People often ask me about the tweed bags on my Pashley — they’re “Nigel Smythe” bags from Rivendell Bicycle Works. Rivendell is mostly known for making smartly-designed, exquisite, lugged-steel bicycles. What most people don’t know is that they’re also very good at designing and producing bike bags and panniers. Their bags have a traditional flavor, and they’re not necessarily for everyone, but if you have a thing for canvas and tweed, you should definitely check them out — they’re super-nice. Riv is a small company, and like any small manufacturer, their inventory fluctuates, so check their site now and again if you don’t see what you’re looking for the first time around.
The Planet Bike Blaze 1W is an economically priced one-watt LED headlight that can be used as a primary headlight for commuting, or as a powerful, forward-facing flasher for urban settings. The body is made from high-impact plastic, with an alloy center ring that serves as both a reinforcement and a heat sink for the LED. It uses a highly efficient, lifetime Cree XR-E P3 LED as its light source.
Included with the Blaze is a universal “QuickCam” quick-release mount that fits any handlebar and can be quickly removed without tools by flipping a lever. With the push of a separate button, the light slides off the mount while the mount stays on the handlebar; this is a great feature for those who park their bikes outside where accessories are vulnerable to theft.
The QucikCam mount is identical to the mount I’ve been using with my B&M Ixon light for the past couple of years. I pretty much abuse the mount—moving it from bike to bike on a regular basis—and it has held up well.
The Blaze has three light modes: low, high, and “Superflash”. On low, it’s not bright enough to use as a primary headlight, but it works fine as a “be seen” light. On high, it outputs an impressive 70 lumens, more than enough to be used as a primary headlight for urban/suburban commuting where some ambient light is present. In Superflash mode, the Blaze is blindingly bright and eye-catching (see video below). Think of a Superflash tail light with a forward facing 1 watt emitter instead of a 1/2 watt emitter, and you get the picture. The staccato flash pattern is the most eye-catching I’ve seen and it sets this light apart from its competitors. If you’ve been searching for a high-intensity urban front flasher, look no further.
The Blaze has a typical American-style round beam pattern with a markedly bright center that quickly drops off at the edges. The beam is tightly focused which makes it seem brighter than its 70 lumen spec would indicate. The trade off for a brighter center beam is less light off-axis toward the edge of the road.
It’s natural to compare the Blaze to the Fenix L2D because the L2D is generally considered the current leader of the pack in sub-$100 LED headlights. Here’s how it breaks down.
The Blaze wins on price. It can generally be had for $10-15 less than the L2D and the Fenix isn’t supplied with a mount (it’s a flashlight). A decent mount for an L2D will run $10-50, so you’ll want to factor that in when considering the purchase price.
The L2D wins on maximum output but falters on run time. In “turbo” mode, the L2D outputs an astounding 180 lumens which is unheard of in a light of this size and in this price range. But there’s more to the story than just max output. At 180 lumens, the L2D barely gets 2 hours run time using high quality NiMH rechargeables. Most bike commuters will want more than two hours between charges and consequently they’ll run the L2D in the lower output “general” mode. On this lower setting, the L2D outputs 107 lumens with a run time of 4 hours. Taking that into consideration, suddenly the Blaze looks pretty competitive, with a 70 lumen output, and a much better 7 hour run time. It’s an individual choice whether max output or longer run time takes priority.
The Blaze wins on ease of use. Assuming you’re running rechargeables (hopefully you are), the nearly 80% longer run time saves a lot of battery shuffling over time. It’s also easier to remove from the bike, and the battery compartment is easier to open and close.
As prices on LED commuter-style lights have plummeted, the lights themselves have gotten brighter and more efficient. The Blaze 1W is a good example of this; just 2-3 years ago, a light of this quality would have run $100 or more. Now, for under $50 you get a light that’s lightweight and durable; has a max output of 70 lumens with a 7 hour run time; comes supplied with an excellent quick-release mount; and has the best flashing mode I’ve ever seen in a headlight. Team it up with a Superflash tail light and you have the best value on the market in a truly functional, battery-powered lighting system for bike commuters on a budget.
