Archive for Product Reviews

Review: Prescription riding glasses from Sport Rx — great glasses and an even better experience

Oakley Half Jacket

These are prescription sunglasses. No, really.

What is your vision worth?

I’ve long argued that effective eye protection is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure your safety on a bike.

Not just sunglasses to cut the glare, but impact resistant lenses that cover the full eye socket to block flying objects.

Like the rocks, glass and yes, bees, I’ve watched bounce harmlessly off mine over the years that could have easily taken out an unprotected eye. Or caused a dangerous fall as a result of being startled by pain or unexpectedly blinded.

As well as the occasional face plant that could have resulted in serious injury if I hadn’t been wearing glasses to ward off the impact.

But there’s one factor I’ve ignored over the years, as Rob, the lead optician at San Diego’s SportRx, recently reminded me.

And that’s the ability to see clearly as you ride.

Despite the fact that I’ve worn prescription glasses for over three decades, I’ve never had prescription riding glasses.

Contacts don’t work for me. And my regular prescription glasses didn’t offer the eye protection I needed, or block the wind from blowing into my eyes. I’ve tried wearing goggles over glasses, but found the combination too awkward and uncomfortable.

Instead I just made due with regular lenses. And struggled to read road signs or spot potholes in time to avoid them.

So when the people at SportRx offered to send me a pair of prescription riding glasses to review, I jumped at the chance.

The process was surprisingly easy.

I could have gone to their website and picked out the glasses I wanted and placed my order online, possibly taking advantage of the live online chat they offer to assist customers. Or if I found myself in the San Diego area, I could have ridden directly to the bike-friendly store, which is located along a major bikeway.

When I say bike-friendly, I mean it.

SportRx puts out a sag stop for passing cyclists every day, and allows riders — customers or not — to use their restrooms. And judging by this report, they put out by far the best Bike to Work Day spread I’ve ever seen.

But I wanted some serious guidance in making the right choice for my needs. So I went through their 800 number, and let Rob guide me through the process.

A cyclist himself — in fact, we spent a large part of our conversation comparing our various riding wrecks and injuries — he took his time to understand how and where I ride, and under what circumstances.

Like the fact that I do a lot of fast riding along the coast, with conditions that can vary from bright sunshine to overcast and fog in a matter of minutes. And I commute to a lot of nighttime meetings, so I need lenses that work in afternoon sunshine, evening dusk and full night.

My solution in the past has been to buy glasses with exchangeable lenses, then stop and swap them out when conditions change.

And as noted before, a primary concern was the need to protect from flying debris.

Then there was one more factor. If these were going to be prescription lenses, I wanted to be able wear them anywhere to replace the outdated prescription on my sunglasses. Without feeling like I was wearing the eyewear equivalent of spandex in public.

Then I sat back and waited for Rob to tell me where I was going to have to compromise, since I knew I was expecting too much.

He didn’t. And I wasn’t.

Yes, they get dark. Very.

Yes, they get dark. Very.

Instead, he suggested the Oakley Half Jackets XLJ 2.0, replacing the stock lenses with their proprietary Sport Rx Day and Night lens.

It’s based on their Signature Series lenses made of Trivex, offering the impact resistance of polycarbonate, but with better optics and scratch resistance. Then they add an Ultra-Premium Anti Reflective coating to cut glare, repel dirt and oil, and improve resistance to scratching even more.

The result, he said, is a lens that transitions perfectly from brilliant light to full darkness, from dark lenses to nearly invisible.

It sounded like the perfect solution, so I placed my order.

And that’s when Rob casually mentioned that he’d have to ride over to his computer to take down my information. Because he’d spent our entire conversation riding a fixie around the office while we spoke.

Like I said, very bike friendly.

In less that two weeks, my new glasses were in my hands. Or rather, on my face.

Which is the last time I’ve even bothered to take my old prescription glasses — regular or sun — out of the case. Or my old riding glasses, for that matter.

As promised, while the black frames are clearly an athletic style, it’s subtle enough that I can wear them anywhere without embarrassment, and the lenses transition quickly enough that I no longer have to fumble with switching from sunglasses to regular lenses when I go inside or out. In fact, in over a month of testing, they always seem to offer the exact degree of tint I need, whether on my bike, walking or inside a building or car.

Rob promises I can even wear them to walk to the movie theater, then sit through a film without having to take them off.

I haven’t tried that one yet. But based on my experience so far, I have no doubt he’s right.

Of course, the real test came when I got back on my bike.

And on that count, I couldn’t be more pleased.

In fact, they arrived just in time for first day back on my bike as I rode to the Blessing of the Bicycles last month.

The frames were light and comfortable enough that I actually forgot I was wearing them, and more than once found myself reaching up to my nose to make sure they were still on.

I may look like a helmet-cammed bike geek. But my glasses look good.

I may look like a helmet-cammed bike geek. But my glasses look good.

The only minor downside was that the wide bows had to go inside my helmet straps; wearing them on the outside pushed the glasses up and off my nose every time I looked down. Which considering the condition of LA’s cracked and potholed streets, is pretty damned often.

Every other ride since has had the same results, with the lenses adjusting beautifully to any light conditions. Even riding back from a Downtown meeting in full darkness, the lenses were perfectly clear and offered a crisp view of the road, with no fogging or glare from passing headlights.

And my newly improved vision allowed me to dodge the broken pavement hidden in the semi-darkness of 4th Street that I’ve painfully plowed into in the past.

In short, they are – by far — the best riding glasses I’ve had in over 30 years of road cycling. Including several previous pairs of Oakleys.

Then again, you can find that brand, and other high quality riding glasses, just about anywhere. And any good optician should be able to order prescription lenses to fit them.

But what you won’t find elsewhere is Sport Rx’s proprietary techniques and materials. Or their intimate knowledge of bicycling and the unique needs of cyclists, however you happen to ride.

