Saturday, November 29, 2014

MonkeyLectric M204 Bike Wheel Light Review

Since Daylight Saving Time ended, I found myself riding more and more often into the night. Naturally, safety is always a concern in the back of my mind when I'm bicycling in the dark. And I have felt that my front and rear lights were not quite enough, especially when it comes to being visible to cross traffic from the side.

So when I received the new Monkey Light M204 (released in mid November 2014) sample for review, I was very curious to try it out! I have been running the light during my commute home for about a week now and I am ready to share my thoughts and photos with you.
MonkeyLectric Monkey Light M204 Bike Wheel Light display

First, I must admit that I am NOT mechanically inclined. The only bike lights I've used are the plug-and-play kind. So when I initially saw the product package, and without a clue as to how the wheel light system worked, I was a little intimidated at the thought of having to "wire" together something.

Resisting the urge to ask my husband for his assistance, I waited until I had a full weekend without any distractions to focus on the installation.
Monkey Light M204 retail package

Once I finally sat down and opened the package, I realized how silly I had been to put off using it! The way the system goes together is INCREDIBLY simple, especially after watching the helpful video on installing the M204 Monkey Light. Basically, the Monkey Light straps to the spokes of the bike wheel, and the battery holder straps to the hub using cable ties. There are two buttons on the light piece labeled "POWER" and "COLOR". Once connected and powered by three AA batteries, turn it on and pedal away!

One thing I have learned from assembling furniture from IKEA is to unbox everything and make sure all the pieces I will need are there. The retail packaging comes with:
  • MonkeyLectric M204 Monkey Light bike wheel light (about 1 1/4" height x 2 1/2" length). The package says 4 LED but I only see 2 lights. Perhaps there are two lights clustered together?
  • MonkeyLectric Hub mounted battery holder (1 1/2" diameter and 2 3/4" length that straps to spokes with vibration proof mount). Here is a photo of the battery holder and core.
  • Stainless steel antitheft straps (are hard to cut once installed)
  • Plastic cable ties for mounting (there are more than the minimum needed in case of oopsies)
  • Soft rubber blocks to adjust the fit of the light
  • MonkeyLectric bike stickers ()
  • Instructions in 22 languages (how did they miss Laotian? )
Cat examines M204 Monkey Light
Havi inspects the pieces of the M204 Monkey Light
I also checked the light to see that it worked, that I understood how the pieces fit together and how the batteries fit into the holder. This way I can spend as little time as possible doing the installation while in the cold garage.

This particular Monkey Light has 5 themes. Depending on the light settings that you use, the lumen (amount of light emitted per second) varies from 10 lumens to 40 lumens which also impacts the lights' run time (50 hours to 12 hours).
All components have solid rubber construction and are waterproof for use in all weather
You will need to supply your own:
  • 3 AA batteries (which are not included, as stated on the package)
  • A pair of needle nose pliers to pull the cable ties tight in the hard to reach places near the hub 
  • A pair of wire cutters to cut the excess cable ties
A wire cutter (a/k/a dykes) and needle nose pliers
Super-excited, I gathered my supplies and went into the garage to put the lights on my bike! The installation went off without a hitch. Two cable ties attach the light piece to each spoke. Here I installed the light as far away from the hub as possible. I did use one of the rubber blocks to adjust the fit of the light to spokes. Two more cable ties attach the battery holder to the hub. Cut the extra length of the cable ties. Insert the battery core into the holder. Connect the wires, press the power button and ta-da!
Make sure to wrap the wire around the spoke so it doesn't interfere with the teeth of the cogset.
So I took the Monkey Light for a test ride around the neighborhood. But this is where things didn't go quite as I had expected as far as the "ring of light" I had hoped to see as pictured (below) on the packaging and on the website.

Looking at the M204 User Guide, it looks like the power button is controls whether the lights flash in a dash pattern or a solid pattern.
I tried pedaling at different speeds but still couldn't get the effect. I only saw a few dashes of light.

Then I had my husband ride my bike so that I could see what the Monkey Light looked like. He rode faster than I could and I think that's when the persistence of vision effect finally kicked in. At this point, I think if I changed the theme I might have seen the ring of light.

I definitely have to play around some more with the settings. I also sent my questions through Monkey Light's support form yesterday and am waiting for a response to how I can make the light work better. Since it is a holiday weekend, I will wait until next week for a response.

