Review: Jones Bikes Bend H-bar

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The new Bend H-bar from Jeff Jones builds on a legacy of creative tinkering started over a decade ago by the man himself. The idea behind the new $85 Bend H-bar was to create a svelte version of his signature Loop H-bar without. Less material means less places to mount things like GPS, lights, bell and other gadgets, but, like Swedish design, sometimes cutting things down to their essence makes for a better product.

Read our full review.


Review: Kelty Ignite DriDown sleeping bag

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When you’re camping out in winter, your sleeping bag is one item you do not want to skimp on. The Ignite Dridown 0 bag makes use of Kelty‘s new DriDown coated down, which helps retains the fluffy features’ loft and warmth. While I certainly didn’t sleep out directly under the rain, I did get it plenty moist on some rainy nights to be convinced that DriDown works. Another bonus: if you’re on an extended journey, it also dries more quickly, which is essential when you have limited opportunities to dry your gear.

Read our review.


Review: Sierra Designs Super Stratus jacket

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There’s no denying the superior warmth of natural goose down, but it doesn’t exactly play nice with moisture. A synthetic insulation handles perspiration and precipitation, but doesn’t compress as easily and doesn’t offer the warmth to weight. Enter DriDown, a down treatment process that treats the fibers with a hydrophobic polymer at the molecular level to repel moisture. It stays drier, retains loft better and dries faster than untreated down.

Read our full review.


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.

 


Review: Dahon Formula S18

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This bike isn’t like most folding bikes. On first glance, it looks similar to the standard 20-inch-wheeled folder seen on the streets and public transportation in every city. Closer inspection reveals some standout features: disc brakes, high-end Schwalbe road tires, and an 18-speed drivetrain with gearing suited to spirited riding.

The ease with which the Formula folds—a trait of the highest importance—reflects well on Dahon’s three decades of folder manufacturing experience. Within a few attempts I had the Formula folded up in under a minute. A small magnetic clasp keeps the bike closed when carrying it, and when closed, it supports itself upright. High marks all around, particularly for the simple and sturdy metal folding pedals.

Dahon designed the Formula for riders “with tougher commutes that demand speed, portability and endurance.” Claiming to fit riders from 4-foot-8 to 6-foot-4, the handlebar and seat height adjust easily with quick-release levers. I found the handlebar height adjustment particularly useful—slide it up for comfort and a heads-up position for short trips, drop it down for more speed and leverage on longer rides. The frame has mounting points for a rack and fenders, and Dahon sells versions of each designed specifically for 20-inch wheels.

Read the full review here.


Review: Kitsbow apparel

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Kitsbow’s mantra is “Impeccable mountain bike wear for obsessives”. This is expensive sounding language, but it captures much about what makes Kitsbow stand out from the rest of the mountain bike apparel crowd while remaining tastefully understated.

There are no garish colors to be found in the Kitsbow catalog, mostly grays and blacks and blues, all finely tailored and sewn from expensive materials in British Columbia by folks with years of experience manufacturing high end outdoor garments. Kitsbow is headquartered in Larkspur, Calif., having been founded by two friends with background in mountain biking and clothing design.

Read more about some of the finest cyclewear you can buy.


Review: Spank Spike pedals

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Flat pedals are something of a rare sight around the Bicycle Times office. From full-lycra to full-face mountain bike rides, chances are we’re clipping in.

All this cleat-lovin’ makes it even more interesting that when the Spike pedals from Spank showed up at the office there was a bit of a scrum to see who would get to ride them. With a massive platform and 10 adjustable pins per side, it was pretty clear they would be taking traction to a whole new level.

Read the full review.


Review: Jamis Quest

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Jamis, continuing on even after steel road bikes seem to have fallen out of favor. In fact, this 2013 model marks the 25th anniversary of the Quest name. Built with an oversize Reynolds 631 tubeset paired with a full carbon fork, this is a thoroughly modern take on the classic steel road bike.

Jamis makes 40(!) different drop-bar bike models, and the Quest may be my favorite. It has mounts for fenders and a rear rack, room for 32mm tires (28mm with fenders) and geometry that is sporty but still comfortable and stable. The drivetrain is all reliable Shimano, mostly from the 105 group, matched up to a Ritchey cockpit and wheels. All proven stuff.

Read the full review here.


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.


Review: PEdALED Winter Urban Jacket

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Let’s get this out of the way first. This is a $900* jacket. No one would deny that is a lot of money. Perhaps you find the notion of such an expensive garment to be absurd, or even offensive. Perhaps this jacket is not for you. Would you want to live in a world where there are no Ferraris? No America’s Cup racing yachts? No privately-funded space exploration? I certainly wouldn’t. So for the next 400 words or so, let’s set that number aside and examine this product for what it is. Ready? Ok, here we go…

PEdALED is the work of Japanese apparel designer Hideto Suzuki who was disillusioned with the fashion business and took time off to build log cabins, of all things. When he returned to apparel, he created PEdALED to make clothes that complimented his new lifestyle. The Winter Urban Riding Jacket is the capstone of the collection, and is hand made in Japan.

