A Cyclist’s Best Friend

Going on long cycling tours or even cycling regularly, people come to rely on and appreciate how important a cycling helmet is to their safety. Swedish car manufacturers Volvo have seen this and are looking to tap into the mobile market and cycling sector with one foul swoop.

At the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this month, they launched a wearable technology prototype that allows two-way communication between cyclists and nearby drivers. The helmet has been designed to help eliminate the risk of accidents on the road involving cyclists who are ill-protected against vehicles when surrounding by ever-changing external variables.

Volvo worked with sports equipment manufacturers POC and telecommunication heavyweights Ericsson, to design the helmet that will sync with their vehicles. Together they have created a complex “cloud-based system to alleviate the growing number of cycling-related collisions and deaths,” annually according to online design magazine Dezeen.

The helmet will also allow cyclists to research certain roads through the sharing of user information and experiences regarding territories they have cycled in. When cycling, the device will send alerts to drivers when they are too close to the cyclists. Volvo’s vice president had this to say about the helmet:

“The partnership between Volvo Cars, POC and Ericsson is an important milestone in investigating the next steps towards Volvo Cars’ vision to build cars that will not crash.”
“But now, by exploring cloud-based safety systems, we are getting ever closer to eliminating the remaining blind spots between cars and cyclists and by that avoid collisions.”
The cyclist will be located by the driver’s cloud system via the cyclist’s smartphone through apps such as the hugely popular Strava. The cyclist will then be notified of the driver’s presence and the driver of the cyclist’s, via a heads-up notification projected to the display system. If a crash is imminent both parties are signalled immediately.

Volvo says, “the system will become even more useful when visibility is at a low or when road conditions aren’t ideal.” Although still in its early stages the trio of developers believe the prototype will be ready for the market later in 2015. By jumping on the surge of smartphone usage globally, which the developers of Pocket Fruity say is at an all-time high of 17% globally, they believe that this will become the ideal gadget to help keep cyclist and motorists safe on the road for the smartphone community across the world.

I’m always interested to see how people are going to design a headlight.  OxyLED has taken the concept for designing a headlight nocturnally.  The BL15, when you open the packaging, looks like an owl.  Owls are typically nocturnal in nature.  It was intriguing to see that OxyLED would develop a headlight around this animal.  Jumping right in…

The packaging of the light was nice.  A good move on OxyLED’s part, because they’re up against some heavy hitters in this category.  If you’re looking for name brand bike lights in the 1500 lumen range, you’re going to be looking at Serfas, Light & Motion and Gloworm (although the Light & Motion got pretty bad reviews) and they will all be $350+.  It’s important for OxyLED to pay attention to these finer details when their target audience for this light will be riders expecting quality products.  My only complaint here was that the instructions were printed on a single side of the page.  We’re bikers.  We care about the planet (for the most part)!  That and the instructions had no indication on how to turn the strobe on.  Or where the power button was.  Or where the mode button was.  Or any pictures that would show how to use the light, for that matter.  If you’re going to leave some blank paper, you may as well fill it up and make use of it, so the user doesn’t have to guess.

Speaking of how the light functions, it wasn’t hard to figure out.  There are only two buttons and within 15 seconds, I figured out that the button on the left was the Power button, the button on the right is the Mode button and that long pressing the Mode button gives you the strobe option.  Make sure to plug the battery pack in before you use the light.  Like most electronics with a battery, the batteries do best when they start out with a full charge.  I left the battery pack plugged in overnight to prep for testing the next day.  The wall adapter conveniently tells you (with a green or red LED) when the battery is charging (red) or when it is complete (green).

Once the battery pack was charged, I had to play around with it a bit to see how dang bright this thing is.  Whoa!  1500 lumens is a lot of light!  I was getting antsy to get out on my bike at night after seeing how it lit up my garage.  The light provided a nice, clean white light when turned on.  Then, I realized that I had two other modes to cycle through.  I had been on the lower mode.  The BL15 kicks out some crazy light.  I tested the strobe next and nearly got sick.  It is very  strong and quick.  When the light is this bright and the strobe is that fast, it made my head spin a bit, so I quickly set it back to full-on.

I didn’t notice the light getting over heated while I was testing it.  There is a safety check on the light that will automatically dim when the light is overheating.  I’ll take note of this to see how often this happens (or if at all).

The BL15 comes in a variety of colors to match your bike.  You can check them out on Amazon in Black, Yellow and Blue.