Overall, the M204 light does its job which is to help you "be seen". There are other Monkey Lights with more LEDs that you can have fun with on the website. Some display patterns and graphics! This particular set is:
  • Easy and quick to install five minutes or less.
  • Affordable at $25.99USD and can be purchased from any dealer.
  • Relatively easy to operate. The POWER and COLOR buttons are differentiated and separated so I can easily turn it on/off and change the colors even when it is dark outside.
  • Nice and bright. It can be blinding when trying to change the color settings but that is a good thing for visibility!
  • Quiet. I've notice no noise or rattling from the light on the spokes or hub battery pack.
  • Fun. It is like having a disco party under my seat!
  • Cool. As confirmed by two young boys with skateboards who shouted, "That's cool!" when I rode by them. Kid you not.
With the amount of hours that I ride in the evenings, I only wish it was a USB rechargeable system or the hub-mounted battery core was rechargeable. So we shall see how long the first set of batteries last. For now, I carry a few extra batteries with me and, doing the math, I think the 48-pack I purchased should last me quite a while!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Annual Member and Volunteer Appreciation and Potluck

Yesterday evening my husband and I attended the Reno Bike Project's Annual Member and Volunteer Appreciation and Potluck. The event was held at Under the Rose Brewing Company on East 4th Street near the community bicycle shop near downtown Reno.

Since the Reno Bike Project is a non-profit community bike shop, it relies heavily on volunteers to help with the success of the community outreach, educational programs and events. People give hours and hours of their personal time to repair bicycles donated from the community to give to kids in need during the holiday season. Others, like Rachel (who received one of the Volunteers of the Year Award) are at Ladies' (bike repair) night every Tuesday evening to offer a helping hand.
Each guest brought something to share. There was a large buffet table full of delicious food -- homemade quiche, cookies and breads, Brussels sprouts salads, chips and dips! Meanwhile, vegetarian burger patties and bratwurst were cooked on a grill. The brewery provided free beer on tap. The Saison and Pumpkin beer were my favorites.

Members and volunteers chatted with each other, our voices and laughter filled the cavernous warehouse of the brewery. We played games like Jenga and fooseball. I didn't say harmless games because, believe it or not, I actually sprained my hand playing team fooseball!! It's going to hurt to squeeze the brake levers during my bike commute to work this week.

Near the end of the night, the Executive Director and co-founder of Reno Bike Project stood on a table to  recognize the selected Volunteers of the Year and Members of the Year. One by one they walked up to receive their award while everyone in the room clapped and cheered, myself included with great joy because I appreciate so much all that they do!
I was completely surprised when he called my name to receive an award as one of the Board Members of the Year. It caught me off guard as I bashfully walked up to the front. Public recognition is just not something I have yet to learn to accept with grace. Because I was flustered, all I could hear the Director say was something about "not only does she talk the talk but she walks the walk commuting by bicycle from Sparks to Reno every day".

I am humbled to receive such recognition, as undeserving as I felt, among these volunteers who have done so much throughout the year! All I know is that I just LOVE to do what I do and help others get in to bicycling. Because I believe so much in what bicycling can do for our physical and mental well-being, and for us as an individual--and for our community.

Bicycling brought all of these people together. People who have their own life--their family, jobs, and personal commitments and obligations to give their precious time and put forth their best effort to make Reno and Sparks a better community for bicycling. At the end of the day, all we want is MORE BUTTS, ON MORE BIKES, MORE OFTEN!!
The wool cap I will wear proudly and motto I keep close to my heart.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Two weeks ago it was t-shirt weather...well summer dresses for me. Then this weekend we had a cold snap where the overnight temperatures dipped down to 18 degrees or so. We live in a town of four distinct seasons with dozens of ski resorts nearby on Mt. Rose and Lake Tahoe. But even teen-digits is unusually cold for Reno and Sparks, NV.

Monday morning when I rode to work, I was well-layered to stay warm. I wore tights and leg warmers with boots, a long-sleeve base layer underneath my one piece knit dress, a down vest...and of course, a chunky scarf! With the ear flaps of my RockiNoggins' helmet cover buttoned underneath my chin, I rolled down the street towards the office. Not too far into my ride I felt the burn of the wind chill licking at the tips of fingers - even through the winter cycling gloves I was wearing. Eeeek!!  It was clear and sunny yet dry ice cold.
Stylishly layering pieces of clothing for winter cycling
Warm but stylish via Po Campo
I made it to work indeed and warmed up once I pried my stiff fingers off the handlebars of my bike. I know there are bar mitts that can help keep my hands warm by blocking the wind but, man they are oh-so not cute. Unless you have a lobster fetish because they kind of look like giant lobster claws at the end of your bike's handlebars. Bar mitts may look ridiculous but I've heard that they work. And it's probably better to be comfortable than miserable. Fortunately I don't think I need something like that...yet. 

Now, if only the bar mitts were more of a furry muff handwarmer similar to this, I'd probably wear it!

