Planet Bike Rojo 100 Tail Light First Look

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.

P1030476
Rated for day and night time use.

Many of their lights use the same name, but have been upgraded with better casings and more power. The Blaze, Beamer, Spok, and Superflash have existed in multiple iterations.

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.

If you’d like to purchase the Planet Bike Rojo 100 please hit up your local bike shop OR you can order directly from Planet Bike’s website.

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.

Disclosure:
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.

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Spoke Haven 2015 Gift Guide

The holidays are a wonderful time of year. If you are lucky to live in an area with all four seasons you’ll get to enjoy the world of winter biking. With the invention of fat bikes, snow bike races, and groomed single track; it’s easy to stay active all year round.

Our gift picks for this year will keep folks rolling through the winter time or help you pretend you’re riding on a 70 degree and sunny day.

On that note, let the holiday cheer begin!

10. Skratch Labs Cookie Mix
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We all know santa has a lot of houses to visit, so why not offer him up something delicious and all natural? Skratch labs has made a name in the fitness world for their great tasting hydration mixes and tasty portable treats. For $8.50 you can get some of the best pre-made cookie mix that money can buy. Take it from Allen and Bijou, you won’t regret eating these delicious treats!

Find Skratch products at your local bike shop or online at skratchlabs.com

9. Portland Design Works Owl Cage

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From the folks who brough us the famous bird cage comes the owl cage! Hold your waterbottle with style and and a litle bit of smugness. The PDW Owl Cage is the much needed flair for your drabe ride, so put on your best tweed and fly like the wind.

The PDW owl cage can be found at your local bike shop or online for $20 at ridepdw.com

8. Butterfly Universal Bike Mount by ProClip

There’s nothing more frustrating than getting a new phone only to find it won’t fit in the fancy, expensive bike mount you’ve purchase for it. The folks at ProClip have found a solution to that problem. The Butterfly Universal Bike Mount allows you to mount any phone with or without a case on their mounting system. You simply adjust the holder to fit the width of your phone, pull over the butterfly tabs on the four corners and voila!

We got our hands on a free sample from ProClip and have tried our hardest of knocking the phone out of holder. So far we haven’t been sucessful. This holder is a beast, it should be. ProClip specializes in making phone, tablet, and GPS holders. The cool part is they are based right here in Madison, WI.

If you or your loved one have struggled with finding the right phone mount for a bike, look no further. For $30 you can find the ProClip Butterfly Universal Bike Mount at your local bike shop or at proclipusa.com

7. Specialized Stix Comp Lights

Who says good things don’t come in small packages? The Specialized Stix lights may be small, but they pack a big punch when it comes to lighting up the night. These waterproof, USB rechargeable lights are small and lightweight. They also don’t look like your average bike lights.
With a bright 105 lumens for the front light and 20 lumens for the back, they provide plenty of light for riding after the sun sets.

The Stix Comp lights (not pictured) have three super bright LED lights while the Stix Sport lights offer two. The lights will mount to handlebars and seatposts out of the box. Specialized also offers rack and helmet mounts that can be purchased separately.

These lights have been flying off the shelves at our local Specialized dealer, so get them while you can! Any commuter or roadie alike will be thrilled to received these in their stocking or under the tree.

Find the Specialized Comp Stix lights for $40 a piece at your local Specialized dealer. You can also find the Specialized Sport Sticks for $55 for a front and rear combo at specialized.com

6. Outdoor Tech Buckshot Pro

In the digital age there is rarely a gadget that serves one sole purpose. The Outdoor Tech Buckshot Pro is the prime example of how form and function come together for a great piece of kit. The original Buckshot (still offered by Outdoor Tech) was a simple Bluetooth enabled wireless speaker with a handlebar mount. The Buckshot Pro takes it to the next level with an integrated headlight and battery bank to charge your devices on the go. You get three wonderful features in one small package.

If that’s not a great gift, then we don’t know what is! For $80 you can scoop the Buckshot Pro or the Buckshot origninal for $40 at your local outdoor retailer or online at outdoortechnology.com

5. Wisconsin Bike Fed Gift Membership

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Advocacy doesn’t have to in the form of Critical Mass rides or by protesting. Some of the best advocates are those who support their local organizations.

Memberships to organizations such as the Wisconsin Bike Fed are a way to show support for cycling in your state. Many orgs have direct ties and relationships with local and state government and can affect change in a positive and efficient way.

