Archive for the ‘Reviews And Opinions’ Category
I started this as part of a recap for 2015, but as I started writing, I realized there was more to say about New Orleans.
During this past summer, we took our first family vacation in 5 years – a much needed break. This time, we went to New Orleans – close enough to drive, but far enough to feel like we went somewhere. We stayed in an Airbnb in the north side of town, outside of the touristy French Quarter. I discovered that the locals weren’t fans of out-of-town folks staying in their neighborhoods. I overheard one woman in a coffee shop say, “I don’t like them…They’re not invested in the neighborhood…They just park anywhere (parking was awful and extremely limited)…They’re just using it like a hotel room.” As a homeowner, I completely understand how they feel and would probably think the same way if there were some Airbnbs in my neighborhood. However, as a visitor, I highly recommend an Airbnb stay. It’s much better than a hotel room, where we felt like out-of-town guests, instead of tourists. Just try to be respectful and treat each neighborhood as if it were your own.
I brought my bike and I’ll discuss that in a bit. First, I want to give my overall view of New Orleans. Although I’ve been there a few times, it’s always been in the tourist areas, eating lots of touristy foods, drinking lots of touristy booze. Going as a family, we wanted to get a taste of how a local would experience the city – with a little bit of sightseeing in the mix. We drove a lot, and now I have a love/hate relationship with the Google GPS App. Since the streets are extremely confusing to a non-local, the GPS was helpful, until it took us 10 blocks out of our way to get to a place just down the street. Once we were more familiar with the area, we only used it for pre-trip mapping and going the last mile(s). It was funny listening to the voice prompt attempting to pronounce some of the French street names. Dupre was referred to as “Dupper.”
As expected, New Orleans is truly different than my north Texas suburb. If you’ve ever coveted the idea of living in a more dense city infrastructure, you should visit a city like New Orleans. At first, you’ll find yourself complaining about how crowded and overlapped the buildings are, as well as how narrow the streets get with limited parking. But when you settle in, you start to notice how well the people exist around each other, how well transportations syncs and how nearby destinations are actually more of a convenience—because they are actually nearby. I started to view the wide-open space of my suburban sprawled neighborhood as less of a luxury and more of a burden. There is something really nice about and old, dense neighborhood with local coffee shops, grocery stores, restaurants within walking distance. It makes you hate those drive-thru Starbucks and mega-marts even more.
Riding a bike in the city of New Orleans is much different than in my city. My first impression of a cyclist in the Big Easy was more of a shock, than a familiar comfort. As we were driving back from dinner, our first night, I saw a cyclist queue-jumping and running red lights. It was late, she didn’t have any lights or helmet and she was weaving all over the road. We saw a few cyclist who rode like this, so I started to equate all New Orleans cyclists as scofflaws. As it turns out, everybody is like this in New Orleans—cyclist, drivers AND pedestrians. Transportation was an awkward, clumsy ballet of wrong, where everybody was making up their own rules—but somehow, it all synchronized well.
I was able to sneak in a few morning rides around town. I even managed to ride down to the French Quarter. I discovered, even riding my slowest, I was still one of the fastest cyclists around. Slow and easy was the pace in New Orleans, and I was ok with that. I was also one of the few wearing a helmet. For a while, I was worried that it would give me away as a tourist, but I think having air in my tires was already doing that (see pic above). In the end I realized that nobody cared about me, my full tires or my helmet head and I was able to enjoy some really nice rides around town. There were also some nice bike lanes, with more on the way, which made the slow pace easier around the not-so-slow traffic. Riding early in the morning helped as well. Overall, if I lived in that area and with parking as bad as it was, I would definitely ride my bike much more often.
We loved visiting New Orleans. It was good to get a new perspective of an old city. Although the city is known more for it’s tourist attractions, and less about it’s strong neighborhoods communities, I can see how folks are proud to call it home.
It’s been a while since I took my 23-year old, geared bike in for a tune-up. It was a combination of bad timing, limited funding, do-it-youself pride, embarrassment for putting it off, followed by the morbid fear that it would cost more than a new bike, that kept me from taking it in.