You may be asking yourself the same question at this point: how long is this light going to last?  It only costs $40, which means that you can buy it on Amazon and get it shipped for free to your house.  This will save you about $310 over buying a brand name light that kicks out the same amount of light.  I intend to answer this question for you and will report back in the next couple of weeks.  Check back then for my update.


So, I’ve been using this light for the past couple of weeks.  I’ve got to say that I am very pleased with this light!  This light is bright; super bright.  This light will set you back $40.  This light isn’t that heavy (25 ounces).  Yes, it is measured in ounces; not grams.  This light is awesome, though.  Let’s dig in.

The price of this is $40.  Yes, I said it again.  $40 for 1500 lumens of “I’m going to light up everything in the path goodness”.  And it really lights everything up.  I most likely would have ridden right past this (link is slightly gory) had it not been for the OxyLED BL15.  Check other lights out at your local bike shop or major retailer.  See what you’re going to pay for 1500 lumens.

My next concern, of course, is the expected life of this light.  So, I asked OxyLED.  They kindly responded to my question stating that this light will last “over 3 years”.  Keep in mind that this is an unofficial statement from a company representative.  It was also pointed out in this email that you will get this expected life if you make sure to protect the electrical components of the light system (don’t leave the battery with a low charge for a long time and don’t overheat the light).  At $40, anyone has the correct concern that they’re buying a low quality product.  I did not get the impression that this was a low quality light.  Are there things that I would change on it?  Sure.  I’m a picky engineer and can usually find something that should be improved on a product.  Nothing is perfect.

Now you’ve heard the pros about this light.  What is wrong with it (or could at least be improve)?  Most importantly:  there is no side illumination on this light.  None.  See the image below.  The only light that you can see coming from the BL15 is headed straight forward.  The design of this would clearly accommodate some side illumination.  This is a machined aluminum housing (very nice, I might add) with two CREE LED’s.  A simple change to the housing design to move the side wall back, change the LED casing to remove some of the side wall and angle both of the CREE LED’s out by about 5 degrees.  All of a sudden, you have some side illumination and a net loss of forward light at pretty much zero.  This would improve safety dramatically.


No side illumination.

No side illumination.

The second thing that I did not like about this light were the mounts.  Were they difficult?  Not at all.  They were surprisingly simple and this was great.  But during my testing, I went down some stairs (on purpose) on my road bike and off of a curb (again, on purpose).  In both cases, the light moved to a less than optimal (sometimes very much so) position.  I had to reposition the light so that it illuminated the path in front of me again.  I immediately thought of the promotional picture in OxyLED’s instructional pamphlet of this light mounted on a mountain bike.  Yeah, right! is what I thought.  I would have rattled this light upside down on my handlebars on a mountain bike.

The battery mount was a bit better.  It was basically a 2″ wide Velcro strap that held the battery onto your frame.  Simple and effective.  It didn’t move at all and the Velcro strap held the excess wiring.

Battery pack mounted on frame.

Battery pack mounted on frame.

In regards to the battery, I have not had the battery fail on me or die yet.  I’ve used it about 5 hours on high and am still going.  This seems like a pretty good deal to me.  Especially when you can remove the battery pack easily from your bike, plug it in overnight and be ready to ride the next day with a full charge.

At the end of the day, I’m really happy with this light.  The weight is probably the biggest detractor for this light.  700 ounces is a lot for any cyclist paying attention to the weight on their bike.  For those that don’t (like me), it doesn’t matter.  You’re not going to notice the extra pound compared to the $400 model lights.  You’re going to enjoy the extra 0.75 pounds of dollar bills still in your wallet (I did the math).

If you’re looking for a very bright light for little cost that will last you a few years, I would highly recommend this light.

If you’re interested in other light products, Hisgadget (maker of the OxyLED BL15) is having a holiday sale. You can find their deals here.

Monkeylectric contacted me.  Man, was I excited!  I have known about their wheel lights for a long time and have thought that they are a very clever concept to increase your visibility on your bicycle.  It’s fall season right now and Day Light Savings just ended in the US.  It’s dark.  It’s rainy (Pacific NW!).  Having something like the M204 monkeylight on my bike is going to be awesome!  At least I think.  Let’s find out.

