MEC Ace Sunglasses Review…

18 03 2013
MEC Ace Sunglasses...

MEC Ace Sunglasses…

I’ve been an Oakley sunglass whore for a couple decades. I love them, but they are expensive so as my Oakley lenses got scratched up and downgraded for more and more abusive use I decided to try some cheaper sunglasses as replacements.  I was at MEC.ca so I looked at what they had and these Ace sunglasses fit me pretty well.

I’ve used them for 6 months so far.

What I like:

  • optics are nice and clear
  • great for driving
  • they look a little nicer than my typical plastic framed sporty sunglasses
  • they fit my face
  • at $32 the price is reasonable
  • they come with a bag that doubles as a cleaning cloth
  • MEC is great about warranties and customer service
  • polarized  version available for $60
  • thin arms work well with most retention neck bands

What I don’t like:

  • frames are very flexible and small impacts bend them
  • lenses are heavy and glasses want to fly off my face if I’m making quick moves
  • starting to get scratched [about average in this department]
  • can’t really pack them in a bag unless I use a hard case or they will get bent

These sunglasses are working great for casual use. I like them a lot for driving my truck. They live on my face or get stored in the truck’s sunglass holder. I don’t like them so much for sporty use as they are not secure on my face due to the heavy lenses and not so grabby arms. Worse once you no longer need them on your face you have to be really careful or they be badly bent. They have been fixable every time I have bent them, but it takes a long time to get them back to a comfy shape.

For the price I would recommend them as a fashion sunglass or for driving. For active use I’d give them a miss.

I may buy a polarized pair to keep in the truck once I wear this pair out.





The Kent Peterson Effect…

30 03 2012

My Bike Friday Tikit at MEC...

I was  on my way to a business dinner/seminar thing downtown when I had a flat front tire on my Tikit. Bummer! I pulled out a CO2 canister from my seatpack and got the tire firm again so I could keep rolling and made it to MEC [Mountain Equipment Co-op] which is Canada’s REI. They let me use a repair stand, a floor pump, sold me a patch kit and lent me some pliers to pull out a super tough thorn. They also offered help at least 3 times and when all was said and done let me use their washroom to clean up so I could go to my meeting looking decent. Thanks MEC – you guys rock!

I got to my meeting with time to spare thanks to Kent Peterson. I read Kent’s blog regularly. He got me interested in randonneuring and bikepacking with his tales of LD riding and ultralight touring. However, Kent’s main contribution to my bike lifestyle is simply the no nonsense way he gets on with riding his bike for transportation.

One Kent Meme I have learned from his blog is to factor a flat into every commuter bike ride. That way you always have time to fix the flat and still get to your destination on time. I do this a lot and often plan a quick non-essential stop along my route or near my destination so that I can get some extra things done on the same ride and if a flat happens I just skip the non-essential stop.

In this case I planned to stop at MEC and grab a few items I’ve been needing for a while. So when I got the flat I just re-inflated the tire for the ride to MEC where I could repair it in comfort. I ran into a couple snags with a pathetic tube of glue and a lame patch that didn’t want to stick as well as a thorn that was really really really eager to stay in my tire. By the time I was done I was dirty so I washed up and figured I had to rush to my meeting, but I was pleasantly surprised that I still had time to roll over there at a normal pace which made for a pleasant evening.

That’s the Kent Peterson Effect…=-)





MEC Deal Alert…

14 11 2011

MEC Deuce MTB Top...

Just a tip for blog readers – especially Canadian ones. These MEC MTB tops are on clearance for $9. I bought one at full price [$36CDN] a couple years ago and thought it was a great deal at the time…for $9 well hard to beat that! My Deuce has proven durable, wicks well, great for rides where the temps vary a bit and it fits over elbow armour nicely. In theory it’s a MTB specific top, but you can wear it for anything sporty if you like the style. I wear a medium and it’s a loose relaxed fit – think hockey jersey.

Rolling with my Deuce...

I ordered 3 more at $9. I’ll put another one into service and keep 2 as spares/gifts. Just thought I’d share the info if anyone wants to score one.

BTW – MEC has a bunch of other stuff on clearance including tops for the ladies [Sharon ordered a couple for herself].





