Paul Andrews

Archive for the ‘Equipment reviews’ Category

Ibis Mojo HD’s lack of coil shock option explained

In Equipment reviews, Mountain Biking on January 10, 2010 at 2:41 am
White is the bomb

Ibis Mojo HD, the MacBook of MTB

Ibis has responded to Bike Intelligencer’s query about why the new Mojo HD won’t come with a coil shock option. With any bike of nearly six and a half inches in rear travel, a lot of riders lean toward a coil for increased consistency, reliability, durability and tuneability. But Hans over at Ibis says coil’s advantages are waning with vastly improved air shock technology — e.g. the Fox RP23, stock on the HD. Here’s what Hans had to say when we pointed out that Brian Lopes, America’s winningest male mountain bike competitor ever, runs coil shocks on his Mojos:

“Brian has his own custom tuner and has shocks for different purposes so he runs shocks that are super firm, soft or lower his bike or whatever he feels is the hot set up for the course.

Most of the shortcomings of air shocks have been overcome in the last few years and if you want to make a lightweight frame or bike, they save a lot of weight. The spring curve is different than a coil, so the suspension on the HD is designed with that air spring curve in mind.”

Even as recent as a year ago I would’ve begged to differ with Hans. Virtually all the long travel trail bikes I’ve owned and ridden — Ventana, Turner, Intense, Santa Cruz, Specialized — have benefitted hugely from coil. So it’s something to think about when buying a bike, because replacing an OEM air shock with a coil after purchase can be a pricey proposition.

Bling!

Now if air shocks only came in gold...

But here’s the deal. For the past year I’ve been riding a 6.5-inch Pivot Firebird all over the place, from Galbraith Mountain to Whistler to Leavenworth to Ashland to NorCal, including UC Santa Cruz and the Soquel Demo Forest. And I’ve been waiting for the slightest excuse to go coil, especially since the Cane Creek Double Barrel comes with a gold shaft that would match nicely the Firebird’s gold pivot and the Chris King gold bottom bracket. Bling! But drat it all, the stock shock, the same Fox RP23 that goes on the Mojo, has been just too rock solid to think about replacing. In fact, it’s been a set-it-and-forget-it thing with the RP23. (Now if Fox only made one with a gold shaft.)

Granted, Dave Weagle (the DW-Link inventor) was in on the Firebird’s design, along with the Man himself of course, Chris Cocalis. So you have to figure hand-in-glove relationship between the technology and the design. The Cane Creek has gotten raves on MTBR.com and elsewhere, but my experience is never change a winning game — or bike setup, for that matter.

Plus that same relationship with Weagle applies to Ibis and the Man himself, Scot Nicol. So no quarrel from me this time. I’ll look forward to not worrying about a shock upgrade with the new HD. (That white is the bomb btw!)

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Ibis HD: Ready to hammer in March!

In Equipment reviews, Mountain Biking on January 6, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Now it’s official: The Ibis Mojo HD is ready to blow off the doors! I’ve been posting on the longer-travel Ibis Mojo for some time, and now Ibis says the HD, designed with input from slalom king Brian Lopes, will be available starting in March. White and clear-coat (black) as well as a color TBA.

Ibis Mojo HD in white

Ibis Mojo: The industrial design equivalent of Apple Macintosh

The thing looks really spectacular. When it comes to industrial design, Ibis is the Apple Computer of the cycling world. Specs look dynamite, my only question being, why no coil shock option?

Brian Lopes rides coil Mojo

Brian Lopes' Mojo, fitted with coil

The press release says linkage rates were incompatible with coil, yet Lopes himself rides coil on his Mojos all the time. So what gives? I have a query over at MTBR.com to Hans, we’ll see what he says. In the meantime, your official Eye Candy for 2010 is here.

Ibis site.

MTBR forum.

MTBR announcement.