I got the package yesterday.  It was small and light and just as expected: a manila shipping envelope.  I ripped it open and pulled out the M204.  There’s not much to this system (which is great).  Monkeylectric has done a decent job of minimizing the amount of packaging that is used here.  They’ve doubled the folding external brochure to include all of the information on the system and the basic concepts to run it.  Installation procedures and warnings come on a separate piece of paper in very easy to understand pictures.

According to the informational kit, this system kicks out 40 lumens (not much), has 4 LED lights, has full color capabilities, can be seen in a 360 degree view, is waterproof and has 5 color themes.  That’s a lot of things.  Let’s dig into them, shall we?


Basic functions.

First off, 40 lumens isn’t a whole lot for most bike light applications.  But, let’s be honest.  You’re not going to rely on this light system to illuminate the dark path in front of you while you’re riding home at night.  The M204 may help light the path, but if you’re looking for something to light up a path, you’d better look for something else.  This 40 lumens is meant to illuminate your (typically) dark sides (bonus points for those of you thinking about Star Wars, right now).  Because most bike lights are focused on illuminating things in front of you and putting a light behind you so people can see you, you’re sides are typically left bare (and dark).  This is where the M204 steps up to shine.

The 4 LED lights make the pattern variations possible.  I think that this design is very clever.  It’s simple, functional and gets the job done.  This equates to good design in my book.  You can adjust the 4 LED’s cycle by pressing the power button.  There are 2 modes here: full and strobe.  The strobe setting doubles your battery life (and my cause a seizure).  There is a full range of color capabilities with these LED’s and the only place that you’ll see it is in one of the 5 color themes that are pre-programmed.

My initial impression of the system is positive.  It’s a great little package that gets the intended job done.  After playing with it a bit tonight, I could see people being interested in making their own custom designs.  If that person is you, I would recommend that you check out their light systems for professionals.  At $895.00, this isn’t anything to scoff at.  The example designs are amazing, though!

I’ll update this post later after I’ve used the light for a couple of weeks.  Check back then!

You can see the M204 and more of what Monkeylectric has to offer by visiting their website here.


Alright, I’m back to give you an update after monkeying around with this light.  Putting this light on my bike was pretty straight forward.  The only problem that I had with the installation was the fact that my spokes were too wide near the rim to get the light very far out towards the tire.  I think that this would be the optimal position for mounting this type of light because the speed of the wheel (revolution) is the fastest at this point (diameter).  You can see in the picture below, I was only able to mount the light plate about four inches from the hub.

Light plate mounted.

Light plate mounted.

With the light mounted in this position, I was fairly disappointed in the look of the light as I was riding.  I don’t think I’m the slowest rider (definitely not the fastest), but the revolution of the light at this position did not look anything like most of the promotional images that Monkeylectric has.  And for this, I was disappointed.  I wanted to have this solid ring of color flashing around my wheel while I was riding.

Make sure to wrap all of the loose cable up.

Make sure to wrap all of the loose cable up.

As it was, the light only provided the best side lighting on the market.  Ho hum.  But seriously, if you’re looking for a light that will illuminate your side the best, this is a great option.  The light does spin around on your wheel and it does create a good visual for drivers that would be coming from your side so that they can see you better.

As you can see in the video above, the light is very visible (even at my fastest speed, haha).  However, it looks nothing like the solid stripe of light that is on most promotional material from Monkeylectric.

Using the light was really easy once it was mounted on my bike.  Everything stays mounted (thieves be damned) and you just click the handy buttons on the light to get to the right settings you want (light pattern/color and intensity).  Once set, you’re off for a fun night ride.  Even changing the batteries when they go out will be easy.  There is an easy screw off cap to remove and then you take the batteries out, pop in fresh (rechargeable, hopefully) batteries and you’re good.  If you want a more theft proof option, Monkeylectric does provide metal bands that can hold the system onto your wheel.  Just make sure to remove or lockup your wheel before leaving your bike.

Overall, this is a nice system.  Easy to setup, easy to use and it has the functionality that it is intended to provide.

Dorcy Hawkeye Tal Light

Dorcy Hawkeye Tail Light

When you get this tail light out of it’s packaging, you notice how large it is.  At 87mm x 50mm, it’s no skimp in the size arena.  And for most applications where you’re going to be using a tail light, this is not a bad thing.  It’s kind of the whole point of having a bright red light on the back of your bicycle.  You don’t want anyone to miss coming up on you and this light is going to let them know you’re in front of them.  This tail light also has the ability to be turned 90 degrees if you prefer your tail light to be viewed horizontally rather than vertically.  I’m not that picky, but it’s there if you want it.

