microphone with an out of focus background containing the Streets.mn logo

Essential Bike Accessories With Ian

Let’s talk bike accessories! Over his years of bike commuting, Ian has found a few items that he keeps with him at all times. Here are his recommendations!

Episode summary

00:00 | Intro
00:26 | Current news
02:07 | Ortlieb panniers
17:05 | Pizza Rack
Carrying yard waste on the Pizza Rack
DIY splash guard
28:11 | Abus Bordo folding lock
34:08 | PDW Ninja Pump
Ian’s full bike toolkit
39:46 | Rokform phone mount
51:56 | Lights
Outro

Attributions

Our theme song is Tanz den Dobberstein, and our interstitial song is Puck’s Blues. Both tracks used by permission of their creator, Erik Brandt. Find out more about his band The Urban Hillbilly Quartet on their website.

This episode was hosted, edited, and transcribed by Ian R Buck, with a news segment by Tim Marino. We’re always looking to feature new voices on the show, so if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at podcast@streets.mn.

Transcript

Ian: [00:00:02] Welcome to the Streets.mn podcast, the show where we highlight how transportation and land use can make our communities better places. Coming to you from beautiful Seward, Minneapolis, Minnesota, I am your host Ian R Buck. Today we’re going to talk bike equipment, but first a quick update on the state legislative session from our very own Tim Marino!

Tim: [00:00:21] The 2023 Transportation Omnibus is currently in conference committee as we approach the final days of the session. The House and Senate bills have some key differences, the main one being the sales tax. The House is proposing a three quarter cent sales tax with 5/8 of a cent going towards transit, while the Senate is proposing a half cent sales tax with 3/8 of a cent going towards transit. Other things up for debate are a 75 cent delivery tax; the level of planning for reduced emissions at MnDOT will be required to do for highway projects; 75% off E-bike credits; the Blue Line extension in Brooklyn Park; the overturning of a ban on studying rail from Saint Paul to Rochester and from Northfield to Minneapolis; and a study of the future of Northstar commuter rail and the rail corridor from the Twin Cities to Saint Cloud and Fargo. Things that will be in this bill will be funding for roads and bridges; a new funding for small cities; outstate transit funding; roadside pollinators for wildlife; rail safety measures; unarmed transit ambassadors to assist in safety; The Northern Lights Express train to Duluth; Idaho stops allowed for bike riders at stop signs; designation of several bike highway corridors; and the planning of an extension to the Midtown Greenway across the river. We will see what happens in the upcoming days to the final bill. 

Ian: [00:00:21] Thanks, Tim! Okay, bike accessories. I’ve been biking as my primary form of transportation since 2015, and while I haven’t tried every bike accessory out there, I’ve found some that I really like. There are a few categories of bike accessory that are so crucial for making utilitarian cycling possible, that I carry them on my bike pretty much every day: bags and cargo racks for carrying things, a lock, a pump, a phone mount, and lights. For each of these categories, I’ve picked my favorite product to share with you. Let’s dive in! First up, bags. Oh, I love bags. They hold things. They carry things. You can take stuff with you. We’re going to talk about the Ortlieb back roller classic. So this is a pannier set that comes as two separate bags, each of which attaches to the side of your rear cargo rack. Or I suppose you could put it on your front rack if you have the right rack for that. These panniers typically are sold for around $180. They’re definitely serious equipment. So if they’re so serious, how much cargo can they carry? So between the two of them, they have a capacity for 40 liters of stuff. Um, it’s so much space. I love it so much.

Ian: [00:01:50] And because this is a pannier set where the bags are just clipping onto the sides of your of your cargo rack, you can you still have like more space on top of your rack to buy. You know, you can buy a completely separate bag that goes on top of your rack and add even more space. And like these bags are basically just entirely one large compartment each, which is like their greatest strength because you can fit like anything in here. It’s a huge, huge cavern, but it’s also their greatest weakness. It’s their greatest weakness because it does make it more difficult to like fish individual items out of your bags once they’re all filled up. So it’s kind of a big dent in the versatility department. I was very surprised when I was checking these out in the store to find that they have laptop sleeves in them. Like you look at them from the outside and you think, okay, this is just like, this is just meant for camping for bikepacking. But I mean, they threw us commuters a bone and just like put a laptop sleeve in here. That laptop sleeve also has a little like mesh pocket built into it near the top so that you can put like little items that you know that you’re going to need to be able to grab. And you don’t want them to get buried down in the bottom of your pannier. You can use that little mesh pocket for that.

Ian: [00:03:27] It is very easy to attach and detach these panniers to your cargo rack. I very, very much like the quick lock system that Ortlieb came up with. These clips are very adjustable. You can slide them to the left and right on the pannier itself, depending on like how exactly your cargo rack is, is like sized. And then also it has this clip down at the bottom that well, I guess two thirds of the way down the bag that you can move side to side. And it also rotates a full 360 degrees so that it can hold hold the panniers from, you know, swinging outwards from your cargo rack. Um, yeah, they’re definitely meant to go onto a rear cargo rack, but I was able to get these panniers to fit onto the sides of my pizza rack, which is the front rack that I have on my bike. And, and I love them for that. They’re very versatile. But once you take them off of the rack, they’re not quite as natural to use. They do have a strap at the top that you can use to just like carry them around as a day bag. But like, because these, this, this bag is so huge and you can fit so much stuff in it like I have encountered quite a few times where like I’ve just put so much stuff in the bag that it’s too heavy to really carry around.

