Category Archives: Product Review

MIPS to You Too!

Using guidelines that a helmet should be replaced every 5 to 10 year and noting that the current helmet had a bunch of scrapes and scratches and well as being (a cool but) invisible black, a “Hi-Viz” replacement seemed in order. But wait – what about the new MIPS technology: What It Is and Why You Need It?

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MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System.” Created through years of research, the combination of the brain’s own protection and MIPS can provide better protection from angled impacts. When a MIPS helmet hits the road and sticks initially due to the high friction, one’s head can slide relative to the helmet thus reducing rotation of the head during impact and minimizing strain to the brain.

So here is a Bontrager MIPS helmet (TREK – $99.99 + tax and tip) (note the WindBlox noise blockers ).This is a very comfortable helmet with the only disadvantage being the cheesy, twist-prone quality of the chin strap meaning that it has to be smoothed out before wearing.

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Previously, helmet shopping were limited to comfort, ventilation, price, style/color, weight, configuration, visibility, overall quality, and ease of buckling and adjustment. A 1999 federal law requires that bicycle helmets meet the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) standard. Look inside your helmet (probably with a magnifying glass) to find this fine print attestation – possibly accompanied by a Snell Foundation label.** Thus all helmets provide the same level of safety; that is, the helmet does not block the rider’s vision, does not come off when after falling or during a crash, and reduces the force to the head when the helmet hits a hard surface. However, helmet crash testing has not evolved as the basic impact test is still smashing the helmet against an anvil in a test rig. (See also – https://www.cpsc.gov/Business–Manufacturing/Business-Education/Business-Guidance/Bicycle-Helmets )

Note the WindBlox on the strap – see – https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/2017/06/01/wind-blox-cut-that-wind-noise/

These criteria do not protect against all concussions or other brain injuries especially during slower crashes or crashes at oblique angles. MIPS addresses this gap in with a form of slip plane technology with two low-friction layers that rotate against each other, mimicking the rotation of the brain’s own cerebrospinal fluid (the body’s natural defense against oblique impacts). In short, a MIPS helmet can move relative to the helmet’s outer shell. MIPS technology provides an extra safety but at a slight cost premium.

The MIPS helmet’s outer layer is same impact-absorbing EPS* material as a conventional, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACPSC helmet. The difference comes in connecting the shell to a low friction inner layer that rests on the rider’s head. (Look inside a MIPS helmet at this clearly visible and moveable plastic interior liner with connectors joining it to the outer shell – see white arrow in photo.)

 

 

An earlier attempt at reducing rotational injuries was the transition from the white Foam Helmet“foam” “Bell” helmets of the 60s and 70s to a smooth, hard outer surface covering the shock absorbing EPS* material. This smoothness allowed the helmet to slide along a rough road surface rather than bouncing along the roughness and subjecting the head and neck to a rapid series of jolts that might result from the rougher surface of the “foam-style” helmet.

Does your helmet have MIPS? If it lacks a MIPS label, tell by looking inside as all MIPS-equipped helmets have a plastic interior liner that can move relative to the outer shell with connectors joining the inner and outer layers.

Since the Bontrager MIPS was already over $100, why not go all out in the visibility end with a Serfas TL-HLMT LED blink light? ($11.99 + tax). Curiously, the orientation of the hook-and-loop mounting strap is for a vertical helmet bar rather than horizontal,  Thus, when mounted, the light looks a little goofy.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If this helemet is not up to your standards, check out the Lumos Smart CPSC-CE Certified cycling helmet with wireless turn signal handlebar remote, built-In motion sensor, and 70 LEDs on front, rear, and sides at $179.00.

NOTES *EPS or Expanded Polystyrene has ideal crush characteristics with no bounce-back to make the impact more severe. The manufacturer places polystyrene beads (granules) in a pressure mold shaped like the helmet liner and expands the beads 2 to 50 times their original size with a blowing agent under pressure and heat. The beads expand to form the cells and fill the mold. The cells are tightly bonded and varying the density of the foam cells can produce optimal crush for a given impact level. Additives can increase cell adhesion to reduce splitting on impact. Manufacturers can also add internal reinforcing of nylon, carbon fiber, or plastics to reduce cracking, enabling designers to open up wider vents and still pass the lab impact tests.

