Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lezyne Zecto Drive Front LED Light

I can't resist bike lights, especially when they come in a well designed package. Of course, they should also be easy to mount on the bike, and be easy to use. With this, let me introduce the latest addition to my array of bike lights!

On my Avanti Inc 3 commuting bike, I already have the NiteRider Mako 200 front light. However, I would prefer at least 2 front lights and 2 rear lights for each bike, for better visibility and also for backup. Therefore I got this new light for my Avanti Inc 3 commuting bike.

This is the Lezyne Zecto Drive Front Light, which is a dedicated front light. There is also the dedicated Zecto rear light, and a special front/rear dual purpose light. The Zecto Pro has both white LEDs for front usage and red LEDs for rear usage. It is best used as a backup light due to its dual colour LEDs, but it would be a pricey backup light!

Black coloured casing to suit my Avanti Inc 3. Look at the 3 LEDs enlarged by the lens!

The estimated runtime in the various modes. Is it good to have so many modes? Read on to find out.

The items that come with the light. A micro USB cable (which we already have too many of) and the rubber strap for mounting the light.

The casing seems to be built rather sturdily. Nice build quality.

The rubber cover for the USB charging port at the bottom of the light. Sealing seems OK.

Power button on top of the light.

The plastic clip at the rear of the light, for mounting onto saddle bags.

If you plan to mount it on a seatpost or handlebar, you can install the rubber strap for that.

This light has a good battery level indicator, with different coloured lights showing the battery charge left in the light.

Just press the ON button for a short 1 second and the battery indicator comes on.

Installation and Mounting:
Mounting this light on the handlebar is rather easy. Just loop the rubber strap around the handlebar and hook it on the bottom of the light. However, it find that it is quite a stretch to get it around the 31.8mm diameter handlebar. It is very secure, but I am concerned that the rubber strap may break after some time.

To charge the light, the light needs to be removed from the bike, which may or may not be troublesome, depending on how often the light needs to be charged. Or you could just get a long USB cable...

To turn on or off the light, just press and hold on to the ON button for 2 seconds. The light will turn on in the first mode, which is the Economy mode. To change to the other modes, just press the ON button briefly and it will cycle through the modes.

Economy Mode: Steady 20 lumens of light
Blast Mode: Steady 40 lumens of light
Flash 1: Top LED stays lighted, while the 2 bottom LEDs blink alternately
Flash 2: All 3 LEDs flash on and off
Flash 3: All 3 LEDs blink sequentially
Daytime Mode: All 3 LEDs flash rapidly for 2 times, before turning off for 1 sec. Flashes at 80 lumens.

From what I see, the more useful modes for me are the Flash / Daytime modes, as the blinking will catch more attention than a steady light. The curious thing is that the brightest mode (Daytime mode) actually also has the longest battery runtime. It is probably due to the short time that it is actually lighted compared to the other modes.

In this case it is a no brainer to always use the Daytime mode, since it is the brightest and lasts the longest. The other NiteRider Mako 200 light on the Avanti Inc 3 will then be used in the Low steady mode, as a to-see light.

However, what I don't like about this light is that when I turn it off, it will always start up in the Economy mode the next time I turn on the light. This means that I will have to click through all the modes before I get to the Daytime mode that I use. This is when I feel that there are too many modes, when I have to click through everything to get to the last mode.

It would have been much, much better if the light turned on at the last selected mode. Eg. If I turned off the light in Daytime mode, the next time I turned it on, it would start in Daytime mode.

Compatibility with Wireless Speedometers:
I have tried this light when it is mounted next to the Cateye Strada Slim wireless speedometer, and there is no interference with that. This would be down to good engineering on Lezyne's part to ensure that their electronics don't interfere with wireless speedometers.

Lezyne Zecto Drive mounted next to the Cateye Wireless Slim, with no electromagnetic interference between them.

Turning on the light. This is the Economy mode of 20 lumens

Pretty good as a to-be-seen light, especially if using the bright Daytime mode.

To conclude this short review, here is a summary of the good and bad of this Lezyne Zecto Drive Front LED light.

Plus Points:
1) Useful battery level indicator
2) Easy mounting method
3) No interference with wireless speedometer
4) Good battery life, especially on Daytime mode
5) Good build quality and attractive design
6) Brightness is quite good for a small sized light
7) Many modes to suit different users and preferences
8) Lightweight, good for weight conscious road bikes

1) Rubber strap may not be suited to oversized handlebars, as it feels overstretched
2) ON button is a bit hard to activate, and the tactile feeling of the click is not strong enough
3) Does not turn back on in the previously selected mode, making it necessary to cycle through the modes to get to Daytime mode

Would I buy this light again?

