Mark V reviews: BioLite PowerLight Mini

Occasionally I happen upon an item that completely takes me by surprise. At first glance the PowerLight Mini from BioLite looks like an odd tail light masquerading as almost-vintage flip phone. BioLite is a company that is perhaps better known for making clever devices such as a camp stove that smokelessly burns wood to generate heat for cooking while simultaneously providing electricity to charge a phone, GoPro, or other electronic device. I thought so they’re making a bicycle tail light, ho hum. It turns out that the PowerLight Mini is so much more than just that.

Garmin Varia Reviewed

How a bit of software and tech may save the lives of many cyclists

On Medium Bicycles, Matt Haughey reviews Garmins’s rear-facing radar.

Once you have the rear light mounted and sync’d to your computer, you simply start riding normally and whenever a car approaches you from behind (up to 500 feet away) the right side of your bike computer screen will turn red, beep, and show an approaching dot animated on your screen.

A Couples Getaway with Fatbikes

Monochromatic with a splash of color. #fatbike #methowvalley

A photo posted by Byron (@bikehugger) on

We’re enjoying a couple’s getaway this weekend in Methow Valley riding fatbikes in the snow with friends. North Cascades Cycle Werks set us up with Fatbacks and Methow Cycle and Sport a Trek Farley. The conditions were greasy, but we made the best of it.

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The scenery was monochromatic with a splash of color. When I first wrote about fatbikes in the snow, most of the narrative was written from rides in this valley. I didn’t know then if a niche of a niche would get traction in the mainstream. Happy to report it has and if you haven’t tried fatbiking yet, you totally should. It’s super fun.

Don from Cycle and Sport or Merle from Cycle Werks will set you up. Rentals are about $30.00 for a 1/2 day and Pearrygin Lake State Park is designated for fatbikes. We stayed with friends, but there are plenty of rooms to rent.

Finally! The Return of Drop-Bar MTB

Rawland announced their new Drop-Bar MTBs at Velocult in Portland. Our friends from PLP were there and uploaded this short video. Also see the report from Bicycle Times about The Ravn and Ulv. In a market that’s not very well defined, you can call these bikes whatever, and just be happy for more hand positions and tire choices. The Trek 920 is similar with road-touring geo and 29r wheels, as well as the Specialized AWOL, and what Raleigh did with the Roker – first ride here and reviewed in our mag.

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Ravn 26-inch wheels with Panaracer Driver Pro tires and will fit a 650b x 42 tire with fenders. Photo: Bicycle Times

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Ulv with clearance for a 27plus tire or a 29-inch mountain bike tire. It also has additional braze-ons for bikepacking gear. Photo: Bicycle Times

As I’ve said, if roadies are gonna ride off road without suspension, it’ll take more than high volume tires to make for a comfortable all-day ride. Next up, bring back the Rock Shock Ruby, seriously. What I’m spending my miles on now is the Trek Boone that smooths out gravel with their IsoSpeed decoupler. I wrote about a ride on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail last weekend.

So why would you want a MTB on fire roads instead of a touring bike? According to Rawland’s Jeremy Spencer:

The key to both models is the low trail geometry. By lowering the trail the bike becomes much more stable with a load on the front end and without super-wide handlebars to maintain control.

And Mark V’s take:

The Ravn and ULV are interesting designs as a sort of fusion between the low-trail/front-loading rando philosophy and the reemerging interest in dropbars offroad.

Mark V reviews: Spurcycle Bell

Since the frameshop at which I work moved from downtown to the Fremont neighborhood of Seattle, my commute is largely confined to the bike paths. Instead of sprinting for yellow traffic signals and drag-racing automobiles off the line, I face the surprisingly difficult task of negotiating my way through pedestrians, strollers, slower cyclists, and the occasional Elliptigo, all while trying to maintain the facade of being a responsible and considerate member of society. What is needed is a way to politely and effectively communicate my presence and intentions at a distance, and few things do that as well as a bell. Not all bells are the same however. And not to be a snob, but each of my bikes represents serious money and planning. I am not about to zip tie a cheap apology for a ringer on my handlebar. On the other hand, I am not actually immune to the costs of bicycle products, even if I work in the industry. I will pay good money for something, but it must be convincingly better than the norm.

I say this because when the topic of Spurcycle’s bell comes up, half of the people indignantly complain about the $50 price for a bell. And that’s a legitimate objection…if to you a bell is but a bell. But make no mistake. This bell is objectively better than others when the criteria calls for small, loud, and physically unobtrusive. Spurcycle achieves this by carefully crafting each component of the bell with the goal of producing a commanding sound from a tiny metal device. The bell has a loud, bright tone with an amazingly long sustain, and the firm action of the bell’s striker allows for rapid ringing if you need to communicate greater urgency. There are other bells on the market for less money, but none are quite as competent the Spurcycle, or at least not without being at least three times larger. And as much as I love the nostalgic looks and joyous sound of a Crane Riten bell, I’m never going to bolt such a big brass bulk onto a 15-lb carbon road bike.

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