Another Dinotte vs Ixon IQ Light Test…

3 01 2011

Here is one last set of light comparison videos before I head south tomorrow AM.  Sharon and I were coming back from dinner in town.  Her bike had a B&M Ixon IQ on it and a Planet Bike Superflash on the rear rack [rack is a bit tweaked so it points down slightly].  I had a Dinotte 200L-AA on my bike with a Radbot 1000 on the back.

Sorry the audio is not great – this is a different camera than I normally use and it apparently doesn’t love the noise from speed induced wind….=-(

Here is what happens in the video:

  • at the start Sharon is ahead so you see my Dinotte 200L aimed for my normal speed range of 20-27kph
  • as I catch up to Sharon you can see her PB Superflash then the beam of her Ixon IQ
  • we ride together with both lights on so you can compare them [look at how much light they put on road and how much goes up into trees/sky]
  • then I turn off my Dinotte and we ride with just her Ixon IQ
  • finally I turn my Dinotte back on for the last bit

One of the reasons I got Sharon a Ixon IQ for Christmas is that on our usual rides at night her 2 Planet Bike Blaze 1W lights were barely enough for her to ride by.  She commented several times how my Dinotte 200L was much brighter and more effective at lighting up a dark MUP or road.  Last night’s ride was our first together with her new lighting and she commented how her light was so much better than mine and that now she had the most kick ass bike light – mission accomplished…=-)

One thing to consider while watching this video is that only about ~30% of the Dinotte’s beam is actually useful for lighting up the road and obstacles.  The rest goes up and to the sides in a huge cone that really is wasted.  Now imagine if all that wasted light was focused down on the road like the Ixon IQ.  You’d have a really bright light beam to ride by!

I promise this is the last bike light video for a couple months….lol…!…=-)

In this video I’m holding a camera at head height and Sharon first rides her own bike towards and then past me [Ixon IQ + PB Superflash] then she grabs my bike and rides it towards me and then past me [Dinotte 200L + Radbot 1000 on rapid flash].  You know what I think about these lights.  I’ll let you draw you own conclusions from the video.

I’d encourage everyone out there to take 5mins next time you are out riding with a friend at night to check out each other’s lights and to check out your own.

PS – as with my previous videos they get darker when uploaded to Youtube so if you want to see the originals click here. The ones shown in this post and Tikit Night 1 & 2. I’m uploading as I publish this post to my blog so it may take an hour or so for those videos to upload.





Dinotte XML-3 & XML-1 Mountain Bike Light Review…

7 02 2013

I’ve been using a Dinotte XML-3 [~1000 lumens] and a Dinotte XML-1 [~400 lumens] for over a year now although only in winter as our summers feature uber long periods of daylight in Canada. They are great mountain bike lights and Dinotte has great customer service. MTBR.com did a review of these lights as well as a comparison with 48 other mountain bike lights so I figured I’d point you at that rather than reinventing the wheel. Besides it’s not like I can afford to buy 50 high bike lights to test and review! 😉

Dinotte XML-3 on my Scandal...

Dinotte XML-3 on my Scandal…

XML-3 LEDs...

XML-3 LEDs…

One thing I must point out is these are high powered mountain bike lights for use on trails or out in the middle of nowhere. They shine their powerful beams indiscriminately onto the trail, road and into people’s eyes if they are headed towards you on a bike or in a car. They are so powerful they will literally blind oncoming traffic. Just like driving around town at night with your high beam lights in your car is not cool – using these as commuter lights anywhere with other traffic is not cool. I suspect we aren’t too far from seeing these sorts of lights regulated for road/MUP use since the cost to lumens is so low now anyone can afford a devastatingly bright light. In Germany it would be illegal to use these lights on your bike on the road and I agree that’s the correct approach.

Dinotte XML-1 mounted to my helmet...

Dinotte XML-1 mounted to my helmet…

Here is my summary of what I like about these lights:

  • reasonable cost for brightness and quality
  • symmetric beam works well for mountain bike trail use
  • Dinotte provides excellent customer service
  • these lights are repairable if needed unlike disposal Chinese lights
  • my oldest Dinottes are 6yrs old and going strong with no repairs
  • all lights made in the USA
  • one of the easiest and best mounting systems I’ve used
  • available in both AA battery and L-Ion battery versions
  • small profile so they don’t look goofy or take up a ton of room on your bars if you have the installed day and night
XML-3 with L-Ion battery pack...

XML-3 with L-Ion battery pack…

If Dinotte ever made a light with a vertical cut off optic like the Edelux I’d buy one for city use.





I heart my Dinotte lights!

3 12 2011

Helmet mounted Dinotte 200L...

I have been pretty harsh in my criticism of the Dinotte 200L lights I own. Mostly due to the symmetric optics which blind oncoming traffic/cyclists/pedestrians. I stand by those opinions and I still have to either apologize as I ride past someone on a dark MUP/side street or partially cover the top part of the light with my hand. I was unhappy enough I made a couple attempts to sell the two Dinotte lights that I have since I felt bad using them. I still wouldn’t recommend them for an urban cyclist.

However – I’m glad I didn’t sell them!

Handlebar mounted Dinotte 200L...

Why you might ask?

Well I’ve rediscovered the joys of nocturnal mountain biking. Back in Alberta dark winter nights were so cold that my desire to ride a mountain bike in the PM was very limited and only during the last couple winters did I have a bike [my Surly Pugsley] that was even capable of trail riding on snow. In spring/summer in Canada it’s light so late that it’s virtually impossible to night ride a mountain bike without staying out after midnight. I did one 24hr race in Canmore Alberta and I really enjoyed the night riding if not the actual racing.

A typical winter morning in Victoria...

Here in Victoria it’s dark by 4pm at the moment and the temperatures are quite mild so not only is nocturnal trail riding possible it’s almost mandatory on a weekday if I want to get any work done before I ride. I can’t explain why I didn’t mountain bike last winter. I guess I was just so well trained by 15yrs in Alberta that it didn’t occur to me. I’m glad that this winter I have been more sensible and realized that winter may actually be my preferred riding season here. The trails are empty, the temperatures are still comfortable in shorts and a long sleeve top and there always seems to be 2 or 3 dry riding days each week.

Scott and Aaron heading uphill as the sun sets...

It’s Aaron’s birthday today [Happy Birthday!] so Scott and I took him out recently for a He-Man style birthday night ride to celebrate. We armed ourselves with bike lights [I used both my Dinotte 200L’s] and started the long climb up Partridge Hills as the sun was setting. Ironically everything that I complain about Dinotte lights for city riding makes them ideal for mountain biking at night. The symmetrical beam throws light up which is nice as the trail often dips sharply so you want to illuminate the next rise. That upper part of the beam that normally blinds on coming traffic lets you see low hanging branches and since there is nobody dumb enough to be out in the dark mountain biking in winter the bright beams are not anti-social like they are in the city. I figured that it was only fair to point out where my Dinottes rock so my reviews were balanced.

Dinottes are powerful, well made and rugged. If you mountain bike at night they are definitely worth a look. I should also note they are made the in the USA if that matters to you.

