Tag Archives: review

Review: Moleskine Planner

Moleskine Planner - side
Moleskine is a producer of legendary notebooks. Originally handmade by French bookmakers, Moleskine has a lot of history behind them, being used by the likes of Oscar Wilde, and Vincent van Gogh. Sadly, in 1986 the Moleskine style notebook died out. In 1997, a small company started reproducing these notebooks, and in 2006 Moleskine became the company we know today. Making a wide range of notebooks, planners, travel notebooks, and other specialty notebooks. Now there is even a digital form of this beloved paper book as an App.

I have used a couple different notebooks, using the larger notebooks for drawing and note taking, and the pocket sized notebooks for ideas. But the one I use the most is my Moleskine 12 Months Weekly Notebook Diary/Planner, red hard cover, large. I have used this same planner each year for the past 3. Angel had given me tMoleskine Planner - 3 weeklyhe first one in 2010. I used it for it at first just for writing down events, but after I moved to Oregon in the spring and bought my LHT it has been used everyday to keep track of my miles and time ridden on my bike for that day.   Angel got her own extra small (pocket sized) Moleskine 12 months Daily Diary/Planner, with a black soft cover.

Moleskine consists of great features for useful planner. The first few pages consist of a list of international codes, holidays, conversion charts, time zones, and travel log. The pages are nicely organized, whether it’s a daily, weekly, or monthly planner in any size. In the back they have a small pocket to store loose notes. The larger planners come with a removable lined booklet that can be used for anything. When I got my first Moleskine planner you could get any color, as long as that color was black (a la Henry Ford). The red was special, so that is the one I got. In the past 3 years Moleskine has started producing planners and notebooks with covers in every color imaginable, as well as embossed designs to choose from, with multiple page layouts (graphed, lined, blank, ect.). So you’re likely to find one that fits your style and need.

Moleskine Planner - covers Moleskine Planner - open daily
Moleskine Planner - open weekly Moleskine Planner - used open

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REI Year-end Garage Sale

Saturday December 31st, 2011 was the REI Year-end Garage Sale in Eugene. This is a big sale at REI, where they sell slightly used gear, returns, and display items. This was the first time I have been able to go to one myself, and let me just say it was well worth the short wait in line to get in. There was a lot of great gear to pick up there and I got myself some presents that I’m quite happy about.

ALPS Mountaineering Mystique 2.0 – MSRP $199.99 bought at $9.83
This is the first real tent I have ever bought, but it seems like it will be perfect for me: 3 season, fits 2 people, pretty light at 5lb 2oz total, packs pretty small. I’m quite excited, the only thing is the tent was not cleaned up before packing away after the last use, so it smells like the outdoors (Angel claims it smells like mossy earth and radishes). No visible mildew, but I should clean it as soon as possible. If anyone has any ideas on how to clean it in the middle of winter, indoors let me know. The biggest problem right now is all the rain we’re getting, so I can’t set it up outside to clean it out and hang. So I’ll need to do this inside maybe in stages. If I can’t get it cleaned out well enough it’s no big loss, it was $9.83.
ALPS Mountaineering Mystique 2.0 Tent ALPS Mountaineering Mystique 2.0 Fly

Novara Arosa Bike Gloves – MSRP S29.50 bought at $9.83
These gloves fit very well and should be a great cool and dry weather glove, when my Novara Stratos Bike Gloves are just too warm. On the tag, the reason for return was “not warm enough”, but these will work well for me. They just needed a little stitching fix, and now they are perfect. I can’t wait to get to use them this coming spring.
Novara Arosa Bike Gloves Novara Arosa Bike Gloves

Merrell Chameleon3 Stretch – MSRP $120 bought $19.83
The shoes are hardly broken in and all the tread is there, including the fine tread that wears off fast. They should be great for hiking and walking.
Merrell Chameleon3 Stretch Merrell Chameleon3 Stretch

