Urban Velo

Zoic Downtown Jacket

zoicThe Zoic Downtown Jacket is a simple, stylish softshell that’s also reasonably priced and very well thought-out.

Like much of my favorite cycling apparel, it only comes in black. The Downtown Jacket has some subtle blue accents as well as a small amount of reflective trim for safety’s sake. The soft, stretchable fabric looks good and feels good. It’s 86% polyester and 14% spandex with a DWR (durable water repellent) coating.

DSC_1176I’m always surprised at how well modern DWR softshells repel water, and this one is no exception. But keep in mind, you have to treat them right to maintain their performance. That means limit their trips to the washing machine (Zoic claims their treatment is good for 30 washes) and when you do wash it, it’s probably a good idea to use a DWR specific detergent such as those offered by Nikwax.

The jacket features a rather casual cut, which combined with the subtle branding makes it a nice choice for those of us who aren’t racer-boy slim. It’s also good for uurban riders who don’t like to stand out in a crowd. It features four zippered pockets, two for your hands, one on the lower back and one on the arm for your MP3 player (with internal cable routing). And while it is a relaxed fit jacket, it still offers a traditional drop tail, as well as an adjustable waistband.

The Downtown Jacket retails for $115 and comes in sizes M-XL. Check out www.zoic.com

Cateye Rapid X

Cateye Rapid XIf memory serves correct, my very first blinky light was a Cateye. The classic design used two AAA batteries and required a coin to pry the two halves apart from the yellow rubber gasket. That thing cost less than $10 and lasted for years until I either lost it or gave it away.

To say the blinky light market has evolved would be a gross understatement, but Cateye seems to have kept up with the times. The Rapid X features a state of the art COB LED module and a 200mAh USB-rechargable lithium ion battery. It weighs just 23g, which should make it an appealing option for road racers and weight weenies alike.

Cateye Rapid XOne of the best features of the Rapid X is the side visibility. It’s nearly as bright from 90° as it is from the back. Interestingly, the light isn’t overpoweringly bright. It seems that Cateye put more value on runtime than lumens, as the light is claimed to run for up to 30 hours in flashing mode. Regardless of which of the six modes you are in, when the battery gets low, the unit automatically switches to flashing mode, ensuring you an hour of burn time. Back home on the range, you’ll need just two hours to completely charge the battery.

Cateye Rapid XConstruction seems solid, and the tool-free elastomer-based mounting system is as simple as can be. While I used to be loathe to trust a rubber band to hold my light on, I’ve grown more confident as light manufacturers have obviously stepped up their game. One of the two provided mounting straps will allow you to mount it to 12–32mm tubes.

cateyeAt first I was going to complain that the rubber back panel comes off fairly easily, which could cause you to lose parts of the unit when charging or transporting it, but then I realized that won’t be a problem if you leave the mounting strap attached.

The Rapid X retails for about $40. Check out www.cateye.com

WOHO Ninja Ninja Deluxe Gloves

Woho Ninja NinjaI don’t know of too many cycling gloves that are truly designed with the urban cyclist in mind, so WOHO’s Ninja Ninja gloves may be the first of their kind. They’re simple, functional and good looking.

Personally, I like simple gloves, especially for city riding. I don’t like tons of logos, nor do I need rubberized “armor” on the fingers. I just want something that keeps my sweaty hands from slipping off of the grips. And unless it’s below freezing, I prefer lightweight, breathable gloves. These fit the bill.

DSC_1054The Ninja Ninja gloves feature smooth, breathable Lycra shell with a synthetic suede palm material. The palms feature a non-slip silicone coating and SBR foam padding which feels thin until you grab the handlebar, then it feels quite substantial. Overall they’re a very comfortable pair of gloves. I also like that these don’t use a Velcro wrist closure—unless it’s a compression strap for wrist support, it just seems unnecessary.

DSC_1053One of the major features of the long-fingered Ninja Ninja gloves is the use of touch-screen friendly fabric on the index finger tip and thumb. In fact, this may be my favorite feature. It’s a simple convenience that’s probably going to be ubiquitous in a few years. Another interesting feature that’s only on the fingerless version are small pull tabs on the middle two fingers. This seems a little less necessary to me, personally, but might make some people quite happy.

DSC_1055I do feel that the Ninja Ninja gloves run a tiny bit small. So you’ll want to double check with WOHO’s size chart, and perhaps order one size up if you feel that you’ve got rather large hands.

