Swiss Side, started by a Formula 1 engineer and an award-winning sports equipment designer, produces only handbuilt wheels for road bikes, and nothing else. Their products already sound astronomically expensive—but they’re not. Founders Jean-Paul Ballard and George cant deliberately structured the company to be lean and mean to avoid overhead. (It also helps that the wheels are handbuilt in Taiwan, not Switzerland.)
The Gotthard wheelset is intended for rougher roads or heavier riders. The name, as it turns out, is not slightly offensive, but is in fact an homage to the Gotthard Pass in Switzerland, a twisty and treacherous pass that is one of the highest paved roads in Europe. This isn’t exactly a touring or rough-road wheelset, but is certainly more durable than typical racy road sets, and quite light to boot, at 1,465g for the pair.Tweet Print
Since testing a rain cape from the Center for Appropriate Transport for issue #22, I’ve become a convert. I love wearing a cape when it’s pouring, staying comfy and dry underneath but not feeling like I’m encased in a plastic bag. It’s like wearing an umbrella, but less cumbersome.Tweet Print
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.Tweet Print
A new set of wheels is one of the most effective upgrades you can make for your bike, instantly making it lighter and often faster. There aren’t too many ready-made wheel options specifically for commuting and touring bikes, but American Classic is now offering a good choice with its TCX wheels.Tweet Print
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.
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.
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.Tweet Print
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.Tweet Print
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.Tweet Print
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.Tweet Print
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.Tweet Print