Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Reviewed: Proviz Reflect 360 Jacket

I think we can all agree that the ideal jacket for night-riding would be about this bright:

But the dose of radiation required is a little more commitment than most of us have. After reading a few (quite a few...) very positive reviews of the ProViz Reflect 360 jacket, I decided maybe it's a close second. Amazon's selling them for a tad over $100, so I figured it was worth trying out.

Reflective enough?
Whereas most jackets use a few stripes of reflective material on a Gore-Tex base, ProViz doesn't bother with the Gore-Tex. They just do the reflective stuff. I imagine their R&D department skipped right over light reflection, straight to ludicrous reflection:

It's really hard to explain how remarkable this is. In broad daylight in my house with the jacket hung over a chair it still shimmered as it caught the occasional angle of light.

I've got a couple other biking jackets; an old Performance Gore-Tex jacket, and a recent Showers Pass of some type; one of their expensive ones, though we're talking about Showers Pass, so that hardly narrows it down. So of course a reflect-off was in order.

I lined all three up and put on a headlamp. Granted it's not exactly a car headlight, but it's nearly as bright, and I think it's close enough for this admittedly unscientific test. I jiggered with the camera settings until the picture matched approximately what I saw with the naked eye.

Direct light; Proviz Reflect360, Performance, Showers Pass
Here I was standing about 20 feet away with my headlamp pointed directly at the jackets. The Proviz is a solid mass of whiteness. The Performance jacket does reasonably well due to its yellow color. The Showers Pass jacket is visible only thanks to its reflective stripe. Again, this reflects (haha) pretty much what I saw.

Same vantage point, but with my headlamp pointing toward the ground in front of the jackets. Here the Performance jacket is nearly invisible. You can make out a faint glimmer of the Showers Pass jacket's reflective stripe. But the Reflect360 is still very reflective.

Having shown the futility of comparing the Reflect360 with my other jackets, for this test I walked about 100 feet away. The picture above is with direct light on the jacket

And this is with the light pointed way off to the left. The Reflect360 jacket is still very visible.

I had very little doubt that this jacket is less waterproof than a Gore-Tex jacket. But to be honest, wearing Gore-Tex on a wet Pacific Northwest day I still get soaked. So I'm not sure that's a big problem. The material feels a tiny bit stiff, but the jacket is brand new. I'm sure that it will soften as it breaks in. It's got sealed zippers, three exterior pockets (two chest pockets, and the usual back pocket), and an interior velcro pocket. Most cycling jackets give you only one or two pockets. I was pleased to have plenty of places to stash my keys, wallet, and cell phone.

The fit is "normal US" fit, as opposed to the euro-fit that most bike apparel companies adhere to. So an XL is a little big on me, but with a couple layers underneath it's about perfect.

I gave the jacket a trial run, with a 2-hour mountain bike ride in a downpour. It was sufficiently wet that my Gore-Tex gloves ended with the fingers full of water. And sure enough, the Reflect360 got soaked as well. My riding companion commented that the wet jacket was less reflective than when it was dry, but even at the end of the ride it was still reflecting significant light.

Granted I've had it for only a week; who knows if this jacket will have the longevity of a Showers Pass. But it needn't last very long to warrant the purchase.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Collection of Rides

There's a poster that used to adorn 1/3 walls in the Cornell dorms, which must be ubiquitous across rich-kid colleges.

Could you be more obnoxious?

Apart from the obvious falsity -- what about education makes such an ostentatious display of wealth either possible or desirable? -- the poster is proof of every American male's desire to possess a diverse and beautiful array of rides.

There's a limit to what we can acquire when it is cars. I had to dump the WRX to buy a cheapo German toy last December.  Even if I could afford to keep both, I could not afford the necessary storage.

What presents the best alternative?

What to Collect?

Part of the collection!

Even a penny-pinching academic like myself can find a way to locate a bike for each car in the higher education poster.  Even with our modest 1500' sq. we can store them all.  Even with a third-rate training ethic I can ride them -- and regularly.

Here's my list.  You probably have your own.