**Curiously, the subject Bontrager helmet lacks the higher standard Snell Foundation approval. Its competitor, Specialized, seems to have many of its helmets so certified.

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Budget Light Mount for Auxiliary Safety Light(s)

You cannot have too many lights. Here is a low-cost way to mount (one or more) “Knog-style” blinky lights on the front or rear of your bicycle.

CAUTION – The “Knog-style” blinky lights should not be your primary nighttime lights – front or rear. They are appropriate for supplemental visibility lighting or as “day-time running lights.”

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 Here is what you will need:

  • M5 bolt (any head style will do – these instructions use a hex-drive head)
  • One flat and one locking washer to fit M5 bolt/screw
  • 4mm hex wrench (or other depending on the bolt’s head style)
  • Electric drill with bits
  • Hack saw (or similar)
  • File and/or 80-grit sandpaper
  • Ruler
  • Thread locker (optional)
  • Knog-style lights (red for rear, white for front)
  • 1-inch diameter RX/pill bottle – hopefully in a color that suits that of your bicycle (discard the cap)

Here are the steps:

  • Mark and cut the pill bottle to 1.5 inch in length
  • Smooth the cut edge with file and/or sandpaper
  • Mark the center of the bottle’s bottom
  • Drill a small pilot hole in the center
  • Enlarge the hole for a snug fit for the M5 bolt
  • Thread the bolt through the bottle’s bottom
  • Place the washers on the bolt so they are between the bottle and the bicycle frame
  • Place a drop of thread locker on the bolt or braze-on threads
  • Mount the bottle to a convenient braze-on or to a fender or rack mount – any place that will accept a M5 bolt.
  • Install the appropriate “Knog-style” blinky light and adjust so that it is visible from the rear (or front)

 

If this is too stressful, you can always shell out $22.00 – 24.00 for a Paul Gino light mount – another top quality product from Paul Component Engineering.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While you are at it, replace the batteries in all your non-chargeable lights and then adjust them to they are also visible. A light with weak batteries or low charge that points down or to the side or is obstructed by straps or folds in pack-mounted bags or your riding gear is next to worthless.

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Lighting the Way with Busch + Müller and Peter White Cycles

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhining and Complaining – We all know how hard it is to see some people on bicycles from the rear at night or in gloomy weather unless they have adequate lighting. In fact, if one were to choose between a front light over a proper rear taillight, safety would suggest the latter.

Why then do not all non-racing/fast road/mountain bicycles have built-in lighting?

In the USA, most bicycles – regardless of style or brand – require searching out both a tail and headlight or switching these from other bicycles. These lights depend on a variety of mounting techniques, not all of which are good or are not good in certain applications. In the case of headlights, each mounting or re-mounting then requires adjustment to ensure that it is aimed for best effect in terms of both visibility to oncoming traffic and in lighting the roadway.

Since dynamos are typically also not found on bicycles sold in the USA (at least since the UK dropped its line of upright bicycles with “Dynohubs”), we are all stuck in large part with replacing or recharging all those batteries on a regular basis. Even with a retrofitted/add-on generator, the difficulty or impossibility of having internal wiring and an integrated off/on switch means that the install will also be less that aesthetically pleasing.

The Issue – If one wants to fit her bicycle with lights that (1) are always there and (2) won’t disappear while having that croissant and coffee, the only recourse seems to be to modify an existing, off-the-shelf light(s). Here is a Planet Bike light fitted with a semi-theft proof bolt to mount on a Tubus Logo Evo rear rack.

One Solution – After a little Googling around for a more professional option for the Tubus Logo Evo rack, up pops Peter White Cycles. This small New Hampshire firm specializes in dynamo lighting but also offers battery powered lights for those who do not want to have a wheel rebuilt with a dynamo hub. “Bicycle Quarterly” has featured Peter White Cycles but with an emphasis on their hub generators.

Success – Sure enough, Peter White offers two Busch + Müller bolt-on, battery-powered rear lights with 50 mm spacing to exactly fit the Tubus Logo Evo’s pre-drilled holes – the Toplight Line. B&M Tail LIght for Tubus 10-30-17 (4)These lights conform to Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) bicycle regulations. Founded in 1925, Busch + Müller is in Meinerzhagen (population of 20,000 and about 71 km west-northwest of Cologne).