Ian: [00:05:09] Like at like with just a single strap going over one shoulder and it just like is constricting all of the, the blood flow to my arm. Um, not very comfortable. So the solution for that is I highly recommend buying the pannier carrying system from Ortlieb, which essentially turns your pannier into a backpack. So it attaches to the pannier where the pannier would be clipping onto your bike. So it does take a moment to set up like when you, when you’ve, you bike to your destination, you get there and then you take your pannier off of the rack and then you have to spend a moment, um, attaching this backpack attachment to the pannier. But once you do, you just carry it around like a normal backpack and it’s like surprisingly comfortable. It works with any Ortlieb pannier because all of their panniers use this same like quick lock system for for putting them onto your rack. Um, and yeah, it’s pretty easy to transport. Like, you know, you roll up the, the backpack attachment and then you can either stick it into your bag or because the back roller, like the way that you close it is rolling down the top of the bag. Um, and then, and then closing that with a strap and a clip that goes over it. You can just stick the backpack attachment, slip it, you know, in between the bag and the strap that’s holding it closed.

Ian: [00:06:40] Um, and, and carry it with you. So, yeah, I use the Ortlieb back roller classics as my just like daily bag that I’ve got with me on my bike for most days. I only have one of them with me and that’s plenty of cargo capacity for just about anything that I, that I end up needing to carry with me on a normal day. Um, occasionally I’ll add a second one or I actually, I like these, these bags so much that I bought myself a second pair of them. And so now I can fit four of them on my bike and. And then I have 80 liters of bag space to play with. Like, it’s so much space I can carry anything that I want to. Uh, it feels like I can carry anything that I want to with my current bike setup.

Ian: [00:07:36] All right. Water resistance. So this is Ortlieb’s strongest suit for sure. These bags are ip64 rated, which means that they are completely like ingress, protected for solid particles. And then for water, they will resist splashing from any direction for a sustained period of time. So they’re not as like waterproof as like the roll down bags that you would get for a canoe trip, for example. Right. Where they can just like be completely immersed in a lake for hours at a time, you know, without getting anything wet. But for anything that you can expect to encounter on a bike ride, you know, heavy rain, anything like that, these panniers can handle all of that.

Ian: [00:08:23] All right. Let’s talk about durability and repairability. So I’ve been using these bags for four years now, and I can definitely vouch for both of those aspects. These these bags are built to last and they are built to be repairable when they do break. Um, so I’ve had to take a few bike bags down to Repair Lair to try to get them fixed up and the staff at Repair Lair, uh, have some very strong opinions, justifiably so, about the bike bag industry and some of the corners that companies cut in order to like make waterproof bags that aren’t too expensive. And a lot of times the things that get left behind are the durability of the product. And and honestly, the repairability, right? So things that I have been warned to look out for is anytime that you see something that has like zippers, you know, were they heat welded or are they held together by adhesives? Right. That’s a bad sign. You want something that is going that is stitched together. Right. But of course, stitching something and then waterproofing that stitching that’s more expensive. So that’s often why these companies do that kind of thing. Um, another thing to look out for is any time that there’s like hardpoints that are attached to the fabric of the bag. Did they use rivets or did they use screws? Right.

Ian: [00:10:06] If if a company uses rivets, those are going to be impossible to replace without like ripping out the fabric of the bag. So you want to look for for stuff that uses screws. The Ortlieb back roller classic uses screws and Ortlieb sells replacement parts for all of the different parts of this bag. So I have had like the hooks break on me because those are a hard plastic and they get kind of brittle in the in the cold. So I’ve had one that broke on me in the middle of winter. Um, I’ve had some springs fail on me and each time, like I have just had to buy a $7 part in order to replace that and and get my bag. Um, you know, back in shape. The screws are like, standard. So one time I lost a screw from one of my back rollers, and I just had to go to the nearest hardware store and find the correct screw to replace it. Um, yeah, I’m very, very happy with the repair ability of these bags. So, yeah, this is kind of the main reason that I recommend the back roller classics to many, many people, even though they are pretty expensive. Um, I know that they’re going to last a long time and that even when they have little issues that need fixing, it’s a very, very affordable and very quick fix.

Ian: [00:11:44] For visibility. They have reflective like slow vehicle, inverted triangle symbols on the sides of them. And that means that like any anybody who’s approaching your bike from the front or the back, they’ll be able to see that reflective surface. Um, which is awesome. And, and I also find it really hilarious, like when I’m wearing this pannier as a backpack using the backpack attachment right now I’ve got like slow vehicle symbols on on the left and right sides of my backpack. And so like anybody who sees me walking around with this bag. Um, you know, it kind of just like makes you wonder like, who is this guy? Like, what is he doing? What kind of equipment is he carrying around. For the base color of the bags; You can either buy it in black or yellow. Obviously, the yellow one will be easier to see. But with the with those large reflective parts, I don’t I don’t feel any trepidation owning the black variant.