The Audi S4

I'm a big fan of Audi's everyman's sports car, a wicked fast jobbie that still has four doors and room for groceries, luggage, or the dog.  This is what you drive if you want to get somewhere fast -- but you want to look sort of normal doing it.

Family sedan?  That's my kind of family.
The bicycle analog?  You need carbon, to be sure; probably electronic shifting; I'd say deep-dish wheels and maybe a bling paint job.  How's this?

The Focus.  Pretty, no.  Fast and fun, yes.


For a Saturday afternoon cruise on a sea-side highway, it is difficult to imagine something you'd rather have available than this car.

XKE Roadster.
Not the fastest car on the highway.  Doesn't handle the best.  Nonetheless a marvelous vehicle to drive.

Enter my analog:  the Gunnar Roadie.

Gunnar Roadie.  The choice for a Saturday afternoon ride.
I once had my ears assaulted by a supposedly knowledgeable sort who explained that steel bikes must suck because even Walmart sold aluminum and carbon bikes.  The alternative view, of course, is that one of those represents a Honda Civic and the nice steel number an XKE.  I'll take the Jaguar.


No matter how much I prefer the driving experience with a low slung compact car, sometimes one just needs bigger tires, better ground clearance, and the ability to carry a load.

Wikipedia for "SUV."
Nice for traveling and, we all tell ourselves when buying it, filling up with a load and hitting the road.


Ritchey Breakaway at the literal end of the road.
The Ritchey Breakaway goes places and has the capacity to wear racks and panniers.  I hope for at least one self-supported multi-day ride next summer.  This will be the bike of choice.

The ZR-1

We all want 500 hp and a 200 mph top speed.  But not all of us can afford the latest version.

1990s ZR-1.
Corvette's 1990s offerings get pretty close.  And they present a fine analogy to a cheap-skate's tri bike.

Not a Ferrari, but with the right driver it may still come out ahead.
For those dozen or so times a year when you want to ride fast and don't care how much you actually enjoy it, the Cervelo P2 serves as well as any other.

The 128i

I decided last year that as little as I drive a car, I may as well enjoy it when I do, so I bought this little number at an end-of-the-model clearance sale.

As economical as Germany gets.
It's pretty without being lovely; high-performing without being exceptional; fun without being unwise.  Even, dare I say, practical -- if the kind of use I envision is a trip to Costco and the occasional bike-in-the-trunk en route to a race.  A fine car for everyday use.

The daily driver.
The Neuvation is my cycling "daily driver."  It's perfect for sprints out of stoplights and fun for an afternoon on a quiet road or trail.  At the price-point, no need to stress about leaving it parked while I'm out of town.  But I always look forward to riding it when I get back.

The Golf Cart

This powered four-wheel vehicle is great for getting around town.  Not designed for going very far, but admit it -- it would be an adventure if you tried.

Yes, if you have to ask, I do want one.
A good fixie or single speed is about the right alternative.  This one is still to be built.

Gitane. Even sounds like "golf cart."
Maybe I'll include a shelf for clubs.

The Unimog

One day the zombies will, indeed, attack.  We know it is coming.  And when it does we need to get out of town.  Enter the Unimog:

Want . . .  Need!
Bussing it home from the airport after a snow-storm, bike racked on the front of the bus, I realized Sam was right, and I needed one of these.

One -- kind of like this -- coming in the mail.
I'll use winter riding to get used to it, knowing full well it will become essential when the apocalypse descends.  Almost looking forward to it.


I once thought of myself as a car guy, but the most profligate I ever got meant two cars titled in my name at one time.  I'm now down to one and it spends most of its time sitting in a parking lot in Indianapolis.  Having shown such restraint, one understands why I might feel privileged, even obligated, to keep a good collection of bicycles instead. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Marathon Plus

Pretty awesome new shoes from Schwalbe.

Schwalbe Marathon Plus in 25 mm.

A few notes:

1.  Hard to mount, although they are the first wire-bead tires I've mounted in -- literally -- years if not a decade, so maybe this is par for the course and I had forgotten.  I had to fight to seat both beads in one place, wrap that with a Velcro strap, and move around the wheel adding straps until enough was seated that the beads would not pop out unexpectedly.