 

This light comes in two formats as follows:

  • Toplight Line Permanent – spreads light from two LEDs across the width of the taillight and uses a single AA battery. It has a simple “On/Off” switch ($ 40.00).
  • Toplight Line Senso – which is the same as the “Permanent” but with a three position “On/Off/Senso” switch. “Senso” activates light and motion sensors. When the bike is moving and it is dark, the light is automatically switched “On.” When you stop, the light stays on for a few minutes. As long as you do not move again, it switches off and stays “off” ($ 46.00).

Features – For the extra $6+ shipping, let us see what the Senso offers.Frist, Peter White Cycles makes buying a pleasure. They do not accept internet orders – it is all by telephone with a knowledgeable and pleasant human. (One can use email and checks, but why not enjoy the human interaction?)

The B+M light comes with (almost – see below) everything you need: the light, a single AA battery, mounting nuts and lock washers, a locking machine screw for the battery compartment, and a T-2 wrench* for this screw. Oh – and there are instructions of sorts. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The key difference with the Senso (over the “Permanent”) is the special mode that (1) comes on when the light detects motion, (2) stays on if he light detects darkness, or (3) goes “off” after 4 minutes if there is (a) no motion or (b) no darkness. Presumably, one could leave this light in the Senso mode all the time, thereby ensuring that the light will always be on when the bicycle is moving and it is dark. (ED: Not tested yet.)

The Battery Lock – The instruction state that the aforementioned machine screw can be used for “Theft protected locking of the battery compartment.” Since it’s difficult to imagine thieves prowling about stealing batteries from bicycle lights, the better use for this feature is to install the screw (with the provided T-20 wrench) to keep the battery compartment securely closed. Since this compartment is on the bottom of the light and if one were not to secure properly the clip-in compartment cover, it is feasible that the cover would be lost – followed soon enough by the battery. The minor downside is the need to carry a T-20 wrench – which is also needed for the Tubus Logo Evo mounting screws so it is already in the tool kit.

Installation – Since the Toplight Line is made to fit the 50 mm spread of the predrilled holes in the Tubus Logo Evo rack, installation is simple. A little “Threadlocker,” and it is on. HOWEVER and surprisingly, the provided M-5 standard hex nuts are unsightly. A trip to the land of the orange aprons was required to get proper cap nuts ($0.72) – see photo for comparison.

Does It Blink? – Nope. In Germany, the road traffic regulations, Straßenverkehrszulassungsordnung (StVZO), dictate bicycle requirements. Every bicycle on public ways, for both children and grownups, is supposed to follow these rules. Most bicycles have required accessories already in place including proper lights. (You can buy a bicycle without everything, and some people ride bikes that do not conform, but in the event of an accident, the rider is likely at least partly responsible.)

Lighting requirements are a white headlight and a red rear light ready for use at any time. A single switch must control both the headlight and rear light. The lights must be able to be powered by a dynamo backup, though they can use batteries in addition (as a stand light for example). At the most, one may add a single additional battery powered rear light. More battery-powered lamps are not permitted, including blinking ones or ones on the helmet or body.

If you are committed to a rear blinky but want the carefree luxury of a B&M Toplight Line, stick a back-up blinker on there somewhere (but do not ride in Germany).


*Torx, developed in 1967 by Camcar Textron, is the trademark for a screw head with a 6-point star-shaped pattern. Popular generic name for the drive is “star,” as in “star screwdriver” or “star bits.” The official International Organization for Standardization (ISO) name is “10664,” “hexalobular internal.”

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Wind-Blox – Cut That Wind Noise

Bothered by the rush of wind through and around you helmet as you zip along on your 10-speed? Wind-Blox claims to be the #1 most effective wind noise blocker. You can test this claim for $17.95 (Feb 2017 price).

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This simple device, composed of long narrow pads that are affixed to the helmet’s forward straps with hook-and-loop closures, closes the gap between your cheeks and the straps thereby cutting the rush of wind along the side of your face.

Do they work? Wind-Blox wisely states, “We recommend occasionally lifting your helmet straps away from your face to experience the difference with and without Wind-Blox.”

