Archive of ‘product reviews’ category

Belle accessories for your bike

Look closely: do you notice anything different about my tire?
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A ladybug is hitching a ride!
untitled-8 This pair of cuties (one for each tire) is made in Poland and came to me as a gift from Gosia of Bike Belle, who recently visited Chicago from London/Krakow.  Bike Belle carries a fun variety of bike accessories, much of them handmade/painted/knitted.  From the Bike Belle About Us page: “We design, make and sell designer bicycle accessories to make your bikes easier to use, prettier and more you.”  Sounds good to me!  Bonus: they ship worldwide.  :)
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These ladybugs (and other designs) are called “jewelry for your bicycle” – love it!  I guess these would be Oma’s earnings.  More beautiful jewelry: this rosy bell would be perfect for spring.

I also got this adorable, waterproof seat cover, staying with the polka dot trend.  (Why do I want this mouse one so much?? It’s mesmerizing.)
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If anyone has always wanted a full ladybug kit for her bike, look no further.

Here are Maria of PoCampo, Gosia and me after a lovely brunch.

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I’m so glad I had the chance to meet Gosia, hear a lot about bicycling in Krakow (sounds a lot like cycling in Chicago, actually), and learn more about her shop.

She also has a Bike Belle blog, with plenty of beautiful pictures, so you can enjoy it even if you don’t speak Polish.

Yay for cool, entrepreneurial cycling ladies!

Does your bike wear jewelry?  :)

Review: Bike USB Rechargeable Lights

Good morning! Daylight savings time might be right around the corner, but night-time visibility has always been a cyclist’s dilemma. One possible solution? Bike USB Rechargeable Lights, which I received for review from Uncommon Goods.

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I have been impressed with these small, sturdy lights They come in sets of two: One front, in white, and one rear, in red. As shown in the photo above, they attach easily to your bike with an attached rubber band, not unlike other small bike lights such as Knog Lights. There is a groove in the top of the light so that the elastic band is held securely. These lights will not fall off your bike, but they’re easy to remove if you live in a city where bike light theft is a concern.

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The bonus with these little lights? No new batteries: just plug the lights into your computer with any mini-USB cable to recharge. (Fellow NOOK owners: your charging cable is now multiuse.) According to the website, you can get 5 hours of use before needing to recharge—I’ve used the lights for at least 20 minutes a day for about 20 days and have not needed to recharge them, so they may actually last slightly longer. Attaining a full charge takes about 2 hours.

A red light indicates that the light is still charging.

A red light indicates that the light is still charging.

Like most bike lights, these have a blinking mode as well as a steady mode. Just click the button on the top to toggle between modes and on/off.

nightlightrear And the front light is bright enough to help you see rather than just be seen.  It rivals my CatEye.

nightlightAt $49 for the pair, these are a bit pricier than Knog, but the convenience of not needing to replace batteries just might be priceless. (Also, shhh, Uncommon Goods often has sales or coupon codes available.) The final verdict: Worth checking out if you need a little extra illumination!

{ These lights were provided by Uncommon Goods for review, but the opinions expressed are my own. }

 

Review: Carrera Unisex Foldable Helmet

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Let me start out this post with an “I’m Switzerland in the helmet wars” disclaimer. Though I wore a helmet daily for the first year or two after I started cycling, over time, on my most familiar routes, I more or less abandoned it. Why? For many of the reasons Dave mentions in this post as well as the fact that in summer, in Tennessee, heatstroke is a much greater threat than head injury.

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front of the helmet

That said, there are times when I do want to wear a helmet, or am required to wear one—and I’m always looking for one that is cool, comfortable and relatively attractive. So when I saw the Carrera Foldable Helmet online, I had high hopes that it was the helmet holy grail.

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First things first: the “foldable” aspect of this helmet is pretty minimal. Common sense suggests that folding a helmet is not a logical expectation…and that common sense would be right. There’s really only a couple of inches difference between the helmet’s folded and expanded size—the figure they use is 20% smaller and that seems accurate to me.

Carrera helmet: folded

folded helmet

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When folded, you can secure the helmet with a provided strap, which has a carabiner attached so that you can clip it to your bag or purse or the frame of your bike when not in use.

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Carrera helmet folded, with carabiner and strap for attachment to a bag, lock or purse

The strap has a reflective tag and can do double-duty by holding your pants leg away from your chain if you’re into that sort of thing.

