More bike commuters = economic boom

Here’s an inspiring “roundup” article about a number of cities (with a focus on Detroit) that are experiencing an economic uptick directly linked to their development of bike infrastructure and subsequent increase in bicycle commuters:

From custom frame builders in Detroit and messenger bag makers in Philadelphia to a bike-share startup in Tampa, the new bike-based economy is flourishing in U.S. cities. This startup ecosystem includes tour companies, pedicabs, mountain bike parks, artisan rack welders, bike rental outfits, bike-friendly bars and app developers.

Alison Dewey, program manager for the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle-Friendly Business program says these businesses are feeding off the rise in bike commuting and the fact that young people are now driving less. A recent released report from U.S. PIRG shows that car usage is declining after climbing for six decades straight. Meanwhile, bike commuting grew 39 percent on average from 2000-2010.

Read the full article by visiting the Detroit Free Press page.

Personally, I love the term “bike-based economy”…it gives me hope that our chosen form of transportation can be part of the stimulus cities need to recover financially. Has YOUR city seen an increase in bike-related businesses as a result of developing bike-friendly infrastructure? We’d love to hear about it.

First Look: Prescription sunglasses from ADS Sports Eyewear

About a month ago, Michael from ADS Sports Eyewear contacted us to see if we’d like to try out a pair of prescription sunglasses. Seeing as I may have the worst eyesight of the entire staff, I happily volunteered.

I had an old pair of prescription sunglasses that I wore to drive (gasp!) a car, but never wore corrective lenses for cycling — except for my regular eyeglasses at night. Back in March, I finally bought an updated pair of “sport” sunglasses to ride and drive with, and was dismayed to discover that there was a lot of peripheral distortion in the lenses. ADS Eyewear claims to have solved that particular problem with their wide range of brands and styles, but we’ll get to that in the formal review later.

The process to select a pair of prescription cycling sunglasses is easy — ADS walks you through the entire process, from selecting the frames, to entering your prescription. As many of you may know, ordering things online without the ability to try a product on can be daunting. Luckily, ADS offers a “Try Before You Buy” program, where they will send samples of the frames you choose before making the the prescription lenses. The only cost for that program is the return shipping (details available in the link above).

I choose two pairs to try out, the Oakley Half Jacket 2.0, and the Adidas Adivista. I had tried a pair of non-prescription Half Jackets in the past and liked how they looked and felt, and was eager to try the newer model. I was unfamiliar with the Adidas pair, so was open to the idea of test-fitting them.

First, the Half-Jackets:

DSC_0080

Next, the Adidas Adivistas:

DSC_0081

After consulting with the folks who help me make the tough decisions (my wife and kids), it was unanimous: prescription Oakley sunglasses!

As I mentioned earlier, the ADS Eyewear site is chock-full of handholding resources — they describe their processes and policies clearly, and offer a pretty stunning array of options.

Stay tuned for the review of the prescription pair once I have had time to ride with them. In the meantime, swing on over to the ADS Eyewear site to check out their offerings.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Soul Cruzers LED Bicycle Wheel Light Kits: Review

Back in April the kind folks at Soul Cruzers sent us an LED bicycle wheel light kit. Basically it’s designed to light up your wheels by attaching a string of LED lights to your spokes.

soul cruzer LED lights

Their website states the following:

LED bicycle LED wheel light kit. Fits up to 2x 29″ wheels

Red-Blue-White-Green-Purple-Yellow -Pink

Comes with AA batteries, zip ties and EZ to follow instructions

Price $24.95 for a set, both wheels

When I opened up the package to install the lights, I noticed one of the light sets wasn’t working. From the looks of it, the batteries that came with it went bad. I went ahead and replaced them with a fresh set. Soul Cruzers does recommend replacing the “oem” battery with a higher quality like Duracell and the like. After installing the fresh batteries, the lights worked great.
soulcruzer LED lights review

The Soul Cruzer directions say that I need to loop the wire on every other spoke. The bike I installed the Soul Cruzer lights on was my daughter’s bike, the Nirve Ultra Liner.