Let alone their commitment to providing highly personal service to ensure the best possible vision for every customer. Whether you deal directly with Rob, or any of the other experienced opticians you’ll find on the other end of the line.

I’m sold.

I couldn’t be happier with my new glasses.

Or with the entire experience, from start to finish.

Correction: I originally wrote that Sport Rx’s sag stop is available on weekends only; actually, it’s open every day of the week. Nice.

 

Review: New CamelBak Relay provides pure, great tasting water for every ride

Great tasting water clear enough to read through.

Great tasting water clear enough to read through.

Let’s talk water.

Whether you ride with a water bottle or backpack-style hydration system, every bike rider needs some source of hydration for all but the shortest rides. Especially on those hot summer days just round the corner.

Let alone those hot spring days like last week.

But how much thought do you give to what goes in them?

No offense to my fellow Angelenos, but I’ve never been a fan of the water that comes out of our local taps.

Whether it’s a product of what leaves the filtration plant, or what it picks up from pipes along the way, LA water has always tasted a little off to me. And too often, there’s a noticeable chlorine smell that makes me feel like I’m drinking from the local swimming pool.

So ever since I returned to the city of my birth over a two decades ago, I’ve relied on bottled water. An average of eight gallons a week between my wife and I, at a cost of $1 to $1.50 a gallon.

The Corgi, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to care where her water comes from, as long as she doesn’t have to share it with anyone else.

And yes, we recycle the bottles, while realizing that doesn’t begin to negate the environmental impact of packing and trucking all those bottles.

We’ve tried various filtration systems over the years, but always found it more convenient and better tasting to get our water off the market shelf once again.

So when a representative for CamelBak asked me to try out an new countertop filtration pitcher, I agreed to give it a try, expecting to use it for a couple of day, write a quick review, and toss it in the closet to gather dust.

But six weeks later, we’re still using it.

The 10-cup CamelBak Relay is a simple, compact pitcher that fits easily in the refrigerator, taking up less space than a comparable water jug.

And when I say simple. I mean exactly that. Even taking time to read the instructions for a change, I had it assembled, filled and filtered in just a couple minutes.

Innovation filter works as you fill and as you pour, in real time.

Innovation filter cleans the water twice, as you fill and as you pour, in real time.

The company claims it filters 10 times faster than any competing product. But in my experience, the Relay filters and pours in real time, with virtually no delay at first, and none at all after the filter breaks in. And it filters the water twice, as you pour fresh water in and again as you pour it out.

More important, though, is the taste.

I’m happy to report it’s good.

Okay, great.

There’s none of the charcoal smell or taste I’ve found with other filters, and no hint of cloudiness or other unpleasant odors. In fact, the company claims independent tests showed it removed 97% of chlorine taste and odor. So all you get is crisp, clear water that compares favorably with the water found on the grocery shelves.

If I was to rank it — and why not, since this is my review — I’d put it just below Arrowhead Spring water and a step above Sparkletts, at a fraction of the cost. And way beyond the generic jugs on the supermarket shelf.

It also pours easily, allowing me to fill even narrow containers with ease. And since it filters in real time, I can fill the container, then pour it directly into the coffee maker or ice tray for better tasting coffee and ice.

It’s also BPA-free and dishwasher safe, and comes with a lifetime guarantee.

Bottom line, we’ve gone from buying eight gallons of water a week to just one, at most. And then only to rotate the stock of water we keep on hand in case of earthquake or zombie apocalypse.

Which means, at an average bottled water cost of $10 a week, the Relay paid off its $36.99 retail cost in about four weeks, tax included.

Better yet, the filter lasts for four months; new filters cost just $28.50 for a three-pack — a full year supply — or $12 for a single filter, and can be found at Amazon.com, Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, and CamelBak.com.

That’s just $65.49 for a full year of clean, great tasting water, compared to the $500 or so we would otherwise pay. And until I wrote that last sentence, I never realized what a waste of money that was.

I’m sold.

 

A ride through the Westside, in eight parts

Cars blocking bike lanes. Doors blocking bike lanes. Trucks blocking bike lanes. Nannies blocking bike lanes. Elderly drivers ignoring right of way. New sharrows in front of Catholic churches. Missing sharrows. Useless sharrows. Decrepit Victorian VA churches. Last second left cross drivers.

Or as I like to call it, Thursday.

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a video from my helmet cam.

It’s not that I haven’t captured anything worth sharing. It’s just that by the time I usually get around to editing the video, the limited storage left on my ancient Mac means I’ve usually had to delete the footage before I can do anything with it.

So I wanted to get this one out while it’s fresh.

This is footage I captured on yesterday’s ride through L.A.’s Westside and Santa Monica. The sad thing is, there’s absolutely nothing unusual about it. Other than discovering new sharrows on my usual route through Westwood, things like this happen virtually every time I get out on my bike.

Maybe just not so many on the same ride.

And this wasn’t even everything I saw, good or bad.

There were a couple of Jerry Browns that the camera didn’t pick up – it seems that the fisheye lens on the cam means that a driver has to virtually brush me before the video looks anywhere as close as it feels in person. And I also have to avoid flinching, since the helmet mount means I miss the whole thing if I turn my head away.

I also noticed the county has been busy with the sharrow stencils, as well, adding a single symbol on Washington between the beachfront bike path and where the bike lane picks up on the next block. They also put in a few behind the Marina library, where riders on the Marina bike path have to share a brief roadway with drivers using the parking lot or moving their boats.

And in a nod to the Cycle Chic crowd, I wanted to offer a look at a well-dressed woman I encountered who looked about as good as anyone could on her bike. But when I saw the video, it felt a lot more like Creepy Stalker Guy than an honest appreciation of a fellow cyclist.