It finally happened…=-(

7 05 2011

So comfy - so tight!...=-(

I’ve been really careful not to let any of my lovely wool garments to make it into the dryer, but my streak of success came to an end today. One of my MEC LS wool tops that fit perfectly ended up in the dryer. Luckily I dry my clothes on low and for a short time so the top went from a perfect fit to a slightly tighter than I’d love fit. I can still wear the top as a layer under something else, but not by itself unless I want to show off my scrawny physique and beer belly!

So while I’m loving the wool on for how it feels and how it works, but this Achilles’ heel of shrinking it in the dryer is a real problem preventing me from getting 100% behind it.





Rando Lock…

17 04 2011

Mini-lock from MEC...

I don’t want to carry a proper bike lock on a brevet for the few times I am off the bike, but I do feel a bit nervous leaving an expensive bike on the street unlocked while I’m inside a cafe getting food/drink and using the washroom. I decided to use one of these small cable locks folks generally employed for locking luggage or ski/snowboards. They are cheap and light with a combination so there are no keys to lose. They won’t stop a professional bike thief, but they will prevent someone from impulsively riding away with your trusty stead. Since the lock is small and the cable so thin I can stealth lock my bike so the thief doesn’t realize it’s locked and hopefully falls flat on his face when he tries to ride away.

At least you can't easily ride away...

This solution might also be useful for the bike commuter who can store their bike inside at work and might want to stop for some milk or a coffee on the way home. No point in bothering with a heavy lock for a 3min stop – in most neighbourhoods anyways!





MEC Reflective Sash Hack…

13 04 2011

MEC sash...

I like these Cactus Creek reflective sashes from MEC. They pack down small and are light so you can carry one with you anytime darkness may fall before you get home. They add a nice amount of visibility to your upper body when a car or bike’s lights hit them. They do have one flaw – the lower end/flap always rides up and ends up near your ear on a ride. This doesn’t affect the functionality of the sash, but it is annoying to have it flapping by your ear so you end up readjusting it every 10 minutes. That’s a PITA!

My Twoonie hack...

So I placed a $2 coin [called a Twoonie in Canada] in the flap area to add weight. I fold the flap around it and did a poor job sewing the flaps into a makeshift pocket. This keeps the coin in place and keeps my sash in place as well. Sweet!

Coin enclosed and ready to sew shut...

I also now have $2 available for a bonk emergency can of Coke or Snickers bar!





These are NOT bike lights!

6 04 2011

MEC white Turtle light...

Update: I revived this year old post because I’ve been seeing a lot of these non-bike lights on bikes lately and realized something – in addition to all the problems I list below the fact their low power forces cyclists to use them on flash mode to try and get everyone’s attention. This works to a degree, but the result is a very obnoxious dazzling effect if you happen to be right in the narrow beam of one of these lights and not all that much visibility for the cyclist if you are not. That’s plain bad for everyone involved. Get something that uses rechargeable batteries, that’s got a reasonable amount of power and use it on steady mode.

I’m going to pick on MEC a bit here, but to be fair there are many versions of these cheap key chain lights floating around made and sold by various companies.  Note I called them key chain lights not bike lights.  They provide plenty of light to see something in a dark tent or to use while repairing a flat tire.  They absolutely do not provide enough light to be seen by at night in the city. Not even if you double up on them and have two on each end of your bike.

The sad part is that because stores like MEC sell them as bike lights lots of people assume they must work in that application and grab a red one….if they are feeling spendy maybe also a white one for the front…then they ride around town at night assuming they are visible to motorists…even though they are not.

This isn't a bike taillight...

Here is what’s wrong with them:

  • they use a low power LED with a small battery = poor amount of light emitted.
  • they dim dramatically as the small battery gets used which puts out even less light. Especially when it’s cold out.
  • the max amount of light is emitted along a narrow range of angles from the front of the light.
  • the simple mounting method of a stretchy band doesn’t maintain the angle of adjustment well and provides a limited range of angles you can set the light at…all of which means a car driver will likely get only a small amount of the little light that comes out of the unit.
  • batteries are expensive [for the power they provide], not rechargeable and hard to change so lots of people run them until they are dead even though the amount of light put out during the last 50% of the battery’s run time is pathetic.
  • they give riders the false sense of security by making them feel like they are visible in traffic when the are not visible at all.

Turbo Turtle light

MEC also sells the Turbo Turtle light which was two LEDs in it.  It’s still not a bike light.  It’s just a better key chain light.

So what would I recommend?

