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Orp Smart Horn: The Most Anticipated Cycling Product Of The Year

Orp Smart Horn (Smorn)

Orp Smart Horn (Smorn)

What does an inventor do when they have a great idea for a new product but lack the funding to bring it to market? Many inventors turn to Kickstarter, a website where they can promote their idea and seek financial backers. Sometimes the backers donate money just because they think the project is worthwhile and other times they contribute enough to earn a few perks (anything from decals or a copy of the finished product, and all the way up to a trip to the manufacturing plant). Over the past few years I’ve helped back several projects that had to do with cycling, but the one I have anticipated the most is the new Orp Smart Horn.

Orp Smart Horn (Smorn)

Orp Smart Horn (Smorn)

The Orp Smart Horn {Smorn} is a “combination dual tone, high-decibel bike horn and front beacon light designed to make you more visible and hearable.” While the Orp is not in distribution yet, the specs for this item are fantastic! The Orp is smaller than almost any other bicycle light on the market, and the horn is louder than any bike bell could ever dream of being. The horn is activated by touching an ergonomic switch on the back of the device (the Wail Tail) and you can choose from either a friendly chirp (76 decibels) or a loud ear-splitting alert (96 decibels). The light on the Orp has 87 lumens and operates in several modes, including Slow Strobe, Fast Strobe, and Constant On. This product is also incredibly compact and lightweight (only 89 grams).

The Orp is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion power cell and should last from 6 to 12 hours, depending on the settings you choose to use. This battery recharges with a USB cable—which means you can just plug it into your computer to recharge it (great for commuters).

The suggested list price for the Orp Smart Horn is only $65 and it will be available in seven colors (Glorp, Aorta Red, Snot Green, Frostbyte, Safety Cone Orange, Wail Blue, and Asphalt Black).

 

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Looking At My Road ID In The Back Of An Ambulance

Like everyone says, “I never thought it would happen to me!” Two weeks ago I left home for a quick 50 mile bike ride and an hour later I was sitting in the back of an ambulance. I had ridden through the back roads of southeast Wisconsin and cut through a small, quiet neighborhood to avoid riding on a major highway. Less than a block into the neighborhood and guy in a large Ford work truck cut a corner too wide and we nearly had a head-on collision—I headed off into the gravel to avoid the grill of his truck. I yelled at the guy (hereafter known as The Jerk) and he slammed on his brakes, got out of his truck and started yelling at me. The Jerk told me that cyclists have no right to be on the road and that he was sick of them “ruining his neighborhood.” The Jerk was a lot bigger than me and had a face that resembled an armpit. As he was yelling I stood straddling my bike and out of nowhere The Jerk hit me in the chest with both fists—I was knocked off my bike with great force and hit the pavement hard, then rolled back into a side ditch. Even though I was a bit dazed I remember The Jerk yelling, “If I ever see you back in this neighborhood I am going to kill you!”

Road ID Dog Tags

Road ID Stainless Steel Dog Tags

Fortunately, a woman in the neighborhood saw what happened and called the police and an ambulance—the double punch to the chest knocked the air out of my lungs and I has having trouble breathing. A few minutes later an ambulance showed up along with a couple of great paramedics. While I really didn’t think I needed an ambulance, the paramedics insisted that I get “checked out” anyway. As they were checking my breathing the ambulance driver opened the door and told them to lock it because The Jerk was back. The punches to my chest and the impact of the fall triggered my first asthma attack in over ten years and as the paramedics were asking questions about my health I had trouble answering. It was at that point I was so happy I was wearing my Road ID dog tags. If needed, these tags could give all the needed medical information to the paramedics.

Road ID makes high quality stainless steel identification cards—depending on the style you choose, they can be worn on your wrist, ankle, shoe or around your neck. The information on the cards is laser engraved and this provides a very crisp and easy to read tag. I’ve worn Road ID products for a long time and would never go out for a bike ride without them. At first I used the ID that attaches to your cycling shoes, but about five years ago I switched to the dog tag version. Regardless of which tag your choose, it can be engraved with your basic emergency contact information.

Road ID tags start at around $20, and for only $10 a year you can add emergency response support, i.e., your tag will give paramedics and emergency room personnel a secure Website so they can get access to detailed medical information and emergency contact information for you (for when you cannot give the info yourself). The secure Website gives them as much information as you allow, but I have my health insurance information, allergies, name and address of my family doctor and a list of the medications I take on file.

