Drive My Bike


Save Some Money Right Now
August 28, 2009, 10:41 am
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I am a pretty big fan of REI, and have purchased a lot of my biking equipment there, as well as getting a bunch of free advice. My local REI store has a great selection in their cycling department, and I regularly keep an eye on their outlet deals on their web site. If you shop their sales you can sometimes find great deals.

They have a BIG sale going on for the next week, and there are some great cycling deals.

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Several of the products that I now swear by are on sale:

Lights – The Planet Bike SuperFlash / Blaze combo light set. I can’t recommend this combo enough when it comes to lights that help you “be seen”. The SuperFlash rear light is the brightest rear flasher I have ever seen. The company claims it can be seen from a mile away, and I believe it. You really have to see one of these to know how bright they are. If you can only afford one thing for your night riding, buy a SuperFlash, as I think it is the best way to “be seen” out there.  If you buy the combo, you’ll save more money, because you’ll also get a nice 1/2 watt Blaze front light that is reasonably bright and has a solid mode and flashing mode. For about $10 more you can get the combo with a brighter 1 watt Blaze front light.  I use the Blaze in flashing mode to “be seen”, along with the next item…

Lights – The NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USB rechargeable LED light. I picked this up on sale about a year ago, and it has made all the difference in my confidence level when it comes to riding at night and being able to see where I’m going. This is a serious investment, but if you end up riding a lot at night I recommend considering something like this. It is rechargeable, so you don’t have to worry about buying batteries, and will even recharge from the USB port on your computer. It is lightweight and easy to install and remove, so you only need it on your bike when you want it there. It is very bright, around 100 lumens. I use this in front along with the Planet Bike flasher, and I feel this gives me a good mix of “see” and “be seen. If you have a bigger budget, NiteRider introduced a couple of other models this year that are even brighter, so you might want to check those out.

Shoes – The Pearl Izumi X-Alp Seek commuter shoe. I have featured these here before, and I bought them when I was getting started with clipless pedals. They are comfortable, both on and off the bike. They are reasonably lightweight, and with the sale price you’ll be paying a lot less than most other cycling shoes.

Shoes – The Keen Commuter bike sandal. I was skeptical when I first saw these, and I don’t think I would have paid full price for them, but REI holds “garage sales” every few months where they clear out their returned goods, and I found a pair of these for $40, so I bought them. I’m really glad I did. I have worn these all summer as my main cycling shoes when the weather is warm. They are so comfortable that I don’t bother bringing along shoes to change into, I just wear them like normal sandals. I realize that the price is kind of steep, even on sale, but if you can afford them I give them two thumbs up.

I use all of these products on a regular basis, and I am very happy with them.

In addition, REI has cut prices on all kinds of other cycling products, from bikes, to clothing. I realize that with the economy right now, and this being back to school time, a lot of people don’t have extra money, but there are some good deals out there right now if you can take advantage of them.

In the interest of full disclosure, the links above are ad links, and if you click on them and then order from REI.com I will make a small commission on your purchase. If you have a problem with that, then don’t let that stop you from taking advantage of these deals… just go to REI.com on your own, or better yet, go to your local REI store and meet the people there and check out the products in person.

UPDATE: wordpress.com doesn’t allow any advertising… so they blocked the above links. I changed them all to normal links to REI.com… so go take a look and enjoy the deals..

Happy Cycling!

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Ready For The Dark Side Of Bike Commuting
September 5, 2008, 1:28 pm
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I had a good 21 mile round trip ride last night when I met a friend for dinner. The first half of the ride was before sundown, but the ride home was around 9:30, and it was really dark. Previously this darkness might have intimidated me, but no more… because I recently got a serious headlight for my night time riding!

Electric Tunnel

I’ve written about my night riding before… bad experience here, but good experience here, and you can see that my attitude towards riding at night has changed. Early on in my bike commuting I purchased a very cheap (around $5?) bike light “just in case” I ended up having to ride at night. Well, now that my biking rhythms have somewhat stabilized I realized that I actually end up riding at night 2-3 times each week. That cheap little bike light did it’s job as best it could, but it just wasn’t intended for serious night time riding. It wasn’t very bright, and it had a very focused beam, so that you only ended up with a circle of light about 3 feet across, about 20-30 feet in front of you. That is not a lot of light when you are moving 15mph down a dark stretch of road. The other frustration with that cheap light was that it went through four AA batteries every 3-4 rides, and it was only good and bright for the first ride. I grew quite tired of buying batteries and then adding them to landfills within a few days.

With all of that in mind, I started looking around at “serious” bike headlights. I checked some things out online, and found out that REI was having a Labor Day sale, and had 20% off all of their NiteRider headlights. I went down to my local REI and was able to look at a couple of the NiteRider models and talk to a sales guy who owned one. I finally settled on the NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USB Plus LED Light. The “MiNewt Mini” part comes from the fact that this whole setup is extremely lightweight, around 175 grams. The “USB” part is a cool feature which lets you charge the battery either from the included AC charger, or by plugging it into the USB port on your computer with a standard USB cable (included). The “Plus” part is because this package includes a helmet mount kit so that you can easily mount the battery and light on your helmet, if desired. With the 20% off this package went for $99, which is a substantial investment, but I felt like it was a worthwhile expenditure given the amount of time I’m spending riding at night.

NiteRider MiNewt Mini-USB Front View

Other than a quick trip around the block when I first got it, last night’s big commute was the first time I was really able to test out the light on a good dark night. I have to say that is was great! The difference really is… wait for it… night and day. (groan) Seriously, I can’t believe the difference from my old light. The MiNewt not only has a focus point of brighter light in the middle, but it also creates an extremely useful bigger circle of softer light, probably 50 feet in diameter, which subtly illuminates peripheral elements. The effect is much more like a car headlight versus a simple flashlight. It is certainly not as bright as a car headlight, but the MiNewt still puts out over 110 lumens. Even with all of that brightness, the light should run about 3 hours on a single charge. I’m also very excited about the rechargeable part, so that I don’t have to keep buying batteries, and the fact that I can charge it at work from my USB port is a nice convenience.

NiteRider MiNews Mini-USB Side View

The MiNewt is super easy to mount, in fact I take the whole thing on and off as needed. The battery pack has a velcro strap and I just put it on the gooseneck, and the light itself has a fancy rubber band (NiteRider calls it an “O Ring”, and that is what it is like) that you use to quickly strap it to your handlebars. One of the side benefits of this mounting hardware is that it is quiet. Huh? My old light had a mounting bracket that clamped onto the handlebars, and then the light itself clipped onto that, so that you could remove the light if needed. Well I never realized how much that old light rattled around in the mounting bracket until it was gone. There is no rattling with the MiNewt, and I never realized how nice and quiet a bike ride can be. I’m sure that sounds silly, but seriously, I hadn’t heard just the hum of my tires on the road until I took my old light off. Ahhh… how peaceful.

I realize that spending $100 on a headlight might not be an option for everyone, but if you find yourself doing a lot of night time riding I would encourage you to look at some of the more serious lighting options that are available out there. For me it has made all the difference in the world, and now I feel prepared to really enjoy “the dark side” of bike commuting.