  • buy yourself a good red bike tail light like the Planet Bike Superflash and get some rechargeable batteries for it.  Not only will this be better for the environment, but you’ll save $$$ if you ride at night a lot.
  • buy yourself a decent 1w or 2w white LED for the front of your bike like the MEC Shark as well as some rechargeable batteries.
  • I would also recommend you get some reflective material on you in addition to a proper bike light.  There are lots of options, but my favourites are reflective leg bands.  They are cheap, never run out of batteries and keep your pants out of the chain!  I keep one or two permanently on the handle bars of each of my bikes just in case I stay out after dark unexpectedly.
  • Now assuming you’ve done the things I recommended above if you want to add some of these key chain lights to your bike or helmet as an emergency back up to your main lights and/or to add even more visibility go for it.  That’s an appropriate use for lights of their performance level.

$12CDN gets you these bike lights!

What if I can’t afford real bike lights?

  • well first off key chain lights are not cheap…the MEC Turbo Turtle lights run $4.50 each [$9.00 for a set white & red] compared to $12.00 for the decent MEC light set in the photo above.  Use both for a year and see which batteries cost you more to keep running…not even considering the fact you’ll get way more light out of the real bike lights.
  • okay so what if you can only afford $5 for one red MEC turtle light?  Save some money and buy one reflective ankle band for $3.25.  Then ride your bike assuming no one can see you at night.  You’ll be safer than riding confidently with one red key chain light on your bike.  The reflective material works with a car’s powerful headlights to illuminate you better than a key chain light.




Thanks Fred…

12 02 2011

MEC floor pump and Fizer replacement nozzle + hose...

I posted a while back about being pissed off my cheap floor pump stopped working reliably.

New hose and nozzle installed...

Fred was kind enough to leave me a comment letting me know MEC sold a replacement nozzle and hose from Fizer that would work with this pump for $9cdn.  I went down there and bought it.  5mins of easy work at home and I had a working pump that was better than before – sweet!  Thanks Fred you rock!…=-)

New nozzle...





New Rain Jacket…

22 01 2011

MEC Derecho...

I’m in the market for a new cycling rain jacket for Feb 2011.  The main use will be around town riding and rando events/training.  I went down to MEC and tried on their Derecho jacket as well as the Shower Pass Elite 2.0 jacket.  The Shower Pass didn’t fit me well so it got cut from consideration.  The Derecho fits well and has lots of venting.  Reading the reviews at MEC a Victoria Area randonneur gives it a reasonably positive review, but he would prefer a more breathable fabric.

I’ve got a bit of time before I need to pull the trigger so if you know of another option that is highly breathable with lots of venting let me know.  If I don’t come up with anything better when I’m back from Baja I’ll score the Derecho and get on with it.





Don’t disappoint me!

1 01 2011

This is what happens to stuff that lets me down...

I’m going to be ruthless in 2011.  If you are a product that sucks I will terminate you!

I’m getting too old to waste time on a floor pump that wants to push air out the Schrader nozzle when I hook it up to a Presta valve and wants to push air out the Presta nozzle when I connect it to a Schrader valve.

Message to the rest of my gear – “Learn from this pump’s mistake and don’t play me for a fool or Mr. V will take you out with the trash!”

*sigh*

When I get back from Baja I’m going shopping for a decent floor pump.





MEC Borderline Hoodie

24 11 2010

MEC Borderline Hoodie

I’ve been wearing a MEC Borderline Hoodie for a couple years now. It’s one of my favourite things to put on regardless of where I am heading.  It’s water resistant and wind resistant…without being waterproof or windproof.  It’s durable and looks as good today as it did two years ago.  I’m on my 3rd one…I managed to lose the one [photo of me on a bike below] in the colour/pattern I liked most…=-( I have one in medium that fits perfectly over a t-shirt or LS base layer and I have a large I can wear over another fleece.  When I’m feeling wild I layer both Borderline hoodies one on top of the other.

Looking at the tech specs there is nothing radical about this hoodie yet in my closet of gear it jumps out and gets worn a ton more than other similar items.  It always seems to be dry and warm without getting hot.  It doesn’t absorb sweat or light rain much and always looks good even after being crammed into the bottom of a pack.  The outer fabric doesn’t pick up snow, slides easily when layering on top of or under other pieces and it doesn’t snag on velcro.

This hoodie is MIA if you see it tell it to come home!

