Review: NiteRider Lumina 950 OLED Boost and Solas 100

Ed. Note: Since the time of this review, the 950 has been replaced with a 1100 lumen version with the same features and price. 

The Lumina OLED 950 Boost is NiteRider’s flagship road and commuter headlight, offering five steady light levels and four daylight flash modes all packed within a sleek, lightweight IP64 rated shell. Meaning, it’s dust tight and water resistant.

Versatility is the theme of this headlight. Being seen on your morning commute using the daylight flash mode, check. Late night trail ride with the steady beam of 800 lumens, check. Evening hike in the woods with the significant other using the 40 lumen walk mode, check. Getting lost during that evening hike and needing to send out an SOS signal, it has that too! This light is more than capable of handling whatever you may dish out at it.

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The most interesting feature of the Lumina OLED 950 Boost is its digital display. No more guessing if you have enough battery life to make it to and from a last minute trip to the six-pack shop or if you are able to commute the long way home from work. The easy to read digital screen displays the remaining battery time and even offers a (get ready to queue Europe) final countdown once you hit those final minutes of life. I found myself really appreciating this feature as I often neglect my light charging duties, constantly challenging how many rides I could get between charges, trying to outdo the previous. NiteRider did an excellent job displaying the battery percentage readout while charging and initial device power up and then displaying actual time remaining while in use. I was even pleasantly surprised by the display’s brightness level, a perfect balance of being able to easily read at quick glance and not being a distraction. I typically don’t care for bright gizmos disrupting my owl-like night vision, so major kudos to the design team on this one.

The Lithium-ion battery offers Intellicharge, which is able to utilize the increased amperage when plugged into the wall at 1000 mA versus a lower output, such as your computer, at 500 mA. Ultimately, what this means is that if charged using the higher mA, you can reduce your standard six hour charge time in half.

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To the rear of the bike, NiteRider’s Solas 100 pairs up nicely, offering two modes of “Daylight Visible Flash” and two steady modes. Between the four modes available you can expect an average of roughly 13.5 hours of run time and a standard charge time of two hours. Like the Lumina OLED 950 Boost, it too is nicely packed into a compact IP64 shell.

An interesting feature of the Solas 100 is the steady “Group Ride Mode” setting which reduces the taillight to roughly 10 lumens and helps to not distract the riders behind you, all while remaining visible. As I found out, this setting is also equally suitable for your long rail trail adventure or B road getaways where you are in darker areas and less likely to run upon motorists. Times when you don’t necessarily need that in your face, hey look at me, notice me, strobe light.

Price: $180

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More info and specs and be found online here.

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Review: Lumos LED helmet

By Adam Newman

The Lumos has a sporty style that wouldn’t look out of place in a race or on a group ride. It has single charge port on the rear that uses its own proprietary cable, so that’s another item you’re going to want to carry with you. It has only one port, and a single battery and switch for the front and rear lights. It’s integrated flush with the helmet’s body and is much more difficult to find while you’re wearing it. It also makes a pretty annoying bloop sound when you turn it on or off. Not sure that’s necessary. It also beeps when the battery is low enough that the lights will be going out, so you get a warning before they do. I do like that. The helmet comes in one size that can be adjusted from 54 to 62 cm heads via a dial on the back of the helmet.

The added weight of the lighting system is a bit noticeable on the Lumos, not only because it weighs more (440 grams) but because it looks like a sporty road helmet that should be super lightweight, but is actually a little bit hefty. That weight packs in some extra features though: a motion sensor embedded in the helmet reacts when you slow down quickly and activates all the rear, red LEDs as a brake light. It also has a wireless remote for the turn signals.

Now, here is where I think the bright ideas fizzle out a bit. In most states, automobiles and motorcycles are mandated to have their turn signals spaced a certain distance apart. On a bicycle helmet there isn’t exactly much room, so they are pretty tightly spaced. From more than maybe 15 feet it’s difficult to tell which one is blinking, especially if it’s dark and you’re in a car, you’re moving and the cyclist is turning their head from side to side looking around. They work as advertised, but I’m not convinced they work as intended.

Price: $179

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This review originally appeared in Bicycle Times 45Subscribe to our email newsletter to get content like this delivered directly to your inbox every Tuesday. Keep reading: More reality-tested product reviews here

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Review: Torch T2 helmet

By Adam Newman 

Initially launched on a crowdfunding site, the Torch was an immediate hit with investors and is now has been in full production for about a year or so. Available in eight colors, it has a fairly typical in-mold construction and meets the usual CPSC and CE safety standards. It’s only available in one size, though there are two sets of pads included, and the dial retention system can adjust through a pretty wide range, from a claimed 54 to 61 cm.

