Bicycles and headlights have had a relationship as fraught with unhappiness as Liz Taylor and each of her last 14 or 15 husbands. Cyclists have suffered weak lights with no staying power but were easily mounted, weak lights with plenty of staying power that were difficult to mount, powerful lights that had no staying power but were difficult to mount and occasionally powerful lights with great staying power that took forever to mount and ate up a bottle cage and weighed more than a regulation bowling ball.
As a set of choices, they all left plenty to be desired.
I don’t mind admitting that my core philosophy states that if the sun is not yet up or has gone down for the day, I need to be off the bike. Call that a bias if you like, but I couch it terms of self-preservation because if something doesn’t get me in the dark on the road, I still have plenty to fear when my wife looks at me and asks (in her most disdainful tone), “You were riding where? When?
But riding at the margins of the day, when I’m least likely to be missed means that this time of year, it’s a good idea to have some lights to try to notify less than fully awake drivers that I, too, am on the road and would like to survive the experience. A guy can dream, right?
What I learned some years ago was that the darker it is, the less powerful the light needs to be to illuminate your way. I was working on a light buyer’s guide with co-workers and found that the lights that didn’t seem to be on at dusk were pretty effective at midnight. The converse was the real eye-opener, though. Only the most powerful lights could be perceived as helping illuminate your path at dusk. It takes a lot more power to overcome the ambient light available and the relative dilation of your pupils to pierce dusk than full dark.
That was a disheartening realization for a simple reason. I’m far more likely to be caught out getting home late for a ride and need riding them than I am to need enough lighting to help me ride to the midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Only the most expensive lights would help. Dang.
The 2012 Interbike show is scarred in my memory because that was the occasion when I made the mistake of staring at a 1000 lumens Lezyne Mega Drive when it was turned on. The entire convention center went fluorescent purple as my retinas attempted to recover. Wow.
Here’s what I hate about most lights: They don’t last long enough. They are hard to mount and remove. They are awkward thanks to cables that have to be strung to battery packs. And as previously mentioned, only depleted uranium is heavier. They are crazy expensive. The Mega Drive solves almost all of these issues.
The light features four modes: the 747 landing-light-esque 1000 lumens, which will go for 1.5 hrs; then there’s the enduro mode which offers a remarkably effective 500 lumens for 2.5 hrs; there’s the economy mode that offers 250 lumens (bright enough for a slow ride on a bike path in darkness) for a whopped in 5.5 hrs; finally, there’s a 250 lumens flashing function that will last for 10 hours—long enough to ride a Tour de France stage at night. It comes with quick-to-mount clamps for either 25.4mm or 31.8mm bars and the mount includes a swivel that will allow you to point the light to the exact spot ahead of your bike where you most want the light, not a foot to the right or the left.
Did I mention that it has the good fortune to look like something that would power Billy Blastoff’s next moon mission? It’s space-agey in a funnily retro ways, but that corrugated surface has actual engineering behind it; the casing is the light’s heat sink. My light, with 31.8mm clamp weighs all of 287g. I’ve eaten bananas that weighed more than that.
The battery is in the light, not at the end of some damn spiral cable nor does it take up a whole water bottle cage. The quick release mount means that it’s easy not just to do a ride without the light, but also to recharge it with a USB cable.
The rides I’ve done with this light have gone so well I’ve literally ceased to notice that I’m riding at night. While I’ve tried the light on the enduro mode, my rides in darkness have been short enough that I haven’t seen the point in cutting the power. Another liability of weak lights is that if you ride fast enough, you’ll outrun the light, meaning that you reach what enters the beam faster than you can process it. I can say with some authority that’s a bad thing if your path is being crossed by bunny rabbits. Been there, almost hit that. I’ve not ridden with another light that didn’t frustrate me at some level.
True story: Our son went missing at home a few months ago. While my wife looked for him, frantically waving a flashlight in closets, I grabbed the Mega Drive and used it in my search because … well because it was brighter than our flashlight.
Okay, so it’s $199.99. That’s not cheap. I won’t argue the point. But this is the first light I’ve run across where I saw the light (was blinded by it, actually) and then figured it was worth every cent.
I still don’t like riding at night, but thanks to the Mega Drive, I’m not so frightened anymore.
I doubt very much the team that dreamt up the Ziploc snack-size baggy ever considered that it might be used to protect a device worth hundreds of dollars, rather than dispensing munchies. The fact remains: The #1 protector of iPhones that I see in use by cyclists is the Ziploc bag. At least, that’s what I see here in Southern California, where protecting a smart phone is an afterthought of less importance than, say, zipping your fly after a trip to the bathroom. During my recent trip to Memphis, however, I saw nary an iPhone in anything other than a water-resistant Otter Box. The combined effect caused me to wonder if I was in a city populated by nothing but ex-Navy SEALs.
I’ve wanted something that could offer my phone a bit of protection while also allowing me to keep track of a credit card and some cash. Something that made me look, well, look less homeless than using a plastic bag did.