My other DW-Link bike, the Pivot Firebird, which I am NOT gonna give up for the HD, which also does NOT mean I won’t GET an HD as an upgrade from my current Mojo, will be part of the Pivot Demo Days lineup just released. Funny how these things work. The HD is the closest thing out there to the Firebird, and the Ibis and Pivot lines appeal to the same DW-Link crowd, so whaddya know? Both companies announce on the same day. Coincidence? You decide…

Another Thule T2 rack failure

In Equipment reviews, Mountain Biking on January 5, 2010 at 2:29 am

Following up on our investigation of Thule T2 rack issues, we’ve received another email from a reader who experienced a catastrophic failure.

“The exact same thing happened to my Thule T2,” wrote Tim Cook in a comment posted on Bike Intelligencer. He referred to the issue we’ve chronicled whereby the rear rail on the rack slides off the center post, dumping the bike onto the pavement behind.

“Unfortunately, I was in heavy traffic, my $6k bike was destroyed, and the mess sent another motorist in to the ditch.  She and her passenger both left the scene on gurneys and were transported to hospital.”

After we followed up in email to Cook, he informed us that he has filed an insurance claim and contacted Thule’s customer service. Because of the holidays, he does not expect a response from the company till after the New Year.

Cook also plans to post a YouTube video on the incident.

We also have put a call in to Thule, which in the past has proven responsive to similar situations. We’ll keep our readers posted.

And we continue to believe Thule should issue a recall notice on the T2 with a free retrofit aimed at preventing future accidents like these.

Previous posts:

Warning! Thule T2 Rack Failure Exposed

Company Responds Helpfully

Daily Roundup: Sharrows, Holiday cheer, Pastajet or Niki? (You decide), More Bikes Under the Tree & more…

In Bicycle advocacy, Equipment reviews, Mountain Biking, Rider Down on December 21, 2009 at 4:40 am

Over at SeattleLikesBikes, Michael Snyder offers an intriguing analysis of the “sharrows” issue. We don’t like sharrows, never have, and SLB uncovers yet another reason why: Inconsistency of implementation. It’s bad enough that sharrows send mixed signals to both cyclists and drivers. As Snyder shows, rules governing sharrow placement are not even applied consistently. Be sure to read his excellent list of suggestions for correcting the situation.

Six Six One is looking for a blowout year in 2010 and they’ve got the reviews to prove it. On MTBR.com, Brian Mullin (Pastajet) deconstructs the x4 series of “soft” armor (we call ’em pads). And I Hate Bikes (but LOVE body armor) takes a look at Six Six One body suit and upper body armor.

Now the eagle-eyed among you faithful readers will undoubtedly ask, “Why does Bike Intelligencer insist on Six Six One when the other reviewers call the company 661?” Good question. The reason is that the company refers to itself as Six Six One. Its Website is SixSixOne.com. It never uses the numbers. There are undoubtedly a host of reasons why, but for accuracy’s sake it’s Six Six One, dudes and dudettes.

As bold as Pastajet looks in body armor, I wish this mountain biker had modeled for his post.

More holiday warm & mushies: Bixby, OK church gives 160 bikes to kids. And in Worcester MA 500 bikes are given away in below freezing weather.

IMBA posts 10 Things IMBA did for Mountain Biking in 2009. Only 10? I can think of triple that off the top of my head. But the biggies are covered here.

The SacBee updates the age-old saga of trail conflicts. I wrote this story for The Seattle Times’ Sunday magazine Pacific a decade and a half ago. And so it goes…

Charges finally filed in the Lonesome Death of Bicycle Bob. RIP and Merry Christmas Bob wherever you are.

Bike Intelligencer’s Top 10 Bike Names of All Time

In Equipment reviews, Mountain Biking on December 15, 2009 at 10:04 am

Bike naming is a vastly underappreciated art. You have a situation where companies have an unparalleled opportunity to market themselves, to make a lasting impression about their company, bike culture and their customers, and to celebrate an industry. And then what do they come up with? Trek. Specialized. Giant. The XTC. The NR. The Y-33. Yes the initials stood for something, but even that wasn’t interesting.