My lame attempt at a wheelie...

We had such a good time night riding we all concluded it was actually more fun than riding the same trails in the daylight. I’m not 100% sure why, but I suspect it is because all you can see is what your lights illuminate so you stay really focused on a few feet on trail and the ride seems so much more intense. As usual we got totally lost at Partridge Hills. At one point Scott asked me if we could ride a particularly fun bit of singletrack we can barely find in the daylight. I just laughed as we hit another random trail. There was zero chance we were finding anything in particular. We just bombed whatever was in front of us.

Scott doing a much better Pugsley wheelie...

I rode my Surly Pugsley. For an 8 speed rigid 29er mountain bike it did really well. I could have used a slightly lower gear, more powerful brakes and a set of more aggressive Nate fat tires, but all in all it impressed me by monster trucking over everything in its path. It’s not the fastest way to get around the trails, but it quite possibly is the most fun way!…=-)

Scott & Aaron illuminated by my Dinotte 200L's...

We had such a good time and days are so short at the moment I see a lot of night riding in my future. I see that Dinotte has much more powerful lights now compared to my 4yr old 200L’s. I may have to upgrade…=-)





I don’t hate Dinotte…

2 01 2011

Symetric beam bike lights from Magicshine and Dinotte...

Reading replies to my bike light blog posts and similar stuff I posted on bike forums I wanted to ensure my intentions were not misconstrued:

  • I love everything about Dinottes except the light beam. If/when they fix that I will be a happy customer again. If you give me a choice I’d rather support a North American company rather than one on another continent.  Unfortunately the light beam is most of what I am buying with a bike light so that’s an issue I can’t over look.
  • Planet Bike is a great company.  Their main headlights and taillights don’t perform well, but that’s something they could fix and I’ll happily buy their lights again.
  • I’m not telling you that your light setup is wrong.  Unless you live and ride where I do it’s impossible for me to know what biking in your neck of the woods is like so I can’t pass judgement on your lights.
  • I’m not suggesting you only use reflectors when you ride.
  • I’m not suggesting you take lights off your bike or use different lights.

What I am saying is:

  • symmetric beam bike lights and uber power taillights can be blinding to the point of being dangerous and they are certainly incredibly irritating to other people who encounter them – especially on dark roads and MUPs.
  • rapid blinking powerful bike lights are far worse than steady or slow blinking bike lights.
  • blinking bike lights that go on/off are far worse than a similar light that blinks low/high.
  • more and more powerful symmetric beam lights on your bike don’t make you safer and can actually cause problems for you and others.
  • Germany made symmetric beam bike lights and blinking bike lights illegal for road use for a reason.
  • reflective material can be very useful to make yourself visible and has benefits over using more lights to increase visibility.
  • look at your existing lights from both another cyclist’s and a driver’s point of view…get a friend to help you and bike/drive back and forth past your bike…follow your bike on a bike for 5mins on a MUP or dark street.
  • use your common sense and compassion for others to evaluate your lights and your visibility.
  • where you aim your lights matters a lot so if you have symmetric beam lights and can’t don’t want to replace them try different aiming points.  See what that does for you.

Bottom line I’ll consider my posts successful if a few people out there tried my suggestion of standing in front and behind of their bikes to check out what the lights are like for others.  I had no idea how bad it really was until I was forced to do this experiment by living in a town with loads of cyclists and an unlit MUP that I ride on 95% of my bike missions.

Ultimately the great thing about this topic is that every single one of us can test out our one situation fairly easily by putting ourselves at the opposite end of our bike lights from where we usually are in the saddle.  You don’t have to take my word for anything – just try it out and see what you think.





Dinotte Glare Reduction Hack…

14 12 2010

 

Dinotte 200L-AA with DIY 1/3rd vertical cut off...

Bike lights that shine as much light up into the sky and other people’s eyes as they do on the road are a problem.  The glare they produce is painfully blinding and potentially dangerous for everyone since you are making it hard for oncoming drivers and cyclists to see where they are going right when they are close to you.  Germany mandates that bike lights don’t do this so they have some great lights with focused optics that take the wasted/blinding light and push it down in the beam pattern so it’s shining way down at the road the furthest away from the bike.  This is handy since it adds light where needed most and doesn’t bother other MUP/road users as much.

Unfortunately North American light manufacturers don’t offer these types of focused bike lights.  I assumed Dinotte didn’t offer such a light because of the expense and hassle involved, but I was shocked to find out when they posted on a related thread on BROL that they don’t think there is a problem.  They even go so far as to say the German style focused lights might be unsafe because they don’t pump light out in every direction.  My initial reaction was what planet do they live on?  I get blinded by symmetrical unfocused bike lights every night ride and I have to cover or change the aim on my Dinottes every night ride to avoid blinding people.  German laws are there to enhance safety and if anything the Germans are hyper-safety conscious when it comes to cycling.  Given that many randonneurs sing the praises of the focused European lights after using them at high speeds on a variety of roads all night when extremely tired you have to wonder how dangerous they could be?

 

Various bike light patterns...

 

Have a look in the image above at the symmetrical Dinotte 600L light pattern compared to the Scmidt Edelux pattern.  The difference is dramatic.  Peter White has an excellent set of photos showing what various lights he sells look like when shone down the road.  His images are also very instructive.

So the obvious solution is if you have $$$ to spend on a new bike light get one of the European style focused lights that Peter White sells.  What about the existing lights you have that are still working fine, but you are tired of blinding people with?  Well I faced exactly that problem with my 2 Dinotte 200L-AA lights.  They work fine and are worth about $300 so I don’t want to throw them out.  The discussion on BROL got me thinking and I tried a DIY vertical cut off using electrical tape.  This blocked the upper part of the light beam.

In this video I did the following:

  • pushed a bike away from camera with stock Dinotte 200L-AA aimed as I normally would and had Planet Bike Superflash on back aimed normally
  • pushed same config back towards camera
  • replaced stock Dinotte with same model light [same battery pack] that had a electrical tape vertical cut off covering 1/3 of the top of the lens
  • replaced Superflash with Radbot 1000 on rear
  • pushed bike away from and back towards camera

What I see in the video is:

  • stock Dinotte is very bright in the camera with a lot of light pumped into the lens causing glare [easy to spot]
  • Planet Bike Superflash is very bright [easy to spot]
  • with 1/3 vertical cut off is easy to spot, but much less light at the camera
  • is extremely bright

This simulates riding on a MUP…something that I do every ride in Victoria and given the lack of daylight much of this riding is at night. With this DIY cutoff I can ride the MUP and the streets without blinding anyone, but still getting all the light I need on the road to see and still enough light spilling upwards to be seen by. It’s not a great solution since I’m wasting a lot of the LED’s light, but given a focused optic isn’t an easy DIY hack this seems reasonable so I can use my Dinottes responsibly until they die.

The difference is noticeable and I’ll be modifying both my Dinottes in this way to reduce the blinding effect on other cyclists.

The downside is that you lose a bunch of light power from the LED by simply blocking it. The Euro lights like the Edelux take this light from the upper part of the lens and push it down below the cut off. This not only avoids blinding on coming riders/drivers, but it makes the top part of the beam below the cut off much brighter – ideal since this is the part that must light up the portion of the road the furthest away from the bike. This evens out the light beam so you get equal illumination far away as you do close up.

