Review: Ultralight & Watertight .5 First Aid Kit


Tester: Eric McKeegan
Price: $17

First aid kits are one of those things we all know we should carry, but rarely do. Even on backcountry trips, I almost never have anything besides a dirty bandana and some duct tape to patch myself up.

That has changed dramatically now that the Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight & Watertight .5 now resides in the bottom of my pack. Besides local day trips, I’ve made sure this was with me anytime I travelled anywhere, including a week-long trip to Chile. It is light enough to just leave in a hydration pack or frame bag, because really, who is going to notice another 100 grams?


My good luck held out, but had I needed it, there are some very worthwhile items inside besides the standard adhesive bandages, butterfly closures and antiseptic wipes. High-quality, stainless-steel tweezers can pick out tiny splinters or remove ticks. Three decent-sized safety pins can hold up your shorts or keep a dressing in place over a wound. A sheet of anti-blister material could save your feet on a long ride. A few packs each of antihistamine, aspirin, ibuprofen and acetaminophen could come in handy for both accidents and hangovers.

All of that (and more) is crammed into resealable plastic bag, which is placed inside a treated and seam-sealed nylon pouch with a waterproof zipper. I’m betting I can stuff a set of nitrile gloves and a small pressure dressing (to replace that dirty bandana) in the bag as well, which would make me the best equipped rider on most any trail.

Probably time to take another wilderness first responder class as well.

Adventure Medical sells a huge range of first aid and survival supplies that range from tiny kits for short solo trips to huge packs for large groups.



Review: Yuba Spicy Curry

Spicy Curry-1

Tester: Eric McKeegan
Price: $4,200
Weight: 55 pounds
Sizes: One

Cargo bikes and electric assist are the peanut butter and chocolate of low-impact transportation. Maybe I shouldn’t be using a sweet food metaphor for a bike with a savory name like Spicy Curry, but right now my belly is full of chocolate peanut butter ice cream and I’m having a hard time thinking about anything else.

The Curry part of the name comes from the electric motor manufacturer: Currie Tech. With almost two decades of e-bike experience, Currie Tech was recently purchased by Accell Group, an international company which owns a huge portfolio of bike brands including Raleigh, Diamondback and Redline. Currie Tech teamed with Yuba to develop the Spicy Curry solely as an e-bike platform.

Spicy Curry-10

The aluminum frame is bristling with mounting points for cargo accessories, and the bright color is sure to attract attention on the road. While there is only a single size to choose from, the huge standover, long seatpost and stack of stem spacers make it easy to dial in a good position for riders of many sizes.

The swept-back bars are immediately comfortable, but the 1.5 inch steerer makes sourcing a shorter or longer stem more difficult. The components are all basic and functional. With the torquey 350 watt motor to back you up, the Shimano Acera 8-speed drivetrain has plenty of gearing for even the steepest of hills. Tektro hydraulic disc brakes are a nice touch for all-season stopping power. Front and rear LED lights, wired to the battery, are a welcome stock feature. It’s something I think should be on all e-bikes meant for road use. Full coverage fenders and a kickstand round out the build.

Spicy Curry-7

I also tested some accessories. The Bread Basket ($169) bolts to the frame, not the fork, and includes a stretch cargo net and water-resistant liner. Passengers sat on the Soft Spot ($30) padded seat, which strapped onto the Rear Deck ($40), and held on the Hold On Bars ($70) mounted to the seat post. The Carry On ($139) rack extenders created a wide platform for all kinds of bulky cargo.

The Spicy Curry may be the easiest cargo bike to just get on and ride. The well-triangulated aluminum frame and low center of gravity afforded by the 20 inch rear wheel makes the bike amazingly stable under heavy loads, even heavy loads of two squirming kids who are starting to get too big for me to haul around anymore. Frame stiffness plays a huge role here, and Yuba nailed it with the Spicy Curry.

