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Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX With Rigid Molded Panels

When I started cycling about twelve years ago, like many newbies, I carried a lot of gear with me that I didn’t really need. I am now a minimalist, i.e., I only carry gear that I absolutely need (a patch kit, spare tube and a compact set of tools). However, there are times when I really do need to carry more gear than will fit in my jersey pockets or seat bag—and that’s when I break out the Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX.

Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX

Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX (note the 3M reflective stripe)

The Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX is a lightweight and spacious bag designed for mountain bikes. This bag is made with flexible 600 denier fabric and has rigid molded panels so it will keep its shape. The main interior compartment has an adjustable divider (you can remove the divider entirely if needed). There are also two mesh side compartments that close with zippers. While this bag has a Dupont Teflon coating for water resistance, you can also buy an optional rain cover. The rain cover comes in either white or yellow—I bought the yellow one because it makes it a lot easier for motorists to see you in the rain.

Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX

Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX with Bungee Cords

The Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX weighs a bit over 1.5 pounds and measures 13.8″ long x 8.3″ wide x 7.5″ tall. This bag has a storage capacity of 480 cubic inches (8 L). There are adjustable bungee cords on the top of the bag so you can carry over-sized items, but I usually use it to carry a light rain jacket. This bag also has 3M reflective strips on the left and right sides—when car headlights shine on these strips it reflects the light back and makes you nearly impossible to miss. The back of the bag has a clip so yo can attach a taillight, like the Topeak RedLite II.

Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX

Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX on the QuickTrack Rail

This bag slips on your bike with the Topeak QuickTrack system, a lightweight rail that attaches to your seat post. The QuickTrack rail accepts several different sizes of Topeak bags and baskets. The TrunkBag comes with a built-in carrying handle and a detachable shoulder strap (in case you need to do some shopping along the way).

I own five different Topeak bags (two for road bikes and three for mountain bikes). A couple of my Topeak bags are over ten years old and they still look like new. I bought the Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX about 18 months ago and one of the things I’ve noticed is how the Topeak bags have evolved during the past decade. The newer bags are more streamlined (aerodynamic) and lightweight than the older bags.

As with any bag or pannier you put on your bike, you need to try to spread the weight out, i.e., don’t put everything in the TrunkBag. Last year I put the TrunkBag on a mountain bike and went out into the woods to collect acorns (I enjoy feeding the squirrels in my backyard). Acorns weigh more than you might think and when the TrunkBag was full I could really feel it as I was going uphill.

The Topeak MTX TrunkBag EX retails for $70 and should be available from just about any bike shop. I always encourage people to buy from the local bike shop whenever possible, but if you are a bargain hunter you can buy this bag from Amazon.com for only $42.

 

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Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool

In the past ten years I’ve probably bought over 20 different cycling-specific multi-tools. I have five bikes and carry a multi-tool in the seat bag of each one. It seems like every time I find a multi-tool with a new feature I have to buy it (I am an impulse buyer). There is one feature on the Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool that made me want it instantly, i.e., the pad spreader for disc brakes. If you have a mountain bike (or even a road bike) with hydraulic disc brakes you probably already know that if you accidentally squeeze the brake lever while changing a tire the brake pads will close and are nearly impossible to open again without a special tool. One time I made this mistake and had to use a knife to trim down a credit card to pry the pads open (then I had to order a replacement card once I got home).

Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool

Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool

Here is a breakdown of the hardened steel tools in the Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool: Allen Wrenches (2, 2-L, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10mm), two spoke wrenches (15 and 14g), chain tool, T25 Torx bit, chain pin breaker, bottle opener, pad spreader for disc brakes, and both a Philips and flat head screwdriver. This multi-tool also has an anodized aluminum tire lever—please note that this particular lever is designed for emergency use only. And, like most of the other Topeak multi-tools, it comes with a Neoprene storage bag. This product weights 6.5 ounces (185 g).

