Saturday, November 29, 2014

BBB Signal LED Rear Light

Yet another bicycle rear light! This one is interesting because it also uses a COB LED module that produces a warm organic glow. It should produce a light that looks like the Moon Comet Rear Light. The main difference in the appearance of the light is that this light has a more low profile light mount as compared to the Moon Comet light mount. I am looking for a low profile rear light that does not stick out so much from the back of the road bike seat post, which is why I got this light to try out.

BBB Signal LED Rear Light

3 steady modes with the different brightness and runtime. I thought it had a flashing mode, but it doesn't. This is not good as I would much prefer to use a flashing rear light for better visibility.

More detailed info about Lux, Candela and Lumen that I can't fully understand. Very useful for comparison with other lights.

Items found in the light packaging

The COB LED module can be seen clearly under the red transparent casing. The black rubber is the only button on this light.

Nicely designed rubber mount

The light can be swiveled on the mount to suit different mounting requirements

Quite lightweight at only 32 grams including the mount

Nice red glow! I really like the glow and it is rather bright too.

As mounted on the seatpost of the Merida Scultura 5000 road bike

When viewed from the side, the mount is rather flat and does not stick out too much from the seatpost

Good side visibility

Quite visible and bright when viewed from the back. The viewing angle is very wide due to the COB LED design.

How is the brightness of this light compared to other lights? I used a Smart 0.5W rear light for comparison as it is a rather popular light and most people would have seen it before.See the pictures below for the brightness and beam angle comparison. All the exposure is kept the same by focusing on the same area when taking the picture.

Smart 0.5W rear light. Very bright and focused beam.

BBB Signal LED Rear Light. Wide, soft and diffused light beam.

The two lights side by side. The BBB light wins out in terms of viewing angle and coverage, but the Smart light wins with its bright focused beam.

Operating this light is very easy and standard. A long press on the button turns on or off the light, while a short press switches between the 3 modes. Charging is via a micro USB port.

1) Wide viewing angle
2) Consistent brightness across the wide viewing angle
3) Lightweight
4) Slim and compact size
5) Easy to install and remove from the bike with the rubber mount
6) USB rechargeable
7) Rain proof

1) Expensive (similar price to Moon Comet)
2) Short battery life. Only 6 hours at lowest brightness and 1.5 hours at maximum brightness.
3) No flashing mode makes it less visible
4) Beam is not as bright as other lights with more focused beams

Overall, this is a nice light by itself. Lightweight and compact with a bright and wide beam. However, the main drawback is the lack of a flashing mode. This light is designed for some European markets which is why it does not have a flashing mode. Without a flashing mode, it will not be as visible, which is why I will not be using it on the bike. Will think of some other uses for this rear light.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

K-Edge Go Big GoPro Handlebar Mount

Ever since I got the Shimano Sport Camera CM-1000, I have been using it quite frequently. The video quality is better than the Polaroid XS100i, and it is also more compact and more lightweight. So far, I have been using it by mounting it on the helmet. As the camera weight is not too heavy, it is still acceptable to use it on the helmet without being too uncomfortable.

I have been exploring other places where I can mount the camera. This will remove the additional weight from the helmet, making it more comfortable. Since this camera uses a standard GoPro style of mounting, it is easy to find many aftermarket mounts that are designed for GoPro. This gives a wide range of mounts that enables the camera to be mounted almost anywhere you want.

The obvious place to mount a sport camera would be on the handlebar for front footage, or under the saddle for rear footage. I decided to get a handlebar mount to try mounting the Shimano Sport Camera on the handlebar.

There are a few handlebar mounts out there for GoPro cameras, and their functions are all the same. I decided to get the nicest looking (and unfortunately most expensive) handlebar mount from K-Edge.

Simple cardboard packaging for the K-Edge Go Big GoPro Handlebar Mount

CNC machined out of aluminium, made in USA and even with lifetime warranty!

Nice looking aluminium mount. Can be mounted like this or inverted, depending on your preference.

Low maximum torque on the clamp bolts

With this GoPro style of mounting, it will match with the Mount A from the Shimano Sport Camera. An Allen key type of bolt is provided, instead of a finger operated knob.

Weighs 48 grams for the aluminium mount

The GoPro mounting can be removed from the main Bracket

Mount A from the Shimano Sport Camera

I decided to mount the bracket and Mount A this way, so that the buttons for the camera faces upwards.

There is a choice of using the finger operated knob or the Allen key bolt.

The knob was chosen as it allows tool free adjustment of the camera angle, and also easy removal of Mount A.