Overall, this bike light is quite good, packing a lot of brightness into a small package. The battery life is good, and the design of the light is also quite attractive. It is a great addition to any bike, as a high quality to-be-seen light. In fact, a pair of these lights would work really well on the handlebar, boosting visibility to other road users.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Journey of the Boardwalk: Part 37 - Installing the new Drop Bar, Handlepost and Stem

To follow up on the previous blog post, where the new FSA Vero compact drop bar, new Fnhon handlepost and new stem were introduced, I will now show the installation of these new parts.

Two different 31.8mm stems were shown; the gold coloured stem and the silver coloured one-piece stem. Before I decided on the stem to use, I installed them on the new handlepost and drop bar to try it out.

This is how the gold coloured stem looks. It is very similar to the LitePro stem, with the only difference being the clamp diameter of 31.8mm for oversized handlebars.

Gold coloured 31.8mm stem on the new 27cm Fnhon handlepost

Side view

This is how the new stem will be used. Instead of extending the reach, the stem is used to increase the height of the handlepost. The reason for using the stem this way is because I want to maintain the clamping height of the handlepost. The previous ABR drop bar was clamped directly to the top of the 31.5cm Fnhon handlepost. As I am now using the new stem for mounting an oversized drop bar, the handlepost needs to be shorter in order to maintain the same height. 27cm handlepost + 4.8cm stem gives an overall height of 31.8cm, which is almost the same as the 31.5cm Fnhon handlepost.

Height of the Fnhon handlepost + stem is about 31.5cm, similar to the previous setup.

The gold coloured stem matches nicely with the black colour of the handlepost and drop bar.

I also tried out the other one-piece stem, to see if it is better than the gold coloured stem. This stem is lighter and stronger than the gold stem, due to its one-piece design. The only downside is that the colour does not fit in as nicely with the rest of the bike.

Side view of the one-piece stem. Strictly speaking it is not one piece as there are 2 face plates on top, but the rest of the stem is machined as one-piece.

Open clamp design makes it easy to set up the handlebar

Putting on the new FSA Vero compact drop bar

Another side view of the stem and drop bar

Top view of the stem. Note that there are many clamp bolts here! 8 in total.

Overall height of handlepost + stem is about 31.7cm, which is almost the same as the 31.5cm Fnhon handlepost

Overall view of the drop bar, stem and handlepost.

It was time to make a decision. To use the gold coloured stem, or the silver coloured stem? In the end I decided to go with function over aesthetics. The silver one-piece stem was chosen for its better stiffness and lighter weight. The open clamp design will also be very useful if I need to remove the handlebar from the handlepost.

Before I installed the new components onto the bike, I compared it with the existing setup on the Dahon Boardwalk.

New compact drop bar on the right. See the difference in the angle and height of the drops. The compact drop bar has a much shallower drop which should be more comfortable.

Similar width of 400mm

Another picture comparing the shape of the drop bars.

Side by side comparison of the new setup (on the left) and the old setup (on the right). Distance between the centre of the drop bar and the base of the handlepost is the same.

Old setup before it was taken off the bike

New setup! Just swap the entire handlepost unit, together with the new stem and drop bar. To see how to install the handlepost, check out the guide here.

The drop bar manual says that this drop bar is designed to have the drops parallel to the ground

Fixed the drop bar and stem positions as shown.

Positioned the Ultegra Di2 road shifters such that the hoods are tilted up slightly for better comfort.

Since I had to remove all the brake cables, I took the chance to swap out the brake outer casing for the new Dura-Ace 9000 outer casing. This is to make the braking action even smoother and lighter.

Swapping the brake cable housing

After wiring up everything! The handlebar extension mount was carried over from the previous drop bar and installed on the new drop bar.

New Cane Creek Crosstop levers. Installed slightly nearer to the centre of the drop bar compared to the previous setup,

New stem and 4 bolt handlepost clamp. The Di2 satellite switch is now mounted over the clamp band of the Cane Creek brake levers. It fits perfectly!

Setup looks very similar after the upgrade.

As the handlepost is now shorter, I have to mount the two Moon Comet Front Lights horizontally instead of vertically.