The Ninja Ninja Deluxe gloves come in a variety of solid colors, all accented with color-matched elastic bands with a subtle silicon logo. The long fingered gloves retail for $31 ($28 for short fingered) and come in sizes S-XXL. Check out www.wohobike.com

NiteRider Lightning Bug 100 USB

NiteRider Lightning Bug 100 USBThe Lightning Bug 100 USB is NiteRider’s idea of a high-quality light for the practical commuter. Meaning that it’s affordable yet powerful. It features trickle down technology from their Lumina and Mako lines, yet retains the simplicity of the original Lightning Bug.

As the name implies, it features a 100 lumen maximum output. There’s also a 50 lumen mode, as well as a flashing mode intended for daylight safety. The 800mA battery charges in 2.5 hours via USB, and provides an equal amount of runtime on high (6 hours on low, 26 flashing).

NiteRider Lightning Bug 100 USBThe simple, tool-free silicone mounting system is convenient and easy to use, even with gloves on. You don’t need to stretch the band terribly tight to make the light stay put, which bodes well for it not snapping after extended use. The whole unit feels like its built to last, which is generally the case with all NiteRider products.

DSC_1051The beam pattern is pretty soft and wide, which I personally appreciate. Of course in this day and age of 1000 lumen commuting lights, the humble Lightning Bug isn’t nearly the brightest light on the road. But many of us remember when 100 lumens was considered super bright, and it’s still enough to get you around town safely at night.

The Lightning Bug 100 USB retails for $39. Check out www.niterider.com

Lezyne Steel Digital Drive Floor Pump

Lezyne  Steel Digital Drive FLoor PumpA good floor pump is an essential equipment for any cyclist. Lezyne offers an array of pumps and they chose to send in their Steel Digital Drive for review. It’s a solid pump in the middle of their Digital range, of course named for the use of a digital pressure gauge.

The 26″ tall pump features a steel barrel and piston, a wooden handle, an aluminum base and a nylon-reinforced braided hose. It’s a classic looking design with a few modern touches.

Lezyne Steel Digital Drive Floor PumpAs you would expect from a full-size floor pump, it takes care of business in a flash, easily achieving 100 psi. Lezyne claims it’s rated to 160 (11 bar). They also claim that the digital gauge is accurate to within 3%. My ordinary analog gauge seems to confirm that it’s in the ballpark, noting that every time you check air pressure you invariably lose some.

Lezyne Steel Digital Drive Floor PumpThe digital gauge is relatively simple with no backlighting, just a simple pressure reading in either PSI or bar. It uses a standard CR2O32 battery that’s easily accessed from the face of the unit. The lack of backlighting makes it a bit difficult to read in my shadowy basement, but said feature would probably drain the battery pretty quickly. As it is, Lezyne claims the battery should last at least one year. I always wish more floor pump designs would bring the gauge closer to the handle, but alas I’m sure if it were easy then more companies would do it.

Lezyne Steel Digital Drive Floor PumpThe Steel Digital Drive is available with one of two pump head configurations—dual valve or ABS Flip-Thread Chuck. We received the latter of the two, which is probably the more interesting of the two designs. The chuck is reversible for Presta or Schraeder, and it threads on to the valve. At first I found this a bit inconvenient, but I came to appreciate it. If that’s just not your cup of tea, they do include a L-shaped slip chuck adapter which also makes the pump usable on disc wheels.

Lezyne Steel Digital Drive Floor PumpThe chuck also features an air bleed system. When used in Presta mode, the small button releases pressure from the hose, making it easier to remove the chuck. For Schraeder valves, the button releases pressure from the tire.

The Steel Digital Drive retails for $90. Check out www.lezyne.com

Trelock LS 950 Headlight Review


Lights are a vital part of even the sometimes-night rider, let alone the daily commuter or lifestyle rider. The past few years have seen some incredible jumps in lighting technology, ushering in a new era of compact high powered rechargeable units to safely extend your ride time well after dark. The days of questionable be seen button cell powered blinkies are behind us, it’s time to light up the road ahead. Trelock is one of the oldest cycling accessory brands in Germany (the company began in 1854) and the LS 950 is their top of the line commuter headlight.