Read the full review here.


Review: Jeff Jones ATB

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Jeff Jones is something of a mad genius, putting his impassioned theories about the ultimate bike ride into practice with fantastically swooping custom built frames. We’ve been fans of his iconic Titanium Spaceframe mountain bike since riding one for our sister publication, Dirt Rag, six years ago. But as with most geniuses who are drawn to bicycles, Jones believes in sharing his discoveries as widely as possible, so he’s expanded his business beyond custom frames (for which there is a lengthy waiting list) and into factory-produced versions.

This “ATB” bike is so called because it’s intended for all terrain: city, path and mountain. It’s based on Jones’ steel Diamond frame, which started life as a mountain bike. However, with some parts-swapping, this “mountain” bike makes a good commuter or comfy long-distance touring bike as well, with far fewer compromises than your average knobby-tired steed trying to change its stripes. Jones is fond of saying that he only makes one bike—a “high-performance non-suspended bicycle”—that can be used for a variety of riding styles.

What’s the secret to this chameleon nature? It’s in the geometry. Jones frames have a more relaxed seat tube angle and shorter chainstays, putting the rider’s weight further back over the rear wheel. The bottom bracket is settled low between the wheels to add stability. Combined with the Jones Loop H-Bar, which places your hands at a relaxed angle, the resulting position is fairly upright, yet efficient in pedaling and confident in handling rough terrain. Add to that the frame’s huge tire clearance, and you have a bike that can attack just about any situation or riding surface.

Our model was built with the steel Jones Unicrown fork, which has a 135mm hub spacing (wider than the normal 100mm); this stiffens up the front end, particularly useful for loading front panniers. (It also means that you could fit a “fat” front rim and tire, up to 26×4.7, for off-road adventures.) The bike came with 29×2.35 Schwalbe Big Apple tires—Jones is a believer, along with Schwalbe, that bigger-volume tires are actually more efficient on the road due to less rolling resistance, as well as being safer and more comfortable. Tubus racks and Planet Bike fenders round out the build. Jones also sent a set of Ortlieb front and rear panniers and trunk bag, and a frame bag made by Revelate Designs, to provide plenty of options for bikepacking or touring.

A group of Bicycle Times staffers took turns riding the Jones in a variety of ways. (Another benefit of the geometry is that one available size easily accommodates a fairly wide range of heights.)

Read all of our thoughts about the bike here.


Review: Bike Friday Tandem Traveler XL

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Tandems have been bringing together the mighty cycling power of two since the late 1800s, and Bike Friday has been building tandems since the co-founders’ very first in 1987.

As a mom of two kids, functionality and reusability are often paramount when I look for new products. I had been on the hunt for a tandem that could accommodate my 11-year-old daughter, Darby, as a stoker over the next few years, then have the honor be passed down to her younger brother. Bike Friday’s Traveler XL seemed like a good choice, as it is designed to fit a captain’s height range of 5-foot-8 to 6-foot-5, and a stoker height range of 3 feet to 6-foot-5. Not only could my kids join forces with me on adventures, but my hubby and I could also ride together.

Read more about the versatile Traveler XL here.


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.


Review: Specialized Tricross Elite Steel Disc Triple

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It’s refreshing to see that large companies have not wholly abandoned the legacy of steel. Specialized’s Tricross Elite Steel Disc Triple stands out from the Tricross line as the lone steel-framed model for the entire brand. Of course steel is a fitting material for the line’s intended purpose, “Freeroad,” A.K.A. riding all over the place for a variety of reasons, a purpose we champion. It’s not a new category for Specialized—we’ve tested two previous models, the Sport in issue #12 and the Comp in our sister magazine, Dirt Rag, back in 2006.

The Tricross caters to us “freeroaders” by aiming for that sweet spot between road, cyclocross and touring. The chromoly frame has a longer top tube and a lengthened wheelbase (as compared to a standard road racing bike) for stability and comfort, though the wheelbase is not as long as a typical touring bike. The head tube is a middle-of-the-road 71.5 for predictable steering. It may be heavier than its aluminum cousins, but for rough-n-ready riding, I enjoyed the genteel comfort of steel, and didn’t feel like it held me back too much when it was time to sprint for the traffic lights. It’s a nice package that covers the bases well, weighing in at 27lbs.

Read our full review here.


Review: Cannondale Quick CX 3

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It’s a warm morning. The sun’s out and spring has sprung. I’m stepping out of my back door with Cannondale’s Quick CX 3 ready to start the 11-mile commute to the office. My neighbor waves “good morning,” and it promises to be a great day for a ride.

My commute isn’t difficult. There aren’t many hills, or even traffic, but it traverses a variety of riding surfaces. It can make finding an appropriate bike challenging.

Is the Quick CX 3 the solution?


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