Ian: [00:12:50] Uh, some final thoughts here. Um, these bags, like, really mess up kind of the whole price lineup for Ortlieb’s products. So they cost $180, which like comparing it to a lot of other panniers does seem like a lot but like they are very serious. They’re, they’re high quality. The company like supports them you know with with a lot of like replacement parts and everything. So that’s all very good. But then like if you compare it to other Ortlieb products, which also are all like, you know, made of the same, um, waterproof material and they, you know, they’re all going to be supported by the company and everything.

Ian: [00:13:35] Um, the back roller classics like have by far the highest volume to price ratio. So like when you’re looking for a new pannier, you really have to ask yourself if you like, if you really need that messenger style commuter bag, right? Because Ortlieb sells some other bags that don’t look quite as like, you know, like it doesn’t scream, “I’m going on a campout,” right? It looks like a, you know, more respectable commuter bag that you might, you know, see a professional carrying around in the city. But but like, you know, then you think about, oh, how much cargo capacity does that have versus like the price and like. Those are almost always like twice as expensive as the back roller classics. And it’s like, Do I really need that? I don’t know. Like, I feel like I can just get away with carrying the back roller classic around with me and, and having tons and tons of cargo capacity. Even like the, the gravel pack I was, I was taking a look at the gravel pack is like very similar in form to the back roller classics, but it’s like the version that’s meant for going on a front rack. It has like a little bit more. I think that the gravel pack has like 23 liters of capacity, so a little bit more than half as much as the back roller classics, but it still costs like $170.

Ian: [00:15:00] So it’s only a $10 difference. And it’s like, what? What? I’m just going to buy the back rollers again, of course. Um, so yeah, like I mentioned, I bought a second pair of back rollers because like, I love just having as much cargo capacity on my bike as possible. And like with four of these things, two of them on my back rack and two of them on my front rack, I feel like I’ve just about maxed out the amount of like cargo space that I can eke out of my, you know, my bike, which is a standard frame like safety bicycle. Um, and, you know, I suppose I could get like a frame bag. I might be able to hang some stuff from my handlebars, but like, you know, like that’s kind of pennies on the dollar compared to how much stuff I can fit into the ortlieb back roller classics. So yes, I, I highly recommend these, um, these panniers, um, they do cost a lot, but like, man, are they worth it.

Ian: [00:16:00] All right. Next, let’s talk about cargo racks. I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about rear cargo racks because while they’re not all the same, they’re kind of all the same. You know, if you get one that seems to be decent quality and it’s probably going to work for you, some of them are going to have a little bit more room on top of them to like strap stuff down.

Ian: [00:16:24] But by and large, you’ll be able to put whatever panniers you have onto the sides of whatever rack you get. Now front cargo racks, though. Oh, those come in a lot of different shapes and sizes. And if you have ever met me and talked to me about bike stuff, you’ve probably heard me ranting and raving about my very favorite Pizza Rack that I have on my main commuter bike. So the pizza rack is a bike cargo rack that goes on your front fork. It has a flat platform on top and rails on the sides for attaching panniers to. The pizza rack costs $90. For capacity, this cargo rack has a listed weight limit of 15kg, which for reference is probably it’s a little bit more than 3 12-packs of soda. The top platform of the rack is approximately the dimensions of your standard size pizza, which is definitely how it got its name. I highly recommend getting a cargo net to go with this this rack so that you can just like place whatever you want on top of it, regardless of like size or shape, and then you can just still secure it down using this net. I suppose you could also get you could like get some sort of basket that you strap to the top of it, but then you’re kind of like constraining the dimensions of like what kinds of things you can fit on top of this rack.

Ian: [00:18:07] So I like, I really like having just, just a cargo net that’s made of like, you know, bungee material. The largest item that I have ever carried with this thing was a garbage bag full of leaves. That’s definitely not the heaviest thing that I’ve carried. But, you know, because this nice wide platform that’s just flat, we were able to put the garbage bag on top and then we used the cargo net, not really as a full cargo net to surround the entire garbage bag, but just used it as like a bungee cord to kind of, um, hold, hold that that garbage bag in place so that it wouldn’t fall off. That was that was quite an adventure. Look for a picture of that in the show notes. Um, the heaviest items that I have, uh, carried is definitely like when I was grocery shopping for the snacks for game club at school, and I just loaded up like 3 12-packs of soda and then like a few boxes of pop tarts and whatever, whatever. Um, so I’ve gotten pretty darn close to that 15 kilogram weight limit I may have actually gone over. I’m not sure. Um, but it’s, you know, it handles it really well.