trelock_ls950-4The Trelock LS 950 is what I would term a super-commuter light, with enough output for riding in complete darkness and battery power for up to 45 hours of riding between recharges. That’s a week’s worth of 2 hour morning and evening commutes without a recharge, in the lowest power mode at least. Trelock sacrifices absolute maximum power and minimum weight for long runtimes, optimizing light output through reflector technology rather than with higher and higher powered LEDs. In much of Western Europe transportation cycling is far more ingrained in the culture than it is in the United States, and Germany is no exception with commuter paths crisscrossing the cities and bicycle specific law in many cases far ahead of our own. One such regulation is the StVZO laws that regulate all lighting used in public traffic, including bicycle lighting. StVZO laws are at the heart of the LS 950 reflector, and that reflector is the basis for the entire light.

trelock_ls950-7The reflector and lens in the LS 950 squeezes the most light possible from the LED inside. Placed next to other lights with 1W LEDs and it can be surprising to find out that the power consumption of each is the same — the LS 950 has a bright beam focussed on the road surface ahead rather than a floodlight effect. The aforementioned StVZO laws require that lights not blind other road users, forcing manufacturers to engineer reflectors that direct light down and onto the roadway rather than straight forward. Imagine cars with bare bulbs rather than headlights focussed on the road and such light laws start making perfect sense. The lens of the LS 950 isn’t perfect, there are some stray beams refracted through the front surface of the lens heading off to the sides, but the bulk of the light is focussed into a box, lighting up what is ahead without “wasting” much light on places your wheels will never touch. It’s really an impressive amount of light, one hard to justly photograph.

trelock_ls950-5The quoted output ranges from 6 – 70 lux, a unit that measured focussed light rather than raw light output, with five power levels to choose from. Along with multiple levels, the LS 950 has an excellent power meter displaying hours and minutes remaining in a given light level. With the larger than usual 4300 mAh lithium ion battery and excellent power management the light offers unparalleled runtimes, 6 – 45 hours. This is the light I would choose for a multi-day tour where recharging isn’t a solid option. The plus and minus light buttons are easy to use even with winter gloves, requiring an extended button push for on/off with a tap to move between levels. With a subtle backlight so you can always see the remaining battery life this is easily the best light meter I’ve ever used, with no glitches or jumps in the estimated time remaining that I’ve noticed. If only the buttons were also backlit, that would make it much easier to adjust light levels throughout the ride.

trelock_ls950-2The LS 950 body is plastic and while sturdy feeling, perhaps not what I’d look for in a $230 light unit given the build quality of some of the competitors. It is not rated as waterproof but passes the faucet test of not shorting out under running water, I’d just make sure the plug for the USB recharging port is securely in place before heading into the eye of the storm. The bar mount uses a cam and strap similar to some seatpost fender mounts, fitting most any bar out there with enough side to side adjustment to keep the light straight ahead no matter the backsweep of the bars. I did find that the strap mount could slip forward over rough patches of trail — if you experience the same there is a more conventional bolt-on mount available. The same battery that gives the light the amazing runtimes unfortunately also gives the LS 950 some pudge around the middle, making the light a tight fit on some of my handlebar configurations — something to consider if you you run narrow bars or have a dashboard of accessories on your bike.

Overall the Trelock LS 950 is a pretty great commuter light, especially for those with plans to ride deep into the night a couple of evenings in a row. It is really all about the runtime and power management of this light, and the lens that maximizes the light output in just the right place. At 214 grams the LS 950 isn’t a lightweight addition to your race bike, but neither is it meant to be. For people replacing significant car trips the $230 retail price is easier to swallow than for sometimes riders, but this is a light that really appeals to people looking to maximize runtime and minimize recharging. If that is your goal, this might be your light. See more and order direct at the US distributor, Cantitoe Road.

Ride With GPS Route Planner Review

imagesImagine you want to plan out a long ride for you and your friends. How would you go about planning the ride? Get directions to somewhere with Google maps and drag some waypoints? Pull out an atlas? What if it got complicated? What if you wanted to upload it to your smartphone or GPS? There are a number of options in ride planners and mapping software available, but Ride With GPS is the best that I’ve yet tried.

Ride With GPS is a webapp that helps you plan your routes. It provides a map editor where you can click to plot out your route and generates a full distance and elevation profile of your route along with a fully editable cue sheet.