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I got this helmet in glossy white, to match Le Peug, but they’re available in lots of pretty colors. The size small/medium fit my puny head perfectly straight out of the box, but there’s an elastic at the back that can tweak the fit as well.

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The interior has removable, washable pads that are very comfortable. I hardly knew I was wearing it during my metric century.

 

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Best of all, the multiple air vents totally deliver—this is definitely the coolest, lightest helmet I’ve ever worn. (My other is a Bern Berkeley and I have spent a lot of time wearing Dottie’s Nutcases when in Chicago. I had a cheap-o Bell helmet from Target when I first started riding.)
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On the shallow side, I also really, really love the sleek fit and look of this helmet. Someone told me it looked like a hat—while I think that’s a little bit of a stretch, it’s definitely the most hat-like helmet I’ve ever worn. I didn’t have that mushroom head feeling at all while wearing it.

To get a little more serious, the helmet complies with EU safety standards (Carrera is an Italian company best known for sunglasses) so the actual protection factor is up to snuff.

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The only real drawback to this helmet is the price: I paid $80 on eBay, which is $20 more than the Nutcase (it’s the same as the MSRP for my Bern, but you can almost always find a Bern sale somewhere). There’s also a “premium” version, which includes a light and a “multiuse scarf” and retails at about $130—if you can find it anywhere online.

Despite the somewhat high price, if you wear a helmet frequently and care about 1.) looks and 2.) lack of head sweat, the Carrera Foldable Helmet is definitely worth your consideration. It was definitely the Helmet Holy Grail for me.

Do you love your helmet? Tell us about it in the comments.

 

 

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A wooden crate as a bike basket

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When I posted about riding my Dutch bike last week, Trisha noticed that I have a new crate on the front.  Yes, and I love it!

As I explained in my Oma review, I purchased my bike with a heavy duty front rack that attaches to the frame, making a sturdy base for up to 50 pounds of cargo.  I was using a Hershberger’s Baker Basket on the front rack, but two years of heavy use was more than the delicate basket could handle.  First the leather strap in the front broke, causing the top to fly open in the wind, then one of the small leather straps on the back of the lid broke, making the top sit crooked.  The wicker became dried and bleached by the sun.  Basically, the poor thing fell apart.

Baker Basket

Baker Basket in better days

For a while, I detached the front rack and used a pannier on my rear rack to carry stuff.  Then one day Mr. Dottie found a wooden crate in an alley behind a Mexican restaurant, which he thinks was used for avacados.  The crate has “Made in Mexico” stamped on the side.  He attached the crate to my rack with a bungie cord through the bottom and a few zip ties all around; it does not move an inch.

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My new Mexican crate

I love the crate for both aesthetics and utility.  I can fit so much stuff in there, and I tend always to be carrying a bunch of stuff – for example, two full grocery bags and a purse.  I can also easily and quickly reach my bag when stopped at a red light.

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The crate is heavy – it’s all solid wood and nails.  But so is my bike!  When I’m riding Oma, I’m slow and steady and generally traveling no more than five or six miles, so extra weight is not a big deal.

Does anyone else use a wooden crate like this?

Review: Detours Ballard Market Pannier

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Recently I have been testing a new bike bag, the Detours Ballard Market Pannier, a large shopper that easily transforms from a pannier to a tote to a backpack.

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The website describes the bag as follows:

If you’re rolling up [to the market] on a bike, this is the perfect pannier to take with you. An easily hidden padded shoulder harness lets you wear the pannier as a backpack while browsing the stalls, and two simple yet sturdy pannier clips attach to your rack for the ride home. A lightweight waterproof base keeps your bag dry from street spray, and a removable rain cover protects your goods when the skies cloud over. Interior organization makes this a great option for casual office commuting as well!

The bag comes in red (shown), black and “dalia print,” which is my favorite – grey with a little flower painted on front.
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The bag hangs from the rear rack by two clamps.  The system was a bit tricky on my Pletscher rack because I had to raise the rack’s clamp while attaching the bag, but once in place, the bag fit well.  The large rack on my Dutch bike works perfectly with the Detours’ attachment system.

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The bag appears to droop a bit when loaded, but always feels securely attached.

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There are adjustable straps on the front, which come in handy when the bag is used as a backpack.

The long handle straps are useful when carrying the bag, but they hang awkwardly when the bag is mounted and could be long enough to interfere with the wheel.  I tied them together and tucked them into the bag as shown below.  Another option is to tuck the straps in the front pouch, but neither solution is very elegant and I wish there were a better solution.