GoPro HD HERO Camera – MSRP $239.99 bought $99.83
It was a big surprise for me to find this, and it was a hard decision to get it but I did. Angel and I shoot lots of videos together and we have always talked about getting one. This price was too fair to pass up. I can only imagine no one got it before me because: A. They didn’t know what it was, or B. They don’t do video editing themselves. The camera is in perfect condition. The reason for return was “didn’t like product”,  and I don’t really know why they didn’t like it, but I like it already. It has HD video up to 1080p at 30fps, with 127º wide viewing angle. 60fps at 720p and WVGA resolutions allowing smooth slow motion playback with 170º wide viewing angle. With a waterproof case allowing it to go to depths of 180ft (60m), my Fuji XP10 depth is only 10ft (3m). Comes with mounts, including a one for vented helmets. This should get a lot of good, fun video footage that we can use. Great for long bike rides, or trips to the coast. Can’t wait.
GoPro Hero GoPro Hero
I’m excited to get to use these new items and after I will write reviews for them, so stay tuned. There will be new videos as well with the help of the GoPro Hero.

Review: Ortlieb Back-Roller Pannier

Ortlieb Back-Roller Pannier - closed squarI got my Ortlieb Back-Roller Classic Panniers shortly after getting my Surly Long Haul Trucker in May of 2010. I tried one other set of cheap panniers for a short time, but decided I needed something a lot better. Ortlieb is one of the best cycling/waterproof bag companies around. The Back-Roller Classics MSRP is $165 for a pair. The panniers are made of a PVC-coated polyester fabric, with 2 inner pockets: 1 large, and a smaller mesh zippered pocket. On the outside there are large reflectors. These panniers roll closed and latch, and come with a shoulder strap that can be secured by a hook on the front. The bag is completely waterproof. The Back-Roller Classics use Ortlieb’s QL1 attachment system. These are super simple panniers to take on and off the rack.

Here is a cool video showing how to attach the bags, with some funky music.

Ortlieb Back-Roller Pannier - closed Ortlieb Back-Roller Pannier - open Ortlieb Back-Roller Pannier - side Ortlieb Back-Roller Pannier - side 2 Ortlieb Back-Roller Pannier - back Ortlieb Back-Roller Pannier - inside
I’ve had the panniers for almost 2 years, and they have held up really well. They fit almost everything inside, and have a capacity of 2,441cu.in. (40L). I have been able to carry tons of groceries. If a little added space is needed I just keep the top open and it stays pretty stable. I also tend to use the shoulder straps to strap down the odd items onto the rack, which is an added bonus. In my main pannier I keep my small essentials in the mesh zippered pocket: spare patches, lights, pens, and my spork. All my other repair essentials are in a small saddle bag.  In the larger open pocket I keep my map, bandana and wrench. At the bottom of the main bag, I keep my rain cape and jacket, then anything else goes on top of them. Everything else goes in other one when I need to carry more, or balance the weight. Being waterproof is a must for the Pacific Northwest weather.

The QL1 System is perfect. It keeps the bags secure on the rack without rattling around. There is no fear of them falling off, but they are still super easy to take off when you pull up on the release handle. The shoulder strap is easy to use, but if you want something more comfortable, try out the Ortlieb Carrying System (read more about that lower on the page). I would recommend these panniers to everyone. I hope to get the Ortlieb Front-Roller Panniers to match once I get a front rack for my LHT.

Ortlieb Back-Roller Ortlieb has come out with new graphics on their Back-Roller Classic Design sets,  MSRP $170 per pair. The Wave, Dot, and Splash designs come in 3 different colors each, more than doubling the Classic color choices from 6 to 15, 19 if you include the 4 special Civia/Ortlieb Designs (only sold in singles). With all the colors and designs you should be able to find the right set for you. Angel plans to get herself one of these new designs. I think they look great. *Update: Angel chose the Splash in the Aubergine (purple) with pink splash graphic. Read about and see photos HERE.

I also use the Ortlieb Carrying System which allows you to attach a removable backpack mount to any single Ortlieb Pannier. The panniers work well on the bike, but could be a little easier to carry off the bike. That is where the Carrying System comes into play, turning your pannier into an excellent backpack. I recommend this system for anyone who wants a pannier on the bike and a backpack off the bike.
Ortlieb Back-Roller Pannier and Carring System Ortlieb Pannier Carring System Ortlieb Back-Roller Pannier and Carring System Ortlieb Pannier Carring System

If you are looking for a lighter PVC-free pannier, Ortlieb has a Back-Roller Plus version of the same pannier design made of strong Cordura fabric and their QL2 System. The Plus come in 4 different colors and cost $200.