So in the spirit of giving credit where due, and in the hope that in doing so we will spur bike namers everywhere to strive a bit more for the inspired and unconventional and dare we say edgy, here’s Bike Intelligencer’s Top 10 bike names of all time. Undoubtedly we have forgotten or unintentionally omitted some deserving candidates, so feel free to forward your personal favorites and we’ll toss ’em into the hopper.

10. Klein Attitude. Gary Klein’s contributions to popularizing mountain biking are in danger of fading after Trek bought out the aluminum frame pioneer out in the 1990s and gradually killed his mtb line. The Attitude makes the list because it was a naming breakthrough. It didn’t riff off of car names, it wasn’t mundanely descriptive, it didn’t rely on dumb acronyms and it didn’t involve meaningless initials. Instead it opened bike naming to a whole new arena of suggestive and intuitive association rather than literal designation. You don’t find any Attitudes out on the trail today, but the current generation of bike naming is firmly rooted in the Attitude tradition.

9. Schwinn Spitfire. For many of us, the Spitfire was the ride we learned on, and it had an appropriately sassy name for a bike that, in its heyday, could do everything. I broke just about every part on mine before I outgrew it, but nothing rivaled the Spitfire back in the day.

8. Santa Cruz Nomad. Most of Santa Cruz’s names, while a cut above, suffer from Big Bike Company hand-over-the-mouth yawniness, and the Nomad doesn’t exactly push the envelope. But for this particular bike in today’s particular environment, “Nomad” evokes just the right flavor for long epic cross-country rides.

7. Ibis Mojo. Scot Nicol knows how to name things — remember Moron tubing and the handjob? — and Mojo does as Mojo says. Mine is nicknamed “JuJu.”

6. Turner Burner. Dave Turner has turned out some great bikes over the years, but the Burner not only defined a category — the light, short-travel XC mountain bike that could double as a racer — it did so with flair and panache. I called all the Turners I owned “Burners” in homage, because Dave unfortunately fell victim to initialitis in later models.

5. Cove Hummer. When I first started riding the Vancouver B.C. Northshore in the early 1990s, titanium hardtail Hummers were all over the place as the one bike that the Shore couldn’t break. That was the rep ti had back then. Of course they eventually did break, usually around the head tube. But they had the Cove lifetime warranty, they were way cool, and they started the company’s naming convention built around sexual innuendo. Even so, it took awhile before I quit wondering why a gnarly bulletproof Canadian huckbuster would be named after a fragile nectar-sipping bird.

4. Evil Revolt. The newest addition to the list, released earlier this year, the Revolt has the right name for redefining downhill suspension. Evil isn’t really evil, of course. It’s just … bad.

3. Knolly Delirium T. The DT, as it’s affectionately nicknamed (cf delirium tremens), is all you could ask for in an indestructible tank like the Knolly, and perfectly captures the mixed emotions of the monster drop you try for the first time on a DT. You’re delirious for trying, you’re trembling from anticipation, and yet despite it all you just can’t face going through withdrawal.

2. Surly Pugsley. Just wonderful. Surly is a great bike company name, and Pugsley is simply inspired.

1. Banshee Scream. No one will ever top Banshee’s signature frame because Banshee is the best bike company name ever and Scream is all you could ask for in a monster freeriding rig that starts the adrenaline squirting as soon as you throw your leg over the top tube. Riding to the accompaniment of Billy Idol’s “Rebel Yell,” you cry,”More MORE MORE!!!”

Merry Cycling Christmas: Unsucky Stocking Stuffers

In Bicycling, Equipment reviews, Mountain Biking on December 14, 2009 at 1:24 am

First off, I’m not a fan of stocking stuffers, generally speaking. If something isn’t worth putting under the tree, then really, why bother? Think about it: Growing up, did you ever get a stocking stuffer you really got excited about?