 

Unmodified Dinottes...

Are your lights a problem?  Trade bikes with a friend on a dark street and see how your bike looks to others. You can also jump in your car and have a friend ride your bike as you drive past them. If you have no problem when passing your bike on the MUP or street than you don’t have anything to worry about.  You can repeat the experiment on a street with cars and other light sources.  If you don’t enjoy the experience of passing your own bike then it’s a problem you need to deal with.

Can’t you just aim a symmetrical light down so it doesn’t shine in the eyes of oncoming folks’ eyes?  No. The reason is that the light beam from a symmetrical light is brightest in the center and fades to the edges.  If you pointed it down to avoid blinding others the part of the beam you would have left to illuminate the farthest part of the road from you would also be the weakest part of the beam.  This would result in a ton of glare off the road close up and very little light far away.  It would be hard on your eyes and you would have to ride slow to not out run your light’s area of illumination.

The solution I propose in this post is not ideal since it wastes the light that is being blocked by the tape, but it does allow you to shine what remains of the bright part of the symmetrical light beam where you need it further down the road and it reduces the blinding effect considerably.  The fact it’s free is a bonus.  For now it will have to do.

It’s not surprising that a Dinotte light would be illegal for road use on your bike in Germany.  The cops would pull you over and give you a ticket for being dangerous and a nuisance to others.
Just like they would in Canada/USA if you decided to drive around with your car’s highbeams on because they are safer for you.

Since Dinotte doesn’t care about this important issue I’m sad to say I won’t be able to buy any more of their products nor can I recommend them to other cyclists.  If you want a good battery powered or dynohub headlight look at the European options sold by Peter White.  They don’t cost anymore than a Dinotte, but they offer improved performance and safety.

 

 

 





Top 10 Things I love from 2011…

15 12 2011

Best new addition to our toys of 2011...

Bike Friday Tandem Traveller XL

By far and away the best thing to happen to us in 2011 is this Bike Friday tandem. It has radically changed out bicycle reality. We used to struggle to ride together on single bikes trying all sorts of strategies to make it work and neither of us being satisfied with the result. From our first ride on this tandem we’ve been all smiles and never looked back. It’s a very rare day when we leave our house for a road ride and we aren’t on this bike. The small size of the Bike Friday means we store her inside the house and we can transport her more easily than a conventional tandem. We haven’t flown with her yet, but that’s only a matter of time as Sharon is keen on some touring.

If you are a couple of unequal riding speed give a tandem some serious thought.

Dinotte mountain bike lights...

Dinotte Mountain Bike Lights

I fell back in love with these Dinotte LED lights this winter. The symmetric light beam that’s so annoying on the road/MUP is awesome for trail riding at night. They are powerful [relatively given they are 3-4yrs old], rugged, waterproof and lightweight.

Winter riding!

Winter BC MTBing

Riding my mountain bike all winter has really changed my perspective on the seasons here. We aren’t just making the best of a bad situation. The fact is winter riding conditions are awesome and it’s a great time to spin some knobbies. With trails close to my house it’s so easy and fun to ride that I’m boggled why I didn’t get on it last year! The only problem is you need some reasonably powerful bike lights to ride weekdays when it’s dark at 4pm – hence my love for the Dinottes above.

Let's go rando!

BC Randonneurs

I had a lot of fun riding brevets with the BC Rando Club this spring. I’m slow and unremarkable on these events, but I have fun and completed the rides in the time allotted. For me that’s all that matters and I wear the badge of The Lantern Rouge Club with pride…=-) Sharon asked me if I would be training more [ie. at all] for rando events in 2012. My reply was no – unless riding my mountain bike counted. I’m lazy – what can I say?

She's a Green Machine...

Surly Pugsley

Rebuilding my Surly Pugsley after getting it powdercoated really made me re-appreciate this bike. I’ve got some fatbike trips planned for 2012 and hopefully Aaron will get fully infected with big tire stoke so he gets one as well. Scott from Porcelain Rocket is building me a set of bikepacking bags for the Pugsley so I can roll down the trail and across the sand in style and comfort…=-) My Pugs will be sitting in the showroom of the Fairfield Bicycle Shop while I am gone to Baja. The plan is to demonstrate the latent fatbike enthusiasm in local riders by exposing them to 4″ of rubber! Devious I know….=-)

Thin for the Win!

MacBook Air

Although I didn’t post about it I upgraded my 1st generation MacBook Air to a 4th generation model. I do a decent amount of blogging on this computer as well as a ton of research for the blog not to mention working to make $$ to fund this blog. So it’s fair to say this little computer is an essential tool in my life. The size, convenience and pleasing interactive experience of my old MBA was enough to sell me on a new one. Especially as the price had dropped from $1800+ to $1000+. What’s really great about the new MBA is that with a solid state HD standard and enough power to really crank up my applications it has become a fully functional computer that can do everything I need to rather than simply a travel/convenience computer. I’ll be buying another one in 3yrs most likely!

Fox just keeps on going and going and going...

Fox Suspension

The Fox Float 36 fork and DHX Air 5.0 shock on my Santa Cruz Nomad are ending their 3rd year of MTBing with me and have needed an amazingly small amount of maintenance [new air sleeve in the rear shock only – fork’s never been serviced at all] while performing better than any other suspension I have tried. Lots of buttery smooth travel and they rarely need to see the inside of a bike shop…what more could you ask for? Okay they aren’t cheap, but well worth the $$. Some additional props to Santa Cruz’s VPP pivots for also being extremely maintenance light.

650B - low trail goodness...

650B Low Trail Road Biking

My Boulder All Road 650B rando bike really opened my eyes to some new possibilities for what a fast efficient road bike could be and the 42mm Grand Bois Hetres made me smile on every ride. I doubt you’d see me riding any brevets in 2012 if it wasn’t for how much fun this bike is to pedal. Given my propensity to tweak and tinker the fact I won’t be changing a thing on my rando bike setup for next season should say something. I think this is my first rando season where I haven’t swapped whole bikes in the search for a better experience on brevets. Two thumbs up…=-)

I love this place!

Vancouver Island

Sure having to ride a ferry or take an extra flight is a pain when you want to leave the island, but in exchange you get a huge under utilized year round playground for so many great sports.

  • world class kitesurfing [lake & ocean]
  • world class surfing
  • world class MTBing
  • world class road and dirt touring
  • world class sea kayaking
  • year round bicycling and motorcycling
  • easy access to Seattle and Olympic Peninsula
  • relatively few people using the various recreational resources
  • only rains 25% of the time in the winter leaving loads of mild sunny days to be outside
I’m not sure what the future will hold as I will be searching for more work in 2012, but I don’t see myself leaving Vancouver Island unless it’s for points south that are warmer and even mor recreationally bountiful!

Thumbs up for good friends...