I wanted to see the light on, so I grabbed the batteries that it came with (such a nice touch) and went to install them.  Dorcy needs to come up with a better way to get the clear face off of the base to insert the batteries.  It is ridiculously difficult to remove this clear cover and the entire time that I was trying to remove it, I was trying to not break the tabs or cut myself.  Just getting my fingernails in between the clear tabs and the base and putting pressure on the tabs to try and remove them hurt my fingernails (pansy!).  Once the batteries were wrestled in, the light worked great.  It was nice and bright and the reflective material helps the three internal LED’s illuminate the rest of the large body of the tail light.

Small plastic tab looks like it would be easy to break.

Small plastic tab looks like it would be easy to break.

There are three modes to this light: constant on, flashing on and off.  I love this.  Nobody needs to cycle through 10 different flashing patterns just because they are trying to turn their light off.  The button to cycle through the light modes is on the backside of the case and is not the easiest to access.  It would be nicer to have the button on the side of the case so that it was easier to access during riding.  I know that not everyone adjusts their light while riding, but even if you stop and have one foot clipped in, you may not want to completely unmount and having this button more accessible would be more convenient.

Power/Function Button

Power/Function Button

The mount is easy to place on your bike frame / seat post and comes with a couple of rubber spacers if needed.  The clip on the mount that holds the tail light in place is also easy to operate.  Just press it down and slide the tail light on / off the mount.

The design of this tail light is in stark contrast to the Dorcy Hawkeye headlight.  The headlight is a beautiful anodized aluminum piece while this tail light is all plastic.  It’s interesting that these are the only two cycling light products offered by Dorcy and they are so different in design.

I’ll be using it over the next couple of weeks and, as usual, will update this post when I have some real life experience with it.  Stay tuned and until then, check out Dorcy’s website for more information.


So after using this tail light a couple of times over the last few weeks, I’m left unimpressed.  I’m not saying that it’s a bad light at all.  It’s basic and it gets the job done and it’s what I expected.  Nothing more, nothing less.  I still wish that the button to turn the light off/on and change function were bigger and in a better location.  This is my personal preference, of course, but I can’t see how this wouldn’t be more preferential to the average rider.  Getting your hand back behind the light and finding the small button that sits flush with the back of the light was just inconvenient.

I didn’t notice any difference in the brightness of the light during my use over the last couple of weeks which means that the battery life is fairly decent for this light.  I would expect as much with it only running three, small LED bulbs.  Dorcy claims 100 hours with the light running steady and 200 hours when the light is blinking.  Very respectable for a tail light.

Long story short (TL;DR, for those in the know), this is an average tail light for people that aren’t picky.  If you don’t expect too much out of your light and you like Dorcy products (or aren’t particular about your brand), this light is going to work just fine for you.

You learn something new every day.  At least I do.  I just came across this video and was astounded(!) by the talent of the riders.

If the talent in this video didn’t blow your mind, perhaps you would like to know that cycleball has been a sport since 1893.  Or that it has had a World Championship played since 1929.  Or that a pair of brothers won that championship 20 times in 23 years.  Crazy.  I know.  Check out more on Wikipedia.

I’ve been looking for a headlight for my bike that’s a bit brighter and when Dorcy contacted me about their 220 lumen headlight, I was all too willing to check it out.  The mornings are still pretty dark when I get up to ride and my current Serfas USL-5 only puts out about 70 lumens.  This sufficed when I commuted on roads with very little traffic, but now that I live in a more populated area, I want something that illuminates the road/path/etc in front of me more so that I can see and be seen better.

Dorcy 41-4001 in package (aka 'It's Little House').

Dorcy 41-4001 in package (aka ‘It’s Little House’).

When I opened up the box from Dorcy International, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the light came with it’s own set of batteries.  I’ve always thought that it’s cheap of companies to sell a product that uses batteries and not supply you with a set of batteries that is probably only going to cost them a couple of bucks (or less).  Moving along, though.

The packaging is nice.  Definitely something that you would expect to see sitting next to other bicycle headlights.  I say this because Dorcy specializes in flashlights and hand held torches.  Once past the cardboard and PET packaging (not much of a struggle), I was met with the final product.