In case you were wondering about what happened to The Jerk, I will finish the story. When I exited the ambulance I saw two police cars and The Jerk was sitting in the backseat of one of them (in handcuffs). Apparently, he admitted to the police that he hit me and when the cops ran his name they found out he was wanted on an outstanding warrant, so they cuffed him and were going to take him to jail—he could not get bailed out until he appeared before the judge who had issued the warrant.

The cops asked if I wanted to press charges. I would have said yes, but as I was talking to one of the cops The Jerk’s wife arrived (the police called her to take custody of his truck). Believe it or not, I had spoken to this woman back in March when she was teaching her little boy how to ride a bike! Even though she was crying because her husband was being taken away to jail for the outstanding warrant she came over to apologize for his actions.

I told the cops that I did not want to press charges against The Jerk. My reasoning was this: If the idiot had no problem hitting me then I’m sure he wouldn’t have any trouble hitting his wife as well. Since I didn’t want to make her life any more miserable than it probably already was, I decided not to press charges because I thought he would take his anger out on her when he got home. The woman thanked me and then said they had a fight just before he left the house that morning—which explained why he was in such a bad mood to begin with!

One more note: I have not told my wife about this incident yet and I am trying to think of the best time to do it. At the moment it seems like the day after she drops me off at the nursing home would be a good time.

 
149 Comments

Posted by on November 26, 2012 in Bicycle Safety, Product Reviews

 

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Illuminated Cycling Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light

You already know that you need a good taillight if you are going to ride your bike at night. However, the biggest problem with mounting a taillight on your seat post or seat bag is that they are situated fairly close to the ground. While the motorist directly behind you can see your taillight, the cars behind them can’t. They best way to increase your chances of being seen (and staying alive) is to use a helmet mounted light like the Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light from Illuminated Cycling.

Illuminated Cycling Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light

Illuminated Cycling Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light

The Fire Eye 2.0 light consists of a lightweight (63 grams) control box and two flexible light pods. The control box attaches to the top or back of your helmet with Velcro (included with purchase). The light pods also attach to your helmet with Velcro. The Velcro attachment system makes it very easy for you to take the Fire Eye unit off of your helmet if you desire. Complete installation instructions can be downloaded from the Illuminated Cycling Website, but I think a trained monkey could put these lights on in just a couple of minutes. I have a special helmet that I use for off-road rides at night and, in addition to the Velcro, I secure the control box to the helmet with two cable ties (the trails are often rough and this way I don’t have to worry about the Velcro slipping). Just for clarification, I don’t have the cable ties on in these photos. You will also notice that this helmet also has a lot of 3M Scotchlite Reflective Tape on it.

The Fire Eye 2.0 is powered by two non-rechargeable 1/2AA lithium batteries (6.3 volts). You should be able to get around 100 hours of use from a pair of batteries. This unit is also totally waterproof—it still works even while sitting in a tank of water!

Illuminated Cycling Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light (side view)

Illuminated Cycling Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light (side view)

I bought the original Fire Eye 1.0 about a year ago and was fairly happy with it, even though I never liked the way the switch on the control box operated. Recently Illuminated Cycling came out with a new version, the Fire Eye 2.0, and this product not only switched to a rugged toggle-switch design but also doubled to brightness of the lights! The new taillight has three modes: High power solid beam, Low power solid beam, and High power strobe. The Fire Eye 2.0 is set to the strobe setting by default. Personally, I would suggest you keep it on the strobe setting since it draws a lot more attention than a solid light. The new toggle-switch is bulletproof—just one simple touch to turn the unit on or off. When I am on the trails I often turn the light off to conserve the batteries (no one is out there to see me anyway).

Now for the best part: these lights are incredibly bright, even in full sunlight. My photographs or the videos you can find online just don’t do justice to how bright these lights are! It has been my experience that the pre-dusk hours are the most dangerous time of the day to ride. Visibility is declining but most motorists don’t have their headlights on yet. If cars don’t have their headlights on then all the reflective clothing in the world won’t do you any good—you need something like the Fire Eye 2.0 to protect your life!

I have a pet name for cyclists who ride at night with only one taillight—I call them “future organ donors.” Even under the best of circumstances batteries die unexpectedly, electronics fail and mounting brackets break for no apparent reason. Even with a light as powerful as the Fire Eye 2.0, I always ride a standard taillight like the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo on my seat bag. And, if I plan to ride on a really busy road, I will also add a Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000 to my seat post.