Bad timing, because I don’t give myself much of a down season. I didn’t feel like making the time to be without my bike for too long. Limited funding, because money for my bike is low priority compared to other expenses. Do-it-yourself pride allowed me to fudge my way around basic maintenance and cleaning. This led to my bike getting to an eventual state of serious wear – leaving me too embarrassed to bring it in.
My bike was showing some serious wear in the drivetrain. The chain, gears, shifters and hubs (all original) were really worn and loose – which made the bike hard to pedal. It was a rough ride, at best. I feared the cost of replacing or repairing these things may have been more than the bike was worth.
I decided to bite the bullet and take it in to my local bike shop, Richardson Bike Mart. One of their great mechanics took a quick look and gave me an assessment that took me by surprise. The repair and tune-up was going to cost me far less than I had anticipated. It needed a new cassette and chain, both would cost me about the same as a tank of gas. They said they would look at the hubs, shifter and everything else with the tune-up. If it needed any other new parts, or a more extensive repair, they would let me know. Fortunately, it didn’t.
When I got my bike back, I was blown away with how great it looked. That was nothing compared to how great it rode. The new cassette, chain and proper tune-up turned my old clunker into a sweet ride, and I truly enjoy riding it again.
If you’ve been putting off a good bike tune-up, I strongly recommend not being like me and waiting so long. Get it tuned-up now! Life is too short to ride a poorly adjusted bike. If you can’t tool on it, yourself, take it in to your favorite local bike shop. They can take care of you, and you’ll be putting money back into your local economy.
Being safety minded, I’m always on the lookout for high visibility and reflective gear—especially for the longer, dark days of winter. One of my favorite finds is a set of gloves that aren’t actually designed as bike gear.
I picked these up, earlier this previous winter, at Home Depot for about $13. The day-glow orange and yellow caught my eye, but what sold me were the reflective tips. They are perfect for communicating my hand signals, when riding in the dark.
The gloves aren’t very warm, so there were some mornings when I was cursing the cold and wind. For $13, I don’t expect them to last more than a couple of seasons – long enough to find the right pair of safety bike gloves that are winter worthy.
Here they are, reflecting light:
I have a bell on my bike. It’s nice to have when you want to let the folks, especially pedestrians on my local multipurpose trails, know that you want to pass them. Because many are wearing earbuds, just saying “passing on your left,” isn’t enough.
But what about on the road? What happens if some idiot in a car doesn’t look and cuts me off? I don’t think the bell will do the trick at announcing my presence. Sure, I can yell at the top of my lungs, but I hope their stereo isn’t turned up too loud. Although I’ve never had the need, I was okay with having to do that if needed.
Over a year ago, I stumbled across the Orp Horn on Kickstarter. It’s cool little bike accessory that would reduce my need to yell in an emergency situation. Their idea was to make cyclists more visible and “hearable” with a combination dual tone, high decibel bike horn and front beacon light. The result is a really loud horn that fits into a small package.
What really appealed to me was it’s slick design. The horn has unibody construction that is formed to look good and function well. It comes in several different color options, and I decided to go with orange.
Well, after several long months after it funded, I finally got mine. It came in a really cool package that, once unfolded, doubles as the instruction sheet. I was pleased to see efforts put into the design – even in the packaging – to reduce waste. The Orp Horn came, not damaged, but it came slightly unfinished. There was a little bit of the cover that wasn’t locked into place. A quick snap and it was fine.
The Orp Horn is cleverly designed with a one-size, built-on strap. This fits perfectly on wider diameter handlebars. If you have a smaller diameter bar, you’ll need to use the included rubber strip to keep the horn from slipping.
Time to test it out. The first thing you need to do, after you mount it, is turn it on. This is done by pressing and holding the button on the top for 3 seconds. It makes a cheerful chirp to let you know that it’s activated. Tapping the button again turns on the flashing light feature. Tapping it again, gives you a solid light. To turn it off, you need to press and hold the button for another 3 seconds.
The Orp Horn comes with two sounds. When you push up on the lever, it gives you a friendly chirp. When you pull down on the lever, you get the super loud chirp. It’s not like an air horn that you hear coming from most cars, but it’s loud enough to make a statement. Given it’s compact size, the sound is quite remarkable.
