other side of me some days so I could get an even workout.

After about 10 minutes into my death-march, my wife appeared. I still had my hand on the wall. She must have thought me pretty amazing--riding my bike, going nowhere, clutching a wall with all my power struggling not to fall off. Impressive.

In an attempt to show her that I could handle anything, I let go of the wall. I almost fell again as my bike seemed to flop back and forth with me learning to balance on a bike all over again. She reassured me I was still inches from the edge of the roller--a cliff looming 8 inches to either side of me. I tried again and managed to ride for about a minute before my wits got the better of me and I grabbed the wall again.

Fifteen minutes into the ride and I decided I wasn't going to think about my death, but was just going to balance and pedal. I let go of the wall, and with my hands on the tops of my bars, I rode.

Time actually seemed to fly by at this point. One minute, two minutes, four minutes passed by very quickly. I seemed to be getting the hang of it.

For some reason, on the rollers I get the sensation that I'm moving backwards. Very strange. I'm riding up this slope, but my bike is slipping back faster than I can ride.

After about six minutes of riding without the wall (around minute 21 overall), my hands and arms started to cramp so I switched positions slightly on the bars. More importantly, I did this without falling.

There are some things we do without thinking about them. One of these is blinking. Another, as it turns out, is scratching an itch. After another minute or so, I had an itch on my face and I scratched it. After returning my hand to the bars it dawned on me what just happened. With a grin on my face, I threw caution to the wind and pulled my bottle out of the cage and took a short pull. That water tasted so good.

The next few minutes went smoothly. I felt great. I was still very alert--I needed neither music nor a movie to distract me. This was thrilling.

At minute 27, I got really gutsy and reached back to grab the hand-towel out of my jersey pocket. I proceeded to wipe the sweat off my head and...

Well, I about crashed. I had to grab the wall to recover. Thank you, solid, strong, immovable wall. I recovered in a matter of seconds, but realized that the rollers were not to be trifled with. Respect the rollers and you have nothing to fear. Pride, however, cometh before the fall.

In honor of turning 32 next week, I rode for 32 minutes. Though I never moved even an inch, I somehow tricked my bike into thinking I went 10 miles.


Day Two: Like riding a bike
For my second try on the rollers, I only held on to the wall long enough to get going. I didn't start out smooth, but I tried to just remind myself that I knew how to do it.Though it was still more exciting than riding on trainer, I could tell I was getting the hang of it because time slowed down and I was counting the seconds until my time was up. Next time I'm putting in a video.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

What I can't live without--especially off the bike

It is an unfortunate reality that some clothing items aren't equally suited to both cycling and other outdoor pursuits (like hiking). Although I am always on the lookout for more cycling clothing, I spend most of my time off the bike (another unfortunate reality). Even on days when I venture forth for a long ride--say, eight hours or so--I'm still spending more time off the bike. It would be easier to justify spending money on cycling clothing if I could wear it to other activities.

I have what appears to be the most useful jacket in the world. Before I continue on and describe how my life is richer and fuller and happier because of it, I want to point out that it isn't made for cycling--nor can I find something equivalent in the cycling apparel world.

This jacket is the Marmot DriClime Windshirt.

I think I've had mine for at least a couple of years, and I just can't believe how useful it is. In a nutshell, it is a well-designed wind-breaker with a DriClime liner. The exterior is wind-proof with a nice DWR finish. There is a mesh panel in the under-arms to prevent over-heating. The real key to the usefulness of this jacket is the DriClime liner. DriClime is a light-weight brushed micro-fiber that excels at wicking moisture.

Unlike a traditional, shell-only, wind breaker, this Windshirt doesn't get clammy and wet on the inside. It feels like a very comfortable shirt, not like a jacket. When it is really cold, I layer it with my fleece. I can use it under a jacket, as a nice mid-layer (it wicks so well). Or, I use it to stop the wind as an outer layer. It works well as both. In fact, the because of the DriClime, it can be worn as a base-layer with nothing else under it. It is light, it is comfortable.

Lately, I can't seem to part with it. You see, I work on a computer almost all day (especially lately), and my body tends to shut down and cool down when I do. I'm always a little chilly. The Windshirt is perfect for wearing indoors. Also, it has been really cold outside lately. The Windshirt is perfect to wear outdoors.

I always have it with me. Actually, I always have it on me. Though I normally get my gear for free (for reviews), I bought this one. It is very nearly perfect.

The only problem, as I see it, is that it is too baggy (and not cut right) for on the bike. Marmot, please make a bike-specific version. I will buy it.

Or, better yet, send me one and I'll review it.

Note from James:

This is the first post from Jon since adding him to the blog last week. Originally I had planned on talking about the Banjo Bro's backpack, but haven't had the time to get it together and Jon had this post ready to go. I'll have something on the backpack next week. Merry Christmas everyone, have a great Holiday!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Light News

As promised, I've got light news today.