The Torch has two separate lighting systems front and back, with their own batteries, on/off switches and charge ports. The helmet comes with a special Y cable that charges them both from a USB source. The connection is a proprietary, waterproof port, so keep that cord close at hand, a standard micro USB won’t work. I haven’t verified the claimed six hours of runtime on steady with a stopwatch, but I’ve been topping off the helmet about once a week and haven’t had it run dead. Torch said that the battery should be good for 500 cycles and that if there’s an issue within two years of the sale they will take care of it.

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Once you’re wearing the Torch it’s pretty easy to forget you’re wearing anything special. It weighs about as much as many other full-coverage commuter helmets (360 grams), and the retention system fits me both with and without a hat on underneath. The shatterproof LED covers give the lights a soft glow, and the switches protrude a bit so you can feel them with your fingers, though it can be difficult to tell if the lights are on or not while you’re wearing it unless it is very dark. While it’s nice to be able to operate the lights independently, I can’t think of a reason why I would ever want to do so.

Overall I’ve been really impressed with the Torch T2 and its subdued style and practical safety.

Price: $110


This review originally appeared in Bicycle Times 45. Subscribe to our email newsletter to get content like this delivered directly to your inbox every Tuesday. Keep reading: More reality-tested product reviews here

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Review: Maglock pedals

By Adam Newman

I’ll say one thing about the bicycle industry: It’s never afraid to keep innovating. The concept of attaching your feet to the pedals in one way or another has been around for more than a century, and I doubt this is even the first time this method has been tried.

The Maglock pedals look like standard flat pedals, but you can probably guess from the name what’s different about them. Their inventor, David Williams, set out to build a better mousetrap after he was dissatisfied with the performance of both flat pedals and traditional SPD style clipless pedals. After a handful of prototypes in aluminum and plastic, he launched Maglock through a crowdfunding campaign.

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Inside each aluminum pedal are 10 rare earth magnets that are strong enough to hold tightly to the cleat. The cleat itself is a solid chunk of steel that bolts to your shoe with a normal, two-hole mountain bike design. The process of “clipping in” is of course ridiculously simple: Put your foot on the pedal and it sticks. Because the pedal platform is big enough you can reposition your foot by turning it or sliding it around a bit. To unclip you roll your foot off the pedal rather than rotating it. If you tilt your foot even a tiny bit it will release, alleviating the “stuck in the pedals” feeling that many beginner cyclists have. You can also remove the magnets one by one to adjust the amount of “stick” that they have.

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The ease with which you can release the cleat is a bit limiting for performance users. Out of the saddle sprinting is not recommended, since I could yank my foot hard enough to release the cleat and doing so unexpectedly could be hazardous. Another major downside to the Maglock design is the weight. At 988 grams combined, plus another 190 grams for the cleats, the system is far heavier than traditional flat or clipless pedals, especially at this price point.

For urban riding and touring, the Maglock pedals strike a nice middle ground between clipless and flat pedals. I imagine they’d also work well in the snow and mud, though I only got to ride them through the summer. They might be a good choice for someone new to the concept of clipless pedals that wants a more secure feeling than flats provide, or even someone with a disability like Maglock’s sponsored athlete Adolfo Almarza, a double amputee mountain biker. They are available in blue, red or black, and you can have them personalized with your own laser etched logo.

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I always love seeing new (or renewed) ideas like the Maglock pedals, and my hand is always the first in the air to try them, but I think the ideal rider for this product is a bit limited.

MSRP: $165


This review originally appeared in Bicycle Times 43. Sign up for our email newsletter to get fresh web content delivered to your inbox every Tuesday! 

 

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Review: Bell Hub helmet

Bell Hub Helmet-1

Tester: Jon Pratt
Price: $75

The Hub helmet from Bell is designed with the urban cyclist in mind. Featuring a whopping 15 large vents, this is one breezy helmet. Great for those long, warm commutes, but not so great for those chilly ones unless you wear some additional headgear.

There’s an integrated blinky clip on the back of the helmet and a good bit of protection for the back of your noggin. The rear retention dial is very glove friendly and can easily be operated with your thumb and index finger. The top of the dial housing even has an indentation that cradles your index finger for better grip. Nice. The ratcheting chin strap is very glove friendly as well. The button to lock and unlock the system is large and easy to locate but recessed enough as not to allow unintended unlocking.

The overall helmet is very comfortable, partly due to the large, soft mesh pad that runs along the centerline of the helmet from the crown of your head to the front visor hole. There is another soft mesh pad that runs along the front of the helmet, stretching from temple to temple. In conjunction with the internal retention system, these pads make for a secure fit. There is also a short brim integrated into the front pad. The brim has reflective piping along the edge and can be flipped up for an uninterrupted view of the road in front of you.