Again, it all goes back to our opening theme of want v. need. Stocking stuffers almost always were things we needed. Underwear. Gloves. Ear muffs. Junk.

So with that in mind, here are some ideas for last minute stocking stuffers that could just as easily serve as a standalone present too. Your choice.

Joe Bender Mountain Bike. I don’t know why I like this little guy so much, but he’s a great companion for the desk or bookshelf or cabinet or workshop, wherever. I have 3 or 4 Joe Benders. You can twist him into all kinds of positions. I even got him doing a flip whip. It’s all made possible by strategically placed magnets on the wheels and frame of the bike. From HogWildToys. You can get them at REI for around $10.

Joby Gorillapods. I carry one of these versatile, flexy tripods with me in my bladder pack for photos when I’m riding solo and want to be in the shot. They’re great. They grab onto anything from a bush sprig to a playground handrail and hold the camera well. They come in different sizes depending on weight and bulk of your camera; I’ve even used one for my camcorder. Useful well beyond cycling expeditions too. Price varies from $23 to $80 depending on size. Also from REI.

Mountainsmith Cyber II recycled camera case. The best camera cases I’ve found because they double-velcro over a backpack strap for extra strength and security and have two ways of enclosing the camera, a quick-release velcro flap and a zipper. I’ve crashed I don’t know how many times and, although my ribs will attest I’ve landed on my camera, never damaged it. Also great for carrying my iPhone (the medium size; small will take many digital cameras but not the iPhone). Under $20.

No hands!

Joe Bender nose wheelie-ing on my bookshelf

Planet Bike Superflash tail light. This little guy pumps out incredible brilliance from two AAA batteries that last a long long time. What I like most is the clip. It attaches to just about anything and really hangs on, which is good, because the traffic I ride in demands being seen. What I like second most: The on-off switch is situated and configured in a way it doesn’t accidentally get turned on while the light is rolling around in my backpack. $25.

Topeak Ratchet Rocket multi-tool. This is the only multi-tool I carry, and the only one I’ve found to be worth anything (I’ve tried ’em all). It’s a tiny little ratchet socket wrench with a bunch of fittings, including the main Allen sizes (2-6) and, get this, a T25 Torx (that’s right, the brake rotor). There’s also a chain tool. It all folds up nicely into a plastic case that fits in the palm of your hand and weighs about the same as a digital camera. $35.

Many other colors available

I mean, just how cool can you get???

Crank Brothers Power Pump. Small, light and powerful, the PP includes an air gauge and nifty two-stage inflation setting (one for volume, the other for pressure). The twist head takes either Schrader or Presta valves and stays put while you’re, er, cranking. Unlike other Crank Brothers products I’ve owned (pedals), it’s reliable too. Mine is at least three years old and still, er, cranking. I’ve never even had to relube it. $38.

ODI grips. For mountain bikers, ODI was the original non-slip, lock-on grip and still is the best despite a host of imitators. Now it comes in colors (including, of course, pink), and you can also get color anodized clamps (even custom etched). I like the Ruffians but ODI also offers the burlier Rogue model. $26.

Custom anodized valve stem caps. OK, this may seem a little ridiculous, but you can get valve caps to match your blingy color scheme from Purely Custom over the Web. I know this, because I have. They’re great caps, too, high quality and well-designed. They’re so great, I’ve had a couple of sets stolen, if you can believe that. $2.95 each and worth every cent.

Bike Brake. This one will truly impress. It’s a little but powerful elastic band that slips around the handlebar and brake lever, compressing the lever. So what, you say. When you’re trying to lean your bike against a wall or abutment, the Bike Brake keeps the front wheel from rolling and flopping. So the bike stays upright. It’s also advertised as a deterrent to theft but that’s a stretch. Back in the day there was a thing called the “Flick Stand” for road bikes (alas, no longer manufactured) that worked on the same principle. $3.

OK, that’s it for the gift suggestions from Bike Intelligencer this holiday season of 2009. Happy holidays! Now get out ‘n ride!

