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

Real Advice: Dressing For The Fall

Today we continue with our Real Advice series – hard-earned practical knowledge from real riders here at our home office. This week we hear from a team member who has a special fondness for some late season riding.

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My favorite days to ride are October or November days when I wake up, look outside and see grey skies. Of course I love getting in some good riding in warm, sunny weather, but there’s something about the solitude of those overcast days that really makes me remember why I love this sport. Maybe it’s the loneliness of the road, maybe I ride better in lower temperatures, maybe I just really look forward to that post-ride pumpkin-flavored carbohydrate recovery beverage that’s only available at this particular time of year. Who knows. What is for certain though is that without dressing right for the weather, those rides would not be nearly so enjoyable.

When it comes to dressing for the fall, there are two things to keep in mind: layers and versatility. Dressing in layers not only helps keep you warmer by trapping air between the layers, but it also lets you more effectively manage exactly how hot you get by allowing you to remove layers as the day warms up. It also helps if your clothing options are versatile, and able to be combined in different ways to adapt to the conditions. It’s not unusual for me to start off a fall ride at 6AM dressed in several layers of clothes, only to return home at 2 in the afternoon in shorts and jersey with my pockets stuffed with warmers and jackets.

So, if you’re ready to get on the fall riding gravy train (with carbon fiber wheels, of course), then follow this handy dandy guide to dressing for the fall.

DRESSING FOR THE FALL

1.    FALL ESSENTIALS:

  • Shorts and Jersey: I continue to ride in my usual bib shorts and short sleeve jerseys well into the fall. When combined with the below listed items, this is the foundation of a versatile riding kit that can adapt to almost any weather condition.
Shorts and jersey are a good foundation for the fall

Shorts and jersey are a good foundation for the fall

  • Base Layer: invest in a long and a short sleeve or sleeveless base layer. Base layers are worn under the jersey (and under bib straps, if you wear bib shorts) and add an extra light layer that can help keep you warm, while moving sweat away from your skin—essential for hot or cold weather. I personally prefer merino wool base layers for fall riding, since they keep you warm, but won’t make you overheat if the day ends up warmer than you think.

A base layer will help keep you warm and wick away sweat

  • Arm and Knee/Leg warmers: warmers are usually a better option this time of year than long sleeve jerseys or tights. Good ones are usually just as effective as tights or a long jersey, but they have the added advantage of being removable as the day warms up—plus they roll up small enough to be stuffed into a jersey pocket for storage
Arm, leg or knee warmers can keep you warm and are easily removed if you get too hot

Arm, leg or knee warmers can keep you warm and are easily removed if you get too hot

  • Vest: a good wind vest is essential for this time of year. It helps keep your core warm, and most of them will block the wind pretty well. If you’re really pushing it hard, you can always unzip a bit to get more air moving. Like warmers, these have the advantage of being removable and low bulk, so they can be easily stored in a pocket if necessary.

A wind vest will help keep your core warm

  • Long Finger Gloves: For most riders, long finger gloves are essential. Cold fingers become stiff and lethargic, which is bad news since as cyclists we depend on our fingers to operate the brakes and shift mechanisms, so keeping them warm is essential. Don’t go for heavy insulated gloves or ones with WindStopper material though, as these are usually too warm for this time of year, and you’ll just end up with sweat-soaked gloves that may chill your fingers even more.

Full finger gloves help keep your hands warm in cool temperatures

  • Headband: On very cold mornings I like to start off wearing a headband. The headband keeps your ears and forehead warm, while still allowing heat to escape through the top of your head. As an added benefit, when it’s time to remove it, the headband is so small you almost won’t notice it in your pocket.

A headband helps keep your ears and forehead warm on cold mornings

  • Toe Warmers: I reserve these for only the coldest mornings. As the name implies, these are little half booties that go over the ends of your shoes to help add insulation to your toes. Again, once these are no longer needed, they can removed and stowed in a pocket. If you’re like me and have toes that, once cold, will never warm up no matter what, you may want to try oversocks, which are just like normal regular socks, but tougher, that you wear over your shoes to help them hold in some extra warmth. 