This is a great accessory to add to my rides. My hope is that I will never need to use the Orp Horn, but if I do, it’s comforting to know that I can let car drivers hear that I’m there.
Where To Buy: I got mine for a deal on Kickstarter, which funded last year. You can still buy them on their site for a bit more: click here.
Believe me, I am completely grateful when anybody puts up racks for bike parking in front of their business. I appreciate it even more when it’s a major chain that happens to be a gasoline station – primarily catering to car drivers.
However, I think that the people who installed these racks must not ride bikes with handlebars. Sure, with some careful contorting of your bike, these are somewhat functional. I just feel that pulling them away from the wall, even just a few more inches, would have made much more sense.
It’s a start. I guess I shouldn’t complain. Right?
I’m not sure if you remember, but my bike mirror broke last season.
I was never a mirror user, until I actually tried one. After talking to a few folks and listening to some opinions, I decided to get a the kind that attached to my glasses, instead of my helmet or bike. I chose the Third Eye mirror which was available at my local bike shop. Overall, I was pretty happy with it.
There were only two things that disappointed me about it. The first was it’s limited positioning. I’m sure it was user error, but I could not get the Third Eye positioned right on my glasses to keep the mirror from creating a blind spot when I was actually scanning for oncoming traffic. My solve for that was to mount the mirror on the right side so that my left side scanning would be obstruction free. The other disappointment was that it only lasted a year before breaking.
After it broke, I began shopping around for a better solution – with no promising results. My goal was to find something more durable, not very expensive and not look so geeky. That led me to look into making my own, as suggested by my friend, Mike. The problem with making my own is that I never have the right parts or tools and it always ends up costing me more in time and resources – plus, it never comes out right. For now, it’ll just be one of those projects that I’ll complete later.
So, I’ve been mirror-less until a few weeks ago, when a man named Patrick McMahon, who runs the Etsy store, ReBcycle, contacted me. He stated that he might have what I’m looking for and provided a link to his store that offered mirrors that were very similar to the DIY project that I was looking into. The only difference was that his were already made.
I looked at his options, which were all nice, but I really wanted one made from the bottle cap of one of my favorite beers, Left Hand Milk Stout. We exchanged messages, and I found out that not only was he nice, but also very accommodating. He did have LHMS bottle caps available, as well as one that was older, and a bit more rare, than what they are currently using. Of course, I chose that one.
Within a few days, he had it made and shipped to me – a custom, hand-crafted, made-to-order mirror that cost the same as his other mirrors. Also, compared to other standard, retail mirrors or anything that I could have made on my own, it was pretty reasonable.
When I got the mirror, I was really impressed as to how well it was packed. The product, itself, is well-made and much more durable than it’s plastic predecessor. Being mostly all metal – both bottle cap and bicycle spoke attachment – I can already tell this is going to last longer. What really impressed me about the Beer-View Mirror is how well it fit my glasses. ReBcycle offers both long and short attachments, and I opted for short. Not only does the short attachment fit firmly on my glasses frames, it keeps the mirror far enough out to prevent that scanning blind spot. I am really impressed with this new mirror, and it was well worth it.
If you are thinking about getting a mirror for safer riding, I recommend that you take a look at ReBcycle.
This post starts with a little rant and ramble about cycle clothing, so feel free to skip ahead.
For many years, I’ve been wrestling with the idea of looking the part of a cyclist. My general philosophy with cycling is that you shouldn’t have to wear special clothes to ride a bicycle. Looking the part is just another barrier – both in stereotype and cost – that keeps folks from wanting to get back into, or trying out bicycling.
That being said, I’ve also come to some realizations about cycling that have convinced me that bike clothes SHOULD become part of my wardrobe. There are times when clothes designed for cycling, simply, just work harder and feel better. Comfort and visibility have become key factors in my clothing choices. However, for the record, you will never see me wearing a complete race kit – but, that’s a topic for another post.
For now, let’s talk about PANTS.
