Fear of the Dark: Serfas TSL-1800 Trail Light Review

Written by Neal Poland on . Posted in Accessories, Bicycle, Gear, Reviews, Uncategorized No Comments

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If you have a day job like most people do, chances are, your only time to ride during the work week is either during the morning before dragging your ass to the office, or after work when you’re free from the evil talons of corporate America.

In either case, a good set of trail lights are in order to make sure you make it out of the woods alive. They’re also a good addition to the road bike if you ride in rural areas with little or no artificial light.

On top of being a cheap ass, I also have terrible night vision. I’m the guy who gets up to piss in the middle of the night and ends up busting his head open on the door frame–true story.

So, when shopping for trail lights, I spent hours scouring the interwebs, innerwebs, outerwebs and spider webs reading reviews on sub-$200 light sets.

After changing my mind approximately 235,000 times, I settled on the Serfas TSL-1800, which happened to be on clearance at my semi-local bike superstore BikeTiresDirect.com for half-price.

Total out the door price: $160.

I’ve always had decent luck with Serfas products, and the TSL-1800’s build quality did not disappoint.

The lights come in a sweet looking semi-rigid case containing lights, wall charger with 3 feet of power cable, battery pack, as well as mounts for your helmet and handlebars. In all honesty, at a little over 1lb. weight I think these are a bit too bulky to mount on your helmet, but hey,  they’re your neck muscles.

Do whatchoo like.

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The Serfas TSL-1800 features four LED bulbs that cast a light whiter than Napolean Dynamite with his shirt off. Which is nice and bright, but makes the shadows somewhat flat looking. The big push button control lies smack in the middle of light and is easy to operate with gloved hands. The handlbar mount is made from mostly thick plastic, with metal where it counts. Rubber pads on the under side of the mount help isolate the lights from vibration and movement. The power cable that plugs the light into the metal encased battery pack is long enough to give you slack to turn the bars a full 90 degrees in each direction, but not so long you’ll need Banksy-like creativity to route the excess so it doesn’t interfere with your ride. Speaking of the battery pack, Serfas put enough thought into the design with it’s cloverleaf shaped lithium ion enclosure, that it nestles nicely against frame tubes due to the curved shapes between the 4 batteries themselves. Coupled with the thick Velcro strap to fasten it down, I can honestly say that I’ve eaten shit a number of times with this setup strapped to my top tube and it hasn’t worked loose yet.

Serfas specs the run times as follows: Overdrive – 1800 Lumens – 1 hours 45 minutes, High - 1300 Lumens – 2 hours 25 minutes, Standard – 800 Lumens – 4 hours, Low – 450 Lumens – 7 hours with a charge time of 4 hours.

In my experience, the run times on the Overdrive and High settings are conservative. I’ve run in Overdrive mode  a number of times for over 2 hours without any issues or concerns. Since I’m fucking blind, I have yet to make much use of the lower power settings.

At full MSRP of $325, the Serfas TSL-1800 is a decent deal. But if you can score a set for less than that, these are a solid buy and have quickly become an essential piece of equipment that gets used regularly in my bike stable in all kinds of weather.

So far, these things have worked flawlessly. But if you should break part of the set, or if the mounts or straps wear out, Serfas does offer replacement parts.

My only “complaint,” if you can call it that, is even with built in the heat sinks, the body of the light gets pretty damn hot after running full bore for a couple of hours. But now I’m just getting nitpicky.

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Seattle Bike Show 2015

Written by Neal Poland on . Posted in Bicycle, Bike Porn, Events, Seattle No Comments

The Seattle Bike Expo is no longer. Thankfully, Cascadia Events picked up the ball and created the Seattle Bike Show for 2015. The event will take place Feb. 28th & March 1st at Century Link. This year’s events feature speakers such as the one and only “Bobke” Bob Roll, local celeb and mountain bike coach Kat Sweet, and of course, trials rider and yogi from the north, Ryan Leech.

This year’s shindig will feature a pump track for adults, and what appears to be a zipline. Your $10 ticket also gains you access to the Washington Travel, Trips and Adventures expo, featuring cool outdoor gear and local outdoor trip planning and advice.

Hope to see you there!

Sat. February 28th 10:00Am–5:00PM

Sun. March 1st 10:00AM–4:00PM

Adults $10

Kids 17 and Under FREE

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On the Cheap Reviews Pt.2.–Rock Out With Your Rock Hawk Out

Written by Neal Poland on . Posted in Bicycle, Bike Parts, Reviews, Seattle No Comments

As a lover of all things two wheeled and pedal powered (a bike-sexual if you will), I’ve been spending more and more time in the dirt than on the road.

Since mountain bikes and mountain bike parts have become increasingly more technologically advanced and expensive over the years, it pays to do your research and get the right parts the first time.

One of the, if not the (IMHO), most important parts on your MTB is a set of tires. After all, tires do a lot of work keeping you upright and shredding when the going gets gnar. With the ever changing trail conditions of the Pacific NW, it’s best to have a few sets of tires laying around the studio apartment for mud, rocks, dry trail, blue groove, snow, and sandy conditions.

