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?

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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.

Update:

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.

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.

Construction

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.

Installation

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.

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.

Construction

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.

Installation

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.

For all of you down-hillers, free-riders and otherwise speed seeking, thrill seekers, pull your ear buds out.  Whistler MTB park is opening up this Friday!  That’s right.  If you don’t have your bags packed right now, you need to (finish reading this post and then) get going.

If you have never been up to Whistler and ridden the trails that they have so lovingly prepared, you are missing out.  I’ve had the opportunity to ride those wonderful trails and it was a blast.  To see how everything comes together, check out the video below.

I found this video of some high school kids in Orlando, Florida starting a biking group dedicated to riding their bikes to and from high school.  Plenty of kids ride their bikes to and from school, so this story isn’t that spectacular.  What makes this story interesting is that they are doing it as a group and helping to bring bicycle awareness to their community.

It’s nice to see that a group of high school students is interested enough to start something so simplistic as this.  Not to say that organizing everything and keeping the group together isn’t simple, but riding your bike to and from school is a fairly basic task.  I also thought that it was nice to see the group leader giving instructions on how to properly ride the bike in traffic.

Check out their video below.

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I’ve been on a frame material kick lately and came across this concept bike that is being pushed into production.  As an avid rider, whenever I think of the perfect frame I think of something light, strong, slightly flexible and durable (doesn’t break easily on impact).  Steel is a good fit for these qualities and has sufficed for me in many of the bikes that I have ridden over the years.  Carbon has its place and aluminum has done a good job at proving that it has a (rather large) spot in the frame industry.

But what happens when something truly unique comes along?  The picture that you see above is the new Clarity Bike designed by designaffairs STUDIO.  It’s a bike frame made completely from plastic.  The original polymer was developed for military use and has some surprisingly good specifications for a bike application.  Impact strength is continually mentioned first on their blog.  I find this interesting as a first mention instead of strength.  They are not the same thing!  This is a critical point for a frame material.  In fact, reading through the post, I don’t see any mention of strength.  Impact strength in bike frame materials is a good specification to have highly rated.  No one wants a cracked frame.

They mention that it is ultra lightweight, but they don’t really give any hard numbers, instead merely mentioning that it has a lower density than polycarbonate or acrylic.  Acrylic is less dense than polycarbonate (33 versus 34 lbs/cubic foot), so this new material is in the low thirties.  Steel is around 150 which makes this material nearly 5 times less dense than steel. Not bad!  Keep in mind that this frame is injection molded, however, and the volume of the material in the frame is going to be higher because the tubing will be solid compared to the hollow, extruded tubing you’re used to in bikes.  If a bike were made of this material at some point in the future, you shouldn’t expect it to be 5 times less weight.

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designaffairs STUDIO mentions that the material has a ‘gentle flexibility’ to it and this is something that I appreciate as a regular commuter.  I need my bike frame to give a bit rolling over the road.

The cooler aspect of the potential of this material is the fact that you can just injection mold it.  This opens up a surprising range of design options for frame designers.  You can start integrating components into the frame or you can start adding modular systems to the bike to give it more functionality.  Aerodynamics would be easy to just design into the frame and wouldn’t create a difficult manufacturing process.

I think it is cool to see companies pushing the envelope with new materials and would be excited to see something like this make it to market.  If you’re still digging the idea, check out the picture below.  You can see the wall cracks continue through the frame.  Neat!

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The Defender Bike Light in Black

The Defender Bike Light in Black

Bike lights are an essential part of biking.  The topic of lighting is discussed quite a bit on this site.  Everyone that bikes near a time when the sun is going up/down needs to be seen better or see better.  There are lots of ways of accomplishing this, but the more common lights are easily stolen from your bike.  If you ride in the city, this is surely a problem for you.

Enter Gotham Bicycle Defense Industries and their Defender Bike Light.  The company was started by Slava Menn and Brad Geswein after Slava became frustrated with the number of times his bike light was stolen from his bike.  They both have backgrounds in engineering and set out to design a light that was more theft resistant than current offerings.  The Defender Bike Light attaches to your handlebars and features a security bolt (what I’m assuming is a security Torx bolt based on this image).  True this is much more difficult for a person to remove compared to the light that I currently use.  But in reality, nothing is completely theft proof and people that want to steal bike lights will find a way.