2.  They look awesome.

3.  They do next to nothing on packed, grooved, ice.

4.  There is something just a tad off about 25 mm. semi-all-terrain tires.  28s are a tight squeeze on this bike in the best of circumstances and I was concerned that 28s with tread would not fit.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Rule # 9

Sam tells me (comment here) my commute of 1.25 miles (more like 1.7 the route I take) is too simple to be impressive -- and, in truth, I agree.  Even riding to work this morning at 23 degrees wasn't a terrible chore; after breaking the fast at Starbucks and exchanging a few respectful nods with the handful of other bikers out it was more cool than difficult.

During the day the weather stayed chilly, the wind picked up, and the snow started to fall.  I badly wanted to cycle back to the condo and drive the car to the airport.  But mindful of Rule # 9 -- "If you are out riding in bad weather, you are a badass.  Period." -- I suited up for cold weather and headed into the west wind for the 15 miles from work to the airport.  Garmin reports 27 degrees, snow, and 11 mph wind.  It was chilly, challenging, and lovely.

The airport commute heads west through campus and across the White River, where it picks up Washington Street for two miles heading west and Holt Road for another mile and a half going south.  Washington to Holt is the one unpleasant part of the ride, both four-lane roads through working class and industrial neighborhoods.  After crossing the interstate the route joins Minnesota Street, a smallish and lower-traffic road heading further west.  A few quick turns to North Perimeter Road for four miles around the airport grounds.  North Perimeter is where the ride gets fun.  The wind picks up with no buildings or trees to block it and the road is a wide four-lane with good pavement and devoid of cars. 

I locked the bike in my spot in the airport garage next to the valet shack and stripped down to civilian clothes for the flight.  It turns out that the full-body scanners light up like a Christmas tree if you are wet, which after sweating in winter garb was more than a tad amusing.

Today makes time two starting the commute home by riding to the airport.  This past Monday on the return I enjoyed 40 degrees and sun for a pleasant ride back to work.  I'm more than a tad concerned about what I will find when I get back to the bike this coming Monday.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Poor Man's 1x Drivetrain And Other Mods

Recovering from my latest mountain bike injury left me with a weekend to kill and one good elbow, so I finally tackled a few projects that have been left decaying in a pile in the garage. The subject of this post will be changes made to the steed over whose bars I launched unceremoniously.

The 1x Drivetrain

One needn't read the MTB blogs much to see that the SRAM 1x11 drivetrain has gained considerable mindshare over the last couple years. The recent target of my fascination, the Kona Process 111 is a fine example:

There are several advantages to a single front chainring. A front-shift is far more violent and error-prone than a rear shift. I've broken a few chains by slamming the front and rear both into the granny, only to have the front ring get held up right as I'm approaching maximum torque. And no matter how well tuned your FD, you're sure to drop the chain on the inside once in a while. Other advantages include less gee-gaws on the bars, and significantly less weight. Indirectly related, a 1x setup is often accompanied by a clutched RD, which substantially decrease the risk of chain-slap and chain-wrap. Yee haw.

Of course the downside is also obvious: fewer gears. There are plenty of websites that cover the math, but with my Trek the stock gearing gives me a gain ratio of 42/11 (3.8) down to 24/36 (0.7). Replace the front triple with a single ring and, depending on the chosen chainring (I'm using a 30T) and that gain drops down to 2.7 to 0.8.

Now honestly I'm not doing a lot of longer trail rides on my Trek, so losing the high gears isn't a huge problem. But I am fat and slow, so I hate to lose the granny. So I'm also throwing on a 42T granny gear, which gives me back a 0.7 easy gear.

The Front Ring

I went 1x10 on a cross bike a couple years ago, but made the mistake of throwing a regular double chainring on. Imagine my surprise when, on the shakedown ride, the chain kept derailing. Turns out those are designed to derail.

SRAM's 1x rings are based on their X-Sync technology, which is designed not to derail. I bought a Chromag Sequence 30T ring.

