Tuesday, April 08, 2014

The Finn mount and BorisBikes - a match made in heaven

I love the London Cycle Hire system (apart from the seats, that is - there's a special level of hell for whoever designed those modern-day implements of torture. Maybe they are specifically designed to be unbearable for longer than 30 minutes. But I digress).

I love the system, but I am not a Londoner. I can find my way from Waterloo to Westminster if the sun is out, but that's about it. Anything else, I need a map. This is where cycling in London gets 'hard'. Being asked to navigate *and* avoid Addison Lee drivers / tipper trucks / TfL buses is just asking far too much. And the mostly-random street pattern makes a mockery of trying to 'cache' your route brainwise. So you need a map. I'm a big fan of Google Maps. It just works. There are various other options - iOS maps, various cycling apps - but GMaps is free and - importantly, as you will see - works in landscape mode.

But the map app is only half the equation. The other part is - how do you follow it? You can pop in some headphones and listen to directions, but that's not foolproof as it relies on the app's interpretation into your language of its own route. And many drivers get aggro because you're another scofflaw cyclist with zero respect for others let alone your own wellbeing and therefore deserve running into the gutter. (note there is no law against cycling with headphones). Or you can pull over and stop at every single intersection, fish your phone out, unlock it, open the app, check the next turn, try to remember a few more, put phone away, check, signal, pull out and crack on.

Faff. Broken cycling vibe. Further 0 -> 10MPH interaction with London's courteous and cyclist-conscious drivers.

So how can you safely SEE the map, on a rental bike, without risking your phone getting nicked or falling off?

Enter the Finn mount - previously reviewed in detail here.

Borisbikes have a custom-designed smartphone mounting and protection system, cunningly disguised as a bag carrier. The Finn mount wraps perfectly around the middle bar, with the two outer bars then holding your phone perfectly flat, the silicon rubber straps providing vibration damping and silencing any rattles.

That's about it. The phone is then totally secure. It's not going anywhere. You can glance down to see where you are going, and if you enable voice guidance the audio prompts are surprisingly loud - maybe the front panel helps. Even in bright sunlight the screen remains visible, again helped by the proximity of lots of metal. The chance of a n'e'er-do-well seeing your phone and grabbing it is greatly reduced over a normal handlebar mount that's out for all to see.

The mount takes just a few seconds to fit/remove - certainly no longer than a single pullover/openapp/check/putaway cycle.

If it's raining you can pair the Finn mount with a simple waterproof case such as the pOcpac - which also fits into the Finn mount. I've been using the combo over the winter on handlebars or in a pocket, for long and short on- and off-road rides and cannot fault it.

You can purchase the Finn mount for £9.99 from pOcpac here, or pay £17 for the Finn and pOcpac phone case as well in a combo deal that gives you back a whopping 98p to blow on hair product, bike parts or Cake.

As the bikes for the  London Cycle Hire system are increasingly used worldwide, there's a good chance if you travel the local flavour of hire bike will also fit the Finn mount. Or you'll be able to make it fit. GMaps can work in portrait mode as well, perfect for normal handlebars if there's space.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

One Day Only!

The Quick Great Big Lidl April Bike Sale Roundup:

The Schizzle: 
Bike repair stands - as always, £30 for a pretty good stand - Not shop quality, but it was £30, not £300. I have two. 3-year warranty. 'nuff said.

Chaincleaners - £4. These are repackaged Barbieri ones, and work very well. You get a packet of cleaner and lube too. With an RRP of between £11 and £15 depending on which shop you believe, at £4 these are a steal.

Multitool: this was the stand-out for me. For £6 this Lidl bike tool is a cracker. Weighs 169g. 2 to 8mm hex keys and a T25 Torx, two tyre levers that click into the sides, spoke keys, a chain tool and even a chain holder for the fiddly exercise of re-assembly. Comes in a nifty neoprene pouch with velcro and a belt loop for Americans.
Most amazingly, it has a 3 year warranty, so keep that receipt.

First Aid kit - £3.49: does what it says on the tin.

YMMV: Helmets - we have two, they fit. They look OK.

Pants: Footpump. Don't bother. The £4 footpump is useless. 100psi took ~200 pumps and was actually only 70psi. Removing the head lets half the air out. Maybe for a football. Maybe. When the largest muscle group in your body is getting sore and you're maybe halfway to a decent pressure, you know they've got it totally wrong.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Review: Birzman Velocity RG 160psi road pump

Ok, so finally after 3 months of waiting my Birzman Velocity RG minipump arrived - the 160psi road version for circa £30. I need a pump because I'm sick of using up CO2 cartridges with local roads being what they are.