Ian: [00:19:24] Versatility. So the railings on the sides of this rack for panniers are pretty well placed to like approximate the size and shape of like a rear cargo rack. So, but, you know, it’s not a guarantee that like any panniers that you get for your rear rack are going to work on the pizza rack, it is more likely than like with a lot of front racks. I’ve seen a lot of front racks are just kind of like these really small little like, I don’t know, triangles of of railings that just, you know, kind of extend just above the, the, the axle of your wheel. And, you know, those small ones are definitely not going to be appropriate for most rear panniers, but the pizza rack is more likely to fit a rear pannier. The the tubes on this rack are rather thick. They’re like 13mm I think. And so you might have some challenges getting, you know, hooks from your panniers over, over those railings. Um, but yeah, this is all compatibility stuff that you definitely want to check, uh, before you like actually buy either, you know, panniers to go with the pizza rack or buying the pizza rack to go with your panniers. For me personally, I use the Ortlieb back roller classics as my main bags, and those work both on my rear racks and on my front racks. I did explore. I tried to buy the ortlieb gravel packs, which is the very similar to the back rollers, but they’re, you know, the variant that’s meant for going onto front racks and the gravel pack wasn’t able to fit on the pizza rack, which was, which was kind of wild, um, because like, it wasn’t tall enough, the bag itself wasn’t tall enough for its bottom hooks to be able to hook onto the, the railings of the pizza rack. So I just have four back rollers, two on my rear rack and two on my front rack, and that gives me all the cargo capacity that I could ask for. To attach the pizza rack to your bike, you do have to make sure that your front fork has mounting points on like the sides of the fork and then also one on the front of your fork at the top. Um, turns out the front fork on my bike has one on the back at the top, which is normally used for like attaching fenders, but it didn’t have one at the front. So the bike shop that I was buying the pizza rack from had to fashion a piece of metal that kind of bent around to like, go under the fork and then attach to the back mounting point. And so, of course, because it was going like under the top of the fork, this reduced my tire clearance, which has given me a lot of challenges with like, you know, fitting my fenders into there along with the studded tires that I use during the winter. Um, so that’s, that’s something that you should definitely keep in mind.

Ian: [00:22:43] Shout out to Bicycle Chain in, in Roseville for helping me out with that. Um, but yeah I’ve, I’ve had to kind of, you know, cut and snip parts off of my fenders to get them to not rub against my studded tires. Also, having the pizza rack on my bike does make it a little bit more difficult to put it on like a city bus’s, bike rack. So metro transit buses have that hook that you have to put over, kind of like the top of your front wheel. And that’s exactly where the pizza rack goes. So I have found that when I’m putting my bike up onto the bike rack on the bus, I have to like lean the bike way over towards its right side in order to, like, get the hook up and over the pizza rack. And then the hook does sit kind of nicely on the little the little bar, the little piece of metal that holds the pizza rack onto the front of my fork. And so once you get the hook onto that spot, it’s it’s very secure. And I haven’t had any trouble with like the bike, you know, wiggling around, jostling around or anything like that. Um, but like, the process of getting that hook up to where it needs to be is a bit more arduous. I really do love the amount of versatility that this pizza rack lends to my whole bike build. Um, you know, on, on days when I like unexpectedly end up picking up cargo and I either don’t have any room in my panniers or I just like I didn’t bring any bags with me or whatever, I can usually just plop whatever it is that somebody gave me right there on top of the pizza rack and just like secure it down with my cargo net.

Ian: [00:24:28] And that’s and it’s not a problem. It also is like really useful for, you know, if somebody gives me, I don’t know, like a pie or something like that and it’s like, well, I could easily fit this into my panniers, but then it would be sideways. Um, just placing it flat on top of the pizza rack gives me a different option for how to carry things and, you know, orient the stuff that I’m carrying with me.

Ian: [00:24:52] Uh, durability. No concerns. I’ve had a couple of screws that have come loose sometimes, you know, while my bike is is rattling around. But, you know, it’s not hard to tighten those back down. You know, I haven’t I haven’t had any of, like, the tubes bending or anything like that. Um, and, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s a rack that connects to your bike. It attaches to your bike at the points where the bike is built to take all of that weight. So, you know, I don’t I don’t have any concerns there. So final thoughts. This rack is definitely one of my favorite things about my bike build and it’s easily the most unique.

Ian: [00:25:32] I once there was a kid on the light rail who, you know, was looking at my bike and he said, I’ve never seen a bike like that before. And I like, looked at him and I’m like, It’s a pretty normal bike. Like, what are you talking about? But I think I’m pretty sure that he was just like, you know, because the pizza rack gives the bike just a completely different like silhouette. And, you know, it looks totally different than what you normally see on a bike. You know, it really caught his attention. Um, I definitely, you know, whenever I’m like out and about, if I see another bike that has a pizza rack on it, I kind of feel compelled to, like, take a picture of the bikes together just because, like, that’s. It’s kind of a special moment. Um, one pro tip that I have, if you do end up buying the pizza rack, is that so? The top, you know, platform, of course, is not like a solid platform. It’s just, you know. A bunch of those same railings that make up the rest of the rack just parallel next to each other. So stuff that’s on top of the rack is kind of liable to get like grime and stuff splashed up onto it from your tire. So what I did is I took an old yard sign and I cut it down to size and I zip tied it to the underside of that top platform on my pizza rack so that, yeah, things aren’t going to get quite as wet. Look in the show notes again for a picture of that.

Ian: [00:27:05] Next up, bike locks for security. When you get to your destination, you want to know that your bike is still going to be there at the bike rack when you come back outside. The lock that I’ve been using for a few years is the Abus Bordo 6000. Let’s chat about that. So folding locks for your bicycle. They are more versatile than a u-lock, but way more secure than a cable lock. Compare this one to the Foldylock that I reviewed a few weeks ago. So you can go back and listen to that episode as well to really get a sense for how these two break down compared to each other. The Bordo 6000 comes in at about $110, depending on where you’re buying it from. Let’s talk about the size of this lock. So it is made of segments that are about 14cm long each, which means that it unfolds to a 90 centimeter circumference and it has almost 400cm² of interior area for you to play with. It weighs 1.2kg after using the Foldylock, it definitely feels much more light and compact, but it is definitely it’s still a heavy lock in the grand scheme of things. So if you’re somebody who is really sensitive to how much weight you’re putting on your bike, you know, I guess I mean, you probably aren’t even looking at folding locks. So what are you doing here?

