Karen Brooks

Karen Brooks

What do you think about when you're riding your bike?

I try to think as little as possible, and listen to the birds.

How would you rate your coffee consumption on a scale of 8-10?

ZERO. I drank a lifetime supply already, when I worked in a bike shop.

Complete this sentence: "My other bike is …"

Broom! Heh. No, more like a singlespeed mountain bike.

What are you eating, drinking, reading, or fearing these days?

Eating: lots of chocolate, always. Drinking: the darkest, blackest, stoutest of beers I can find. Reading: too many magazines, not enough books. Fearing: the imminent collapse of society, the environment, Earth's magnetic field, etc. etc. It's a pleasant surprise to wake up and find things to be relatively normal!

Elvis or the Beatles?

Elvis

Say something profound and meaningful in exactly seven words…

She sells sea shells by the seashore.

I like your answers. How can I get in touch with you?

412.767.9910 x104

Smoke signal: two big puffs, one small

Email me

Review: A’ME Heated Grips

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Heated grips? This sounds like the kind of thing that would be either hokey or over-the-top luxurious. But they come in handy (no pun intended) for motorcyclists and snowmobile riders, so why not bicyclists as well? A’ME happens to make some very high-quality and effective grips that can keep your hands happy through the winter.

Read the full story

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Review: Lupine Piko 4 Light

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As LED lights continue to pack more lumens in smaller packages, the line between lights for road riding and for mountain biking gets more blurred. Case in point is this diminutive powerhouse from Lupine, the Piko 4. Its 1,200 lumens are plenty to see by when traveling down a dark trail, but its small size and setting options make it a versatile choice for street use.

The Piko’s German-made high quality and precision are evident right away. They’d better be, for $335. The machined aluminum light head is finished with shot-peening and hard anodizing to toughen the surface. The LEDs, lens and circuitry are similarly top-notch.

The Piko comes packaged ready for helmet use; while it mounted to my helmet easily enough, 1,200 lumens is a lot to shine in drivers’ eyes. (For trail use, however, helmet mounting would be great.) So I opted to procure an optional quick-release handlebar mount ($40), which scores points for being the most svelte I’ve used, just 4mm wide, while also being solid as a rock. The process of switching from helmet to handlebar is quite fiddly, though, involving tiny screws and O-rings.

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Like other Lupine headlights, the settings offered by the Piko’s switch can be programmed from a multitude of choices. The beam has a brighter spot in the center transitioning smoothly to a wide halo. Runtime is at least as much as claimed (two to 58 hours, from 1,200 to 50 lumens)—one charge was good for a full week of evening commutes on the 470-lumen setting with occasional boosts up to 1200. The switch has blue and red LEDs to indicate how much juice is left, and there’s a reserve mode available after the low-battery warning blinks.

Lupine is like the BMW of lights, with a high level of design and construction, and a price to match. But it’s a great choice for those who use and abuse their lights, especially if you’d like one light to go from road to trail and back.

 

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A journey to the Conch Republic

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By now you’ve read all kinds of good advice in Bicycle Times on riding your bike through harsh winter conditions, but sometimes the best strategy to deal with it is to escape. I’m not ashamed to admit that during the second of… oh what, three? four?… polar vortices, or dips in the jet stream, or whatever ridiculous weather patterns we’ve had here in the Northeast, I escaped to sunny southern Florida, courtesy of the Adventure Cycling Association. It was the second of its three annual Florida Keys tours. And it was fabulous.

Read about the trip here.

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Review: Blackburn Flea 2.0 Lights and Solar Charger

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I tested and liked the original version of the Flea lights back in Bicycle Times issue #3. This diminutive light set has been updated with a new USB charging system, and Blackburn is also offering a solar charging option for space-age convenience.

Each light has four LEDs housed in a sturdy body. The front’s 40 lumens put it in the “be seen” category (rather than “to see”), and it has two steady modes plus a flash. The rear has two flash modes plus steady and is disco-bright. Both have fuel gauge LEDs in the on/off buttons. Run times were at least as good as advertised—one hour on high for the front and six hours on steady for the rear.

Read the full review here.

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Review: 616 Fabrication fat frame complete build

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In the varied and ever-changing garden of bicycles, it seems that the fat bike corner is the latest area of flourishing growth, producing new ideas and iterations at a rapid pace. Two longtime mountain bike innovators—Aaron Joppe, former owner of Slingshot, and John Muenzenmeyer, former owner of Nukeproof—have been drawn into this bloom and are making interesting contributions with their relatively new company, 616 Fabrication.

The company name comes from the area code of western Michigan where they manufacture frames, forks and hubs at their own facility. They offer frames for fat bike, cyclocross and mountain builds, all made in high-end steel. Artistic touches, such as laser-cut seatstay bridges and custom-etched ID plates, further set these creations apart from the average mass-produced models, as does a classic paint job.

The first thing I and other staffers noticed about the Fat frame is its relatively steep 72 head tube angle. It also sports short-for-a-fat-bike 17.5-inch chainstays. Hub spacing is 135mm front and 170mm rear. It’s designed to ride light and nimbly over sand, snow and rock. Custom geometry is available to suit anyone’s taste, but for our tight turns and four seasons, the stock numbers suited me just fine.

Read our full review of the 616 Fat.

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Cycling superfood: Kale

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By now you may have seen our page about kale in issue #27. We’ll be featuring different eats that we consider “superfoods” in future issues. (Don’t worry—we plan to cover the whole spectrum, including less goody-two-shoes candidates such as honeybuns.) Here are some tips and a couple recipes to go with the information in that column.

I’ve been growing several types of kale in my backyard garden for a few years now and can honestly say I love it. Health benefits aside, it just tastes really good, especially fresh (and organic). I eat it often as a side dish, or as a substitute for a cold salad.

Kale survives well in low temperatures. I typically start it earlier than other vegetables, in mid-March to mid-April depending on the mercurial spring weather here, and the leaves stay fresh and green into the winter. (For those who garden by the book, we’re in Zone 6B according to the USDA’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

It’s a hardy vegetable for storing, as well, if you buy your kale from the grocery store or farmer’s market. Keep it in loose, air-filled plastic bags, or better yet, a large container that allows some air circulation but doesn’t allow it to dry out.

See our recipes here

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CycloMend brings mobile bike mechanics to your door

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A new company is bringing bike repair to your door. Cyclomend is a network of mobile bike mechanics, currently operating in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. (but looking to expand). Book an appointment online and you’ll be matched with a mechanic who will contact you to get more information and discuss prices, then they’ll show up and get to work. You can even leave a bike locked up outside to be fixed, then pay the bill later. Obviously a mobile mechanic can’t work the miracles that a fully-stocked shop can, but CycloMend’s fleet can do more than you may think, and their aim is to be as friendly and approachable as possible. Check it out at cyclomend.com.

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Cold weather cycling tips – Physical ailments

There is a panoply of excuses we can choose from when wimping out of cold weather riding. Some of them have more validity than others—but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be overcome. I’d like to address a couple of physical limitations that can be good reasons to bow out of a cold ride, but that don’t necessarily need to stop you, especially in their milder forms.

Asthma and Raynauds are two such ailments that affect many cyclists, but become even more of an issue in the cold.

Read on to see how to protect yourself.

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