I’ve heard it thousands of times from patrons walking into my bike shop. “My gears are messed up.” or “I can’t shift into my ___ gear.” or “My chain shifted into my wheel.” Usually it’s some complaint about gears not working on the bike and the person not knowing what to look for, how to fix it, or even understanding how gears work on a bike.
I figured it would be a good time to share some of my favorite resources on how to do a little D.I.Y. maintenance to save riders from a trip to the bike shop or at least be able to do a quick adjustment while out on a ride until they can visit their favorite bike mechanic!
Park Tool has one of THE most comprehensive repair guides they print annually as well as an amazing YouTube channel that covers almost any problem a cyclist can come into contact with on a bike.
This particular video shows the famous Calvin of Park Tool explaining in depth on how to properly set up and adjust a rear derailleur on a bike. The rear derailleur is in charge of moving the chain up and down the rear cassette or freewheel on a bike for the smaller, incremental gear changes that happen on a bike.
The shifter located on the right hand side (if you are located in the US at least) is what is connected to the derailleur via a long cable that is enclosed in a length of housing on the bike.
I’ll just go ahead and save you some reading and post a link to the video as it is incredibly helpful for the budding mechanic.
Part of me posting this is that I’ve been considering hosting one on work basic mechanic workshops this winter to encourage more women-trans-femme and BICPOC (black, indigenous, people of colour) folx to learn mechanical skills.
The cycling industry has traditionally only catered to cis-gendered white men, which has not only been represented in much of the cycling marketing, but also has been the primary base of employees found at bike shops.
The world is finally catching on that just as many women want to ride and that cycling is an activity that all folx can enjoy. Representation at the shop level is important and fosters a greater community of riders.
With the off-season rapidly approaching I hope to share more in this series and continue some of my reviews of mass produced cycling bags as I think it’s nice to have information out there on more commonly found products as there’s a lot of info on high priced-niche market bags.
Nothing wrong with those options, but not everyone has access to them! Stay tuned and I hope everyone is staying safe and sane.
In a land of seemingly endless options of independent makers and custom bag companies, why would anyone want or need a stock production bag?
I’m here to dive into the world of production cycling bags including top tube bags, seat bags, and handlebar bags. Starting with one of my all-time favorites, Topeak’s Fuel Tank (large).
Topeak has been in the cycling game for nearly 30 years. They’ve been known for their iconic Joe Blow series pumps, but have since branched out to everything from bike repair tools to bags to cycling computers, saddles, repair stands, racks, lights, and more.
I had to do some background research Topeak as it’s not apparent where they are based. A little search engine sleuthing brought me to a profile on Bicycle Retailer’s website stating that Topeak is a Taiwanese based company.
It makes sense. Taiwan is the world’s hub of cycling manufacturing. State of the art facilities with both factories and design firms are sprinkled throughout the country. If you’ve ever purchased a bike or cycling product, it was likely either manufactured or designed in Taiwan.
Based off the design and aesthetics, part of me assumed Topeak was German based. Maybe it’s the fact that Topeak and Ergon (saddle & grip company) have been so closely linked as they have co-sponsored professional cycling teams.
Anyway, that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here because every time I post a photos of one of my bikes with the Fuel Tank I’m asked by someone what type of bag it is.
The Fuel Tank is a masterfully designed bag. The outside texture is a rubberized finish with a carbon like pattern. You can see in the above photo the texture and stitching is high quality.
The bag is made in two size options. I opted for the large as it can fit even the largest of phones with loads of room to spare. The size specs are below courtesy of Topeak’s website:
Topeak states that the bag is made out of a 420 denier nylon and PVC combination.
While the outside of the bag is a sleek matte black, the inside is Topeak’s signature yellow. I’m always a fan of bags that have bright interiors so you can actually see what’s inside. The bag has an included padded hook and loop divider. You can see on the left side of the bag I utilized that to create a little holder for my lip balm. This makes it easy to find and be able to grab it one handed while cruising along while riding.
The right hand side of the bag has a large mesh pocket, Topeak suggests a battery bank or something similar can be placed here on their website. All of my battery banks are too large to fit in there, but I stash things like my minimalist wallet or nutrition gels in there. It also works well for stashing a mask since we are in COVID19 times as I write this.
To provide a bit of the scope of size for this bag I can comfortably fit the following:
iPhone 8 with case
Rav Power 20k milliamp battery bank
usb micro cord
Apple lightening cord
several hydration mixes (I usually carry either a tube of Nuun or 3-4 powder packets)
2 nutrition bars (RX Bars or Clif/Luna)
a portable peanut butter packet (RX nut butter or Justins)
a packet of chamois cream (Hoo Ha Ride Glide)
portable hand sanitizer
+ more room to spare
You can fit a TON in this bag and then some. It’s one of the largest top tube bags I’ve seen on the market without being a custom product.