Ian: [00:28:38] Durability. So this lock is sold secure, silver rated. There’s only there’s only like one model of folding lock that I know of that has a higher security rating than this one, and it is almost twice the price. So I definitely made that, made that calculus, made that call for myself that like, I don’t need a $200 lock for my, you know, $1,200 bike. I have not yet experienced any attacks against this lock, thank goodness. But I will, of course, update this review if if any, do occur. The joints and the locking mechanism have remained nice and smooth. No seizing up or anything like that. I have it mounted on the bottom of my downtube so it does get quite a lot of like splash back from my front tire if I’m whenever I’m like riding in even slightly wet conditions. And so yeah, I’m very happy with the way that it has held up to being bombarded with with water. The lock does come with an extra key. So you can either leave that in a drawer at home for, you know, as a backup or, you know, if you’ve got like multiple people in your household who need to have access to the key, that that’ll work there. It also comes with a personal code that you can use for ordering more keys if you need them.

Ian: [00:30:14] And finally, I would like to note that the all of the segments of this lock are covered in like a slightly rubbery material so that you don’t scratch your bike as you’re moving it around, you know, and getting that that locked up. So the versatility of this lock, I mean, in general, just for folding locks in general, this is what impresses me the most about the design. So they have a much greater circumference than most u-locks and it can unfold into different shapes so that it can lock to like a much wider variety of objects. This one in particular, the Bordo 6000, has much narrower segments than the Foldylock does, so it is easier to, like, thread it through like narrow little. You know what I’m talking about that there are bike locks that bike racks that aren’t very well designed for allowing you to like, you know, get your lock in there. And, and I’ve found that I’ve had an easier time with that using using this lock than I did with the Foldylock. As with most folding locks, the the Bordo 6000 comes with a holster that you screw on to your bike frame on one of the like water bottle mounting points. The lock then slides into this holster and it’s held securely in place. I’ve found that this is a much better carrying experience than like either a U lock or a cable lock and this holster in particular.

Ian: [00:31:42] So most folding locks that I’ve seen, they have kind of like a rubber strap that holds the lock in place. But this one, it’s got these like spring loaded clamps, which is really, really neat. And and it it feels really secure, even though it almost doesn’t look like it should be able to hold the lock securely in place. Like I’ve never had it jiggling around. I’ve never had it sliding out or anything like that, even though I have it mounted on the bottom of my downtube, you know, which is like that is that is prime location for the lock, just like sliding out of the holster and falling off. I’ve had zero problems with that. So final thoughts? Yeah, I like this lock a lot. I think definitely. Like if I ever have to buy another lock, I’ll definitely be looking at this brand, probably this model. It feels like a good price point for me. It feels like a good amount of security that it gives me. And I just I really like the experience of using this lock. And so unless in the future there’s like there there’s a totally different paradigm in. The in the bike lock world. I think I’ll be sticking with with something very similar to this one.

Ian: [00:33:01] All right. Let’s talk about travel sized frame pumps so that you can reinflate your tires after changing a flat out on the road. I know that in a previous episode last summer, I talked about all of the different items that I have in my tool kit that I have on my bike. I’ll include a link to that, to that video again in the show notes for this episode. But I want to talk specifically about pumps right now. So we’re going to chat about the Portland Design Works Ninja Pump. So sometimes you got to pump up your tires while you’re out on the road. It sucks, but it’s better than walking home. This frame pump comes in at around $35. And we’re going to start off today by talking about the versatility of this product, because I think that this is probably one of its strongest suits. So this pump is compatible with both Presta and Schrader valves, and it has a really clever mechanism for like establishing a seal with the tire’s valve. When you think about pumps, usually you think of them as like you kind of jam it on there as, as you know, securely as you can. And then there’s like a little lever that you pull outwards to, you know, kind of establish that sealing, lock it in place. But for this ninja pump, what you do is it actually threads onto the stem itself. So you’re literally like kind of placing it on the the end of the stem and then screwing on this, this, this pump onto the the stem itself.

Ian: [00:34:46] And that establishes like a really, really good solid seal. The other reason that I say that this is a very versatile pump is that it it’s not just a hand pump. You can use it, you know, just to pump up, pump up a tire with your own energy, or it can be used as a CO2 inflator. So it’s got another spot on the end where you can screw in a CO2 cartridge and and then use that to inflate your tire. So yeah, it’s just really nice to be able to have the choice of like, oh, do, do I have the energy, time and energy to pump up this tire myself or do I want to use a CO2 cartridge for this? Especially since like, you know, if you’ve used a CO2 cartridge once in the in your current bike ride and you don’t have any more like you’re going to need a pump. So might as well have both of those be covered by the same the same tool, the same item. In the size department this is an extremely compact pump and it comes with a holster that mounts like alongside a water bottle cage. So it’s it’s basically taking up no space on my bike whatsoever. I’ve never noticed the extra weight of having it on my frame. It’s great. Um, I will say that the, the handle is pretty short so you don’t get all that much air per stroke.