Delete.

As for those newfound sharrows on Ohio, maybe someone can explain to me why they skip the two blocks between Selby and Glendon on the westbound side, but not on the east.

Did they just forget? Or is there some incomprehensible reason why those two blocks on that side of the street, where they’re most needed, don’t qualify for sharrows?

Because it’s right there, in that direction, where I feel most pressured by drivers when I take the lane, since it’s far to narrow to safely share.

A little pavement-based support from the city for the proper road position would have gone a long way towards telling impatient drivers that’s exactly where I belong. And encourage more timid riders to use the street and move out of the door zone, despite pressure from drivers coming up behind them.

There seems to be no reason to omit them from the street.

But omitted, they are.

And don’t get me started on the oddly placed sharrow further west that forces riders to duck beneath a low tree branch as they hug the curb.

Or the oddly undulating placement that may keep riders out of the way of vehicular in places without parking, but encourages them to weave in and out of the traffic flow in a dangerous manner, as some motorists may not be willing to cede the road space to let them back into the traffic lane.

Look, I’m not complaining. Much.

I’d glad to have sharrows on a street that needed them.

But these need some serious improvement before they meet the apparent goals of encouraging more ridership and keeping riders safer on the street.

Guest post: A review of high-intensity rear lights for improved safety, day or night

Awhile back, OC cyclist Mark Goodley wrote a guest post calling for cyclists to ride with ultra bright bike lights both day and night for increased safety, following his own near-fatal riding collision

At the time, he mentioned he was working on a review of some of the brightest lights on the market, which would be easily visible in daylight. So I offered to post his review once he got it finished. 

And here is it, representing an exceptional amount of work and out-of-pocket expense.

……..

STAY WELL LIT and You Won’t be HIT!!!

In other words

SAVE YOUR Life, Ride Ultra BRIGHT, DAY And night”

A Bicycle Light Review

By Mark D. Goodley

Introduction: As a quick start; I was hit and almost killed last year by a car making an illegal turn… I was a lucky survivor. Many are not so fortunate. Even though I ride an average of 10K miles/yr., I’d never been a bike advocate or activist before; but seeing your own blood draining onto the street changes you. Within weeks of being released from the hospital, I started looking for a solution to the carnage. We had two more fatalities the next month further raising the stakes. What was the most expedient, reliable, and cost effective mechanism to preventing/stopping the fatalities?

You can say and preach all you want about driver and rider safety and education, but the truth is, you’re never going to get to every driver or rider. There had/has to be other options. I looked in all directions and researched numerous possibilities, and one statistic I found leapt out against all the others… To date, I have not found one, not a single fatality, hit from behind accident, (which out number all other cycling fatality accidents 2:1), when the cyclist was riding with today’s ultra bright rear lights turned on… that started me on the trek…  If you can give the driver 5-10 seconds (.1-.2 tenths of a mile at highway speeds) advance warning of your presence, you will not (at least statistically) have problems. In fact, from my and many others reported experiences, most every driver that passes you will appreciate the simple and effective “heads up” warning.

Cutting directly to the chase scene: Wear multiple ultra brite lights, day and night..  As a good rule of thumb; If  you can look directly at the light, it’s not even close to being brite enough. All the lights in this article are retina searing, some, more  than others.

The bottom line is, that after many months of searching police and sheriff records following my accident this past June, I still can’t find one rear end cycling fatality where the rider had ultra-bright rear lights flashing at the time of the accident. That is an impressive statistic to say the least; and one that no cyclist should ignore, take lightly, nor not heed.

Abstract:

Determining which rear end lights were most effectively seen, day and night by drivers. There are many dozens of lights to choose from. Which lights can be seen most easily? Which are the best Price/Performance options?

The minimum lighting standard I set for inclusion in this review was the light must be clearly visible flashing, in the daytime  .1 mile (one-tenth of a mile). At highway/road speeds, that represents between 10 and 20 seconds warning to the driver. An eternity in reaction time, and an early warning system to drivers.

A total of only 11 lights met this criteria, many more did not. Any of these lights will greatly enhance your chances of staying alive on the road. But there are profound differences between Good, Better, and Best, as you will see.

Prices ranged from $25-$200.

I intentionally did not make it easy to meet this standard. For the visibility tests, I chose early morning, around 8-8:30AM, bright cloudless days, when the sun was low on the horizon. The lights were placed roughly only 10 degrees east (North) of being directly into the sun. This is exactly the time when most cyclists have been killed, early morning or late afternoon, riding towards the sun.

Determining which is the best light is impossible. It would be the same as saying which bicycle is the “best.” Everyone has their own needs and budget. What works best for Fred doesn’t for Wilma, etc.

Please note, that as a matter of practical usage, ALL lights/batteries tested were rechargeable, in one manner or another. The intent was/is to take the typically heard excuse for not using lights, “I didn’t want to run my batteries down”, completely out of the equation.  Some lights were tested with rechargeable AA/AAA batteries, while others were USB rechargeable… In any case, no one can use that excuse again. Lights that did not have a rechargeable option were not tested, and in fact, are being erased from the market.

A power meter

A power meter

One light characteristic and function that becomes important to note to the reader is “lensing.” A light can appear to be extremely bright from one angle, but quickly loses effectiveness only a few degrees off this primary angle. To further complicate matters, more LED’s in a light may or may not be perceived as brighter, depending upon the relative photon count coming out from the individual LEDs. Therefore every light is a compromise of LED brightness, lensing focus brightness, viewable angle brightness, # of LEDs, and battery runtime.

P1020098

Testing LED lights is technically challenging. Numerous methods have been used over several decades. For this study I roughly followed the Modified Allard method for effective intensity. This calibrated protocol was combined with visual comparisons at .1 mile and .25 mile. The  empirical results of these protocols, were averaged.