The upside to the Defender Bike Light is that it is one of the hardest to steal lights and the only better option is to weld a light to your bike so that a thief would need to either steal your whole bike (not the best option) or bring an angle grinder to remove the light.

You can check out the development of the light in the video below.

Revolights sideview

Revolights sideview

Revolights started as a Kickstarter campaign and has since gone into full production.  The lighting system is a unique approach to providing your bike with side lighting to increase your visibility during night time riding.  This is an inherent problem with night time biking.  Typical bike lights focus the light that they are putting out front and back instead of to the side.  Even if the light that you have has a design that allows light to come out the side, it is most likely a minimal amount.

Revolights intends to change that with a unique lighting system.  The whole system weighs a bit under 13 ounces per wheel and can mount to any 700C or 27″ rim with the provided hardware.  The battery mounts to the hub and cables run up the spokes to the LED light strips.  A magnet mounted on the fork provides positioning information to the system so that the LED’s know when to turn on/off.  All in all, this is a great idea and the look that it provides is cool enough for even hipsters to enjoy.  🙂

As unique of an approach it may be, I think that the current offering of reflective strips around tires may be a better option.  For one, the reflective strips are offered on a fairly wide array of tires these days.  This makes for a much less expensive solution to this problem.  A bikers main concern at night is being hit by a car at night.  The only way that I see a car not seeing you from the side with reflective strips is if they are driving with their lights off.

Initially the Kickstarter project only allowed interested parties to purchase the entire set and Revolights are now offered separately as front and rear units.  If you have some cash laying around and do a lot of night biking, you can pick up a single set for $139.

This isn’t the only way of drawing more attention to yourself at night with LED’s on your wheels.  If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative and don’t care about the clean lines of the Revolight, you may want to consider looking at the offerings of MonkeyLectric.  They offer two alternatives in different varieties of colors for $75 and $50.

Despite this drawback of cost, I still think it is a cool idea.  Check out the video of the product in action:

Revolights. Join the revolution. from revolights on Vimeo.

For FAQS and additional information check out http://Revolights.com.

Baz Ratner / Reuters

Forget carbon fiber.  The next bike that you ride on may be made of cardboard.  An Israeli inventor, Izhar Gafni, is moving closer to mass producing his cardboard bicycle.  18 months of development has led Izhar to discovering a ground breaking bicycle design.  Once in the market, it will sell for close to $20 and weigh close to 20 pounds.  65% lighter than most metal bikes.  The tires are made of reconstituted rubber and the ‘chain’ is a car timing belt.

How will it hold up in weather being made of cardboard?  According to Gafni,

“Once the shape has been formed and cut, the cardboard is treated with a secret concoction made of organic materials to give it its waterproof and fireproof qualities. In the final stage, it is coated with lacquer paint for appearance.”  

All in all, this makes for a truly ground breaking design and something that I am interested in looking at more closely once it comes to market.  Check out the video of Izhar constructing the bicycle below.

UPDATE: More pictures of the bike and a link to Izhar Gafni’s Cardboard Technology website.

Mr. Gafni preparing a wheel.

 

Everyone needs some help now and then and the folks over at Made Good have your back when it comes to providing bike repair guides online.  Featuring a comprehensive library of bicycle repairs, this is the place to go if you are in need of a great description of what to do.  Not only that, they provide a walk through video and step-by-step instructions with images.

The one thing that captured me was the simplicity in the entire site.  They layout of the site makes it easy for you to find what you need quickly.  Starting out, the bike that you see on the home screen allows you to click on a region of the bike (which then highlights) to take you to repair guides for parts associated with that region.  You can of course search for a particular repair guide in if you know what you’re looking for.  If you are in the mood for browsing, there are some popular repair guides displayed as well.

There is a community section on the website too that allows you to connect to other users to ask questions or chat about the guides on the site.  This section of the website is where the people behind the site hope to see users collaborating and contributing to the biking community.

All in all, a very cool site that offers a lot of quality information.  I would have loved to have this information when I was a kid!

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