This weekend, there is a USGP 'cross race in Portland. I'll be there. Racing.
Ok, so "racing" is a bit of misnomer, since it implies that A) I'm adept at this cyclocross thing and B) I still have some sort of fitness. Neither is true. I "race" Mens C class, i.e. the beginners. I'm slow. However, 'cross is still incredibly fun -- in a painful sort of way -- and I've got some tires to try out. Since I'll be participating in the race for, um, review purposes, I won't be posting my results. I do it all for you readers. Really.
The tires in question are the new Hutchinson Bulldog CX 'cross tires, like the image below, but silver.
These do come in a tubeless version, but we aren't running that one. Nope, we've got the plain ol' clincher one. It's labeled as a 34c width, and unlike Hutchinson's previous 'cross tire, this one looks to be sufficiently wide. I'll be running it at 40psi on Mavic Open Pro rims.
We've reviewed the mountain bike tire that the Bulldog CX is patterned after, the Bulldog. We found that the Bulldog mountain bike tire's "open tread design does a much better job of shedding the mud to avoid the "growing tire" syndrome." I'm hoping -- and counting on, really -- that the Bulldog CX shows the same mud shedding trait.
It's going to be a muddy weekend.
Friday, November 30, 2007
This weekend, there is a USGP 'cross race in Portland. I'll be there. Racing.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
It was another cold, dark morning when I got out the "new" bike to load on my car. I was headed up the canyon, as usual.
Which rack to use on my car? I always default to the SportWorks (pre-Thule) because it's so fast and easy. Of course, when I hefted this bike up there, I saw right away it wouldn't fit. I couldn't even get the swing-arm up and over the tire. Okay, then. I was starting to get nervous--as nervous as I can be in my early-morning, sleep-deprived state. I next tried my Yakama King Cobra rack. Though this bike only has 26" wheels, I moved the adjustable slider up to the 29" slot. With some effort, I shoe-horned the front wheel into the cradle. The rear-wheel, of course, wouldn't fit into the tray, so I just left it sitting on top of the tray and used some bungee cords to keep it there.
Whew! Finally, I'm ready to go--and a bit warmer from the effort.
I make my way to the canyon and find myself sitting at a stoplight, half-asleep. As I'm sitting there, I notice a guy driving across the intersection with another half-asleep zombie--this time a teenage boy. He, the boy, slowly glances my way and suddenly is wide awake and staring intently at my roof as they pass. A smile crosses my face as I realize that what I'm testing is obviously not normal. It doesn't take someone immersed in the industry to be shocked by the difference.
Though I thought all the difficulties were over, once I got to the trail-head I about killed myself trying to extract the bike from the rack. As it turns out, it goes on easier than it comes off. The rack had a death-grip on the front tire I wedged in there.
I finally roll out just as the sky starts to lighten up around the mountains. The few wisps of clouds are a pinkish-orange. I'm warm and awake as I begin--a perfect morning for a ride on a new bike.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
This post is aimed squarely at you, mister bicycle commuter. I am one of you. Normally. But not today. Today I drove -- the youngest kid has a doctor appointments today, and while I could have ridden to the appointments and back, it would tack on an additional hour to my already long lunch.
Back to my tale -- meanwhile, back at the ranch...
So I am driving in today and it is very, very foggy. I pass a cyclist -- giving plenty of room since I am normally like him and all -- and I notice a couple of things.
First, though I thought that he was running no tail light, it turns out that he was. Second, he has some serious candlepower up front.
The problem was with my first observation. You see, he was a black mass on the shoulder until I got nearer and if it was darker he would have been invisible. I've actually seen this same cyclist in the dark and , yep, he's invisible from behind.
There are two things that contributed to his invisibility.
1) The batteries on his blinking tail light are low, or his tail light is very, very dim.
2) His overstuffed seat bag sags over his tail light, rendering it useless for everything but lighting up the underside of his seat bag. Not good.
This cyclist is a victim of not looking at his ride from a drivers' perspective.
If you ride at night, take a step back -- or 100 steps -- and look at your bike lit up. Walk around it, look at it from the side. Are you visible or are you a Ninja? Make sure that your baggage isn't blocking your lights. Maybe even upgrade your lights. There are some really good tail lights out there, DiNotte even has their's on sale right now. If that's too steep, Planet Bike's Superflash does a nice job on the cheap.
There are crazy drivers out there, do your part by being visible. Keep safe.