Ian: [00:36:13] But even so, it doesn’t take too long to get your tire up to a rideable pressure. And when I say rideable, I don’t mean like ideal. I just mean like the minimum viable pressure that that you can get it up to in order to limp home. Supposedly this pump. Yeah, it can handle up to 100 psi. Um, I don’t know. You might be able to get up to a decent pressure if you’re using it as a CO2 inflator, but honestly, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t sit there using it as a hand pump all day just to get it up to, you know, your ideal tire pressure.

Ian: [00:36:51] Durability. This is another big strong suit for this pump. It has fantastic build quality. It’s an almost all metal body, makes it feel very, very solid and durable, though I guess if it’s all metal, I can imagine that this might not be a fun pump to use in the winter time. You know, you might kind of start freezing your fingers off by touching it, But I mean, you’re going to be wearing a gloves anyway, right? Uh, the fact that it threads onto the valve also gives me confidence that, like, that whole area of the pump will last for a long time. This was my major problem with the Pocket Rocket, which was my previous frame pump. Is that the like kind of rubber seal inside the the valve area of, of the pump like degraded over time pretty significantly.

Ian: [00:37:43] And it became really, really hard to get like a proper seal from it, uh, during its later, later days. And so that’s why I ended up buying this pump is because well, I just, you know, my, my old pump wasn’t doing a great job anymore and I needed a new one. And this one looked like it fit the bill.

Ian: [00:38:06] So final thoughts? Yes, definitely. I would recommend this pump. It’s it’s pretty affordable. It’s it’s very durable. It’s very small. It’s got a lot going for it. And the fact that, yeah, you can use it either as a hand pump or to help facilitate using CO2 cartridges, that’s a pretty unique feature as well and something that I wouldn’t have expected to see at this price point. So yeah, definitely check this one out if you’re in the market.

Ian: [00:38:39] All right. So. When I’m riding my bike, I need to have my phone visible in front of me. As much for navigation as for anything else. Right? Um, yeah, I know a lot of parts of of the Twin Cities pretty well by now, but there’s still, you know, sometimes you’re going on a route that you are just not as familiar with. And, and I like to be able to have like, you know, Google Maps turn by turn navigation right there in front of me. So having a phone mount that can put the phone like front and center in front of you is very, very important.

Ian: [00:39:16] And the one that I am currently using is the Rokform phone mounting system. So bike phone mounts are really hard to do. It’s a difficult product category. I’ve I’ve tried out a few different ones, reviewed a couple of them for for this show. And in my experience, they’re all either like not durable enough, which is definitely not a good thing for, for phone mounts, right? Because it’s not just the phone mount itself that’s relying on the durability. It’s also, hey, if you if your phone falls off of your bike, like, well, that could be a very bad day. So they’re either not durable enough or they’re really easy to steal. Right. Because a lot of, um, phone mounts just kind of strap to your handlebars and then, you know, when you get to the Midway Super Target and you lock up your bike and, you know, it’s easy to just like somebody walks by and they don’t have to unlock your bike or anything, they just unstrap that that bike phone mount and off they go. Um, so, yeah, or, or like the, the third alternative is they’re really expensive. And so Rokform I think has solved the first two problems, but they are pretty pricey. And I was really hesitant to try out Rokform for a long time because, you know, they like, they cost more than twice as much as any of the other phone mounts that I had used in the past.

Ian: [00:40:51] But eventually I bit the bullet. And I, you know, I am glad that I did. So let’s get into it. So instead of using like straps, you know, like rubber rubber straps on the corners of the phone or like grips that are like spring loaded or something like that, what Rokform does is they used a twist lock mechanism and there are a few like significant advantages to this. Number one, it’s very durable. Uh, number two, it’s low profile, right? You don’t have anything like sticking out past the width of the phone itself, and it’s also pretty versatile. It can be strapped on in any like, perpendicular orientation. So, um, by that I mean, you know, like I have the bike mount strapped to my handlebars on one of my bikes. So the handlebars of course are like horizontal in relation to my body. Um, but then on my other bike where I don’t have enough real estate in the cockpit area to put the phone mount on the handlebars themselves, I had to put the, the phone mount way down on my top tube, which is, you know, kind of forward and backward, Right. But even though the, the phone mount is like sideways, um, the locking mechanism, you know, works in like perpendicular to the way that it’s intended to. So I can still have my phone mounted and facing, you know, towards me, uh, in like it looks like it’s upright from my vantage point, even though the locking mechanism is, you know, sideways.

Ian: [00:42:39] Um, the major disadvantage of using this locking mechanism, though, is that, well, you have to have this locking mechanism both on the mount itself and on the phone. So to that end, they sell phone cases that have the locking mechanism like cut out of the back of the case, but they only have those cases available for certain models of Samsung and Apple phones. So if you have literally any other phone in the world, um, you are going to have to get the universal adapter, which um, is this little, you know, piece of plastic that like sticks to the back of your phone case or I suppose you could put it on to the back of the phone itself. Um, but then you’re like, I mean, it’s, it’s using this like, really strong 3M adhesive, so I wouldn’t put it on the back of the phone because then it’s going to be very difficult to get off of the phone. Um, yeah. Also it does make your phone like significantly bulkier, especially if you’re putting it on the outside of a case which already makes your phone a little bit bulkier. But it is, it is shaped in a way that I think makes it not terrible to still hold your phone. Right. You know, it’s it it’s it’s thicker in the center of the phone, which is kind of where the curve of my fingers, you know, uh, kind of dictates that my fingers are farther away from the back of the phone anyway, so it’s not terrible, but it is definitely noticeable.