Spicy Curry-5

The gearing might sound high (48 tooth chainring, 11-32 cassette) but the 20 inch wheel effectively lowers the ratio. In fact, I was left wanting an even bigger gear for those stretches where I was spun out at speeds below the motor’s cut-off point of 28 mph. This top speed makes the Spicy Curry a “Class 3” e-bike in California and your local laws might vary. Although, to be honest, we are probably at least a decade away from anyone enforcing e-bike speed laws.

The motor itself has plenty of power, although it isn’t as refined feeling as the Bosch mid-drive motor. At low speeds it is reluctant to kick in much power, which makes it very manageable, but sometimes it was hard to get moving with a heavy load and poor gear choice. As speeds increase the power does too, but gear shifts can cause driveline noise and surges in power.

Spicy Curry-4

I spent most of my time in the highest assist levels of 3 or 4, depending on traffic conditions, load and distance. The display predicts 16, 25, 29 or 33 miles per full charge in power modes 4, 3, 2 or 1 respectively, which I found to be quite accurate. The display is large and easy to read, but I’d like to see more info on each screen.

Without adding the pictured accessories, the stock bike isn’t capable of handling that much cargo. I highly recommend the Bread Basket to start—it is huge, and since it doesn’t turn with the front wheel it barely affects handling, even with a lot of crap inside. The oversize tubing of the rear rack wouldn’t work with any panniers I tried, although the copious mounting points had me scheming various DIY methods to make use of bags I already have. Yuba sells the 2-Go ($219) cargo bags that look to be a wise investment, with a large capacity and stirrups for passengers’ feet.

Spicy Curry-8

It’s been interesting watching the evolution of the long-tail cargo bike in the United States. What we see here, in my opinion, is what will be sticking around as the default orientation for the electric-assist cargo bike: mid-drive motor, 20 inch rear wheel, single ring drivetrain and a la carte accessories to personalize the bike for each owner’s needs.

Yuba is fully invested in e-cargo bikes (or is it cargo e-bikes?), this being one of four you can order directly from Yuba or a dealer. Price-wise, the Spicy Curry compares most closely with the elMundo V5 ($4,500) an e-bike version of Yuba’s oldest model. I’ve spent a good deal of time on the non-electric version of the Mundo and the best way I can describe the difference is another metaphor: The elMundo is a Ford Econoline van—heavy, sturdy, versatile and capable of hauling just about anything. The Spicy Curry is a Honda Odyssey— refined, comfortable and easy to drive.

Spicy Curry-6

Yuba is working to secure an agreement with a lender to offer consumer financing for its bikes, which should put them within reach of more families that don’t want to pay up-front or carry a large credit card balance.

The stock bike comes with a lot of things that are add-ons for most cargo bikes, at a price that undercuts its closest competitors. The lack of stock cargo capacity is easily offset by the lower price. Even with the generous amount of accessories I tested, the Spicy Curry is hundreds cheaper than the similar Xtracycle Edgerunner e-bike. This is a bike that I can see really making a dent in car use for many people.

Spicy Curry-3

I am as happy taking my kids home from the bus stop as I am hauling home remodeling supplies. The motor also made me much more apt to grab this bike rather than the car keys when I was tired or felt pressed for time. In the city, with a top speed nearing 30 mph, most trips are faster than in a car, and parking is easier, too. The Yuba Spicy Curry makes me hopeful for a transportation future that is more centered on people and not cars.



Review: double-sided pedals

VP Components R62

Price: $90
Tester: Eric McKeegan

double pedals-3

I’ve ridden a lot of these clipless/platform pedals. They are my go-to pedal for bikes that might do double-duty on long rides and casual trips around town. I’ve been using these for over a year now, and you can color me impressed.

I have a few pairs of VP platform pedals that have put up with hard off-road use, and these R62 have proven to be similarly reliable. I’ve used both the included cleats and Shimano’s, and performance is identical with both. I like my clipless pedals tight, and there is plenty of adjustment here, from loose and casual to tight and racy.