My first reaction was to how heavy the unit felt in my hands.  It’s solid.  A nice feeling if you don’t mind the added weight on your ride.  The whole unit (with clamp) is 185 grams.  Quite a bit more than the 37 grams that makes up the Serfas light I’m using.  The housing of the Dorcy light is machined aluminum and the do a good job of it.  It’s got a nice design and when removed from the handlebar clamp, it actually feels pretty good in your hands.  This is, of course, the second intent of this light.  It will double (as most bike lights do) as a flashlight.  This one just looks like a regular flashlight when it is off your bike.  I think that this is something that Dorcy does well.  This light transitions from one function to the other without looking awkward in either.

There’s a lot of wins for the Hawkeye so far.  Depending on your perspective and the type of biking that you do the pros and cons listed so far can sway your vote either way.  Here is where I feel that the unit falls short despite how you intend to use it.  The handlebar mount has a notched pull strap and a screw tensioner to make sure that the unit is tight on the handlebar.  This is where the overall weight of the design of this unit is a hinderance.  Because the unit weighs so much and because you are going to be riding a bicycle (typically not smooth riding), the headlight is going to be exposed to vibrations.  To accommodate these facts, Dorcy has to include two systems to make sure that the light stays in place.  The nice thing about this design (and most headlight handlebar mount designs) is that you don’t need to remove any existing handlebar hardware to mount the clamp.

I’ll be using the headlight for the next couple of weeks and will update this post with my thoughts.  Until then, check out more about Dorcy on their website.


I took a couple of night rides over the last two weeks to test out the Dorcy headlight and see how it fared against my current headlight.  My initial impression when I turned it on was great.  I was shining the light against my fence to see how bright it was and at 20 feet, the light was bright and lit up the necessary space in front of my quite well.  I was liking it so far!

Dorcy lighting up a fence!

Dorcy lighting up a fence!

Serfas lighting up the fence.

Serfas lighting up the fence.

As you can see from the images above that the Dorcy light is much more focused.  I was looking forward to a much better lit path.  But, as I got started on my ride, the intensity of the light just didn’t seem as much on the trail.  I’m not sure if my senses were dulled from the brightness that was cast on the fence or if the square light was changing my perception.

I stopped and took a couple of pictures of the light beam that was cast from both lights as a comparison.

Dorcy cast pattern (no laughing!)

Dorcy cast pattern (no laughing!)

Serfas cast pattern

Serfas cast pattern

As you can see, the Dorcy light puts a significant amount of light down on the path in front of you (albeit in an odd pattern).  The Serfas that I’m accustomed to using just didn’t put down as much light as the Dorcy.  And when you compare 70 lumens to 220 lumens, you would expect as much.

The square pattern was still something to get used to.  I wish that I could see a Dorcy headlight without the square pattern to compare it to a more standard pattern.  I think that it would be interesting to see the differences and to know why they chose the square pattern.

This light, being the beast that it is, will drain it’s batteries quite quickly.  Dorcy is stating only 2.5 hours and I bumped up against this.  I noticed the light dimming after extended use and will have to change the batteries for my next ride.  If you have a set of rechargeables ready, then this won’t be an issue for you.  For those of us that don’t have rechargeable batteries, this is going to have you going to Costco and getting the bulk pack to keep your commute well lit.

Overall, this is a great light.  It’s got a solid build, a great design and lights the path up nicely.  It’s going to cost you some batteries, but for running 220 lumens, this shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

I got the chance to get my hands on a pair of DZR’s Minna shoes.  I’ve reviewed the H2O’s by DZR and really like them for commuting in wet climates.  The Minna’s are a completely different set of shoes and, yet, DZR has managed to build some familiarity into them.

Unboxing the shoes (check out the gallery above for the complete unboxing) your first look is of DZR’s shoe box.  A cool cyclist take on what a shoe box should be: chain link side cut out with a view of a sprocket leaning up against a building wall.  To each their own.  It’s cool, and I like it.

DZR wraps their shoes in a light fabric in the box avoid any scratching and to provide a bit more protection.  This gets discarded pretty quickly to find the real deal underneath.  And honestly, the shoes look better in person.  Looking at them on DZR’s website doesn’t do these shoes justice.  I can say that I felt the same way about the H2O’s.  There’s something better about holding them in your hand and looking at them.  The different textures of the shoes work really well together.  The suede, rubber and natural leather work well together and give the shoe a nice, urban look.  Adding to the urban look is the artwork.  Unfortunately, the only people that are going to really appreciate this while the shoe is in use is…you.  You can’t see any of the cool art detail while the shoe is in use, but I would prefer it this way than to have the art showcased on the exterior of the shoe.  The art is cool, but it’s nicer to have it on the bottom and the inside of the shoe.

