Category Archives: Gear

Mood and Safety Enhancing: M204 Monkey Light Review

Our hours of daylight may be lengthening, but I still find myself doing plenty of night riding in the city. Melissa over at MonkeyLectric asked if I’d be interested in trying out a set of their M204 Monkey Lights, a multi-colored battery-operated light that attaches to one’s wheel spokes.

Monkey Light

Generally, I’m not much for doing product reviews, but the Monkey Light intrigued me so I said sure. I’ve now been using the Monkey Light on my Surly Long Haul Trucker for three months and my short summary of this light is:

Both mood and safety enhancing, the M204 Monkeylectric Monkey Light 204 is a reasonably priced (around $25.00), relatively easy-to-install supplemental light with a slightly clunky hub-affixed battery pack that provides colorful peripheral lighting for bike commuters. 

For night riding and dreary days, the Monkey Light M204 has been a pleasant addition. It’s like having my own little front wheel rainbow.

It was fairly simple to install, key for someone like me who does not like to futz with things. Total time to put the light on my bike was less than 30 minutes, and I took pictures along the way.

Monkey Light

The instructions explaining how to attach the light to my hub were easy to follow. The light affixes to the spokes with two zipties, and the battery pack fits to the hub through zip ties as well.

Monkey Light

MonkeyLectric sends a few extra zip ties with the light in the event you need to replace one, as well as a couple of metal ties to make the light more theft-proof (which I am not using).

I wound the wire that attaches the light to the battery pack around a spoke. I’m not a huge fan of how it looks, but it’s not too intrusive, and in the dark you can’t even tell it’s there, ha!

Monkey Light
Attaching the battery pack to the hub after winding the light wire around the spoke and before cutting the zip ties on the light.


The battery pack requires four AA batteries and MonkeyLectric sends you a set to get you started. I’m still using those initial batteries, but my nighttime commute generally runs between three and five miles.

Monkey Light battery pack
Monkey Light battery pack
Connecting the battery pack to the light cord
Connecting the battery pack to the light cord

Over the three months I’ve used the Monkey Light the battery pack has shifted, but I could not have attached the zip ties any tighter to the hub. I imagine I will need to reinstall the pack at some point to hopefully tighten the pack down more snugly, but for now it’s working without issue.

I don’t understand the run time indicators or pattern instructions included on the Monkey Light instructions. There are two possibilities for this:

1. I’m not good at reading pictures; or
2. I’m impatient and don’t take the time to decipher the pictures.

In any event, I know where “off” and “on” is located (the red button!) and I then push the black button until I find a pattern that suits my mood.

Monkey Light

I like using this bike in the city. It is eye-catching and gives good additional peripheral light. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good images of me riding this bike in the dark so please accept the couple of still photos I took in my house with the lights off as a substitute.

The colors are fun, brighten my mood, but do not distract from my main job of pedaling. Monkey Light says that the light is waterproof, and it has held up to several commutes in steady rain.

Monkey Light Pennsylvania Ave

While this is no substitute for front or rear lights, if you are in the market for a bit of extra visibility on the bike at a reasonable cost, I’d recommend you check out the M204 Monkey Light. Thanks again to Melissa and MonkeyLectric for the opportunity to try it.

Commute Essentials: Klean Kanteen Cages

Quickbeam at the grocery. Klean Kanteen on the ground.

A few years ago I began commuting with steel Klean Kanteen bottles. I liked using the steel bottles, but because Klean Kanteens are narrower in circumfrence than a standard plastic water bottle and I use stainless steel cages almost exclusively, the metal on metal made the Kanteens rattle away on city streets like nobody’s business.

I suppose I could have put some kind of fabric covering over the bottles to diminish noise, but instead I purchased a plastic cage specifically designed for the Klean Kanteen bottle. I installed one on my Surly LHT and another on my Rivendell Quickbeam.