MEC Spew:

Designed to ward off cold on the slopes, this casual full-zip hoodie has been treated with a polyurethane coating that steps up abrasion resistance, water repellency, and wind resistance. It works well as a mid-layer; the looser fit allows layering underneath and the smooth face fabric allows easy over-layering. You can also wear it alone in friendlier conditions, as it will shed snow and light rain.

  • Made of 88% polyester and 12% spandex jersey fabric with a Hardface® polyurethane coating that offers some moisture shedding ability.
  • Subtle print treatment.
  • Generous-sized hood.
  • Cinch toggles keep the hood in place while you’re moving.
  • Two handwarmer pockets with an internal headphone wire slit.
  • Slim fit
  • Weight 390grams
  • Price $105cdn

Fabric close up...

I liked the 2009 patterns better than the 2010’s.  The blue and the green colours look the best this year.  MEC is selling selected colours for $45cdn at the moment..unfortunately they are a bit hideous.  This is a great product I just wish MEC would offer a better selection of colours and patterns….each year has several options that just make you shake your head…how about basic black?  The other thing I would love is 1 or 2 two zippered pockets inside the kangaroo pockets for items you can’t afford to lose when jumping around outside like your keys or camera.





MEC Drencher Gloves

5 11 2010

Waterproof seam sealed goodness...

This really isn’t a review since I haven’t put these gloves to the test, but I face a dilema with clothing. Either I tell you about it way too early in the game for me to say for sure how well it works or I wait until I know how well it works and the season you need the item for is over plus the manufacturer doesn’t make the same product next year.  *sigh*  Several times this year I’ve grabbed something I love from my closest and thought I’d do a review about it on this blog only to realize you can’t buy the same product any longer.  So I wonder why spend the time and effort to tell you in detail how great something is you can’t have?

So I’ve decided to do the same thing I did with shoes earlier this year – I’m going to pre-view gear that looks promising when I get it so you know about it when the information is actually useful.  I’ll follow up with posts that discuss how it’s working for me – hopefully early enough you can still get the product.

Okay so back to the matter at hand – literally!.  I’ve struggled with waterproof gloves for many years not really being satisfied.  Until recently I had not found a pair of waterproof gloves I liked for cycling..mostly because all the gloves I have owned were not actually waterproof.  This is due to the real challenge of sealing the many seams inside a glove.  Most companies don’t even bother trying and sell you gloves made of waterproof material that have a zillion holes from all the stitching.  This results in a windproof water resistant glove that eventually gets wet inside and stays wet for a long time – not uber useful.  Since a lot of my nasty weather riding has been warm/wet or cold/dry I haven’t killed myself to find a solution.  However, I’m now face with a lot of cool and wet conditions that demand an effective solution to keeping my hands comfortable or I am not going to be able to ride my bikes.

Fortuitously I came across these waterproof [seam sealed!] lobster shells at MEC recently.  The Drencher Glove offers a nice waterproof haven for your hands and any gloves you want to wear inside.  I like this a lot since I already own several pairs of fleece gloves I like and that I can quickly switch out gloves if they do get a bit damp from sweat or when I pull my over gloves off to do something requiring dexterity.I can also use thicker or thinner gloves depending on how cold it is.

For $29cdn they seem like a good product to try.  They are fairly minimalist in design, but they do have some reflective material and a snot patch on each thumb.  The lobster design is effective at allowing you to operate your bike’s controls while keeping your fingers warmer than conventional gloves.

Glove detail...

Here is what MEC says:

These lobster style gloves are a deadly catch for any cycle commuter or randonneur. Made of waterproof, breathable fabric with fully taped seams, they transform your regular cycling gloves into all-conditions handgear.

  • Waterproof, breathable fabric with taped seams keeps water out.
  • Shingle action cuff slides under your jacket to stop water from running in.
  • Terry moss synthetic fleece sniffle patch.
  • Nylon palm with silicone print for durability and a solid grip on wet bars.
  • Reflective trim for low-light visibility.

 





MEC Nathan Review…

21 09 2010

MEC Nathan merino wool long sleeve top...

I was at MEC a few weeks ago looking for some affordable cozy tops to make me comfortable in Victoria’s cool damp fall weather – without looking like a sports ninja or like I was about to summit K2!  The merino wool Nathan long sleeve top shown in the photo above is new for this fall and caught my eye.

