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  • Shopping for a 1-Person Backpacking Tent

    Posted on April 21st, 2017 admin No comments

    When I was younger, I did a bit of bike touring and backpacking with my kids.  I toted a three-person tent for them, and a bivy shelter for myself.  Had thought for years about getting a light-weight 1- or 2-person tent and getting back into it.  But the wife isn't into that kind of camping (her ideal is to camp in a motel) and I kept putting it off.

    This summer, I have the opportunity to do a bit of touring with Circuit Cycle and Sports in Millet, who is organizing a bunch of trips.  This gives me a chance to revisit the light tent idea.    For the first trip, there are four possibilities:

    1. Drive my current 4-person dome tent to the destination and leave it there, bike to the campsite, ride back, then drive back to the camp and retrieve the tent.  A bit of organization and time required, but only cost is for gas.  This is a good tent with full fly and huge vestibule: I can stand up in it, there's lots of room for gear or a roommate if necessary.  Hey, I can pre-deliver lawn chairs, a table, all the comforts of car camping!
    2. Use my current "emergency" bivouac, which consists of a "survival blanket"  (from Survive Outdoors Longer),  a lightweight nylon tarp for a ground sheet, and bits of rope and parachute cord.  I've used this system for years for winter camping where mosquitoes aren't a problem.  With a bit of mosquito netting, I could  probably make this work (and mossies usually go to bed shortly after I do!).   Total mass including cordage less than 0.8 kg, cost was about $25 total.  These things live in my day pack (in various iterations) and have seen emergency use over the years.

      SOL Sport Utility Blanket and a general-purpose waterproof nylon sheet

      SOL Sport Utility Blanket and a general-purpose waterproof nylon sheet

    3. Purchase a used tent.  I found a bottom-end 2-person tent by Escort for $10 at the local Second Glance store, the kind with a handkerchief-sized fly that lets the rain in when you open the door and bleeds moisture in through the fabric wherever you touch it.  Since the trip will probably be cancelled for inclement weather, this would do, but I really don't like that kind of tent on general principles.  Still, price is great.  Mass about 2 kg, surprisingly low.    I also found a rather large and somewhat hefty used  2.5 kg Cabela 1-person tent on kijiji.com for $150.   Tempted by that one, despite its relatively high mass.
    4. Purchase a new tent.   Ah, but what to buy.   Prices range from cheapie Chinese knockoffs for under $100 to high-end ultra-light technical marvels in the $800+ range.

      Wind-Wing 1 by Korean manufacturer Naturehike

      Wind-Wing 1 by Korean manufacturer Naturehike

    I can afford good quality, and I generally try to buy the best gear that I can afford -- but can I justify it for a few occasional uses?   I'm not apt go get seriously back into either bike touring or backpacking because I currently have no one to go with, and it worries my wife when I head off on my own (unhappy wife, unhappy life).

    In the end, I narrowed my choices to the entry-level Naturehike Wind-Wing 1 from GearBest in China ($102 delivered, complete with footprint; 1.7 kg) , and the mid-priced Spark 1 from Mountain Equipment Coop ($299 delivered, footprint extra $32, total mass 1.3 kg)

    MEC's Spark 1 is a mid-priced 1 person tent

    MEC's Spark 1 is a mid-priced 1 person tent

    Naturehike is a Korean company specializing in outdoor merchandise.   Their products are generally well-reviewed and they appear to be reasonably well-made.   Nobody is going to pretend that they're similar to a Big Agnes or a MSR Carbon Reflex, but for a starter tent it looks like a reasonable choice at an attractive price.

    Mountain Equipment Coop is local, and there's some merit to spending my money in Canada.   MEC offers a rock-solid guarantee and I was really tempted by the Spark 1 tent.  It's a bit larger and roomier than the Wind-Wing, is 400 grams lighter, and might be a little more compact when packed (hard to tell from the online images).  But at more than three times the price, it seems a bit high for "I'll try this to see how I like it".   If I were younger, or if I had a travelling companion, and knew I were going to be doing a lot of light-weight travel, I'd get the 2-person Spark 2.

    But life is what it is, and for now I'm on my own or going with a group.   Today I put in the order for the NH Wing 1 and paid a little extra for tracked air shipping and delivery insurance, for a total of $102 CAD. Watch for a review soon.


    I wound up purchasing the WindWing from GearBest, but also found another Naturehike product at Banggood.com for only $75 CAD shipped to my door. Now I have two tents!   I thought I'd select one for personal use and sell the other.

  • Snow Cycling on Leduc Multiway

    Posted on April 15th, 2017 admin No comments


    My friends Brian and Teresa at Circuit Cycle and Sports in Millet have organized an exciting schedule of rides for this spring and summer.  Today’s ride, the first of the season, was rescheduled because of weather (temp -2C, 5 cm of snow) but I went anyway.  And hey, it wasn't that bad.

    From our front porch Friday morning

    From our front porch Friday morning

    I'm training for the Leduc-Camrose MS Ride, and just generally trying to get back into shape, so I've made a point of walking for 30 minutes and cycling for at least 30 minutes each day.  Why let a little snow stop me?