The editor is easy to use, and generates the cue-sheet as you go. It will auto-route between points using bike, car, or walking directions. Alternatively, you can simply click to do point to point routes for off-road sections, shortcuts, or where the maps don’t match the actual street condition. If you mess up, it keeps a deep undo history, so you can step backwards as many times as you need to fix any issues with your routing. It incorporates OpenStreetMap, Google Maps, satellite, topographic maps, and allows you to pop in and out of Google Street View where available while in the route editor.

You can add arbitrary cue sheet notes anywhere along your route. These, as well as all of the automatically created cue sheet prompts, are completely editable, so you can put in extra detail like “Turn at the church” or “Be careful, loose gravel around turns.”

While you can plan a route and print the cue sheet for free, $50/year Basic and $80/year premium members have some great customizable map and cue sheet printing options which are delivered as a PDF that you can send to your ride buddies.

If you use a Garmin or your smartphone to follow routes, you can export your route to TCX, GPX, or KML formats to load on to your device. The CSV (cue sheet directions and milage only) export is handy for creating detailed custom cue sheets for event or group ride planning if you’re into that sort of thing. Detailed instructions and recommendations are provided for how to use any of the Garmin Edge series devices with the site. Premium users can make this easier with the “Garmin Write” functionality. There is also power meter compatibility if you’re serious about training.

When you are done, you can share a publicly viewable link to the route with your friends and then go ride. www.ridewithgps.com

Contributed by Ben Voytko, friend and riding buddy of Urban Velo, and valued tech consultant when panic sets in.

Daisy Energy Bar

Daisy’s Grocery is based in Nagoya, Japan. Izumi Shimasaki bakes a variety of amazing breads, pies and other confections, and makes homemade sandwiches, curry and more. She also delivers by bike, though with the recent welcoming of their second child, it may very well be her husband Izuru who delivers.

DSC_0817The Daisy Energy Bar is made from real nuts and grains, with obvious attention to detail. It looks delicious and it is. And you can tell it’s healthy, not only because the label says so, but because it’s not overly sweet. And it’s not overly processed like many energy bars—you can taste the various individual ingredients.

Retail price is about 100 yen (roughly $1 USD) per bar. They’re pretty much only sold locally, so you’ll just have to go visit Nagoya to try one. Visit Daisy’s Grocery on Facebook or Tumblr.

Soma Tradesman Cargo Bike Review


It’s a certain lifestyle or business that necessitates a cargo bike, where carrying around more than most would consider possible by bicycle is commonplace, and not something usual racks and bags can handle. Front loading cargo bikes are the next logical step from a large front basket, with delivery bikes featuring welded-in frame-mounted racks popular throughout the first half of the 20th century. The Schwinn Cycle Truck produced from 1939-1967 defined the short wheelbase, small front wheel cargo bike, with the Soma Tradesman being a modern take on the classic arrangement.

Cargo bikes are many times limited by their very carrying capacity — many urban dwellings just can’t handle a long wheelbase bike for one reason or another. The basic design of the Tradesman with mismatched 20” front and 26” rear wheels moves the cargo lower for stability while maintaining a close to mountain bike length 1115 mm wheelbase. The welded-in rack doesn’t flop around like fork mounted racks do. The stock 14.5” x 20” rack is plenty large, but narrower than the bars. You can get this bike up porch stairs and through doorways with just a bit more effort than any other 37 lb bicycle, making it a viable cargo bike for tight urban housing.

somacargo-2The chromoly steel Tradesman has disc brake mounts front and rear and fits a “standard” mountain drivetrain (no provisions for internal gears or single speeds), with my review bike setup with Avid BB7s and a SRAM 3×7 setup. Rack and fender eyelets on the frame and fork maximize your weather and cargo capabilities, and a welded in kickstand plate means a fancy double-legged kickstand will hold the bike very securely. The tabs for the front rack are sturdy, and easy as any to fit to a custom cargo container. Perhaps the only finishing touches I’d add would be tabs for a chaincase and custom toptube sign. The one size fits most frame seems to work for people in the mid-five-foot to just over six-foot range, as long as one can clear the 30.5” standover requirement. A definite plus for multiple-rider households.

soma_tradesman_v2_2_800-370x300The Tradesman more or less handles like a regular bike thanks to the steering geometry. Rather than a sluggish turning long wheelbase cargo bike, you can carve through traffic and narrow sidewalks much the same as more regulation bicycles. The rack being welded to the frame keeps the weight from shifting back and forth with every steering motion, keep the load centered and the front wheel steering underneath the rack rather than with it. The rack is supported by a pair of tubes that start at the seattube and extend past the headtube, providing a solid platform for carrying.