[In accordance with our review policy, all merchandise discussed was purchased over the counter.]

A Merry Cycling Christmas (con’t): In need of some protection

In Equipment reviews, Mountain Biking on December 10, 2009 at 5:23 pm

Hearkening back to our original theme of need v. want, the subject of bike armor straddles both worlds indecisively.

If you care about that certain maniacal aggro or freeriding mountain biker on your list, you are going to want to get him or her something she or he may really need but might not really want. That is, elbow and knee pads, or maybe shin guards, are items even the best riders need. They just don’t want to squander a fairly spendy Christmas present on something so, well, practical. They’d rather have a new shock or fork or set of wheels, or maybe some bling like a matching Chris King bottom bracket and headset.

If pressed, though, even the most basely materialistic would own up to needing armor if they’re really serious about improving their riding skills. (This assumes they don’t already have the latest state-of-the-art stuff.) Even the best need some protection now and then.

Our favorite pads are Six Six One EVO elbow pads and Six Six One Kyle Strait soft shell (non-EVO) knee pads. For shin guards we like the Brian Lopes signature series from Troy Lee Designs.

Good bug protection too!

All padded up at Whistler BC

For cranial care, which in this case means full-face, our current coconut wrap is a Giro Remedy. But helmets don’t differ that much in quality. What they differ in is fit, and that’s an entirely personal proposition. Which means if you go the helmet route, make sure you can return or exchange it for the right model.

Having gone through Roach and Race Face and Fox pads over the years, paying these worthy companies good money for products that barely rose above sucky, I finally feel like the guinea pig phase is over. The problem with pads has never been protection: Those early Roach pads really soaked up the spills even though they lacked hard shells. It’s been comfort. You couldn’t wear the bulky Cordura Roachies more than 10 minutes in summertime without feeling like your arms and legs were in plaster casts.

Six Six One seems to have finally cracked the nut. The EVO elbow pads pretty much disappear on you, which is saying something, since elbow pads hardly ever fit right and tend to move around to the point of distraction. With EVO, an “intelligent foam” technology that supposedly variably compresses according to severity of impact, Six Six One has come up with a material strong enough to absorb all but the worst hits yet soft and pliable enough to stave off chafing.

Not that the elbow pads never tend to move a bit. At least our right one does; the left one stays pretty well put. Both, however, will shimmy slightly down the forearms during long chattery descents. It’s just that you don’t notice them as you would most elbow pads, which bulk up at or slip to the wrong spot and get in the way. In any case, we’re not to the point where we’d go back to our second faves, the Troy Lee hardshells. They were just too unforgiving, even though they offered nominally better protection.

With EVO the word is it doesn’t cover a hard impact against a sharp surface like a jutting rock or cornered abutment. We thankfully have not had to do the biff test. But if your gift-getter is riding a lot in rubble (like, for instance, the desert) or doing street stunts, you might think about hardshells.

The sharp-impact concern led us to choose the Kyle Strait knee pads from Six Six One, and we have to say, we’d be surprised if EVO offered any step-up in comfort. We’ve actually ridden up places like Tiger Mountain and Galbraith (1/2 to 1 hour fire-road climbs) wearing the pads, with no chafing or discomfort.

And these things stay put. We’ve never had to pull ’em back up or adjust them mid-descent like we have with the elbows.

Through two long seasons, the Six Six Ones have held up through repeated washings. And a lot of tumbles. So they’ve been put through that mill as well. The EVO elbows immediately turned a bit tatty after first washing, but it hasn’t affected their performance.

For more hairball stuff, the Lopes shin guards are great. They’re light, easy to haul up the hill in your bladder pack, they’re hardshell in just the right places and use velcro strapping with a neoprene knee sock so you don’t have to take off your shoes to get them on and off. This 2-stage system seems brilliant but yeah, it took more than a decade for someone to come up with it. We’ve had no shifting problems with the Lopes guards either.

