Field Tested: Sierra Designs Convert 2 Tent

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The appeal of a single-wall tent is easy to see: with today’s advanced textiles, it’s possible to create a tent that is waterproof and breathable, cutting down on weight and increasing its steadiness in high winds. Most tents used in mountaineering are single-wall for this reason.

The $599 Covert 2 is a two-person, single-wall tent made from 100 percent breathable, waterproof DriZone nylon from Sierra Designs’ mountaineering lineup. Its packed weight is 6 pounds 12 ounces, and it offers up 29 square feet of interior room.

The only entrance is through a single door at the head of the main body, designed to be pitched facing downwind. With 29 square foot interior, I’d likely rate the Convert as a “real world” one-and-a-half person size rather than two with room to relax. Be prepared to get to know your roommate very well. The vestibule is large enough to fit a full-size backpack or your panniers, but not much more since it would be in the way of getting in and out. If you want to travel light you can remove the vestibule entirely.


Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #31 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a gear review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure. Issue #34 will focus on bikepacking!


If the wind is really blowing you can install the patented Jake’s Corners, which are small poles that reinforce the corners of the main body. Something designed for and tested in some of the harshest high-altitude environments.

While the pitch looks straightforward enough, like any new tent you’re going to need to practice pitch a few times get the hang of it. It took me a few minutes to find the pole sleeves, and that was in the daylight. I also broke the heads off three of the included stakes on my first pitch, so I can’t help but recommend bringing some spares. It can also be pitched from inside, but a practice pitch (or three) becomes even more important when it’s dark and cold.

While the material is breathable, you’re going to want to make sure those roof vents are open, no matter how cold it is. A night spent short of breath convinced myself and another tester of that. In retrospect it seems obvious that the vents should be open, but trying to “batten down the hatches” left me gasping for air.

While the simple design of a single-wall is appealing for touring and bikepacking use, the Convert still clocks in at nearly seven pounds and is large enough to fill an entire touring pannier. While it performs well in its intended function, it’s likely overkill for most casual touring cyclists.

 

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Field Tested: Islabikes Beinn 26 kids bike

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By Trina and Stephen Haynes. Photos by Justin Steiner.

As bike enthusiasts and parents, we hope our kids enjoy the activity as much as we do. Because of this desire, we try to outfit them as best we can with bikes and goods that suit them. Earlier this year we were struggling to find a bike that would fit our growing pre-teen daughter, Darby. She was getting too tall for her well-loved 24-inch wheeled bike, yet not tall enough for an adult 26-inch, even a size small.

The 26-inch wheeled bikes we looked at all seemed either too childish or too grown up and generally weighed close to half her bodyweight. Adult sized 26-inch bikes were just too big, stand over height and top tube length being the biggest deterrents. We did a lot of brow beating and swapping of parts to try and retrofit her old 24, but it was no use. Her knees were too close to the handlebars. She needed to bump up a size and we knew it, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to purchase an adult small 26 inch, knowing that it wouldn’t fit her properly for a few more years.

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Remembering how much we enjoyed the Islabike CNOC 16-inch bike we’d gotten for our son, Odin (see Issue 26), we discovered the Islabikes 26-inch Beinn. Islabikes, the British bike company with an assembly and customer service outlet in Portland, Oregon, specializes in children’s bikes.

Our typical family outing will have us riding through any number of different terrain from streets and sideways, to crushed gravel rail trails to the occasional mountain biking adventure. Darby has successfully navigated some local single track, rocks, roots, mud and all on her Beinn, despite her trepidation.

What Islabikes does well is take adult size bike geometry and shrink it down proportionately to fit a much smaller rider. In doing this, they create bikes that fit children well and are therefore fun and highly functional. They also have a high resale value due to their parts spec and the fact that they employ and very minimalist, unisex paint scheme.


Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #31 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.


The Beinn’s aluminum frame is connected to a chromoly fork, with fender and rack eyelets, front and rear V brakes, lightweight wheels (with quick release) and Kenda tires. Darby’s Beinn is one size in a series of sizes offered by Islabikes from 20- to 26-inch, each with two different sizes (small and large) to accommodate riders from 5 years to 11 and up.

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Islabikes also understand a child’s ability to grasp a concept like shifting gears (or lack thereof). The Beinn employs a very simple SRAM 8-speed X4 drive train with grip shift. Most kids in this age bracket are just starting to wrap their heads around using gears and this set up is a low stress entry into that realm.

Our typical family outing will have us riding through any number of different terrain from streets and sideways, to crushed gravel rail trails to the occasional mountain biking adventure. Darby has successfully navigated some local single track, rocks, roots, mud and all on her Beinn, despite her trepidation.