Friends

The best gear and the greatest spot on the planet aren’t that much fun without some good friends to share the experience with. Sharon and I haven’t been making friends at a brisk pace here in Victoria [which by all accounts is normal], but on the plus side all the people we’ve gotten to know well have become quality friends – you know who you are!. In that department I’ll take quality over quantity any day…=-)





Just Another Night Ride…

10 12 2011

Install your lights and charge your batteries!

Night riding is becoming pretty routine these days. I start by charging up 3 sets of 4AA NiMH batteries to power my Dinotte 200L lights [~200 lumens each]. I check my bike over during the day [this time the borrowed Canfield Nimble 9] and install a Dinotte 200L on its bars. Then around mid-day I gather my gear, pack my hydration pack with essentials and dig out some riding clothing. Scott and/or Aaron usually arrive around 3pm-4pm. We BS for a bit about the latest bike porn we’ve been collectively eyeballing online and figure out a plan of attack for the ride. Then head off into the hills.

Scott Hunter-ing the nearly full moon...

One goofy issue we discovered is that all the parking lots where we usually leave the car are closed after sunset. In the summer that’s no problem, but at the moment we are just arriving as the sunset. We almost got towed on our first night recon mission at Partridge Hills. The park security guard said another 5 minutes and we’d have been pedalling back into to town [with dead lights and no cellphone/wallet!]. So now we have to scope out a spot to leave the vehicle on a public road near the trailhead.

Me moss hopping on the Canfield Nimble 9...

I really enjoyed my test ride on the Nimble 9. If you want to read my post ride impressions jump here and scroll down to the same photo as shown above. Bottom line I enjoyed the 29er hardtail ride. It seems to blend the speed/efficiency of a more road oriented bike with the bump eating prowess of a short travel FS rig without the weight/hassle of rear suspension. It climbs efficiently and was just as maneuverable in the tight stuff as my other MTBs. It slotted in right between the gnar crushing power of my 6″ travel Santa Cruz Nomad and the rock crawling monster trucking Surly Pugsley. I’m not sure I’d get a Canfield Nimble 9, but I’m going to keep checking out 29ers.

A-Man shredding the Gnar with Volcanically Explosif power!

Riding the trails at night is a blast. I’ve smartened up and left the warm clothes at home so I don’t get sweaty and have to stop to shed layers which are then stuffed into my small hydration pack. I’m chilly at the car, but after 5 minutes it’s totally comfortable. The woods just don’t seem as cold as it is in the city at night. We’re not complaining! I’d love a few more lumens of light power out of my lights, but for 4 year old technology they do their job pretty well. I get around 2hrs on high with 4 AA batteries so once my first light dies and I pop in a spare set of batteries and I start to think about riding back towards the car in case we experience a major light failure.

Scott lofting his wheel up onto a tall ledge...

We’ve been lucky here in Victoria lately with dry cool and sunny weather. The trails are in primo shape – a little damp, but not wet so we can ride reasonably hard and still hook up our tires. Part of winter mountain biking here on the Island is learning how much traction you have in various situations and maximizing the potential. After a winter of slick riding we’ll be rock stars in the drier summer conditions!…=-)

Rolling over the top A-Man eyes his line into the darkness...

I’m sure I’ll get sick of night riding at some point, but that will probably coincide with the arrival of spring and day light until I want to crawl into bed. For now I charge my batteries and ride off into the darkness with a smile on my face.





Work Stand Shame!

13 04 2011

Get to work!

I’m so lazy sometimes it’s painful to behold even for me. I have at least a dozen bike projects ready to roll, but lack the motivation to get past a certain point in each one. In the past I’ve used blog posts to try and get my butt into gear by stating my goals publicly so that not meeting them would be shameful. That works somewhat, but I have a superhuman ability to ignore anything, but the most obvious message that I am being a slacker.

So my latest ploy is what I am calling Work Stand Shame. I place my Park bike stand in my office where I have to walk past it every time I go in or out. I then put a bike in the stand that needs something done to it. I am not allowed to futz with any other bike. So I can either work or if I need a break I can get something done on the bike in question. I tend to work in cycles of about 20mins with a break in between of 5-10mins to get focused for the next session. Futzing with a bike allows me to ponder the next stage of whatever I am working on so that even though it’s not obviously productive time it does contribute to my overall objective.

I’ve neglected my Bow Cycle 24 roadified cross bike for a while so it’s in the Work Stand of Shame. I need to:

  1. fix a flat front tire
  2. clean bike
  3. tweak both fenders back into alignment
  4. add some DIY mud flaps front and back
  5. tweak rear blinky
  6. install a GPS mount
  7. install a Brooks B17 Imperial Narrow saddle
  8. install a Dinotte 200L-AA light

So far so good. I’ve done #1, #2 & #3 today. I’m done 50% of #3 and have some ideas for a rear mudflap that I’ll work on tomorrow. Not exactly stunningly fast progress, but progress none the less!





Your taillight is too bright…

30 12 2010

Photo: Cool Tools...

The US Military has developed weapons based on the concept that ultra bright lights can temporarily disable the target’s central nervous system incapacitating them.  It appears that a number of bike light companies are using a similar approach to tail light technology.

Let me say categorically if your belief is the more light you are pumping out the back of your bike the safer you are – you’re wrong.  Drivers drunk and/or distracted crash into police cruisers with their flashers going regularly enough that some researchers hypothesize that bright lights cause you to look at them and you steer where you are looking:

“The “moth-effect” is a myth in one sense and reality in another. The idea that drivers may steer off the road when they fixate flashing lights is likely correct, but they are not drawn to the lights like moths to a flame. Rather, they inadvertently steer rightward, which may or may not take them into collision with the roadside vehicle. Even normal, alert drivers in daylight conditions may steer in the direction of eye position during periods of intense fixation. The cause is likely error in judging heading under eccentric fixation when optic flow cues are minimal and when attentional focus prevents sensing of the need to correct the error. Although bright lights and fascination are not required, of course, it is impossible to rule out these factors in some accidents.”

~85% of car bike collisions are from cars turning or crossing the cyclist’s path while only 10% involve a car overtaking a bike and hitting it from the rear.  So you should be far more worried about cars coming the other way than from the rear.

I’m not suggesting you don’t use a rear light or that it should be feeble.  What I am saying is buying the brightest light possible and shinning it into the eyes of drivers and cyclists approaching from the rear is not smart and is not going to increase your safety.  It may even decrease your safety as you are impairing their vision and ability to operate their vehicle most profoundly as they are about to pass you – a time when you want people in cars to be at 100% performance.

How do you know if you are doing something wrong?  Swap bikes with a friend and ride behind him at varying distances on a dark MUP or dark street.   Note how you felt as you were exposed to the light from the back of your bike.  Try the same thing, but this time in a car on a dark road and then a busier road with more lights.  Again note how visible your bike was and how the lights you are using felt from that perspective.

