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BikeHacks is a huge fan of the Monkey Light. I have been rocking the Monkey since last December and love it. Dan, the inventor of the Monkey Light, graciously agreed to an interview. Enjoy!
BH: Are you an avid rider? What bike(s) do you currently own?
I've been a more and less serious rider for about 20 years. I first started biking around 8th grade because we had a bike touring club in my school. I remember it was very liberating once I learned I could bike 20 miles all by myself, basically go anywhere. Teenage car liberation, no car required! Now I like bike touring a lot. I've done a race here and there but I never liked the competitiveness much. I bike around the city as well.
Bikes-my main ride is an unbranded titanium MTB frame that I built up with XT components and 650c road wheels. I prefer MTB frames and components (minus the shock) even for road riding - it's pretty hilly here in nocal :)
I've got a Stumpjumper hardtail for actual MTB riding, I did a 30 hour adventure race with that bike. I've got a 100% plastic frame custom art bike that i assembled (my friend did the CAD design) and then installed custom LED edge lighting into it. I ride the plastic bike to the movies sometimes! It's a fun ride, but super wobbly. I've got a Haro Betty cruiser in hot pink that I did a custom lighting job, my lady rides that sometimes. Also a Haro bmx bike, I just learned to do a bar spin on it last year! I think I've got about 5 more besides that but I gotta clean up the garage sometime yikes!
The Plastic Bike
BH: What is your educational background?
If your mom asks you why you went to school for 23 years, do not crack up when you say: 'to make awesome bike lights!!!'
BH: Is the Monkey Light part of a side gig or do you design full time?
It started out as a side gig for sure, at the time I was working on Instructables.com and Electronic Rope, which was a Time magazine invention of the year. I made the first "Monkey light" system as an art project. Perhaps the transformative moment - I was riding by a real sharp scraper in West Oakland, a metallic green buick with the big rims, tinted windows, thumping stereo . . . this guy rolls down his window and with smoke pouring out, he says to me - 'nice ride'.
BH: How did the idea of the light originate?
The basic idea has been around forever, at least 30 years. There's been lots of toy implementations in clocks, computer fans - and bikes. I personally got the idea at a hacking club at MIT, that club (miters) was into bikes and electronics, so it was almost a coming of age thing where every new electrical engineer in the club would build their own wheel light. Adafruit's SpokePOV kit also came from that hacking group. My light was the first one to have full color.
BH: How long did it take to go from concept to ready for sale product?
Hmm, well I was riding around my original art wheel in 2005, then it was on the back burner for quite a while. I started developing the current product in 2007, and Xander Hudson came on board about that time also, he had just seen the art wheel at Maker Faire and was excited about the possibilities. We had 30 prototype units riding around San Francisco by December 2007 and we released the commercial product in May 2008. Then we sold out the first manufacture run in 6 weeks!
BH: Why did you call it the "Monkey Light"?
Why are they called 'The Beatles?'
BH: Where do you live and what is the furthest place from where you live that the Monkey Light has shipped?
Our web store went live in June 2008. With little more than Google Adwords for marketing we've shipped orders to practically every part of the globe - Punta Arenas, Tasmania, Mauritius, Latvia, it's really mindboggling how the internet has connected the entire world. There are people in the most remote places and they are on all the same websites that you are every day.
BH: Have you developed any other bike related products or do you have anything in the hopper?
We've developed a fully functioning video display in a bike wheel, it's the first one ever developed. We've also got some new consumer level products coming out later this year that we've very excited about. Gotta keep those in the bag for now though ;)
BH: What inspires you? What resources do you use for inspiration?
I've been really inspired by our customers. Many of them are quite dedicated to a bike lifestyle and write us long emails about their experiences and their local bike culture.
BH: What is your own bike hack that you are the most proud of?
The Monkey Light for sure. I've got several fun ones on my Instructables page - instructables.com/member/dan. I recommend the wobbly bike (aka swing bike) as a great "my first freak bike" project. At an even more modest scale I'm a fan of using old innertubes as chain/cable/frame protectors. Just slit them and wrap! And they come in handy for bundling an extra jacket onto the frame if you get hot.
BH: Dan is the man. Now go get your Monkey on!
Sometimes I see a hack that is so brilliantly simple and cool I wonder why I did not think of it. This hack submitted by Midge from across the pond is one such hack. Enjoy.