Oh, and one set for night racing on Wednesdays.

But, if you’re on a small budget, all those tires add up. Then you can’t pay rent and you’re living in your Subaru.

Even a single set of high end tires can set you back a few hundred smackers.

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Critical equipment: Boot dryers

Written by Ryan on . Posted in Bicycle, Gear, Reviews 2 Comments

There are many places in the world that have no need for them but where I call home, boot dryers are critical for comfort and arguably- safety. A child of the Northwest- I wasn’t fully prepared for the amount of precipitation that I would be living with in Cordova. With over 148 inches of rainfall each year- if you go outside much you’re going to get wet.

The importance of quality outdoor gear is paramount when living in the rainforest. Even then, more preparation is crucial. Our average temperature range throughout the year is a 38° low and a 48º high: prime temperature range for hypothermia. It can be difficult to ensure that you end your ride with dry gear, but you can be prepared and least start with dry feet and hands.

Drying shoes can be done a number of ways. The lowest tech of which involves just leaving them sit in a warm, dry place. This doesn’t necessarily work well if you have to head back out in a couple hours, even the next day. Loosely stuffing the shoes with newspaper does help absorb the water, speeding up the process a bit. Though I’m sure some have done it- I would not suggest putting your shoes in the oven or dryer. Because they aren’t shrinky dinks, they shouldn’t be in the oven as the plastic and rubber could melt. Also- if you have fancy shoes with real leather, the higher temp isn’t good for them. You’ll end up baking them, which can cause cracking. I’ve dried my sneakers in the dryer and that works fine, but cycling shoe soles are much harder, and if you run clipless- you’ve got a metal chunk in there potentially messing things up.

So be a grown up- get a boot dryer. I’ve had one of mine for nearly 15 years and it still works wonderfully.

We have two different model dryers in our house and I’ll compare them here:

FullSizeRenderOriginal Peet Dryer MSRP $49.99

This was my first dryer. The tubes are long enough to fit rubber boots, and you can get extensions that will allow waders. There is no fan, so it relies on science. Through convection, the warm air rises and pushes moisture out of the opening of the boot. Super mellow heat, it’s safe for all your shoes- and effective. Also check out their other models- some with multiple drying tubes and for drying things like your water bladder, which can get pretty gross.

It’s made in the USA and will last a long time. It comes with a 25year warranty. With no moving parts and a lower cost- if you are looking for something that will just work- this is your best bet.

This dryer doesn’t have a switch- if it’s plugged in it’s on. Not a huge deal as it only uses 36W and is totally silent.

 

 

 

 

 

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AK Codepak- hard sided framebags for your bike

Written by Ryan on . Posted in Alaska, Bicycle, fat bike, Gear No Comments

There are a few items that seem to be standard purchases for those that buy fatbikes.

  • Flat pedals- if you ride in snow much- clipless pedals have a tendency to get ice in tight spots so the pedals won’t engage. A good set of flats prevents this- as well as enabling you to wear warm boots.
  • Pogies- you’ve seen them. The oven mitts that people put over their grips to keep their booger pickers warm. I hate the look of them and thankfully don’t live in an area that they’re necessary. Not saying that I won’t use them ever- I just don’t need to in Cordova. I wear my kit (spandex) when I’m racing cross- not when I’m riding my cruiser to the grocery store- know what I’m saying?
  • Framebags- frame bags of some sort are used to carry stuff in the void that is your main triangle. Long used by bikepackers and the swiss military and anybody else that saw all that space as wasted- there is a new option out there- made right here in Alaska.

AK CODEPAK

codepak

 

Is manufacturing hard sided frame bags made for your fatbike. Using either aluminum or carbon, you can get one built specifically

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Mountain House needs a feedbag accessory.

Written by Ryan on . Posted in Alaska, Bicycle, Bike Camping, Gear 2 Comments

The wife and I went on an overnight trip out to Sheridan Glacier the other day and this time I was going to do the cooking.

This meant that I had to do a little preparation. What should I make? My wife eats food like someone that actually cares what it tastes like. I couldn’t mess it up, or she may not want to go bike camping with me again. Thankfully, I had reached out to Mountain House a while back and they were kind enough to send over some samples. In my backpacking, touring and vagabonding over the last 20+ years it occurred to me that I had never eaten a prepared, freeze dried meal. I’ve eaten instant hummus, rice, oatmeal, MRE’s and various other snacks- but never a freeze-dried meal in a bag. I thought I may wait and use them for a trip I have planned for the spring but there’s not time like the present, especially when a critic with such a refined pallet was to be there to share.

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First of all- since I had the meal plan on lock, it took an element of stress off the trip to be sure. There is something to be said for only having to add water to a meal. You don’t even need to bring salt. I left my cook pot behind in favor of my lightweight Optimus kettle. We brought the pizza that was made the night before for lunch, and though I brought more calories than needed, what the hell- we were going to eat well. And of course there was the possibility that the meals would be gross. Thankfully they weren’t.