Faux Fur Muff Handwarmers
Faux Fur Muff Handwarmers via Etsy
The temperature digits have warmed up since then and I'm loving it! Just cool enough where I can dress wintery and not be too cold or be too hot during my ride. The trick is in layering:

  • A base layer made of natural fiber like wool (or synthetic  material is also okay) to wick away moisture and keep your skin dry is the key to not shivering when you've stopped pedaling .
  • A vest can block the wind from cooling down your core and is easy to take off without needing to pull it over the helmet. A vest works better for me than a jacket because my forearms tend to get too warm mid-ride and I like having ventilation through the arm holes :-D 
  • Sometimes I'll wear arm warmers for when I start cold that I can pull off as I get warmer. The sportier ones are worn under my sleeves while the cuter knit ones are worn over my sleeves.
  • I can easily take off my scarf mid-ride. There are many ways to tie a scarf so that it is secure and stays out of the way, yet is easy to undo and pull off.
  • Depending on how warm it is before I start my ride home, I may take off my leg warmers and/or tights. I learned from a fellow Cuter Commuter that upcycling the arms from old sweaters also works for leg warmers or arm warmers (and finish with a stretchy lace at the top, or not)! I'll have to try it.

Do what works for you and it may take trial and error. But don't be afraid to explore combinations of clothing pieces you already have in your wardrobe -- and have fun!! Stay warm out there!

Truckee River and bike trail during winter
Happy on my bike, in the moment watching ducks swim by on the Truckee River.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

RockiNoggins Blake Helmet Cover Review

These days, the autumn mornings have been downright chilly on my poor little ears! I used to keep 'em toasty during my bike commutes to work by wearing ear muffs but they fit terribly under a helmet. "Like trying to put socks on a rooster" as my father-in-law would say! It's also one more thing to carry and it takes up room in my bag on the way home when I don't need it. Alas, RockiNoggins came to my rescue! Designed in Seattle, WA, they not only offer helmet covers for women, but also for men and children.
RockiNoggins "Blake" Helmet Cover, Stylish Helmet Cover
RockiNoggins "Blake" Helmet Cover
Is it a hat or is it a helmet? Well, the tweed fabric atop my head looks like a hat, but it is actually a stylish helmet cover. This RockiNoggins "Blake" helmet cover also has some nice functional features built-in.
  1.  RockiNoggins' helmet covers are designed to fit most helmets so there is no need to buy a proprietary helmet for the cover. The covers should fit whatever helmet you already have. Covers are available in Small/Medium and Large/Extra Large  in lightweight, heavyweight and water resistant materials. I'm wearing the small/medium size "Blake" Helmet Cover over a small size Giro Reverb helmet.
  1. Fleece-lined ear flaps unsnap at the top of the head and the straps snap under the chin to keep your ears warm! There are several points to secure them for adjustment. When the extra warmth is not needed, just snap the ear flaps back up at the top.

    I have used the ear flaps when it was 28 degrees in the mornings and they kept my ears protected from the wind chill while descending for a mile! So not only are the ear flaps cute but they're actually functional. They stayed snug to my ears instead of flopping around and letting the wind pass through.
  2. Light loop in the back to hang a rear taillight and help increase visibility through the dwindling daylight.
  1. Button snap to attach accessories such as a matching tweed bow with rhinestone-detail or a cute knit flower. In my opinion, this is a necessary functional feature, don't you agree?!? ;-)
The cover attaches to the helmet with removal Velcro strips which are included with each helmet cover. I was initially concerned with how secure the attachment system would be.

RockiNoggins stylish herringbone tweed "Blake" helmet cover
Stylish herringbone tweed "Blake" helmet cover by RockiNoggins
After flying downhill at over 35 m.p.h. and traveling over 20 miles during my commute, the cover stayed put! It did not rotate or lift and it will surely stay in place during future bicycle trips. As for ME, I can't say I won't fall apart after climbing the hill towards home.
Cuter Commuter wearing RockiNoggins Stylish Helmet Cover
My 'bikeyface' after coming up the mile long hill to our driveway.
I definitely recommend the RockiNoggins helmet cover for your chilly bicycle commutes. With a prices starting from $24.95 it is a great deal for my budget!

RockiNoggins Stylish Helmet Covers for Men, Women and Children
RockiNoggins Helmet Covers for men, women and children.
If you like this RockiNoggins "Blake" helmet cover,  you might also like their other selections of helmet covers to suit the seasons and your personality on the RockiNoggins website. Check out their video on YouTube!

Thank you RockiNoggins for making my commute more comfortable yet still stylish. With RockiNoggins on my head, there's no more ugly commutes!

Disclaimer: Helmet cover provided by RockiNoggins. Review is entirely from my findings and personal opinion.
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