Installing the cleats on the shoes were easy. This did not take any great feat to accomplish; just a 5/32 allen wrench.  Once I had the cleats on, I had to test the shoes on my bike, naturally.  Mounting into the pedals was as easy as it should be.  The cleat cavity is nice and large so there is no interference with the pedals.  Riding around for the first time felt good, too.  The shoes had a nice stiff feeling when pedaling, and there wasn’t as much give as there was with the all leather H2O’s.

So far the Minna’s feel like a comfortable, solid urban cycling shoe.  I’ll post an update in a couple of weeks and give a fuller description of how they work in real life.  For now, check out more of the Minna’s on DZR’s website.


So, I’ve used the Minna’s for the last couple of weeks in both casual and riding situations. My first adventure in them was to the grocery store.  I slapped the shoes on my feet, attached the bike cart to my bike and off I went.  The clip in was smooth and easy, and once I got going on my bike, I pushed and pulled the shoes hard against the pedals to see how they reacted.  I was pleasantly surprised. The shoes felt solid pushing down against the pedals and responsively stiff in the upswing.  This was a welcome change from the rather loose feeling that the H2O’s give due to their leather construction.  The rest of the ride to the grocery store was rather fast paced after realizing the power transfer from my legs to the pedals was more efficient.

Walking around in the store with the shoes on went fine.  I was concerned with a potentially wet floor and the cleats creating an unsafe scenario, but this wasn’t the case.  The rubber tread kept my safe and upright the entire time.

I wanted to test the Minna’s out on a bit of a longer ride, too, so I took a13 miles ride to see how they fared.  Knowing that the shoes responded well when being pushed, I chose to start the ride out pushing both myself and the shoes.  Again, no hesitation here when pushing the shoes.  This was the only instance where I thought that the shoes could be better.  I don’t feel like they have been engineered/designed for long distance riding.  It may be due to the uppers material not being stiff enough and fatiguing my feet during the ride or it may be the fact that I’m riding a single speed a long distance.  Maybe neither the shoe nor the bike were setup for a longer ride.  It’s not a terrible pain, but it just gets uncomfortable by the end of the ride.

I wore the shoes around casually during the last couple of weeks and had zero complaints about them.  They were comfortable to wear around.  The only thing that you have to get used to is the stiff nylon sole that gives your step a spring.  Again, this is an energy transfer system, so energy in, energy out.  You have to get used to toeing off a bit harder to ‘feel’ like you’re walking normal.

I spoke with DZR about the care of the shoes.  They looked so nice coming out of the box, that I wanted to make sure that I knew how to take care of them.  As with most mixed material shoes, some soap and warm water will go a long way in keeping them clean.  If you want to go the extra mile and put something on them before you wear them, applying some leather conditioner on them will extend their life.  This obviously only applies to the leather areas of the shoe.

These shoes are definitely urban shoes.  They are meant to be worn in an urban setting, meant to be ridden in an urban setting and ultimately meant to be enjoyed in an urban setting.  I found the shoes to be their most comfortable on rides less than 10 miles long.  Their look allows them to be worn with many different styles, too.

Find out more about the artist, Jeremiah Bal:


The Zixtro Spark from Alt Gear is a pretty good frame bag.  You get a good amount of room in the bag and a nice looking exterior design.  The styling on this bag is more in line with mountain bikers rather than commuters if you’re paying attention to that sort of thing.  If you’re looking for a good frame bag to store your gear, then read on!

First Impressions

The Zixtro Spark, like it’s little brother the Birdie, is water resistant to keep rain out of your bag.  From the moment I opened up the Spark, my eyes caught the large zipper grips.  My first thought was, “Well, that’s a bit excessive.”  And then I figured that this is most likely very handy when you’ve got your full fingered mountain biking gloves on.  After using the zippers, I love them.  I like that they’re easy to grab.  The oversize grip is also handy for when you need to grab something out when you’re on the go.  It might be bad form to suggest this, but what the hey.  If you have your cell phone in the bag and it’s ringing, you can easily reach in and grab it.

When I was opening the bag, I expected it to open just a bit more.  It seemed that the design should allow for this, but it felt like it was catching on something.  I think that if the zippers wrapped a bit further back, you would be able to open the case a bit more.  Both on and off the bike, I feel that the case should be able to open up a bit more than it does.