Toe warmers add some extra warmth to your feet on the coldest fall days

2. PAY ATTENTION TO THE WEATHER: Remember that cloudy days will be colder than sunny ones, and windy days will be colder than calm ones. It’s also a good idea to check the entire forecast for the day—or at least the next few hours. Dress appropriately for the weather, but if you’re unsure what to for given conditions, then check out this cool app from Bicycling Magazine.

3. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY: After I get dressed for a ride, I like to go stand in my driveway in an area exposed to the wind for a minute or two and see how I feel. On a cold morning you should start off feeling slightly chilled, but not cold. If you’re shivering, then you don’t have enough clothes on, so go back inside and add a layer. If you feel nice and toasty warm, that’s pretty much a guarantee you’ll be roasting within the next 20 minutes, so you could probably stand to drop a layer or two. During your ride it can sometimes be tough to know when it’s time to pull over and take off a layer or two. Surprisingly, your ears will generally be the best indicator of how hot you’re getting. If your ears start to feel warm or hot, then it’s time to either unzip or shed a layer.

4. BRIGHTEN IT UP: My favorite kit color is black, and I make no apologies for it. During the fall though, I realize that just isn’t practical or safe. The days are shorter, and drivers are more distracted with leaves and stuff, so it’s more important than ever to stand out while on the road. I personally opt for a fluoro yellow wind vest, and leg and arm warmers with plenty of reflective accents on them. You don’t necessarily have to go fluoro, but choosing a bright color like red, blue or yellow will help you be more visible to passing cars.

5. ROLL WELL STOCKED: Speaking of shorter days, you need to roll prepared when you ride in the fall—especially if you’re going solo. I always stuff a set of safety lights in my jersey pocket, even if I plan on being back before dark. A good set, like the Blackburn Flea 2.0 combo are lightweight and very bright. Also remember that there are fewer cyclists on the road, so there are fewer people who can help you if you are having mechanical problems. Make sure you have a flat repair kit and multi-tool, and you know how to use them. 

Eurobike Wrap-Up

We’ve finally recovered from the jetlag after Eurobike, the cycling industry’s biggest international trade show. A 3 day festival of anything and everything bike-related, Eurobike takes place every year near the idyllic shores of Lake Constance in the southwest corner of Germany. While the show is really too big to sum up in just a few paragraphs, we’ll hit a few highlights and trends below – before we head out to the biggest US cycling show, Interbike in Las Vegas.

The scenery around Eurobike is slightly different than at Interbike in Las Vegas.

The scenery around Eurobike is slightly different than at Interbike in Las Vegas.

1. 27.5″ (or 650B) wheels for mountain bikes are here to stay. This in-between wheel size (although it is closer in size to 26″ wheels than 29″ wheels) was on full display at Eurobike, with every major manufacturer offering a trail bike in this ‘tweener format. Mostly these bikes are being pitched as “all-mountain” or “enduro” bikes – but in reality that’s what most of us ride every day! We ride up, down and over whatever the trail throws at us, and want a bike that makes any trail more fun, so 27.5″ bikes should be a great fit. The continued rise of 27.5″ bikes also mean that more tires, wheels and suspension are also becoming available for upgrades later on. We’re especially excited about the new GT Force and Sensor bikes, and Joe Breeze’s very first full-suspension bike, the Breezer Repack.

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2. Hydraulic disc brakes for road/cyclocross bikes were also highly evident throughout the show. While we know that not everyone is going to be interested, many manufacturers have incorporated at least one road bike with hydraulic stoppers into their lineup, and definitely on a cyclocross bike if they have one. Both SRAM and Shimano offer hydraulic options on their newest high-end road components, and Campagnolo has partnered with Formula to offer a system. With the promise of increased braking power and consistency plus more freedom for the design of road bike wheels, it will be interesting to see how this trend develops over time.