One of my favorite features of the Fuel Tank is the fact that you can pass a charging cable through the bag on the left hand side. This means that if you use a GPS, smartphone, or need to juice a light on the go you have the option to run a cable up to that devise while your battery bank stays safely tucked inside the bag.
I’ve only had to use this feature once on a bike camping overnight as I forgot to charge my cycling computer before I left home and it was awesome to be able to have that option without having to leave the zipper of the bag slightly open at the top.
The cable pass-thru placement allows you to tuck the cable out of the way and not jiggle around on the bag.
Another feature I love about this bag is it’s essentially waterproof. The rubberized material around the entire bag paired with the thickly padded, structure, and the waterproof zipper with a zipper garage ensures your electronics and other sundries stay dry.
I can attest to this as I got absolutely drenched last summer on my bike camping outing with Bell Joy Ride Madison. You can read my write up or watch my vlog about the trip in earlier posts on the blog.
As far as attaching the bag to a bike. I’ve been able to successfully attach it to every bike in my stable, including my large carbon tubed Topstone Carbon, which is notoriously difficult to put a strap style bag on- hence their top tubes have drilled attachment points for direct mount bag systems.
There’s a small bit of wear on the bottom of the bag, but it’s still in wonderful condition!
The retail on the Topeak Fuel Tank Large is around $50 depending on where you purchase it. I’m sure you can find some sale prices online, but always recommend checking with your LOCAL BIKE SHOP to support them.
I purchased this item with my own money via my bike shop employer. I was not asked by them or Topeak to write this review and don’t receive any monetary compensation from writing said review.
Honestly, this is one of the highest quality production bags I’ve owned and used during my many years as a cyclist. I’ve had the bag for going on two years now and it has yet to fail me or let me down.
I’m always impressed by the amount of items you can carry in the bag and have never had one returned for any reason at my place of work upon recommending the bag to customers.
Topeak has a home-run on their hands with the Fuel Tank and hope they continue to keep making the product for years to come!
That’s all for this write up. Be on the lookout for write-ups on some of Blackburn’s production bags! I’ve also been plugging away at a video review for my Cannondale Topstone Carbon RX, but have had some issues with audio. Stay tuned as I’ll likely release a write up prior to the video.
Planet Bike is synonymous with bike lights. If you live in the Midwest and ride, you’ve very likely owned at least one Planet Bike (PB) product, if not several like myself.
In all honesty I had moved away from using many of their products due to the changes in the landscape when it came to light offerings. Companies like Light & Motion and NiteRider were coming out with USB rechargeable lights that could handle extreme weather. You could also drop them and not have them explode into a mash up of plastic and batteries on the bike path.
My experience with PB had primarily been with their inexpensive, battery powered lights that were often very disposable due to the fact that most didn’t last a season. They either ate through batteries like crazy, broke if dropped, would die if the weather got too cold, or succumb to some other awful fate. (Usually getting nicked off my bike when parked downtown.)
To be fair, they had other products that weren’t as disposable. Their full coverage fenders and their ECO racks can still be seen on many bikes commuting across Madison.
At some point I noticed Planet Bike was playing catch up. They started coming out with newly designed lights that competed with some of the other light players in the industry. They had a line up of USB rechargeable head an tail lights.
It’s been a number of years since I have used a Planet Bike light, so I was happy when I showed up to work and saw the Rojo 100 sitting on my desk. Per my perusing on social media, I had seen that Planet Bike was sending samples of this light to lots of bikey influencers and shops alike to try them out.
I think Planet Bike is trying to regain their space in the lighting world by sharing new product and showing that they can compete on price/lumens and features.
My initial thoughts on the Rojo is that it looks like a Planet Bike light. It has a full plastic casing around it, with it’s traditional rear clip on the back. The nice thing is that I didn’t feel like I could pop the top cover off. I have not done a drop test with it yet to see how it survives. I’d like to ride with it for a bit before beating up too much.
There were a few things I noticed that I think gives PB an edge over the competition. The first being the amount of mounting brackets included in the packaging. There’s the traditional seat-post mount, a rear rack bracket to slide on the light, and a rear chain stay mount as well. Many brands often include one mount option and you have to purchase additional mounts, that is if there even is one. They also offer two additional stretchy strap style mounts that are sold separately. If you can’t find a way to mount this light to your bike, then I don’t know what to tell you!
The second thing I noticed is they ditched the micro USB charging for a USB-C! Yes! U-S-B-C. Why is it taking so many companies so long to adopt USB-C? Honestly I love it and had an Android phone that used USB-C before I made the switch back to iPhone and it was one of the best features. The plug is beefier, the hole is uniform so no having to squint and flip the cable over and over to make sure it’s positioned the right way, the charging is much faster, and it’s just oh so awesome. Kudos Planet Bike, whoever on your team got on board with USB-C is my new friend.
