Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Happy gray or black

Made the mistake last evening of running errands in town - Sam's club, REI, that sort of stuff. A few cool things came out of the running around. First, the family, while I was working, were also working picking blue berries from a little known patch in the heart of Anchorage. I suppose I need to start building a list of the things I miss about living in Anchorage versus the valley. That would be right up there - being able to pick berries within a few blocks of where we lived. Actually, being able to do many things within only a few blocks of where we live was the best part of living in Anchorage.

Case in point - Redbox. We haven't had cable for years. So we watch a lot of Netflix on demand and on the weekends we rent from the Redbox. Regardless of what time of year, we'd walk from our house to the Redbox  to get movies. Now the closest one is five miles away.

Case in point - the lake. In Anchorage when we wanted to go to the lake, we simply walked the mile to the lake and enjoyed the day. Now the closest publicly accessible lake is close to seven miles away.

So, clearly living in the valley has some challenges that we will have to overcome. Or, rather, some things we'll need to get used to. One of those is making a once a month trip into Anchorage for supplies at Sam's Club and running other errands. Which we did last night. And running errands led to the purchase of a few new bike-type items to help the commute.

Fist, the wife's been fretting about the fact that the cheap rear lights I've been using don't really do much. And when we lived in Anchorage it wasn't that big of deal, as I had little roadway to ride on my way to work and those were generally not busy roadways at all. Now I have half of my commute on roadways, roadways on which the drivers are not used to seeing cyclists. At least I assume that, as I've never seen another cyclist on the roads. Well, that's not true, exactly. I see the roadies out there training when conditions are perfect. Which is about once a summer... but I digress.

Anyway, the wife wanted me to get a better tail light, so a better tail light I got. I picked up the Princton Tek Swerve tail light. It is bright and the flash pattern, being semi-random, makes it much harder to ignore than a steady strobe light. I like that the light has a big, chunky on/off switch, which means that when winter comes I won't have to take off my gloves to turn it on and off. The light is bright. I mentioned that, right? I can see it reflected off of the street when I look back over my shoulder, so I guess drivers in cars should be able to see it.

I do have some complaints about it, though. First, the bungie mounting system. One of these bungie things broke last night while trying to initially install the dang thing. Right at the point where the polymer widens out to the small tab one is supposed to use to pull the bungie around the seat post and mounting tab. Not cool. That has me worried that the other bungie that it came with with break while on a ride and my 25 dollar tail like will go bye bye. I think I may just use some zip ties or see if I can use screws and mount it to the light mount on my rear rack.

Another complaint is that the lens seems to want to come off really easily. This is where you access the batteries. In the instruction book it shows that you should need to use a coin or screwdriver to remove the lens. My concern here is that either the lens will fall off during a ride or that when things are wet and nasty out, that wet nastiness will get into the light itself and destroy the electronics.

We'll see. REI purchase so, if I need to, I can return it.

Also at REI I picked up a new pair of fair weather gloves. I wasn't looking or in the market for new gloves, but they were on an end cap with a big clearance sign and I just couldn't resist. They are not terribly expensive gloves to begin with, about 24 dollars. But I got them for half price, so... Fox Ranger gloves. I like the design and the fit overall. They are snug without being too tight. However, there are some issues, as with the light.

First, they are slick as snot. The fingers have silicon overlays to help improve grip, but I don't know that it does anything. Every time I hit the shifters it feels like my fingers will slide right off.

Second, the gloves have a double palm, or rather light padding on the areas that make constant contact with the handlebars. This might just be something I need to get used to, but I generally prefer gloves that don't have any padding at all, so it feels a bit strange to have the extra layer between me and the bike.

The final thing purchased, at Sam's Club, for the bike was a FatMax by Stanley headlight. This is a worker's headlight, a man's headlight. It's all yellow and black and manly... and it was cheap and seems to be quite bright, overall. It is rated at just under 200 lumens, so it should throw out a nice beam.

The plan is, as I already have a good helmet mounted headlight, to figure out how to mount the FatMax to the handlebars in some fashion. There are some challenges, though. First off, I need to be able to quickly remove the light and it's attached battery holder from the bike. Batteries and extreme cold don't go hand in hand very well. If that weren't a concern, I'd just zip tie it on. Zip ties are awesome. I like them. Anyway...

I like the big, chunky on/off switch this thing has. What I'm not so stoked about is the huge light housing. I realize that they are using the reflector to increase the throw rate of the little 3w LED, but, dang. We'll see how it works out.

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