Newport Corporation Optical 1918-R Power meter for determining overall light power, and Newport Corp optical table

Newport Corporation Optical 1918-R Power meter for determining overall light power, and Newport Corp optical table

Next, while the flashing color red denotes a heightened state of awareness in our minds, red lenses typically reduce overall perceived power by a significantly large factor. Again, everything is a compromise. Lastly; runtime of each light was tested and noted. The minimum was approx. 2 hours, which is usually acceptable  for a commuter who can and will recharge their lights at work, but not so good for the road cyclist who’s putting in 4-6 hours, and will be left unprotected.

Lastly,  note that all lights were paid for. None were “donated.” I wanted to eliminate any potential or possibility of the results being questioned or perceived as “bought” or “mailed in.” When multiples of light from a given mfg were tested, some were purchased at a discount which was appreciated to save my personal wallet a bit, but all were bought. Many of the lights were purchased at retail, multiples from some mfg’s.

  1. Best Overall Combined Brightest Light
  2. Best Price/Performance Light
  3. Brightest Single Angle tested Light
  4. Most Innovative light (and likely to be copied by competitors)
  5. Best Commuter Light

So, due to the large number of variables in testing, it seemed fairest to set several categories to list the order of finish, and “award” the winner, and hence for you to choose from: Each light has its own Strength and Weaknesses. What’s important to note is that all lights in this review passed the most basic of tests: Can the light be clearly seen flashing by a driver from a minimum of .1 mile (one-tenth of a mile)?

This is a non retouched pic showing a light at .1 mile distance.  You can see even from this singular, non-flashing photo that the light is clearly visible.  The pic does not do the flashing, justice.

This is a non retouched pic showing a light at .1 mile distance. You can see even from this singular, non-flashing photo that the light is clearly visible. The pic does not do the flashing, justice.

Quickly (skip this paragraph if not interested in testing protocols).

How do you test for brightness? This is not as EZ as it map first appear. There are numbers of industrial, military, auto, and FAA lighting standards, and none for cycling. I chose to loosely follow the Modified Allard method which is the most common, and augment the approach with visual confirmation. This incorporates very high end testing equipment such a Lab spheres, CCD spectrometers, Optical power meters, and finally, after the numbers were in; good ole’ eyeballs. Lights were tested by observers at .1 mile and then at .23 mile, both directly line of sight, and then approx.. 30 deg. off axis center line. All lights were tested with full charges, either from their own USB batteries, or fully charged Li+ rechargeable purchased from Costco. Lights and mounts were weighed and noted in grams.

For a complete analysis description, protocol, data taken, etc., please see website or write.

Newport Corporation

http://www.labsphere.com/products/light-measurement-systems/led-ssl-systems/lcs-led-characterization-systems/default.aspx

LabSphere

http://www.labsphere.com/products/light-measurement-systems/led-ssl-systems/lcs-led-characterization-systems/default.aspx

1.  The Top 11 lights tested (in OVERALL combined viewpoint- Brightest order)

  • DINOTTE 300L $200 USD This light is very bright (though not the brightest) from all possible viewing angles.  It also has the longest battery life, USB rechargeable, and nicest flashing pattern. It suffers in cost and weight.
  • SERFAS TL-60  $60USD WOW doesn’t seem to do justice to this little dynamo. Placing first in brightness both on the meters and visually, USB rechargeable, decent runtime, weight and EZ mounting options for frame and helmet. This guy was the surprise entry. Suffers only in viewing angle. Ride with two or three and you’re set.
  • NIGHTRIDER Solas USB http://www.niterider.com/ This is a Great Light. A Very Bright, and Very Well built light.  This  was the third brightest light. The light angle spread is wider than most of the others, including the TL-60 above it. The design works well on both helmet and frame. I used electricians tape to cap off the end when using it on my helmet. Can’t go wrong here.
  • PLANET BIKE Turbo Super Flash $30USD I’ve bought at least half of dozen of these over the years… They’re reliable, bright, good flashing patter, affordable, run forever, and EZ to mount. Close on the Price/Performance curve, but not in the same brightness category as the two above it.
  • CATEYE Rapid 5 This all-time favorite is historically one of the best lights ever manufactured and set the standard for many years, and can still holds its own.
  • NIGHTRIDER Cherry Bomb  Another strong entry from NightRider, not in the same briteness category as the others above, but a good light nonetheless. A very nice light, extremely well built, you can feel the quality of everything about this light.
  • BONTRAGER Flare Nothing wrong with this guy,  good briteness, just not in the same category as the first few… Good mount and EZ to use.
  • PLANET BIKE Super Flash My defacto standard for many years and still a very reliable, long running worker… Briteness has been passed in the last year by it’s Turbo sibling and the others above.
  • SERFAS Thunderbolt Yellow; SERFAS Thunderbolt Red These two lights have taken the world by storm. Instead of a string of singular, tightly focused LED bulbs, the Thunderbolts utilizes an entirely different technology emphasizing a new Wide Beam approach. Although not as intrinsically bright as the top entries, the Wide Beam pattern really gets your attention as you get closer… and it’s the only light tested that is meant to be attached to the seat stays and forks… This light is a revolution. It suffers only in runtime, about 2 hours, which is more than enough for most commuters, but not in the running for road cyclist needs.
  • CATEYE Rapid 3 A decent light in a pinch and fine at night. But nowhere in the same category as the above top Escalon. It just barely made the minimum criteria.

