Spring is here…

31 05 2010

The leaves are green and the sunny is shining...

and it's snowing...welcome to Alberta in late May!...

900 Lumen LED Bike Light

28 05 2010

Power in Motion 900 Lumen LED bike light...

Ken at Power in Motion gave me this 900 lumen LED bike light to try out.  Naturally I said yes!  My reference lights are a pair of Dinotte 200L-AA that are rated at 200 lumens each and run on 4 AA rechargeable batteries.  I’ve always thought the 200L’s were very bright so I was interested to see what 900 lumens was like.

Light engine, battery and charger in box...

This light kit consists of a LED light engine, proprietary rechargeable battery and AC charger.  The box the light comes in is easy to open with a flip top and magnetic latch.  That’s nice because typically I recycle product boxes because they aren’t very easy to open/close for day to day use.  I’d actually keep this box to store the light when not in use and reuse is better than recycling by a long shot.

Business end of light engine...

The light engine features a SSCP7 LED and simple reflector.  Note that the optics are not focused so you get a cone of light that extends from the light engine.

Heat-sink and control button...

The light engine case is waterproof and features a integral heat-sink to keep the light cool.  There is a single control button on the back that cycles between high power steady, low power steady, flashing high power and off.

Battery pack...

I have no specs on the proprietary battery pack other than a stated runtime of 3hrs on high steady.  I tested this and managed 3hrs 10mins with my unit.  Low steady should run for a lot longer and in flashing mode I imagine it will be a week or more of night riding before you would have to think about charging.  It took me 4hrs to charge the battery from empty to full with the included AC charger.

I should note it looks like the light engine may draw a small amount of current when off [same as the Dinotte] so I’d recommend you unplug the battery pack if you aren’t using it so you don’t drain the battery unnecessarily.

The plug is waterproof and easy to use.  Both the plug and the wiring look solid and should be robust enough for long term use.  Ken mentioned that this light can be connected to one of his e-bike kits so you can run it from the main e-bike battery. That would be a convenient option for a electric bike commuter.

The battery come with a nylon case that can easily be attached to your bike via a velcro strap.

My test light on the left and my Dinotte 200L on the right...

The test light engine mounts in a similar fashion to the Dinotte 200L using a rubber o-ring.  This is a very versatile mounting method that has lasted several years of regular use.  This means the light can be swapped from bike to bike in seconds without tools and the beam can be aimed up and down on the fly.  Of course this type of mount means the light can be stolen easily so you’d be advised to take it with you when locking the bike.  You get a large and a small o-ring with the light kit so you should be set for just about any diameter bar.

On the whole I really like these o-ring mounts.  The convenience of use outweighs the security issue for me.

Top view...

The test light is attractive and looks well made.  As you can see from the photos it’s quite a bit bigger than the Dinotte 200L, but at 4.5 times the rated lumens maybe that’s a necessary thing – the Dinotte 800 lumen light is much bigger as well.  The Dinotte case is a work of art to be sure, however, it comes at a cost.  The 900 lumen LED tested here sells for $145 CDN at Power in Motion compared to $229 USD for a 200L – LI proprietary [lithium battery version] or $351 USD for a Dinotte 800 lumen light.

Rear view...

The 900 lumen test light is controlled from the rear via a single button that is illuminated to show it has power and switches to red to indicate a low battery.  The button is not as easy to use as the Dinotte button because it doesn’t protrude from the case as much, but I was able to change settings with a gloved hand no problem.

The light engine and battery weigh 340 grams [12oz] – light enough I didn’t notice them on my bikes.

Dinotte 200L...

Here are two pictures to try and compare the 900 lumen test light and the Dinotte 200L.  This is not an ideal test as my camera adjusts settings differently between pictures, but it was the best I could muster on short notice.  In real life the difference is even more dramatic.  I have no way to measure the brightness of these lights to verify the stated lumens, but I can tell you the 900 lumen light is much brighter than the Dinotte 200L and illuminates a much wider area.  This means you’ll see more of the road both close and far than you would with the Dinotte 200L.  For higher speed night riding I often use two Dinotte 200L’s one aimed low and close to illuminate the near section of road and one aimed higher to illuminated the road further away.  With the test light only one light would be necessary to achieve the same result.

900 lumen test light...

Keep in mind I’ve only been testing this light for a couple weeks so I can’t speak to the long term durability of the unit although the construction leads me to believe it will be robust.  I am thinking about buying one to test over the next year, but I have a some existing lights that meet my needs and other bike spending priorities…not to mention living so far north it’s already light until 10pm+… so I haven’t made a decision yet.  This light is definitely a great value which is making me think it’s worth owning.

In summary:

  • the test light is well made
  • the price is excellent
  • the light is exceptionally bright
  • the battery provides 3hrs on high steady
  • the mounting system works well

If you are interested in one of these 900 lumen lights contact Ken through his Power in Motion website or call the store at 403.233.8841. Power in Motion ships to Canada and the US.

Now this is where I would typically rant about the need for focused optics in bike lights like they have in Europe.  However, nobody selling bike lights in North America seems to care so I’ll spare you the diatribe!…=-) I will say this – be responsible with your high powered bike lights.  Consider other MUP/road users and don’t blind people with poorly aimed lights.

10 min shower test...


Adrian [a blog reader] mentioned he has some waterproofing issues with his battery pack in a similar LED light.   So the investigative reviewer in me wanted to try out my test light in the wet.  So I placed it on a shelf in the shower and hit it with a full force water barrage for 10 mins.  I occasionally picked up the light engine and ran it through the various modes to ensure it was working fine.  The light worked great and exhibited no problems from being wet or sitting in a puddle of water.

