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Category Archives: Bicycle Safety

Safety tips for cycling in snow, ice, rain, mud and at night

Niterider Sentinel 40 Taillight with Laser Lanes (Product Review and Giveaway)

NiteRider_LifestyleIMG_SentinelTail_URBAN

Over the past twelve or thirteen years I’ve purchased at least a two dozen taillights—some were brighter than others, but the new Niterider Sentinel 40 Taillight is in a class all by itself. I am not one to gush over new cycling gadgets, but this taillight is the coolest product I’ve ever put on my bike! The folks at Niterider sent me one for review and now I am going to give this awesome light away to some lucky reader (see the details at the end of this article).

The Sentinel 40 has a super bright 40 lumen output (and thanks to a well-designed lens it actually looks much brighter than that). The taillight has four modes (two flashing, plus high and low steady). I never use the steady (always on) mode because a flashing light is so much easier for cars to see (plus it saves battery life). In the fastest flash mode the built-in 1000mA LiPo (lithium polymer) battery on this unit will last an amazing seven and a half hours. The charge time for this light is only four hours and uses a USB cable which is included with the light. As for size, the light is approximately 3.5 inches tall, 1.5 inches wide and 1.5 inches deep. For the “weight weenies” among us, it weighs a mere 2.5 ounces (73g).

niterider-sentinel-40I’ve saved the coolest feature for last: the Sentinel 40 has Laser Lanes which project two parallel bright red lines onto the pavement to give you your own personal bike lane. I honestly don’t know how far back cars can see this feature at highway speeds, but in town it a obviously helps. One warning: you are going to have to be ready at every stoplight to tell motorists about the lights since it seems like everyone is curious about them. Did I mention how cool these Laser Lanes look? By the way, the Laser Lane lights are real lasers, so don’t look directly into them.

Like most bicycle taillights, this unit can be mounted to either the back of most saddlebags or attached to your seatpost with the included clamp.  While the clamp seems more robust (sturdy) than most clamps, I prefer to mount mine on the saddlebag so the light will sit up higher on the bike. I used to lose a couple of taillights every year because they would fly off my bike the first time I hit a big bump on the road (but I wouldn’t notice it until I got home). The simple solution is to mount your taillight on the saddlebag as usual, then wrap a zip tie (cable tie) around your light so it extends behind the clamp (I haven’t lost one since I’ve started doing this).

The Niterider Sentinel 40 Taillight retails for $49.99 and is available at your local bike shop or online for a couple dollars less (but be nice and buy this from your local bike shop).

I never keep the products that are sent to me for review, but I am going to really hate giving up this taillight! To enter the contest for the Niterider Sentinel 40 Taillight all you have to do is pick a number between 1,000 and 1,500 and enter it in the comment section below (you don’t actually have to make a comment). The contest ends at midnight (CST) on Monday, December 28, 2015. After the contest closes I will use a random number generator to pick the winning number. If no one guesses the exact number the person with the number closest to, but not over, the winning number will get this slightly used taillight. In case two or more people chose the same number the first person to pick the number will be the winner. This contest is for U.S. residents only and only one entry per household allowed. When the contest is over I will publish the results in the comments section of this article. I will send this product to the winner via U.S. Mail.

 

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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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I Rode My Bike Naked Yesterday!

Yesterday morning I put my cyclocross bike into the back of my Jeep and headed out to my favorite off-road bike trail. After I got the bike out I put my helmet on but I couldn’t get it buckled—so I took it off and noticed that one piece of the buckle was missing! I started to drive back home to get a different helmet (I have more than a few of them), but finally decided to just “ride safely” and pray I didn’t hit an oak tree at 30 MPH. Riding without a helmet made me feel like I was riding naked—or at least a lot more exposed than I’d like to be. The funny thing is that the day before I saw a graphic on Facebook that said, “Deciding to ride your bike without a helmet is a beacon of hope for those in need of new organs.” The graphic on Facebook was rather pixelated, so I decided to create a new one for your enjoyment.

Remember To Fill Out Your Organ Donation Card!

Remember To Fill Out An Organ Donation Card!