How to be safe without burning out other folk’s retinas:

  1. ride predictably…cars expect cyclists to be in certain places on the road and to behave in certain ways.  That’s where a driver is looking for you.  The more predictable you are the easier it is for you to be spotted and avoided.
  2. ride intelligently…every route is different and has different pros and cons.  Your most efficient safe commute in normal conditions may be dangerous when it’s foggy due to the many business lights/signs that could mask your bike’s lights.  It might be better to take a longer slower route on side streets that day and accept the delay it will cause.
  3. signal effectively…a black glove on a black jacket may not be an effective way to signal the fact you want to turn left.  Be aware of what you are wearing and what you look like to other road users.  When in doubt wait until the road is clear before turning or changing lanes.
  4. use a rearview mirror…if getting hit from behind concerns you than keep an eye on what’s to the rear.  If you see a car swerving like the operator is drunk just get off the road entirely until they are gone.
  5. wear reflective material…it’s effective and cheap.  Ankle bands and wrist bands are awesome for low cost visibility and turn signalling.  A reflective vest is an easy way to amp up your visibility to cars without needing batteries or causing vision issues.
  6. use two lower power lights vs. one ultra powerful light…LEDs have a small window of very bright light output.  As you move sideways or up/down away from this zone the light power fades.  Two light allows you to aim at different spots [20′ away and 100′ away or aimed slightly left and right] giving you more chance to be seen but not putting excessive light into any one area behind you.  Two lights also mean a light failure or low battery doesn’t turn you into a totally black Road Ninja.
  7. Set your lights to solid mode so they aren’t as dazzling.
  8. Be considerate.  If you do use a powerful rear light on rapid flash mode be ready and willing to change modes while riding if you see another cyclist or driver following you in a situation you know they’ve already spotted you.

Just like wearing a helmet doesn’t mean you’ll be safe on your bike – using the most powerful light you can get your hands on and assuming it will mean you are safe on the roads at night is a mistake.  By all means use a bright tail light [and wear a helmet], but make it part of a bigger plan for night time safety not your only line of defense.  And when you are holding that Dinotte tail light in your hands thinking how safe you’ll be when you turn it on and aim it into the eyes of over taking drivers consider for a moment that it’s a weapon and try approaching your bike from the rear on a dark street/MUP.  If you can’t see anything, but a huge red spot for 20-30seconds afterwards maybe consider that your light may actually impair your safety or someone else’s as that dazzled driver passes you at 55mph.

Planet Bike Blinky 7...

PS – if you have any older LED tail lights like this Blinky 7 from Planet Bike consider putting them back into service.  Instead of one uber bright LED that focuses all it’s light in one intense spot they use a bunch of bright, but lower power LEDs that push out light over a wider area.  When you consider a wider viewing angler they may even be more visible than their brighter siblings.  I’ll be using one of these on my rando rig along with a bunch of reflective material.  It will be more than bright enough [on solid mode] to be seen on the rural roads/highways typical of Canadian brevet routes, but not as deadly on the eyes of randonneurs that may be following me for several hours.





B&M Ixon IQ Initial Review…

25 12 2010
B&M Ixon IQ for Sharon’s
X’mas present…

The focused B&M lights I ordered came in from Peter WhitCycles yesterday. I don’t have my dynohub wheels setup for the B&M IQ Cyo lights, but I figured I’d test out Sharon’s Christmas present – a B&M Ixon IQ. Happily the packaging is re-sealable so I can put it back inside so she can open it up again herself. The first thing you notice is the Ixon IQ is larger than a typical bike light I’m used to. This is because the focused optic is a larger module and it holds 4 rechargeable NiMH batteries inside it. The case is made from high quality plastic and is quite light weight. It comes with a universal bar mount that’s designed to work with oversized and standard diameter bars. I tried it on two standard diameter bars and it works well. The mount can be left on your bike and the light housing slides off with a QR button for safe keeping at a stop. The Ixon IQ has one button which offers two modes:

  1. high powered mode = 40 Lux [which I tested] for lighting up the road.
  2. lower power city mode = 10 Lux for visibility not so much for lighting the road.
  3. the button flashes green for high power and alternates red and green for city mode.
  4. the faster the flashing the lower the power remaining in your batteries.

Sharon's bike setup for the light test...

Naturally being Christmas Eve I decided to run another light test. I put the Ixon IQ on Sharon’s bike with a Planet Bike Blaze 1W [she normally uses two of these for her commute] as well as my two Dinotte 200L’s….one of which has a DIY vertical cut off hacked on to it. Just looking at the lights the B&M is a lot bigger. The Dinottes are smallest with the nicest casing, but there is a battery pack req’d for each as well as a power cord between the light engine and battery pack…which taken in total isn’t as lovely or neat a setup. The buttons on all these lights are easy to use and the Dinotte and Ixon IQ both provide some useful feedback on the battery level via the lit up button.

Video note: the video seems quite dark when uploaded to Youtube. The Planet Bike Blaze has a spot beam visible to the eye and the Ixon and Dinottes are actually quite bright.

Prior to running this test I aimed all the lights as I would to use them while riding. Then I setup a camera on a tripod in my yard at about cyclist/pedestrian/motorist’s head height. I’m 5’11” so I went slightly lower than my own head to capture the viewpoint of the majority of folks out there. I then used the following test format:

  • with the bike next to the camera I turned on all the lights [in this order: Planet Bike, Ixon, hacked Dinotte and unhacked Dinotte] to see what the beam looked like from the rider’s perspective.
  • then I moved to the far side of the yard and operated the lights in the same order with the bike pointed at the camera to see what the lights looked like from a road/MUP user’s perspective.
  • then I turned the bike around to test what the different modes offered by the PDW Radbot 1000 looked like to a person behind Sharon’s bike.

Planet Bike Blaze 1W

  • weakest of all lights tested
  • tightest beam pattern
  • not a good light to light up a dark road due to low light output and narrow beam
  • easily visible in solid and flashing mode
  • very bright if you are looking right into centre of beam
  • very dazzling in flash mode if you are looking directly into beam
  • $29CDN at MEC

Conclusion: effective visibility only light, but should be aimed down to avoid blinding others and preferably used in solid on mode to avoid irritating others. If all you need is a be seen light and take care with how you aim it than for $20 it’s a decent value.

B&M Ixon IQ

  • light output similar to Dinotte, but better utilized down on road
  • vertical cut off much more effective than my Dinotte hack
  • very easy to see bike when approaching from front, but spill light that enters eyes not enough to blind or irritate
  • no flash mode [illegal in Germany]
  • City mode is useful in town where lots of ambient light to see by so bike light mainly for safety to be visible to others
  • light pattern ideal for city speeds [15-27kph] I would like to test at higher
    speeds
  • high quality feel to case, button, mount and optics
  • cost $110USD at Peter White Cycles

Conclusion: Very impressive light. Very functional and easy to use. For the money the best battery powered bike light I’m aware of.

Dinotte 200L

  • powerful light, but much of the light is wasted up in trees and other road/MUP user’s eyes
  • hacked Dinotte better for reduction of glare into oncoming user’s eyes, but not as effective as Ixon IQ
  • very easy to see bike in all modes
  • lights up road okay, but not as well as Ixon IQ
  • high quality case and easy to use button
  • easy to love everything about this light, but the beam pattern
  • very easy to blind/dazzle oncoming folks…fast flasher mode is worst forthis
  • cost $110USD from Dinotte

Conclusion: A well made high quality light, but performs poorly when compared to Ixon IQ. Given they cost the same amount I can’t recommend this light.