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As parents, we have a difficult time laying down $500 on anything, let alone a kid’s bike. The Beinn’s sticking point for most parent will likely be the price of admission. Sticker shock is expected, but not necessarily justified. What won us over in the end was the fit, function and customization offered by the Beinn.

Check out all of islabikes offerings online and order directly through the company where you can talk to a real person who will help you make the right decision on size and customization.

Vital stats

  • Price: $500
  • Weight: 21.7 pounds
  • Sizes: Small, Large (tested)
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Field Tested: Xtracycle Edgerunner Electric Family 27D

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Making the transition to a car-free or car-light household can be daunting. I experienced something to this effect a few months ago when my family of four went from two cars to one. It’s not as if we went out of our way to drive each vehicle every day, but there were circumstances in which having two vehicles made sense. Between kids, errands, my husband or I traveling out of state and daily life, there seemed to be plenty of reasons to hang on to the second car, until we realized we didn’t actually drive it all that much. So, we sold it; but in so doing, opened ourselves up to the realization that the multitude of small around town tasks still needed to be done with or without the car.

Since bringing the e-Edgerunner home I’m more prone to inviting one or both the kids along on my routine, not worried whether or not I’ll be able to make it home with upwards of 100 pounds worth of children and groceries stowed on the back of the bike.

What I wanted was a car replacer; a bike that would give me the confidence to load up two kids, ride to the grocery store, library, music practice or anywhere else our daily adventures take us without feeling like I missed our old car.

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The Xtracycle Edgerunner Electric Family Bike 27D is that bike. First released in 2012, the hub-motor, pedal-assist  Edgerunner longtail was the tip of the iceberg for the California company’s venture into the e-bike world. Xtracycle’s view of marrying the two realms makes sense: “We see cargo and electric becoming inseparable in the coming years.” I agree; electric assist makes an otherwise heavy bike, that might otherwise break your spirit, more approachable.

Since bringing the e-Edgerunner home I’m more prone to inviting one or both the kids along on my routine, not worried whether or not I’ll be able to make it home with upwards of 100 pounds worth of children and groceries stowed on the back of the bike. Having the pedal assist makes my treks seem achievable. Don’t let the pedal assist deceive you though; it does take some muscle and pedal power, depending on bike loads and the terrain.

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The e-Edgerunner has a PL-350 BionX system with a 350-watt rear hub motor. There are four modes for pedal assist: One being minimal assist and four being the most. I only used levels three and four, but I always had at least one kid or multiple heavy-ish items on the back. The motor has enough power to quickly accelerate, which is the big hurdle for most people, as starting from a dead stop with 50 pounds or more on the back of your bike is a challenge. Once you get going, getting the bike up to and maintaining 20 mph is pretty easy if you’re pedaling at a steady cadence. You can also take it easy and maintain a cruising speed of 12-15 mph with minimal effort. It takes about three hours to fully charge the battery and assist cuts out at a top speed of 20mph.

Ride quality

The e-Edgerunner dispatches hills with ease and while that’s not a problem for some, it’s certainly was a benefit I had to adjust to. Going downhill I had a few moments where I was doing 24 mph and didn’t realize it, a prime opportunity to use the Bionx PL-350’s regenerative braking!

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What is regenerative braking? It works in one of two ways; either switched on via a the brake lever, or set as a “drag brake” with the motor control panel. When using the hydraulic disc brakes, the hub motor switches to generator mode collecting what would otherwise be  wasted kinetic energy, generally dissipated through heat and uses that energy to help recharge the battery. In Generate mode the BionX hub runs in generator mode continually, which in turn creates energy that recharges the battery. This is helpful when going down steep hills as it acts as a secondary brake. You can also employ Generate mode to get more of a workout while recharging the battery. It’s great to have regenerative braking, especially if you plan to ride longer distances, given that run time for the motor is somewhere in the vicinity of two hours.


Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #31 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.


There were certainly times when, fully loaded (80-100 pounds without riders), it took quite a bit to keep the bike in check when stationary. I don’t mean to sound like it was impossible to handle—it wasn’t—but it certainly took some effort. The low standover height afforded by the small rear wheel creates a low center of gravity and allows you to plant your feet firmly on the ground and grasp the bars, keeping the bike upright and ready to roll.