For urban environments I like the very visible black/neon option, but if it’s too much Captain Safety for you, Bell offers other color choices: matte black, matte gunmetal, matte platinum and white. The Hub runs true to size and comes in small, medium and large; weighing a reasonable 365 grams.

The only thing I see missing is a MIPS option. Yes, MIPS adds to cost, but I don’t like putting a price tag on my health. Bell’s MIPS-infused Annex helmet, which is similar to the Hub, retails for $125. The more expensive Annex also features vents that can be closed for cold weather use.

More info: Bell Hub

 

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Review: Durango Sewing Solutions Deluxe Handlebar Buckets

A while back I got a note from Barry Ward, who had started sewing handy handlebar bags. I tried a few out and quickly fell in love, so I was excited to learn that he recently founded a new company around his venture called Durango Sewing Solutions.

Ward got his start in rock climbing and was making some bomber climbing gear in the late ‘80s through the mid ‘90s. The company he worked for, A5 Adventures, was eventually acquired by The North Face. He wasn’t done creating though, and had a few other brands along the way, including Kokopelli Designs and HIFA Products. In 2015 he moved to Durango, Colorado, and a new project was born.

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While these bags are a minor evolution over the previous generations, they continue to impress me with how useful they are. From commuting to touring to bikepacking to just cruising around the block, these handlebar bags keep goodies close at hand and secure. Fill ‘em with snacks, a small camera, a water bottle or really anything that you want easy access to. A good sign that the design works is that there are now a dozen or more bag makers with similar products.

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Made from X-Pac and sewn by Ward himself, they have a drawstring closure on the top and a small foam puck in the bottom to help keep their shape. With a symmetric design, they can be used on either side of the stem. An adjustable loop with a buckle goes around the fork crown to keep it from swaying. This tall version will swallow a 24 oz. water bottle whole.

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I’m not sure who designed these types of bags first, but Ward’s are the ones I fell in love with. His Durango Sewing Handlebar Buckets are available in short ($35), regular ($35) or deluxe ($40, pictured). The deluxe model has an exterior mesh pocket for empty snack wrappers or other small items: a $5 upgrade that’s totally worth it.

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It’s rare that I ride a bike these days without one of these attached.

Correction

Ward let us know that he wasn’t the founder of A5, but joined the team early on.

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Review: Blackburn Outpost seat bag and handlebar roll

As you’ve likely noticed from reading this magazine and elsewhere, bikepacking and rackless touring has reenergized the bike touring market. What began as a niche sport supported by products from a few boutique brands has now hit the mainstream and the major players are getting involved.

No stranger to bike touring, Blackburn is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, having been dedicated to open road adventures since day one. The Outpost seat bag and handlebar roll are its foray into the lightweight touring scene and offer classic features with some unique twists. The seat pack ($120) attaches to your saddle rails and seatpost and consists of two pieces: an outer sling and a removable, roll-top stuff sack.

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Rated at 10.5 liters it is more than enough to swallow a sleeping bag and a small tent, and the extra lash points on the back let you strap even more on. The buckles have locking adjusters, which makes it really handy to overstuff as well, as you can tuck in a jacket or other loose items and keep them secure. The included dry bag is a separate piece that you can pull out and take in your tent with you. The sling works best if the dry bag is filled at least half way to fill it out and prevent it from sagging.

In use, the Seat Pack offers a ton of storage capacity, but it does wag a bit from side to side. It’s largely out-of-sight-out-of-mind, though, and I’m willing to put up with it. I had no complaints about the build quality but, compared to the boutique seat packs on the market, the material used is thicker and heavier.

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The Handlebar roll ($100) uses a similar modular layout consisting of a harness that holds a dry bag. This bag is open on both ends so you don’t have to unpack the whole thing if your jacket is at the one end. It also make it easier to pack. Inside the sling harness is a Velcro patch to keep the dry bag in place. The harness attaches to the handlebars with a quick release mechanism so it protrudes a good bit out and doesn’t interfere with shifters or brakes.

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The extra lash points here are also handy for overflow storage and the red security strap keeps the whole setup from rotating downward on your handlebars should you hit a big bump. I appreciated the Handlebar Roll’s equally large storage capacity but feel the plastic quick release system is largely superfluous. Because it is so easy to unbuckle the stuff sack, I don’t see the need for a second means of removing it. I would trade that convenience for a simpler, lighter design.

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Worth noting is proper installation to make it function well. The bracket has been updated for fall 2016 with a wire safety support instead of the plastic one on the first version (pictured here). The red strap is also important as a secondary method of keeping the whole setup from rotating down into your front tire (see the green arrow above).

The Blackburn bags offer a good compromise of cost and features if you don’t need the lightest handmade gear. The Seat Pack especially is a good way to haul a lot of stuff without adding a rear rack.

 

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