Monday, November 26, 2007
There is one thing that is driven home swapping from light to light: there isn't enough space on my handlebars. On my moustache bars I've added a modified Minoura Space Grip so that I can center lights or any other electronics I'd like to run (like a heart rate monitor). On my mountain bike, though, I thought I'd try something different. Enter, Purely Custom.
I mentioned these guys on my Interbike Day 3 coverage and I've since had a chance to put the mount to use. Frankly, I find it ingenious.
The package comes with the mount, a top cap and an aluminum top cap bolt.
Our test sample's top cap says "Carpe Diem" -- fitting I think.
The mount comes in two different heights to accommodate different stem rises. I've got the taller of the two, and it clears my mountain bike stem with room to spare. If you look at the image of the two Lupine lights from last week's post, you'll see the Purely Custom mount in the middle.
I circled it in red this time.
Though I haven't tried it yet, it occurs to me that this might be the ideal mount for NiteRider's TriNewt. I'll report back on how well it works out.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
This week Gretna Bikes -- the U.S. importer of Lupine lights -- sent me a Betty light head. Before I get into the preview, let me just say that the fact that I can run any of Lupine's lights off of the battery I have is pretty cool. Other companies do this to some extent -- DiNotte and Light and Motion, for example -- but some do not. Interchangeability is a very good thing.
Back to the preview.
The Betty packs 7 LEDs in there for a claimed output of 1400 lumens. At full power it's using 22W. These are big numbers. And the light head is a little bit bigger than the Wilma -- which also means it has a larger diameter than the Light and Motion Arc.
It's also has nearly twice the output as the Wilma.
The electronics are the same, so you still have the user adjustable dimming modes.
I know what you are thinking... how bright is it? How is the beam? Well, it's very much like a car head light. There is a lot of light with good spill. That's the best way to describe it, really. I will, of course, have beam shots -- for what it's worth -- in the main review coming next month.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I was perusing The List -- yes, capitalization is a must -- and I made one glaring omission. Back in my post on the fact that it's darker sooner, I mentioned Knog. On The List, I failed to list them. My bad.
We are including them, and they graciously sent us the Gator 605 for us to try out and to compare to the other lights. The 605 has three LEDs, but only two of them are of the high power variety. The battery is a long, slender Li-Ion unit with silicone straps to attach it to the bike frame.
The switch is different than any other light on test. There are three buttons -- one each for the two high power LEDs and one for the 5mm LED. There is a low and high setting for the main LEDs and a solid on and flashing mode for the 5mm. Each LED is controlled independently. That means that you have 27 different combinations.
You can have them all on. You can have them all off. You can have one main LED on, and the rest off. You can have one main LED on high, the other on low and the 5mm flashing... you get the idea. I can put a chart together, but it's a bit unwieldy.
Like Knogs other, smaller, lights, there is heavy use of Silicone. I mentioned the straps that hold the battery, and the light head has a similar arrangement to hold it to the handlebars. There is another one for the switch and then the light comes with two more straps that are removable and are to be used to keep the wires in check. The Gator 605 is one of the more interesting lights in the review, for sure.
Monday, November 19, 2007
As you might have noticed, I was out of town last week and Jon was kind enough to step in and talk about the X.9 group he has on test. You see, last week I was here:
And, while the weather was great, I was there on business -- non-bike related -- so I didn't have a bicycle with me. Ritchey, if you are reading this, we'd really, really like to review the BreakAway 'cross bike, thanks.
But, that's all done now, so it's back to things that matter, bicycle gear and, more specifically, lights.
I've mentioned DiNotte's Triple Taillight before, but at the time, I had not actually used it. The reason was twofold. First, their standard tail light is so darn good -- and I was using their new mount -- that I wasn't in a hurry to give it up and, second, the Triple Taillight isn't a rear specific mount. It's really the 600L body with the red LEDs inside. This means that it is up to the end user to figure out how to mount it. I ended up using it like this:
I cut down a piece of PVC and zip-tied it to the seat stays. This gave me the perch I needed for the handlebar mount. The bolt that attaches the light head to the clamp is an M-5, so I could just bolt it directly, but I wanted to keep the clamp in place.
I've learned a few things running this light. First, you do NOT want to be riding behind this light. If you ride in a group, this is not the light for you. If you ride alone, or with one other person that can stay in front or beside you, then go for it.
The second thing that I have learned/noticed is that cars, for the most part, respect the light. They move over as far, or farther than they do with DiNotte's standard tail light. However, there are still some people that will not give you space no matter what you are running. There is just no helping some drivers. So, while it feels like you have a force shield protecting you from behind, you don't.
