How we doin’?

I barely got in 30 minutes on the trainer last night after nearly being derailed from my challenge to ride every day (damn dinner parties). How is the rest of the crew doing out there?

Photo of the day

The inexpensive center of the cycling universe

With a few Bike Hugger friends in Taiwan for business, I found Shut up and Drink the Kool-Aid’s post about the factory that manufactures Masi particularly interesting.

Last year, at Interbike I met the owner of a Taiwan-based company that makes the majority of bottle cages and the one that makes millions of kickstands and also saw lots of bikes that look like each other. Ironically, much like the automotive industry (is that new car pictured a Lexus, Chrysler or Mercedes?), design homogenization is bound to occur as an industry consolidates.

While low prices means more access to mass markets and sales (that’s Walmarts standard PR pitch), it also means less diversity and I also think that bodes well for the boutique, independent manufacturers that build unique bikes rather than spec a generic carbon frame. I’ll never forget when a former Raleigh employee told me that the box and packaging they ship a bike in costs more than the frame.

When we built up Bettie, we chose a well spec’d and built Surly frame and choice of components. I race on a Trek that’s made in USA and assembled with parts from Taiwan. I also train and tour on a handbuilt Davidson welded right here in Seattle.

I’m benefiting from a local independent builder, a USA manufacturer, and a combination of both. So the question today is, what’s better for the industry, an inexpensive we’ll spec’d frame or a unique handbuilt frame? Or is all well?

Cyclists Attacked in Portland

A reader altered us to the attack on cyclists and Bike Portland has posted about it. “Two cyclists said they were attacked by three teenagers near a north Portland bus stop on Wednesday. “

Princeton Tec Dual 3W LED Review

Princeton Tec Dual 3 Watt I posted earlier about how I love my new 3 Watt LED light. I do - I still love it, but Princeton Tec has sent me their soon to be released DOUBLE 3 Watt LED offering. 2 HAS to be better than 1 right?

The first thing you notice upon opening up the packaging (which is impressive in its own right) is that you get a TON OF STUFF! I don’t even know what to do with all the velcro, mounts, and cables they put in there. What if I go to Europe and need to charge my light: not a problem as they include the prong adapter!

When I first played with the light, it seems pretty bombproof. I guess you’d expect that from a company whose roots lie in creating SCUBA and mountaineering gear. While charging the battery, I got to work on mounting the headlight. The bar mount was simple - no issues there, but I wanted to use it as a helmet mount.

Despite all the attachment options they gave me I ended up going with zip-ties. I couldn’t get the velco to hold it tight/steady. The second thing I noticed was that the thing is up there. It’s such a svelte little light body, but the mount puts it a good 2 inches above the helmet like the webcam in that new Apple commercial (.mov link). It’s not heavy, but noticeable, so if I’m creating a mount I’d want it as close to the helmet as possible.

While I’m at it - another “nice to have”: when I have the light on my head and the battery in my rear pocket there’s nothing to keep the power cable in place - so maybe a little alligator clip on the cable or something to keep it on my collar?

Moving along to actually using the thing, well that was great. It puts out a good deal more light than my existing 3 Watt LED. Not overpowering light like the HIDs that can blind passers-by, but plenty to light a dimly-lit route. It offers a couple lesser settings that I used around dusk to make sure I was still seen, but I found them to be not enough when it got dark. That’s not an issue really as I was able to run it at full beam all the way home (~ an hour) and barely touched the battery. I left it on in my garage for hours after getting home and it was still going strong. I imagine their 6 hour claim on high is probably accurate. The strobe setting is a little weird because it wasn’t just a flash, but rather does a long followed by three short. I like using a strobe for getting seen in traffic, but this frequency pattern started to mess with my head. Also - when it comes to shifting light levels I have to find the button on my head with winter gloves on. An in-line button (maybe attached to my alligator clip?) would make that a ton easier.

The power on the high setting was noticeably brighter than my Light and Motion Vega

Of course it completely dwarfed the little Topeak Whitelite that I’ve used countless times to stumble home.

The last thing I noticed this morning: When I’m not in traffic, I like to use the iPod (a whole other debate goes here). The EMF generated by the light totally messed with the signal and made the volume cut out and spike. It didn’t however seem to have any effect my Heart Rate Monitor, probably because the cable was far enough away.

Pros: * Plenty of light (brighter on high than my 3W LED) * Battery life is awesome * Bombproof construction * More accessories included than I’ll ever use * Solid bar mount

Cons: * Helmet mount * Blinking light sequence made me dizzy * Button location when used as a helmet mount * EMF Interferes with iPod

Overall - I think the Princeton Tec light system is great. I even took a quick detour on the ride home to go out and do some night-time cyclocross riding in the woods, it did just the trick. It works well for my commute and baring a couple minor points of improvement it’s just what I need.

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