Fire Eye 2.0 helmet lights are hand-built in the USA and are available from the Illuminated Cycling Website for $60. In my opinion, if you ride your bike at night this is one of the best investments you will ever make. If you have any questions about this product you can call Erik Shaffer at 1-888-406-7626. Illuminated Cycling also offers a light designed for use by bicycle patrol officers—a Fire Eye unit with fiercely bright blue lights (only available to Law Enforcement agencies).

 

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Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000 Bicycle Taillight

Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000

Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000

The Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000 Taillight is an excellent product and one of the brightest bicycle taillights you will find. While most people think taillights are only for when they ride at night, the RADBOT’s 1-watt LED light is powerful enough for daylight use as well. This taillight offers three different flash patterns: always on, zZz, and my favorite, the cornea blitz (also known as zZzPOP). The RADBOT 1000 comes with clips so you can mount it to your backpack, seat bag, seatpost, or seat stay.

Portland Design Works claims this light will run for 15 hours in steady mode and up to 30 hours in flashing mode. This has not been my experience, but I don’t think anyone actually gets the battery life that most manufacturers claim. However, this does not mean they are trying to mislead you. Battery life is dependent on many factors, including the age of the battery, how it has been stored and weather conditions. While I have never been able to get 30 hours of flash time out of a set of batters with this light, I am not the least bit disappointed. The RADBOT 1000 is an extremely powerful taillight and I think my life is worth considerably more than the price of a set of batteries (your opinion may vary). By the way, I never run a taillight in the solid (always on) mode—I’ve found the flashing light pattern to be far more effective.

I bought two RADBOT 1000 taillights over 18 months ago and they are both still going strong, even after a couple dozen sets of batteries and a really bad Chicago winter.

Any review of the RADBOT 1000 would not be complete with a mention of it’s main competition, the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Taillight. Both of these lights are made by excellent companies and I honestly could not claim that one is better than the other. I’m sure you have heard of Murphy’s Law (“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”). In my opinion Murphy was a flaming optimist. Riding with only one taillight will eventually mean a ride home with no taillight at all. Batteries run down, mounting brackets break, and a taillight is probably the easiest thing for someone to steal from your bike. I use both of these lights on nearly every ride I take at night. Since the Planet Bike Superflash is fairly lightweight I attach it to my seat bag. The RADBOT 1000 has a great built-in reflector and I keep it on the seatpost. Because these two lights use different flash patterns it really makes it easy for motorists to see you a long way off.

The RADBOT 1000 retails for $32. Portland Design Works guarantees their products for life against defects. Their Website has a rather humorous explanation of what constitutes a defect, i.e., “Defect does not include damage caused by a drunken bicycle crash, ghost riding your bike off a bridge, act of God or normal wear and tear.”

 

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Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Bicycle Tires

When it comes to cycling we all have different skill sets. One of the things I am really good at is patching bicycle tires. This skill was not acquired by choice, but by the fact I used to get puncture flats at least once a week. When I finally wised up and put Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Tires on my road bikes my tire patching days pretty much came to an end.

Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Bicycle Tires

Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Bicycle Tire

Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Tires offer triple flat protection: a Kevlar belt provides puncture resistance, anti-pinch ribs stop pinch flats, and bead to bead woven construction dramatically reduce your chances of cutting your sidewalls.

My Trek Madone uses 700 x 25C tires and I keep them inflated at 120psi. I’ve used these tires for over 10,000 miles on this bike and have only had two flats during that time. Since this tire is a bit stiffer than your normal bike tire you will find it takes a bit more effort to change (not impossible, just a little more work). I’ve been able to get around 2,500 miles on a set of these tires, but your mileage will vary depending on tire pressure and road conditions.

The most common complaint I’ve about these tires is their increased rolling resistance. That might be a valid complaint, but honestly I’ve not noticed it. While it is possible to get a faster ride on different tires, any savings is eaten up with your first flat.

While these tires do offer great protection against flats, it is still possible to puncture a tire under the right conditions. Nearly every training route of mine crosses a road that leads to the county landfill and garbage trucks have a tendency to drop a lot of debris on their way to the dump. Last year I hit a piece of shaved metal that was as sharp Marine’s KA-BAR knife and it cut right through my rear tire and tube.