2. Best Price/Performance Light

3. Brightest Single Angle tested Light

4. Most Innovative light (and likely to be copied by competitors)

  • THUNDERBOLT Pair of RED/YELLOW

5. Best Commuter Light Conclusion:

  • THUNDERBOLT RED/YELLOW COMBINED
  • TL-60
  • CATEYE Rapid 5
  • ALL the ABOVE
Pic below; from top left clockwise: 1. Dinotte 300, 2. Serfas TL-60, 3. Planet Bike Turbo 4. Planet Bike Flash, 5. Nightrider Cherry Bomb 6. Blue Test light (not reviewed), 7. Night Rider Sola, 8. Serfas Thunderbolt Yellow, 9. Serfas Thunberbolt Red, 10. Cateye Rapid 5, 11. Bontrager Flair

From top left clockwise: 1. Dinotte 300, 2. Serfas TL-60, 3. Planet Bike Turbo 4. Planet Bike Flash, 5. Nightrider Cherry Bomb 6. Blue Test light (not reviewed), 7. Night Rider Sola, 8. Serfas Thunderbolt Yellow, 9. Serfas Thunberbolt Red, 10. Cateye Rapid 5, 11. Bontrager Flair

While any of these lights will greatly increase the odds of avoiding mishaps on the road and help to SAVE YOUR Life, there is a definite pecking order…  Buy the best that your wallet can afford. Increasing Brightness means early warning distance, and distance means time to avoid you.

I highly recommend riding with multiple flashing lights. You will not be missed. One on your helmet, one on your seat post pointed level, slightly to the left towards traffic (to the right in UK), and at least one on your back seat stay. If you wear a backpack, at least one if not two more.

 List Review Spreadsheet  
  Mfg Model BRITENESS Retail Weight Battery Runtime
    RATING 1-5 $ USD      
DINOTTE 300L

4.5

200

  USB 4 hr+
SERFAS TL-60

5

60

  USB 4 hr+
NIGHT RIDER SOLA

4

45

  USB 4+ hr.
PLANET BIKE SUPER FLASH TURBO

3

30

  AAA 4+ hr.
CATEYE RAPID 5

3

30

  AAA 4+ hr.
BONTRAGER FLAIR

2.5

30

  AAA 4+ hr.
SERFAS THUNDERBOLT

2

45

  USB 120 min
NIGHT RIDER CHERRY BOMB 1 W

2

25

  AAA 4+ hr.
 
Mark D. Goodley
USA Cycling Pro Race Mechanic
markdgoodley@aol.com

Memorial ride for fallen Newport Beach cyclists — and a fundraising drive for bike safety

I’ve often heard that Newport Beach is a dangerous place to ride a bike.

That was driven home when two cyclists were killed less than 24 hours apart last month, as nutritionist Sarah Leaf was killed by a right-turning truck, and Dr. Catherine Campion-Ritz died in a hit-an-run as she was riding in a bike lane with her husband; a suspect has been charged in her death.

That’s why I’ve been following reports that the city was planning a memorial ride for the two cyclists later this month.

And more importantly, raising funds for safety improvements, with Newport Beach matching any money raised on a 3-to-1 basis — and our friend Frank Peters of cdmCyclist pledging the first $10,000.

I’ve been waiting for full details, which entered my inbox tonight in an email from April Morris, who gave me permission to share it with you.

I am one of the volunteers (and a cyclist) helping organize the Newport Beach-sponsored Memorial Ride on October 28, 2012. The ride starts at 8 am and it is open to riders of all levels, since it is only 1.2 miles. It will be a processional-paced ride to honor those who have fallen as well as those who survived collisions. As you probably know, in September 2012 within 24 hours two cyclists (women) were killed on the streets of Newport Beach from automobile collisions. A third woman (within a 3 day period) was critically injured. Three incidents in three days is just too much for our cycling community to sit still for.

The cycling community is up in arms and wants change. We want to be viewed as a cohesive group and part of the solution to the problem. I, and Joan Littauer, volunteered on behalf of all of our cycling brethren to help the city organize this Memorial Ride. A large attendance at this ride is important. We want the city to see how large our numbers are (the Mayor and several councilmen will be present).

Subsequent to these three collisions, we have pressed the City to start making advancements in bicycle lane improvements – since cyclists from all around So. Cal use the Newport Beach streets on their routes. We are pleased to report that as of last night, at the City Council Meeting, the City of Newport Beach agreed to match all of our funds raised, $3 to $1, up to $450,000 specifically for Bicycle Safety Improvements. This means if we raise $150,000, the City will put in $450,000 giving us $600,000 in the fund.

A special fund has been established by the City so that any donations are tax deductible. Can you help us spread the word about the ride and the need to generate $150,000 so that we can get ALL of the $450,000 matching funds for bicycle improvements? We have a website established for the ride with information on our fund raising activities: www.NewportBeachMemorialRide.com

Thank you so much for any help you can give us in publicizing the Memorial Ride and giving information on the fund raising element.

If you live or ride in Orange County, I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday morning; you can go to brunch, catch the game or attend church to repent your failings afterwards.

Or a better cause to donate to, since the life you save may be your own or someone you love.

It’s definitely worth a few bucks if you’re on a tight budget, or more if you’re not. And maybe it’s time for bike-friendly businesses and wealthier riders to step up and make a donation big enough to make a difference.

Update: I’m told an unofficial ride with follow the official memorial ride, taking a longer route to visit the sites of local collisions that have left riders dead or seriously injured, as well as the site of the upcoming CdM sharrows on PCH.

………

One other quick note.

I’ve been busy curating LA Streetsblog this week, which has kept me too busy to ride as I’ve done my best to keep up with two busy blogs. And Thursday is my last day as guest editor for new father Damien Newton, since I have a prior commitment on Friday.

But there’s one more project waiting in the wings. Or actually, in the corner of my office where the bikes sleep.

Sometime in the next week or two, I’ll be writing a review  at the request of Critical Cycles, makers of a solid and surprising affordable single-speed/fixed gear bike.

And no, I won’t be riding brakeless.

Not me.

Not ever.