somacargo-3 One quirk of the handling is that I experienced front wheel shimmy no matter the load. Even with the rack unloaded riding no-hands wasn’t possible for long as the bars oscillated out of control. Put 75 lbs of cargo on the front and the bike is nearly unrideable as the wheel fights back and forth—that was a harrowing ride back from the big box store. The handling is likely a consequence of load being relatively high (even with the small front wheel it sits 24” off the ground) and cantilevered over the front wheel. All great for some aspects of handling, but any flex or instability in the system is felt through the path of least resistance, the handlebars. This might be the problem bicycle steering damper solutions were looking for. Keep your loads manageable and your hands on the bars.

The Tradesman excels at bulky (if not overly heavy) loads, with a large Wald delivery basket up front I was able to load up with most anything I could imagine carrying home on two wheels. Groceries, packages, copy boxes, party supplies, my backpack – it’s handy to have a cargo bike around. Throw it in and go. The bike is well balanced, enough that the bike doesn’t want to tip forward when being loaded, or when hitting a curb cut when riding. Riding the Tradesman around town opened up a new realm of what was possible to bring home without a car, helping to minimize my auto use. Quell the steering shimmy and I’d be a full convert to the cycle truck way for anything aside from construction runs.

The Tradesman is available as a frameset in either black or sparkle orange (including front rack) for $700, with a complete build as pictured estimated at $1400. www.somafab.com

Banjo Brothers Frame Pack Review


Frame bags are cool again. The basic form has always made sense, even if fashion concerns and the buying trends that go with them kept them from the public eye in recent memory. Back in the day it was high fashion to sport a triangle bag on your mountain bike, and now with long distance gravel and endurance riding seeing a surge of interest frame bags have found new popularity.

Banjo Brothers Frame Packs are available in two sizes, small and medium, to fit most conventional diamond frames, with long straps that can wrap around tubes up to 3″ in diameter. The main pocket has access via a full length zipper on the drive side, with a flat zippered pocket on the non-drive for a wallat or cell phone with an interior key lanyard. The Banjo Brothers frame packs were introduced to the market over a year ago, and I’ve been using a pair of them since on all day rides, on my mountain bike and on overnight trips to help carry the load.

Moving cargo weight from your body to the bike makes more and more sense the longer the ride, and once on the bike frame packs can help expand capacity or move weight to a more central position. Maybe I’m just fooling myself, but I’ve found that I prefer the feel of a bike with the weight centered and below the top tube as opposed to in a handlebar or seat bag. That said, pair a seat or bar bag with the medium frame bag and with some careful packing you should have enough cargo space for some serious adventure.

Mounting the bag couldn’t be easier, though you’ll likely have to trim the straps if you have anything but the fattest tubed bike out there. The downtube strap prevents the bag from swaying and the latch helps to hold it tight and secure, but I wish the latch was on the bag itself as I’ve found that it can interfere with downtube cables. I’m a fan of carrying a full length frame pump on really long days, and the straps of the Banjo Brothers frame packs are enough to wrap around and hold a frame pump in between it and the bag. Reflective piping never hurts, and if nothing but the sound of tires on pavement is your idea of zen you’ll appreciate the no-rattle zipper pull cover.

In terms of real-world capacity I’m able to fit a couple of tubes, patch kit, multi-tool, medium hand pump and an energy bar in the small bag. Pack carefully and I can fit all of the above, a more substantial snack and a compact rain shell or vest in the medium sized bag. Banjo Brothers says that the medium frame pack will fit a 70 oz hydration bladder, potentially useful for your next RAAM attempt. In my experience the bag is pretty water resistant, nothing I had inside ever got soaked, but not completely waterproof for electronics in a storm.

The Banjo Brothers frame bags require roughly 15″ of space on the underside of the downtube to fit lengthwise, and fit best on conventionally shaped road and cyclocross frames. With care you can avoid most cable interference issues, though with some small and medium sized frames the frame packs may block water bottle access. For most riding I choose the small size, but the medium is what I’d go for to maximize capacity for all-day epics and overnight trips. After a year of use I find them an important part of the bag collection. The bags are available for less than $35 each at your local shop or direct from Banjo Brothers.

City Reports