Tag Archives: review

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.

Continue reading

iPhone 4S

iPhone 4S

iPhone 4S, side

Like many others today, I received my iPhone 4s. I plan on trying out and reviewing a lot of the Bike Computer/GPS apps that you can get for the iPhone. Along with some different bike mounts/cases. This will hopefully good comparison of what bike apps for the iPhone, to help people chose the one that is right for their needs.

With all these Apps and accessories you can get the iPhone is a perfect choice for cyclists. This phone has great GPS/Mapping capabilities, battery life, and a great 8mp camera with 1080p video. It would be great to do everything on bike tours.

I have enjoyed the phone so far. Just waiting to get some cases to feel safer using it on the bike before starting the reviews. Here are the first videos I took with the iPhone when I was riding along the river on the bike path.

iPhone 4S Video – Caterpillar Footage

iPhone 4S Video – Caterpillar Footage 2

Review: Copenhagen Dual Leg Kickstand

Copenhagen Dual Leg Kickstand frount view

4 months ago I bought the Copenhagen Dual Leg Kickstand from Velo Orange, in hopes of using it on my Surly Long Haul Trucker. Despite my wishes, the stand didn’t work on the bike. There was nothing wrong with the stand itself or VO, it was Surly’s decision not to make the LHT kickstand capable (you can read more about Surly’s view of kick stand HERE). I knew this was going to happen so I had a back up. I would let my girlfriend use it on her bike. The kickstand that came on the Linus Mixte was a low quality, single leg kickstand that made the bike lean too far over, and would easily fall over when loading up panniers.

The Copenhagen Dual Leg Kickstand seemed like wonderful solution for that. I had chosen this stand over others mainly because it had adjustable legs, no need to cut them. It can be mounted onto bikes with a kickstand plate, or without (if the spacing is right). It comes with all the hardware to mounted the way you need it. The legs have large, rugged, plastic feet that can be unscrewed and adjusted to the length you need them to be. The plastic feet has a large foot print to help support it on softer ground. The legs spread down with a “scissor-action”, and when kicked up they lay on the non-drive side of the bike like most kickstands.

The kickstand makes for great help when loading up the bike with any weight, and keeping the bike from shifting too much. It’s always a help when loading the panniers. It is even helpful to keep for needlessly leaning your bike up against things that can scratch it, and stopping it from being knocked down in a bike rack. This kickstand also make for quick changing of both front and back tires. I used it that way a couple of days ago after the bike got a flat at U of O. The wheel was able to be off the ground just enough to get it out, and was stable enough to stay up with just the stand and one wheel. Great, quick way to do any small maintenance out and about with the bike.

The kickstand is made out of strong aluminum and and rugged plastic feet. The “scissor” spring is good and strong, but still easy to kick down and up. The only problem we have ever had with it is the mounting bolt has come lose a couple times while riding, so the pedal can just barely reach the very end of the kickstand while riding. It took us a while to figure out where the noise was coming from. This could easily be fixed with a little lock-tight on the threads. The kickstand is not as sleek or pretty as some others, but still has some design quality to it, making it look nice on any bike and getting the job done.

This is a great stand for all bikes, recreational, utility cyclist, commuters and even touring bikes could take advantage of this stand.The Copenhagen Dual Leg Kickstand is carried by Velo Orange and sold for $30.00

Copenhagen Dual Leg Kickstand rear view

 

Copenhagen Dual Leg Kickstand legs up

Review: Delta Airzound Bike Horn

Airzound mounted on my LHT, you can see a little horn on the white triger

I ordered the Delta Airzound Bike Horn  back in February. I have had a good 8 months to try it out now. The Airzound is a great accessory for a cyclist that does anything more than recreational cycling. The basic design is a plastic bottle (it looks just like a single use bottled water) full of compressed air. Leading off of the bottle is a plastic hose that meets up with the horn itself. The horn has a button over a schrader valve that you can refill the bottle with air through. The bottle can hold up to 80psi (claimed to be about 30 blasts). This is a closed system, so if the hose gets pinched, or punctured, it won’t work. Delta doesn’t offer any repair kits.

Placing the horn on the bike took me some time before I got it mounted where I liked it. There is little space on my bars for accessories, but I still figured out a good way to mount it. The bottle and hose are another story. The bottle is a smaller diameter then the average cage, so it’s hard to fit it in securely. It might have been nicer if they had made it out of thicker plastic and made it fit like a cycling water bottle should. The bottle is wrapped in velcro and it comes with another velcro strip to zip-tie onto the frame. Different kinds of bike frames will have different set ups for the Airzound. The tube that leads to the horn can also be hard to route. Make sure not to crush the tube under a zip-tie; that will cut off the air, or worse, break the tube. The easiest thing to do is run the tube alongside the cables.

The overall manufacturing quality is good, no flaws. The sound from the horn is extremely loud. It really works when you’re trying to get a car’s attention. The drivers seem to get surprised when there is such a loud sound coming from a little bike. But that is what this horn is all about. I must warn you though, this horn is not to be used towards other cyclists or pedestrians. Please be cautious about using it around people who aren’t in cars. It is claimed to be up to 115dB. This falls in between a car horn (110 dB) and a jet engine (120 dB). There is a volume control, but I haven’t experimented with that feature. I prefer to leave it on the loudest setting, just in case. Even when I know I’m about to use the Airzound, the noise that comes out of it startles me sometimes. I try to warn whoever I’m riding with before I use it, so they are prepared.
I haven’t had any problems with mine yet, but have read cold weather will dampen the sound. All in all, this is a great horn for cyclists, whether you are bike touring on country roads or your daily commute involves a lot of traffic. This horn lets you be heard when needed.