This…

Turned into this… (Note the hand brake on the handlebars)

Which, with a little effort — and an old water bottle cage — turned into this.

Review: great looking — and very comfortable — retro-styled bike jerseys from Solo

Solo Classique jerseys offer retro club styling combined with modern fabrics and detailing.

I’m old enough to remember jerseys like this the first time around.

Except they never looked this good. Or felt quite as comfortable.

Awhile back, I was approached by a representative of Solo cyclewear and asked if I’d like to review one of their Classique Jerseys. It seems the company, which has made a reputation for itself in New Zealand, was preparing to enter the U.S. market and wanted to know if I thought American cyclists would like their retro-styled, race-based cycling jerseys as well.

Make that a yes.

Their designs offer a colorful throwback to the riding styles of the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Think something the Cannibal might have worn. Or Eddy wannabees, anyway.

Like the styles I saw riders wearing as I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. And which were still in fashion when I got back on my bike in the early 80’s.

One small downside — washing instructions call for hand washing and cool dryer; I prefer to just let it drip dry overnight.

In other words, I wore jerseys like the ones Solo sells when they weren’t throwbacks.

Except this time around, they’re made from with Nuovotech polyester, which means the fit is better, the colors brighter. And they offer far better moisture-wicking properties than the early polypro jerseys I wore back in the day.

A built-in anti-microbial treatment means they smell a lot better, too.

So a few weeks later, a package came in the mail. And the next thing I knew, I was standing in front of the mirror, looking at a retro-style top so realistic I almost expected to see a much younger me staring back.

Of course, the key to bikewear is how it rides on the road, not how it looks in the bathroom mirror.

And yes, it rode beautifully.

The fit was comfortably close, but not tight. Even under the breeziest conditions, there was only the slightest bit of wind-resistant rippling of the fabric. And that could probably have been eliminated with a few more trips to the gym.

In fact, the jersey felt comfortable under almost every condition and position, from a warm, sunny day to chilly morning, riding upright or tucked tightly in the drops. Even with an under layer, there wasn’t the slightest bit of pulling or stretching. Most of the time, I barely noticed I was wearing it — if I noticed it at all.

The only time it felt the least bit uncomfortable was when I was riding through a heavy wet fog along the beach, and the damp fabric got a little clingy on my back. Then again, I’m not sure anything would have worked any better under those conditions.

Small zip pocket to secure valuables; I use it for emergency contact numbers and my Madonna del Ghisallo medal.

Then there were the little details I loved.

Like the three deep, roomy pockets in back, with elastic on top of each to keep whatever you stuff in there safely in place; something you wouldn’t have found on many jerseys like this the first time around.

And the small extra zippered pocket, perfect for holding anything you want to keep safe and secure, like your ID, cell phone, music player or a little emergency cash.

Then there’s the woven cuff on the arms and neck to keep the draft at bay.

Unlike my other jerseys, there was never a problem with wind blowing up my sleeves. And if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s feeling an updraft in my pits.

Or maybe a downdraft on my neck that I can’t seem to block. And yes, the cuffed collar zipped up snuggly, successfully blocking the wind and keeping my neck and shoulders warm.

The woven cuff is more than a style detail — it effectively blocks any draft up your sleeves.

Then there’s the appearance, which I judge in two ways.

The first is visibility, which it passed beautifully.

Riding on city streets, it’s easy enough to tell if drivers can see you, based on the number of close calls I experience.

For instance, I have a great looking blue jersey I call my cloak of invisibility because no one seems to see me when I wear it. The high number of close passes and near misses suggest it makes me blend into the urban background.

On that count, this Solo jersey performed beautifully. I’ve yet to have a single close call wearing it, which tells me it really stands out on busy L.A. streets.

And visibility means getting home in one piece.

On the other, I was a little disappointed.

Despite the attractive retro styling and its unique blend of bright red and pastel blue colors, no one seemed to take much notice. I thought I might get a comment or two from other riders or people passing by, but it hasn’t happened yet.

Maybe next time.

Because any jersey that feels and looks this good will be worn a lot. And there will be a lot of next times.

………

Solo offers more than just retro cycling jerseys. You’ll also find a full line of urban cyclewear, as well as bib shorts and gilets — or riding vests, to you and me.

Then there’s my favorite piece in their line, which would look great over my new riding jeans.

………

One final note.

Solo has made a special offer for readers of BikingInLA. Just buy Solo Classique Jersey through their website, and enter the code GILET50 to get a Solo Equip Gilet for $49.50 — half off the regular price of $99.

Don’t wait, though.

This offer is only good through the end of this month.

No, really. I’m smiling on the inside.

Celebrate the Festival of Lights with Mini Monkey Lights

This seems like an oddly appropriate topic for the first day of Hanukkah.

A couple of months ago, I got an offer from MonkeyLectric inviting me to try out their new Mini Monkey Light.

Their timing was perfect.

I’ve been doing a lot more after dark riding this year as I’ve tried reducing the number of wheels required to attend various meetings by half. Especially since I can ride Downtown from my Westside apartment as fast, if not faster, than I can drive there, with less aggravation and no expensive search for parking at the other end.

And a lot more fun along the way.

The problem was one of safety.

I’m a firm believer in being seen. If I’m going to ride at night, I want to be lit up like a Christmas tree. Or in keeping with today’s theme, a Hanukkah bush.

But finding the side wheel reflectors required under state law has proven virtually impossible. And anyone who actually relies on reflectors to capture the attention of the city’s huge population of texting drivers had better make sure their medical insurance is current.

I had no better luck finding lights to attach to my spokes, as the only one I came up with only managed to stay attached until I hit the first massive pothole. Which, given the state of L.A. streets, was about a half block from home.

Besides, anything named Mini Monkey Light had to be fun. Right?