On Friday, I received the new and improved CatEye Triple and Double Shot Pros. These are notable updates over the original, and still available, Triple Shot and Double Shot. For one thing, they now have two levels, low and high, whereas the originals were only on and off. The batteries are now smaller Li-Ion units. The run times are diminished, especially on the Double Shot Pro vs. the Double Shot -- 2 hrs on high versus 5.5 hours, respectively -- but the battery is much, much smaller.

The light heads remain the same, though they are now black instead of silver. The optics on the Triple Shot are new, as well, and -- along with updated LEDs -- provide more usable light than they did previously. The chart below -- from CatEye's website -- shows the critical specs. The EL830RC is the Triple Shot Pro, the EL820RC is the Double Shot Pro, the EL700RC is the Triple Shot and the EL710RC is the Double Shot.

The new "Flex Tight" mount is very nice. It behaves like a hose clamp, if you're familiar with those. It works with any handlebar diameter and installs fairly quickly.

I hope to have light beam comparisons up -- between the Pro and normal Double and Triple Shots -- in the next week or so, I can't say for sure since it's weather dependent. Right now we are socked in a fog bank and rain is scheduled to appear today. Not exactly ideal conditions for photography, but I'll see what I can do.

So, with this in mind, here's a quick run down of the lights that we have received, and those we are expecting shortly and will be included in the review:

Arrived:
Lupine:
Wilma 4

Dinotte:
As yet un-named big light

CatEye:
Double Shot Pro
Triple Shot Pro

Princeton Tec:
Switchback 2

Nite Rider:
MiNewt

In the mail:
Exposure Lights:
Enduro Turbo
Joystick

BR Lights:
C2

Nite Hawk:
One of the K2 lightsets

Once these lights arrive, the review will be closed to new lights. If I didn't do this, I'd never get the thing written! In addition to those listed above, I'll be comparing last winter's winners -- namely the DiNotte Ultra 3 in the single 3W category and the CatEye Double Shot in the Greater than 3W and multiples thereof category. I am not including a 1W section this time around.

The process of using, abusing, qualifying, measuring, noting, charging, discharging and blinding deer and drivers alike has begun. Whew... these things always seem to take on a life of their own, but am not complaining.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Tube-No-Tube Installation

What a week this will be. I've got tire stuff, backpack stuff and light stuff. Today, I'll jump into the tire stuff, Tuesday or Wednesday look for some more light -- as in illumination, not frivolous -- news and then I'll wrap things up with some backpack stuff before heading out of town for Christmas. Whew!

So, let's jump right in, shall we?

About a month ago -- man, time flies -- I told you that I had received a pair of Geax's new T-N-T Barro mountain bike tires.

Well, I finally got around to mounting them up and using them -- I've been spending too much time on cyclocross stuff lately.

While I have gotten the tires dirty, I haven't spent enough time on them to form any sort of opinion yet. I like the tread pattern, though.

In the Box:
The complete kit has two tires and two cans of sealant.

It says how to use them right on the sidewall:
So, unlike Stan's, these aren't meant to be run without a tube on a normal rim.

The casing measures out to 1.958" at 30psi on Mavic Crossmax wheels:

The Barro's weigh in at 640g on my scale. Not bad for a pseudo-tubeless tire.

The installation is pretty straight forward. You mount them like any other tubeless tire -- soap the bead, inflate to max pressure and wait for the popping noise of the bead seating on the rim to stop. After that, though, you deflate the tire and use the included sealant to inflate the tire again. After that second step you can run your tires at whatever pressure you like. The sealant is supposed to be good for 3 months. We'll see.

The tires went on ok, the rear was kind of hard, but the front was an absolute bear to get on. In fact, this was the hardest Geax tire I ever put on a rim. I'm not sure if the tolerances were off, or what, but it was difficult. They seem to hold air just fine, though, which is good.

Switching gears a little, I've also just finished a review of one of Geax's Cross tires, along with one from Geax's parent company, Vittoria. These were very different tires, but both worked very well... provided you didn't use the Mezcal Cross in really muddy conditions.

I also wrapped up my Fusion Long Distance review. I found them to have all the grip of the Fusion Comp but without the premature wear. All in all, a good tire.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The Ultimate Tail Wind

Man, oh, man, what weather we had last night! Those of you out here in Oregon were probably without power. 200,000 homes state wide were without power at any given time. Mine was not one of them, thank goodness. Trees were down, power lines were snapping; I watched a transformer (not Transformer) explode. And it was WINDY -- out of the south. To get home I ride North.

Winds were 30-40mph, gusts up to 60mph. And this was in the valley. The Oregon Coast had winds over 100mph. I was coasting at 20mph and not slowing down. I tell you what, I am glad that I didn't have to ride South! I made it home in record time. Now, if only there was a way that I could have a tail wind like that all the time. My average speeds would certainly be much better.