Extras

This version of the Edgerunner Family bike comes equipped with cargo bike bags, a Hooptie Bar, U-Tube foot supports and a kickback center stand. The cargo bike bags are great and can hold quite a bit. At full capacity I was able to pack in three days of groceries, for a four-person household and a 16-pound bag of dog food. While the openness of the cargo bags was great in the fair summer months, I could see wanting something a little more weather proof for rain and or snow. Xtracycle offers the X2 bags ($250) with a waterproof flap.

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The U-Tube foot bar played double duty as both a platform for all my grocery getting and gave my kids somewhere to plant their feet that was out of the way of the drive train. The Hooptie Bar works as a parental reassurance. Knowing that my seven-year-old is still on the bike without feeling the need to check on him every few minutes was stress-free. Getting in and out of the thing proved challenging to the kids until they realized they weren’t going to break it by crawling all over it. We opted in for the Mini-Magic Carpets, which are bench pads, and cost an additional $20 each. It’s worth it for me to not hear my kids complain about their sit bones.

Parting thoughts

This bike is meant to replace your car and the price is going to reflect that. The Edgerunner 27D Family Bike (no assist) retails for $2,599. The electric assist BionX PL-350 kit is $2,100, making the total MSRP $4,699. Xtracycle offers a less expensive model, the 24D Electric Family Bike (which has a little less spit and polish: mechanical disc brakes, 24 speeds, less robust headset) for $4,099.

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Weight and learning curve aside, I really enjoyed my time on the e-Edgerunner. It performed as advertised, and the peace of mind gained by the extra add-ons helped me focus on commandeering the ‘family truckster’ everywhere I wanted to go.


Vital stats

  • Price: $4,699
  • Weight: Heavy
  • Sizes: S/M (tested), M/L
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Field Tested: Swobo Accomplice

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I’ll admit, at first glance the Swobo Accomplice seems like another simple singlespeed urban bike, and an expensive one at that. But this isn’t just another “me too” fixie high on the show and low on the go.

The Accomplice uses the same track bike-derived geometry as Swobo’s skinny-tired Sanchez model, but added enough tire clearance for 45mm tires. The double-butted chromoly frame is pleasantly stiff, with a downtube gusset for increased bash-about-ability. And, the rear dropouts are surprisingly elegant looking, with a clean look and built in axle adjusters. The wheels are high quality, with high flange cartridge bearing hubs, stainless spokes, Alex rims with machined sidewalls, and both a fixed cog and a freewheel. The tires are sturdy 42mm Kenda EuroTrek with reflective sidewalls. Other than the inexpensive headset and plastic pedals, the parts pick is top notch.

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The 41-18 gearing is a nice middle ground with for all around riding, I’d go to something lower if I was riding more dirt. But as an all around urban bike, this thing has been hard to complain about. The wide bars are great for cranking up hills, and can be easily trimmed if slipping in and out of traffic is your thing. The Accomplice laughs off potholes and poorly timed curb hops, and generally is ready for almost any adventure you might encounter on a typical day or night in the city. All that sturdiness doesn’t make for a fast feeling bike, but it certainly isn’t slow either.

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Ride quality

The steep and quick geometry was a welcome change from the more stable road bikes that seem to be all I ride lately. This probably isn’t the bike to grab if multi-mile dirt road descents are on your menu, although the wide bar makes things much easier to manage than a pair of skinny track drops.


Editor’s note: This review originally appeared in Issue #31 of Bicycle Times. To make sure you never miss a bike review, order a subscription and you’ll be ready for the everyday cycling adventure.


Two bottle mounts are a nice touch for longer days in the saddle, but the lack of fender or rack mounts on the frame may irk some riders. Swobo started including axle-mounted fender mounts with the Accomplice after I received this one, and really, if you are a rack and panniers type rider, this isn’t your bike anyway.

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Extras

The long reach Tektro brake calipers are adequate, but I wouldn’t complain about more braking power. The saddle is well padded, and most folks will find it comfortable in street clothes, I know I never touched this bike while chamois-ed up. The only issue I had was with the 3/32-inch chain and ⅛-inch fixed cog. I swapped to a ⅛-inch chain I had laying around, but Swobo or your local dealer can fix this issue if you have the same same problem.

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Parting thoughts

Swobo calls the Accomplice “Part fixie.Part fat bike. It’s your go anywhere, do anything partner in crime”. I’d replace fat bike with cyclocross bike, but the rest is an accurate way to describe this bike. From rides with my kids, to late night missions that include every back route I know, the Accomplice was my choice more often than expected, even when more expensive bikes were an option.

Vital Stats

  • Price: $700 $549
  • Weight: 26.1 pounds
  • Sizes: Small, Medium, Large (tested), XL

Update

The Accomplice is now also available in black, and the price has dropped to $549.

 

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