The feature that sets these pedals apart are the four traction pins per pedal. Almost all similar pedals (including the XT Tour pedals on the previous page) use raised aluminum nubs that don’t grip as well as I’d like. The VPs stick to everything I tried including dress shoes with slick soles and lugged winter boots.

Even after a year of typically wet weather and a salty winter, the bearings spin freely. While part of me wished for a wider platform for longer rides, during most of those I was clipped in so it didn’t matter. And that smaller platform gets bashed less often on ill-advised late-night singletrack shortcuts. In short, these are the best of this breed of pedals in my experience.

Shimano Deore XT Tour

Price: $120
Tester: Jon Pratt

double pedals-2

Shimano’s XT Tour Pedal, the PD-T780, is designed with two distinct pedaling surfaces: a SPD compatible side and a flat, platform side. Now it doesn’t matter if you are wearing your clipless shoes, or regular sneakers. This is especially nice for an urban bike where you will be using it in different scenarios or on a touring rig for days when you need a break from those more rigid clipless shoes and want to rock out with some sandals.

The platform sides can also help you get through any mechanical issues you might have with your SPD shoes while out on the road. I’ve been using them primarily on my urban bikes and really like the ability to wear an SPD shoe for some of my longer distance jaunts but then switch it up when I want a more comfortable shoe to walk around in or stand for long periods of time. It’s a pain to get ready for a ride and realize you either need to change your shoes, or worse, your pedals—no more!

The built-in, slightly recessed reflectors are a nice touch too. Not only are you more visible out on the road, the reflectors are far less likely to catch on something or just be knocked off. The only negative things I’ve experienced are that the platform side can be a bit slippery when wet and the pedal is sometimes a bit of a pain to flip to the correct side when frequently stopping and starting. Even with those two issues, you’ll probably see them on my bike for years to come.

Crank Brothers Double Shot

Price: $90
Tester: Katherine Fuller

double pedals-1

The primary benefit of the Double Shot is that it’s made for Crank Brothers cleats. That’s not a knock—it just is. As a longtime Crank Brother’s user, I’m glad to see something like this finally available for my cleat of choice.

The actual engagement point is one-sided, meaning it doesn’t spin, but it does have a bit of front-back movement to help you find it. Engagement is simple–the big platform and slight concave shape makes the clip easy for your foot to find–nothing out of the ordinary for longtime Crank Brothers cleat users. This is not a super-high-end pedal, intended mainly for touring, commuting and entry-level riders, but it feels nice. The set weighs right at 400 grams, a tad on the heavy side, but the platform is just the right length and width (not too small) to support your sandal-driven flat-pedal riding adventures.

The platform features a diamond plate center strip that feels a bit like rubber under foot, and a few raised aluminum nubs. Without pins, these pedals aren’t super grippy, but are adequate. I would say they are best for someone who will clip in the majority of the time but still wants some flat-pedal flexibility. On my gravel bike, I appreciate being able to clip out one foot and plant it on a steady platform for peace of mind while descending sketchy singletrack (should I need to quickly put a toe down). The soles of a clipless MTB shoe will also grip the flat side well enough for pushing off steep inclines from a standstill and whatnot, and has often been welcome in that regard.

Available in black/grey or orange/black. Search for them online to find good deals for less than retail pricing.



Review: Louis Garneau Nickel cycling shoe

LG Nickel Shoe-1

Tester: Jon Pratt
Price: $95
More info: Louis Garneau Nickel

Louis Garneau classifies the Nickel as a cycling shoe that is designed for a recreational weekend ride or your relaxed commute. From my experience it is just that. The Nickel’s sole is fairly rigid, providing for good power transfer, but it does have a bit of flexibility for getting off the bike and walking around a bit. It is pretty stiff, so extended walks become slightly uncomfortable.