But, seriously, this is THE brightest tail light out there. Period.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
I don't know if I've mentioned it before (and I'm not going to bother looking it up now), but shifting can be a nuisance. I mean, I like shifting as much as the next guy--and much better than the single-speeders out there--but it seems I'm always shifting (get it?!) between different shifting (I could go on all day) systems. For someone with a brain of my size, that can be a bit much in the heat of an emergency shift.
As may or may not have been apparent in my previous post, I just got a bunch of SRAM X-9 goodies to mount on my bike. My other two mountain bikes, however, use two different systems: either thumb-shifters or Shimano Rapid-Fire triggers. Not to mention down-tube shifters on one bike road bike (arguably not much different than thumbies) and STI levers on my Synapse.
(Incidentally, I think thumb shifters are the only shifters I never have to think about. Could it be because that's what I learned to shift with? Also, I find twist shifters the least intuitive to use. I mean, I can twist just fine, but I can't seem to remember which direction to twist it. Does anyone else have that problem? All the other systems make more sense to me--especially when I make a last-minute emergency shift.)
What does using another method for shifting do to me? It forces me to think about it more. Otherwise, I'd be riding the wrong gear all the time. Now, this can be a bad thing--both thinking about shifting and not being in the right gear--as I don't enjoy the ride for the ride's sake.
In this case, however, it's a good thing. You see, the careful observer will notice we already have the new 2008 XT for review. At the risk of divulging top-secret information that might cost me my highly paid and even more highly sought-after position at GearReview.com, I will tell you, the loyal follower of this blog, that we're going to do a shoot-out between XT (Shimano) and X-9 (SRAM). This will include the all the components necessary for shifting (shift levers, derailleurs, cranks, cassette, chain) as well as brakes (in SRAM's case, the Juicy 7). By forcing me to think more about the bike, I am better able to notice small details about the components I'm reviewing.
Here's a preview of what to expect from such a review: "After extensive riding on both systems, we found that both component group's designations begin with the letter X."
Except that you can expect even more breadth and depth from the forthcoming actual review.
Monday, November 12, 2007
The rear derailleur of a bicycle has a lot to do. Far busier than its cousin up front. Not only does the rear derailleur move the chain quickly and diligently between cogs, but it also keeps the chain nice and tight so the rest of the drive-train can work. Also, unlike the somewhat lazy front derailleur, the rear shifts all the time. I mean, I'll often go on whole bike rides, on or off-road, without even touching the front shifter. Meanwhile, the rear gets shifted sometimes multiple times a minute. Does the rear derailleur get a solid clamp to the very heart of a bicycle, tucked away safely behind the crank? No. Stoically, the rear derailleur hangs on to a part--one of the few parts built to be easily replaced due to an accident, no the accident which will inevitably occur--with only a single bolt.
So, there it sits, the rear derailleur taking up the chain tension and hanging it all out there just to get bashed against some rock because you can't pick a decent line.
And yet, the rear derailleur is fairly universal. All of the mountain bikes I own can take the same derailleur bolted to them. In fact, I'm pretty sure that with the right shifters, I could use a mountain derailleur on my road bike (not the SRAM X-9 pictured here, but it'd work for Shimano derailleurs). This little machine takes a little cable pull, with the help of a single bolt, and performs mighty tasks of gear mashing.
On the other hand, the front derailleur is simple. Almost anything could perform the same task by merely pushing the chain around. A greasy finger would even be up to the challenge. But mounting the derailleur is a lesson in complexity.
Don't get me wrong, bolting a clamp to a seat-tube is easy. It's just, the seat-tube isn't always the same size. Oh, and sometimes it isn't even a seat-tube, it's just a thing put there for a derailleur to bolt to. Also, the cable can come from above or below and, unlike the stalwart rear derailleur, the front derailleur can't handle both.
Another option that makes choosing the right front derailleur difficult--one for which I just discovered--is the clamp location. Please note the svelte low-clamp in this image of a beautiful new X-9 derailleur.
This won't bolt to my bike. In fact, it won't bolt to any of my bikes. no, I need the somewhat brutish high-clamp version of the same derailleur.
Can you guess the consequences of my ignorance?
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Today, I've got electronics of a different sort to preview.
The good folks at Ibex Sports -- importers of Exposure Lights, USE, Modolo and VDO -- sent me the VDO C3 DS to try out.