We are big fans of the gift membership package that the Bike Fed has put together for this holiday season. The gift membership inclueds a year long membership to the Bike Fed as well as a Bike Fed customer bike headbadge with the W embelem as well as a cool cycling themed t-shirt. For $45 that is quite the steal, seeing as a regular membership is $30 a year and t-shirts are usually sold for at least $20 on their own.

Give the gift of bike love via bfw.org or check out your local advocacy group!

4. 45Nrth Cobrafist Pogies

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Never worry about cold digits again! 45Nrth is still fairly new to the cycling game, but they have proven themselves with high quality and high performance products. The Cobrafist Pogie is hard to beat. With a generously insulated design you will want to ditch the gloves and ride comfortably with these bad boys. With venting options, a structured donut internal stiffener, and customer bar plugs the Cobrafist is a step above all other cold weather pogies on the market.

The only thing we’d wish that 45Nrth did is create a road bike compatible version! Find the Cobrafist at your local bike shop or buy online from 45nrth.com with their Buy Local Now option.

3. Lezyne Port-A-Shop Toolkit 

Lezyne has been a brand we’ve loved for years. They not only create really well functioning products, but also very beautiful products. The Port-A-Shop is on our wishlists as it has all the necessary tools to do repairs on the fly all in an organized package.

This would be a great option for the budding mechanic, the traveling racer, or for anyone who likes to get their hands dirty.

Find the Port-A-Shop kit at your local bike shop or via lezyne.com for $140.

2. Zwift Membership

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Who says that riding on a train indoors is boring? Well, before apps like Zwift it meant either watching the same workout DVDs on repeat or marathoning your favorite movie franchise (cough cough Harry Potter cough cough Star Wars). Zwift brings indoor training into the next century with a video game like interactivity. Pick an avatar and compete against other riders on screen to see how you stack up.

Those who hit certain mileage goals, win races, and participate in competitions get the chance to unlock kit options, bike options, and more to customize your bike style.

Zwift is designed to work best with smart trainers (Wahoo Kickr, CycleOps Powerbeam, etc.) or those with dumb trainers and a power meter. You can also pair up Bluetooth or ANT+ speed/cad sensors and heartrate monitors to your computer, phone, or tablet.

Zwift is available as a desktop application and is also available on various app stores. We’re keen on using it with an iPad paired with an ANT+ dongle as you can mount the iPad onto your handlebars and even us Apple TV to wirelessly mirror it to your TV.

Giving the gift of Zwift can be as easy as supplying an iTunes giftcard or paying for a membership on the behalf of a family member. For more info on Zwift visit zwift.com

1. CycleOps Powerbeam Pro Trainer

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We know we’ve talked about the Powerbeam Pro before. It’s just such a great trainer that it’s hard not to add it to our list. The Powerbeam Pro is not only a cyclists dream trainer, but it’s also a great product for the tech nerd.

The trainer is made in the USA in Madison, WI at Saris Cycling Group. There are multiple offerings of the trainer depending on what devices you are looking to use it with. CycleOps offers the trainer in an ANT+ version that includes a micro USB dongle (best for use with a compatible tablet, laptop, or desktop). There is also a Bluetooth version for those with Windows 8 desktops and laptops. Bluetooth smart devices such as certain Windows/Android phones and tablets can also be used with the Bluetooth powerbeam. The iPad 2 and newer is what we prefer to use as the connection is pretty seamless when using the CycleOps Virtual Training application (a free app with features that you have to pay to use to get the full functionality of the application).

The third option is to purchase the trainer with a Joule GPS+ head unit. The head unit allows you to use the Powerbeam Pro without having to hook it up to a smartphone, tablet, etc. in order to control the resistance. You simply pair it up to the Joule GPS+ to set target wattage or target incline and you’re set.

The Powerbeam Pro can also be used with Zwift and other new interactive applications such as the CycleOps Virtual Training (CVT) application to replicate routes that you can ride outdoors.

The possibilities are pretty much endless with this trainer and it’s backed by Saris’s lifetime warranty against manufacturer’s defects.

We know the price tag on this item is a little more hefty, but it’s worth the investment for the cyclist in your life. It’s a great way to stay fit during the winter months and is also fun to show off to your friends!