A couple of notes about two of the tools: The chain tool in the Mini 18+ works well, but I would rather use a full size chain tool when possible—but certainly would never carry the big one with me due to the weight. The T25 Torx bit will easily adjust mechanical disc brakes—if you have disc brakes on your bike you really need to carry a T25 Torx bit with you.

The Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool retails for around $33 and is available at any well-stocked bike shop. This product comes with a 2-year warranty (see Topeak’s Website for complete details). You can find this tool at a lower price on Amazon.com, but do yourself a favor and support your local bike shop.

If the Topeak Mini 18+ Multi-tool does not suit your needs, Topeak has many other tools to choose from. Here are a few links to some of their other multi-tools I’ve reviewed: The Topeak Mini 9 Pro Multi-tool has all the Allen wrenches you will need for most modern road bikes (2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 mm), along with two tire levers. The Topeak Hexus II Multi-tool has 16 well designed hardened steel tools and it fits into an easy-to-hold composite body. The Topeak Alien II is the “mother of all multi-tools” and includes 26 tools, including eight Allen wrenches (2/2.5/3/4/5/6/8/10mm), box wrenches (two each of 8/9/10mm), a T25 Torx wrench, Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers, two spoke wrenches, two tire levers, mini pedal wrench, stainless steel knife, bottle opener, a cast Cromoly steel chain tool and a steel wire chain hook.

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2012 in Bicycle Repair, Product Reviews

 

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Topeak DeFender RX and FX Bicycle Fenders

If you ride in the rain, snow or mud then you already know how messy your clothing is when you get home. One way to minimize (but not entirely eliminate) the mess is the put both front and rear fenders on your bike. I have several sets of bicycle fenders hanging on the walls of my garage, but the two I use the most are the Topeak DeFender RX and Topeak DeFender FX fenders (the RX is the rear fender and the FX is the front fender). These fenders are designed for 26″ mountain bikes.

Topeak DeFender RX Bicycle Fenders

Topeak DeFender RX Bicycle Fenders

The Topeak DeFender RX rear fender is made from impact resistant plastic and attaches to your seat tube with a quick release locking mechanism (one size fits all). The RX weighs about seven ounces and measures 22” x 4” x 6”. The underside of the fender is highly polished to help shed mud. However, if you want any fender to shed mud and snow better just spay the underside with PAM non-stick cooking spray (you probably have a can of it in your kitchen already). Since this fender is almost always used when it is raining I added a few strips of 3M Scotchlite Reflective Tape on the sides to make it easier for cars to see me in low-light situations (I wish Topeak would add this tape to their fenders at the factory). The angle of this fender is adjustable so you should be able to use it on almost any 26″ mountain bike.

The only problem I’ve had with the DeFender RX is the tightening mechanism (a nylon webbed strap). The problem is that if there is not enough friction on the seat tube to keep the nylon strap from moving the fender a bit from side to side. The solution is real easy: just cut a strip of rubber from an old bicycle inner tube and put it under the strap (old inner tubes have a lot of uses).

Topeak DeFender FX Bicycle Fenders

Topeak DeFender FX Bicycle Fenders

The Topeak DeFender FX fender attaches to the front fork (fits 19.6–26 mm steerer tubes). This fender weighs a little over six ounces and measures 23” x 3.5” x 6.3”. Like the RX rear fender, the FX has a highly polished underside. The quick release mechanism for this fender allows you to add or remove the fender in a matter of seconds. However, the first time you put it on it will take about five minutes to adjust (I keep the attaching mechanism on my mountain bike all the time).

The Topeak DeFender RX rear fender retails for $15, and the Topeak DeFender FX front fender retails for $13. Your local bike shop probably has both fenders in stock. However, if you have trouble finding them they are also available on Amazon.com.

 

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Topeak Tri Waterproof DryBag (Top Tube Bag)

When I go on bike rides I usually have to carry all of my carbohydrate gels and bars with me since there are very few convenience stores once I hit the back roads of Wisconsin. On long rides all the food products I need will not fit in my jersey pockets so I carry them in a top tube bag. While there are many good top tube bags on the market, the Topeak Tri DryBag is the most compact and holds several hours worth of gels and bars in a waterproof bag with a great aerodynamic design.