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I was a bit peeved with those ugly plastic brackets that spoiled the lines of my beautiful bike so I came up with this ten minute cliplight hack. It's cobbled together with a Poundland rear light (are they called Dollar Stores in the US?), two thin zip ties and a sturdy wooden clothes peg.
The assembly's pretty straightforward, note that one of the peg arms is cut to accommodate the button and there's a small filed groove to channel one of the cable ties. A quick dash of paint to taste and Bobs your Aunties live in lover, one cheap as noodles cliplight.
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Refreshment can be an important part of cycling and recreation, and reader John wanted a way to keep his beverage of choice cold. He did a great job of transforming an Ammo Can into a cooler and he documents the process below. Putting the entry together made me thirsty . . .
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I needed a cooler I could bring on my bike when shopping, but more importantly for kickball, softball, and other drinking league sports, since I found no commercial options I built my own. I decided to use an ammo can because I saw so many saddlebag conversions done by motorcyclists. I chose a fat .50 cal ammo can because it is slightly larger than the typical .50 cal cans most people are familiar with while still being small enough for bicycle use.
I was able to pick one up from the surplus store for just under $30 in pretty good shape. First thing I did was sand the entire box and made sure to remove any rust I encountered. Once everything was sanded and looked rust free I started painting. I bought self-priming spray paint, but to be on the safe side I still bought primer. I decided to go with the familiar cooler colors of white over red. I even did a final clear coat layer to hopefully keep the can looking good for a while. This part took 4 days to do because of the extended dry times.
After painting came the hardware mounting, I chose to use hardware from Velo Transit. Since the cooler was going to be carrying the weight of ice, beer, and the can itself, I thought it was better to go with proven hardware vs. whatever I could think up at home. I chose to mount the hardware lower on the cooler body so it would be invisible when viewed from the opposite side. Once the hardware was on, it was time to glue the insulation into the cooler. I choose super tuff rigid .5 inch insulation foam.
The foam I used claims to have an R3.3 rating which I don't really know what it means, but it was the best I could find for .5inch foam. I had to carve out holes for the nuts and washers of the mounting hardware. I just cut pieces for each side and the bottom and glued it in with construction adhesive. To protect the foam, I bought lexan to use as a liner for the cooler. I just scored and broke it with a utility knife, which actually worked very well. After gluing down the lexan with the adhesive, I covered every seam with silicon caulk to prevent water leaking into the foam. I ended up with an interior space that is 10.5 inches long, 5.5 inches wide, and 8 inches deep, it can hold 9 regular sized cans with ice and a 6 pack of the larger 16oz cans with ice.
Riding in an urban environment can be intimidating as cyclists must go toe-to-toe with pedestrians, cars, other cylists, the weather, bugs ,wildlife, and road hazzards. I kind of like the challenge, but others on the road might want to eliminate as many obstacles/hazzards as possible.
The greatest hazzard is probably falling over and when I was in NYC recently I spotted what appeared to be a stabilization system to avoid falling over -
Over years I have seen many three wheeled bicycles, but I had never seen an "adult" set of training wheels. I did quick Google search and these appear to be a set of Evo EZ Adjust Training Wheels.
I'm for anything that makes people more comfortable on the roads, and I might just need a set in about 30 or 40 years if I keep up my commuting lifestyle.
Reader Chris has become somewhat of a mainstay on BikeHacks with his DIY hacks. He came up with a spotlight, a car horn, and you might have wondered about the mount he used for his LED light strips. That question is answered in the video below.
What I am curious about is if Chris has come up with his own wind powered electrical system for his house. Certainly sounds like wind is an abundance resource where he lives =)
My rides as of late have had me thinking about additions to the Dictionary of Bike Commuter Slang. The Dictionary started when I found myself encountering similar situations on my daily commutes and I am sure most readers can relate.
The Dictionary is meant to lighthearted, after all, life is more fun when you can laugh at yourself. I am hopeful that readers can help coin some new terms. Take a look below and leave your ideas for new definitions in comments. And if you have submissions of our own, hit us up.
DEFINITION(S) Needed: The splash coming from motor vehicles that hits cyclists.
DEFINITION(S) Needed: bike parts left locked to an object after a bike has been stolen.
DEFINITION(S) Needed: wheel left behind after bike has been stolen.