It rained, too, but this is Oregon, after all, and rain is old news. Sure there is some flooding, but nothing major. Besides, I am using a Backpack I got from Banjo Bro's and it is waterproof. Very waterproof. I'll give more of my thoughts on the pack next week, but, as a teaser, it's well made and is a nice commuter backpack. It's actually made for commuting, which is nice.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

New Blogger

As I mentioned before, HERE, I've been thinking about adding Jon to the list of bloggers that can post on Lactic Acid Threshold. You might have noticed that the "Who Am I" changed to "Who Are We" over last weekend, as I have, indeed, brought Jon on board.

His view on products is slightly different from mine, so it will give a little more depth to this blog. In addition, while I am in Oregon -- Land of the Liquid Sun -- he lives in Utah. This is good from a gear point of view as the terrain, dirt, roads, weather and drivers are all different.

So, welcome Jon, I look forward to your first post here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Best Flash Ever

Last week I wrote about Princeton Tec's new Switchback 2 that I received. One thing I failed to mention was that -- like almost every LED-based light out there -- it has a flashing mode. Not only does it flash, however, but it has the best flash I've ever used. Below is a little -- poor -- video that I took here in my office, just to give you an idea.

update: no video. The conversion to Google Video damaged the frame rate, so the flashing doesn't appear. I'll try and get it up there a little better later today.

Like DiNotte's tail light -- and others', I'm sure -- it does a rapid pulse, then a pause. However, instead of pausing with the light off, it pauses with the light on. This is great, I think, because you don't disappear for a very brief moment from traffic. I'd like to see this sort of flashing used on tail lights as well. I'm sure that it would result in decreased battery life, but it might be more effective in practice.


update 2: No video. Trying to record the light flashing just isn't going to happen with my equipment. It's the wrong speed, so a video clip misses the flashing and it just looks like the light gets dimmer then brighter. I'll keep trying, but don't hold your breath.


update 3: I think I have it, see below.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Switchback 2

Nope, it's not a bad movie sequel, it's the dual LED Switchback light from Princeton Tec. The Switchback lights come in either 1 LED, 2 LED or 3 LED formats. The Switchback 2 arrived yesterday, but due to meetings, meetings and, well, more meetings, I haven't been able to post the info until today. Inside the box, I found everything I could need, including a car charger. Everything included is shown below -- image taken from the owner's manual pdf.


For perspective, here is the light head. The computer is a Planet Bike Protege 9.0.

From the front, you can see the dual LED emitters. Below the Switchback 2 is the Dinotte 5W Li-Ion light.


The battery gives this light awesome run time -- 5.5hrs on high, 7hrs on med and 16hrs on low. It'll charge in a paltry 2hrs, even from the car adapter.


And, from the top:

I really like the connectors. They are bayonet mount, so they are easy on, easy off, but will not unplug accidentally.

Right now, however, the weather isn't cooperating. We have been having some serious fog and when that clears up this weekend, it's back to rain. Not exactly good photo weather. I'll get a beam shot as soon as there is a break in the rain/fog that we've been having.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Good and Bad News

I've been hoping to get a Supernova Lights 48Seven to add to my high power LED light review and Supernova has gotten back to me that they would like to send me one. That's the good news bit. In fact, they have a cool tail light, below, that they are also going to throw in the box. It hooks up to their main battery for power. This can be good or bad -- today's theme, it seems -- but we'll see.

The bad news is that they are working on a new light, and won't have it ready until the end of January. This means that it won't be part of this review, but, hey, I'll still be reviewing one and it'll be cutting edge, I am sure.

One more thing, I am looking for a digital camcorder and I need to keep the price down. I know nothing about these things -- spent to much time looking at bicycle lights, I think, so if you guys do please drop me a line in either the comment section or email. Thanks.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Proposition

As some of you might have noticed, from time to time I link to Jon's blog, Slow and Tired. I do this for a few reasons: first, he is the other Editor over bicycle stuff at GearReview.com. Actually, he's the guy that handles posting my tripe, since I am web illiterate. Second, he is a little more road oriented than I am, though he rides both on and off road, as well. This gives him a different perspective on things. Third, he writes with a little more wit than I, I tend to be a little dry -- no, it's true! -- and focus more on the technical details of things than he does. Finally, he's not heavy, he's my brother and I enjoy reading what he writes.

There is one problem. He doesn't update his blog that often. It'll go in spurts, with long dry spells in between. Sometimes he feels like it is more of a burden than it's worth. To that end, he has offered to submit stuff to this blog, Lactic Acid Threshold.

The question is this -- and I'm throwing out to you all because I tend to vacillate a bit -- do you come here for product information alone, or would you like more cycling-oriented entries that aren't just about products? I'd like to have another writer on board, and am leaning that way, but I'd like to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Now that that is out of the way, hopefully by Wednesday I'll have a Switchback 2 in hand from Princeton Tec. I can't wait.