Video note: this video is also darker one Youtube than actual light beam was to eye.

This video shows what it’s like to ride with the Ixon IQ on a dark MUP as well as some sections with additional ambient light. My speeds where between 15-20kph mainly because riding faster with one hand in the dark isn’t a great idea! Note that the people I pass are visible, but not blinded. With my Dinottes they would look away as I passed or cover their eyes and their tone when greeted would be somewhat irritated [I’ve been yelled at because my Dinottes were so harsh on other cyclist’s and ped’s eyes].

Video note: the brightness of the Ixon IQ’s beam pattern in this video is more representative of what it looks like to the naked eye.

I shot one last video to highlight how effective the Ixon IQ’s beam pattern was at putting light exactly where you need it, but not blinding people. Also note that there is more than enough spill light to see the bike. Riding through town I found the Ixon IQ did an okay job of illuminating street signs, but for a brevet I might want a second light [perhaps helmet mounted] that I could use specifically for this purpose.

Accurate representation of how bright Ixon IQ is – Photo:
Peter White Cycles…

The photo above shows how bright the Ixon IQ is to the naked eye. My video camera loses a lot of the brightness and when uploaded to Youtube it gets dimmer again.

Overall Impression of the Ixon IQ

Awesome. This light exceeded all my expectations. The thought and careful design that’s gone into the beam pattern is impressive. You get exactly the light you need where you need it and nowhere else. One reason I didn’t buy this type of European light earlier was that I assumed it had to cost a fortune, but at $110USD it’s the same price as a Dinotte 200L and out performs the Dinotte handily. Until I get a dynohub sorted for my rando bike I’ll have to “steal” this light from Sharon for my longer brevets…=-) Two of these lights would be a great rando setup that could be swapped to a commuter bike during the week. If you need a high quality battery bike light for street/MUP use I can’t recommend anything better. A few final points:

BTW – my original test videos are brighter and easier to see than once uploaded to Youtube. If you’d like a copy of the original videos click here. Videos are being uploaded as I post this so if you can’t download them quite yet give it an hour and try again.





Bike Friday One Way Tikit

11 07 2010

Love getting a box from Bike Friday...

I love it when the UPS Store calls me and lets me know that I have a box to pick up.  Usually if it’s a big box they want it picked up right away as they don’t have a lot of room.  You don’t have to twist my arm!  I rode right over and grabbed a box from Bike Friday.  As per usual the box was expertly packed and the bike in perfect condition.  Unpacking a Bike Friday takes a lot more time than a typical bike, but the benefit is you have some time to appreciate all the fine details of your new bike as you remove each individual piece of packing material.  Funny thing is I keep all this stuff and when I sent my Tikit back to Bike Friday a couple years ago I tried to repack it like they do and totally failed!  I bet you when the shipping dept folks opened that box they were horrified!

She's a looker in orange...

One Way Tikit Specification:

  • large Tikit frame [~58cm TT]
  • steel frame hand made in Eugene, OR
  • heavy rider option [stiffer frame]
  • hyperfold quick fold mechanism
  • Dutch World Cup Orange powder coat
  • Gearing 54T x 14T [fixed] = ~ 65″
  • 349 wheels [unbranded]
  • Greenspeed Scorcher tires
  • Tektro V-brakes & levers [front and back]
  • 165mm cranks
  • chain ring guard
  • 3/32″ 8 spd chain KMC
  • MKS EZ Promenade QR pedals
  • Carrying Handle
  • 80mm stem
  • flat MTB bar
  • saddle currently Selle Anatomica…eventually Brooks B-17
  • fenders
  • front rack [not yet installed]
  • rear rack [from my old Tikit]

One cog, no derailluer, no coasting...

Why fixed gear?

First off I gotta blame Kent Peterson for planting the seed many years ago.  As I read about his fixed gear rando adventures I had to admit that clearly a bike with one gear and no coasting was capable of some great things.  That didn’t make me run out and get a fixed gear, but it did take away some of the disbelief that riders actually gave up their gears willingly.  The next nail in my gear coffin was Tarik’s blog…I remember reading a post of his about a fixed gear folding bike and why that was a good idea. The final fixed gear role model I had was Walter from Bike Friday…he showed me his One Way Tikit when I visited Bike Friday HQ.  Walter is a guy who knows his bikes…so I pay attention to what he rides!

This spring I built up my first fixed gear bike, a Surly 1×1, and confirmed that I really enjoyed the simplicity of a fixed gear.  I also confirmed there was little to no performance difference for my general city riding. I climb as well as my geared bikes…actually faster since I can’t shift down. I am fast riding in stop and go traffic.  My knees don’t mind the fact I’m often riding a higher gear than I might on my geared bikes.

Modular Tikit drop outs...no chain tensioner needed here...

For a folder in particular there are a lot of good reasons to go fixed:

  • no shifter req’d
  • no rear brake req’d
  • no rear derailleur
  • no cables running to rear
  • no delicate parts to damage in transit or while shipping
  • lighter bike

I don’t ride my Tikit as much for pleasure as I do for errands, commuting and work.  These are all uses that favour simplicity and reliability…..which makes fixed gear a logical choice.

I should also note that there is something really fun about riding fixed.  There is not much to think about as far as your bike goes so you spend more mental energy experiencing the ride itself.

Love that orange chain ring guard...

The Ride

Keep in mind my old Tikit is a 2007 model so I wasn’t sure what tweaks Bike Friday may have made over the years to their 16″ wheeled commuter bike.  They’ve got a culture of continuous improvement and upgrading so even bikes made  in the same year may be slightly different.  Climbing aboard the One Way Tikit I felt right at home.  One of the major reasons I ride Bike Friday folding bikes is I can get a bike built to fit me [~58cm TT] rather than try and fit myself on a one size fits some product. Let’s face it if that worked we’d all be wearing the same size shoes, pants, etc…   The handling of this new bike feels very similar to my older Tikit – which is to say nimble, but stable.  If you have never ridden a small wheel bike and are test riding a Tikit give yourself 5 mins to adapt. I find that if I am away from my Tikit for a few months and climb back on it takes me to the end of the block until I feel at home…after that I can ride with one hand or no hands and bomb around town with total confidence.  In particular I think the Tikit’s handling shines in busy city riding conditions.  When you are dodging obstacles and continually stopping/starting the nimbleness of the Tikit puts a smile on your face.

Greenspeed Scorchers...

The gearing at ~65″ is right around what Sheldon Brown recommends for general purpose fixed gear riding and that’s about what I have on my Surly 1×1.  So far it’s working well for me on both bikes.  I would describe the feeling as never wishing I had a bigger gear or a smaller gear…I sort of forget about my drivetrain and just spin the pedals.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Sheldon nailed it once again.

I ordered this bike with the heavy rider upgrade [good to 260lbs] simply because I like the feel of a stiff folder and weight is not my primary concern.  To be honest the bike feels really light when I pick it up which surprised me, but I haven’t added the racks yet…I’ll try and track down a scale and weigh it, but it definitely feels lighter than my old Tikit.  As expected the frame feels stiff and solid when I get out of the saddle to hammer – as one must do with a fixie since there is no low gear.  The bike feels tighter than my old Tikit…that may be the heavy rider upgrade or just the fact it’s brand new.