Ortlieb (and Ortlieb’s sister companies: Tubus, and Racktime) have lots of other useful products and accessories.

Lichen Terrarium

Lichen Terrarium We got the greatest gift from my sister for Christmas. She got us a wonderful little terrarium from Tiny Terrains on Etsy. Angel and I had both suggested to a couple different friends to give terrariums as gifts for Christmas this year. But we were mainly referring to succulents terrariums or bowls. We have several neat succulents of our own.  Succulents are still a great idea, they are easy to take care of for most anyone, and just look cool. But the one we got from my sister was a small lichen terrarium. This was awesome, Angel and I both think lichens are interesting. They look cool and are easy to take care of.

Lichen Terrarium, Meditating Pig, Lava RockIf you don’t know what lichens (wiki) are, they are not moss, even though most people might think they are just because they grow on trees and rocks similar to moss. But lichen are a symbiotic pair of a fungus (structure) and algae (photosynthesis). Angel and I both have personal experience with lichens from Environmental Science classes where we did tests using lichens as bio-indicators of air quality. It’s really cool once you know what they can tell you about the environment around you. They are literally everywhere here in the Pacific Northwest. Also, they look really wild close up.

Our terrarium came with a pyramid shaped glass, small polished rocks and assorted lichens. Everything is individually packed and you get to place it all yourself; which is really quite fun and peaceful. Then just keep it in bright, indirect light, and give it the occasional light misting of water. Pretty simple for most all people to take care of. I think these are great gifts for friends, family, or yourself, if you like little green plants.

If you are interested in getting yourself or a friend a lichen terrarium, check out Tiny Terrains on Etsy.

Lichen Terrarium Lichen Terrarium
Lichen Terrarium Lichen Terrarium
Lichen Terrarium Lichen Terrarium

Review: New Bike Maps App for iPhone

Bike Maps A new app has been released recently to help with navigation on your bike if you own an iPhone. Bike Maps – Bicycle Directions for Commuting and Touring by Burning Robot is the new app offering turn by turn directions for bikes.

This is a review for Bike Maps Version 1.o.1 (12-13-11), I will try and do updated reviews if and when the newer versions are available.

Features
• Turn by turn directions
• Search by keyword or address
• Get bike directions from your current location
• Prioritizes bike paths and lanes
• Avoids busy streets

I downloaded this app for $1.99 to try it out myself. The app uses the power of Google Map’s Bike Route feature. Over all this app is very clean, and works fast over 3G cell service, but might be lacking some features some people might like. Some of what it is lacking is due to some flaws with Google’s Bike Routing, some are things the app developers might have not decided to add in.

The app is quick to access. Runs well pulling up maps over the 3G. When you open it up it takes you straight into the map, with a Search/Address bar at the top. Pretty bare bones which can bee good. You simply type in what you want in the search bar. Say “bike shop” it will give you the shops in your location, just like Google would. You click the pin on the map then it brings up information about that location, and you can just click the “Bike Directions” button on the page. From your current location only, you will be given a single suggested bike route to that location (the best bike route, according to Google, including distance, and time it will take). The route is highlighted on the map and the written directions are shown one at a time at the top of the screen, allowing you to see the map and directions at the same time. You then can click through arrows at the top right to use the turn by turn directions, which give you the distance and where to turn each step of the way.

Bike Maps App - First Screen Bike Maps App - Zoomed In Bike Maps App - Bike Shop Bike Maps App - Bike Shop Selecte Bike Maps App - Info Bike Maps App -  Bike Shop Distance and Time Bike Maps App -  LBS 2 of 10 Bike Maps App - LBS 4 of 10 Bike Maps App - LBS End

Here are some things the app is lacking in comparison to the full desktop version of Google’s Bike Route feature. It doesn’t show highlighted bike routes, instead it just shows the standard map view. It would be nice if it showed the highlighted map view, then you could use it to plan your own routes. The app also doesn’t suggest multiple routes to choose from, it uses the very first route that would come up if you used the full desktop version. This can be bothersome because in many situations the first choice Google suggests is not the best one. Also there is no way to edit routes yourself. And the app only allows you to get directions from your current location. For the most part this will be fine, but it would be nice to be able to plan out routes from other locations.