Topeak Tri Waterproof DryBag

Topeak Tri Waterproof DryBag

The Topeak Tri DryBag quickly attaches to your bike frame with three Velcro straps—two straps go around the top tube and one goes around the head tube. This bag is made with both 420 and 840 denier nylon waterproof fabric with sonically welded seams and the main compartment is well padded. The Tri DryBag is fairly small (5.7 x 1.9 x 5.0″) and weighs on 2.3 ounces.

Topeak Tri Waterproof DryBag

Topeak Tri Waterproof DryBag Is Very Roomy!

The cover of the Topeak Tri DryBag is held in place with a strip of Velcro and is very easy to open or close with one hand while riding (triathletes will love this bag). If you don’t need this bag to carry your carbohydrate gels or bars, it is perfect for those folks who like to keep their compact camera or cell phone close at hand.

The Topeak Tri DryBag retails for around $25. Topeak makes several other top tube bags and not all of them are available for sale in the United States, so make sure you ask your local bike shop for the Topeak Tri DryBag.

 

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Topeak Hexus II Multi-tool

Even if you never travel outside of your own neighborhood, you still need to carry a few things with you on every bike ride: a spare inner tube, a tire pump or CO2 inflator, and a small multi-tool. I have five bikes and because they each have different requirements I carry a different multi-tool for each bike. Earlier this year I started carrying a Topeak Hexus II Multi-tool on one of my mountain bikes and have had the opportunity to use this tool on several occasions.

Topeak Hexus II Bicycle Multi-tool

Topeak Hexus II Multi-tool

The Topeak Hexus II Multi-tool has 16 well designed tools (all made of hardened steel) and it fits into an easy-to-hold composite body. The Hexus II includes the following tools: Allen Wrenches (2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm), two spoke wrenches (15 and 14g), two high quality plastic tire levers, steel wire chain hook, chain tool, T25 Torx bit, and both a Philips and flat head screwdriver. Unlike the other Topeak multi-tools I own, this one does not come with a Neoprene storage bag (not a major issue for me).

I have used all the tools on this product and have been extremely satisfied with them. The tire levers are better than you will find on most other multi-tools and the T25 Torx bit will easily adjust mechanical disc brakes. The chain tool is easy to use and even if you don’t know how to use one it you should have a chain tool with you in case your chain breaks on the trail—hopefully a more experienced cyclist will come by and be able to fix your chain (it only takes a minute or two). According to Topeak, the chain tool on the Hexus II “is compatible with all single speed and most multi-speed chains, including 10 speed hollow pin chains.” However, it is not compatible with 11 speed chains.

The only problem with Topeak tools is deciding which one to carry. If you are scared of making hardly only adjustments to your bike then I’d carry the Topeak Mini 9 Pro Multi-tool—it has all the Allen wrenches you will need for most modern road bikes (2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6 mm), along with two tire levers. If you want to to be able to overhaul your bike while on the trails I’d suggest the Topeak Alien II—it has 26 tools, including eight Allen wrenches, box wrenches (two each of 8/9/10mm), a T25 Torx wrench (for disc brake rotor bolts), Phillips and flat-head screwdrivers, spoke wrenches (14/15g), two tire levers, mini pedal wrench, stainless steel knife, bottle opener, a cast Cromoly steel chain tool and a steel wire chain hook. The Topeak Hexus II falls in-between the Mini-9 and the Alien II, and is probably the best tool for most cyclists. However, if you have a mountain bike with hydraulic disc brakes I’d suggest the Topeak Mini 18+ instead since it has a handle that also functions as a pad spreader for disc brakes (I’ll review this tool in a few weeks).

The Topeak Hexus II Multi-tool retails for around $27 and is available at any well-stocked bike shop. This product comes with a 2-year warranty (see Topeak’s Website for complete details). You can find this tool for a lower price on Amazon.com, but do yourself a favor and support your local bike shop.