    Yesterday I was on the streets, getting splashed by passing cars.  I wore five light layers and was comfy, having to unzip at the neck a couple of times when I was working hard.    Today, being lazy, I wore a mock turtleneck, a zippered hoodie, and my winter parka.  And oy, was I warm! By the time I got home both parka and hoodie were unzipped to my navel and I was pretty soggy with perspiration.

    At the trailhead.  Leduc Common in background.

    At the trailhead. Leduc Common in background.

    I  first took out the off-road bike (Rockhopper), but before leaving the yard I switched to the Peugeot, my town bike, because it has fenders and wouldn't splash up onto my clothes.  Unfortunately, it also has  2.5" tires with a street tread.   Slip sliding away!

    There was nobody at the trail head (I was a little late; they may have come and left), so I took a selfie, trying to catch Leduc Common in the background, then set off.  Parts of the multiway were plowed, making my ride easier and drier.  But the unplowed parts were a bugger!  Over 5 cm of wet, sticky snow to plow through.  Often with a headwind to boot!

    Parts (but not all) of the multiway were plowed

    Parts (but not all) of the multiway were plowed

    Rather than follow the scheduled twelve-kilometer route, I just rode my 30 minutes and pulled in to home.    In some ways, it was harder than yesterday's ride because of slogging through the snow.  At one point, my front derailleur was so clogged with mud and snow that I couldn't downshift to go up and over a railway crossing.  Darned near had to hoof it, but did manage to bull through and didn't skid out.

    All in all, it was a decent ride.  Being on the multiway meant I wasn't on the road being splashed by passing cars.  It wasn't that cold.  I could have dressed a bit more sensibly, but  sweaty  is good, right?  It means I was working and burning calories.  Normally I'd avoid getting that damp in the winter due to the risk of hypothermia, but for a short ride close to home, I wasn't worried.

    You may be thinking, "Idiot could have dismounted and walked through the snow-covered parts."    Sure I could.  But that would have felt like cheating.

  • A Look at the Lumos Bike Helmet

    Posted on December 19th, 2016 admin No comments

    A couple of weeks ago, in the middle of a spell of really cold (-35C) weather, my Lumos bike helmet arrived.    I was excited to see it but not at all motivated to go cycling, so it sat there for a week before I even got to unboxing it.

    Mistimed Marketing

    The thing was originally supposed to ship last summer, which would have been nice, but KS projects seldom deliver on time (you'd think they'd learn to underpromise).  Oh, and they included a bunch of discount cards for referrals -- guess what, they expire Dec 31!  So instead of having a few months to show off my helmet and give my friends a discount coupon,  I have... NO TIME AT ALL because none of my cycling friends are going to see this helmet until next spring.   Nice bit of marketing, but badly timed.

    Ah, well.  The weather's supposed to be nicer this week, so I might get out on a bike to ride through the snow; maybe not right now with winds up to 70 km/h, but some time this week.  At any rate...

    Helmet from the back

    Helmet from the back, showing switch and charge port

    A Nice-Looking, Well-Made Helmet

    The helmet looks well-made, nicely finished with all the parts fitting together well, no gaps or blemishes.  As might be expected, it's a bit hefty, massing 436 g.  Compare this to my Specialized helmet at 250 g and a cheaper Bell Micro at 346 g.  Still, it fits my head well enough and doesn't feel that bad as I sit here typing with it on.

    Lumos helmet showing front lights

    Lumos helmet showing front lights

    The switch at the back cycles through three flash patterns for the tail light and headlight in synch, and they both seem plenty bright.

    Turn Signals on the Lumos

    The turn signals show in four places:  on the helmet back, on the front, on the handlebar switch, and in a kind of "eyebrow" panel under the front of the helmet.  This latter I guess is supposed to show in your peripheral vision, though I can't see it unless the helmet is tipped dangerously forward instead of being two fingers above my eyebrows.  Perhaps it will reflect on the top of my sunglasses when I'm riding, though I doubt it.  It's one of those features that looks cool but isn't really useful.  There is something else in the center of this little panel, perhaps an ambient light sensor or a low-battery warning light.


    Left turn signal

    Left turn signal at rear


    I was impressed with the sturdy handlebar remote which snaps nicely into both the wireless and wired holders.  I don't think it will bounce out and be lost on the road, but I can still click it out and pocket it when the bike is parked.  A firm push on either the L or R button will turn on the appropriate signal light on the helmet; the button also flashes to let you know the signal light is on.  Another push turns the signal light off.

    Handlebar remote

    Handlebar remote

    Lumos Brake Lights in Beta

    Unfortunately, the brake light is iffy.   Lumos promised "integrated lights, brake, and turn signals" but delivered only two of the three.  The accelerometer that detects braking is mounted in the remote, rather than in the headgear. According to Lumos, "this feature does not work perfectly and is still being refined".  It works, sort of, but is incredibly sensitive and twitchy.  I think the brakes will go on every time you hit a bump, drop off a curb, or jog around a pothole, which suggests that on a rough route they would be on almost constantly.   All sets of lights -- both turn signals, the tail lights, and the headlights -- come on for about two seconds every time.  Lumos warns that this can "lower the battery life of your helmet and remote significantly" which is why the brake lights are off by default.  Too bad Lumos can't use the LucidBrake technology.