Made in the USA...

All my folding bikes are running on Greenspeed Scorcher tires.  They rock.  Seriously…I was happy to see Bike Friday started carrying them…that saves me immediately taking off the stock tires and putting Scorchers on my new bike.  Without a doubt good rubber is the fastest, easiest and cheapest way to improve the performance and comfort of your bike.  The best thing is with a larger volume supple tire like the Scorcher you get both – the supple casing acts like suspension, which your body appreciates, and it makes your bike roll faster which everyone likes.

Folded and ready to roll...

Folding

The hyperfold works a lot like my old Tikit which is to say super fast and easy….effortless.  This is another reason why I ride a Tikit vs. another model of folding bike.  Nobody makes a folder that comes close to the lack of hassle of the Tikit.  See the video below…that video got me well and truly hooked on owning a Tikit.  The One Way Tikit features a new version of the rolling handle that is easier to use and provides stronger support for the long seatmast above it.  My only quibble with this handle is that the bare metal is slippery and not as comfortable as I’d like. I’ll be tracking down some black bar tape and wrapping this handle shortly.

The folded bike stands on its wheels and a small rubber “foot” when you put it down.  It can be knocked over though.  Once a rear rack is installed the folded bike becomes uber stable.

Miscellaneous Observations

  • the One Way Tikit ships with front and rear Tektro brakes which are totally functional, but won’t make anyone swoon with component envy.
  • welds are clean and look excellent to the naked eye.
  • powdercoat is bright and well done.
  • the MTB bars are really wide and I’ll have to cut them down a bit.
  • the rubber grips are better than the old style foam grips, but they won’t last more than a few days on this bike.
  • MKS pedals are nice and grippy, but if you don’t install the safety clips they have a tendency to eject at an inopportune moment – on a fixed gear that spells OUCH!
  • GS Scorchers just barely fit the front fork with no extra room.

Grip, brake lever and bar...

Choices

One really cool thing about getting a Tikit with modular dropouts is that you can buy it one configuration and then swap it over to another fairly easily.  For example this One Way Tikit can be changed into a Season Tikit by swapping in an IGH or into a derailleur Tikit with the addition of a cassette rear wheel.    That gives you a lot of flexibility.  You might enjoy riding a fixed gear for your around town commute, but want gears to tour.  It’s to know you have choices and a great reason to get a Tikit with modular dropouts.

Love that headbadge...

Upgrades

I’ve got some upgrades in mind for this bike to dial it in for my needs:

  • remove rear brake [no cables running to back end and it’s not needed on a fixed gear]
  • cover naked rear brake studs
  • shorten front brake cable
  • install racks front and rear
  • cut bars by 2cm each side
  • install Ergon grips
  • install bar ends
  • install Power Grips on pedals
  • swap in a Brooks B-17 saddle
  • install Planet Bike Superflash to rear
  • install bell
  • add Dinotte 200L-AA headlight when night riding
  • install seatbag with tools and spare tube

Other side of folded Tikit...

I’ll be posting all my One Way Tikit photos on Flickr here.





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...

Update:

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.





Thorn Mini Tour

18 11 2009

Thorn Nomad S&S

Bike touring hasn’t been a big part of my world in 2009.  Other than the CDN GDR tour my cycling was either mountain biking, snow biking, or utility/transportation riding.  I don’t mind as I really like to be on a bike no matter what the reason and bike tours are best enjoyed when the time is right – not when you try and make them happen.  The only trouble is I have a couple virgin touring bikes that I wanted to get on the road and try out.  One of them, my Thorn Nomad S&S, has seen lots of action about town hauling me and my gear, but that’s just not the same as bike camping.  So I picked a weekend in late September that Sharon had plans and decided to do an overnighter on the Bow Valley Parkway.

Geared up for some bike touring.

I left late on Saturday from Canmore Alberta so most of my first day’s ride would be in the dark.  I haven’t done much in the way of long night rides this year since I haven’t been training for or riding brevets.  I missed the solitude and quietness of late night rural highways.  The first stretch along highway #1 was quite windy and slightly uphill the whole way.  Since it’s so busy with traffic between Alberta and British Columbia you can’t really call it a peaceful ride, but it is in the Canadian Rockies and the scenery is spectacular.  By the time I rolled past Banff it was pitch dark and I had both my Dinotte 200L-AA lights going and had deployed all my reflective gear as well as a Planet Bike Superflash taillight.  I was happy to soon reach the turn off for the Bow Valley Parkway and leave the dense high speed traffic of the main highway behind.  As expected traffic on the Bow Valley Parkway was minimal and much slower.  Most of the time I just rolled along in my little bubble of light with only the noise of my tires on the road and the sounds of the forest for company.  As with previous night rides I found familiar climbs that are quite challenging in the day are much easier at night.  They seem less steep and less strenuous somehow at night.  I’m not sure why, but I guess it must have to do with the fact you can’t really see the climb or much of the road and that must make it easier mentally.  Although I also experienced a weird time dilation effect as well.  I didn’t have a bike computer on the Thorn, but I knew how far my camp site was and I knew roughly how fast I was going, but it felt easily like it took twice as long to finally reach camp.  Riding the same bike back in the daytime I didn’t have that feeling at all – strange.

My minimal camp at day break.

I rolled past the locked gate of the campground as it was closed for the winter and had my pick of over a hundred sites.  I grabbed a nice spot next to a creek and set up my small tent.  The forecast didn’t call for rain so I left the rain fly off.  I wasn’t cooking on this trip so I just had some snacks to stash in the metal food locker.  I’m not sure if bears were still active at that time, but I wasn’t taking any chances.  I settled snugly into my down sleeping bag and listened to the sounds of the forest.  It would have been a very peaceful night if I hadn’t been attacked by a giant spider inside my dark tent.  The only part of my body exposed was my face so of course that’s where I felt his legs!!  I flicked him off with one hand and got my headlamp out with the other.  Once I located him it took 3-4 direct hits with the heel of my trail runner to stun him and another 6-8 hits to kill him…that was one tough spider!!  Did I mention I don’t really like spiders???  I finally got myself sorted out and back in the bag ready to sleep when I felt rain on my face….that meant going back out into giant spider territory and putting on the rain fly…=-(  Oh well – there wasn’t much choice so I just got it done.  Happily with no further killer spider incidents and I enjoyed a cozy sleep in my tent with the sound of rain drops against my fly.

Lovely Bow Valley Parkway Scenery

It was dry when I woke up, but it looked like some serious rain could fall so I packed up camp and hit the road back to Canmore quickly.  I managed to get most of the way back to Banff before the rain started in earnest.  I didn’t have full rain gear with me so I just threw on my rain jacket and made the best of it.  My Thorn has fat fenders on it so I wasn’t getting wet from the road and my clothes were warm enough to keep me comfortable despite the rain.  It also helped a lot knowing that a warm meal was waiting for me at the end of the ride.   I rolled into Canmore with my food radar on high and pulled into the first eatery that caught my eye.  After ordering 2 full meals I settled into my chair enjoying the warmth and dryness!