I ran across the Lezyne Phone Wallet at Interbike and it was one of those revelations that is just what makes the show such a great adventure. I’ve been using one on rides where there’s a chance that I’ll stop for coffee. It’s got pockets for three cards (enough for a hotel room key plus two credit cards), a pleated pocket to hold some cash (and keep any change separated from the glass of your smart phone) and a zippered compartment for your smart phone. The zipper is water resistant and the seams around it are welded; add to that the water-resistant nylon material the wallet is cut from and you have something that offers at least as much protection from water as a baggy, not to mention it’s a good deal more functional.
The zippered cash compartment and the card pockets are contained in a flap that closes (thanks to Velcro) over a clear panel in the case so that you can actually use the phone a bit without removing it from the wallet. Not that you can place a call that way (trust me, I tried), but you can read a text message or email; hell, you can update your status on Facebook if you’re so motivated.
I try not to be. Motivated in that way, I mean.
The wallet is big enough to hold an iPhone 4 or 5 or any of the other myriad devices that you typically see. That flexibility of use is, unfortunately, the device’s only downfall. It measures roughly 5.5 inches by 3.5 inches—big enough that you are unlikely to get anything other than this into a jersey pocket. That said, the wallet features a zipper pull with a large loop that makes it easy to yank the wallet from your pocket should you hear your phone ringing.
I’m hesitant to be too critical of an item that goes for $19.99 that is also a clear improvement over anything I’ve previously used. Picking on this would be like complaining about a $2 slice of pizza—how bad can it be? It’s $2 and it’s pizza!
I like the Phone Wallet. I have to be honest though and say I’d like it a bit more if it were a bit smaller and more specifically adapted to my model of phone. Given the ubiquity of iPhones, it seems like it wouldn’t be a bad investment to offer iPhone 4- and 5-specific models alongside this more generic version. A snugger fit would make it easier to use the phone inside the wallet and leave a bit of room in that jersey pocket so you can stash a bit more food.
Thank heaven someone is thinking creatively about how to organize your stuff.
A seat bag occupies a curious space within the life of a cyclist. It’s usefulness is in direct proportion to its hideousness. The bigger they are, the less attractive they are. You want one that will carry all the items necessary to get you out of a jam, but no one wants the cycling equivalent of an expedition backpack hanging off their saddle, unless maybe they are actually on an expedition.
If that’s not enough to make you wrestle with what seat bag will best suit your needs, then consider the way that little velcro strap that goes around the seatpost has a habit if just brushing the inside of prized bib shorts. Those first couple of pulls multiply until you have the equivalent of leg fleece. Eventually the leg fleece gives way to a hole. Back when I raced and got several new pair of cheap bibs every season, it wasn’t a big deal. These days, with good bibs running upward of $150, that first pull is a tantrum inducing event.
This past spring I ran across the Micro Caddy from Lezyne. It comes in two sizes, small and medium. The small, shown above, is just big enough to hold a tube, a CO2 cartridge and adapter, plus a mini tool in the small pocket on the under side of the bag. It’s the sort of bag useful for the morning group ride. The medium is But that’s not why I fell in love with it. The Micro Caddy uses to neoprene straps that fit around the seat rails—nothing wraps around the seatpost. It’ll never put a pull in your prized bibs. The medium has the same circumference, but just runs a bit longer. You can fit a second tube in it. Because the straps are made from neoprene, they stretch. Should you suffer a flat out on the road, the straps will compress the bag to keep any leftovers in it from clinking around and making you think your cassette locking is loose (been there, wondered that).
Whether you go for the small ($20) or the slightly longer medium ($25), it’s a foolproof way to take better care of something that matters far more than what hangs off your saddle—your bibs.
The big news from Cervelo wasn’t exactly earth-shattering, but it was good news nonetheless. The company’s S5 model, their very quick aero road frame is now available in the company’s relatively recent VWD variant. The upshot here is that the S5 should now have a livelier presence on the road. Also, the company debuted any number of new finishes, which if there has been one thing about Cervelo that can get really old it’s that the company can go years without changing a paint scheme. Not only are the new finishes, well, new, but I think they are pretty good looking and some of them even forego the clearcoat that covers almost all of their work, which is another step in the right direction in terms of road feel.
Race-winning bikes are always fun to check out at Interbike and Cervelo didn’t miss the opportunity to show off Ryder Hesjedal’s rig from his recent Giro win. Take a moment, if you would, to look at the incredible amount of seatpost showing on this 56cm frame as well as the 14cm tiller keeping the handlebar in place. I couldn’t help noticing, either that with the Di2 batter in its spot, the seat-tube-mounted water bottle cage is too low to allow the water bottle to be fully inserted. That’s a small oops in an otherwise amazing bike and crazy PRO fit. How anyone can ride that low and still climb remains a mystery to me.
I saw a bunch of new bags at Lezyne (rhymes with design). Given the cost of a decent pair of bibs—let alone the cost of an amazing pair of bibs—I’m unwilling to use a seat bag that features a Velcro strap that wraps around the seatpost. My favorite designs that qualify are from Fi’zi:k and Lezyne and this new design shown on the white bag above uses a clamp that secures to the saddle rails and allows the seat bag to be removed as easily as some bike computers. No rattle, no Velcro.