While there are competitors on the market, yes, the Wind-Blox – using the above test – does reduce the annoying rush of wind and, at the same time, enhances one’s chances of hearing other sounds such as the howl of the cat you just hit.

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Wonderful, Pretty Good, So-So, and Not So Good . . .

CAUTION: Never rely on your mirror(s) when pulling into traffic or changing lanes. Use you mirror to “keep an eye” on the situation to the rear. Before changing lanes (or turning), scan … and then scan again.

The need for mirrors … With increased age comes decreased head/neck rotational ability. The remedy is good bicycle mirrors.

The hands-down best for flat-bars is the THIRD EYE MIRROR ($10-12 Amazon). Key features of the Third Eye Mirror are ease of adjustment, resistance to going out of adjustment, and lifetime guarantee – even if your mirror breaks from a fall or other incident. This is a quality glass mirror with plastic mountings, so a tip over is likely terminal.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor “North Road” bars, a modified SUNLITE HEAVY DUTY MIRROR ($11.77 – 2013) works well and looks great – giving that “king of the road” feel. (Be certain of the model you are ordering as there are a bunch of poorly engineered (i.e., lower quality) “Sunlites” out there.) OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA For drop bars, the MOUNTAIN MIRRYCLE ($12-18 Amazon) which is oddly marketed for flat bars – wrong choice) works well. This is a drop-bar mirror. It has good optics and holds its adjustment well. A 3 mm hex wrench (included) is needed for installation and basic adjustment.

Now the catch – what about a bicycle with bar-end shifters?

Here’s a report on some options:

  1. BIKE-EYE – THE BICYCLE MIRROR
  2. ULTA-LIGHT BIKE MIRROR
  3. BLACKBURN ROAD MIRROR.

The BIKE-EYE mounts at the head tube/top tube junction using zip ties. Since the entire mirror body is fixed, the only adjustment is up and down meaning that the rear view is a narrow slot between the bicycle frame (and whatever accessories extend beyond the frame and the rider’s left leg (assuming a roadside mounting). The optical quality is good and the vibration minimal. And that summarizes the good points. Unless you are interested in a long-term study of your inner thigh, calf and knee, this mirror has little value. In a pace line, a rider could keep track of those to the rear. For an assist in keeping track of traffic, not so good. Relying on this mirror to monitor on-coming motor vehicles in the near lane would be a dangerous error.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The ULTA LIGHT BIKE MIRROR ($24 Adventure Cycling) is, in fact, light (2 ozs.) and has a parabolic lens for a nice wide look of goings on to the rear. Set up is a series of experiments consisting of adjustment to the hose-clamp-style mounting clamp and the ball-and-socket mirror adjustment. The ball-and-socket has about 80 degrees of adjustment but it entire mirror has to be moved back and forth and around the drop bars to get the basic position – lots of tweaking required. For drop bars (the point of this article), the clamp chews up the bar tape while doing adjustments at the ball joint (e.g., a mid-ride tweak of the mirror). Both screw heads take some hunting for a screw driver tip that fits. For on-the-road adjustment, a screwdriver is generally required. (The ball-and-socket 4 mm screw dropped off somewhere between Albany and Buffalo, so the mirror went into retirement.) For an Ortlieb product, it seems below standard.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The BLACKBURN ROAD MIRROR ($18 Amazon) mounts on the brake hood with a hook-and-loop strap – unique. The mirror has good optics and is easy to mount and adjust. It’s not a “bolt on” so it’s more theft prone than most. This was the mirror suggested by the bicycle manufacturer and, of the three, it’s the best. The downside is inability to hold a setting. No matter how hard one cranks on the lock ring, it needs almost constant re-adjustment – say, every 15 minutes. This complaint was voiced by reviewers on Amazon. Maybe someday, it’ll stop moving out of adjustment …OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Helmet Mirrors – if that’s your thing fine but they are fragile and require your wearing your helmet all the time. A benefit is the need to buy only one as opposed to many bicycle-specific mounted mirrors.

SOURCE: Except for the ULTRA-LIGHT and the SUNLITE, all the above mirrors are available at local bicycle shops. The Amazon price notations are for reference only.

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