I’ve been a bit leery of wool primarily due to the fact it requires more careful washing/drying then the synthetic fabrics I’m used to.  Wool garments also tended to cost more.  On the upside it is hard to beat the feel of fine wool on your skin and it has the not insignificant benefit of not getting stinky fast.  Wool seems to be warm when you are cold and cool when you are hot…not sure how it does that, but it’s handy when your activity levels shift frequently or the sun pops out and starts baking you.

Specs [from MEC product page]:

“Light and versatile, this long-sleeved top is a must for travel. The merino wool is comfortable, not itchy, and insulates against heat and cold. The natural structure of the fibres is mechanically moisture-wicking, which keeps you warm when wet and prevents dampness against the skin. It also has natural anti-microbial properties.”

  • Made of 100% merino wool
  • Subtle print on chest
  • Tailored with raglan sleeves
  • Regular fit
  • weight 225g [7.9 oz] for medium
  • cost $56cdn

I’ve been really pleased with this top so far.  It feels great against the skin and it takes more than a sweaty bike ride to make it stinky!  I don’t heat my office so in the morning it’s a bit chilly until my big monitor and CPU heat up my workspace.  The Nathan is perfect layered under a hoodie and when things start to warm up around noon it doesn’t get overly hot.

I have really long arms and wide shoulders with a scrawny torso.  I don’t fit Patagonia tops that well since the arms are too short and the shoulders not wide enough unless I size up to the point there is a huge amount of excess fabric around my middle.  MEC clothing on the other hand has an idea fit for me.  I wore the Nathan while tearing down my deck and on several long bike rides.  It has held up well to my abuse without getting any snags or holding any stains.

I’ve washed this top a few times and been careful to wash on cold and not dry it, but I’m worried it will eventually either get washed on warm or put in the dryer.  I’m also not sure how to deal with it if I take it traveling.  In Mexico and India, for example, it’s impossible to tell ladies how to do laundry and you won’t know what they’ve done until you get it back.  So unless you hand wash it every time in your sink you risk fatal damage to anything delicate.  Kind of too bad because the anti-stink properties would be handy on backpacking type adventures.

BTW – MEC also has a great organic cotton hoodie [called the Sherpa] which is not on their website, but should be available in all the stores and potentially also if you call to order stuff.  It’s $39 and very basic, but it’s a great compliment to the Nathan and is also a really cozy piece.





MEC-tastic!

11 09 2010

My kingdom for a seatstay bracket!

I lost the plastic seatstay bracket from a set of Planet Bike Cascadia ATB fenders. Totally my fault…so I had a new set of fenders missing a critical piece…=-(  I ride down to MEC and ask a fellow in the bike department if they have any small parts for these fenders I can buy.  He says no and walks away from me.  I figure – oh well – time to email Planet Bike and wait a couple weeks for something to show up in my mailbox.  While I’m thinking that I notice the salesperson walking back to me with the last pair of PB Cascadia ATB fenders they have in stock. He rips open the parts bag that is attached and hands me the bracket I need.  No charge and he doesn’t even bother asking me if I had bought the fenders at MEC….=-)

Nicely done MEC…=-)





MEC Nanu Gloves

24 02 2010

MEC Nanu Bike Gloves

I use these MEC Nanu gloves mostly when I’m winter biking on my Pugsley.

Things I like about ’em:

  • they are warm [worn them at -37 deg C while biking hard for more than 1hr]
  • they fit well
  • they are water resistant enough for anything, but rain
  • the lobster design lets you work the bike controls just fine
  • they’ve got a fleece “snot pad” on each thumb!
  • they are reasonably priced
  • MEC has an awesome return policy and excellent customer service

What I don’t like:

  • they are wearing out prematurely at the base of each thumb even though the rest of the glove is in perfect shape

I’m going to keep using them until they are totally wrecked, but instead of getting 4-8 years of winter use that the bulk of the glove could handle they’ll be toast by the spring after essentially one season of use [half of the last two winters].  I’m hoping that MEC extends the leather palm reinforcing patch out a bit more to cover the base of the palm where mine wore through. If they do this I would highly recommend this product and would buy another pair.

In fairness I should note that riders with different sized hands and/or different handle bar/control setup might not experience the same issues I have.  I’m using a Titec H-bar with Ergon grips and an Alfine trigger shifter on my Pugsley.





MEC Reviews

17 02 2010

Torture testing a MEC sleeping bag...