Mounting the Shimano Sport Camera onto the K-Edge mount

Weight of the Shimano Sport Camera + Mount A and adjustment knob is 101 grams

Adding the weight of the K-Edge mount, the Mount A and the camera gives a total weight of about 150 grams. Not too heavy considering the added functions provided by the camera. Also, I get to remove the weight from my helmet.

The camera buttons and LEDs faces upwards for easy operation

K-Edge mount installed onto the Merida Scultura 5000 drop bar

The clamp is very low profile and does not take up much space on the handlebar

How it looks with the camera on the K-Edge mount

Side view of the whole set up

Adds a bit of clutter to the handlebar, but is it worth mounting it there?

When I mounted the camera to the handlebar, I was not sure if the video footage would be more jittery or more stable. On one hand, the video does not move around along with my head, but on the other hand, the camera will also receive vibrations from the bike. The actual video footage shown below was recorded when the Shimano Sport Camera is mounted on the Merida road bike with the K-Edge mount.

Set to Full HD (1080p) in the Youtube settings to get the full quality of the video

The video quality is surprisingly sharp and also stable. With the K-Edge mounting, the camera is securely mounted to the bike which means that it does not move around when I turn my head to check traffic. Somehow the road vibrations are not really transmitted to the camera, which makes the video footage super stable. On a side note, the colours recorded by the camera are brilliant, as you can see from the rich blue sky and the lush green trees and grass.

One thing that I like about this mounting is that in Super Wide video mode (180 degrees FOV), I can see the left and right shifters. It is quite cool to see the shifters in operation as I ride along, to see when the gears are being shifted.

Overall I am very happy with this new K-Edge mount, as it offers a different place to mount the Shimano Sport Camera and gives a super stable video footage.


Since I now have 2 mounts (helmet mount and handlebar mount), it would be good to have 2 separate Mount A on both the helmet mount and the handlebar mount. This would allow the camera to be detached easily and moved to the other mounting.

Without the extra Mount A, it would still be possible to move the camera around. However, the adjustment knob will need to be unscrewed, and Mount A will need to be moved together with the camera. This will be more troublesome.

Extra Mount A for additional mounting locations

Mount A on the helmet 

Mount A on the K-Edge handlebar mount

As the adjustment knob does not need to be released, it is very easy to swap the camera from one mount to the other. Also, the angle adjustment is not affected as the adjustment knob does not need to be removed.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Merida Scultura 5000 - Schwalbe One Tires

As the only point of contact between the bike and the road, the tires are a very important part of the bike. A lot of time, bike frame manufacturers talk about the ride characteristics of their bike frame, such as steel is smooth, aluminium is harsh, carbon is shock absorbing and so on. However, these are actually small differences compared to what the tire contributes in terms of ride quality.

Given a similar bike frame, different tire pressures will give a very different ride feel. High tire pressures will give a harsh ride, while lower tire pressures will give a more comfortable ride. This is regardless of whatever material the frame is made of.

Depending on your usage and requirements, a good set of tires can be defined in different ways. For a road bike, the features that I look out for in a road bike tire would be low rolling resistance, good cornering grip, and lightweight construction. These are the features that will help the bike to roll just that little bit faster. In this case, puncture resistance and off-road grip are not the priority, which is why the tires can be lightweight and have a smooth tread.

On the Merida Scultura 5000 road bike, the stock tires are Continental Ultra Sport 700x23C tires, which are actually a decent set of tires. I have done less than 50km on them, which is too short to actually do a decent review. In any case, I decided to swap them out for 25C tires which are slightly wider for a bit more comfort. On roads that are not exactly smooth, wider tires inflated to the same pressures will have less rolling resistance compared to a narrower set of tires. You can read up this excellent article comparing 23C to 25C tires. Some of the information there are facts, while others are opinions. In any case, you can try for yourself to see if there is really a difference.

My main purpose for getting new 25C tires is to try out for myself to see if there is any difference in ride quality. Although I have done only 50km on the stock tires, I can remember the ride quality clearly as it is my first road bike and I was very aware of the ride feeling.

Before I introduce the new tires, let's take a look at the stock tires first.

Continental Ultra Sport tires. 700x23C with a maximum pressure of 120 PSI.

Weighs 252 grams for one tire. An average weight, considering that it is a 23C tire. Nice to see that it is a folding tire which makes it easier to install/remove and for storage.

The inner tube that comes stock with the bike. CST brand, and is suitable for 18-25C tires. I will use it again for the new 25C tire as it is not damaged.

