Sporting an oversize 2-inch mirror, tempered by a 4.5-inch arm that eliminates blind spots, the Safe Zone is my favorite. Inspired by market prevalence of small, flimsy mirrors that are prone to vibration and difficult if not impossible to re-mount on a second helmet or in a different position, this is one hardy mirror. Receiving five-star reviews from Adventure Cycling staffers (“durable build” was a common theme), the U.S.-made mirror (from locally sourced parts) utilizes existing technologies (Loc-Line hose, zip ties) to create a robust, well-designed mirror that can handle a fair amount of abuse. I’ve dropped mine a number of times without adverse impact to functionality. The Loc-Line sections can separate from the base for easy removal and storage. One potential drawback is the need to experiment with different positions on the helmet to suit user taste and requirements. With most helmet mirrors, however, this would not even be a possibility. Zip ties are available at most hardware stores and even many supermarkets. If you’re good to your local bike shop, they’ll probably toss them in for free, so next time you pick up your bike, drop off a six pack of their favorite local brew or sarsaparilla. – Patrick Finley
While the Juice Pack Plus may not be a product specific to bicycling, it’s something many traveling cyclists might find useful, especially those who use their handheld for navigation. It’s not only a protective case for your iPhone, it’s also a rechargeable 2000mAh back up battery. By itself it weighs 3 ounces but what it adds can be invaluable, which is more than a complete charge to your iPhone (I’ve actually been able to get a full cycle and then another 40 percent from one full charge of the Juice Pack Plus).
Using it is simple. You can charge it separately and only add it to your iPhone when necessary or you can leave your iPhone encased in it and use the USB micro port to charge both the Juice Pack and the iPhone. You simply slide the iPhone into the base of the Juice Pack where an Apple connector is located, then slide the top of the case over the top of the iPhone. That’s it. Once charged, you’ve got at least a 200 percent charge ready to go. When the Juice Pack is in use, you have access to the on/off switch, volume controls, and there’s an opening for the camera lens as well. The Juice Pack comes in a variety of colors and provides your device with sturdy protection. I’ve dropped my iPhone and the rubber pack kept the device from touching the ground, even though it doesn’t feature a front-of-device glass protector.
Mophie also makes a Juice Pack for the Samsung Galaxy S III.
If you want more out of an iPhone case than a charge and some protection, Lifeproof offers a waterproof case but, for the cyclist that likes to use their iPhone for navigation, they also offer the Bike & Bar Mount. Your iPhone snaps into place between the front and rear of the case that when closed provide a watertight seal. The only problem with this is that you then don’t have access to your charge port. If you did, it wouldn’t be waterproof, so make sure you charge up before placing your iPhone in the case. To complete the watertightness of the shock-proof elastomer case, there’s a headphone jack cover that screws into place. (An audio jack extender is included). Once encased, you still have access to the screen functionality, the on/off switch, and volume controls.
Protection-wise, the LIfeproof case claims to test each unit for the highest level of waterproof, shock-proof, and dirt-proof protection, and their website lists the military-grade specifications for those interested.
Once your iPhone is in the case, you can attach it to the bar mount. This consists of a handlebar bracket that comes with various pads for different size handlebars, a connector ball and socket, and the case holder. Altogether, it’s quite the outfit and allows you to easily view your iPhone in both portait and landscape view. The easy click-in release mechanism makes this unit an excellent choice for cyclists who use their iPhone for more than chatting, texting, or whatever else you dream of. Total weight: 4 ounces. Available for both iPhone 4/4s and 5.
Bicycle lights have literally gone from pretty crappy to amazing in about five years. Some are so bright, that motorists complain that they get blinded by them. I can see how this could happen; some are rated brighter than automobile headlights but can be aimed anywhere.
At 4.3 ounces, the Blaze 2 Watt Micro isn’t as bright as that but it’s plenty bright for cycling in extremely dark situations. It connects to your handlebar via an extremely simple but effective QuickCam bracket and it’s powered by two AA batteries. If you don’t like the idea of tossing out alkaline batteries, there are many excellent rechargeable options. (My preferred choice are Sanyo eneloops).
The Blaze comes in black, white, and red, and offers three light patterns: bright, super bright, and flashing. One a full charge, I got four hours on bright. Of course, not all batteries are created equal so that’s a ballpark figure.
Alaska and Canada are a bicycle tourists dream. Low traffic, good roads, remote settings, and consistently beautiful scenery. The only problem is we’re talking about a massive expanse of land, and if your time is limited, you want to make sure you get the most out of your vacation time. Enter The MILEPOST, appropriately referred to as the bible of north country travel.
The MILEPOST is a comprehensive guide that will answer all your questions about every stretch of highway, from the most remote reaches of Alaska, to more bustling regions of Canada. Whether it’s food, lodging, campsites, or points of interest, you’re covered. All service contact information, such as phone numbers and websites are updated annually so you can be confident you have the most up-to-date information at hand. If you can’t decide on a trip for yourself, The MILEPOST also has some excellent itineraries laid out. Keep in mind, however, that their key demographic is automobile travelers. Unless you’re putting in huge miles, you will probably want to adjust the timelines to your own pace.
The guidebook itself is pretty hefty at 760 pages, so packing it in your pannier isn’t an attractive option. During my bike tour from Fairbanks, Alaska to Banff, Canada, I used their online guidebook to print out the maps relevant to my trip. The hardcopy guidebook provides login information to access this exclusive content. When my travel plans inevitably changed, I was able to access their online content through their mobile app. All I needed was a signal for my smartphone and I was able to pull up all the new route information I required.
In addition to highway information, there is also detailed ferry information so you can take advantage of Alaska’s network of islands or save time by cutting stretches of land out of your trip. The actual maps that are included may not provide tons of detail, but I found it to be enough to hit all my turns and anticipate mountain passes. – Josh Tack
I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a light nerd. But, hey, no light, no vision. I like to ride in the dark and I like to camp, and to make the most of these activities, good lighting is required. The LightStar 80 almost slipped through my email filter but I’m glad I caught it. At 2.3 ounces and 5.5 inches in length, this water-resistant light constructed of aircraft-grade aluminum is awfully handy, especially around camp. It comes with a visor clip so that you can wear it on a hat or clip it to your pocket (The clip comes attached in the reverse position for clipping it to your hat, which I find to be one of its best features. You’ve got to reverse the clip for this which may cause a scratch or two — no biggie — unless you’re OCD). If you don’t want to carry a cap, the LightStar 80 also features a rubber BiteGrip so you can put it between your front teeth and keep your hands free without chipping your choppers while you cook or investigate a map. At 80 lumens, it’ll run for about 5 hours and the LED represents colors as they appear in natural light (high color rendering index). And, finally, you can even hold it in your hand!
Sometimes things just are what they are and you can’t really attribute anything special about them. Well, I considered handlebar tape to be one of those things — until now. Brooks’ leather tape makes a beautiful addition to any bike. Whether you want an old classic to look even more classic or you want terrific looking bar tape that feels great and lasts for a long time, this tape is what you’ve been looking for. Admittedly, it’s a bit slick to the bare hand at first, you can add a bit of Brooks Proofide (At least that’s what did. I might get in trouble!). The tape comes with wooden bar-end plugs, which can be treated if you like, and the tape has joins, as pointed out by some comments on their website but which I didn’t notice. Of course, as it has been pointed out, I’m a bit of a Philistine.
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