Urban Velo

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

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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

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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

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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.

Bern Morrison

Bern Morrison HelmetBern has been a mainstay in the urban cycling scene for some time now, and they’ve been successful in the skate, snow and watersports markets, as well. So it only makes sense that they would eventually branch out within the bike world. The Morrison is their first mountain bike specific model. Essentially the same as the new Allston, the Morrison is designed to be lighter and more ventilated than previous models.

DSC_9925Bern’s signature Zip Mold Plus construction pairs a PVC shell with liquid injected polyurethane foam, as well as six nylon ribs molded into the foam. Their latest design allowed them to shave some weight off without sacrificing strength (it meets ASTM F 2040, CPSC and EN 1078 standards).

DSC_9924The Morrison features a removable rubberized visor and comes in a variety of color schemes. Touches like contrasting or color-coordinated chin straps show Bern’s commitment to aesthetics as well as safety. After all, a good looking helmet encourages people want to wear one.

DSC_9923I’ve always had good luck with the fit of Bern helmets, but they’ve switched up their sizing for the coming season. I started with a L/XL Morrison, which felt great on the showroom floor but proved to be a bit too tight in the for/aft dimensions (side to side it was OK). I wound up needing the largest of the three sizes, XXL-XXXL. The dial at the back of the helmet doesn’t seem to offer as much adjustment as I might like, but since I have a pretty big head, I don’t need to snug the helmet down very much. It’s kind of interesting that the chin strap does not adjust at the ear junction, yet it doesn’t seem to negatively effect the fit.

DSC_9921At 451 g the Morrison is a bit heavy compared to comparable helmets in the same category. On the bike, the helmet feels well balanced, though, and the weight actually lends to a feeling of security.

The construction quality is top notch, and I especially like how the main part of the helmet liner connects via snaps, not just little tabs of Velcro.

The Morrison will begin shipping in Spring 2014 and retails for $99. Check out www.bernunlimited.com

NiteRider Pro 1800 Race

NiteRider_pro_1800_raceFor those who need a really bright headlight—I mean a really bright headlight—I call your attention to the NiteRider Pro 1800 Race. Designed for mountain bike racing, there are legitimately times when I’ve felt the need for a truly high-powered light with a long burn time. For example, a long time ago I used to work 10 miles out of the city, and the last 5 miles took me up a windy country road with few streetlights and lots of fast moving pickup trucks. Not only was riding home dangerous because traffic might not see me, but the long downhill stretches allowed me to cruise at the legal speed limit. And at high speeds, more light is always better.

There are also people who just want to feel a little more powerful when they’re out there mixing it up with cars in the city at night. I assure you, you’ll be seen with 1800 lumens. I’ve actually had a lot more cars yield the right of way when I use super bright headlights, perhaps because they assume I’m on a motorcycle.

The package includes everything you would expect, including quick-release bar and helmet mounts. The helmet mount does allow for the slightest amount of jiggle, but the bar mount is rock solid. It also allows for an incredible amount of adjustment, so even if your bars have a lot of sweep or you have to mount the light on the tapered portion, you can still make the lamp point straight ahead.

1800_batteryAt 1200 lumens you can expect to get about 1 hour and 30 minutes of run time. At 700 lumens you should get 3 hours, 400 lumens yields 4 hours, 200 lumens 12 hours, and 80 lumens 25 hours. It takes about five hours to fully charge the four cell Lithium Ion battery. Apparently a battery this powerful requires a real charger, thus it’s not USB rechargeable.

I do enjoy using the Pro 1800 Race for its intended purpose—nighttime mountain biking. While I had been quite content riding with my various high-powered commuter lights, I really couldn’t be happier now.

One last thing to mention is that the light unit has a really simple eight-step battery gauge. As long as it’s bar-mounted, you can always see how much power you have left.

The Pro 1800 Race weighs 484 g and retails for $350. Check out www.niterider.com

Osprey Pixel Port

Osprey Pixel PortThe Pixel Port is part of Osprey’s Portal Series, which puts an emphasis on carrying and accessing your personal technology—your mobile phone, your laptop, and of course your tablet. One thing that I can’t deny is that Osprey knows how to make a good backpack, so even though the Pixel Port isn’t exactly my cup of tea, I knew it would be someone else’s. So I handed the backpack off to a friend who just happened to be researching backpacks already. Here’s what she had to say:

Things that are cool about it:
• Adjustable sternum strap that fits my small frame
• Bright green lining
• Front zipper pocket that’s not too deep, so I never have to fish around for my phone/keys
• Key clip on the inside
• Lots of organization
• My 15.6-inch laptop fits snugly. And when my roommate’s Macbook Air was in there instead, it still felt very secure.
• iPad window—works. But when there’s not an iPad in it, I still used the pocket for small nick-nacks that I didn’t want to have to fish around for (small bottle opener, thimble, pair clips—although there are also other pockets you can put these things in). Once, I left a notepad in there that was open to my to-do list for the day, and that was awesome.
• I like how low-profile this bag is. And also how light it makes three bottles of tequila seem.