 
 

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Topeak SmartGauge D2 Bicycle Tire Gauge

You probably already know that having under-inflated tires on your car will cause you to burn more gasoline (i.e., use more energy). The same thing is true for bicycle tires—if the tires are under-inflated it will take more effort (i.e., use more energy) to peddle the bike. On the sidewall of every bicycle tire you will find both the minimum and maximum pressure it is tire is designed to hold (usually measured in PSI, pound per square inch). If you are a heavy cyclist you should probably keep your tire pressure at the maximum PSI for your tires, while lightweight cyclists can often run their tires down to the minimum pressure (though this is not always advisable). While low tire pressure will force you to use more energy as you ride, if the tire pressure is too high it usually results in a very bumpy ride. One of the best ways to accurately measure your tire pressure is with the Topeak SmartGauge D2 tire pressure gauge.

Topeak SmartGauge D2 Bicycle Tire Gauge

Topeak SmartGauge D2 Bicycle Tire Gauge

The Topeak SmartGauge D2 is a digital tire pressure gauge that works on both Presta and Schrader valves. This precision instrument is also useful for suspension forks, rear shock units, and even your car tires. The easy-to-read LCD display can show pressure in PSI, Bar, or kg/cm2 (it takes just a second or two to switch settings). This unit runs on a single CR2032 battery and weighs a bit over two ounces. The swivel head (Topeak calls it a SmartHead) rotates 180 degrees so you can easily read the gauge regardless of the position of the valve stem. This unit can measure a maximum tire pressure of 250 PSI (17 bar).

When I say this gauge is accurate, I mean that you can measure your tire pressure six times in a row and get the same reading each time. One of the problems with the cheap gauges found on most tire pumps is that they are not very reliable.

While the Topeak SmartGauge D2 is perfect for about 99.9% of cyclists, there is one small group that might have trouble with it, i.e., those of us who ride Fat Bikes in temperatures well below zero (Fahrenheit). The piston-plunger gauge on the SmartGauge and and the gauges on most bicycle pumps are affected by changes in temperature and humidity, but gauges with a Bourdon tube are not. In the winter most Fat Bikes run at 6 to 10 PSI in the snow and are extremely sensitive to changes in tire pressure—even a difference of one-half PSI can be felt by the rider. So, if you are riding your Fat Bike in extreme winter conditions I would suggest you try a low pressure tire gauge with a bronze Bourdon tube, like the Accu-Gage.

The Topeak SmartGauge D2 retails for around $32 and I highly recommend it. You should be able to find this at your local bike shop—if that fails you can find it on Amazon.com.

 

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Topeak AlienLux Tail Light (One Cool Light)

When I ride on busy roads at night I always attach two of the brightest tail lights I own to the back of my bike. However, bright tail lights are not necessarily needed on off-road trails—you just need a tail light bright enough to keep other cyclists from running into you. If you are looking for a good tail light with a unique design then you need to get a Topeak AlienLux Tail Light.

Topeak AlienLux Bicycle Tail Light

Topeak AlienLux Tail Light

The Topeak AlienLux Tail Light is not the brightest light on the market, but what it lacks in lumens in makes up for in coolness. This alien shaped light has two red LED’s and is powered by a pair of CR2032 batteries (included with purchase). The lamp housing is made of engineering grade plastic and is water-resistant. There are only two functional modes on this light: Constant or Blinking. Topeak claims that in the blinking mode the batteries will last for 100 hours, or for 60 hours when the light is constantly on.

This light comes with a small Velcro strap so you can attach it to a seatpost or you can easily slip it onto most seat bags. The AlienLux is only two inches tall and weighs less than an ounce. If you look at the photo above you will see that the light comes through the entire body of the AlienLux, not just through the eyes. To turn the light off or on you just press on the alien’s forehead. Did I mention how cool this light is?

The Topeak AlienLux Tail Light comes in six different colors (Red, Green, Black, Pink, White, and Yellow). The AlienLux retails for $14 and even if you never use it at night it will add a bit of class to any bike (unless you are one of those cyclists who take themselves way too seriously).

 

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