Yesterday was only the second time in the past twelve years that I rode without a helmet. Last year I started to go for a ride with a young woman when the heat index was already over 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius) at 6:00 in the morning. The woman said she was not going to wear her helmet because it was just too hot, so I decided I wouldn’t wear mine either. My wife said it was OK to go without my helmet because we were both probably going to die from heat stroke anyway! Well, we survived the ride but we both ended up riding slower than normal (and not just because of the heat).

One of the reasons I don’t like riding without a helmet is because a 17 years ago our middle son nearly died in a bike crash. Even though he knew he wasn’t ever supposed to ride without a helmet he didn’t put one on because he was only going a few houses down the street. Unfortunately, just two houses away he hit a rock in and fell off the back of his bike and his head hit the pavement. I’ll spare you the details, but he suffered from multiple skull fractures and had to be airlifted to a trauma unit in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He eventually made a near-perfect recovery, but the surgeon who worked on him said he would have trouble with math for the rest of his life (I guess that means he could work in the Congressional Budget Office). As a result of his accident I just don’t like to see anyone, child or adult, ride without a helmet.

By the way, when I got back to my Jeep after my “naked” ride I found the missing piece of the buckle in the grass. The only damage done by riding without my helmet was a sunburn on my forehead (before I left home I put sunscreen on my face, but not on my forehead since it was going to be covered by my helmet). According to the Snell Memorial Foundation, “95% of bicyclists killed in 2006 reportedly were not wearing helmets.”

Do you ever ride without a helmet? If so, why on earth would you do that?

 

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Giro Aeon Road Bike Helmet

I am almost embarrassed to admit how many bike helmets I own (eight in all). However, I ride all year long and in all sorts of weather. I have two cross-country skiing helmets for winter riding, a couple of mountain biking helmets, one that I keep my high-powered headlights on for night riding, one hi-viz helmet for riding on cold days with limited visibility, and a few others. My latest helmet purchase was a Giro Aeon Road Bike Helmet and this helmet is perfect for hot, sunny days!

Giro Aeon Road Bike Helmet

Giro Aeon Road Bike Helmet

There are three things that make this helmet my favorite for summer riding: it is lightweight, cool and is available in hi-vis yellow.

Giro Aeon Road Bike Helmet

Giro Aeon Road Bike Helmet

Lightweight. When I picked up this helmet at the local bike shop I first thought the sack they gave me was empty! It felt like the box the helmet came in weighed more than the helmet itself. This helmet is available in three sizes (S, M, L) and the medium-sized helmet only weighs 222 grams. When you get off your bike after a long ride it is really easy to forget that you still have a helmet on!

Cool. This helmet has 24 Wind Tunnel™ vents with internal channeling—I’ve never had a cooler helmet! I’ve been out on days when the heat index was well over 100 degrees and have never felt like the helmet was heating up my head (as long as I was moving).

Hi-Viz Yellow: While the other features of this helmet are great, I wouldn’t have bought this except for the fact it is available in a bright hi-vis yellow (it also comes in seven other colors as well). This Hi-Vis Yellow helmet matches my Hi-Vis Yellow Pearl Izumi Attack Short Sleeve Jersey perfectly. Since I spend a lot of time riding on riding on busy roads I prefer Hi-Vis Yellow clothing in the summer, but bright red in the winter when there is snow on the ground.

The Giro Aeon Road Bike Helmet retails for around $250 and if your local bike shop does not have it in stock they can order it for you. This is definitely a “high ticket” item and it has a decent mark-up so don’t be afraid to ask your local bike shop for a discount (I did and it saved me 10%).

 
 

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AfterShokz Sportz M2 Open Ear Sport Headphones with Microphone

Listen up ladies and gentlemen—I am going to tell you about the coolest gadget I’ve bought this year! I love listening to music when I am riding my bike, especially on long rides. However, wearing headphones in both ears while riding on the road is banned in most states. A few years ago I bought a new pair of Apple EarBuds and cut off one of the ear pieces so I could ride legally (obviously, I kept the side that has the microphone on it). While the modified Earbuds worked, they were far from perfect—the sound quality wasn’t all that great. A few months ago I bought a pair of AfterShokz Sportz M2 Open Ear Sport Headphones and they are simply awesome—now I can ride my bike, listen to my music and still hear ambient noises.

