Reviewing helmets is tricky. You can test fit and comfort, but very few of us are willing to take one for the team and actually crash test them in the name of journalistic integrity. While I’m happy to report that I didn’t need to test the efficacy of these helmets, I’m no stranger to cycling-related head injuries. Two and a half years ago I fell while riding my bicycle. I hit my head and sustained a concussion.
As you might imagine, that incident sparked an increased interest in bicycle helmet construction and design. At last year’s Interbike trade show, I spent a good portion of my time talking with manufacturers about helmet technology and mild traumatic brain injuries. And while each company touted the superiority of their respective technologies and features, practically every bicycle helmet shares the same basic design–namely, a layer of crushable foam encased in a protective shell that’s secured with a simple chin strap.
These five helmets cover a wide range of disciplines including commuting, off-road, and urban riding. Prices range from just under $70 to $230, but as the BHSI.org points out, less expensive helmets don’t provide reduced protection compared to their pricier counterparts. Each of these helmets complies with the necessary certification standards, so you can choose a helmet that fits your budget without compromising safety.
I will be the first to admit that I am no longer a spring chicken. A lifetime of skateboarding, riding (rigid) mountain bikes, and computer use have taken their toll on my hands and wrists. I never gave it much thought, however, until I relocated to Colorado in early 2001. It took exactly one off-road ride in the 38th state for me to understand exactly why they’re called the rocky mountains.
Determined to improve my bike’s comfort, I did what any self-respecting bike geek would do–I replaced good components with better ones (which included more than a dozen pairs of grips). While my bike–and wallet–got lighter, my hands/wrists still hurt. Desperate for relief, I decided to try some odd-looking touring grips from Ergon of Germany. And guess what, my hands immediately felt better with the new grips. From then on, if my bikes sported flat or riser bars, you’d find them equipped with Ergon grips.
Ergon’s grips are constructed from 100% German, TÜV-certified rubber and feature forged aluminum clamps.
Is bigger better when it comes to your bike’s pedals? According to Colorado’s Pedaling Innovations, the answer is a resounding yes. Measuring 143 mm x 95 mm, the Catalyst pedals dwarf the competition’s platforms. Why so big? More support, and according to company founder James Wilson, the longer platforms enable a more centered foot position.
Even though winter hasn’t officially started, much of North America has already experienced some very winter-like conditions. For many riders, winter officially spells the end of their riding season, and bikes get relegated to the basement or garage. There are other options, though. You can drive to the gym and ride a stationary or spin bike, or maybe set up a trainer in your own personal pain cave. Then there’s the third option–actually riding your bike outside in the cold and dark.
While the concept may seem novel, winter cycling is as old as the bicycle itself. Riding a bike in bad weather ain’t rocket science, but it does take a little extra preparation and planning. Living in Colorado for over fifteen years has taught me a thing or two about riding in harsh weather. Because I detest being cold when I ride, I usually err on the side of caution when it comes to choosing winter cycling gear. As such, I’ve learned to take clothing companies’ recommended temperature ranges with a grain of salt. In other words, what works for me might end up being too warm for more cold-tolerant riders. That said, the following items have served me well for utility and recreational riding.
One reason for bikepacking-style seat bags’ popularity is their simplicity. Unlike panniers, the standalone seat packs don’t require dedicated racks. But depending on what you’re carrying, bikepacking seat bags–especially larger ones–can sway or sag. Arkel‘s new line of seat packs put an end to floppy, tail-wagging bags with the aid of minimalist, quick-release racks.
Arkel debuted their bikepacking line at Interbike in 2015. The first iteration resembled a traditional traverse-style saddlebag (read, Carradice) paired with a support inspired by the Canadian company’s Randonneur seatpost rack. After nearly a year of tweaking and enhancements, the sleeker Seatpacker 9 and 15 (so-named for their capacity) hit retailers’ shelves in summer 2016.
Attaching a rack to a bike that lacks the necessary fittings often requires a bit of creativity or jury-rigging. For some setups, no amount of p-clamps, zip-ties, or duct tape can compensate for a rack-hostile design. Thule’s Pack ‘n Pedal Tour rack eschews conventional rack fittings for ratcheting straps that work with virtually any bicycle from full suspension mountain bikes to commuters and everything in between.