Though their site states that the LED lights will fit a 29″ wheels, the Nirve Ultra Liner is equipped with 700c wheels and you can see from this photo, the wire doesn’t completely go all the way around. Does it really make a big difference? Well yes and no. If they say it will fit 29″(700c) wheels then you’d think the wire would be long enough, right? But when you light up the LEDs, can you really tell where the gap is?
Soul cruzer LED lights review

To answer the questions above, look at this photo. You can see a gap on the rear tire around the 5:30 position, the front wheel has a gap on the 3 O’clock position. Another thing I’ll mention, the rear wheel has fresh batteries, while the front has the OEM batteries. On a fresh set of batteries they stayed lit for 5 hours, while the OEM batteries started to go dim after 20 minutes of use.
Soul Cruzer LED light review

So how do the Soul Cruzers LED wheel lights look while spinning? Well, I gotta tell you, they do look great! It’s probably one of the better ways to get seen by cars because the bright colors help you be seen by anyone. From pedestrians to drivers, they’ll see you!
Soul Cruzer LED bicycle wheel lights
There were 2 things that didn’t like, for one, the length of the wire. It probably needed another 5-6″ to properly fit a 29er(700c) wheel. I figured Soul Cruzers had probably designed them to fit on the beach cruisers they sell, and those have 26″ wheels, so if you have a 26″ wheeled bike, they would be fine. Another thing was the OEM battery — they really should last longer than what they did. But if you plan on using these lights on a daily basis for your commute or for bar hopping, then I’d recommend using rechargeable batteries.

Other than those 2 things I mentioned, I have to say the Soul Cruzers LED Bicycle Wheel Lights are pretty fun to have on a bike! Oh I forgot to mention that they do have a blinker setting. So you can have one wheel run solid while the other blinks. I actually like the idea that the LED light isn’t just kept in one small container like traditional LED lights are, but these lights allow you to have lights on a larger scale. They would be great to supplement your front and rear LED lights to give you that added visibility.

Our FTC Review Disclaimer

Friday Musings: “It must have been your fault. C’mon. You are a biker.”

Here’s one we hope will get the conversation started on this lovely Friday — a tale of a wronged cyclist forced to defend himself with video footage available all along to law enforcement folks:

Getting in a crash is one of the scariest things that can happen to a cyclist. Even worse is when police assume that bicyclists are always at fault, even if they’ve got evidence to the contrary.

Read the full account by visiting the Greater Greater Washington website.

We’ve long talked about inaccurate reporting (by the media AND by law enforcement) in bicycle/motor vehicle collisions, and we’ve also discussed recording your every move with personal camcorders. It’s a shame that we have to resort to being our own detectives after a crash…but it’s been made clear time and time again that the law is not often on our side, even when we’re in the right.

Happily, in the story above, the author successfully defended his actions on the road.

Do you have any similar stories to share? Any thoughts on additional steps we can take to protect/defend ourselves on the streets of our cities? We’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Review: Two bike locks from Masterlock

A couple months ago, Masterlock offered to send two of their bike locks to us for testing and review. We chose a U-lock and a cable lock, and received the 8170D Force U-Lock and the 8220D Cable lock.

We told the folks at Masterlock that we didn’t have a “bait bike” to really test these locks out with, but that we would engage in a bit of destructive testing, where applicable. They were cool with that. More on that in a bit.

First, the cable lock:

DSC_0142

From the manufacturer’s website:

–Set-your-own password combination cable
–Use letters to create a memorable word combination
–Easy to set & reset
–6′ (1.8m) long x 3/8″ (10mm) diameter braided steel cable for strong cut resistance
–Protective vinyl coating helps prevent scratching
–Mounting bracket included for easy transportation

This lock is perfect for quick, low-crime lockups — as you may know, cables aren’t particularly resistant to cutting and are usually recommended for times when a bike will be unattended for a short time (quick trips into the store, or as a backup for another lock). What’s novel about the 8220D is its use of user-resettable word codes rather than numbers. I had a bit of fun coming up with odd words; my favorite being “STASI” (Cold War-era East German Secret Police).