List Price: $44.99
Maximum Output: 70 Lumens
Emitter: Cree XR-E P3
Run Times: High=7 hrs, Low=14 hrs, Superflash=20 hours
A note on batteries: I recommend rechargeable NiMH AA batteries because they’re ubiquitous, cheap, environmentally friendly, and hold plenty of juice for today’s highly efficient LED lights. Please consider using rechargeables — the last thing we want to do is trash our landfills and pollute our waterways with spent alkaline batteries. Read more on rechargeable batteries here.
Who wouldn’t support that return on investment?
SEATTLE – Working to support the city’s growing number of bicyclists, the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) will create on-street bicycle parking in neighborhoods around Seattle. With a goal of having one to two per neighborhood, the department will install these unique bike facilities at three locations starting next week.
Taking the place of one to two motor vehicle parking spaces, on-street bike parking will be filled with bicycle racks and surrounded by a raised curb. Bicyclists can enter the parking area from the sidewalk and each car-sized space will accommodate up to eight bikes.
This new program addresses the expanding need for bicycle parking and is part of the ongoing implementation of the Bicycle Master Plan, which seeks to triple the number of people bicycling in Seattle over ten years.
I must apologize to the small number of my readers who are still on Internet Explorer 6 (IE6). If you are, you’re looking at a broken website with weird gray margins and a third column that resides at the bottom of the page. It’s a bummer, and I’d love to fix it, but here’s the deal…
Internet Explorer 6 is an 8-year-old, non-standards compliant browser. I no longer have access to a computer that has IE 6 installed, and Microsoft doesn’t allow you to run multiple versions of their browser on the same computer, so I have no way of testing my layouts in IE6. Just this fact makes it nearly impossible to resolve the broken layout – you can’t fix what you can’t see.
IE6 is notorious for breaking pages that work perfectly well on every browser that came after it, all of which are far more standards-compliant. Also, being such old technology, it doesn’t properly display transparent PNG files – this is where the gray margins come in. It’s possible to fix the 3-column issue (but not easily and not with the same layout), but there’s no reasonable way to fix the gray margin problem without diminishing aspects of the design that I’m not willing to compromise on.
I’ve always hated those “optimized for so-and-so browser” buttons. It’s always been my opinion that web developers/designers should do whatever is necessary to make websites work reasonably well on all current and most not-so-current browsers. There is a limit though; at some point, designing for defunct browsers becomes an exercise in futility. Up until now, I’ve always made sure my sites work properly in Internet Explorer 6, but at this point I can no longer justify the considerable time and effort it would take to get EcoVelo working properly in an 8-year-old browser. So I’m going to break my own rule and for the first time say my site is “Optimized for Firefox 3, Safari 3, and Internet Explorer 7“. If you are using anything other than one of these current browsers, all bets are off. And if you’re stuck on IE6, consider doing yourself a big favor by upgrading to a modern browser (they’re all free). These new browsers are far superior to what you’re currently using and they will considerably improve your web browsing experience.
UPDATE: The column wrapping issue is resolved (Thanks Colin!).
From the SRAM Cycling Fund Website:
The SRAM Cycling Fund was formed in September 2008. It was funded with US$10 million. The objective is to grant approximately $2 million per year for 5 years to existing national cycling advocacy groups.
The goal of the SRAM Cycling Fund is to help advocates and enthusiasts build a better environment for cycling. SRAM fundamentally believes that:
- Bicycles improve the environment.
- Bicycles ease traffic congestion.
- Bicycles reduce the cost of transportation.
- Bicycles improve health and reduce obesity.
- Cyclists are a passionate user group that support and enhance the areas in which they ride.
The barrier to increased bicycle use in daily lives is the lack of appropriate infrastructure. The US has built its transportation infrastructure around automobiles with little attention given to the role or benefits of cycling. Europe’s cycling infrastructure is much more advanced, but it also has lots of room for improvement. SRAM is convinced that through the committed efforts of cycling advocates and cycling enthusiasts that increased funding for cycling infrastructure can be realized.
Kudos to SRAM!!