Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Weatherneck: The Bandana Evolves

Brian Davis, the guy behind Fix-it-Sticks is back with another clever, well-designed product. It's that little bit of wind protection and warmth you may need while starting out on a cold ride but what makes it smart is how easy it is to take on and off and adjust. Brian explains it well in the Kickstarter video I've embedded at the top of this post.

Unlike many Kickstarters, Brian's project is a real thing, well-thought out and BS-free. He's going the Kickstarter route so he can bulk-buy supplies and get a sense of demand for his product.

I tested the Weatherneck out last weekend but it wasn't cold enough here for me to use it as a face mask.

Brian also sent a Weatherneck to my pal Hughie at the Bicycle Center. I told Hughie that I thought his partner Yvonne would be a better model. She sent me a picture where it looks like she's going to hold up a stagecoach.

Dillon is an ex-California dog so he's always cold. The Weatherneck made a nice little jacket for him.

Hughie started out serious.

Then he got creative.

Then he started channeling his inner Axl Rose.

OK, we've been having fun with the Weatherneck, but the bottom line is that this is a cool product. The magnetic clasp system is very versatile, you can take the Weatherneck on and off in seconds and as you can see, you can wear it in various ways.

So  if you live somewhere where it gets cold some times, check it out. I think it's well worth the reasonable price Brian is charging and I hope he sells a bunch of them.

Monday, January 11, 2016

How to Occupy Public Land

Sunday, January 03, 2016

The Blackburn 2'fer Bike Light

The Blackburn 2'fer is a lightweight, USB-rechargeable bike light. Its most unique feature is that it can serve as either a front or rear light.

The light weighs 18 grams. It can clip onto clothing or a pannier and it also comes with a stretchy rubber bracket so it can mount to a seatpost or handlebar.

The light also comes with a short (about 20 cm) micro USB cord for charging. That's a pretty damn short cord but these days darn near every device I own charges with a micro USB cord. After opening the package, I charged the light with the 10 foot USB cord I use for charging my phone and Kindle.

The light is bright. It has 4 modes: White Steady, White Flashing, Red Steady & Red Flashing. The white light is rated at 60 Lumens while the red is rated at 20 Lumens.

A long press turns the light on and off. A quick press toggles the light through its various modes.

Here is the light shining as a tail light at dusk.

And here it is working as a head light. It's quite effective as a be-seen light.

The rubber bracket holds the light securely to the handlebars.

The bracket also works fine on the seatpost.

As a front light, the 2'fer really only works as a be-seen light. The light really doesn't really cast a beam, so you can't really ride at any speed.

Used in conjunction with my Cygolite Dash, it's fine. The Dash lets me see where I'm going while the 2'fer increases my conspicuity.

As a tail light, the 2'fer really shines (pun intended!)

On steady, the 2'fer runs for 1.5 hours, while the strobe mode is good for 5 hours. The light has a super tiny red/orange/green power gauge LED. It takes about 3 hours to fully charge. The short battery life may be a deal-breaker for some but for my relatively short commute it's fine. I just keep and eye on the gauge and charge it at home or work as needed.

The 2'fer is a great be-seen light for the urban commuter. For dark trails or long rides, you'll want something more, but it's a good little versatile light. You can buy it as either a single light or save a bit and buy it in a two-pack.

Friday, December 25, 2015

How a Folding Bike Fits Your Life

Most folding bikes are marketed based on their advantages for travel. It's certainly true that a combination of mass transit (a train or a bus, for example) and a quick folding bike like a Brompton or Bike Friday Tikit can prove to be a great solution for daily commuting. And if you frequently travel by air, buying a folding bike like a New World Tourist or a Pocket Rocket that can pack safely and securely into a standard-sized Samsonite suitcase is a much more satisfying use of dollars than spending money on the outrageous fees many airlines charge for transporting a full-sized bike these days.

While the above reasons are good and valid, over the past few decades of riding and owning a wide range of folding bikes I've come to appreciate some of the less obvious features of these unique machines. Some of these aspects may be drawbacks in one context, yet prove to be a surprising advantage in another. For example, let's talk a bit about wheels.

Most folding bikes use 16" or 20" wheels. If you want a folding bike with larger wheels, Montague makes some fine ones or you could get something built with S and S couplers or the lovely Rinko Travel System. Larger wheels, as any 29er mountain biker will tell you, tend to hold speed better and cope better with rough conditions. The bigger wheels have more angular momentum when moving, more inertia when stopped. Smaller wheels accelerate and decelerate quicker. As someone whose ridden damn near every bike wheel size made, I sum it up this way: "Big wheels are fast, but smaller wheels are quick."