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3. E-bikes, or electronic-pedal assist bikes, also had a huge presence in the halls of Eurobike. From city bikes to road bikes to full-suspension mountain bikes, manufacturers have jammed electric motors into just about any type of bike you can imagine. While e-bikes have not made inroads in the US so far, in Europe they already have a huge presence, even with costs of over $4,000 per bike (e-bikes account for 10% of all bike sales in Germany). We actually test-rode quite a few models of e-bikes at the show, including one rated at an assist level of up to 45km/h (or almost 30mph), and they are fun to ride, even if it does feel like you are cheating a bit.

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4. On the fashion front, Eurobike was awash in bright and highly visible colors, from safety orange, to brilliant blues, to fluorescents yellows and greens – although we noticed some camo patterns making a comeback as well. There were still plenty of traditional colors being used, but in our books these bright colors are good news – we’re in favor of anything that makes us more visible while we’re riding our bikes!

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5. Finally, Eurobike was exciting simply for it’s proliferation of creative and, sometimes, wacky ideas for bikes and gear. The energy and enthusiasm for anything bike-related was great to see – the world of people who love bikes and see great opportunities in this market is vast. Not all of these ideas might make it, but we love seeing what people dream up for the future of cycling.

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You can find all of our photos from Eurobike in a gallery on our Facebook page.

Real Advice: Wheels

Today we continue with our Real Advice series – hard-earned practical knowledge from real riders here at our home office. This week Brian, a member of our content team, is going to share with you some thoughts on wheels.

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Several years ago, when I got my first carbon fiber road race bike, I was so amped. It had SRAM 10-speed Rival on it, a full carbon frame and fork, and a carbon seatpost. I’d even splurged on some carbon fiber bottle cages. In those days, this was some pretty heavy artillery to be bringing for the level of racing I was at. Admittedly, I didn’t know an awful lot about bikes at the time, and I hadn’t ridden the bike much before the race. All I knew was I had the latest and greatest carbon 10-speed stuff, while most of those other chumps were rockin’ alloy 9-speed gear. According to all my mental math, I was already standing at the top of the podium.

When the race started, everything seemed to be going fine. I rode well and felt strong. Until I got out of the saddle at speed or tried to sprint in the drops. Every time I did, I could hear the rim hitting the brake pads with every pedal stroke, shedding speed and momentum. When I leaned into a corner, the rims squealed against the brakes the entire time, slowing me down drastically, and I watched furiously as other riders flowed past me, despite me having the extra 10th gear.

After the race, I was fuming. I had just spent all this money on a carbon fiber frame that I believed to be about as stiff as a wet noodle. I ranted to another rider about how flexible the frame and fork were, and how poorly the bike had performed. The other (more experienced) rider took one look at my bike and said simply “dude, it’s not your frame—it’s your wheels.” I did the next race on a borrowed wheelset that proved him right.

For most riders, whether you race or not, wheels are the most overlooked and important upgrade. It’s incredibly tempting to upgrade your bike with the newest drivetrain, or all the carbon fiber you can find. While the performance gains you get from those parts are significant, they still pale in comparison to investing in a great set of wheels. Among the many improvements you’ll get will be stiffer rims, lighter weight, improved handling, and greater aerodynamic performance. But before you buy, here’s a quick guide to help you find the wheels that are right for you.

 

  1. What kind of wheels do you need: The first step to buying new wheels is ensuring they will work with your equipment. It may seem like a wheel is a wheel, but asking a few basic questions can help you get it right the first time.
    • Does your bike have rim or disc brakes? If disc brakes, what kind are they?
    • How many speeds is your drive train (ex: 11-speed cassettes usually require 11-speed freehubs)?
    • What brand of drive train do you have (SRAM, Shimano, Campagnolo)?

