2018 Light Roundup

In the not-so-distant past, bicycle lights typically came in one of two flavors: see-by or be-seen. In recent years, however, the line between the two has become a bit more fluid. Be-seen lights now offer greater coverage and increased brightness, while see-by models enjoy new features such as daylight modes for improved visibility when the sun is up. Like most things tech, prices have continued to drop while functionality has steadily increased.

When choosing lights, it’s important to remember that every light is, ultimately, a compromise. Battery life, weight/size, brightness, and cost are all factors to consider, so your idea of the perfect light may not exist (or fall within your budget). And when it comes manufacturers’ stated run times, remember that those numbers are based on ideal conditions. Cold weather can affect battery life, so choose accordingly if you’ll be riding when temperatures are low.

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2017 Lock Roundup

Whether you ride for recreation or utility, there will be times when you need to leave your bike unattended. If you want your bike to still be there when you return, you’ll have to rely on some form of security other than faith in humanity or just plain dumb luck. In other words, a lock. Bike locks are a lot like auto/health/life insurance: you buy it, but you hope you never need it. How do you choose the right lock, though? The answer is, it depends.

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2017 Helmet Roundup

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.

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Mechanical Road Disc Brake Roundup

Once reserved for only the most elite (read, expensive) rigs, hydraulic disc brakes have become more common on gravel, cross, and even road bikes. With hydraulic brakes’ increased popularity, you might think that the mechanical disc brake is all but dead. Not so. Hydraulic brakes may be the new hotness, but many road and gravel riders still prefer the simplicity and reliability of cable-operated disc brakes. And in 2016, mechanical disc brake fans have more choices than ever.

Why choose mechanical over hydraulic brakes? Compatibility, for one. Hydraulic brakes require dedicated levers, whereas mechanical disc brakes can be paired with practically any cable-operated lever or shifter. Bleeding hydraulic disc brakes may have gotten easier, but fixing a problem in the field is much simpler with mechanical brakes. Lastly, cable-operated disc brakes cost less than hydraulics–especially when you can reuse your existing levers.

All three of the brakes that I tested are designed for use with drop bar levers. Those types of levers pull less cable than MTB-style levers, so you need to match the lever with the correct type of caliper. I tested each brake with Shimano’s 105 STI (5800) and SRAM’s Rival 22 levers. Although some manufacturers recommend smaller rear rotors on road and gravel bikes, I went with 160 mm rotors front and rear. And because frames and forks often require specific adapters, weights do not include mounting hardware or adapters (but include pads).

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