Top 5 Essentials For Riding In The Rain

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While most cyclists prefer to stay indoors when it rains, there are a hardy few who venture out when the weather is miserable. There are, of course, sometimes when riding in the rain is unavoidable—you just kind of get caught in it. But as anyone who has ridden in the rain can attest to, it imparts its own kind of pleasure. It’s cold, it’s wet, and it’s miserable, but it also comes with a feeling of toughness and the kind of pride that can only come with facing down the elements.

It’s even more enjoyable if you’re properly prepared. Here are our Top 5 Essentials For Riding In The Rain.

1. Rain Jacket: There are many options when it comes to choosing a rain jacket, and the right one will depend on the conditions. A lightweight, packable rain jacket will easily fit into a jersey pocket, but generally these jackets are only water-resistant and don’t breathe particularly well. On the flip side, a good water-proof rain jacket like the Shower’s Pass Double Century EX or the Performance Borough rain jacket will keep you dry in even the worst downpours and breathe well to prevent moisture from building up inside, but they are bulky and will not easily fit into a jersey pocket or hydration pack.

The Performance Borough rain jacket will keep you dry in even the worst weather

2. Fenders: Fenders are essential for riding in the rain, especially if you’ll be riding with a group. There are few things more irritation than being behind a rider who has a rooster tail of road spray shooting up into your face from his rear wheel. Don’t be that guy. There are several options to choose from when it comes to fenders, from traditional eyelet mounted options, clip on options, or the venerable “beaver tail”.

The SKS Raceblade fenders will help protect you and other riders from road spray, and are designed to fit road bikes without fender eyelets

3. Lights: Even if it’s daylight out, you should ride with lights—for the same reason cars turn their lights on in the rain. The sky is darker, rain can obscure your outline, and drivers are already distracted. Using lights will make you more visible, and help you stay safe.

The Blackburn Flea 2.0 USB is a favorite around the office for it’s small size, bright light, and long battery life

4. Cycling Cap: A cycling cap, worn underneath your helmet, will help keep the rain from running into your eyes while you ride, and help shield your face from the rain. Plus, few things make you feel tougher and like you are seconds away from winning Paris-Roubaix than pedaling along in the rain and seeing the drips fall off the brim of your cap.

A cycling cap (always worn under a helmet) will help keep the wind and rain out of your eyes

5. Chain Lubricant: When you get home, the first thing you should do—before you even hop in the shower—is wipe your chain dry and apply a fresh coat of lubricant. This will prevent your chain from corroding and forming rust from staying wet. You should also apply a small amount of lubricant to your derailleur springs and brake pivot points.

A good lubricant, like Tri-Flow, will help protect your chain and other hardware from rust and corrosion when they get wet.

6 Tips For Getting Your Bike Ready for Winter

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Winter riding serves up its own special blend of challenges, but by following these easy tips, you’ll be ready for the worst of what the season can throw at you.

  1. Change Your Tires: Unless you live in a warm, dry climate, you’ll probably want to leave the 700×23 tires at home. In the winter, opt for a 700×28 tire (or as wide a tire as your frame will allow) with a minimal tread. Resist the urge to go with knobby tires. Snow will just pack between the treads and make the tire more slippery.
  2. Lower The Tire Pressure: If it’s below freezing outside, lower your tire pressure. Lowering the tire pressure will increase your tire’s contact patch, which means more traction on potentially slippery roads.
  3. Leave The Race Wheels At Home: Full carbon fiber wheels, while delivering amazing performance and looking totally awesome, aren’t the best for winter riding. They don’t have the greatest braking performance in wet or icy conditions, plus, all the road grime and salt may stick in the pads and destroy the carbon brake track. Use a set of wheels with an alloy brake track for better and safer braking performance this winter.
  4. Light It Up: We can’t emphasis this enough. It’s winter, which means it’s getting dark earlier. Even if you think you’ll be home before dark, always bring a set of lights with you—even if it’s just a set of blinky lights you throw in a jersey pocket. Click here to find the light that’s right for you.
  5. Mud Guards or Fenders: Don’t be that guy. Use mud guards or fenders during the winter to both protect your bike parts, and shield the guys behind you from the worst of your road spray.
  6. Clean It Up: The second you walk in the door after your ride, do not pass go, do not go shower. Keep that kit on and go straight to the garage or the bike shed and clean your bike off. The longer you let the salt and road grime sit on there, the more damage it can do—and that kind of damage is expensive. Wipe down the frame and fork, wheels, hubs, and components—and don’t forget the hard to get to places like around the bottom bracket and around the brake bridge. After you’re done cleaning, dry and lubricate your chain and brake pivots. Click here to find the cleaning supplies and chain lubricants that make the job easier.

Now, stay safe and go ride your bike.