    These DT Swiss XM 1650 MTB wheels will work with center-lock disc brakes, Shimano cassettes, and tubeless tires.

  2. Know what you want: Few wheels can really be placed in the do-it-all category. Knowing what you want to get out of your rides can help you narrow things down.

    A pair of lightweight alloy clinchers, like these Easton SLX wheels, can shed significant weight from a bike, making them ideal for climbing

  3. Alloy vs. Carbon: This one is entirely up to you, and a full discussion would be another blog post, but here’s a basic breakdown:
    • Alloy wheels are usually more durable, less expensive, and offer better braking performance, especially in wet weather, but tend to be heavier and less aerodynamic than carbon wheels
    • Carbon wheels are much lighter, aerodynamic, stiff, and (according to some) cooler looking than alloy, but are also much more expensive. Carbon road wheels also can have diminished braking performance, especially when wet (this isn’t a problem with MTB carbon disc brake wheels)

    Carbon wheels, like this pair from Reynolds offer significant aerodynamic and weight savings

  4. Tubular vs. Clincher vs. Tubeless: These are the three basic types of bicycle wheels, and each have their pros and cons.
    • Tubular wheels require tubular tires (tires with an inner tube sewn inside) which have to be glued onto the rim. They are very lightweight, and offer unsurpassed road feel and cornering abilities, but they require a special technique to mount and may be difficult  to change if you flat on the road.
    • Clincher wheels are the most common, and use a tire with a separate inner tube that hooks onto a bead on the rim. Clincher wheels are very convenient for most rides, since it’s very easy to change a flat, and some of the best clincher tires approach the road feel of tubulars. The drawbacks are that clinchers are often heavier than tubulars, and if the tire is under inflated or flat it can sometimes roll off of the rim.
    • Tubeless wheels are quickly becoming de riguer on mountain bikes, and are finding their way onto the road. Tubeless wheels require the use of special tubeless tires and use no inner tube. The bead on both the rim and the tire is made very tight, so as to make an airtight seal when inflated. The benefits of tubeless tires are legion, specifically that they virtually eliminate the chance of flatting. The downside (for the road at least) is that they are the heaviest type of wheels.

    These Reynolds Assault CX tubulars are perfect for cyclocross season

So there’s a basic breakdown of wheels. For a little more information on other upgrades you can make, check out this article in our Learning Center.

What Would You Do With $1,000?

We all have a dream cycling list in mind. Whether it’s the carbon fiber-everything bike we’ve been eyeing for months, some new clothes, or the ultimate upgrade kit, there’s something that every cyclist dreams of having. For a limited time, we can help you make that come true when you enter online for your chance to win a $1,000 shopping spree at Performance Bicycle.

When word about this contest got out around the office, it got us thinking about what we would do with $1,000 to spend at Performance. We asked some folks  and got some pretty interesting answers.

So how about it? What would you spend $1,000 Performance Bucks on? Tell us in the comments section.

Ben from our bikes division is clearly already looking forward to the start of CX season:

Ben's 'cross-inspired picks

Ben’s ‘cross-inspired picks

Johnny, one of our in-house product developers, has had the chance to test out a lot of the latest and greatest mountain bike equipment. Here are some of his favorites:

Johnny's picks for mountain biking

Johnny’s picks for mountain biking

Robert the copywriter is getting ready to head out for some bike touring this fall. Here is some of the gear he’s going to be taking with him (this is also some great stuff for commuting):

roberts_picks

Robert’s commuting picks

Kyle, who’s one of our designers, is a pretty dedicated tri-guy. When you’re doing three sports in one day, having the right equipment is important. Here’s some of his favorite triathlon stuff:

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Kyle's picks for triathlon

Kyle’s picks for triathlon

Erik, one of our buyers, is kind of our go-to in-house authority on all things road racing. Here’s some of the stuff he finds essential for training and racing:

Erik's picks for road racing

Erik’s picks for road racing

For your chance to make your own dream cycling list come true, make sure that you enter now!