Find the CycleOps Powerbeam Pro starting at $799 at your local bike shop.  You can also find the less expensive PowerSync trainer with similar functions to the Powerbeam Pro, just with none of the additional accessories that come with it starting at $719. Check out cycleops.com for more details on both trainers or to purchase directly.

*Please note that all items chosen for this list were hand picked by Spoke Haven contributors and we were not given monetary incentives to promote any of these products. Spoke Haven promotes honest reviews and product opinions and any questions about anything we feature on our site can be directed to info@spokehaven.com.

 

Favorite Things: Burley Flatbed Trailer

The Burley flatbed trailer is a highly popular option for folks looking to tote around gear. With it’s ability to stowaway while not in use and the 100 pound max load capacity, it’s a great alternative for using the car for trips around town.

This trailer really shines in its ability to haul gear a boat load of gear. In the above photo I used it for putting up Saris Gala signs on the bike path. I was able to strap down the stack of 20 or so wooden staked, heavy duty signs with no issues. The trailer has hauled CSA veggies, groceries, sound gear, goods from Target, and all sorts of things in between. Honestly I don’t know why I went so long without it!

When I initially received the flatbed, one of the wheel axles skewers was damaged in shipping. Luckily my place of work had some extra front wheel skewers that I could use to substitute for the axle, but I still contacted Burley/QBP (the distributor I ordered it from) and they got a replacement sent out ASAP.

One of my favorite aspects of the Burley flatbed is that it’s easy to transfer from bike to bike. You simply remove your rear wheel skewer, place the attachment up to the non drive side of your bike, re-install the skewer and position it so you can place the arm of the trailer into the attachment. From there it’s one simple clevis pin style attachment and you’re ready to roll. Extra attachments can be purchased through a local shop or through the Burley website.

In various places around the web there are reviews about this trailer for bike touring use. I could see using the trailer for shorter trips, but cross country would probably not be the most ideal. Adding two additional tires to carry along as well as tubes and not to mention the stability when riding over not so wonderful road surfaces, doesn’t make for the best option when traveling long distance.

I would still highly recommend the trailer regardless of its touring abilities since most people wouldn’t need it for that application anyway.

In the future we’re hoping to do some reviews of other brands and styles of trailers. Stay tuned for more!

Favorite Things: Surly Cross Check

Everybody has their favorites. Whether it’s foods, coffees, cars, restaurants…the possibilities are endless. Like Oprah, I have my favorite things. Unfortunately I don’t have a screaming, wild audience of middle aged ladies and gay men to throw my favorite things at, nor the money that Ms. Harpo herself has to gift these items. Nonetheless, I’d like to share them with the world.

Today I’d like to talk about the Surly Cross Check. Yes, it’s an obvious and super popular choice. Many a blogger has written about the Cross Check. I don’t care. I want to tell my story and continue singing its praises.

My cross check (seen above) is the 2008 or 2009 model. The color is Beef Gravy Brown, or what I like to refer to as Foxy Brown, 50cm, and 100% awesome. This bike has taken me through two Wisconsin AIDS Rides (600 miles 0f hardcore Wisconsin road riding), all the training for those rides, commuting to work, bike camping, rail trail riding, single tracking, hauling of groceries  w/the Burley in tow, and the occasional cruise around town for fun.

I purchased the bike as a complete with all stock components and have since changed it up quite a bit. The original build is pretty similar to what Surly has listed on their current website, but with a few minor changes such as front derailleur and headset. (They now have a lower grade front d and a Cane Creek headset rather than Ritchey.)

Currently I have it set up as the following:
Fork & Frame stock Foxy Brown
BB: 118 Velo Orange
Crank: Added a granny ring and am using Sugino Chainrings
Pedals: Crank Brothers Candy 2’s
Front Der: Shimano 105 Road Triple
Rear Der: Shimano SLX 9 SPD Long Cage
Stem: Civia (?) Silver 100mm w/17 degrees of rise
Top Cap: Thompson Silver
Spacers: no name silver
Handlebars: Salsa Poco 40cm
Seat Post: Ritchey Classic
Saddle: Brooks Flyer
Brakes: FSA Cyclo Cross
Cassette: Shimano HG (?) 12-32 (?)
Chain: Shimano fancy road 9spd
Wheels: Cycle Ops Powertap G3 Alloy training set (Demo set I was given to aid in product testing- Yes, I feel silly riding with a Powertap on a Cross Check. I get strange looks from roadies all the time!)
Tires: Vittoria Randonneur Hypers 38c folding bead
Cables: Jaguar Racer kit
Handlebar tape: Lizard Skins DSP

The three things I haven’t changed yet are the headset, bar end shifters, and the seat post clamp. Oh I guess the crank arms are the same Andel or no brand ones.