The end of an era?...=-)

Bike Notes:

  • I used front panniers on this trip mostly just because that’s what I had at hand.  My other panniers were at my GF’s and I was too lazy to go get them.  Like the Surly LHT the Thorn Nomad was designed to carry a rear only load or a load balanced front and back.  It doesn’t love a front only load.  It was fine to ride, but it didn’t show the characteristic truck like stability that it did when loaded in the rear.
  • The Thorn was comfortable and the long wheelbase/steel frame/fat rubber ate up the bumps and road irregularities nicely.  Given its strength this tour wasn’t much of a test for the the frame.
  • The Rohloff hub continues to roll along without needing attention.  The straight clean chain line is quiet and very aesthetically pleasing.  My placement of the shifter works, but as I noted in an earlier post I will move it to the right grip area for easier access.  This tour just confirmed that plan.
  • Ortlieb panniers were handy when it rained.  I didn’t have to do anything or worry about my gear getting wet.
  • Marathon Extreme tires worked fine, but are clearly overkill for a paved tour.  I don’t notice much difference between them and the same size XRs on paved roads.  I have since sold them.  My Thorn currently has some Continental Travel Contacts on it and I’ll probably try some 2.0″ Marathon Supremes in 2010.
  • Dinotte 200L-AA lights worked well and provided lots of light even on the fast descents.  They don’t last terribly long on high power, but my rechargeable batteries don’t get a lot of love so that’s not the lights’ fault.  I could have set them on medium or low power for the flats/climbs and turned them onto high for downhills.  One issue I had was the lights are not focused and throw a lot of light up into the eyes of on coming drivers.  In a city with lots of light this isn’t so bad, but on a totally dark road it’s blinding so I had to cover them partially with my hands when a car came along.
  • Brooks saddle – I’m always happy that I can now ride a bike without wearing padded shorts…=-)
  • Platform pedals – besides not having to wear bike shorts my second favourite thing is being able to ride in street shoes.
  • I’m really glad I got around to installing the stainless steel Berthoud fenders on my Thorn.  They went on much easier than expected and provide excellent coverage even without a front mudflap installed.




NWT Upgrades

3 02 2009
406 Shimano Dynohub Wheel

406 Shimano Dynohub Wheel

I had this wheel built up for my Challenge Fujin SL recumbent, but I’m not riding that beast much at the moment so I stole it and installed it on my NWT.  It’s a Velocity Razor 32H 406 rim and a Shimano dynohub.  I took the Schwalbe Marathon off the stock NWT front wheel and mounted it here.  It’s dark in the AM and gets dark early in the PM still so having a dynohub equipped bike will be nice.  The drag is slightly noticeable on a 300km brevet riding a high performance recumbent.  On the NWT I don’t notice a thing.

Solidlights 1203D dual LED dyno head light

Solidlights 1203D dual LED dyno headlight

This Solidlights 1203D dual LED headlight is also from my Fujin.  It’s not as bright as the latest Euro dyno headlights [although I may take advantage of their upgrade offer once winter’s darkness has passed], but it still casts lots of light in a wide beam that is very user friendly.  I’ve been mainly using Dinotte 200L-AA headlights on my city rides and they work quite well, but my rechargeable batteries are getting old so even on flashing mode I’ve had them die early or not work at all several times in the recent past.  I’ll be buying new batteries for them soon, but it will be nice to have a light that will always work no matter what.  I’ll leave it on during the day as well for extra visibility.

Shimano 105 cranks & BB with a single 43T ring

Shimano 105 cranks & BB with a single 43T ring

I had this 105 crank and BB in my parts bin so I threw it on to add to the Zebra colour scheme I seem to have on the go!  I removed the 59T big ring and will just run the 43T smaller ring.  I left the front derailleur, cable and shifter in place in case I find a single chain ring insufficient.  The swap back will be much easier.  If all goes well I’ll pull the unused parts.

Surly Singlenator in "Push Up" mode

Surly Singlenator in "Push Up" mode

I got a Surly Singlenator and installed it in “push up” mode to tension the chain.  This provides a bit more chain wrap, but mostly I just prefer the cleaner looking drivetrain since nothing is hanging down.  Note that I do have to drop the chain off the front chain ring to fold the bike, but that seems like a reasonable price to pay for a slick drivetrain.  More importantly if I forget to do so the chain just comes taught, but the chain tensioner has enough flex that it cannot be damaged.

I swapped the 16T cog for a 23T

I swapped the 16T cog for a 23T

I had a 23T Nexus cog in parts bin so I threw in on in place of the 16T that came with my NWT.  It will provide lower gears that I need for climbing mountains with a loaded bike.  Will a 43T x 23T give me a high enough top gear to keep me happy?  I think the answer is a definite maybe!…hahaha…I’ll need to ride it a bit more to be sure.  I could easily setup my chain with 2 SRAM powerlinks and run a higher gear for unloaded riding around town.  For a tour it would a simple matter of swapping a bigger rear cog and adding a few links of chain.

Salsa 80mm 115 deg stem

Salsa 80mm 115 deg stem

I swapped in a Salsa 80mm 115 deg rise Moto Ace SUL stem.  It will give me a slightly higher bar position, but primarily it’s job is simply to Zebra-fy the NWT a touch more…lol…I’m a fashion victim!

This bell keeps the NWT legal on the Calgary bike paths.

This bell keeps the NWT legal on the Calgary bike paths.

I threw on a bell so the By-Law officers can’t bust me on the Calgary bike paths.  I was stopped, but not ticketed recently riding through the Stephan Avenue pedestrian mall downtown.  I figured my luck may not hold so best to be prepared – besides I might run into someone on the paths that needs a stern bell ringing…=-)

Blackburn Mirror

Blackburn Mirror

I use this model of Blackburn mirror on all my drop bar bikes.  If I can see behind me easily I am able to ride much more aggressively.  I like the fact it removes with little effort and can survive a bit of abuse without breaking.

an old Trek Seat bag

an old Trek Seat bag

After trying several seat bags in my parts bin this old Trek model fits the Brooks B-17 on my NWT best and is just big enough to hold everything I need to fix a flat or make a minor adjustment.  It has a tab for a LED light which is nice, but these tabs never allow you to aim your LED properly which is critical for effective performance.  Because of this I use these tabs for a secondary rear light to compliment a properly aimed primary LED.  If you have any doubt about this turn on your bike’s rear LED and try viewing it from a variety of angles. Your light will be much brighter in a narrow range of angles and much dimmer when viewed beyond this range.

A properly mounted and aimed rear LED is essential

A properly mounted and aimed rear LED is essential

Here is a well designed rear light mount that allows me to aim my LED both up/down and side to side for best results.  If you want to be even more visible use two of these mounts one aimed at close range cars and one aimed for cars that are farther away.  The Planet Bike Superflash light is my favourite at the moment for brightness, cost and functionality.  I normally run two on the back of each bike by buying extra mounts and swapping the lights as needed.