How to Deal with Weather

It’s been kind of a weird summer, weather-wise. It seems like most of America is either baking in a heat wave or underwater with heavy rains— all of which can make getting outside to ride seem less than appealing. But don’t let the weather get you down. While most of us prefer to get our riding in when it’s 80 and sunny, sometimes rides in challenging weather can be more rewarding. You just need to make sure you’re properly prepared.

“There is no bad weather, just bad clothing” is a saying that has been variously attributed to World War II Norwegian commandos, Eddy Merckx and Gaynor from our tech department, but no matter the source, it’s as true now as it has always been. Clothing technology has come a long way in the last few years, so making the right clothing choices can turn what would be a miserable ride into a great one.

 PointLoma_2011-154If it’s a little wet out there, then staying dry is your first priority. Rain jackets are no longer the non-breathable pieces of plastic from days of old. Nowadays space-age fabrics like Gore-Tex and eVent provide highly breathable water- and wind-proof protection from the elements, while lighter weight, packable jackets have Durable Water Repellent (DWR) finishes that are low volume and pack easily into a jersey pocket or hydration pack, but don’t breath as well and offer more limited protection. It’s also important to keep your feet as dry as possible to avoid blisters, hot spots and athlete’s foot. A good pair of water-resistant overshoes can help your feet stay nice and dry, without overheating, in all but the most torrential downpours.

A packable rain jacket can provide lightweight, comfortable protection from light rain or high winds

If you’re riding with a group, or want to keep yourself (relatively) free from grime and road spray, then fenders are a must. There are many options available, from the much beloved “beaver tail” rear spray guards, to removable clip on fenders, and full bolt-on fenders. Your choice will depend on what kind of bike you have and what level of protection you would like. Lights are also a necessity when the weather is rainy, since visibility is reduced and many drivers may already be distracted by the weather. For optimal safety, try combining a medium brightness blinky headlight with a very bright rear light. If it might be getting dark, consider adding in a 1000+ lumen headlamp to light your way.

Fenders like this one from SKS are easy to install and remove

And hey, don’t forget to wash that bike after a good soaking. Nothing is harder on a bike than wet weather conditions. Taking a few minutes to wipe away the dirt, clean your chain, and re-lube all the moving parts can save you some headaches down the road.

_MG_2266But what if it’s blazing hot out? Here again proper clothing, equipment and common sense become the best tools to ensure you enjoy your rides. Many jerseys now are available in super lightweight fabrics that help shield you from the sun’s rays and breath extremely well to help you stay cool. Wear light colored fabrics or jerseys made with coldBlack to help reflect some of the heat. On very hot days you can also opt for a sleeveless jersey or use a few simple tricks that’ll help you cool down. Unzipping your jersey as much as possible is a time-honored way of cooling off and is one of the most effective. Loosening your helmet a little bit and removing your sunglasses also seems to help most people feel cooler. And, of course, splashing yourself down with some water will provide relief.

The Ultra jersey from Performance combines lightweight fabrics and ColdBlack technology to keep you cool

When it’s hot, the most important thing is to be smart and be prepared. Don’t ride during the hottest parts of the day, or if you decide you simply must, then choose routes with plenty of shade and plenty of places to top up on water along the way. Staying hydrated is probably the most difficult thing to do in extreme heat, so make sure to bring more water than you think you’ll need. Hydration packs offer the ability to carry up to 3 liters of water, which should be enough for most rides. If you prefer to use bottles, try using an insulated bottle like Polar, and carrying a third bottle in a jersey pocket. To replace lost electrolytes, bring some hydration tablets or powders like Nuun, Skratch Labs or Hammer.

Insulated water bottles help keep your drink cold on hot days

For more ideas on how you can beat the heat, check out our article in the Performance Bicycle Learning Center.

Wordless Wednesday

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Wordless Wednesday

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Wordless Wednesday

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Wordless Wednesday

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