If you are Canadian you probably buy some of your outdoor gear from Mountain Equipment Coop.  I certainly do as evidenced by the large dividend cheques I receive every few years.  Although I do like and support MEC some of the gear they are selling these days is not up to the high standards they used to have for quality and performance.  If you want to help steer the coop back on track one useful way is to write reviews on the site for products you’ve used.  By identifying the good stuff as well as the bad stuff you are getting feedback straight to the folks that buy the gear for each department.  As a bonus other MEC members can use these reviews to steer clear of bad gear.  I’ve started leaving reviews for the items that I like the most and the ones that I had significant problems with.  The review software is easy to use and quite functional from both the reviewer’s and potential buyer’s perspectives.





MEC Bikes

4 11 2009
MEC bike

MEC 1971 Bike

MEC has started selling bikes.  As Canada’s largest outdoor retail operation [similar, but much smaller than REI] MEC has a lot of muscle power getting products to Canadians.  At first glance the bikes they are offering seem like decent machines at reasonable prices. At the same time nothing much has jumped out at me as being particularly amazing.  Having said that I’m happy to see that more folks will be exposed to some decent bikes.  It can’t hurt.

Interestingly I spoke to the manager of a small high end bike shop a few blocks from MEC and they were optimistic that bike shoppers would be drawn to the area by MEC, but may end up buying nicer rides from shops like theirs.

I’m busy getting ready to head to Baja so I won’t have time to check these bikes out in more detail until early 2010.





MEC World Tour Panniers

15 05 2009
MEC.ca World Tour Panniers

MEC.ca World Tour Panniers

I was in the process of upgrading my GF’s MTB into something that fit her better, was more comfortable and had some useful cargo capacity when I started looking for panniers.  My initial thought was get some grocery panniers since they’d be simpler and really all she needed at this point since she doesn’t bike tour.  After poking around a bit I found that some decent Jandd grocery panniers cost as much as the MEC panniers shown above.  Being the eternal optimist I am I figured why not get these real touring bags?  They’d carry loads of groceries and if she wanted to tour she had some bags to start with.  Seemed like a cunning plan at the time.

MEC pannier mounting system - not my favourite...=-(

MEC pannier mounting system - not my favourite...=-(

I bought them [$95CDN] and installed them on her bike.  They were a struggle to mount on the Filzer rack [also bought at MEC], but I got them on.  What was really unfortunate was I almost couldn’t get them back off the rack.  After battling the mounting hooks off I realized how stupid it was to buy touring panniers that didn’t work well and weren’t really designed for the task at hand.  So I returned them and bought some Jandd grocery panniers – they are simple, easy to use and go on and off in a snap.  If she is interested in trying bike touring at some point I’ll just get her a set of Ortliebs and life will be good!

Jandd Grocery Pannier

Jandd Grocery Pannier

For what it’s worth the MEC World Tour Panniers seemed well made and are a great deal at $95CDN a set for rears.  Maybe if you don’t remove your panniers from your bike often the challenging mounting system wouldn’t be a problem.  You could even rationalize that it makes them a bit theft resistant!  Personally I’m going listen to the advice I’ve given loads of people – “buy Ortlieb”.

Filzer Rack from MEC

Filzer Rack from MEC

I generally like MEC products, but they need to redesign the way these bags mount.  The problem is that when you try and mount them seating the lower hook is finicky and it’s very hard to get the top hooks on securely.  The bigger problem is that once you get the top hooks on securely it is extremely tough to get them to disengage.  Compare that to the easy one handed mounting/dismounting of an Ortlieb pannier and you can appreciate my frustration.  This may be an issue with the combination of this specific rack and these bags, but the rack was purchased from MEC as well and seems pretty vanilla as racks go.  The mounting system of the Jandd panniers is not as slick as that used by Ortlieb, but it works well and is easy to use.





MEC selling wheels & bikes

2 12 2008
Wheeling & Dealing

Wheeling & Dealing

Canadian readers will be happy to know MEC is now selling [at least in Calgary] complete bike wheels in 26″ & 700c.  They look like decent machine built wheels.  I’d still take them to a good wheel builder to check the spoke tension, but they’ll be much cheaper than building wheels from parts.  I haven’t rec’d pricing yet – however, given MECs history they’ll be very competitively priced.

I’ve also heard through the grapevine that MEC will be selling complete bikes in the near future.  Not sure when they will start ’09 or ’10, but that will be cool if they bring in a moderately price touring bike and some commuter rigs.