Urban Velo

Wyatt Street King Bike Review

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An increasing array of single speed bikes offering flip flop free/fixed hubs are on the market these days, as the ease of riding and maintenance grows in popularity among riders old and new. Whether you don’t understand gears or just don’t want to deal with them, the single speed Wyatt Street King is a no-fuss bike made with the commuter in mind. It’s both stylish and practical, with thoughtful accents like two brakes, brushed metal cable guides and built-in chain tensioners, with a reasonable price point of $449.

The Street King is ready to ride in short order. Practical features include rack and bottle cage mounts, and the inclusion of both a fixed cog and freewheel, giving this Wyatt a leg up on many bikes being designed for urban riding which tend to lack the more utilitarian braze-ons. Another nice thing about it is that it ships with two brakes—the Street King certainly doesn’t forfeit any stopping sensibility in the name of fashion.

It’s a solid machine, built with 4130 chromoly frame and fork, and weighs in at 25.5 lbs. with semi-aggressive geometry that makes it good for both cruising and crushing on the street. The frame design mimics sleek aluminum track frames, with a large diameter downtube, but being that it’s not made of aluminum or intended for track racing it seems like an unnecessary flair that adds weight more than anything else. That said, the bike is not cumbersome to ride, nor particularly sluggish when cranking up hills—and it did generate a host of compliments out on the street.

It handles nicely. The Street King is a solid single-speed with a tight rear triangle featuring 405 mm chainstays behind the 74º seat tube and a 73º head angle with a 45 mm road-offset fork up front, making for fluid turning. The 50 mm of bottom bracket drop helps to keep pedal strike under control and the bike feeling responsive at low speed while sacrificing some of the stability that a lower bottom bracket would lend.

With 46×16 gearing it’s a reasonable city gear to pedal, riding fixed or freewheel. The 28c tires are great for getting around town, but they also wide enough to take a ride on some dirt or gravel without feeling wary, especially seated in the double-walled 35 mm deep V Street King wheels. The chain tensioners built into the dropouts make for easy wheel alignment, though the rear hub is not equipped with proper track nuts, which is a drawback that almost cancels out the presence of the tensioners. Sealed hubs and a cartridge bottom bracket (along with the single speed drivetrain) ensure that the bike won’t need much major mechanical work for a good while.

One of the less appealing features of the bike is the clunky plastic department store pedals. Toe straps would be an ideal addition to this build, since riding fixed without pedal retention is not the best idea. The other parts on the bike are standard for a bike in its range, of decent quality—that is nothing exceptional but entirely reliable and functional OEM parts. All parts come with a 45-day warranty and the frame and fork have a limited lifetime warranty.

The Street King comes in six standard colorways, including three single-color setups that feature matching rims and chain—white, black, and lime green—and three two-tone options: pink/blue, yellow/blue, and silver/orange. If none of those suit your tastes, you can pick the individual colors of the frame, fork, rims, seat, chain and decal on your own Street King for the same price as the standard models.

Club Ride Vibe

vibe1If you’re not familiar, Club Ride specializes in high performance cycle wear that can often pass for casual clothing. The Vibe jersey represents their second generation of western styled bike jerseys. I reviewed their Go West jersey a while back, and I can definitely say that that I appreciate the improvements.

By and large, Club Ride has simplified things on the Vibe. It’s noticeably lighter and cooler than the previous generation. Gone are the full zipper and twin buttoned breast pockets. The Vibe still features low-profile snaps down the front, and the single breast pocket and lone rear pocket feature zippered closures. Both pockets are lined with mesh fabric which also makes an appearance under the arms to provide superior ventilation.

In my humble opinion, this is a great looking casual shirt, and it’s been my number one choice when I’m biking to a bar or restaurant. I can commute to work in it and then wear it all day on reasonably cool summer days. I’ve enjoyed wearing it on hot and sweaty mountain bike rides, and it performs every bit as well as my logo-emblazoned Lycra jerseys, and maybe better.