So I quickly agreed, and sure enough, it arrived just in time for my next Downtown meeting. A meeting my riding partner and I were over half an hour late for, as I struggled to make sense of the cryptic instructions that seemed to be missing a step or two.

But after installing and uninstalling and reinstalling it more than once — okay, more thrice — I finally managed to get it hooked up and working. And soon found my office lit up with an ever-changing series of brightly colored lights.

Since those installation issues delayed our departure, that put us on the road well after dark, providing an immediate test of the Mini Monkey Light.

The first thing I noticed was that everyone else seemed to notice. Drivers gave me a wider than usual berth, perhaps unsure what kind of crazy cyclist would ride with a spinning kaleidoscope lights on his front wheel.

The 10 exceptionally bright LEDs formed an ever-changing pattern of spinning 8-bit graphics, providing a series of blocky patterns that rotated around the wheel if I rode slowly; a solid circular loop pattern if I rode faster. Although that seemed to happen at little higher speed than the company said, becoming a solid loop around 17 – 18 mph, as opposed to the promised 15 mph.

The result for my first 12.5 mile trip using the lights in rush hour traffic, not a single close call. Which is almost unheard of in L.A. traffic, day or night.

Same thing on the way back, as the design of the lights offered increased visibility from virtually any angle — even from the rear. In fact, I found myself choosing to ride caboose, allowing the brilliant cacophony of light to call attention to our petite peloton. Yet not feeling the slightest bit more vulnerable despite the more exposed position.

Not to mention, it was fun.

Okay, a blast.

As I rode, I saw pedestrians, drivers and other riders turn to look, many with just a touch of mirth apparent on their faes. And I found myself having more fun that I have in ages.

Something that seems to be repeated every time I use them.

Surprisingly, even with the heavy battery pack containing three standard AA batteries, it didn’t seem to affect my speed in the slightest. Mounting the battery pack to the wheel hub reduces the effect of the added weight; I found myself easily maintaining my usual cruising speed of 18 – 20 mph with the light installed, and able to sprint at much higher speeds.

And after roughly 20 hours of use, the light is still going strong; the company says the batteries should last up to 40 hours.

Which brings up a few minor complaints, aside from the cryptic instructions.

Mainly the way the light unit is connected.

It’s designed to be attached to the wheel using zip ties — like modern plastic handcuffs — which makes it difficult to remove for daytime riding.

The Mini Monkey Light is most practical for riders who will install it once and leave it there. As opposed to someone like me who mostly rides during the day, and doesn’t want to leave unnecessary lights on the bike when they’re not going to be used.

I found myself attaching the waterproof light and battery pack with the supplied zip ties, then cutting them off the next morning; a wasteful and inconvenient process that quickly went through the handful of zip ties that came with it.

The solution I found was to use twist ties, like you get in the produce department of your local grocery, to attach the light unit. I still haven’t found a viable alternative to zip ties for the battery pack, though, which has to be attached tightly so it will stay in place without slipping around the hub.

That allows me to attach and remove the light unit quickly, though I still have to go through the awkward process of slipping scissors through the spokes to snip the battery pack off the hub.

The other problem is hooking up the wire that connects the two units.

The wires connect via a simple polarized plug-in connection, which can only go in one way. Unfortunately, the connector itself is small and awkward; difficult to manage during the day, and almost impossible fumbling in the dark with cold fingers.

That’s one thing they really need to address before the product starts shipping in February. There’s got to be a more convenient way to hook the wires together. Or at least better indicate how they should connect together.

But other than those relatively minor problems, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone. In fact, I may consider getting another one for the back wheel.

It may be overkill in terms of safety.

But it works. And at just under $50, it’s affordable.

And more fun than a barrel full of…

Well, you know.

My apologies to MonkeyLectric — and you — for not getting to this sooner; the last few months have been remarkably hectic. Then again, it would help if drivers would just stop running us over so we could focus on happier subjects more often.

And this time of year especially, be sure to take lights with you during afternoon rides, even if you don’t intend to be out after dark. A simple flat or some other unexpected delay can easily keep you out after dark. 

……..

One quick legal note.

Dj Wheels reports that Christine Dahab, the allegedly drunk/distracted driver finally charged in the June late night Culver City collision that left a number of riders strewn about the roadway with various injuries — some serious — will be arraigned on Thursday.

The hearing will take place starting at 8:30 am in Department 144 of the Airport courthouse, 11701 La Cienega Blvd, 9th Floor, Case #SA079472.

……..

Best wishes for a very happy Hanukkah!

The Urbana Bike — a very friendly and forgiving monster of a bicycle

The Urbana Bike at the beach.

Yes, it’s a monster.

Not in the Frankenstein sense, with frightened villagers carrying pitchforks and torches. But more like the creature from Young Frankenstein — big, a little awkward maybe, yet friendly and playful.

And more than ready to put on the Ritz.

In other words, this is a very serious, fun and exceptionally user-friendly monster of a bike. Think of it as an urban assault bike, the two-wheeled equivalent of a full-size Hummer — a bike able to go anywhere. And over just about anything.

SI was surprised to get an email a few months ago, asking if I wanted to try out a new bike. After all, I’d never done a product review before. Mostly because no one had ever asked me to.

This...

Next thing I knew, there was a massive box waiting at my door. And inside was the biggest bike I’d ever seen, in a shocking shade of magenta. Although they call it Sangria.

Naturally, there weren’t any assembly instructions enclosed; while I used to do my own wrenching, this was far different from anything I’d worked on before. So even though I blundered my way through putting it together, I had still it fully assembled and ready to ride within 20 minutes.

Or so I thought.

...turned into this in just a few minutes.

Used to quick release hubs, I was afraid to over tighten the nuts on the front wheel. And sure enough, two blocks into my test ride, it was flopping back and forth like a bad toupee in a hurricane. My next attempt wasn’t much better, lasting about six blocks.