The stock inner tube is surprisingly lightweight at only 65 grams. A standard tube would weigh about 100 grams.

As you can see, the tire and inner tube that comes stock with the bike are quite decent. A nice Continental tire with lightweight tubes. I will be reusing those inner tubes with the new 25C tires.

The new Schwalbe One tires! It is apparently one of the top level road bike tires from Schwalbe.

Slightly wider at 25C, meaning that it is 25mm wide when inflated. Hopefully this gives a smoother and faster ride.

245 grams for the 25C tire. This is about the same weight as the stock 23C Continental tire. Not bad considering that it is wider and yet has a similar weight.

How it looks when mounted on the wheel! It was easy to mount the tire on the rim, thanks to the folding bead and also good tolerance control on the tire and rim sizes.

Sufficient clearance between tire and brake calipers. Should be able to accommodate up to 28C tires.

Nothing too flashy about this tire, just a plain Schwalbe One logo on the tires.

Some of the features of these tires are good puncture resistance and a supple carcass for lower rolling resistance. There is a whole list of other features, but they don't mean much to me on paper, as it is ultimately about the ride quality.

I had actually swapped to these tires one month ago, but did not write about them until I managed to clock some mileage on them. Up till now, I have done 150km on these tires, and have a rather good feel for these tires and its ride characteristics. 150km is not a lot, but it is enough to get a rough overview of the tire.

The Schwalbe One tires have a maximum rated pressure of 130 PSI, which is 10 PSI higher than the Continental Ultra Sport. A higher PSI rating does not mean that the tire is better, just that it can tolerate over-inflation a little better.

On the previous Continental Ultra Sport tires, I pumped the tires to 110 PSI. The ride was quite good and fast, but it felt a little harsh, despite the supposedly vibration dampening effect of the carbon frame.

Schwalbe One tires are available in different colours for 23C, but not for 25C or 28C.

With this new set of Schwalbe One tires, I pumped them up to 120 PSI, which is 10 PSI short of the maximum pressure. The tires felt rather hard and the ride was not comfortable. I then tried a lower pressure of 110 PSI, which improved the comfort. Finally, I used 100 PSI for the new Schwalbe One 25C tires. This made a huge difference to the ride comfort!

At 100 PSI, the ride felt very smooth and fast. On smooth roads, the tires roll very well and are very silent, and it feels like you can just keep accelerating. On rougher stretches of roads, the tires manages to filter out most of the bumpiness. The ride does not feel harsh like how it feels when riding on over-inflated tires, and yet there is no sluggishness in the ride, which is normally associated with under-inflated tires.

Another way to describe it is to imagine that a rough road is made up of many small jagged imperfections on the road surface. On a hard road tire, this uneven surface will cause the bike tire to bounce all over the bumps, and this translates to strong vibrations and a harsh ride. Now, imagine putting a nice radius on all these small jagged imperfections, by rounding off all the sharp edges. This is the difference and effect that the Schwalbe One tires can make, when inflated to 100 PSI.

At this tire pressure, it gives a perfect balance of speed and comfort, by filtering out the worst of the vibrations, and yet retain the speed by rolling over and absorbing all the small bumps instead of bouncing over all the bumps. This concept can apply to all road bike tires, so you can try changing the tire pressure to see if it gives a better ride.

Lastly, I also noticed that cornering on this set of tires feels really good. Somehow I get the feel of carving through the turns as if on rails, and I am able to find and hold my line easily. I have also done a couple of wet rides on these tires, and they have performed well on wet roads. No skidding feeling when cycling over wet metal drain covers, and generally no abnormalities detected. So far I don't have any complaints about these tires, they have performed very well.

The Schwalbe One tires are a nice set of tires that roll really well and are relatively lightweight. At the right tire pressures, they give a great balance of comfort and speed. As for puncture resistance and tire durability, this can only be known after using it for some time. A top level tire that can possibly make a difference to your ride.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Dahon Boardwalk vs Merida Scultura 5000: Frame Geometry

One of the primary reasons for me to get a road bike is to compare it with my drop bar Dahon Boardwalk. This Dahon Boardwalk has been modified thoroughly, and it is now more of a road bike than a mere folding bike. It is interesting to ride these two bikes and compare them, to see if the common assumptions between road bikes and folding bikes are true or not.

Nowadays, I try to alternate my rides between the Dahon Boardwalk and the Merida Scultura 5000. By doing so, I can detect and appreciate the differences and similarities between these two types of bikes. As this testing is still on going, I am unable to write a comparison of the ride quality yet.