My only real nit to pick is that the fabric tends to look a bit more wrinkled than a classic cotton button down shirt. Since it’s 59% polyester and 41% nylon, you can’t really take an iron to it.

The Vibe is available in S-XL and retails for $95. Color choices are Indigo Devo (pictured) and Raven Devo. Check out www.clubrideapparel.com

Club Ride Pin’It

pinitThe Club Ride Pin’It shorts are the best looking shorts in my wardrobe at the moment. They’re navy blue with pin stripes, how cool is that? They’re definitely comfortable and good-looking enough to wear casually, and I have done so on numerous occasions already. But they’re made for cycling, specifically urban cycling, so let’s focus on their on-the-bike performance…

The shell’s main fabric is absolutely ideal for the application. It’s breathable, stretches just a bit, and dries quickly. They’ve got front and rear pockets like you might expect, as well as a zippered pocket on the left thigh that’s perfect for a cell phone. My only qualm with the pockets is that with such light material, I always fear that anything I carry is going to fall out. To that end, I took the liberty of sewing in a Velcro closure on the right rear pocket to make my wallet feel more secure, but I wish the front pockets were a bit more secure for carrying keys and cash.

The cut is slightly tapered and reasonably long—they sport a 13″ inseam. There’s an internal waistband adjustment, as well as good old fashioned belt loops. This is fortunate, because I feel that the shorts run a little big in the waste, so a belt was rather necessary. Club Ride refers to their high waistband in the back as their NoCrackBack™. And of course they have a seamless crotch gusset to help reduce friction.

The Pin’It shorts retail for $80. www.clubrideapparel.com

Selle Royal Becoz Sport Saddle

SelleThe Selle Royal’s Becoz line of saddles are designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible. They claim to have replaced numerous materials that are derived from fossil fuels with ones that are from renewable resources. This includes the use of natural oils in the manufacturing process, as well as Corkgel, a bio-sourced polyurethane gel combined with natural cork.

The Becoz Sport measures 144 mm wide, 266 mm long and weighs 385 g. While the shape is reminiscent of a racing saddle, the weight will discourage serious competitors (as similar Selle Royal offerings are as much as 130 g lighter). Still, the narrow nose of the saddle makes it well suited for an aggressive riding position. And with its reasonable price point and durable, water-resistant construction I could see this being a good choice for a racer’s training bike.

DSC_8985Personally, I find the Becoz Sport to be adequately comfortable, but it’s not exactly my favorite saddle ever. I might be a bit more at home on the Becoz Athletic which is a bit more substantial in all directions.

The entire Becoz series features Selle Royal’s integrated clip system, which allows for easy installation of accessories, but alas I didn’t get to test it out since I didn’t have one of their lights or saddle bags.

The Becoz Sport retails for about $66. Check out www.selleroyal.com

Fyxation Quiver

Fyxation Quiver

I’m going to start this review out with a pretty bold statement: I’ve never felt so immedietly comfortable on a road bike before. And for serious commuters, comfort is absolutely key, not necessarily because you’re riding long miles but because you’re riding every day, several times per day.

The Quiver is Fyxation’s do-it-all chromoly commuter bike. The name comes from the fact that this one frame can potentially be any number of bikes—single speed, fixed gear, internally geared or fully geared road bike. This flexibility comes via horizontal dropouts (track fork ends), 132.5mm spacing, and a proprietary CNC-machined removable derailleur hanger.

This might be a good point to address the comment that I heard over and over again: Isn’t Fyxation a fixed gear company? Obviously, they’re not willing to be pigeonholed. And that’s a good thing, because while fixed gears are cool, so are geared bikes. In fact, all bikes are cool. But I digress…

Should you indeed want to run the Quiver as a fixed gear, you’ll be happy to know that the cable stops are all removable for a clean look. Fyxation was sure to include dual eyelets in the rear for a rack and fenders, though, as well as eyelets on the matching straight blade 4130 fork.