    Storage bag

    Storage bag

    Except when we have a chinook happening, the Lumos will sit in storage  until spring.  I guess they foresaw this, as they included a bright yellow storage bag.

    Further Reading

    • Lumos Helmet on Kickstarter
  • Unboxing the Lumos Hi-Tech Bike Helmet

    Posted on December 16th, 2016 admin No comments

    The Lumos bike helmet came last week, but it's been in the minus 30s (Celsius) here for the last week, and playing with my 101Hero 3D printer has been far more attractive than anything to do with cycling.

    Shipping box

    Shipping box

    Nonetheless,  I wanted to at least have a look at it, even if it sits in the garage until spring.

    The shipping box had arrived in good condition with no serious damage.  Inside...

    The bright yellow inner box was in perfect condition.   It fit tightly into the shipping carton but was easy enough to remove.  This box appears to be designed for retail display, and it and the contents show that considerable thought has been devoted to display marketing.

    What first caught my attention a card cleverly titled "Tips for the Perfect Unboxing".  I removed the helmet and set it aside for a moment in favor of the card.  Note the "Pull" at the bottom, which I callously ignored and simply opened the little box.

    The "Unboxing" card contained a small yellow box, a sort of accessories pack; inside were the controllers, attachment rings, and charge cables. There were a wireless switch and a wired version, both intended to mount to the handlebars with rubber rings (included in the box).  The actual switch unit snaps firmly in and out of the mount, allowing you to remove it when leaving the bike parked.  You can put the wired version on another bike, and this lets you easily move the control switch between bikes.

    The display box

    The display box


    Also in the main box with helmet and accessories pack was a yellow storage bag and a manual.  The yellow bag is where everything will stay for now.

    A report on the helmet and controls later, and maybe if the weather warms up,  an outdoor test.

    Okay, it's unboxed.6-pack-1-bottom

    Tips for Perfect Unboxing

    Tips for Perfect Unboxing



    For Further Information

  • LucidBrake

    Posted on July 4th, 2015 admin No comments

    An Alex Chen lithograph, "Central Park South Center Drive" -- mine, and mine alone!  (well, except for a couple thousand other copies...)

    20150617_105244We're just back from a Baltic Cruise on Royal Princess.  In one of the ship's contests, I won a $100 certificate for an art auction.  I hadn't gone to any of these on previous cruises, so this was an incentive to see what it was about.

    I sat with our tour organizers, Larry and Linda Isenor, who had attended the auctions on other cruises and had purchased several works.   At this auction, pictures were selling for hundreds and even thousands of dollars.  Not for me!  I wanted to give Larry and Linda my certificate and leave, but they assured me that there would be more reasonable items later.

    Near the end, some unreserved items (no preset minimum bid) came up, and I bid my $100 for "Central Park South Center Drive" by Alexander Chen, a numbered and signed lithograph, matted and framed.  In the end, I got it for $135 less my certificate, which I thought seemed to be a good deal.  I also paid $35 USD for an appraisal, which will be mailed to me later.


    CP Center Drive by Alex Chen, acrylic, 2012

    The work was a "Take Off", meaning as is/where is.   It would have cost $90 as baggage on the plane, so I removed the  big, heavy, beat-up black frame and discarded it and the glass.  The matted print, wrapped in cardboard, survived the trip home as cabin baggage!

    Now that I'm home, I looked up Chen, the "master of hyper-realism".   A poster version of the print is worth $35 USD, while the numbered and signed prints run about $135.  Matted and framed, it might be worth around $300.  I'll have to pay about $100 to have it re-framed.  Was I burned?  Or did I get a good piece of art for a good price?

    My Copy - 1926/2250

    My Copy - 1926/2250

    LucidBrake is a highly-visible stop light for cyclists, order recently named by FreezeHD as one of the top five "must have" cycling innovations.

    I bought V1 from the first campaign, and was impressed enough that I want to sell the improved Version 2. Improvements include stronger battery clips, improved battery life,  a better cover, additional flash cycles, and a more positive shut-off system.  To get yours, go to   https://lucidbrake.com/buyalucidbrake.php?affi_code=TG (Look in the top left corner to buy one!)

    Mount it on your bike (or trike), backpack, or helmet.  Keep it in the RV and  when you are ready to switch to two wheels just pop it on using the special fastening system.

    Everyone who sees it is impressed, as it really catches the attention (and lets motorists know where you are!). It has four flashing patterns --you select which one you want by however you mount the light-- a "slow down" mode, and a "stop" mode.

    Mount it, and it turns on when you move.  Remove it from its mount, lay if flat, and it turns itself off (I usually pop a battery out just to be sure).

    At $75 USD plus shipping, it costs somewhat more than your Walmart bike tail light -- but how much is your life and safety worth?logo

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