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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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Continental Touring Plus Road Bike Tire

The beauty of having several bicycles is that you can configure your older bikes for riding in inclement weather. I’ve outfitted one of my older road bikes specifically for riding in the rain and light snow. In addition to fenders, reflective tape and a few mechanical adjustments, I added a pair of Continental Touring Plus Road Bike Tires.

Continental Touring Plus road bike tires are lightweight, puncture resistant and have an aggressive enough tread pattern to make it easy to ride in the rain. I bought a pair of these tires (700X28) and have them inflated to the maximum recommended pressure, which is 100psi. My “sunny day” road bike is a Trek Madone with Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase tires inflated to 120psi. Surprisingly, the ride on the Continental tires is very similar to the Race Lite tires, even though there is a substantial difference in tire pressure.

Continental Touring Plus Road Bike Tire

Continental Touring Plus Road Bike Tire (note the reflective stripe)

I’ve put around 2,000 miles on these tires and all of them have been in the rain or light snow. As you probably already know, rain has a tendency to bring all sorts of debris up to the surface. Even with the road debris these tires felt very secure on the road. I have also found these tires to give decent traction in light snow.

One of my favorite features of this tire is the highly visible reflective sidewall. Riding in the rain almost always means you are also riding in low-light conditions. The reflective sidewall on this tire is incredible! I wish every bicycle tire had this feature. After 2,000 miles in the rain and snow the reflective stripe on the sidewall looks rather dingy when it is in my garage, but it still shines bright when an automobile headlight hits it.

Tread On The Continental Touring Plus Road Bike Tire

Tread On The Continental Touring Plus Road Bike Tire

In addition to the 700×28 tires, Continental Touring Plus road bike tires are also available in several other sizes, including: 24×1.75, 26×1.75, 28×1.25, 28×1.5, and 28×1.75. The 700×28 tires retail for around $45, but several online shops offer them for around $37. However, consider the cost of shipping you might be better off buying them from your local bike shop.

 

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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 Dasher Windproof Toe Covers

Toe warmers are intended to allow you to ride in cool weather with your summer cycling shoes. I own at least a dozen pair of toe warmers for my cycling shoes—some good, some bad, some worthless. A few weeks ago I ordered a pair of Planet Bike Dasher Toe Covers from Amazon.com. As I opened the package the room I was in grew brighter, a choir of angels started singing the Hallelujah chorus, and all seemed right in the world. OK, that might have been a bit of hyperbole, but this is not: this is the best designed pair of shoe covers I have ever seen!

Planet Bike Dasher Windproof Toe Covers

Planet Bike Dasher Windproof Toe Covers

What makes the Planet Bike Dasher Toe Covers so great? Well, they started with a windproof fabric on the outside coupled with a microfleece lining on the inside. By itself, this is nothing special—nearly every brand of toe covers has a similar fabric. What makes these toe covers stand out is the elastic heel strap that keeps these covers in place. Most toe covers are held in place by an elastic band around the end of the cover. Most elastic bands suffer form one of two problems: either they are so tight you can’t get them over your shoe or they are so loose they won’t stay on. The heel strap on the Dasher allows the cover to easily slide onto your shoe and then keeps it in place as you ride.

The bottom of the Planet Bike Dasher Toe Covers have cut-out guides for both SPD and road cleats (I use Look Keo cleats). If you own both type of cleats you could use the larger road cleat cut-out area for both pair of shoes. However, I would suggest you just buy another pair of the Dasher toe covers because the larger cut-out area for the road cleats leaves very little of the bottom of the cover left. When you cut out the area for an SPD cleat you will have a lot of the thick bottom part of the Dasher covering the treads of your MTB shoes—the material on the bottom of the Dasher is thick enough so that this will not be a problem. Some toe covers are so thin that the bottom side of the cover wears out with just a few weeks of use.

Planet Bike Dasher Windproof Toe Covers

The Planet Bike Dasher has cut-outs for both SPD and road cleats

As an added benefit the Dasher has reflective side and back logos. The reflective logo on the back of the heels actually does a good job of making your presence known to motorists. Since your feet (and therefore the reflective logos) are moving up and down as you ride it is more noticeable than the same size logo would be on a jacket or jersey.

Planet Bike offers these toe covers in five different sizes (most companies offer only two). The small cover will fit a man’s size 6.5 shoe (40 European) and the XXL will fit a man’s 12.5 shoe (47 European). Planet Bike has a size chart available on their Web site if you are not sure what size you need.

The Planet Bike Dasher Toe Covers retail for $27. When the weather gets too cold for just a toe cover I would suggest you purchase the Planet Bike Comet Full Neoprene Shoe Covers or the Planet Bike Blitzen Windproof Shoe Cover.

 

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Showers Pass Touring Jacket

The Showers Pass Touring Jacket is one of the most versatile pieces of cycling clothing I own. Not only is it one of the best rain jackets you can buy, but it also doubles as a shell for winter biking as well. This jacket has many great features, but I will only be able to cover a few of them here.