Showing the new curves of the drop bar. Shorter reach to the shifters, and also a more shallow drop. Looks much more comfortable than the previous drop bar!

Front view of the new setup

After trying out the new setup, I found that my riding position has really been improved, to become more comfortable. The shorter reach to the shifters means that I don't stretch out as far, while the shallow drops make it easy for me to stay in the drops for longer distances. In short, the ergonomics and comfort of riding has been improved with this new drop bar setup.

As for the stiffness of the new setup, it feels similar to the previous one-piece 31.5cm handlepost. Although the addition of a stem should make the handling feel less stiff, the wider position of the stem clamps and the oversized drop bar compensates for this. Most importantly, the comfort has been improved!

Overall view of the new setup

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Journey of the Boardwalk: Part 36 - FSA Drop Bar, Fnhon Handlepost and 31.8mm Stem

In Part 18 of the Journey of the Boardwalk, I changed my bike controls from a bullhorn bar to a drop bar. I only just realised that it has been 2 years since I first used drop bars on my Boardwalk! It didn't seem so long that I first used drop bars.

The position of the drop bar has been quite comfortable all these while, but after a recent change of the handlepost, the handlepost height was reduced. In Part 30, I changed from a Dahon Mu Uno handlepost to a Fnhon handlepost, and the height was reduced by 5 cm. Although the lower sportier position is good for speed, it is not as comfortable as a higher handlepost as I need to bend lower to reach the handlebar.

I also found that the position of the drops was too low for me. It was not comfortable for me to be in the drops, after the handlepost was lowered by 5 cm. I ended up not using the drops at all.

After doing some research, I learnt that there was much more to drop bars than I thought. To a beginner, all drop bars look quite similar. However, there are actually many different types of drop bars and dimensions, and they cater to different needs. For more detailed info, you can refer to this excellent article.

Road Drop Bar Geometry

To summarise the info, besides the width of the drop bar, there are 3 other important characteristics of a drop bar. First is the type of drop bar. Is it a traditional reach type, an anatomic type, or a compact type? This refers to the shape of the drops.

Next would be the reach distance and the drop distance of the drop bar. The reach determines how far the shifters will be positioned in front of the stem, while the drop distance determines how low the drop is.

Different curves, reach and drop of different drop bars. Which one is yours?

After learning all these, I knew that I needed a compact drop bar, with a short reach and short drop. This will move the shifters closer to the handlepost, and not stick out so far in front. The reach will be shorter and should be more comfortable for me to reach.

With a shorter drop, the drops will be more accessible without me needed to reach down so far. Again, more comfort will enable me to use it more often.

The problem with installing a drop bar on a Dahon handlepost is that very few drop bars come in 25.4mm or 26mm center diameter these days. Dahon handlepost clamps or LitePro stems can only accept a 25.4mm or at most a 26mm handlebar. Most modern drop bars are built with an oversized center diameter, with a center clamp diameter of 31.8mm. Good 25.4mm or 26mm drop bars are getting quite rare. If I want to install a 31.8mm drop bar, then I will need to find a suitable way to fix it to the handlepost.

To do that, a combination of new parts is required! In this part of the upgrade, I will only be listing down the new components that I got. The installation part will only be described in the next part of the upgrade story. See how I managed to fix an oversized (31.8mm) drop bar to my Dahon Boardwalk!

The shape and dimensions of the new drop bar is very important. In order to reduce reach and make it more comfortable, I opted to get a compact drop bar, with a short reach and short drop. The FSA Vero aluminium drop bar is good and cheap, and satisfies my requirements.

FSA Vero aluminium compact drop bar.

What I like is that the dimensions are clearly printed on the center of the drop bar for easy reference. The reach of 80mm and drop of 125mm is likely to be one of the shortest that can be found out there.

Not lightweight at all, at 305 grams. For comparison, my ABR drop bar is only 220 grams! 

As the drop bar center clamp diameter is now larger at 31.8mm, I found that I will also need a new set of cyclocross brake levers, with a larger clamp size. I decided to get this Cane Creek levers, which only cost a few dollars more than a similar set of Tektro brake levers.

Cane Creek Crosstop levers, with aluminium levers and 31.8mm clamp diameter.

Comes with a set screw on the lever axle to reduce lever play, and a reach adjust bolt for lever reach adjustment. Similar to the Tektro design.

Looking good!