Armor may not be the flashiest stuff Santa can cart down the chimney, but the next time your elf takes a flyer, he or she will be grateful for your thoughtfulness. And it’s cheap insurance, so they end up with a gift in the pocketbook as well.

[In accordance with our review policy, all merchandise discussed was purchased over the counter.]

A Merry Cycling Christmas: The gift of an iPhone

In Equipment reviews, Mountain Biking on December 9, 2009 at 4:05 am

Our next gift suggestion for that amazing nonpareil cyclist on your list seems at first glance to have nothing to do with bicycles.

It’s an iPhone.

Here’s the deal. It used to be when I went out for a ride I would have to pack my phone, a camera, a digital recorder (for reminders, thoughts, ride review comments), a pen and pad for notes, and if I wanted video, a camcorder.

Then I got an iPhone 3GS. Not only does it replace all the gadgets, it does it in a lighter, smaller configuration.

So instead of having to jam a bunch of widgets in a bunch of pockets in my bladder pack, I pack one. The camera doesn’t boast as many pixels and the iPhone video isn’t up to the resolution of my camcorder. But you know what? The photos and videos pass the “good enough” test. In 80 to 90 percent of the cases they’ll do just fine. (For a sample, see below a recent clip I put together from Duthie Hill near Seattle.) And entering written notes and voice memos is even easier than the analog equivalents.

If that were it for the iPhone, it might not make a case for biking. But what clinches the deal is the growing number of bike apps. There’s a speedometer, a trip-ometer, a flashing headlight or taillight, a brake light, a gear calculator, a rear light warning.

Much more is on the way as the iPhone’s built-in GPS and map apps get put to use. A host of instructional apps, from fixing a flat to doing 10-foot drops, are surely on the horizon.

The best thing about the iPhone, though, is the ability to reach that special cyclist any time you want. My wife has even got hold of me 5,000-plus feet elevation high in the North Cascades. It’s amazing where you can get cell service these days as the Forest Service, logging companies and S&R squads work to spread the network.

Then there’s simply the peer factor. For some reason, the iPhone has caught on with the cycling community. You can’t go on a ride without finding a ton of them.

An iPhone may not say “cycling.” But no cyclist is going to turn one down under this year’s tree.

For a Merry Cycling Christmas: Helmet cams explored

In Equipment reviews, Mountain Biking, Videos on December 7, 2009 at 2:52 am

Our first installment on gift ideas for that supremely deserving cyclist on your list involves helmet cams. Everyone on two wheels wants one of these things. On a recent ride at Soquel Demo Forest I counted no fewer than a dozen helmet cams. They’re the hottest thing going for Gen X-treme. YouTube has had to build a new server farm in Sri Lanka to accommodate the explosion in helmet-cam videos. OK I made that last bit up.

I cannot claim hands-on familiarity with the breadth of today’s cammery. Back when I got my first helmet cam, circa 2002, there were two models. It was easy to master the landscape, although both were bulky, incredibly complex to set up and difficult to operate. All that, plus grainy resolution too! But we pioneers were glad to have ’em, because the alternatives were duct tape with a standard, brickian camcorder, or one-handing your way to certain biffdom.

Today the market is exploding. The good ones come with High Density, which is pretty cool as long as you have plenty of storage and a frame rate (60 fps) to support it. Expect to spend anywhere from two bills to the $700 range.

GoPro makes several popular models, including the HERO HD. I tried an earlier (non-HD) iteration a couple of years ago and found it to be flimsy and less-than-advertised in performance. But the new models look more robust and are getting decent reviews.

Seattle-based Twenty20 has produced the new ContourHD, billed somewhat hyperbolically as the first “wearable HD camcorder”, whose specs look fantastic. I may spring for one and review it, but for now you can check it out in the links below. I do like the idea of wireless, and reviews say the control panel is easy to use even with the camera atop the helmet.