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The bag, as you can judge by its size, holds a substantial amount of stuff.  In addition to the cavernous interior, there is a small internal, zippered pocket, plus three external pockets (two small on the side, on large on the front).

The bag I’ve been using for years as a large shopper is my Basil Rosa-Mirte Shopper, but that bag must be hand-carried by a handle – super annoying when trying to shop and/or when carrying a heavy load.  The Detours bag is not as cute, but wins over the Basil for ease of carrying with the shoulder strap and backpack option.

I’d say the Detours Ballard Market is most comparable to the Ortlieb Bike Shopper that I reviewed last year.  In that showdown, the Detours bag wins hands down.  Both bags hold a lot and have smart and easy attachment systems, but the Detours has useful outside pockets, holds more, is easier to close, turns into a backpack and costs $30 less.  The Ortlieb wins only in waterproofness.  The material on the Detours is water-resistent, but the drawstring top leaves it vulnerable.  A full, neon yellow water cover is included, though, so as long as you keep it in the bag, you should be good to go in storms.

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The Detours logo on the side of the bag is reflective, but I was disappointed not to see more.  I wish companies would incorporate more reflective markings on bike bags.

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The two clamps on the back are fronted by a fabric panel…

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…which can be zipped up to hide the clamps and protect you from being poked.

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When carried, the pannier functions as a long, substantial tote bag.  As you can see, it has a sporty feel.  Not something I would feel comfortable carrying to important meetings or court, but suitable for a regular day at the office.

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For daily use, I prefer a more professional-looking bag like Po Campo.  I’m not crazy about the sporty/bookbag-esque look of the Detours, which does not mesh well with my professional lifestyle.  The black or “dalia print” colors are better professional options than the bright red.  That said, the Ballard Market Pannier is marketed as a farmer’s market bag that could double for casual commuting, and the design is appropriate to that purpose.

Overall, I like the Detours Ballard Market Pannier a lot.  The bag fits a huge amount, while also being easy to attach and detach and convenient to carry, either as a tote bag or a backpack.   For a bike bag that are designed to carry substantial loads, the Detours is the best I’ve come across so far.

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And a HUGE bonus of the bag is its nifty transformation to a backpack.  I did not get a photo wearing the pannier as a backpack, so please watch my video to see how easily this works.

Review: Detours Ballard Market Pannier from LGRAB on Vimeo.

The Detours Ballard Market Pannier retails for $69.  The company is based in Seattle, and I’m not aware of any local Chicago stores that carry the brand.

{As always, I received no compensation for this review, other than the bag itself.  Trust me, my opinion’s not that cheap!  ;-)  You can see my entire collection of bags in this video.}

Video: Bicycle Bag Basics

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We here at LGRAB get a lot of questions about which bike bags we use and recommend.  Over the years, I have accumulated quite a collection!  I’m constantly switching from bag to bag – usually between my two Po Campo panniers, my regular purse and canvas shopping bags.  In this video, I go through my entire collection and discuss which styles I like best.

I figure this post will be a resource for new bicyclists searching for ideas about how to carry stuff on their bikes, so please share your bike bag recommendations in the comments.

Brands:

Wald basket

Basil

Arkel

Detours

Po Campo

Fieldguided canvas

Patagonia

Chrome

P.S.  For more info on my bicycle, see my Rivendell Betty Foy video.  Also, my bungie straps and Po Campo review.

United By Blue Organic Canvas Bags

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We receive a lot of emails and press releases about bike-related products and campaigns, but this one really stood out to us: Organic canvas and leather bike bags by United By Blue.

United By Blue, which has an established business producing canvas bags, recently created a prototype bike bag line that’s ready to go into production with the help of Kickstarter funding. Basically, by contributing to the campaign, you are purchasing one of their bags pre-production – and the dollar amounts look reasonable in comparison to similar bike bags on the market. As a bonus, for every product sold, United By Blue removes one pound of trash from oceans and waterways through company organized and hosted cleanups.

$25 gets you the Organic Handlebar Pouch.

$60 gets you the Organic Handlebar Bag.

$90 gets you the Organic Pannier Bag.

All of the bags come in four beautiful colors.

If, like me, you do not need another bike bag but would like to support the effort, you can give $5 or $15.