The DS designation means that VDO is using a digital transmission to help reduce/eliminate cross talk with out wireless devices. This should also cut down on interference that some lights cause.
Another benefit is that this computer uses the same wireless transmission for the optional cadence kit -- which I'm also trying out.
The feature list is long:
trip ride timer
ride timer bike 1
ride timer bike 2
total ride timer
manual stop watch
Navigator – second, individually programmable
(counting upwards / backwards) trip counter
total odometer bike 1
total odometer bike 2
comparison of current and average speed
2 wheel sizes (bikes) selectable
Pretty darn complete list, if you ask me -- though, ideally it would have a back light and temperature, if we lived in a perfect world. Look for the full review in the coming months.
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
From time to time, while reviewing products I am lead to wonder -- when I am feeling particularly jaded and cynical -- whether or not the designer of said product rides bicycles at all, and if they do, is it as a recreational cyclist, a vehicular cyclist, a racer -- or racer wannabe -- or are bicycle products merely a job and when they go home they have other hobbies, like tying flies, for instance.
I pose this question because some products seem... well... Let's just say that they are not quite ready to be used on a bicycle.
Last Friday, Brian from Light On! journeyed down to my neck of the woods and we rode. We used his lights, in the dark, naturally, and had a chance to discuss all things light related -- from how our eyes see and interpret light to how lights should be mounted on handlebars and helmets. It was a fun ride and one I wish I could do something similar with every manufacturer.
What I particularly enjoyed was sitting down -- in the saddle -- and voicing my opinion to the guy who built it. He listened to my concerns, voiced rebuttals where necessary, and, in general, was genial and receptive to what I had to tell him.
And, he never gave me a reason to wonder if he rode. He does.
Brian, thanks for the visit.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Well, we're back to previewing the lights for this gigantic review.
You know those sponges that you can buy all packed up tiny and then when you get them wet they grow to enormous proportions? This review is like that... I just hosed down the sponges.
Today, we're looking at BR Lights newest offerings. The handle bar light -- C2.1-H -- looks nearly identical to the older version we've seen before. The difference is in the emitters. The new light uses Cree emitters for a total output of 410 lumens, as opposed to the older C2 model's 185 lumens. And they have nearly 4 hours of run time on high.
Brand new this year, though, is the Jeni. This is a helmet mounted light that uses the same emitters -- it also uses 2 emitters like the C2.1-H -- as the bar light, but in a slightly more compact form.
As with the bar light, the helmet mounted Jeni is an all-in-one solution with the battery integrated. Unlike the bar light, though, a supplimental battery is available if the 1.9 hours of high beam isn't long enough.
Making an all-in-one does pose some issues with aiming the light. BR over came this by making the emitter assembly adjustable.
This way, you can put the light where it fits the best, and then adjust the angle of the emitters.
Admittedly the design theory at BR Lights is "industrial" and both the Jeni and the C2.1-H follow that theory. I'll be reporting back as we use them.
Friday, November 02, 2007
A good wheelset is like two wheels that are good. Also, they match.
The Shimano WH-6600 Ultegra wheelset is, in fact, two wheels that not only match each other, but are good. For the price--a paltry 53,000 US pennies--you get a middle-weight wheelset that performs more like a light-weight set.
Read the full review here.
While riding them, I heard such things from a passersby as, "Wow, you're fast!" and "Handsome, as well!" No doubt both of these qualities rightly can be attributed to the WH-6600 Ultegra wheels. So, buy a set and watch success seep into your life like it never has before!
Disclaimer: Jon is neither handsome nor fast. Your mileage may vary.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Well, we're finally getting a handle on the gear that has arrived since Interbike. We would be very remiss, however, if we failed to preview the Ergon BD-1 pack. We first mentioned it in our Interbike, Day 1 post.
This pack is unique in so many ways. The waist belt cinches around the wearer, it does not cinch the pack to the user. It does this by tightening from the back as well as from the front. The shoulder harness is connected to the pack via a gimbal -- effectively decoupling the shoulder motion from the rest of the pack, while still enabling the pack to be stable. The entire pack is held by a rigid framework, forcing the waist belt to support the lion's share of the load.
Now, this isn't the first time that a pack has been made for cycling that carries the load low -- see Wingnut's offerings as an example -- but Ergon has been able to accomplish this with a pack that is held off of the wearers back. I haven't been able to spend a whole lot of time with it, but I can tell you that this pack feels like no other pack I have used... ever.