The lock comes with a carrier bracket for mounting to your bike’s frame or seatpost. My seatpost is clogged with stuff, so I went for a frame mounting. The bracket has a push-button quick release and a corresponding “cleat” on the cable itself to stow the cable for travel.

DSC_0150

The carrier bracket seems a little chintzy (as do the lock brackets from most brands ), but the cable itself is lightweight. The bracket should be able to withstand this sort of weight. If you choose not to use the bracket, the cable coils up into a neat package for storage in your panniers or backpack.

As this is a cable, there was no point in attacking it with tools. I’ve seen (and experienced) much stouter cables cut with simple hand tools. Again, think of cable locks as a low-crime “quickie” or a backup to a beefier lock, and you’ll be fine.

Next up is the Force U-Lock:

DSC_0138

Specs from the manufacturer:

–Fusion U-lock
–Hardened steel body resists cutting, sawing and prying.
–Double locking shackle for superior pry resistance.
–Disc key for superior pick resistance.
–Vinyl coating for weather and scratch resistance.
–Carrier bracket included for convenient storage.

On paper, the 8170D seems like a good enough lock: good keyway type (disc rather than tubular) and the features one would expect from a sturdy bike lock. In practice, however, this one is perhaps not so tough. The first alarm bell was “hey, no anti-theft guarantee?” Surely, not all locks come with such a guarantee, but that guarantee has become the industry hallmark for a tough lock, and the lack of it should tell you something about the quality of any given lock.

Size-wise, the body is wide enough to swallow the front wheel, the frame and a secure post. Remember that the more space you take up within the U, the less room a thief’s prying tools have to work with.

DSC_0146

The mounting bracket, as may be expected, was fairly useless. I’ve never seen a serious cyclist use one, as most of them lack security over bumps or are made of flimsy materials. The included bracket here was no exception; it hogged a lot of frame space and comes with a cheap metal cam to secure the lock within the bracket’s body. I bent the cam lever the first time I used it and still couldn’t get the U-lock securely into its slot. Do yourself a favor: just bungee the lock to your rear rack, toss it into your pannier, or do as I do and leave a U-lock at all your common lockup points (I’ve got U-locks scattered all over the city).

DSC_0156

Now, onto “destructive testing”. I’ve got a sizeable tool collection, and what I was going to try with this lock was a series of tests, starting with bolt cutters, then a hacksaw, then a prying tool or bottle jack, and finally an electric cutoff wheel. First up: 24″ bolt cutters with a jaw capacity of 10mm.

DSC_0157

Let’s get something clear right up front — many of you know that I am not a particularly large or muscular person. At my heaviest, I weigh somewhere under 150 pounds. Well, it came as a shock, then, when I applied a bit of force to the handles of my bolt cutters, I could feel the jaws digging right into the steel of the U-bar! I peeled off some of the vinyl coating and discovered two clear indentation in the steel. I moved my tool over to the other side of the shackle, braced one cutter handle against the ground and pumped a couple times with about 50% of my body weight. SNAP! The jaws clamped shut onto empty space!

DSC_0160

At this point, the lock was defeated; so rather than trying the other tools, I called it a day.

Let’s be clear about another important point: ANY lock can be defeated given enough time and and arsenal of tools. The toughest lock on Earth is no match to an electric cutoff wheel…but in my humble opinion, a U-lock should be able to withstand a fairly casual application of bolt cutters. Let’s say, then, that this Masterlock U should only be used for “moderate security”…perhaps where there is nosy foot traffic near the lockup point, or a lowish-crime area. This is NOT an overnighter’s lock, in other words.

Retail price for each lock is right around $16.00. That’s pretty cheap! Are there better locks on the market? Of course — in the lock world, you do get what you pay for. Both of these locks are suitable for casual, quick lockups…but neither lock would I trust to secure my prized bikes overnight or in high-crime areas.

Not sold on these models, but are a fan of the brand itself? Have no fear: Masterlock does have a number of other locks in its stable, including stout ones with sizeable anti-theft guarantees. Check out the rest of their lineup by visiting their website.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.