The Delta Airzound Bike HornMSRP is $39.99. I bought mine off of Amazon for around $25, and I have seen them in most LBS for around $25-30. There is nothing else out there on the market to really compete with this product. So bottom line is, if you want a horn to make others aware of your presence when necessary, this will do the trick.

Trigger button lifted to show schrader valve used to refill the air

Front view of Airzound

Air bottle mounted under down tube in an upside down bottle cage for clearance

I Miss My Schwinn Continental

I miss my Schwinn Continental; it’s back in Illinois at my parent’s house. Well, I hope it is, if my dad hasn’t done anything with it. For what it’s worth, that is a great little bike. They might weigh a lot, being that it seems to be made out of old gas pipes. These  bikes are old Chicago Built Schwinns. The bike was always nice to ride, never seeming to have any problems. I keep seeing a lot of Continentals around Eugene, which just makes me think of mine sometimes. These are the only photos of the bike I can easily find.

My Schwinn Continental and I standing of the frozen Illinois River

My Schwinn Continental and I in Chicago (I think)

Surly Disc Trucker

Surly has recently posted photos on their website of the Disc Trucker. Though I am not personally interested in disc brakes for myself, I think they have made a great move offering this option. Many people have been excited about this. I like how they solved the issues of the rack mounting with a disc brake by mounting the dropouts within the rear triangle, allowing any rack to be used. And moving the spare spoke holder up on the non-driveside seat stays. The bike looks really clean, and the new Super Dark Green is a great color on this year’s bikes. I can’t wait to see this at a LBS.

Disc Trucker

Disc Trucker, Super Dark Green

I know a lot of people hoped the Surly Cross Check would be getting disc brakes. I don’t like to speculate but they are probly still working on it, tring to get over the issues of the Semi-horizontal dropouts and disc brakes. Even with disc, people will love that even more in a single speed cross setup. But until then you just have dreams.

Target Missoni Bike(and other fashion BSO’s)

Target Missoni has been brought up so many times this past week that I had to find out what it was for myself. It’s a new collection that has come out from Target, including things for your home, clothing, luggage, as well as a few bikes.

While most box store bikes are pretty inexpensive, these bikes are in the $400 range. This is because of the designer label, not because the bikes are good quality. The item details on the bikes are very non-descriptive, like most cheap bike are, other then the Nexus 3Speed Coaster Brake Hub. This bike could be quite a strain for people to deal with, weighing in at 41.4 lbs. For comparison, my girlfriend’s Linus Mixte weighs 32 pounds and she sometimes talks about wanting something a little lighter. My Long Haul Trucker, a fully loaded touring bike, weighs about 36 pounds. Other less expensive bikes can easily weigh less than 30 pounds.

Here is a description of how to clean it from the site:

“•Care and Cleaning: Wipe Clean With a Damp Cloth”

I hope people realize the bike will need more “care and cleaning” than what a damp cloth will do. I don’t know how these bikes will really stand up to the test of time, like some old department store bikes have. These bikes will still fall prey to the troubles that other box store bikes do, like forks being put on backwards, and parts breaking after a week. People that are not into bikes always wonder why bikes from places other than big box stores can cost so much. It’s the quality of the parts. Regardless of the $399.00 price tag, it seems the bikes are pretty popular with their target market, selling out within a day of being released.  It’s hard to grasp why anyone would spend this much, when they could buy a better functioning bike for just about the same amount of money, even if it is a low-end model, from a real bicycle company. Another big reason for not buying from a big box store, is you can only get service from a real bike shop. If something breaks on these bikes, they can’t bring them back to Target and expect an associate to fix it, even something as simple as a flat tire. As far as I can tell, these are just fashionable BSO’s (bicycle shaped objects), that probably won’t get many miles put on them, but will look stylish in someone’s apartment.

Missoni Women's Comfort Bike - Copper or Black/White (28") - $399.00

Missoni Men's Comfort Bike - Black/White (28") - $399.00

Here are some other bikes that I share similar feelings about. Republic Bike  started out as cheap bike company that let you choose the color of all the parts you wanted, but that was all you could change.  A couple years ago they started producing bikes for Urban Outfitters.  I have seen bikes sitting on the floor there with cheap parts falling off of them.

Urban Outfitters has bikes from Republic Bike

Republic Bikes from Urban Outfitters - $399.00

Crate & Barrel also have a Republic Bike with CB2.

Abuelo 3-speed men's bike - $499.00

There are plenty of other bikes out there that are fashionable and of much better quality for reasonable prices, that will give you much more bang for your buck. These are bikes you can get from a real bike shop, with real service and warranties, for around the same cost:

Electra Bikes

Electra Bikes Amsterdam Original 3i


Linus Bikes

Linus Bikes Dutchi 3speed


Public Bikes

Public Bike C3

Bikes like these have a much more classic style and functionality behind them, being modeled mostly off of French and Dutch bikes that have been around for decades.