Clever Cycles Ride Through…

28 05 2010

Clever Cycles [Portland] has a newly renovated showroom…looks super nice!

Bike Bins

27 05 2010

Bike Bins hard shell pannier...

I saw these plastic hard shell panniers at Bike Bike and was intrigued by the idea of a lockable pannier.  They are made by Bike Bins and feature a locking lid so you can secure items on your bike when about town.

View of Bike Bin with lid open...

They install easily on any standard rear bike rack and are waterproof.  You get a key for each bin and there are 150 keys used so you will likely need to carry a key for each bin unless you luck out and get 2 that use the same key.  Of course that also means someone else with a Bike Bin most likely won’t have a key that works on yours!

Bike Bin Specifications...

They are selling for $80.00 Cdn at Bike Bike for 1 Bike Bin.  That price isn’t out of line with other quality bike panniers, but it’s not a bargain either.

Bike Bins on Doug's CETMA Cargo Bike...

My friend Doug has a set of Bike Bins on his CETMA cargo bike.  I asked him what his thoughts were after using them for a while:

  • he liked the ability to lock them and keep a few essentials close at hand
  • they were reasonably durable although he has had some issues with the hinges vibrating loose requiring some intervention.
  • loose items rattle and make a lot of noise as you ride so he pads them with a jacket or a rag
  • overall his appraisal was positive

My own thoughts are that they could be a useful addition for an errand or commuter bike, but they seem like they could use another cycle of product development before I would be able to give them two thumbs up.  I’d like to see the following changes:

  • better quality construction…especially the hinges.  For $80 a bin I feel like they should be 25% nicer in terms of fit and finish.
  • have reflective panels on them or provide reflective stickers with each bin.
  • available in sets with the keyed the same so you would only need one key for all your bins.
  • have a better locking mechanism to secure the bin to the bike…currently they suggest you lock the rubber carrying handle to secure the bin on your rack, but a decent knife would liberate that easily.
  • offering some padding along the bottom and lower sides would make them more useable for carrying tools and a lock without making a ton of noise.
  • 17L is a bit on the small side…something like 25-30L would be more useful for shopping.

I may invest in one bin for testing purposes or I may wait a year or so in the hopes they address the issues above.  I’m not sure yet.  If you are in the market for locking panniers these are worth a look.

Ortlieb Velocity Backpack 2.5 Year Review

26 05 2010

My Ortlieb Velocity showing a bit of wear and tear...

Read my initial thoughts about this bag from early 2008 here and my 5 month update here.

This backpack has become my “go to” bag for most of my day to day backpack needs.

This is why:

  • 20L size is perfect for most loads
  • roll top closure lets you carry large odd sized items [bike fork] by leaving top open
  • waterproof bag makes it a no brainer when you want to carry a laptop in the rain
  • PVC fabric is very rugged
  • simple design is easy to use
  • fits well and is comfy even with a moderately heavy load
  • back of bag ventilates well

The bag it has displaced is an aging Camelback Transalp which was my favourite bag for years.  Interestingly the Transalp featured many small pockets to organize my stuff.  I figured the fact the Velocity is a simple bag with only a small organizing pocket might be a problem…as it turns out that’s not an issue and I rarely wish I had more pockets.

If you need a medium sized backpack and you care about waterproofness and durability this is a good bag to consider.

The excess belt straps req'd a ghetto DIY solution...

Stuff I don’t like:

  • basic black goes with anything, but some reflective material like Ortlieb puts on their panniers would make me happier riding late at night.
  • every bag made for cyclists should have a simple cloth tab to allow you to easily attach a red blinky…come on that isn’t rocket science.
  • the removable organizer pocket is handy, but it can slap around inside the bag making an irritating sound with every step you take…an extra snap at the bottom or some velcro would cure that issue.
  • the bag has a waist belt that is rarely needed due to the moderate size of the bag.  This belt comes with two plastic clips to manage the excess strap ends when the belt isn’t being used.  They were made of brittle plastic are broke early on requiring me to resort to a ghetto tape solution.  A sewn on velcro strap on each side would solve the problem while looking nice and lasting as long as you have the bag.

BTW – if you like what you see, but need more than 20L of capacity Ortlieb sells two larger bags similar to the Velocity.  I’m keen on getting the Messenger Bag Pro…I’m just waiting for one to cross my path on sale!

My friend Greg in Victoria, BC…

25 05 2010

He's actually from next door in Sooke BC...

But, I figured nobody would know where that is....

I can't wait to get my kite in the air and my board in the water...

Apparently conditions for KBing have been awesome this spring on Vancouver Island...

and yes I am officially jealous...=-)

La Sportiva Raptor Update

24 05 2010

A less shinny looking than a month ago...

I posted my La Sportiva Raptor pre-review a month ago.  I wanted to post an update now that I’ve been wearing these shoes for a month as my main footwear.

Stuff I like:

  • comfortable fit
  • lightweight
  • grippy soles
  • my custom insoles fit well
  • not uber ugly [to me!]

Stuff I don’t like:

  • climbing rubber soles leave marks on light coloured floors
  • hard plastic under arch doesn’t grip metal pedals on my fixie well
  • light material gets wet from dew easily

Note the knot halfway up the laces...

I like these shoes with the front half loose and the uppers fairly tight.  To make this happen I’ve tied a knot about halfway up the laces.  This means that the tension below the knot never changes no matter how tight I tie the top of the shoe.

Overall I like these shoes and will keep ’em until they wear out, but I don’t love them enough to buy some spare pairs.  When they are toast I’ll look around for a shoe I really love.  The quality and construction of these shoes is high.  Given that fit is a very personal thing I’d recommend these shoes as worth your consideration if you are on the hunt for a trail runner – you may well love them.