For urban riding, small wheels are fun. BMX riders know this. It's easier to flick the bike around. That's not to say you can't do long distances with smallish wheels, hell I rode both Paris-Brest-Paris and London-Edinburgh-London a Bike Friday New World Tourist and never felt hindered by the bicycle, but you note the advantages of nimbleness more in stop and go city riding. In some places, like urban Japan, Mini Velos are popular. While mini velos don't fold, they do take up less space than a full size bike. And mini velo fans will attest to the fun factor inherent in smaller wheels.

Another advantage of the folding bike in a city environment is theft resistance. Rather than leaving your bike locked up outside, you can fold the bike and take it indoors. Folding bikes fit in small spaces so they are a good choice for apartment dwellers.

While folding bikes aren't cargo bikes per-se, they are surprisingly good at hauling things like groceries. On every folding bike I've owned I've been able to sling a bag over the front handlebars for quick grocery runs. The space above the smaller wheels can be used for a load without really messing up the bike's handling.

Folding bikes tend to be adjustable in terms of sizing. Some, like my Bike Friday Companion, are very adjustable. This makes it a great bike if you want to buy one bike for a growing child or if you want to have a bike that is shared between a couple of different people. Folding bikes also tend to have a low step-over height which means they can be a good choice for folks with short legs or mobility issues that keep them off a diamond-framed bike.

Since folding bikes still aren't exactly common owning a folding bike means you'll get asked about it. If you're an bike enthusiastic extrovert like me, you'll see this as a plus. If you're a more private person, you should be aware of this as a potential downside of folding bike ownership. But in general bike-curious people tend to be good people so maybe getting asked about your nifty bike isn't too bad a thing.

For me, the main thing about folding bikes is that they are fun. Yes, they are practical, sporty, zippy and environmentally friendly but they are also just a great way to be out and about in the world. So even if you don't commute daily or travel that often, perhaps there's a place in your life for a folding bike.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

A Little Tour of Little Free Libraries

This map shows the Little Free Libraries within five miles of my home in Eugene. There are a bunch of them and this afternoon I went for a short bike ride to visit a few of the ones closest to me.

Partway through my journey, it started raining. I took shelter from the heaviest rain under a tree.

Some of the libraries are free-form exchanges and others, like this one in the Friendly Street Park, are more closely curated.

On this trip I visited seven of the little libraries and I managed to not acquire any books but I did donate a couple. It's a constant struggle for shelf space at our place.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Coffeeneuring with Christine: 2015 Summary

Christine and I completed the 2015 Coffeeneuring Challenge in our new home town of Eugene, Oregon. We found many fine places to coffeeneur and have many more yet to discover. For the record, here are our seven 2015 coffeeneuring rides.

1) Saturday October 3, 2015 - Sweet Life Patisserie - 3 miles

2) Saturday October 10, 2015 - Vero - 2.8 miles

3) Sunday October 11, 2015 - New Day Bakery and World Cafe - 2.2 miles

4) Saturday October 17, 2015 - Alton Baker Park -  7.4 miles

5) Sunday October 18, 2015 - Bagel Sphere - 2.4 miles

6) Saturday October 24, 2015 - The Glenwood Restaurant - 3.6 miles

7) Sunday November 1, 2015 - Noisette Pastry Kitchen - 2.3 miles

Each of the above entries link to the blog entry for that day with lots of pictures of the rides and the food and the beverages. Some of these places are so close to our home that we had to ride a bit extra to make sure we met the minimum 2 mile trip distance for each coffeeneuring trip. Eugene is certainly rich in coffeeneuring destinations!

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Coffeeneuring with Christine: Noisette Pastry Kitchen

It was a damp morning in Eugene, but that did not deter us from our coffeeneuring ride.

We rolled down Broadway. In our neighborhood, Broadway is a quiet, bike-friendly street.

Our destination isn't far from home.

It's Noisette Pastry Kitchen, a bakery that Christine has been wanting to check out.

Christine good-naturedly puts up with my "we've got to take pictures of the food and drink" thing.

I had a wonderful goat-cheese biscuit and a slice of coffee cake. Christine had a savory brioche. We both had Earl Grey tea. It poured rain while we were eating, but it was only lightly drizzling by the time we headed out.

Noisette is only 0.9 miles from our home, so we went slighly further downtown to add a bit of mileage to make sure our total trip was long enough to meet the coffeeneuring distance rule.

We turned south at Kesey Plaza.

We rode through the little inter-building tunnel that connects 12th Avenue for bike traffic.

12th Avenue is another street that is optimized for bike travel. Most of the car traffic sticks to the faster one-ways of 11th or 13th.

The trees are quite beautiful this time of year.

We turn on Tyler Street.

The tree in our front yard is a deep red this time of year.

Here we are at home. This is our seventh coffeeneuring ride this year, so we've completed the 2015 challenge with a couple of weeks to spare. I'll tally up the miles, consolidate the reports and submit the paperwork to Coffeeneuring HQ back in DC.

We've had a lot of fun and found a bunch of great places for food and drink. Coffeeneuring is a great way to get to know a place.

Keep 'em rolling.