The most important component for this upgrade is the stem. As I am using a 31.8mm drop bar, I will need the stem to convert the clamp size from 25.4mm on the handlepost to 31.8mm of the drop bar. Not coincidentally, the most important part is also the hardest to find. I tried many sources on Taobao and they were mostly out of stock of this special stem. It was only after I searched and tried many sellers that I managed to find this stem.

This stem is similar in concept to the LitePro stem, with the difference being the clamp diameter. The LitePro stem has a clamp diameter of 25.4mm on both sides, which is mainly used to extend the reach of the handlebar.

As for this new stem, it has a clamp diameter of 25.4mm on one side to fix to the handlepost, and a clamp diameter of 31.8mm on the other end to install the oversized handlebar. I wonder why this stem is so hard to find as I am sure there is demand for it.

To try to keep to the colour scheme of my Dahon Boardwalk, I found and ordered a gold coloured stem. This stem can be used with a T-shaped handlepost or a normal clamp type handlepost.

New gold coloured stem! Large 31.8mm clamp on one end allows the use of oversized handlebars.

Made of 7075 T6 aluminium for strength.

Similar construction to the LitePro stem. The logo is of the brand Parasol Tree.

Side view of the stem.

The centre-to-centre distance between the clamps is about 48mm.

This stem weighs about 113 grams. For comparison, the LitePro 25.4mm stem weighs about 100 grams.

At the same time, I also ordered alternative stem designs. As many of the sources are actually out of stock, I decided to order from many sources at one time, and see which ones actually have the stock and manage to deliver. Trying one by one will only waste a lot of time as they take quite a while to tell you that the item that you want is out of stock.

This alternative stem design is also from Parasol Tree. This other design is quite interesting, and can only be used with a clamp type handlepost and not T-shaped handlepost.

The alternative stem design with 31.8mm clamp diameter.

This clamp is designed such that the 25.4mm bar is machined out as one piece with the stem. It does not have a separate 25.4mm bar as seen on the other stem or LitePro stems.

The 2 face plates on the 31.8mm clamp side is completely removable, making it easy to put on the handlebar. This is useful as it can be tricky trying to thread the stem over a curvy drop bar or bullhorn bar.

Centre-to-centre distance is about 47mm.

This stem is lighter than the other design, due to the one piece construction. It is quite lightweight at only 72 grams.

Comparing the two stems side by side

Not quite the same, but function wise they do the same thing.

So, now I have two stems to choose from. Which one would be more suitable? Each stem has its pros and cons, and I have to decide which one to use.

The gold coloured stem has a colour that matches the colour scheme of my bike. However, the separate construction means that it is probably a little bit less stiff than the one piece design. It also weighs a little bit more.

On the other hand, the silver stem's colour is different from my colour scheme. The main advantage here is the one piece construction, which is stiffer and lighter than the gold coloured stem. The open clamp design is also useful.

Before we go on to see which stem I eventually used, we need to take a look at the last key component, which is the handlepost. The current handlepost is the 31.5cm Fnhon handlepost, which has an open clamp design with 2 clamp bolts. The drop bar mounts directly to the clamp on top of the handlepost. However, if I am using an additional stem, mounting the stem and drop bar on top of the 31.5cm Fnhon handlepost will make the drop bar too high up. I will already be reducing the reach by using a compact drop bar, so there is no need to further raise up the height of the drop bar mounting point.

In this case, to compensate for the additional height given by the new stem, I will need to get a shorter handlepost instead. Fnhon does have a shorter handlepost, at only 27cm. Check it out below.

Fnhon 27cm handlepost. The 27cm is measured from the centre of the clamp on top, to the clamping line at the bottom of the handlepost.

Unique top clamp design! 4 bolt design for a super stiff and secure mounting of the handlebar. No need to worry about the stem or handlebar rotating or slipping within the clamp.

Top part of the clamp can be easily separated to fit on the handlebar.

Weighs 511 grams, not much lighter than the 31.5cm Fnhon handlepost which I got previously. It is about 4.5 cm shorter than the previous handlepost, but the larger clamp and 2 additional bolts do add a bit to the weight.

Now that all the parts have been gathered, I can change out the whole handlepost and drop bar assembly. The new parts are the FSA Drop bar, the new 31.8mm stem, and the new shorter Fnhon handlepost.

In the next part, I will show which stem I eventually used, and why I chose that. Also, I will go through the installation process, and compare the old handlepost/drop bar setup with the new handlepost/drop bar setup.