AfterShokz Sportz M2 Open Ear Sport Headphones

AfterShokz Sportz M2 Open Ear Sport Headphones

AfterShokz Sportz M2 Open Ear Sport Headphones sit in front of your ears, not in them. They use bone conduction technology so you are basically listening through your cheekbones! The sound quality is better than any headphone I’ve ever tried before and since there is nothing in your ears you can still hear ambient noises (cars, horns, motorcycles, rabid dogs and riding partners).

AfterShokz Sportz M2 Open Ear Sport Headphones

Wear the unit in front of your ears

These headphones also have an in-line microphone that allows your to take or make phone calls—and the sound quality here is also flawless. The microphone is contained in small box (2″ x .75″ x .5″) that can easily clip onto your jacket or cycling jersey. The microphone box also houses the on/off switch, volume control, call button and a micro-USB port for charging the built-in lithium battery. You can charge this unit by plugging it into the USB port on almost any computer, or by connecting it to the same charger you use for your iPhone or iPod (or most other USB chargers).

AfterShokz Sportz M2 Open Ear Sport Headphones

Control box with microphone, volume buttons, call button and charging port

The headphone unit comes with a sturdy carrying case, USB charging cables, instruction manual, and a 5mm connector (which you probably won’t need unless your phone case has a high-profile). I am able to get about 10 to 12 hours of use between charges. This unit is water-resistant, but not water proof (you can probably safely ride your bike in the rain with these on, but don’t take them swimming). This headphone is also great for skateboarding, hiking, and skiing. I’ve not had any problems using this headphone, even when wearing sunglasses and a bike helmet.

AfterShokz Sportz M2 Open Ear Sport Headphones

Comes with a carrying case, charging cord, extension cord and instruction manual

The AfterShokz Sportz M2 AS321 Open Ear Sport Headphones with Microphone retail for around $80 ($60 on Amazon.com) and they are one of the best investments you can make if you like riding your bike while listening to music. AfterShokz has recently introduced a Bluetooth pair of headphones, the AfterShokz Bluez Open Ear Bluetooth Wireless Headphones. The Bluetooth model retails for around $120 and the microphone is positioned near the left transducer. I have ordered a pair of the Bluetooth headphones from an Amazon.com retailer, but they have not yet arrived (I will post a review of them later).

 

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Cat-Ears Wind Noise Reduction For Cyclists (Product Review and Giveaway)

Cycling on windy days can be a challenge for even the most dedicated of cyclists. A strong headwind will make your legs think you are climbing Alpe d’Huez during a stage of the Tour de France. Cross winds make it difficult to keep your bike upright—sometimes you have to lean into the wind so much to keep you bike upright it can rattle your nerves. Regardless of what direction the wind is coming from you are going to have difficulty hearing anything because of the noise the wind creates—conversing with fellow riders or hearing cars coming up behind you is extremely difficult. The folks at Cat-Ears created a neat little device that attaches to the straps of your bike helmet to reduce wind noise—and two lucky readers are going to win a pair of Cat-Ears to try out for themselves.

Cat-Ears Wind Noise Reduction For Cyclists

Cat-Ears—Wind Noise Reduction For Cyclists

A few weeks ago I was watching The Tour of California on TV. During the fourth stage of the race one of the announcers said that they were experiencing “incredible winds” of up to 25 KPH (15 MPH). I nearly fell over laughing! I live north of Chicago (“The Windy City”) and ride in stronger winds than that several days a week. As a result, I am always looking for products that will help me ride on windy days.

Cat-Ears are one of the coolest, albeit strangest looking, products I’ve ever reviewed. They are made of small pieces of faux fur and polyester fleece. Cat-Ears wrap around the straps of your helmet and are held in place by a small piece of Velcro. Cat-Ears got their name because they were designed after the pieces of fur in the ears of a normal house cat. When properly attached to your helmet Cat-Ears disrupt the flow of air around your ears and allow you to hear a lot better on windy days. When riding at very low speeds (12 MPH or below) you probably won’t notice any difference when using Cat-Ears, but the faster you ride the more effective they are.

