What Do Mountain Bikes, Singletrack, and Ethiopia Have in Common? Tracey Croke

This video from “Sydney based journalist, travel writer, photographer and adventurist specialising in stories about roughty-toughty travel, offtrack adventure and anything involving a bike” Tracey Croke exemplifies everything I love about mountain biking. The ability to go places that most vehicles can’t go, experiencing nature up close, and seeing places from a point of view other than Instagramming tourist. Check out the video of her expedition in Ethiopia, riding mountain bikes on sweet singletrack, as well as her site www.traceycroke.com to see her other adventures.

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What Wikipedia Can’t Tell You About Bicycle Lights, Part 2

In the last article, I gave you questions to ask yourself to help determine what kind of lights you need. I will use the questions to go over some specs to look at when asking said questions. Meta, right? No. What the heck is up with “meta” anyway. Let’s get started.

Where am I riding?

This question pertains to how bright a light you need. I mentioned that city/urban riding is usually lit with street lighting. Unlike a car, you are able to see the road a bit better due to not having a dirty windshield between your eyeballs and the pavement. You are also moving slower, so the emphasis on needing a light that will light up the road far ahead isn’t really necessary. If your riding is exclusively in this environment, you could probably get away with a light that is about being seen.

Lights in this category are the millions of flashers, or blinkies as I like to call them, that attach to the from and back of your bicycle. You know, the ones that flash in a seizure inducing pattern most of the time. Most places, if not all, require the front flasher to be white or amber, and the rear, red. Check your local laws to make sure.

My favorite blinkies come from three companies. I’ll list them along with specific models.

  1. Knog – This company hails from Australia and has a bunch of blinkies in different flavors. My favorite in this category is the Blinder.

knog blinder 4 twinpack black

  1. Blackburn – Blackburn makes all sorts of great bicycle accessories. Their lights are no exception. My faves in the Blackburn line are the diminutive Fleas. Bonus with these guys is that they are rechargeable via USB. You can charge them while at work to make sure they’re ready to go for the ride home.

Blackburn Flea 2.0 front and rear Combo
3. Planet Bike – This company is similar to Blackburn in that they too make some very nice, reliable accessories for the velocipede. My favorite is the Superflash Turbo. It utilizes a 1-watt LED in addition to two smaller LEDs to make you look like low-flying aircraft.

Planet Bike Superflash Turbo

Honorary Mentions:

I list these as “Honorary” only because the above manufacturers make some really nice lights at reasonable prices. Lezyne makes some really nice lights at slightly higher prices. The only reason I don’t buy really nice looking blinkies is because they make for really tempting lights to steal. Really. Make no mistake, Lezyne lights are really, really freaking nice. (Really count: 6)

My favorite is the Hecto Drive, though all of there lights are sweet.

Lezyne Hecto Drive Rear

Serfas is another honorable mention, only because I tried to keep the list at three. My favorite is the Thunderbolt series which uses a non-directional LED strip housed in a silicone covered case with the added bonus of being rechargeable via USB cord. The light is available for front and rear.

Serfas Thunderbolt Rear Light

Now when you get out of the city, or into some suburbs, the street lighting starts to get sparse, or nonexistent. This is where having a light to see is now just as important. If you ride in this type of environment, you are in luck because the lights you purchase also make great “to be seen” lights. Nearly all of them have a blinking or low-power blinking mode.

I’ll keep my favorites to three, only because this list would be long.

  1. Light and Motion – This company started out making lights for scuba divers. They have some of the brightest lights around. My fave? The Urban 350 Commuter Combo:

Urban 350 Commuter Combo
2. Lezyne – They made it onto this list because their lights are really bright and reasonable in price. There’s that word “really” again. Here’s the one to look at, the Mini Drive XL.

Lezyne Mini Drive XL
3. Serfas – Sure, their lights area just a relabeled form factor and LED bulb, but I own one, so I can vouch for this. My light, the unpronounceable TSL-S500 Headlight:

Serfas TSL-S500 Headlight

What kind of weather am I riding in?

If you are a fair weather rider, chances are your lights won’t experience anything worse than a splash through a puddle, or a light shower. Most lights will resist this and will be labeled as such: “Water/Weather Resistant.” Now if you are an all-weather rider, just awful at reading weather forecasts, or live in Ohio, you’ll want something labeled “Water/Weatherproof.” Heck, if you’re unsure, hedge towards waterproof, you’ll be happy you did.

I’m not going to really list any water resistant lights because 99% of the lights sold specifically (not flashlights or novelty blinkers) are water resistant. I’m also not going to recommend a specific light because all these guys make waterproof lights. For waterproof, go with these guys:

  1. Serfas – for price.
  2. Lezyne – for style.
  3. Light and Motion – they made lights for diving. Duh.
What’s my budget?

Now this is entirely up to you. Lights have become less expensive as the price of LEDs have come down. That Serfas TSL-S500 is rechargeable, and pushes 500 lumens for around $100. That’s a deal. Using the first two questions, pick a light that meets your requirements, and then shop around. I didn’t touch the smaller names that hide in the back of bicycle magazines with offices on the other side of the world. Just be wary that those may not have the quality control that the companies I listed here do.

Notice that I also stayed away from high-powered flashlights. Yes, you can use them as there are mounts for them. I personally like the clean mounts of the purpose built lights. To me, looks are as important. Have you looked at the Lezyne lights?! But if the flashlights are in your budget, go for it.

Well I hope that helped you in your quest for lighting for your bicycle. Remember that no matter what lights you go with, visibility is important when riding at night, and a good set of lights are part of the overall safety package.

Darn Tough Socks are Sweeter than Christmas Morning

Few things are guaranteed for life. Taxes are about the only thing I can think of. That is until I darn tough sockshappened upon a booth displaying a multitude of colorful socks along the back. To be honest, the mass of socks are what attracted me. The company was called Darn Tough Socks. I met Hans, the Midwest account manager who gave me the spiel. The socks were merino wool. If you have never worn merino wool, you’re in for a treat. It’s not itchy like the wool sweater your Aunt Mary got you for Christmas. You know, the bright red one with the white collar and reindeer on it? Score. I love merino wool socks. The color patterns looked nearly limitless. They also made socks for Navy SEALS. Bonus. What he said next grabbed my attention near instantly:

Guaranteed for Life.

My traveling partner asked if that covered wear. Hans said yes without hesitation. If I wore a hole in the sock or socks, I could contact them, send a picture, and ship them the socks (on their dime no less), and receive replacement socks. No charge. So we asked if we could buy a pair of these magical socks that fell from heaven. Hans replied, I’ll give you a pair, what’s your size.

I’m dumbfounded at this point as I am handed a pair of socks.

Which now starts my first long term review. I will take these socks and wear them normally within the rotation of my other socks. I’m pretty hard on my socks as my other merino wool socks will attest. The socks are run/bike socks which will allow me to test them in my short runs as well.

If I’ve piqued your interest, you can go check them out for yourself at darntough.com. And by the way, they’re made in Vermont.