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The Camelbak: A Reluctant Brevet and Touring Necessity

Camelbak with reflective cover. Photo by Bill Beck
Camelbak with reflective cover. Photo by Bill Beck

I generally like the look of most of my cycling clothing and gear with the exception of a few items such as booties, balaclavas, and the topic of today’s post, my Camelbak. However, much as I dislike the overall aesthetic, you will not see me on a brevet or bike tour without some kind of hydration pack.

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Make Your Own Cue Sheet Holder

Someone recently asked me what I use for a cue sheet holder when I ride. There are a variety of ways to affix a cue sheet to your bike, but the method I’ve been quite happy with over the years is one that Felkerino taught me.


Felkerino makes cue sheet holders that affix to your stem by using the following items:

  • One binder clip
  • One small piece of rubber shim; and
  • One zip tie

These cue sheet holders are simple to make and the necessary ingredients are easy to find.

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Winter Weather: Testing Your Mettle and Your Wardrobe

It is unusual for D.C. to go into the deep freeze, but it happened this week. We’re experiencing the coldest weather we’ve had since March 2009, according to Capital Weather Gang.

Winter commuting on the Surly

Given that we seldom have snow or ice during the winter months, the cold and wind are the primary deterrents to riding, as opposed to the actual street conditions. Now is the time when commuters test their tolerance of the frigid conditions as well as their gear.

Regarding tolerance for cold, I confess a big fail. I am still riding, but each day I find myself procrastinating my ride to work in the cozy warmth of my home. I don multiple layers and it’s only after I begin to overheat that I reluctantly roll my bike out of the house.

This morning, while parking in my building, a fellow commuter arrived saying, “We’re hardcore. The cold can’t stop us.”

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BikeWrappers: Review and Giveaway

With the arrival of fall, night creeps in a little earlier to push out the daylight. Time to think about nighttime riding and making yourself even more visible to traffic.

While a head- and tail-light are critical for rides after dark, there are other accessories worth considering for your bike, too. A couple of months ago, the people at BikeWrappers asked me if I’d be interested in reviewing their product. I agreed, and they sent me a set to test out.

BikeWrappers are three fabric panels that affix via Velcro to three different sections of your bike: the top tube, seat tube, and the down tube. BikeWrappers are two-sided. One side of the BikeWrappers is for decorative purposes and has a pattern or is mono-color. The other side is made purely of reflective material.

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Getting Comfortable in the Saddle

One of my blog readers, Trish, recently asked the following question about comfort in the saddle:

I searched your blog to see if I could find your thoughts on comfort in the saddle, which is my biggest obstacle to long rides. I’ve been doing metric centuries every weekend, but beyond that I think my rear end would be in too much discomfort.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject.

I know the saddle itself is highly personal, but do you have a favorite chamois? I like the Castelli Kiss chamois, not crazy about my Pearl Izumi, but haven’t tried all that many as experimentation is an expensive undertaking! Do you use Butt Butter or the like?

Obviously the position each rider finds comfortable varies by person, but the methods we use to achieve it are generally the same. Here’s what goes into making my saddle setup the best it can be.

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WABA 50 States Ride: Pre-Ride Prep for the Ultimate Urban Excursion

This coming Saturday marks the arrival of another edition of the 50 States Ride. While this ride sort of freaked me out the first time I did it, it’s since grown on me and now it’s a much-anticipated fall event.

Felkerino and me at the end of the 2011 50 States Ride

Washington Area Bicycling Association (WABA), our local cycling advocacy group, organizes the ride. My entry fee supports WABA’s good work and in exchange I get a tour through all four quadrants and 50 state streets in the District with 500 other people.

The total 50 States route is around 65 miles. My plan is to not ride the full route. How about that for ambition? Rather, I’ll be doing the “More than 25, but fewer than 50 States Ride,” depending on where and how far I feel like riding. Last year, I pedaled over 40 of the 50 state streets and completed slightly more than 50 miles.

It feels good to accomplish the full route and all 50 state streets, but I found myself pulling out my hair at some of the more congested downtown areas. Since I ride those fairly frequently anyway, it doesn’t break my heart to skip them during the 50 States Ride.

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