I plan on changing the brakes again as I’m not a fan of the current ones I have on the bike. They don’t work that well for hauling a lot of gear, which I’ve been doing a lot of lately. I also want something that works a little better in crappy weather. I’m looking at the Paul Mini Moto’s. I’ve also decided to purchase the newest CC fork. It has all the fancy eyelets, so I can mount all sorts of awesome front racks on it and turn it into a load carrying machine! The fork won’t match the frame, but I’d rather have an ugly functional bike that won’t get jacked if I leave it parked downtown. (Madison has a crazy amount of bike theft, but it’s usually dumb asses who don’t know how to lock their bikes or leave their bikes either unlocked or locked poorly on their porches. I’d rather be safe than sorry!)

I’ve also all the sudden become really picky about component color matching. This means I’ll be upgrading the chain rings once again (probably due for it anyways as I’ve ridden the hell out of them), upgrading the headset, swapping out the seat post clamp, and maybe even getting some fancy stainless steel water bottle cages to boot. Dunno if I want to be that classy or not yet.

Enough about components. I apologize dearly for the nerdery. I simply can’t help myself!

Benefits of this bike are that you can set it up for pretty much anything and will feel pretty good. I don’t think the bike does one finite thing really great, but it does a lot of things well. (Does that make sense?) I’ve put skinny road tires on it without racks and it rides fairly zippy as most cross bike to road conversions would. I’ve fully loaded it up and commuted on it with full racks, fenders, panniers, and it still rides fairly well. A tiny bit sluggish, but what bike wouldn’t feel like that fully loaded? At its current state it doesn’t feel as heavy and sluggish as some of my friends more touring oriented bikes while fully loaded, so I see that as a plus.

The set up that I love the most on this bike is putting big, fat, cushy tires on it that are fairly light weight for the width and riding it rack free. I road that way for the AIDS ride this past summer and had used a new stem to raise the handlebar more up to seat level and it was sooo comfy. I was able to climb hills well with the granny and flew over the potholed back roads that South Eastern Wisconsin has to offer. I feel like I had less fatigue than the folks rocking aluminum road bikes and uber skinny tires. I passed a lot of people by on my bike and felt damn proud to fly my steel is real flag!

You don’t see too many folks riding steel on long distance charity rides. I don’t know if that’s because Trek is huge in these parts and when people walk into a shop, that’s the easiest thing to sell on of their many mid level aluminum road bikes (mmm yeah, that’s it right there) or…never mind.

Moral of the story. It’s a f*cking awesome bike and if you are a person that needs only one bike or has room for only one bike, I’d definitely recommend it. I’ve gone back and forth considering selling my Cross Check for something with a little more style, but I just can’t get over how dependable and awesome it has been to me over the years. You can put pretty much any combination of parts on that frame and it’s going to work. Flat bar, mustache, drop bar, STI’s, bar end shifters…it can really handle it all.

The complete bike may cause sticker shock to folks looking for a basic commuter bike, but it’s the Swiss Army Knife of bikes. You aren’t just getting one bike, you’re really getting a dozen due to its versatility. I started out as a total bike NOOB and owning this bike now has be lusting over a new build every few months! It’s just so fun to change up.

I give the Surly Cross Check 4 1/2 out of 5 spokes. I’m docking half a spoke because they upped the price and lowered the component level on the most current models. I know there’s inflation and such, but being a part of QBP, the largest distributor in the US, means that you probably aren’t hurting for money. You can’t throw a rock in a major Midwestern city without hitting a Surly! I also kind of expected more for my $$$ when first purchasing the bike a few years ago. The stock components aren’t the best and are kind of lead weights. I noticed as soon as I swapped them out that my bike was significantly lighter.

Full disclosure: I purchased the bike at a discount because of the shop I was working for at the time. I would still purchase the bike today at full retail value. Well…I’d probably purchase the frame and then do a custom build as I’m now a bit spoiled component wise…either way, I aim to be as fair as possible with my reviews and was in no way paid by Surly or associated with them.

Thanks for reading!

-Cassandra