Ian: [00:44:12] So yeah, to, to summarize once again, like what do you have to buy in order to get this phone mounting system to work? So you have to choose one of the two bike mounts that they have. Um, one of the bike mounts is the kind that like replaces the stem cap. This would be the like my preference because it can only be stolen if like, a thief has a hex wrench. Right? And it’s also just kind of like a better use of space. I feel like, you know, like the top of your stem is usually an area that you can’t really do anything with. Um, but, you know, if you, if you take the stem cap off and then put this phone mount like secure it in that spot, then there you go. You’re taking advantage of that space or if you for some reason, like if you’re if your bike doesn’t have a stem cap that’s like of a normal size or like in my case, I have like a USB charger that is like it takes up that space at the top of the stem. Then you will have to get the phone mount that just kind of straps to the handlebars or in my case, onto the top tube. And then also, so you’ve picked your the mount that goes on your phone.

Ian: [00:45:36] And then you also have to either buy a case to put on your phone or if there is no case available for your particular phone, you get the universal adapter and stick that onto the back of your phone. A couple of interesting things about the Universal adapter itself. Um, in addition to like the, the locking mechanism, little cutout, uh, it also has a magnet in it. I guess now I can slap my phone onto the fridge. Um, also when I have like my phone in my pocket, I can carry silverware around by just kind of slapping the silverware onto the outside of my pants? I don’t know if that’s a feature, but it’s a thing I can do now. I also have been thinking about the fact that, like, you could totally take this universal adapter and stick it onto things besides phones if you wanted to mount other things. Um, and this kind of segues us nicely into talking about the Rokform ecosystem. So let’s get into that. So yeah, Rokorm has a lot of different accessories that they sell. They don’t just make bike mounts, they make a lot of different things and most of them use this same exact locking mechanism. So it is like a nice little little ecosystem that you can take advantage of. So they have mounts for many, many different situations, right? They have the bike mounts that that we’re reviewing here.

Ian: [00:47:07] They also have motorcycle mounts, car mounts, golf mounts, ball socket mounts. Right. So just about anywhere that you could imagine like wanting to mount your phone, um, Rokform probably has like a solution for that. They also have a lot of, like other items that you can buy that can lock into these mounts. So they have like they have a Bluetooth speaker that they sell, they’ve got belt clips. If you’re the kind of person who wants to have your phone clipped to the outside of your belt, outside of your pants, um, they have pop sockets that, you know, attach to your phone via this, this locking mechanism, all kinds of stuff. For me you know, I think the bike mounts are probably the only things that I would be getting. I can totally see myself, though, getting like a second Rokform mount and then getting a like a universal adapter to slap onto a Bluetooth speaker and then, you know, like mounting that Bluetooth speaker onto like the top of my downtube and have that blasting music straight up at me. That could be cool. Yeah. Um, there’s, you know, there’s possibilities. There’s, there’s things that you can do, fun things that you can do in this space. Um, but yeah, it, it is, it is a much more expensive, um, way of, of mounting your phone onto your bike than most of the other ones, like, like all of the other, uh, phone mounts that I tried out were roughly in like the $30 price range.

Ian: [00:48:49] And for these ones, um, both of the, the, the bike mounts themselves cost $60. It looks like they kind of replaced the model that I got with a very similar looking model that uses Velcro straps instead of a like very thick rubber strap. Um, and they also doubled the price. Ugh. So yeah, you have to buy this like $60 mount and then you also have to buy a case or buy the $20 universal adapter. So like, yeah, it, it’s an expensive, um, solution, but like it’s definitely a very, very secure one. So yeah, if you are somebody who like spends a heck of a lot of time in the saddle and you need a phone mount that’s going to last a long time, or if you’re putting your bike in extreme places, like if you’re going mountain biking a lot and you know that there’s going to be a lot of like a lot of force exerted on your phone mount just by, you know, the way that your bike is moving while you ride it. I think that Rokform makes good products for for your use case. Um, yeah. If you’re, if you’re just like, riding around in the city, just daily commuting, um, you might be able to find something that’s a lot cheaper and, you know, maybe is just like, it’s so easy to take off of your handlebars that you can easily just like, you know, just take it with like when you get to where you’re going, you can just like take it off of your, your handlebars and stick it in your bag or something like that.

Ian: [00:50:32] Um, you know, that that might be a more, a better, more affordable solution than, than Rokform. Um, but it definitely, yeah, rock form definitely has, um, has appropriate use cases, I would say.