Real Advice: Bicycle Lights

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It’s getting to be about that time of year again, and the days are getting shorter. Believe us, we’re none too happy about it either. But just because daylight is in limited supply doesn’t mean you can’t get some riding in while the gettin’ is good. All you really need is some lights to help you see a little better and be more visible to cars and traffic. With the right lights, riding at night can add an exhilarating new dimension to familiar trails, help you extend your riding hours during the dark months, or make you feel safer on the roads.

Here’s some of their Real Advice when it comes to bike lights, courtesy of a daily commuter, a mountain biker with a fondness for night riding, and couple of roadies.

To learn more about the different types of lights, click here.

The Commuter:

One of our coworkers commutes about 12 miles on dark, unlit rural roads. There aren’t any street lamps along her route, so in addition to hi-viz, reflective clothing, she uses as many lights as possible to light her way and make herself visible.

  • Blackburn Flea 2.0 USB taillight: this rear light is very compact, lightweight, and incredibly bright with multiple flash modes. Plus, I can recharge them at my computer at work.

The Blackburn Flea 2.0 USB packs a big brightness to weight punch

  • Blackburn Mars 3 taillight: this is a very bright tail light. It has a different flash pattern than my Flea 2.0 taillight, which helps grab more motorists attention

The Mars 3 taillight is weatherproof, bright, and easy to install

  • CygoLite HotShot 2 Watt USB taillight: I have this light attached to the rear of my helmet, and I use it on its steady pattern instead of flash. The steady, high up light helps cars see me, even if their view may be partially obscured by the traffic in front of them. Like the Flea, this can be recharged on my computer at work.

The CygoLight HotShot 2 is ideal for all types of commuting

  • Blackburn Flea 2.0 USB headlight: I mount this lightweight, compact light on my left fork arm. It’s incredibly bright and has a very distinctive flash mode. Plus, I can recharge them at my computer at work.

The Blackburn Flea 2.0 can be recharged via USB and is incredibly bright

  • Axiom Flare 5 LED headlight: I mount this commuter headlight on my handlebars. It’s pretty bright, and has a great flash mode that augments the Flea 2.0. Plus, in a pinch it’s about bright enough to light my way if my headlamp battery dies.

The Axiom 5 is ideal for urban commuters, or as a secondary light on more rural roads

  • NiteRider Pro 1800 Race LED headlight: Without streetlights, you’d be surprised how dark the night can get. I use this light to illuminate the road in front of me. It has the added advantage of being as bright, if not brighter than, a car’s headlights—so it makes you pretty much unmistakable on the road. It has multiple settings, so you don’t burn through the battery or blind any motorists.

The NiteRider Pro 1800 Race puts out 1800 lumens, has multiple modes, and is ideal for rural commuting or mountain biking

The Mountain Biker:

Mountain biking is pretty big here near our offices, and hitting the trails at night is a favorite fall and winter past time. We asked one of the trail regulars at our offices what lights he uses on the technical, twisting trails in North Carolina to avoid accidents and safely navigate the trails.

  • Light and Motion Seca 750 Sport LED headlight: this light has a really nice, broad, diffuse beam pattern that gives some ambient light to the trail so you can see where you’re going. I mount this one on my handlebars so I can see where the bike is pointed.

The Seca 750 is ideal for night time mountain biking or commuting

  • NiteRider Pro 1800 headlight: This bad boy gets mounted on my helmet so I can see exactly where I’m looking. The tight, focused beam makes this light more like a spotlight that lets me look down the turns in the trails even if my bike isn’t pointed that way.

The NiteRider Pro 1800 Race makes an ideal spotlight when hitting the trails at night

The Roadies:

When heading out for some weekend road riding, it’s usually a good idea to bring a set of safety lights, even if you think you’ll be back before dark. They’re small, lightweight, and take just a few seconds to install. If they’re really heading out as it’s getting dark, they’ll usually opt for a setup similar to Mrs. Commuter.

Mr. Campagnolo:

  • Blackburn Click front and rear light: I really like these lights from Blackburn. They’re still small, but they are a little bulkier than most safety lights. But they make up for it by being much brighter than most. Plus, I like the attachment for the rear light since it faces directly backwards on the seatpost and doesn’t rub against my leg while pedaling.

The Blackburn Click fits easily a jersey pocket

Mr. SRAM:

The Axiom Zap fits easily into a pocket and is easy to install

Tour of Light & Motion in Monterey, CA

Since I’m already out here in California to see what this Sea Otter excitement is all about, I thought I would drop by our friends at Light & Motion – makers of great cycling lights, including their impressive commuting lineup. The Light & Motion headquarters (and factory, and design studio, and manufacturing facility, among other things) is located in a converted cannery warehouse in Monterey, CA – near the famous Cannery Row, and right on the ocean.

The first thing that you notice when you walk into their headquarters is the open layout – you can see almost all aspects of the operation, from engineering to assembly, in this one shot.

Here’s a shot of an assembly station (which is located down on the lower level of the previous wide-angle photo). The CAD printouts above each station show the steps in the assembly process, and the workers meticulously assemble each light from dozens of pieces to create, in this case, an Urban 300 LED Headlight.