In my humble opinion, the Quiver is one good looking frame. It features clean TIG welds and a smooth gloss black paint job. What you don’t see, however, is that the frame features an electro-deposited undercoat. This means the tubing is protected from the elements inside and out. So bring on the rain!

Speaking of rain, the Quiver has massive clearance that allows you to still run 35s with fenders. Without fenders you can run up to 47s. Want to go play in the woods? Slap some cross tires on and have a ball.

Of course no bike is absolutely perfect, and I do have a few nits to pick with the Quiver. I’ve got a 28” inseam and the standover on the 49cm frame measures just under 30”. This is to be expected from a bike without a sloping top tube, though, and I’m perfectly capable of dealing with it, but other short riders might want to take note.

The removable derailleur hanger worked a lot better than I expected. In fact, it was virtually flawless. But roadside tire changes are not exactly facilitated by the derailleur coming off when the quick release skewer is removed.

Of course, most people will pretty much shrug off my complaints when they learn that the Quiver frame retails for under $300.

My test bike represents a fairly typical build, but it is a custom component group so I won’t harp on too much about the parts. The frame and fork weigh 5 pounds, and of course your complete build will vary. Still, there are several things that deserve a mention.

The SRAM Apex drivetrain was absolutely awesome. Nothing but crisp, positive shifting, day after day. The stuff looks great and seems like it’s built to last a lifetime.

The A-Class ALX 220 wheelset is a smart choice for a commuter who rides well enough to avoid potholes, but knows better than to spend too much on a commuting wheelset. Watch for a separate A-Class review in the near future.

The Tektro R559 73mm long-reach caliper brakes did a great job in all conditions. You know I couldn’t help but take the Quiver off-road (even with slick tires) and I never felt at a loss for braking power.

Fyxation makes handlebars, but for now they’ve yet to enter the road bar category. As such, they’ve deferred to Salsa for my test bike, and I couldn’t be happier because they know a thing or two about bike components.

Finally, Fyxation rounded out the build with several of their own house brand components including pedals, straps, stem, seatpost, saddle, bar tape, bar plugs, and of course tires. Everything worked as expected, and I can never really say enough about their tires. They’re simply hard to beat.
Check out www.fyxation.com

Booq Mamba Shift

Booq Mamba ShiftThis review is a bit unfortunate in that just about as soon as I received the Mamba Shift, Booq discontinued the model. So while there will be a few floating around in the retail world for a while, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to find one. And it’s a shame, because this is one cool backpack.

Made from 1680-denier ballistic nylon with water-repellant coating, thie Mamba Shift survived some torrential downpours without letting my valuables get wet. But water-resistance is not the main feature of this bag—if you want real waterproofing, I would opt for a bag with a vinyl liner (which the Mamba Shift does not have) or a rolltop bag.

booq2Being a non-cycling-specific bag, the Mamba Shift’s design focuses on comfort, organization, and storage. Among the more unique pockets are the ones built in to the shoulder straps. Though not very good for protecting against the elements, they provide super quick access to your mobile phone or mp3 player.

Screen shot 2013-07-28 at 10.31.38 PMInside, the bag offers a host of pockets, some are zippered, some feature Velcro closures, some are simply flaps of sail cloth material for further organization. The separate padded laptop compartment is lined with soft fleece-like material, as is the external zippered pocket on the top of the bag. The latter is sized about right for most tablets, though it’s not padded.

I was pretty excited about the Terralinq feature at first, as it promises to help retrieve lost and stolen bags, but upon further examination I’m rather doubtful of its effectiveness. You can be the judge for yourself.

Another thing that could be better is the water resistance of the zippers. Considering how well the fabric performs, it’s a shame that the laptop compartment leaked, even if just a little bit.

booq4Back to the bright side, the bag is super comfortable on and off the bike. The formed and padded back panel works as well as any design I’ve encountered as far as letting air get to your back. The carrying handle on the top of the bag is well-placed and features a cylindrical insert that makes it feel “just right”.