Ian: [00:50:50] All right. Let’s talk briefly about lights. You want to see and be seen when you’re on your bike. Um, I say that I’m going to talk briefly because I don’t really have, like one product that I can just, like wholeheartedly recommend, but I have a few, like, things to look out for when picking out a light. Um, so I think most people are going to gravitate towards battery powered lights because they are by far the more affordable option. Um, I have landed on dynamo powered lights for a couple of reasons and I’ll get into that in a minute. But for battery powered lights, there are a few companies that I know make good quality stuff: Light and Motion, I’ve used a couple of their lights before; Cygolite; and NiteRider. Um, when you’re looking for, like, a head lights, I would say shoot for one that puts out at least like 400 500 lumens or so. Um, you know, that’s. That’s going to give you enough, you know, throw the light far enough that you can actually see stuff in front of you when you are looking for rear lights. One of the things that I think people overlook is you don’t want one that’s going to be like flashing all of the time. Um, you want to have one that has the option of either giving you a steady light or a pulsing light. And the reason that that you don’t want it to be flashing is because, number one, you know, that can be very blinding and distracting for people riding bikes behind you or driving behind you. And it also like in the moments, brief moments, where the light is completely off. You know, if a driver like glances in your direction and doesn’t see that light and then glances away like they don’t know that you’re there. Um, so I think that, that, you know, a lot of people want to have like blinking lights because they attract more attention than one. That’s a steady light. And I think that that having one that pulses is kind of the good middle ground there. Um, now I mentioned that I use Dynamo lights and there’s a couple of reasons for that. One, I don’t want to have to remember to like charge a thing every single night. Um, actually, well, two things, right? Because it would be your headlight and your rear light that you have to charge every night.

Ian: [00:53:21] Um, number two, when I’m riding in winter, it’s, uh, you know, lithium ion batteries do not do super well in the cold. And so having a light that is powered from my spinning front wheel like that ensures that my light will stay on even as the temperatures drop. Um, now, the drawback, of course, is that it’s way more expensive. Um, if we were in the Netherlands, right, most of your practical bikes would just come with dynamo lights already pre-installed on them. It’s just kind of the assumed default. But here in the United States, usually you have to go out of your way to request, you know, um, I’m going to buy this bike and then we are going to build a wheel set to have a dynamo light on it. And we’re going to wire up those lights and everything and, you know, so you’re, you’re spending extra money on top of, like, what the initial sticker price of the bike is. Um, so, yeah, I mean, people who have dynamo lights like you can get real into the weeds about how much resistance like the Dynamo itself is, is giving you because of course, you know, it’s using magnets to generate power based from, from, you know, the power that you’re putting into spinning the wheels. So it is going to give you a bit more resistance. Um, if you are just, you know, commuting around in the city, that’s probably not a huge deal.

Ian: [00:54:51] So I would say you probably don’t need to go seek out like the, the most efficient hub. Um, and then for lights on, on a dynamo hub, um, you know, they like, if you look at the raw lumens output of them, they aren’t as bright as most led, um, you know, battery powered lights, but they have an advantage in that they’re, they’re built in with a bunch of mirrors, you know, in the housing. And so they have a very focused beam. And, you know, you can you can go online and look and see like pictures of the the light throw pattern of different different lights and see like how far out does can it shine? Um, and yeah, so I mean, pick, pick which one seems to be, you know, a reasonable point for you. Um, on my commuter bike, I ended up having to buy. I like the highest end, most expensive headlight purely because it’s the only light that is designed to be able to be like mounted upside down. And I needed it to be upside down because with the pizza rack we were mounting this light onto the front of the pizza rack, and I wanted to be able to still have like the top of the rack completely clear so that if I have like, you know, large oversized items that are, you know, spilling over the edge of the pizza rack, you know, I didn’t want to have a light like sticking up from the edge and preventing that from from being possible.

Ian: [00:56:34] So, yeah, so I have the the B&M IQ-X on my commuter bike. But that’s it’s it’s definitely overkill I think for for most people’s like commute uh, builds. But man, does it have a really, really well defined tight bright beam um, that, you know, gives a very, very even coverage, uh, throughout the entire, you know, all the way from very close to you to very far away. It’s a really good light, guys. Uh, but again, like, there are a lot of other dynamo powered lights that are going to do a good job as well.

Ian: [00:57:22] Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Streets.mn podcast! The segments on this episode came from Second Opinion, a reviews podcast that I contributed to back before getting involved with the Streets.mn Podcast. If you would like to hear more equipment reviews on this show, let me know by emailing podcast@streets.mn! I’m thinking we could talk about bike camping equipment in a future episode. And let us know if you liked the short news segment; is that something you would find useful in future episodes as well?

Ian: [00:57:22] This show is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NonDerivative license. So feel free to republish the episode as long as you are not altering it, and you are not profiting from it.

Ian: [00:57:22] The music in this episode is by Erik Brandt and the Urban Hillbilly Quartet.

Ian: [00:57:22] This episode was hosted, edited, and transcribed by me, Ian R Buck. With a news segment by Tim Marino. We’re always looking to feature new voices on the Streets.mn Podcast, so if you have ideas for future episodes, drop us a line at podcast@streets.mn.

Ian: [00:57:22] Until next time, take care!

About Ian R Buck

Pronouns: he/him

Ian is a podcaster and teacher. He grew up in Saint Paul, and currently lives in Minneapolis. Ian gets around via bike and public transportation, and wants to make it possible for more people to do so as well! "You don't need a parachute to skydive; you just need a parachute to skydive twice!"