I like this app even with what it might lack right now, it’s a good, straight-forward bicycle routing app and it lets you use Google’s Bike Routing feature on your iPhone. So if that is what you want, this will work for you. Also, there are no ads, which is always good.

Available on the App Store

To Burning Robot LLC or the developer:
I have not found a way to contact you. I would like to find out more about what they are working on. So if you are out there please contact me.

Review: Novara Stratos Bike Gloves

Angel and I both picked up new gloves for this winter cycling season. We got the Novara Stratos Bike Gloves (Men’s and Women’s) from REI. I have normally just worn whatever gloves I could find around the house. In Illinois I wore the cheap knit gloves you can find at most all stores, with wool mittens on over them. It worked for the short rides I had to work, but didn’t block the wind at all. Mittens don’t really work well with drop bars. So I started using some Fox River Gripper Gloves. They worked well for gloves but just ended up being too loose after a while, and also didn’t stop the wind. After moving out here to Oregon, I ended up just using those rubber palmed winter garden gloves that I also used at work, working in the freezers. That style of garden gloves work well in fall and spring, they cut out some wind and kept my palms dry if my bars got wet, but didn’t cut it for really cold days and rides longer than 15 minutes. I would sometimes show up to school with completely numb hands.

So this year we decided to get some real winter cycling gloves, and we are happy we did so. We both got the Novara Stratos Bike Gloves (Men’s and Women’s) because we liked the idea of lobster style gloves, but having the index and middle finger separate allows for the dexterity needed for drop bar brake levers. These gloves have large cuffs with synches to go up around your jacket. The synch has nice set up, locking cord on one side and unlock on the other. They have synthetic palms with nice grip, and a small amount of padding, with added grip on the finger tips. They cut the wind, repel water, and are nicely breathable just like they say. There are reflective accents and a nice large amount of fleece on the outer part of the thumb for wiping your face. They fit nicely, I went with the XL, which might be slightly larger then I needed, but it allows for good movement and the ability to fit a glove liner with out being too bulky. I think these are great gloves and I am happy I got them.

Novara Stratos Bike Gloves - Men's

Novara Stratos Bike Gloves - Men's

*UPDATE: Review: Novara Arosa Bike Gloves

PSA: Reflective is Cool

This was going to be a simple review on using iron-on reflective tape to enhance your visibility while riding. But with recent news of many cars hitting cyclists, I have decided to do my part to try and keep cyclists safer on the road.

I am young. When I first started riding I never even wore a helmet. I first thought they didn’t look “cool”. (I had one, I just didn’t wear it until I moved to Oregon). This article is NOT about whether you should wear a helmet or not. That all depends on how you are riding and where, and it’s up to you. I will say I now think helmets look cool, and is a great place to put reflective tape or even small lights. I wear mine, and now feel weird if I walk out of the house without having it on, even when I know I’m not riding my bike.

I’ve come a long way since my early years of riding, and have now started using most all safety items. Even thought I never thought I would.
In order of when I started using them:

  • Front blinking light
  • Any number of blinking rear light depending on where and how long I am gone.
  • Helmet
  • 200 lumen front light
  • Any number of blinking rear lights depending on where and how long I am gone.
  • In wheel orange lights
  • Reflective tape on helmet, bike, and anything else. More Here
  • ANSI Class 2 Reflective Vest (something I never thought I would do)
  • 115db Air-horn
  • Bicycle Bell (yes, I got a bell after the horn)
  • Iron on reflective tape for jackets

All these things help you be seen and hopefully keep you out of danger by other cyclists, pedestrians, and car drivers. This was really just going to be about adding some reflection to your person right now. There are a number of ways to help you be seen while riding.

Photos and more about staying visible and safe after the page break.

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