Which will be replacing the old rings

The Rear Cog

I've been fascinated with apple "go-fast" green ever since I got my Volkl P40 F1s (with Energy Rail!). Just like the Volkl P9 single-handedly made chartreuse cool, the P40 has done the same with apple green.

So when I read this review (and this, and this) of the Oneup 42T cog, the fetching green was simply too much to bear. Not to mention going from a 36T granny cog to a 42T. So it ended up on my "to install" pile.

Adding a new granny means dropping the 17T cog. And since my bike came with a pie-plate, removing both meant the weight gain from the new ring was only 31 grams.

The Rear Derailleur

With the single chainring I may as well upgrade the rear derailleur. The newer generation of derailleurs have a clutch mechanism. This lets them swing backward easily, but not so easily forward. Thus nearly eliminating chain-slap. The price you pay is a tougher rear-shift, but this strikes me as a good bargain.

As usual Merlin comes through with a $60 clutched rear derailleur. With a single chainring, I went a little crazy, opting for the medium-cage.

XT Shadow M780 on the left, XT Shadow+ M786 on the right

Bash Guard

May as well add a bash guard, so I picked up a Hope 32-34T from Merlin.


Installing the bits went about as easy as such things always do. For some bizarre reason Trek opted to use Torx bolts instead of hex. WTF? Thankfully my recent torque wrench purchases included the necessary driver.
WTF Trek? Torx?
Dropping the three chainrings for one saves about 130 grams. Not that I'm counting.

I was able to install the new RD without using a new cable. Also salvaged the chain. Thank goodness. I left the front derailleur and shifter on for now, in case I decide to switch back to a double- or triple-chainring. After a few weeks, I'll take that off too.

Hope Bashguard and Chromag Sequence 30T. With a FD just cause.

42-teeth of apple green.

Shorter Bars

On one of the local trails I'm always threading through some narrow trees. So I decided to chop an inch off of each side of the bars. I used the Park steerer tube cutting guide and a hacksaw.

To be honest, with the benefit of hindsight, taking two inches off was too much. I should have started with maybe a half inch. Oh well. Go big or go home, right? Of course I was already home, so maybe I shouldn't have gone so big.

New Grips

When I bought my Trek it was already used, and the grips were pretty torn up. Oddly they haven't gotten any better over the last couple years.

So I bought a couple sets of ODI Rogue Lock-On grips, one for the Trek and one for the Lynskey. Only after the fact did I find that they're also available in green.

Oh well. Even in boring black they're still a big improvement over the old grips.
New Grips, Shorter Bars

The Verdict

Despite still nursing an elbow that won't quite straighten, I took my newly renovated bike out for a short ride yesterday evening.

The verdict? I'm very pleased with the shifting. I've got virtually the same granny that I had previously, and while I'm missing quite a few gears at the top end, the only reason I ever really needed the big ring previously was to combat chain slap. And the new rear derailleur takes care of that nicely.

The action is admittedly a bit stiffer when shifting up, due to the stiffer spring on the derailleur. Were I riding my mountain bike on a 300K brevet, I might choose to release the clutch. But for a typical 10-mile MTB ride, it really wasn't a big deal.

Dragging the chain onto the 42T rear cog was a delightful non-event. Now granted I've got the b-screw pretty much slammed, but that's what the b-screw is for after all. The shift across the missing 17T cog was slightly more eventful, with perhaps the occasional miss, but it was never a real problem.

And my goodness, the chain stuck on the front chainring like glue. SRAM really figured it out with their narrow-wide tech. This weekend I'll take off the now unnecessary front derailleur and shifter to finish the package. I see no reason to put the triple rings back on.

The new grips were fine. I really didn't even notice them, which I suppose is a good thing.

Now, the only real issue was my ill-advised decision to chop a couple inches off the bars. The bike was quite rideable, mind you, and I certainly never clipped the end on a tree. But I did miss the extra bit of leverage.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Sad Sign

Saw it coming a mile away, though.

Used to be a nice little bike shop.