Showers Pass Tour Jacket

Showers Pass Tour Jacket

The first thing you will notice about this jacket is that it has a roomy cut that allows you to layer your clothing (especially helpful in the winter). The ventilation options on this jacket are incredible. It has two 12-inch two-way pit zips, a full-length back vent for flow thru ventilation, cinch-cords at the hems and highly adjustable cuffs. The 3M reflective taping on the arms and back is superb. This jacket also has a drop-down tail for when the rain just won’t stop and a light loop on the rear vent so you can attach a flasher. The zippered chest pocket has an audio port so you can keep you iPhone dry on the worst of days, yet still listen to your tunes. All of the exposed zippers are waterproof and I’ve never had them fail. The rear pocket is large enough to carry just about anything you need.

This is not a lightweight jacket you can store in your back pocket for emergencies. If you wear this during the summer you better hope the rain doesn’t stop until you reach your destination (unless you have panniers to store the jacket in). If the sun comes out while you are wearing this jacket it is going to get very uncomfortable within just a few minutes.

My favorite use for this jacket is as a winter shell when the temperature drops below 35 degrees. Because of its generous cut you can layer your clothing and still have room to breathe. I start with a simple Under Armour compression shirt, then, as the temperature drops, add a lightweight fleece jacket. When the temps are in the single digits I wear an Under Armour compression shirt and a heavier fleece jacket (one made for snow skiers) and finally the Showers Pass Touring Jacket. Because of the large rear vent I’ve never had a problem with condensation with this jacket.

The Showers Pass Tour Jacket is available in three colors: Black, Electric Blue and Yelling Yellow. Why on earth anyone would wear a black rain jacket is beyond my ability to comprehend. I know the black jacket does a great job of hiding dirt, but it also makes you nearly invisible to traffic (even with the reflective strips). Riding in Ninja Mode might appeal to some, but I think it is stupid. Buy the Yelling Yellow jacket if you value your life.

The list price on this jacket is $150 and I think it is worth every cent. Unfortunately, the hood for this jacket is sold separately ($25 and it only comes in black). I don’t need the hood in the winter because I wear a balaclava under my helmet, but it is well-made and really comes in handy in the rain.

 

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Performance Clear Rain Jacket

The Performance Clear Rain Jacket is the cheapest rain jacket I own—it is also the jacket that has seen the most use. This jacket was never intended to be a high-end rain jacket for touring. It is designed for you to stuff in your back jersey pocket on cloudy days and pull out when the rain starts.

Performance Clear Rain Jacket

Performance Clear Rain Jacket

I have owned this jacket for four years and take it with me on 20 to 30 rides a year, and end up using it on about half of those rides. The jacket rolls up easily and I use a Livestrong armband to keep it wrapped up in my jersey pocket when I am not wearing it.

This jacket is made of vinyl and is both windproof and waterproof. Due to a full-length mesh strip that goes from the cuffs up to the armpit and back down to the waist, the jacket is fairly breathable. Instead of a zipper, this jacket closes with a strip of Velcro that makes it very easy to adjust. Unfortunately, the Velcro strip is not well attached to the jacket, so be careful when opening the jacket. If you spray a bit of Elmer’s Fast Tack Spray Adhesive on the back of the Velcro strip it should stay in place for a long time.

This jacket is available in both clear and yellow. The clear jacket allows people to see your jersey, but the yellow one makes a lot more sense for use on rainy days. Both jackets also have a reflective strip on the back for added visibility.

The Performance Clear Rain Jacket has a retail price of $20 and is available at Performance Bicycle stores and on their Website.

 

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Performance Ultra Rain Jacket

I used to hate riding in the rain. Several years ago I wouldn’t even go out for a ride if there was rain in the forecast. However, now that I am better equipped for inclement weather, rain doesn’t bother me near as much. A few months ago I purchased the Performance Ultra Rain Jacket and today was the first time I had a chance to try it out.

Performance Ultra Rain Jacket

Performance Ultra Rain Jacket

As far as usefulness is concerned, this jacket is in the middle of the pack. It is far better than the lightweight rain jacket I sometimes stuff in my jersey pocket when it looks like it might rain and the Showers Pass Touring Jacket I wear when it is really pouring. Since the jacket is made of a ripstop nylon laminate it does a great job of stopping both wind and rain.

The downside is that this jacket is not very breathable. With the large pit-zips wide open I still found the jacket a bit to warm even when the temperature was is the high 50’s. After two hours in the rain I don’t think any rainwater got through this jacket. However, the inside of the sleeves were really damp from the poor ventilation. As with any rain jacket, you will find it much more comfortable to ride with a very light long-sleeved jersey—it will keep your arms from sticking to the sleeves.

This jacket has elastic wrist cuffs with a Velcro closure. I left my cuffs open so the sleeves would cover part of my gloves and increase air-flow as well. The entire jacket can be folded down into the one large rear pocket, and then worn around the waist with the attached stretchable (but not adjustable) belt.

Performance Bicycle offers this jacket in both blue and yellow. Personally, I think you must have a death wish to ride in the rain in a blue jacket. The yellow jacket shows up well in the rain, but it lacks any reflective piping (except for the Performance logo). The lack of reflective material on this jacket is unforgivable, especially since Performance sells a cheap $20 jacket that has a fairly generous amount of reflective striping.

This jacket is available from the Performance Bicycle Website and at their retail outlets. The retail price for this jacket is $100, but I’ve noticed that Performance Bicycle often has it on sale for under $70. I think this jacket is still overpriced at $70.

 

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