My findings are a bit different to the 2013 review that got me interested HERE.

Nice integrated gauge.
The frame mount is nice.

Note 'teeth' inside
It's right for a jersey pocket.

80psi - 240 strokes later...
So off we go to The TVCC Testing Lab. <dons white coat and safety glasses>

Test setup: 28c Continental GP 4 Seasons with butyl tube:

100 strokes: 30psi
150 strokes: 50psi
200 strokes: 65psi
240 strokes: 80psi - my magic number for a rear tyre. Who needs more?
300 strokes: 85psi
350 strokes: 105psi

(yes, I realise the last jump of 50 strokes for +20psi is an anomaly - might be the gauge isn't perfectly linear)

...and I stopped there because it was getting hard to hang onto the head end of the pump, and a bit uncomfy on an ungloved hand to push.

How the reviewer on Road.CC managed 140psi is beyond me.

I repeated the test 3 times, and got basically the same results.

One note is that you do need to screw the Snap-It valve on a few turns once you've snapped it, er, on. The instructions say 'push the collar forward and give it a short twist'. Otherwise it is prone to blowing off - happened thrice while testing. And at 105psi, the pull-back release didn't work, so had to unscrew it - veeeerrryy carefully, which kinda defeats the purpose. Luckily I had remembered to tighten the valve core. I might have screwed it on a bit far - but then I needed to to guarantee it wouldn't come off. Maybe some trial/error needed. So the Snap-It valve is definitely an improvement on screw-on hoses, but it's not *perfect*.

All in all I'm happy with the pump for 80psi purposes having paid £30 - Having used a few friend's pricey Lezyne pumps recently and needing to top up with gas even to get to 80psi, it's definitely better. However if you weigh 110kg and are running 28c's needing to get up to 120+  you might want to try before you buy.

A nice finding is the gauge is surprisingly accurate. Seems to match pretty much spot on the Bontrager track pump I have (or they are both out by the same amount). Good for those long days where your brain insn't quite working and the Thumb-O-Meter of PSI is on the blink due to cold/wet.

One additional benefit is you can unscrew the Presta Snap-It valve and use it to inflate Schrader valves. Nice.

So overall I'm calling it 3.5 out of 5, mostly because it does what *I* need it to, and will do any Schrader-equipped bikes along the way too. But if you were looking for something to get up to 140 let alone 160psi - you might be disappointed. To be honest short of a full-size frame pump, I don't think a minipump exists that lives up to marketing hype. Whoever invents a minipump capable of a real-world 120psi in 200 comfy strokes will make a million overnight.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Shutt Velo Rapide Lightweight Gilet - first look

Good things come to those who wait, and the Shutt Velo Rapide Lightweight Gilet is indeed A Good Thing.

In my case the wait's been about 6 months, having done some R&D skunkwork for Pete and Lauren back in 2013 on the prototype. The new 2014 gilet is just the business, arriving in time for 'spring' as the season is now according to Radio 4.

Standout features include:

Roubaix fleece-lined collar - silky comfy warm, and not too tight to accommodate the neck of a jersey or a jauntily-worn Buff underneath. 
Two nice deep elasticated pockets - as the things most likely to go in them are arm/leg warmers.
Reflective piping down the zip and sides

Here's the 'official' list:

✶ 100% Windproof front panel and rear panels
✶ Reflective Shutt logos front and rear
✶ Fleece Lined collar for extra snugness
✶ Zip Garage to stop chaffing
✶ Waterproof membrane
✶ Ripstop fabric
✶ Mesh side panels prevent overheating
✶ Silicone gripper elastic bottom hem to stop the gilet riding up
✶ Full length reflective zip with chunky glove friendly puller
✶ Reflective pipping front and rear
✶ Two large storage pockets for your extra essentials
✶ Coolmax trim around the arms hole for extra comfort

The GâteauVélo scales of semi-truth tell us it's bang on 150 grams - not bad for all the features and £75. You can pay twice that for something not much lighter with no pockets or fleece collar. The gilet rolls up into a fist-and-a-bit size bundle, which fits easily into a jersey pocket.


Can't wait for a chilly-but-not-too-chilly day, not heavy rain, to get out there and give it a thrashing. Something tells me it won't be long. Stay posted.

You can find the Shutt crew in an Oxfordshire shed @ShuttVeloRapide and https://www.facebook.com/ShuttVeloRapide

UPDATE Feb 2014: having taken the gilet out for a couple of long rides in low temps and decent winds, it does what it says on the tin, and does it very well. Can't fault it.