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Tire repair 101

Written by Ryan on . Posted in Alaska, Bicycle, DIY, fat bike No Comments

The tires on the bike go round and round…

…until you find something sharp and hard and that at once identifiable swan song “PSSSSSHHHHHSSSS” rings out- your stoke deflating as quickly as the tube in the tire itself.

That was my experience a couple weeks back on a ride through Boulder Alley and up the east side of Sheridan Lake. A really fun place to ride, the lake was freezing, as were the puddles that accumulate in the low parts of the trail. Most weren’t thick enough to support me riding across, and 9 puddles out of 10 I would break through. I made it to the lake and rode along the ice edge- the water level much lower than normal enabling me to get closer towards the Sherman Glacier than usual.

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On my way back to the truck, I didn’t make it far before it happened. I swear it was a damn piece of ice, but it could have been a stick- a sharp stick. All I know is that I thought to myself. “It’s a good thing I didn’t pack a pump, patch kit, or any tools.” It was a 3 mile walk out- not the end of the world, but enough to kick myself for being over confident and under prepared.

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Is 29+ the next fat?

Written by Ryan on . Posted in 29+, Bicycle, fat bike, Gear No Comments

Those that have ridden a fatbike know how much fun it is. The ability to float over soft surfaces is amazing when cruising on a 5″ tire. They make a bicycle more “omni-terra” than was previously possible. That said- riding around on a 5″ tire and a 100mm rim can make one feel a little sluggish when riding in hardback conditions. When I’m riding on my fatbike I’ve got 2 speeds: Slow and steady. And that’s fine. But sometimes I want to go… faster.

The beauty of the float has another side, rolling resistance and added weight. Enter the world of 29+.

What is 29+? Though there isn’t a standard (because the bike industry hates standards) for our purpose here I’ll say it’s a 29″ rim with a width of 45mm and wider, and running a 29×3″ tire. There are frames built around this platform (Surly Krampus and others.) I’m going to venture to say that the 29+ market is one that will be expanding at a fast rate. Many frames (not sure about asymmetrical frames) that will allow for a 5″ tire will fit a 29+ tire- giving you more cushion and float as well as speed and a reduced rolling resistance. I think they’ll be great for adventure touring and though you need a different wheelset, it damn near gives you a different bike.

Switching wheelsets can change the geometry, specifically the bottom bracket height of the bike- which some builders have tried to counteract with adjustable dropouts. I think it’s a fair trade off for most of us, myself included.

As I started looking into build a 29+ wheelset for my fatty, I had to look at a few things:

  • Width. As an emerging category- “wide” is being redefined. Though you’ll see some offerings at 35mm wide (which I’m sure is awesome,) I don’t think anything less than a 45mm rim should be considered a “29+.”
  • Weight. As a rider over 220lbs, I err on the side of durability- especially if you’re going to be headed off the beaten path, but that isn’t a reason to bring an anchor with you.
  • Price. I’m not a rich guy. Sometimes I can get a pro-deal or industry pricing on stuff which is great. But this blog doesn’t generate any revenue to speak of and I got bills to pay, so there. In fact- one of the reasons that I can argue to get another wheelset comes from the need for studded tires. With 45Nrth Dillingers costing an upwards of $225 each, and a 29″ set of studs running half that- I can put that $200+ I “saved” towards a new wheelset.  That’s how that works, right?

In all that, I put together the lists below to help those that may be in the market for a 29+ wheelset for their fat bike.

29+ Rims Updated 1/17/15

BrandModelWidthWeightHole PatternPrice per rim
Stan's No TubesHugo5252mm622g32h$145
SurlyRabbit Hole 2950mm699g32h$150
VelocityDually45mm675g32h$134
SchlickNorthpaw47mm645g32h$129
Kris Holm29" Freeride unicycle rim47mm840g36h$95
DerbyAll-Mountain Carbon35mm485g32h$329
NextieJungle Fox Carbon50mm510g28-36h$230
NextieSnow Fox Carbon50mm500g28-36h$220
Light Bicycle29er plus Carbon50mm490g16-36h$210
SarmaNaran Carbon50mm550g32h$600
Nox CompositesFarlow 29 Carbon35mm430g24/28, 32h$479
Ibis941 Carbon41mm488g32hsold only as wheelset

29+ Tires Updated 1/17/15

BrandModelCasingWeightPrice
SurlyDirt Wizard27tpi wire beadTBD$90.00
SurlyDirt Wizard120tpiTBD$90.00
SurlyKnard27tpi1240g$65.00
SurlyKnard120tpi980g$90.00
Vee TireTraxx Fatty72tpi wire bead1025g$100.00
Vee TireTraxx Fatty72tpi folding bead950g$110.00
Vee TireTraxx Fatty120tpi folding bead920g$120.00
BontragerChupacabra120tpi Aramid bead850g$119.99
MaxxisChronicle60tpi1040g$79.00
MaxxisChronicle120tpi folding bead1050g$96.00

So when I get these things built up, I’ll fill you in on which direction I went. Until then I’ll be rolling around on my 4.8″ Lous on 80mm rims, slow and steady- like old people fucking.

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