DEFINITION(S) Needed: an abandoned bike lock.
DEFINITION(S) Needed: a locked up bike that has fallen over.
DEFINITION(S) Needed: a bike locked to a tree.
DEFINITION(S) Needed: a rider with a helmet mirror.
DEFINITION(S) Needed: a cyclist riding with a trailer.
DEFINITION(S) Needed: a group of Canadian Geese.
DEFINITION(S) Needed: goose crap. It's large and fairly disgusting.
DEFINITION(S) Needed: a car parked in a bike lane.
DEFINITION(S) Needed: a motor vehicle on a bike/pedestrian path.
DEFINITION(S) Needed: a swarm of gnats.
DEFINITION(S) Needed: a broken bottle.
Bike Hacks post theme music is back! Enjoy the irreverent boys from Blink 182.
So the video really has nothing to do with the actual content of this post, other than the fact that all the small things about my commute can be super cool, especially this time of year.
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When I ceased car ownership a decade ago and started to rely upon a combination of my bike and mass transit for getting around, I encountered the problem of how to carry my "necessities" around. What is necessary is of course different for everyone, but at a minimum I typically do not go anywhere without all of this on my person, whether I am walking or riding.
Some might think I am crazy, but I find all of this stuff necessary for me and I am not a big fan of jamming all sorts of stuff into my pant pockets, especially when I am riding, and also do not like wearing riding jerseys to commute in. One would think I would carry around a murse, but I am all about easy access and bags are just one more thing to carry. My "A Ha" moment came years ago while at an Army surplus store . . . Voila!
I have found that a vest is a great way to carry around all of the stuff I need, and I can wear it anywhere. I also don't need to dump stuff out and reload the vest every day. I just hang the vest up when I get home and it's ready to go the next day.
The main body of the vest is mesh which helps with "heat" issues. I do want to avoid looking like a confused fisherman (not that there's anything wrong with fisherman) so I simply put a button up shirt on over the vest and I am good to go.
I might carry a little more than the average person would like to, and when I first started wearing the vest I found that my shoulders did get a little tired. I adjusted over time and don't notice it anymore.
Another possible solution to carrying personal necessities comes in the form a product called Quivvers. The fine folks who produce the product sent me a sample.
The tagline on the Quivvers site is "Technical. Minimal. Intelligent." The one word that jumps out based on my review is "minimal." This product is not meant to do what my vest does. Quivvers are meant to only carry the basics - let's say a standard sized mobile phone, cash, credit/bank cards, and a few keys. An S-biner also comes with it to attach other items like keys, like this photo from their website shows.
When it comes to what I could not cannot carry, here is a picture of my wallet - which did not fit. I carry about 8-10 different cards (library card, bank card, insurance card, etc.) some cash, and my drivers license.
My HTC Thunderbolt and my wife's iPhone 4 fit fine in the main pocket, but a friend at work has the Galaxy Note II and if you have a "phablet" you are out of luck.
The thing that suprised me the most was this.
The Quivver would seem like superior option than a moneybelt for traveling since the pockets are much easier to access, and if you were to wear a shirt, hoodie, jacket, whatever over the top your valuables would be secure. However, you can see in the picture above that the main pocket does not accomodate my passport. It is shoved all the way in but it still peeks out of the pocket.
How about the commuter test. At a minimum a multi-tool, extra tube, tire levers, and patch kit should be on your person when riding.
However I was out of luck when I tried to fit these things into the Quivver.
The tube fit in the front pocket, but since the tube is thick it stretched the fabric and my multi-tool would not zip into the back pocket. Without the multi-tool the levers did fit.
Overall I think Quivvers are a great concept, but at present there only seems to be one size option. If you are looking for something that is indeed minimal, the current line meets a need. It would work well for example if you were going for a run and wanted to carry some cash, a credit card, some keys, and your phone. They have many different styles and the owners of the company seem to want the product to serve as a fashion statement - this photo is from the website.
However, if you are looking for something for extended travel, until a model with a passport sized pocket is made available, it would not be a suitable option to replace a money belt type product. And as far as bike commuting, some larger pockets would be needed as well to hold basic equipment for field repairs.
Photo Credits in this post go to Toms Cargo Bikes
If you're like me, and constantly think of how cool it would be to have a home-built bakfiets or cargo bike, this might be just the inspiration you're looking for. Of course you also need to be able to weld, on know someone who might do it for you in exchange for say, beer.
