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Thursday, July 5, 2012

Product Review: Tacx Lumos Lights and Continental Force

Tacx Lumos Bike Lights:

Like most people I work regular hours for a living and that means I have to do most of my serious training at night.

Taiwan can be a frustrating and dangerous place to ride during the day, and at night you have to be even more careful. Good lighting and visibility is essential to surviving each ride unscathed.

For the past several years I had been using a Cat Eye bar top mounted light with strobe and solid beams pairs with a couple of blinkeys on the back.

The worst thing about the Cat Eye was that several times during a ride, I would have to slow down and re adjust the strap to keep it from dangling or dropping off the bar completely. No matter how tight I would fasten the damned light, a little rough pavement or bump on a bridge, would send it illuminating my shoes.

I went into T-Mosaic and saw the Tacx bar end mounted lights and was intrigued. I finally broke down and bought them. After a few nights out with them, I think I like them pretty okay.

They are bright. They are solidly mounted to the bar ends and run on AA batteries. Each side shines front and rear with a blinker if you ever remember to use it. These are all good points.

I don't like the lack of a strobe. It is easy for me to imagine a vehicle misjudging my distance if they aren't sure way type of vehicle I am. I remember one foggy night I was driving through Sun Valley, Idaho. The road was covered in a dusting of snow and the highway covered in fog. I saw a bunch of lights up ahead and wondered what all those cars were doing up there. I suddenly realized that I was about to ram the back end of a semi trailer. The point is: Lights can be deceiving in the dark. A strobe is a good clue that you are a bike.

I am also trying to get used to having something beyond my normal bar ends. A couple times I have turned off the lights by resting my hands on the very ends of the bars.

The last quibble is that the AA batteries rattle when you hit any type of bump and it makes the ride a bit noisy.

My left light has quit working after maybe three night rides. It will turn on if I remove the light and jiggle the contacts, but that only lasts for a moment.

Overall, this COULD BE is a very good product for night owls. I still see lots of room for improvement. Better engineering would be a start. Remounting the button to the outside might be better. Adding a strobe function would make this product a easy choice if it can be robust enough to handle real world riding.

It feels like a beta product, but it is not ready for the consumer.


About 6 weeks ago I brought these lights back to my LBS. The owner was kind enough to send them in to have the engineers look at the problems. Nobody has heard back from Tacx. I was issued a new set on the LBS owner's dime.

When they break... I will be looking elsewhere.

Continental Force Tire:

I am still, and have been for a long time, a huge fan of the Continental 4000 GP tire. It is an excellent performance tire for racing and fast training.

Sadly, when my tire died, I had to face the fact that Taiwan is always in short supply of my trusty 4000 GP. The superior 25c model is even more scarce.

I needed a tire and went with the Continental Force. I chose the force for its performance profile, and for the fact that it is 24c. I thought this would be a good replacement when paired with the 23c 4000 GP on the front.

The tire feels very firm. At first it made my bike feel like one of those old alloy Cannondale biked of the 90s. After a while the tire felt very smooth and a very good roller with plenty of tack on the road.

I have not had it long enough to rate the wear, but so far, this is a very nice performance tire. Very racy.

Central Taiwan Cycling Health WARNING: Seasonal Burning

Smoke from Changhua fields

Last night, as I was charging through Caotun halfway through my Wednesday night training ride, I felt my chest tighten and it became harder to draw a solid breath of air. 

At first I thought I had overcooked in my effort and I paused at 7-11 for a water in the A/C. 

I knew I was out of shape, but everything seemed to be going well. Until that point I expected my legs to cramp up before my lungs. 

I started to recognize the feeling of an allergy induced asthma attack and I was traveling without my inhaler or antihistamine. Doh!

As I blew my nose into a complimentary 7-11 napkin, I became keenly aware of the smell (and taste) of  smoke. 