The sole is SPD compatible and has enough material surrounding the cleat so that it doesn’t click on hard surfaces when walking. The cleat was able to engage and disengage on several pedals without issue. While the lack of any lugs on the sole limits this shoe in hiking situations, there is sufficient grip for most wet or dry urban surfaces.

LG Nickel Shoe-2

The shoe features three ventilation holes on the bottom of the sole which pass through to the interior of the shoe. While this can let water in, I did not experience any wetness when cycling in mildly inclement weather.

That ventilation is extended to your foot through roughly 70 holes in the insole. It continues through small holes along the front and sides of the synthetic leather upper. This makes the Nickel a good cool to warm weather shoe, but I could see it getting a bit hot on those sunny summer days. I found it to be very comfortable during my test, where temps ranged from 20-60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Reflective logos on the heel and side provide decent visibility, along with those loud laces. Personally I like the look of the neon against the black, but for those who don’t, the Nickel ships with a set of black laces.

The Nickel is available in black, periwinkle (light tan) and truffle (brown). There is also a women’s version called the Opal which comes in black, asphalt and magenta.



Review: MKS Lambda / Grip King Pedals

Lambda Pedals-2

The Lambda / Grip King pedal is a Rivendell design made by MKS in Japan out of aluminum alloy. Surprisingly lightweight for its size (about 420 grams/pair) and offering a large, supportive platform (5″ x 3″), the Lambda has become popular with commuters and tourers, alike. Standard .125-inch ball bearings makes them easy to service and, so far, they spin very smoothly.

I picked up a pair a few months ago for my whatever bike, on which I generally ride between two and 10 miles at a time. The Lambdas replaced the bike’s original, 1991-vintage mountain bike pedals with toe clips.

Pedal preferences are influenced by the type of shoes you wear, and I wanted something non-specific that would be comfortable in boots, flip flops, trail runners or even dress shoes. When I decide to pop out for a quick errand, I prefer to just hop on the bike in whatever footwear is closest to the front door. That is the perfect use for the Lambdas and is what they are best at—everyday cycling.

Lambda Pedals-3

If, like me, you are used to riding mountain bike-specific flat pedals with mountain-bike specific shoes that, when paired, offer a vice-like grip, then the Lambdas won’t seem all that grabby. Without sharp pins or pointy teeth, they lack an exacting bite and are slippery when wet. (Rivendell sells a $12 set of pedal spikes that you can add. You need to drill the holes and the spikes should self-tap. I might add them in the winter when I’m riding in heavy-soled boots that don’t allow for much pedal feel.)

However, that’s part of why I like them. The Lambdas won’t tear up casual shoes; my foot can easily adjust its position as I cruise around; and I will not be adding to the pedal-pin scar collection on my calves. Lambdas are ideal for mashing about town and don’t require your foot to hunt for that perfect spot. Standing to climb on them feels fantastic, even in soft sandals, thanks to the pedal’s length.

Lambda Pedals-1

I like that the Lambdas offer a larger pedaling platform without appearing ridiculously massive, but the lack of side bulk means people with extra-wide feet might not find the Lambdas to be as supportive as I do (my shoe size is an EU 40). One selling point is that the concave sides offer more cornering clearance. I, for one, am not regularly railing my commuter, but that very well could be your thing.

Aesthetically, the battle-axe-meets-cheese-grater look of these pedals falls into the love-em-or-hate-em category. To be honest, I chose them in part for their quirky appearance. The recessed reflectors are a plus, too. I’ve always thought those things to be ugly but useful. On the Lambdas, I can know the reflectors are there without having to see them protruding garishly.

The MKS Lambda / Rivendell Grip King is a great step-up from the small-platform stock pedals on your old bike, especially if you’re not interested in committing to a specific shoe-pedal combo. They will not accept toe clips, but some riders add PowerGrip straps.

Price: Depends. Currently $37.99 from Tree Fort Bikes; $56 direct from Rivendell


Back to Top