I wish it had Velcro so I wouldn’t have to use the clips all the time when I’m running around town with this bag.

The Poxel Port is available in four colors: pinot red, black pepper, chestnut brown and grey herringbone (pictured). Dry weight is 1 lb 10 oz. It retails for $119. www.ospreypacks.com

DZR Marco SPD Polo Shoe Review

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The DZR Marco is a polo-specific SPD-compatible high-top built around a nylon shank that provides a strong, stiff platform for efficient power transfer on the bike, in a style you can wear off. Polo can be a rough sport on the ankles, but the Marco’s high-top design includes a surprising amount of protection. The ankle padding feels like a cross between a lightweight hiking shoe and the pillowy interior of a skateboarding shoe without making them look like a set of clogs. I’ve never really been one for wearing high-tops, but after taking a few knocks, I have to say that I may be converted.

The Marco’s sole is well designed for both clipless and flat pedals. While I ride clipless for polo, I was impressed with the grip the sole had on flat BMX pedals. On the clipless side, the new fiberglass filled nylon shank is noticeably stiffer than earlier DZR models, and reportedly much more durable under serious abuse. The recessed cleats rarely touch the ground, a huge plus for folks using soft cleats, though be prepared to use a spacer under your cleat if you prefer clipless pedals with a platform. Another benefit of the large cleat area is that I didn’t have a problem with mud gumming up my cleats when the weather turned sour. Despite the stiffness of the soles, I was very comfortable wearing the Marcos for the full length of a polo weekend including the six-hour drive to the tournament.

Stylistically I really dig the black with gum sole, and the embossed mallet on the lace strap. The toe box and sides of the Marco are perforated to allow for better ventilation in warmer weather. Given the perforation, I was surprised to notice that my feet never felt as though they were sloshing around in the shoe, even in a torrential downpour. My feet were very wet, but the ventilation made sure that the shoes didn’t fill up with water.

The DZR team has been very receptive to comments from the polo community with regards to what players want from a polo shoe. The $130 Marco addresses the issues I’ve had in the past with other clipless shoes for polo and is worthy of being the first purpose-built polo shoe. www.dzrshoes.com

Contributed by friend of Urban Velo and ever-traveling polo player Nico Paris.

Swiftwick Sustain

Swiftwick SustainSwiftwick’s Sustain line is the only sock on the market that’s made using Repreve post-industrial recycled nylon. These American-made socks feature compression technology and antimicrobial properties, as well as all of the other features you would expect from a purpose made athletic sock.

I know from experience that Swiftwick makes a high-quality product. I got my first pair in 2008 and those socks are still in regular rotation with no real signs of wear and tear. And their merino wool socks are some of my all time favorites.

The Sustain socks have a nice bit of padding on the soles—not too much, but noticeably more than most cycling socks. Swiftwick makes a point of distinguishing themselves in the compression sock market by focusing on the food bed, not just the calf. I can’t say whether they’ve improved my cycling performance, but I can attest to the fact that they’re really comfortable.

The socks in the Sustain line are available in black or white and in a variety of sizes and cuff heights. Retail prices range from $12 to 17. Check out www.swiftwick.com

Five Ten Freerider VXi Elements

Five Ten Freerider VXiFive Ten’s Freerider VXi are high-performance cycling shoes for use with flat pedals. Their primary features are the use of Stealth Mi6 rubber, their new Contact outsole, and DWR treated uppers.

Those familiar with Five Ten know that Stealth Rubber was designed for rock climbing. Several iterations later, they’ve tuned their rubber technology for the cycling world, adding durability and additional shock absorption to their remarkably sticky outsoles. It’s hard to quantify how much traction these shoes provide, but rest assured it’s immediately noticeable.

The Contact design is treadless beneath the ball of the foot. This allows the rider to adjust their foot position without hanging up on the pins that are often used on flat pedals. While not of the utmost concern for the average rider, myself included, this feature is especially useful for technical applications such as jumping and trick riding. And rest assured, the soft and sticky nature of the Stealth Rubber more than makes up for the shoe’s lack of tread, even in wet conditions.

Speaking of wet conditions, the uppers are DWR treated for water resistance. They’re extremely well crafted with an emphasis on durability, and they feature a bit of moisture wicking insulation for cold weather riding. Honestly, I didn’t notice the insulation, I generally expect skate-style shoes to be warmer than others. Considering there is additional foam, I suppose the Five Ten design breathes and wicks better than average. One other thing worth mentioning is that the uppers feature an asymmetrical welt, which provides additional durability for the side of the shoe that faces the crankarm.

I suppose most people will either love or hate the styling. I actually appreciate the rather bold color choices for a change, as these shoes remind me of the skate shoes I used to wear back in the 90′s. In addition to the Ocean Depths color scheme pictured here, there’s a slightly more subdued Dawn Blue/Pewter model.

The Freerider VXi Elements is available in US men’s sizes 2-15 and retails for $120. Check out www.fiveten.com

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