Here’s a close-up view of an LED and the circuit board that controls the light, before they are assembled into the finished product.

The folks at Light & Motion are proud of the fact that almost everything that goes into their lights is manufactured right in their factory headquarters – in addition to being assembled there. One step in that process is this rapid prototyping machine, which lets them go from computer drawing to a physical object to test in moments.

Once the design is worked out, an automated milling machine is used to create aluminum molds for any of the myriad molded parts that are needed for the lights, from buttons to outer covers.

Here’s a shot of some of the finished molds:

The resin that is heated up to smoothly flow into the molds comes in the form of little pellets – but the key to the process is finding the right mixture of raw materials, as different plastics have different properties of elasticity that need to be balanced in the proper recipe (don’t worry, they’ve got people who know how to work that out).

While down in the machine shop area, we passed by the employee dive locker – I did mention that they are literally right on the ocean!

But having certified divers on their staff is actually good business, as half of the lights that Light & Motion builds are for underwater use, like this 4000 lumen monster (don’t turn this one on while staring at it!):

Of course there was also ample space allotted for employee bikes as well:

I want to thank the folks at Light & Motion for showing me around their factory headquarters – it was great to see a company that designs, manufactures and assembles such high quality products with pride right here in the US. 

Product Profile: Light & Motion Commuter Bike Lights

Light & Motion has been designing and building lights for over 20 years from their home in Monterey, California – from lights that are designed to go 200 feet below the ocean, to lights that shine the way for a midnight ride on the trails. But one place where they really decided to apply their lighting talent is lights for bike commuting. In typical fashion, Light & Motion did their research, and then created a series of compact, USB-rechargeable, and seriously powerful commuter lights that are unlike anything else on the market. Light & Motion took the concept of “see and be seen” to a whole new level with these commuting lights, incorporating advanced LED lighting technology and amber side lights to make your commute brighter and safer!

The Light & Motion Urban 300 LED Headlight and Vis 180 Tail Light combo packs a serious visual punch, but they both also incorporate brilliant amber side lights to give commuters and road cyclists complete visibility in traffic – especially important at intersections, where having increased visibility from any angle is essential. Of course ease-of-use is also handy, so both the Urban 300 LED Headlight and Vis 180 Tail Light feature Micro USB charging ports and tool-free mounting for quick and easy attachment and removal. The Urban 300 LED Headlight is powered by 1 white LED with a 300 lumen output and the aforementioned 2 amber side lights that provide 180° of visibility and project clean patterns of light. There is also a battery charge indicator that accurately reports the charge status (so you know when its time to recharge), all in a package that weighs only 112g – even though the lights are housed in a solid-feeling metal body. Runtime for the Urban 300 LED Headlight is 2½ hours on High, 4½ hours on Medium and 8½ hours on Low, with an empty-to-full recharge time of 5 hours.

The Light & Motion Vis 180 Tail Light, also available individually, blazes forth with 3 red LEDs with a 35 lumen output, along with its 2 amber side lights to provide 180° of visibility. To put those numbers in perspective, that’s about 10X the power of a common AA powered tail light! And the Vis 180 Tail Light is not just another blinky light in another way, as it doesn’t blink, but instead pulses in a concentrated pattern that attracts attention from anyone on the road. You can cycle through 4 modes on the Vis 180 Tail Light: Pulse High, Pulse Low, Steady and Paceline (which eliminates the top pulsing light), with runtimes from 4 hours on high to 20 hours on the Paceline flash setting. The built-in Li-Ion battery charges in only 4½ hours, and like the  Urban 300 LED Headlight, there is a battery charge indicator to accurately report the charge status. Mounting the Vis 180 Tail Light is simple with a tool-free, adjustable mount that easily attaches to your bike frame, seatstays or seatpost without compromising the viewing angle. Alternatively, you can utilize the locking mount clip to slip the Vis 180 Tail Light on your favorite messenger bag or backpack. You can read what Bikerumor thought about this powerful tail light when they reviewed it here.

The Light & Motion Vis 360 LED Headlight and Tail Light package is the first all-in-one light with a powerful LED headlight, amber side lights, and a four lumen tail light, that delivers a full 360° of visibility to the rider. Easily mounted on your helmet with an easy-on, easy-off snap mount, the Vis 360 LED Headlight and Tail Light improves your visibility while riding, even to passing SUV’s! At only 130g, its balanced fore/aft weight makes it barely noticeable on your helmet, but the 1 LED headlight with a 110 lumen output (and amber side lights) combined with the 3 LED tail light with a 4 lumen output means that you will definitely see and be seen out on the road. Runtimes vary from 2½ hours on High, to 5 hours on Low and 20+ hours on Flash (all settings adjusted via the single headlight button), with a recharge time of 4½ hours. To get a better feel for the Vis 360 LED Headlight and Tail Light in action, check out this video from Chris, who has been commuting 15 miles each way with this lighting system for the past few months, and is a big fan of it’s versatility and power:

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