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{We received no compensation for this post.}

Review: Bird Industries Bike Garter

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When I saw bike garters from Bird Industries available in one of those email flash sales a few months back, I decided to give one a whirl. This particular bike garter had been recommended a few times in our comments section, and I have a few skirts I like to wear on my bike that give me occasional modesty issues. The bike garter is pretty simple: It’s a garter with a clip much like an actual garter, but the clip is meant to grab your skirt, not a stocking. The Bird Industries garter I chose was a bright pink and size large since I wanted to make sure it was not too snug. The inside of the garter has a silicone grip, and it stays put on my leg without pinching (though it’s not the sort of thing you really forget you are wearing).

The clip is not difficult to use, but the way it works was not intuitive to me: instead of pinching the end of the clasp to make the end that opens open, you push it up to open the clasp.

The first time I wore the garter, I fixed the clasp to the hem of my skirt, on the side. It made a bit of a bubble hem, but looked pretty normal.

Skirt with garter clip clipped to the hem—note the slight bubble

You can also attach the clasp to a spot on the underside of the skirt.

rear side of skirt clipped to garter

skirt with the garter clip clipped to the underside of the skirt

Both clasp methods worked to keep the skirt from flying all the way up, and did not impede my pedaling ability. However, neither kept the garter from showing. This is clear on the Bird Industries store, so it isn’t like they’re misleading anyone, but I was surprised by the way exposed garter made me feel. It still seemed that something was showing that ought not to be—and that “something” was bright pink! I didn’t take pictures of this situation for that reason. But it was easily resolved by tucking a small portion of my skirt hem under the edge of the garter at the side. I am not sure I would feel comfortable wearing this garter with a shorter skirt, like the ladies in the Bird Industries photos. Which is odd, because I don’t consider myself that shy about that sort of thing—it took me four years to buy one of these, after all.

Garter clip in action, with garter safely covered.

As I mentioned, I bought my garter clip on super clearance through one of those “final sale” flash shops, but the normal retail price is $12. Overall, it is an effective method of keeping your underwear under wraps, as long as you don’t mind flashing a garter instead.

Do you use a bike garter?

The Best Everyday Pedals

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I believe there is no such thing as bad shoes for everyday cycling, only bad pedals.  :-)  Although I rarely wear high heels (preferring not to feel hobbled), I do not want my bike to prevent me from pulling them out on those days when I feel inspired.

My friend Chika recently wore these fabulous high-heeled sandals while riding her new Linus Dutchie.  Although she looked kick-ass, she admitted that the heels were very difficult to bike in, as her foot kept sliding off the pedal.

Chika's heels

While some may say, “Um, don’t bike in heels,” that’s not how we roll around here.  Instead, I commiserated – been there, experienced that – and encouraged her to consider replacing the Linus’s stock pedals with inexpensive Dimension rubber pedals. Chicagoans: you can buy them locally at J.C. Lind Bikes.

Dimension rubber pedals

I discovered these particular Dimension pedals while borrowing a De Fietsfabriek bike for a group ride.  During that ride, my normally difficult, high pumps stayed glued to the pedals as if by magic.

Prada pumps and Dimension pedals

I soon bought the same pedals for my Oma and they have been going strong for over two years.  The rubber has not lost its grippiness over time and the heavy use has not worn them down.

As I said before, the ability to bike in any shoe is all about the pedals.  Well, okay, maybe these extreme(ly badass) heels of Trisha’s would be difficult even with these pedals.  But maybe not!

What kind of pedals do you have on your bike?  Do your shoe soles ever slip?  Do you have your own recommendation for “best everyday pedals?”

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Colorful Bungie Straps for Betty

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Betty Foy has brand new, beautiful, red bungie straps!  For years, Betty has had navy blue striped ones that did not match her aesthetic well.  I’ve always wanted pretty straps for her, but found only boring colors in the past.  The old straps were slowly becoming more slack, so when I saw these new bungie straps in a rainbow selection of colors, I knew it was time for a change.

This red color matches her heart lugs – a subtle detail that is important to me!

These straps snapped on in a matter of seconds, since I already had a base for them on my rear wheel.

For now, I’m using the bungie strap to hold only my lock, but these bad boys are stretchy and strong enough to hold big boxes on the rear rack.  I’ve used simple straps to carry cases of 24 bottles of beer!

Sorry, I do not know the brand (no markings on the product), all I know is they are from Holland and locals can pick them up at J.C. Lind Bikes, where I got mine.  I’ll update this with the brand name when I figure it out.

With a front basket, plus a rear rack with bungie cords and panniers, a regular bike can hold a lot of cargo.

Who else loves bungie straps as much as me?
:)

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