Wednesday, February 3, 2016

DIYBIKING.COM Reviews the Blaze LaserLight

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to be in London, where I visited Blaze to check out their signature product: the LaserLight. Other than holding the light in my hands and seeing how good the image looks on carpets on cubicle walls, I didn’t get to spend much time with it. 

But now I finally have one so I’ll be able to give you a more thorough review (Full disclosure: I write a regular series of cycling articles for Blaze's Blog but my initial impressions of the LaserLight were written long before this relationship began - and I am not being paid to write this post). 

While I’m now in the position to write about the LaserLight in a non-abstract way, I can confirm that my initial impressions were correct: it’s a sweet light. 

The design of this thing wasn’t phoned in: it has heft due to its construction (Blaze has geekalicious video clips of how it's made on their site) but it just made me confident it would be hard to break. The light comes with a special, bright green charging cable with magnets that attach to the charging area on the top of the light. It’s made that way to help it stay water resistant. The only downside is if you lose or damage the hard-to-lose bright green cable you have to order a replacement. Also, since the magnets don’t click into a recessed space on the light (like a MacBook does) the cable can get bumped out of place if you charge it on a cluttered workbench.

The bracket that attaches the LaserLight to your handlebar exudes confidence - especially when you measure it against lesser brackets (an extra Blaze bracket can also be ordered separately if you have multiple bikes).

When it is on the handlebars it doesn’t feel like it will ever come off - and that’s important.  A quick rummage of the 304 reminded me that I’ve found quite a few bike lights in the road.

From left to right: a taillight I found in Darien, Connecticut, another I found in Redwood City, California and a bike headlight - that looks like E.T.’s severed head - I found in Strasbourg, France. I use the latter two frequently. I also have a functional taillight I found in New Canaan years ago I still use on my Bike Friday. 

That’s why the bracket is an unsung innovation: your bike light won’t work effectively if it falls off your bike. 

Once you have the bracket in place on your handlebars, Blaze recommends you position your light so the laser image appears “five or six meters” from the bike. Unlike Blaze, I am not going to make my American audience Google ‘meters to feet’ so instead I’ll use the unit of measure “about 1.5 times the length of a Fiat 500.”

As cool as the bike light is, we have to remember it - and a lot of bike lights for that matter - aren’t made for the cyclist. They’re made for the people the cyclist comes into contact with on the road. Many of these people are rushed, clumsy, angry, tired, distracted, have dirty headlamps, haven’t replaced their windshield wipers since Nixon was in office, and drive vehicles that can kill us. 

To illustrate that point I put my LaserLight on a clamp attached to one of my speaker stands - tied with my City Bike and my hospital room table as the best $5 I’ve ever spent at a tag sale - and set it at the same height as my handlebars. 

Mindful of the time I was shooed away by the Stamford police when trying to test bike lights in real world conditions, I wanted to be quick when I hustled out onto a street in San Jose. 

I first set the stand about five feet behind my parallel-parked car, turned on just the LED light, and got behind the wheel so I could look in the rearview mirror. 

Now that isn’t too bad but imagine what it would look like on a busy street with a lot more lights. And admit it: when you un-parallel park, you give the mirror a fleeting glance before you look out the windshield and drive off. 

But that’s where center-stage feature of the LaserLight comes in: when it is on, this is what the driver will see out the windshield - and that’s if it doesn’t catch their eye as it zips by the side window. 

The Blaze LaserLight doesn’t send a message to drivers that they own the road and we don’t. It sends a message to that one driver who will ease off the gas or pause an extra few seconds before turning when they see it.  And that’s important to remember: there are a over a billion motor vehicles zipping around out there. You can only be killed by one of them and, to paraphrase Nathan Fillion’s character from the cancelled-too-soon Firefly: “the trick is to die of old age before it finds you.”  

This bike light - when used in conjunction with responsible riding -  raises the odds you’ll die of old age. Not only that, but because it is such a conversation piece (sometimes, with motorists who roll down their window to speak with you at red lights) it raises the profile of cycling. When I’m passing several pedestrians and hear one of them exclaim “Look at that bike light!” I think that maybe, just maybe, a conversation about driving less and biking more takes place long after I’ve pedaled out of earshot. Visit or ask your local bike shop to buy one. It's north of $125 most places - but I've met the people who designed the thing: they're worth it and so is the light. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Let's Have Bike Parking at #SB50

So Super Bohl 50 is taking place a week from tomorrow at Levi Stadium here in Silicon Valley. Traffic is expected to be upgraded from 'everyday awfulness' to 'spectacularly dismal.' 

With that in mind you’d think the hosting committee would want as many bicycle and pedestrian options to get to the game as possible. 

The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, like myself, is not only appalled that biking directions to get to The BIG game are nonexistent, but valet bike parking won’t be available (SVBC provides valet bike parking for free at a lot of events in the Bay Area - not just their own). 

Of course, the hosting committee could have very good reasons for snubbing bicycle users. A bicycle may take a lot more time for a bomb-sniffing dog to search than a 2004 GMC Yukon. Also, if there are shenanigans and baddies need to make a getaway, bumper-to-bumper traffic will make a quick escape a lot harder.