Riding in the summer is not a problem since I have enough shorts and padded liners to keep me covered. Winter is another story. Until recently, my cold weather riding attire has consisted of jeans, jogging pants, cargo pants and an old pair of stretchy leggings that I picked up during my mountain bike days. Back to my point above, a good pair of fitted cycling pants is expensive – so instead of having it as a barrier for cycling in the winter, I just use what I have.
Why I Think Street Clothes Don’t Work As Well:
I love the idea of just jumping on my bike with whatever I’m wearing, and I do it quite often. You shouldn’t have to get ‘outfitted’ to ride down the street. However, I’ve discovered that when you are commuting or taking long rides, street clothes aren’t always the best solution.
In my case, my jeans and cargo pants are not fitted well. I don’t have the body type to wear skinny jeans, nor am I young enough to pull it off. Sometimes, I wish other people exercised that same restraint. Because my street pants aren’t fitted, I need to roll the leg up or ‘peg’ it so that it’s not getting caught in the chain.
The cut, material and stitching of street pants are another issue. Most of them are cut low and droop in the crotch area, which always catches on my saddle as I mount. When I ride, the back end isn’t high enough to cover the lower back side – which makes it a bit breezy and some might mistake me for a plumber. Jeans and cargo pants don’t seem to flex very well, either, which makes it harder to get my cranks turned. Finally, the stitching at the crotch of street pants isn’t ideal for resting on a saddle for an extended period of time. You start to notice – even through padded liners.
Why I Don’t Like Typical Bike Pants:
Bike pants, although very expensive, are great. They’re cut and fitted for cyclist to optimize the best comfort for long rides. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find the right pair that fits well, but doesn’t look like yoga pants. Again, I’m too old and not fit enough to “pull them off” – literally and figuratively. The biggest problem I have with typical bike pants is that even when you are off the bike, they scream CYCLIST!, LOOK AT ME, I’M A CYCLIST!
Rozik, The Best Of Both Worlds:
Since cycling has become more trendy and less of a sport, there is a new category of non-traditional bicycle clothing that has become more available. Some call it cycle chic, while others call it urban. I call it brilliant. It’s well-design cycling clothes that don’t look like cycling clothes. The styles are more like street clothes, without all of the fit and discomfort issues associated with street clothes. Still a bit pricy, like most bike clothes, but you are no longer just limited to only wear them when you ride.
Rozik Wear is a new brand that makes this kind of urban cycling clothes. Based out of north Texas, Rozik clothes are all made in the U.S.A. and designed to “go in any direction that life take you.” Since I was in need, I got a pair of their black Analyzer pants from Richardson Bike Mart. So far, I’ve been pretty impressed.
Here are some features about the Rozik Analyzer pants:
– Reflective back pocket for safety that hides when not needed
– Gusset crotch for all-day comfort
– Slim fit, Euro-style cut – not ‘Skinny’
– Raised back for increased coverage
– Leg tabs for a secure pant roll-up
– Coin pocket that fits a cell phone
– Fabric that moves “every wear” you go
– Fabric: 97% Cotton 3% Viscose
– Colors: Black | Olive | Khaki
– Inseam: Regular: 32″ Long: 34″
– Shrink: expect the fabric to shrink approximately 1/2″ to 1″ in length; the waistbands are made so that they will not shrink
– Made in the USA
The size of the waste was pretty accurate. I chose the size that I wear in jeans, and they fit nicely – loose where it counts for flexibility and fitted where it was needed for optimized riding. No drooping crotch or low back, here. Since I have a 32″ inseam and they state that the length will shrink, I opted for the long (34″). If they don’t shrink to fit, I can always roll the cuff up once (as seen in the pics below – before their first washing).
Although I haven’t taken them on a really long ride, I can already tell the difference between these and my street pants. The Analyzer seems to fulfill all of my riding pant needs – from comfort to style. With the reflective flap, safety gets a nod, too. They’re well made and I expect them to last a long time.
The only thing I would change is the zipper for the back, right pocket. When closed, the pull-tab for the zipper is towards the middle and rubs on most things that I sit on. It’s even gotten caught in the crack of a bench seat. Flipping it so that the zipper pull is towards the outside when closed, might help this.