Close-up of Cat-Ears

Close-up of Cat-Ears

Cat-Ears is based in Boulder, Colorado and all of their products are made in the U.S.A. (I always love it when I can say that about a product). After writing about a new product I am often asked, “Do they ship to my country?” According to the folks at Cat-Ears, about 20% of their business is international and they have shipped products to: Spain, United Kingdom, Hong Kong, Canada, Mexico, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Germany, Ireland, Taiwan, Belgium, Netherlands, Slovenia, Czech Republic, France, Hungary, Austria, New Zealand, Italy, and Romania. If you would like to order a pair of Cat-Ears for yourself you can visit the Cat-Ears website—they retail for around $14 to $16 a pair and come in Black, White or Grey.

The folks at Cat-Ears gave me a few extra sets of their product to give away, so if you would like a chance to win a pair of them then leave a comment below telling me why you need them. I have a pair of white Cat-Ears for a female cyclist and a black pair for a male cyclist. The contest ends at midnight (CST) on Friday, June 14, 2013. After the contest closes I will read through the comments and choose the two winners based solely on my mood at the time (humor is highly encouraged). If you don’t need this product yourself you are free to comment on other entries. So I can remain impartial until the contest is over I will not be responding the comments. This contest is for U.S. residents only and only one entry per household allowed. I will send this product to the winners via U.S. Mail at my expense. Good luck!

 

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Lid Lights (Product Review and Giveaway)

I love riding my bike at night. With two bright headlights in the front and a pair of high-powered taillights in the back I am kind of hard to miss on most roads. However, one of the most common forms of bicycle accidents involve side impact—and headlights and taillights do very little to protect you from this kind of collision. The folks at Lid Lights recently sent me one of their new LED helmet lights to try out and I was really impressed with what they’ve put together. If you like riding your bike at night then keep reading—you might even be lucky enough to win a free set of Lid Lights (see details below).

Lid Lights LED Helmet Lights

Lid Lights LED Helmet Lights (Helmet not included)

Lid Lights consist of a pair of 12″ long flexible LED lights that attach to your bicycle or ski helmet with 3M adhesive tape (it comes pre-attached to the back of the light strips). If these strips are too long for your helmet (and they might be if you are putting them on a child’s helmet) then you can trim them down to size with just a pair of scissors (complete directions are given on the company website). Since these lights attach to the side of your helmet it makes it easier for cars to see from the side. In addition, helmet lights are usually about two feet higher off the ground than most taillights—and this also makes it easier for folks to see you!

Lid Lights LED Helmet Lights

Powered by a single 9-volt battery

The LED lights are incredibly bright and are powered by a single 9-volt battery. The whole unit only weights 3 ounces and the battery unit attaches to your helmet with a piece of Velcro (included). Typical battery life for this product is around 15 to 20 hours of continuous use. I would suggest you use rechargeable batteries—they won’t last as long between charges, but they are a lot more cost-effective.

Lid Lights LED Helmet Lights

An easy to use switch controls the blinking pattern

Lid Lights are available in two versions: one with a static light (always on) and a blinking version. The static light retails for $25 and the blinking version is $35. In my opinion the blinking version is the only way to go—blinking lights make you a lot more visible to motorists than an “always on” light. The blinking lights are controlled by a small switch so you can choose from 25 or so different blinking patterns. Lid Lights are available in several colors, including: Blue, Pink, Orange, Green, White, Yellow and Red.

Lid Lights LED Helmet Lights

The green LED lights are pretty cool at night!

The bottom line: If you ride your bike at night these lights are a no-brainer. Buy a cheap helmet and put a pair of blinking Lid Lights on them. I use very expensive helmets during my daylight rides (both for the ventilation and cool design). However, when you ride at night you don’t usually have to worry as much about ventilation and since no one can actually see the helmet you might as well just go with a cheap one! If you would like to see how the different color lights look in action you can head over to the Lid Lights Storefront (you can order them from this same page).

If you would like a chance to win a brand-new set of Lid Lights then leave a comment below telling me why you need this product. The contest ends at midnight (CST) on Friday, May 31, 2013. After the contest closes I will read through the comments and choose a winner based solely on my incredibly subjective mood at the time—however, humor in your entry is highly encouraged (just keep it clean). If you don’t need this light yourself you are free to comment on other entries. So I can remain impartial until the contest is over I will not be responding the comments left on this post. This contest is for U.S. residents only and only one entry per household allowed. I will send this product to the winner via U.S. Mail at my expense. Good luck!

 

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