The third thing that I really like about the light is it has a TON of different mode options. I particularly like the courtesy mode, for those who want to have a blinking light option in a group ride or bike path setting. It’s not seizure inducing flicker that blinds you. It’s a very slow pulse with the light getting slowly brighter before blinking to the smaller under light. Here’s a video the company did to showcase the modes:
Now it’s not all butterflies and rainbows. I do have some reservations about the longevity of the light. For one it is made fully out of plastic, casing and all. Traditionally that usually signifies inexpensive and disposable in the world of bike lights. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this though as I have other lights that also have full plastic casings that have lasted a fairly long time.
Another reservation is that while it’s listed as the Rojo 100, the steady lumen listing on this light is only 25 lumens. It’s only when you use the Pulse or Turbo modes that you actually make use of all 100 lumens. As a fan of using just a steady red rear light on my bike, I’d prefer to have a brighter steady lumen output. Particularly for when I’m riding on the road with cars. If I’m riding on a protected path, it’s not that big of a deal to me. I just prefer steady light as it can be distracting to drivers and riders around me to have something flashing. Personal preference, everyone is different.
The lumen count is also questionable on many bike lights. The brightness and directional visual output can vary greatly from brand to brand. Some brands actually get their lights tested and certified to a standard like ANSI (look it up if you aren’t familiar) in order to ensure their lumen count is accurate. I wasn’t able to see anything listed on the product page for the Rojo 100 on Planet Bike’s website, but I see they use CREE LED’s, which are a trusted leader in LED lighting.
The light is rated IP66 which is better than some of the competing lights on the market and worse than others. The $35 price point tail light is a tough market to compete in. You can purchase an 80 Lumen NiteRider Sabre, so a brighter light offering which offers a full 80 lumens on steady. You can also purchase the Blackburn Dayblazer 65 which offers a 50 lumen steady, 65 max lumen on high flash, has ANSI certification, and is IP67 rated. The difference between IP66 and IP67 is the ability of submerge the actual item that is rated vs. being able to withstand a jet of water.
The Rojo 100 has a lot of competition, but I think for folks who have liked and used Planet Bike’s lights and other products in the past that this would be a great upgrade to a more modernized light.
Planet Bike’s headquarters is based here in Madison, WI and they participate in 1% for the Planet. They donate a lot of time, energy, money, and product to our local cycling community. So there’s something to supporting the homegrown company.
While I have not run this light through testing as of yet, I’d still say that it’s a good contender if you need to upgrade to a USB rechargeable option or need a spare for a 2nd or 3rd bike. The mounting options alone are a killer bargain for the $35 price point. I can confirm that most lights in that price bracket don’t offer that many accessories.
Thanks for reading as always and I look forward to putting the Rojo 100 to the test!
Thank you to Jereme and the crew over at Planet Bike for continuing to evolve their products and being such a driving force for our local cycling community.
I received this product free of charge, but was not contacted by anyone at Planet Bike to write a review for this product, nor did my employer ask me to write this for any sort of financial game. Currently my home shop does not actively stock Planet Bike’s lights, but we do stock other products from their line.
We are super excited to announce Fitchburg Cycles as a new club supporter. The shop is providing us with a start/end location for rides twice a month as well as in store discounts for club members. Fitchburg Cycles is also lending the club space for future workshops and clinics.
Owner Edwin Benet has spent his life in the cycling industry and works to create a welcoming space for all who want to ride. He, along with his wife and kids, opened the shop nearly three years ago and aimed to make the space warm and inviting. With its bright green walls, handmade wooden displays, and large bike themed paintings (all created by his wife Mary Benet Treleven) the space is unlike any other shop in the area. Customers are offered free coffee, tea, or hot chocolate while they browse or wait for service repairs. Not to mention there’s always free treats for humans and pets alike at the front counter.
Fitchburg Cycles carries bikes from brands Giant, Liv, Momentum, Linus, Cannondale, and Borealis. The Liv brand is a dedicated women’s line of bicycles from the parent company, Giant bicycles. One of the largest and most revered women’s bike brands in the world.
Accessory lines from Pearl Izumi, Bell, Giro, Cat Eye, Topeak, Continental, Yakima, Thule, Saris, Brooks, Light & Motion, Knog, Blackburn, kryptonite, GU, Tifosi, Feedback Sports, Park Tool, Fizik, and Selle Royale offer a range of products that are well known by customers and trusted by Edwin and his staff alike. Benet stresses the importance of carrying products that are made well, have a good reputation, and he refuses to carry brands or products that he himself wouldn’t use.
We look forward to calling Fitchburg Cycles our home shop for the 2016 season! A huge thanks goes out to everyone at Fitchburg Cycles for opening their doors to us and supporting women’s cycling.
For more information on rides, please check our ride info page.
*full disclosure: club manager Cassandra works for the shop. She does not, however have any financial gain by promoting the shop or its products and services.