I suppose I’ll stop there since, as I mentioned earlier, the bag has been discontinued. Perhaps we’ll review another Booq product in the future. In the meantime, check out www.booqbags.com

Fix It Sticks Review

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Fix It Sticks are geniusly simple modular tools — a Y-wrench in a multitool, with two identical aluminum wrench bodies fitting together to form a T-shape to deliver four flavors of torque far better than folding versions. Each pair features four different non-removeable bits with no small parts to lose, available in common combinations for $30 per pair or with custom bit combinations for an extra $5. Start bolts by spinning the body in your hand, tighten them down using the T-shape, easily applying up to 15 Nm of torque (enough to meet most bicycle torque specs). The Fix It Sticks make quick work of roadside repairs and adjustments, but given the torque limit of the wrench body it’s best to use shop tools to break free stuck bolts as I cracked the Fix It Sticks body trying to loosen a stuck quill stem bolt. No tool fits every bolt, but it’s hard to find a place beyond a bottle boss or inconvenient rack mount that the Fix It Sticks can’t reach. At 51 g per pair the Fix It Sticks are a lightweight addition to the travel kit—combined with a chain tool and a wrench fitting your axle bolts of choice you should be able to fix most any roadside mechanical. Increase the torque spec to be able to handle stuck bolts and I’d be among the first to outfit my workbench with a full assortment of Fix It Sticks.

Yakima StickUp

Yakima StickUpYakima is arguably the most popular name in automobile bike racks. They’ve been making roof racks since 1980, and hitch racks like the StickUp since 1996. While many people will forever be fans of roof racks, I’m short and thus I’m not. Plus, I don’t like the idea of one of my bikes getting crushed overhead in a low clearance situation.

Almost anyone who’s used a hitch rack swears by them. The only real disadvantages are that it can get in the way of accessing your trunk, tailgate hatch, or rear door. And it can be a hassle to install and remove it regularly. Meanwhile a hitch rack is easy to load and unload, keeps the bikes relatively out of harm’s way, and just “feels” like a more secure bike transport system. For those who are conscious of their automobile’s appearance, a hitch rack doesn’t really come into contact with the vehicle, save for the hitch mount interface, so you’re apt to do less damage than with a roof rack or a trunk rack. Granted, most vehicles don’t come standard with a hitch mount, but places like U-Haul can fit one to most vehicles, and prices seem to hover around $250 installed.
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Portland Design Works Excalibur Clip On Fender Review

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While nothing keeps water off of your bike and body better than full wrap fenders, there is a time and place for clip on or seatpost mounted versions. Whether aesthetic concerns, compatibility issues, total lack of mounts or just plain simplicity seatpost mounted fenders have been popular for years as a convenient way to keep the reverse skunk stripe of riding on wet roadways to a minimum. Portland Design Works introduced its second generation seatpost fender the Excalibur this past season, and I’ve been using it throughout the winter, spring and early summer to keep road spray to a dull roar.

The Excalibur fender is made from aluminum alloy, extending a full 20″ back from the seatpost with a 70 mm wide profile. The clamp is doubly hinged to fit any size round post and includes both a QR lever for quick deployment or a 5 mm allen bolt for theft resistance. It overall looks fast for a fender, with a sleek form that is as easy on the eyes as a clip on fender gets.

pdw_excalibur-1In use you can’t expect a seatpost mounted fender to block the same amount of water and road grit as a full coverage, closer fitting fender but the Excalibur does block a significant amount of grime from reaching your bottom. It doesn’t block all of the overspray and does nothing to keep your feet dry, but does a pretty good job of preventing a butt-stripe when blasting through a puddle on the way to the office. It’s pretty nice being able to quickly move the fender between bikes no matter the seatpost size, but on smaller diameter posts the QR lever bolt is long enough to snag my shorts. Easily cured with a hacksaw trim, such is the cost of compatibility.