After finally tightening the crap out of it, it’s lasted nearly three months without needing another adjustment.

Make no mistake, though. This is a very big, and very heavy bike; when I stepped on the scale holding it and subtracted my own weight — admittedly, not the most accurate means of measurement — it came out at a whopping 42 pounds.

But it doesn’t ride like it.

Despite the weight, the Urbana rolls as easy as any bike I’ve ridden — and a lot easier than many I’ve tried. The 8 speed Shimano Nexus internal gear hub shifts easily and accurately, and is geared so efficiently that that even on the steepest hills, I never had to shift below third. And the Shimano Nexave drum brakes stopped it every bit as fast and surely as my much lighter road bike.

Before I agreed to accept the bike, I made sure it was insured; after all, I this is L.A., where bad drivers and worse roads can turn any bike into so much scrape metal.

The Urbana rep said “Don’t worry about it. This bike is indestructible.” When I said that sounded like a challenge, she responded “Go ahead. You can’t break this bike.”

She’s right. Because I tried.

No matter how bad the pavement, those big tires handled it with ease.

I started out riding in my own neighborhood, on streets so badly degraded they might as well be the famed cobbles of Paris-Roubaix. Yet the oversized, balloon Niddepoule — or Big Sidewalk — tires rolled right over the cracks and potholes, as if I was riding a newly paved street.

And nothing changed, no matter where I rode it or what I tried to do to it.

With my own bike out of commission, I rode the Urbana at CicLAvia. I took it to the beach. I even rode through the Westwood stretch of Wilshire Blvd known as the Gauntlet, where countless right lane ruts, potholes and rippled pavement challenge even the most experienced riders — and aggressive, high-speed traffic means falling is not an option.

In every case, it handled the worst roads with ease. Rather than swerving around potholes like I do on my own bike, I aimed for them. And the worst that happened was that the rear wheel might bounce a little before regaining solid traction.

Despite the weight, it rode comfortably, even over longer distances. The only time I found it tiring was coming back up the beach, where the upright riding position made pedaling into the usual afternoon headwind a chore.

It also climbed with surprising ease, thanks to the low gear ratio. Even riding up Temescal Canyon proved easier than expected.

There was still one more challenge the bike had to pass. The rep had described it as a one-size-fits-all frame, easily adjustable for any rider.

So I took my tiny, five-foot tall wife outside, and within 30 seconds, I’d adjusted the Urbana down from my six-foot frame to fit her perfectly. And even though she hadn’t been on a bike in the nearly two decades I’ve known her, she was soon riding easily on those same broken streets I’d tested it on.

As she was riding, our neighbor stopped by to say hi. A native of Uganda, she’d never been on a bike; yet within moments, she was rolling unsteadily down the street, thrilled to be riding for the first time. And thanks to the bike’s step-through design, when she finally lost her balance, she just stepped off and let the bike fall harmlessly beneath her.

Even my petite wife could ride it with ease.

In the three months I had the bike, I rode up and over curbs, across grass and gravel, and off steep drop-offs, yet nothing phased it.

Like a serious SUV, it handled dirt, grass and mud with the same assurance it rode over pavement — and the heavy-duty fenders meant I stayed spotless, no matter what kind of muck I pushed it through.

And despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t break it.

That’s not to say it’s perfect.

The oversized wheel base means carving a turn just isn’t an option; this bike lumbers through corners I’d normally lean into. While the V-shaped handlebars make adjustments easy, I found them tiring on longer rides, and longed for the more relaxed position provided by the swept-back bars of a classic Schwinn.

View from the cockpit; thanks to Becky for suggesting the water bottle solution.

It was hard to figure out how to carry a water bottle, until a friend suggested the perfect solution of mounting it on the handlebars. And the heavy-duty serrated pedals ate the soft plastic soles of my Sidi mountain bike shoes; a pair of harder soled trail shoes fared much better.

As much as I enjoyed it, though, I won’t be trading in my road bike anytime soon. For me, the Urbana would make a nice second or third bike. But it could be ideal for a number of riders and uses:

  • Beginners — The Urbana’s intuitive design, forgiving ride and ease-of-use makes it perfect for cyclists just starting out, while its durability means it will survive beginner’s mistakes. And the sheer size and weight will do more to deter thieves than most locks.
  • Heavier riders — When I bought my current bike, I had to find a frame that would support my then 220 pounds; I could only imagine what it would be like with another 50 or 100 pounds to carry. According to the manufacturer, the Urbana’s frame will support up to 400 pounds with ease, and it offers an optional larger seat for greater comfort. It’s also available as an e-bike, making it very forgiving for anyone who may be reluctant to ride for fear of not being able to go uphill or make it all the way back.

    Sadly, though, it ate my mtn. bike shoes; harder soled shoes fared better.

  • Winter cyclists — The big balloon tires make it perfect for road surfaces slick from rain or snow, while the heavy weight should allow it to carve through several inches of ice and snow — although that’s not something I was able to test here in L.A.
  • Urban and off-road commuters — No matter how difficult your commute, or how bad the roads or trails you have to ride, the Urbana can handle it. Despite my best efforts, I wasn’t able to find a surface it couldn’t cover. And seriously, I pity any car that hits one of these.
  • Bike share programs — The Urbana really does fit all, in just a few seconds with just a few simple adjustments, while its strength and durability make it ideal for a bike that will inevitably take a lot of abuse as it passes from one rider to another. In fact, I’m told that Urbana will soon be unveiling a turn-key bike share system of their own.

The Urbana may not be my dream bike.

But seriously, it’s been fun. And when I drop it off in the morning, I’m going to be sad to let it go.

Because this really is one hell of a fun little monster.

Note: No payment or any other compensation was received in exchange for this review.

Darn it.

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