However, what I can do now is to compare the frame geometry of the Dahon Boardwalk with the Merida Scultura 5000. By placing the bikes side by side and taking some measurements, the similarities and differences can be seen clearly.

What are the geometry differences between the Dahon Boardwalk and the Merida road bike? How do they affect the riding posture and feeling? Read on to find out!

In order to have a fair comparison on the frame geometry, we will first need to set a datum to compare the bikes. In this case I chose the centre of the BB or crankset to be the datum. This will allow me to compare the other dimensions such as the saddle height, handlebar reach and such.

Using the centre of the crankset as the datum. I placed the bikes such that the centre of the cranks are aligned with each other.

When the kickstand and bike stand are used to set the bikes upright, the rear wheel is unable to touch the floor. In this case, both rear wheels are set at the same distance off the floor for best accuracy. 

Comparing the seat tube angle. The Dahon seat tube is slightly steeper as the seat tube ends behind the BB, and not on top of the BB. Does not affect the final saddle position though.

Saddle height is practically the same!

Both saddle's fore-aft positions are also about the same. This also means that the saddle position relative to the crankset is the same across these two different bikes.

Comparing the rear axle positions to determine the chain stay length. They differ by a bit. The Dahon chainstay length is 400mm, while the Merida chainstay length is about 410mm. A shorter chainstay length will give a more nimble ride.

Different gap between the rear wheel and the seat tube, due to the different wheel sizes. Does not affect the ride quality.

Comparing the front axle positions. The Dahon front axle is about 20mm further forward of the Merida. This can affect steering feel, but this is not the only factor. The head tube angle and handlebar position also affects the steering feel of the bike.

So far, the frame geometry is quite similar between the Dahon Boardwalk and the Merida road bike. With a similar saddle height, the pedaling feel will be the same across the two bikes. 

The difference in chainstay length cannot be felt due to the small difference of less than 10mm. For comparison, trekking bikes have longer chainstay lengths of around 440mm for better stability and rear wheel clearance (for fenders and front derailleur). A short chainstay length gives a agile and nimble feel to the bike, and steering feels sharper due to the short rear end. However, it can be less stable at high speeds as the rear end tends to move around more compared to a bike with a longer chainstay.

Next, let us move on to the position of the handlebars and the road shifters. There is a much more obvious difference in positions for this area, due to some frame and handlepost limitations and certain preferences. Both handlebars are FSA compact drop bars of 400mm width, and thus the drop bar dimensions should be the same.

Overview of the handlebar positions. Generally, the Dahon handlebar is higher up and further back compared to the Merida handlebar.

Top view of the handlebars. The Dahon handlebar is about 30mm further back compared to the Merida handlebar.

Front view. The Dahon handlebar can be seen to be higher than the Merida handlebar.

Comparing the shifter positions. Since the shifter positions are related to the handlebar positions, the shifter on the Dahon can be seen to be further back.

Close up view showing the different shifter positions. As can be seen, the shifter on the Dahon is both higher and further back comparatively.

Another view of the shifters from another angle. Note the different hood shapes. Ultegra 10 speed 6770 Di2 shifter on the Dahon Boardwalk, and the new Ultegra 11 speed 6800 mechanical shifter on the Merida Scultura 5000.

By a rough estimation, the shifter hood position on the Dahon Boardwalk is about 30mm higher and 30mm further back. This gives the Dahon a shorter reach and a less bent-over position compared to the Merida road bike. It is exactly what I wanted, as the Merida road bike is supposed to put the rider is a more aerodynamic position for fast riding.

The difference of 30mm in the height and reach makes a big difference to the steering feeling. With the Dahon Boardwalk, there is a more relaxed feel when holding the shifters, due to the shorter reach and more upright position. As for the Merida road bike, the lower position and slightly longer reach creates the perfect geometry for a road bike, and makes me want to ride faster.

If I wanted to fully replicate the feel of a road bike on the Dahon Boardwalk, I can rotate the stem forward to give a similar handlebar position as the Merida road bike. However, I much prefer to keep the current handlebar position of the Dahon Boardwalk, as it is more comfortable and great for more relaxed riding.

In summary, the major frame geometry differences between my Dahon Boardwalk and the Merida Scultura 5000 are at the handlebars. The different shifter positions give a different feel to the ride. Even so, the positions are not that much different and can be adjusted to be the same if desired.

Finally, a picture showing the two different Ultegra shifters! Ultegra 10 speed 6770 Di2 shifter on the Dahon Boardwalk, and the new Ultegra 11 speed 6800 mechanical shifter on the Merida Scultura 5000. My favourite picture of this blog post.