Tom put up some great high resolution pictures of a build in process, along with accompanying notes. If anyone has experimented with such builds, we would love to post so give us a shout out.
Also, be sure and check out Tom's Flickr photos, where he documents a bunch more of his creations, and don't miss this profile of Tom over at BikePortland.
We decided that a photo caption contest might be fun and reader Brian from Cincinnati, Ohio submitted a photo we thought would be good for this contest. Brian writes:
My roommate is on co-op this summer at Daniel Island Charleston, South Carolina and though he doesn't ride (yet), he was aware enough to snap a pic and send it to the house bike fanatic. Huge Big-Wheel style saw blade front wheel, car rims with white 12" tires for back wheels, custom built frame and well worn saddle. Truly incredible.
Thanks Brian! So here's the deal - to be considered for your own set of BikeWrappers leave a comment with a caption for the picture. It's that simple. It could be a name for the bike, a witty one liner . . . whatever. Enter as many times as you wish and we will take entries until Friday, June 14. We will select one winner and that person will receive a set of BikeWrappers to review.
Too often I think we all fall prey to conformity. Manufacturers spit out a product (perhaps socks) and the masses are just happy to accept it as it is. There are a few out there that seek to stand out and RL Policar over at Mtn Bike Riders provides a simple hack to help give your boring disc brakes some pizazz. With the paint color of your choice you can personalize your brakes to fit your taste rather than the manufacturer's.
Witness boring brakes like mine:
And now witness the cool stylized version of RL Policar.
Picture Credit to MtnBikeRiders.com
Be sure to visit Mtn Bike Riders for the simple steps it took accomplish this disc brake pimp job.
New York City food delivery bikes feature some of the best hacks, and when mixed with style you get true awesomeness. Check out this delivery whip I stumbled upon -
Old compact discs are everywhere for reflective protection, and check out the custom moose mitts.
From the looks of it the owner took some old oil containers and shredded them for extra style points. With the poor paint job I think this bike takes home the prize for the coolest delivery steed I have ever seen. This was confirmed when the random dude in the first picture said, "Totally sweet ride, right?!"
Fenders are among the easiest and most diverse bike hacks. Water bottles (elegant and not so elegant) are probably the most common, but cooking pans, coroplast, and plastic containers are just a few of the options out there.
While strolling around NYC recently I spotted a first - a gutter fender.
It looks like it is doing its job.
For my daily commute I wear some Shimano shoes with the cleat embedded in the sole so when I am not on my bike I can walk around without sliding and slipping, but cycling shoes are not the most comfortable for walking around. The soles are stiff which is good for riding, but not so much for walking.
When running errands or washing my bike, I typically wear some old running shoes, but they have no defense against water. Thus, when finished splashing water around everywhere my shoes and feet are soaked. I have also dropped a tool on my foot before while making some repairs which led to me hopping around like a cartoon character for a minute.
Thanks to the fine folks at Bogs footwear, I now have a pair of boots that are perfect for washing and maintaining my bike, along with running errands. I was sent a pair of their Jamison model to review. There are two colors, this colorway . . .
The boots are quite comfortable, and this model has one of those tongues that is sewn into the body of the shoes so water and grit cannot seep inside. The sole would be good for a hike and they have good cushioning. Toe caps are also a great way of making shoes durable.
The best part for me is that they are waterproof, and I put them to the test by running them under water in my sink for a few minutes.
I felt around inside and they were 100% dry, even after a few minutes of being drenched. Bogs has a wide selection, and my wife also got a pair of the McKenna rain boots.
My wife noted that her boots are flexible and soft, but not "plasticky." She felt the boots were a bit loose fitting, and I think this is what Bogs is after. Niether her boots nor mine are what I would call "sleek," like for example running shoes which are basically form fitting. Her boots have buckles that can help with the fit.
My wife noted that the leather is styled well, the cushioning is nice, and they are comfortable to wear. Bogs does not sell half sizes, only whole sizes.
When it comes to being waterproof, her boots, like mine, get an A+. Just check out this video.
Bogs offers a wide selection and there is something for everyone, even some cool camouflage patterns for hunters. If you are looking for a solid pair of boots that will help keep you dry and comfortable, check them out.