Also new at Lezyne were a couple of smart phone bags that allow you to protect your smart phone while maximizing the space in your back pocket. In insulating the phone while combining a few pockets with the overall carrier, plus adding a loop of webbing for ultra-quick retrieval, they created one of the most useful and truly new products I saw at the show. Well done.
The Mega Drive light, shown above, foreground, is a 1000 lumens light that will last for 1.5 hrs. At 500 lumens it will go for three hours, while on the 200 lumens setting it will last a whopping seven hours. All for $200. I suspect this light and the many other new lights in Lezyne’s line will be cast in the roles of game changers. We pointed the light at the roof of the convention center while on the 1000 lumens setting; it was bright enough at that distance to reveal that the Sands could use a serious dusting above the 60-foot elevation. I’m just sayin’.
File this one under “Not Dead Yet.” The GF02 is a new bike from BMC. It takes the design concepts used in the carbon fiber gran fondo bike, GF01—such as the whispy, flexing seat stays—and translates them into an aluminum frame. Yep, aluminum. This Red-equipped bike weighed in under 16 lbs. The production bike will be sold with choices of Red, Ultegra Di2, Ultegra or 105 and will bring BMC’s work into a new, more affordable price tier.
Chrome has been the go-to brand for the urban commuter since essentially the brand’s inception. They’ve expanded their offerings over the years into clothing, some urban-oriented technical wear and now they even offer shoes. Everything I saw from them at the show seemed really solid, but the items that most impressed me were their new series of camera bags. The open bag on display here will carry a couple of camera bodies as well as lenses and has a pocket (note where the hand is slipping into the bag) that will fit a 15″ laptop. There are waterproof pockets for your SD cards and given that it zips open like butterfly wings, everything within the bag is easily accessible. I don’t really want to carry that much camera gear while riding a bike (I mean, I seriously don’t want that much camera gear on my body, ever, but if it was, I wouldn’t want to have to ride a bicycle at the same time) but I concede that there are times when nothing else would be as practical. In those instances, this bag looks as well-thought-out as any I’ve ever seen.
A Personal Note
For each of the last 20 years I’ve gone to Interbike with the stated intention of seeing the latest and greatest the bike industry has to offer. When I went to my first show, in Atlantic City back in 1992, it really was just to see the bike stuff. I was eager to see all the stuff the shop I worked for wasn’t carrying. Every time I could get someone to acknowledge me and walk me through their products it was a kind of victory. Heck, back then, I really didn’t even know what questions to ask.
At a certain point in my education I began to understand how to ask the right questions, questions that showed I not only was interested in the product at hand, but understood the challenge of creating a competitive product within that category, which would lead to questions like, “Why did you decide to go with the full zip rather than the 3/4 invisible zip?” It was an opening for someone to talk about who they were as a company.
It took a while but there came a point when I realized that no matter how many of those questions I asked, I really hadn’t built a relationship with any of the staff at those companies. It wasn’t until we allowed the conversation to veer off-topic, into the riding we did, the traveling that’s not for work, where we live or family and heritage. These days, those are the conversations I live for. That’s where the magic happens, where you can really have a laugh. Robot and I spent some time in the Gita booth talking with creative director Jenny Tuttle. Gita is based in Charlotte, North Carolina, which gave us a chance to talk about the South and Southern Vernacular, in particular the obvious difference between saying “y’all” and “all y’all.” And we may have even bonded over the insane usefulness of a statement like, “All y’all are full of shit.” I didn’t know Jenny before that day, but I walked out of their booth convinced she’s my kinda peeps.
When I was young, I used to think that talking family was kind of a copout, like you had run out of more important stuff to talk about. Some years passed between when I understood what talking family meant and when my son was born and with the advent of Facebook, there was a lot of talk of kids at the show. Crazy what kind of fun that is. That said, the most memorable and even most visceral conversation I had at the show was with a group of guys in the Enve booth where the talk of the number of kids inevitably turned to talk of controlling the number of kids. Yes, the big V. And I don’t mean victory. One among us had done it and I can assure you no talk at the show caused anyone to to squirm more or laugh harder than I did that morning.
Multiply one guy by three days by more than 100 exhibitors who rank somewhere between curious and fascinating and the result is a negative number. The show really can’t be fully digested that way. When I left the floor of Interbike Friday afternoon, I had more questions than when I entered. The list of products I am dying to ride is too long to prioritize.
The number of companies that didn’t display on any level was much greater than I previously understood. I had assumed that Ochsner Imports, an importer with a number of interesting lines, would be present, but they had no booth. More than a few companies had smaller booths than in previous years.
The question of the relevance of the show was further called into question by the number of exhibitors taking orders at the show. I spoke with but one exhibitor who had taken orders in meetings with retailers.
One of the biggest trends illustrated at Interbike was the number of European companies that now own their American distributorship as a subsidiary. Sidi has formed a new U.S. distributorship, as has the German bike manufacturer Focus, whose Izalco was one of the freshest takes on bike design I saw all week. Despite occupying a distant corner of the show floor, the Focus booth enjoyed an ongoing stream of visitors.