Wireless is a big deal: My original HelmetCamera.com kit had (and today’s models still have) a wired camera. The lens unit was light, bulletproof (you can ride over it with a truck if you’re prone to that sort of thing) and versatile (could mount just about anywhere) but the dang wires were a real downer. VioSport also offers a popular wired camera.

I also prefer rechargeable batteries, but others argue that you’re dead in the water on road trips without an outlet. I carry an inverter in my rig (which uses a cigarette lighter port to provide AC) for just that reason, but it’s a personal preference. Oregon Scientific offers models using conventional batteries.

REI carries a pretty good line in helmetcams. I’d start with the Contour and HERO and work from there. Shopping around is definitely recommended.

A site dedicated to helmet cams.

MTBR.com’s take on helmet cams.

A good mountain biking video making wise use of helmet cam footage from Galbraith Mountain, Bellingham WA

Cygolite Trion 600 reviewed by someone who paid for one

In Equipment reviews, Mountain Biking on November 25, 2009 at 8:26 pm

REVIEW POLICY link: In a nutshell, everything we review we have paid for, just like you. Since it’s our money, we don’t review stuff we wouldn’t pay for, which means we’ve done a bit of shopping for you. That doesn’t mean we’re anything like the final say in product ratings, of course. But it does mean you can believe what you read here as the honest truth, since we have no reason, financial or otherwise, to spin our reviews. Our full policy here.

Compare the fog lamps

Cygolite vs. Toyota Prius headlamps

I’ve gone through a lot of bike lights over the years, including mounting an actual car headlamp on my bars, powered by a true brick, a foot-long, 5-lb. lead-acid battery with the incredible output of 2.5 hours shine time. This was back in the late 1970s when I was commuting 20 miles to work each way, returning at midnight (swing shift). It was heavy and inconvenient, but cars got out of the way!

Now I’ve got a 3-LED Cygolite Trion 600 (referring to lumens) that is not only brighter than anything I’ve seen on a bike, but it runs longer — I’m getting 5 hours-plus to a charge; it’s rated 2.5 to 12 hours, depending on setting — and here’s the kicker: No wires. It’s completely self-contained, you can mount it on your helmet or your bars or, as I often do, just carry it around as a flashlight. I mean, the thing weighs all of 8.5 ounces. As light as it is, it takes a beating. You can’t use a bike light regularly without dropping it from time to time. Mine’s even rolled down some stairs. The metal collar and hard plastic case don’t even shown a nick yet.

It has so many different settings, including several flash modes, I’m still not sure I’ve tried them all (the specs list 8 altogether). I do like the variable interval flash (SOS mode) for commuter/road use where I can see where I’m going fine, but want to make sure I’m seen. Charge time is quick, three to four hours. There’s a very nice 5-dot battery life indicator on top of the unit, clearly visible at all times.

The light’s throw, or beam, is just right by my book. Throw is a personal preference thing, and too wide a field is just as frustrating as too little. You want a light to illuminate the stuff that’s important; too much light can rob depth of field, and put too much reflection back in your eyes.

Some considerations: It’s not cheap. Mine set me back $350. But for the use I get out of it, and figuring my life to be worth at least, say, $400, I haven’t felt a twinge of buyer’s remorse.

It lacks a helmet mount. It would be easy to jerryrig one using the quick-release handlebar mount, but I’m not a big helmet light fan anyway. The best system is a handlebar light and helmet light used to complement one another. But I get by fine with this thing mounted on the bars. (Helmet light phreaks say half a pound is a bit heavy for a light. It wouldn’t bother me.)

I keep thinking I’m going to snap off the tiny rubber covers for the auxiliary battery (that boosts run time to something like a claimed 6 hours) and recharger inputs. So far it hasn’t happened.

There are a lot of lights out there, but the wireless capability, featherweight heft and length of charge sold me on the Cygolight. I’ve had mine almost a year and so far no complaints.

    For further reading

Good discussion on MTBR.com forum, with comparative photos

MTBR “shootout” with several other lights, but not the Cygolite. See comments queue.