pdw_excalibur-3PDW designed the Excalibur with road and city bikes in mind, so try to avoid the mountain bike trails with this one. I did not heed their warned and broke my previous generation Machete fender hopping curbs and while the Excalibur solves the pinned weakpoint of the earlier design I’ve learned my lesson. While there is a certain allure to the seamless form of the Excalibur I ultimately wish that the angle of the fender was adjustable — I’m a tall guy, and on my bikes the fender is positioned far enough away from the tire to experience overspray. This could be prevented with an adjustable angle, but would inevitably lead to a more complicated design. Given how far away the tip of the fender is from my rear tire I have found that I ding it when mounting and not thinking about it, not a pleasant sensation of jamming my ankle on the metal end of the fender. That said, the Excalibur is rarely not mounted to one bike or another — I use this fender a few times per week without fail.

The Excalibur weighs 260 g and is available in either black or silver polished for $48 frmo your local shop or direct at www.ridepdw.com

Light and Motion Vis 180 Micro Review

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Rear lights are cheap insurance against getting rear-ended, with brighter options available year after year as LED and battery technology continues to improve. Light and Motion specializes in rechargeable lights, and the Vis 180 Micro is their take on a USB rechargable compact rear light to keep other road users off your back.

Unlike other “blinkies” the Vis 180 Micro does not blink but rather pulses — less blinding than a high powered blink, but perhaps as eye catching. At least to my unscientific eye the pulse is very noticible, taking approximately one second to go from bright to dim and back, never fully turning black. Two LED sources provide visibility, a main red emitter with up to 25 lumens of output and a smaller yellow one. As the name implies, the Vis 180 Micro has 180º visibility thanks to internal reflectors and side cutouts for the yellow LED, and while more visibility is always better I question if sidelights prevent broadside collisions given the way they tend to occur at intersections. Four modes give you a few light options — high pulse, low pulse, high and paceline mode. High pulse and high set the red LED at the full 25 lumen brightness, with low pulse halving the power and paceline cutting out the main LED altogether for riding in a group where the Vis 180 Micro would otherwise blind the following rider. Even with the light in the constant high mode you can expect about 4 hours of runtime out of the Li-ion battery, with high pulse clocking in about 6, low pulse 12 and the paceline mode a reported 20 hours of light. By far the longest running (bright) rechargeable rear light I’ve yet used, the Vis 180 Micro is the only one that I don’t have to make an effort to remember to recharge every day or two, I easily get a couple of weeks of night riding out of it on my backpack.

The Light and Motion Vis 180 Mciro has my favorite mount ever, a hinged clip that clicks closed, providing a secure mount that has yet to eject from my backpack as so many lights with simpler slide-on clips have. The clip hinge has positive detents to keep it in place on a back pocket (though I wish it locked in place evne more securely in the closed position), or you can use the included silicone strap to mount the light to your bike with the hinged clip providing secure angle adjustment. A bike rack mount is available separately.

When it comes to durability, I’ve yet to crack the clear housing of the Vis 180 Micro even if I have scarred it up from about a year of it sitting on the bottom of my backpack and being set down on countless floors and less forgiving surfaces. Light and Motion considers this light weatherproof and water resistant, but not fully submersible, and even though the rubberized on/off button covering came off within a month or two of using the light I’ve not had it short out or otherwise malfunction because of it. I’ll be the first to admit that I do my best to avoid riding long distances in downpours but it does happen on occassion, and the Vis 180 Micro has not let me down because of it.

At $50 the Light and Motion Vis 180 Micro is not the least expensive rear light money can buy, but given the USB recharging capabilities, long runtime and excellently designed mounting clip the few dollar premium over other high end non-rechargeable tail lights seems much more reasonable. While carrying the “made in China” label due to some internal components, like all Light and Motion products the light is designed and assembled in Monterey CA, with as many bits and pieces created in-house and locally sourced as possible. If you ever have issues with the light, Light and Motion is but a phone call away and proviudes repair service in house. See more at www.lightandmotion.com

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