But if you disagree with this reasoning - and you don't want to beat the traffic by leaving for Levi Stadium this afternoon, please sign the SVBC petition to allow bike valet at the BIG game. They are going to deliver the signed petition to the hosting committee on Feb. 4th so please do it now. and forward the link to your cycling brothers and sisters.

And if the Super Bohl hosting committee is reading this I’d like to make an amendment to the SVBC petition - which I already signed: If you don’t welcome bicycles at the BIG game, I won’t watch the BIG game. 

Here's the SVBC petition link:

P.S. : there's still time to sign up for Park Tool School that begins Feb. 9th at Good Karma Bikes, so if you need that link it's right hereThanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Cycling, Driving, and Safety: State Bills I'd Like Passed

Two states were in the news lately for the wrong reasons: the first was Missouri, which apparently proposed a bill that bicycles operated in the state must fly a flag 15’ high. 

The second was South Dakota, which just proposed a bill that bicyclists, when followed by a motor vehicle, must pull over and dismount to allow the motor vehicle to pass. Momentum Magazine did a great piece about this daft proposal. (They didn't say all cyclists must, after dismounting, get on his or her knees and bow to the motor vehicle as it passes like the Ewoks did when they first saw C-3PO, so I guess it could be worse). 

As cyclists, we have to be vigilant to this kind of crazy. At the very least, people who propose these kinds of laws with a straight face shouldn’t be elected to public office again. Honestly, given how the 2016 presidential race has a lot of people redefining crazy, proposed rules like these may have a shot at passing. 

So as long as we are taking about laws that are written with safety in mind, I’m putting forward some proposals that have a little more proportionality:

California - S.R. 2942: Beginning in 2018, All motor vehicles sold in the State of California must have gull-wing doors to prevent city cyclists from being injured by the opening door of a pre-2018 motor vehicle (also known as ‘doored’).

Rhode Island - H.R. 234: All motor vehicles driven in this state - with no exceptions -  are required to have a florescent yellow hood and grille covering (known as a “bra”) to make the motor vehicle easier to see at night. 

Mississippi - S.R. 128: As a new addition to the motor vehicle driving test, residents must be able to pronounce the names of all chemicals in motor vehicle exhaust and know their effects on personal health and climate change. 

Florida - H.R. 5887: Motorists caught using a cellular phone or tablet while driving shall be fined not less than $2,000 and must donate the device in question to the nearest battered women’s shelter. 

Connecticut - S.R. 1188: Motor vehicles that park in a designated bicycle lane are subject to seizure, the driver’s operator license confiscated, and the motorist shall undergo no less than 40 hours of sensitivity training to regain their license. 

Oregon - H.R. 455: Car taxes are to be reduced 30% for households with one motor vehicle with two more more adults and raised 130% for households with a 1:1 motor vehicle/adult ratio.

Kansas - H.R. 456: A 10% tax on Toyota Prius’ sold in the state (Also known as “The Smugmobile Act of 2016”).

Alabama - S.R. 321: All drive through windows at fast food restaurants must display signs, printed in letters no less than four inches high and in full view of the drivers, that read: “Drive through windows are making you fat and polluting the environment” (Known as the “Arby’s Act”).

Michigan - S.R. 2534: By December 31, 2016, all motor vehicles in this state are to have an aftermarket speed governor installed by a trained professional so said motor vehicle, when driven within a fifteen-mile radius of an urban center, will be governed to a speed of no more than twenty-five miles per hour. 

Texas - S.R. 832: Designating the High Occupancy Vehicle lane (known as “HOV Lane”) for vehicles with three or more people, with highway tolls reduced accordingly. Electric and hybrid vehicles with one occupant are banned from using the HOV lane. 

California - H.R. 3566: Congestion pricing in urban areas are to take effect beginning July 1, 2016, with proceeds to fund light rail projects. Additionally, motorists caught racing up to a red traffic light are to be fined $800 per offense with proceeds benefiting Good Karma Bike’s Transitional Age Youth (T.A.Y.) program. 

New York - H.R. 1673: Personal motor vehicles are banned permanently in New York City. 

South Carolina - S.R. 1299: When selling a new or previously owned motor vehicle, the Seller must tell the Buyer that motor vehicle exhaust is murder and go over alternatives to buying a car, including bicycling, walking and public transit.

These probably have little to no chance of passing. Neither do the ones from Missouri and South Dakota. But let's be vigilant about proposed laws - and elect legislators that will write bills that make sense and help enable people to #choosethebike. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 

P.S. - Good Karma Bikes' Park Tool School, which starts Feb. 9th, is still taking students. Visit Good Karma Bikes' Park Tool School page for details.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

New Session: Park Tool School at Good Karma Bikes Starts Feb. 9

I’ve learned how to fix bikes by working on my own bikes and making mistakes. Some of these mistakes were costly and this semi-expertise took years.

If you live in the Bay Area and don’t have that kind of time on your hands enroll in Park Tool School at Good Karma Bikes instead. The first class of the 18-hour course starts February 9th. It costs $250 and includes a 20% discount on all purchases made at the GKB retail store during the month, the Park Tool Big Blue Book of Bicycle Repair and a Good Karma Bikes T-Shirt. Best of all: you get a lot of good instructor time since the class size is capped at 15. 

I’m of the mentality that the more people who know how to fix bikes who are roaming the earth, the more people will ride bikes. If you want to sign up for Park Tool School click the link here or forward/share the following with a friend. 

Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.