Once I looked inside the bag, I liked the layout for your tools and other belongings.  The case has a designated spot for your multi-tool…as long as it fits.  I’ve got a Topeak Alien and it was too big to fit inside the designated spot.  Sort of a poor waste of space at this point for me.  You can’t remove the walls to make room for something else.


The construction of the Spark seems lower quality than that of the Birdie.  The Birdie’s interior felt  like the cloth was better adhered and more durable than the Sparks.  This is only my gut feeling and time will be the better decider in this case.  The exterior is a much better build quality than the inside.  The seams are nicely done and the zipper is waterproof which earns this case some bonus points.  That’s one point where some companies would have skipped over, but Alt-Gear put in the extra bit to get waterproof zippers and I think it adds a lot.


The Spark installs very easily onto your bike.  Just slip the included Velcro straps through the loops on the bag and slide them around your frame.  Fasten everything up and you’re ready to ride.  Keep in mind, though:  Easy on, easy off.

Check out the video below to see how it looks installed.

Disclaimer:  This is not a paid review. Alt-Gear contacted me and asked if I would review some of their gear.  This review is as unbiased as a review can get when something new is given to you for free.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

I heard Internet rumblings about the new Scion tC television commercial that was just released and had to go watch it myself.  It’s pretty tasteless.  The basics of the video are that Toyota/Scion believe that bicyclists and small dogs attached to smart looking women on sidewalks are obstacles that you can deftly maneuver around while driving the new tC.

I tried to see it from a 16 year olds eyes and be irresponsible again.  I can see that it would be convenient to quickly move out of the way of an obstacle in the road that you’re about to hit, but why can’t that obstacle be a tree that has fallen?  Animate objects shouldn’t be considered obstacles to swerve around no matter what their IQ is (I’m thinking of the dog here).  Anything that could be injured and killed that is in your way in the road should be approached with caution and care so that you can safely pass that object when it is clear to do so.  I can’t think of any time while driving when the behavior in this commercial would be acceptable and not results in a traffic violation for reckless driving.

To see the video for yourself, click play below:

The Zixtro Birdie case has an interesting look to it.  The sharp design of the case gives it more of an extreme mountain biking look, but after sticking it on my bike, it looked right at home on a commuter.

First Impressions

When I opened up the packaging, I immediately noticed the design of the Zixtro Birdie.  It’s not something that will sit on your bike unnoticed, so keep that in mind.  I like the lid design, though.  It’s nice to have a full length, fairly rigid lid that opens up wide enough to get access to your tools/gear inside the case.  The Birdie’s design is meant to be water resistant since the lip of the lid comes over the body to keep rain out of your gear.


The build quality of this case seems to be decent.  The hinged lid, while not made of polypropylene like most polymeric live hinges, should hold up for a long time if it is not stressed during use.  Luckily, the design of the case allows the lid to be opened very easily and there is no need to pull the lid back far.  The interior of the case is fabric lined and has a fabric divider to keep goods separated.

The material is also waterproof so that if you find yourself riding in the rain sometimes, you don’t have to worry about things inside this case getting wet.  The lid clamps over the body and has a nice sturdy catch to keep it fastened tight.  If you don’t have many tools to carry in this case, I could imagine that it would be convenient to hold a cell phone and keys in the Birdie while out on a ride.  It would have to be a smaller cell phone, though.  My Samsung Galaxy SII wouldn’t fit inside the case, but a flip style phone would fit in easily.

The Birdie is big enough for a multi-tool, a tube and a few smaller things like a patch kit.  Figure on two larger things and a few smaller things being able to fit in here comfortably.


Putting this case on your bike is a breeze.  Keep that in mind, too, because taking it off is also very easy.  The Velcro straps that the Birdie comes with make the placement of this case very versatile.  I came up with five different configurations in three different locations on a bike that it would be convenient to put the case.  Two of those locations are pictured in the gallery above and the third would be on the back of the seat post attached to a free floating rain/mud guard.  My bike doesn’t have one of these installed, but if yours does you could take advantage of this option.

Check out the video below to see how it looks installed.

To see more cases, check out Alt-Gear.com.

Disclaimer:  This is not a paid review.  Alt-Gear contacted me and asked if I would review some of their gear.  This review is as unbiased as a review can get when something new is given to you for free.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

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