The downside of this tire is that is it not very responsive in the rain. In fact, during a hard downpour they can be rather scary. If you ride a lot in the rain I would suggest you either choose a different tire or just ride a different bike when it rains (that’s what I do). If you do get caught in a downpour just slow down a bit and allow a little more room for braking.

Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase Tires retail for around $43 at your local bike shop. While it is still possible to get a flat while using these tires, the chances are very remote. While these are not the tires I would suggest for a race, I would highly recommend these tires to any other cyclist.

 

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Hardnutz Hi-Vis Yellow Bicycle Helmet

A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked me if I knew where he could find a hi-vis yellow bicycle helmet. I told him that I had searched every supplier I could think of in the United States and had turned up empty. My friend was a bit more persistent than I was and he finally found the Hardnutz Hi-Vis Yellow Bicycle Helmet. The problem was that Hardnutz is located in the UK and he had a difficult time finding anyone who would ship to the US. However, he finally found Ski-WebUSA.com (located in Minnesota) and they were able to ship the helmet to him (I bought one as well).

Hardnutz Hi-Vis Yellow Bicycle Helmet

Hardnutz Hi-Vis Yellow Bicycle Helmet

The Hardnutz Hi-Vis Yellow Bicycle Helmet is a well-designed bicycle helmet with a bright, hi-vis yellow outer shell. To help motorists see you at night this helmet also has 13 large reflective 3M Scotchlite panels. To keep you cool in warm weather the helmet has 21 air vents (and they work well). The chin strap is sturdy and very easy to adjust. At only 251g, this helmet very lightweight and once it was on my head I couldn’t tell the difference between it and the Trek Circuit Helmet I normally use.

This helmet is only available in one size (54-62cms). I am of average height and weight and this helmet fit me well, but if you cannot wear a normal cycling helmet you probably won’t be able to wear this one either. The fit is adjusted by a “dial-fit adjuster” on the back of the helmet. The helmet also has a removable visor.

As an added bonus, this helmet includes a rain proof carry bag that can be used as a helmet protector or a reflective backpack (the reflective strip is fairly large).

If you live in an area where motorists are more likely to pay attention to hi-vis orange than hi-vis yellow, you are in luck—SkiwebUSA.com also sells the Hardnutz Hi-Vis Orange Bicycle Helmet with the same specifications as the hi-vis yellow. I live just south of the Wisconsin border and I know for a fact that most people on the other side of the “Cheddar Curtain” have a great deal of reverence for Blaze Orange, especially during hunting season (they are also known to venerate anything that has a Green Bay Packers logo on it).

The Hardnutz Hi-Vis Yellow Bicycle Helmet retails for $85 including postage. I’ve ridden in this helmet long enough to tell you it is comfortable and well-made. I am also an advocate of hi-vis yellow cycling clothing. I highly recommend this product for all cyclists.

 

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Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Tail Light

A few weeks ago I published a review of the Planet Bike Superflash Tail Light. I started using the Superflash last year and liked it so much I bought four of them (one for each bike I own). Well, the folks at Plant Bike have not been resting on their laurels—they’ve come out with the Superflash Turbo, a tail light with twice the power of the original Superflash!

Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Tail Light

Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Tail Light

If you look at the two Superflash units side-by-side you will not see much difference at all—they are the same size and weight and the only difference you will notice is in the color scheme. They both run on two AAA batteries and the batteries will last around 100 hours (in flash mode). If you turn both units on and hold them at arm’s length I doubt that you could tell them apart (they will both just about blind you). The real difference is seen as you get further away from the units. At 100 feet away you can easily tell the two flash units apart, and at 1,000 feet the difference will blow you away!

The Superflash Turbo has two different operating modes: steady (always on) and turbo flash mode. I think the steady mode on any tail light is a waste of time—even a bright light gets “lost” except on the darkest of nights. I always run my tail lights in the blinking mode since it seems to draw a lot more attention. However, the turbo flash mode is not just an on/off mode. The turbo mode is intermittent—the powerful one-watt power main light on top flashes first, then the two LEDs in the lower part of the unit flash in an irregular pattern.

The Superflash Turbo comes with brackets that should allow you to mount this tail light on just about any bike. It also has a clip so you can attach it to you seat bag or jersey pocket.

The Superflash Turbo retails for $35, which is just $5 more than the regular Superflash. To me, the choice between the two is a no-brainer: just buy the Superflash Turbo. The extra $5 gives you twice the light and a better flash pattern.

 

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