That is when it dawned on me that I had charged full speed into burning season. This is the time of year when farmers burn off the rice husks in their fields and prepare for the next crop of rice. The practice pollutes the air with thick smoke and creates a potentially dangerous situation for those of us with asthma or other respiratory problems. 

If you have allergies, asthma, or any other respiratory problem that could lead to a medical emergency, be sure to keep that in mind when choosing your routes for the next couple of weeks. Also be sure to carry everything you need if you have an emergency. 

I finished my ride at about half-speed, and not after spraying the roadway with two dozen snot rockets. My throat was a bit sore and I had a pounding headache. Feeling much better now. 

Ride safe!

Team Neko To The Rescue: Thanks Again!


Last Saturday I went on another longish ride out toward Nantou as I claw my way back into shape after a 2 month hiatus. There are days when one or two things conspire against you... and there are days when it seems everything does. 

On Saturday, it seemed lots was going wrong. 


I had intended to ride down past Mingian, and then loop back to Nantou via the Route 139, which, if ridden in its entirety would be an amazing ride. This is the second time I had tried to find the Route 139, and often, the view from the map is vastly different from that of the roadside. In my mind's eye, I thought I knew where to go... and I did. The problem was that there is a jumble of roads in the area and I managed to find myself on the wrong one. By the time I realized I would be missing the Route 139, it was too late and I had already wasted too much energy to go back. 


Instead of chewing up grit on a mouthful of nasty hills in the hot sun, I was looping through the shady avenues of the leisurely Route 152, which has become something of a novice route for city slickers visiting the town of Ji Ji and rent bikes on a lark. 


The Route 152 is pretty and pleasant. 


It follows the old banana rail lines around JiJi and within 30 minutes I was plopped back on the Highway 3 headed home.


I rode up the Highway 3 looking for any roads that might show the promise of adventure and as I was passing a 7-11, I felt my rear tire deflate. 

"Damn!", I thought to myself, "Well, at least I am in front of a 7-11. It could be worse." 

I parked my bike and went in for a popsicle and a little A/C before getting down and dirty with changing a flat. 

Once I got everything changed, I hit the road back. After riding less than a kilometer, I felt the road getting soft under my rear tire again. I got off the bike and located a tear in the rubber of my tire. It seemed the high pressure was forcing the tube through the hole causing it to explode. 

Just as I started walking to the Circle K that was just on the other side of the bridge to repeat the flat ritual I had just completed minutes earlier, a number of riders from Taichung's Team Neko stopped by to lend a hand. I explained the problem and it was as if a team of race mechanics had descended on my bike. I gave them space and I was back up and riding-- albeit a little soft in the rear to avoid another blow-out. 

I recognized several of the riders from Caffe Terry, and I decided to hang with Neko for the remainder of the ride. I figured it would be like riding with a mobile bicycle shop. Lots of people with pumps and tubes if anything went wrong.

The group had well over twenty riders, so it was nice to take advantage of the draft. The pace was quick at the front, but not too fast, about 35-38kph. Occasionally the studs of the group would launch off the front in a bit of fun. For me, I was just happy to get a tow home. It was also nice to have one of the only metal bikes in the middle of a bunch of beautiful carbon bikes.

Neko is Taichung's default group ride. They are well organized and always doing something different on both Saturday and Sunday. They also do weekly Wednesday night rides. You can't miss them with their jailbird stripes and cat logo. I see them all the time, but have never had a chance to ride with them before Saturday. Anyone is welcome to join Neko, so they attract both the hardcore racer and the cycling novice. A beginner could learn a lot from these guys. 

There schedule can be found HERE. Sadly there is no English option. 

I bumped along with the group all the way back to Taichung with 20psi in my rear tire. When the group split up and several members finally landed at a cafe, I thanked them for the help and in allowing me to crash the party. 

This is very much the spirit of cycling in Taiwan. People are very supportive and always ready to lend a hand. 

Thanks again Neko.