Category Archives: Product Review

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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Crisan Pastry Shop – Alive and Well in Albany

Your life is not complete until you experience Crisan pâtisserie for some “edible art” (their tag line). This bright and cheery Albany venue recently re-opened (see earlier post) in the Albany Institute of History & Art, second floor.

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Crisan at AIHA

Crisan had been a busy mainstay on Lark St. for six years. It offered the best pastry in the area, delicious coffee, and gelato in a courteous, welcoming atmosphere. It was common to find all three tables fully occupied and a long line at the counter. In all but the coldest months, the three outside tables were a great spot to “see and be seen” and enjoy the goodness of Crisan. Crisan Bakery & Edible Art Gallery is still at 197 Lark St. Albany 12210, (518) 445-2727, e-mail cafecrisan@gmail.com. Hours: Monday: Closed, Tuesday – Friday: 9-3, and weekends: by appointment. There is no table service at this location.

If you have not been to Crisan, you have not lived a full life. Now located on the Institute’s second floor adjacent to the Museum Shop, come for a selection of European pastries, flaky croissants, creamy gelato and refreshing sorbets (in season) as well as soups, salads, and sandwiches made by Crisan Bakery. Enjoy special drinks including Harney and Sons’ fine teas, espressos and Italian affogato. Eat in or take away.

Café Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday: 10:00 to 5:00, Thursday: 10:00 to 8:00, and Sunday: 12:00 to 5:00. Closed Monday and some major holidays.

After (or before) your visit to Crisan, be sure to visit the exhibits at the Albany Institute of History & Art.  The Museum – a local treasure – is celebrating its 225th Anniversary in 2016. It is New York’s oldest museum and will be celebrate with special exhibitions, events, and admission rates all year! Admission: adults: $10, seniors: $8, and students: $8 (with ID). There is no charge for visiting Crisan or the museum shop in the Institute.

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Fixit in Troy – Still Going Strong . . .

On 8/20/15, Troy Bike Rescue and Phi Sigma Kappa (an RPI fraternity in the Mount Ida area of Troy) unveiled the first “fixit station” in the area. The fixit station for bicycles is at the intersection of 15th and Congress Streets at 336 Congress, outside Annie Patterson’s Fancy Shop. Read all about it here.

 

These recent photos show, almost 4 months later,  that the Dero-brand stand is ready to serve “ride up” customers with a pump and an array of quality, basic tools. Note that the simple seatpost mounting bars enable riders to mount their bikes to facilitate repairs and adjustments.

 

 

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Dead, Dying, and Born Again . . . Plus the Winners

Update on changes and stability in the bicycle magazine world.

Urban Velo – Dead. Urban Velo passed away at issue #45, December 2014 with an all-black cover. ABC fondly recalls that Urban Velo sponsored our showing “Premium Rush,” a 2012 bicycle messenger action-thriller, at the Madison Theater and gave us multiple copies of the magazine and frame stickers. Uraban Velo’s content had been slipping slowly away during 2014 . . .Urban Velo DEAD 12-14 COMP

They closed with this statement: “It has been a good run. . . . Most every city has taken it [cycling facilities] up to some degree, with the best featuring a spider web of lanes and dedicated paths, ample bike parking, and a healthy and diverse bike culture. Large-scale bikeshare was unthinkable not long ago . . . Simply riding a bicycle is hardly countercultural at this point, and there is no doubt that some of the closeness of the relatively under-the-radar city bike culture has gone to the wayside as the pool has gotten larger. The change isn’t without growing pains and nostalgia for the way it was, but the way it is shaping up to be the way we always wanted it to be. It is a good time to be a bicycle believer.”

Read more here.

“Bicycle Times” – Dying. Losing its way. Once editor Karen Brooks departed (abruptly – boom!), “Bicycle Times” seems to be lost in space and seems to be recreating itself as a music and beer mag. Have to watch how this develops. . .

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“Bicycling” After years of imagining that everyone on a bicycle wants to be super fast and thin, ride on carbon only, and is rich, “Bicycling” has recognized that there are other markets out there – cargo carriers, commuters, fat-tire fans, parents, e-bike advocates, women, people who can’t spend $12,000 on bicycle No. 26 and $425 for a GPS, and so on. So far, “Bicycling” seems to be hitting a nice mix with the last several issues. Now if they could just get past the cutesy language, the superlatives, and meaningless personal reminiscences in their reviews, we’d be all set.

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And the winners are . . .

“Momentum” – Remains the ultimate “unracer” bicycle magazines for the real world with lots of practical (and some impractical) tips, pointed reviews, great layout, and news for people on bicycles. Well worth the modest subscription price (print – $19.95, digital – $4.99) or pick up a comp copy at the Downtube Bicycle Works.Momenturm Winter 2014 COMP

“Bicycle Quarterly” – The absolute best from a technical viewpoint. No poetic baloney to wade through (like “Bicycling”). Hard hitting reviews, technical competence, clear editorial theme, tremendous photos, great ride stories, and no ads for cars, beer, sex toys, or “Blue Lagoon Skin Care” (again, a la “Bicycling”). Not only are the reviews plainly presented but also the manufacturer is given an opportunity to comment on the review as part of it – great strategy.

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Special Interest  . . .

Two other special-interest mags are Adventure Cyclist and American Cyclist. Under the editorial leadership of Michael Deme, Adventure Cultist has a nice mix of ride narratives, product reviews, and bike touring tips. American Cyclist, the bi-monthly published presence of the League of American Bicyclists, features legislative/lobby efforts and successes and victories for people on bicycles and promotes education, cycling, bicycle clubs, and the benefits of the cycling lifestyle. Both of these are very well done and are provided as part of membership in the sponsoring advocacy organizations.

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