Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Product Debate: Blackburn Airstik 2 Stage Mini-Pump vs. Genuine Innovations Ultraflate CO2 Tire Inflator

     One and done or consistently reusable? Supreme speed or slow but steady? Hit or miss or beneficial reliability? These are a few of the questions that you may be asking yourself while seeking the perfect inflation device to carry along on your next ride. Look no further for the final answer.

Blackburn Airstik 2 Stage Mini-Pump
Blackburn Airstik 2 Stage Mini-Pump

     The Blackburn Airstik 2 Stage Mini-Pump packs extreme reliability and durability into one concise package. This mini-pump encapsulates simplicity while remaining focused on the essential concept of rapid inflation. Through including two separate inflation modes, which transition through the flip of a switch, repairing a flat tire comes quicker than ever before. The "Low" mode focuses on increasing the volume of the tube/tire combination as quickly as possible while the "High" mode targets elevating tire pressure. For roadside repairs and trailside repairs, the Blackburn Airstik 2 Stage Mini-Pump will get the job done.
"Low" Mode

"High" Mode
     Unfortunately, the Blackburn Airstik 2 Stage Mini-Pump does have a couple of negatives worth mentioning. The slight physique of the Airstik is both a blessing and a curse in disguise. At a mere 85 grams, this inflation device is hardly noticeable in your back pocket. However, descending mountain bike trails allows for the inevitable possibility of the Airstik ejecting. During testing, this did occur. Second, the Airstik's simplicity does not provide for a flexible head that would attach to the valve stem. Therefore, it is highly important to keep the Airstik perpendicular to a valve stem throughout the inflation period. Otherwise, breaking a valve stem is likely to occur. The negatives of the Airstik are worth keeping in mind but they are not a deal breaker.

Genuine Innovations Ultraflate CO2 Tire Inflator
Genuine Innovations Ultraflate CO2 Tire Inflator
     The Genuine Innovations Ultraflate is a complex beast to handle. Positives of the Ultraflate include simple operation, outstanding inflation speed, and proven durability. The Ultraflate is widely compatible with small, large, threaded, and non-threaded CO2 cartridges. The CO2 boost of the Ultraflate allows for complete inflation, all in a matter of seconds. Also, the hard shell design of the Ultraflate ensures protection against a chilling CO2 cartridge and the elements. Components that separate the Ultraflate also hold it back.
     The major downside of the Ultraflate is its one and done nature. The device can only envelope one CO2 cartridge at a time. Therefore, unless a rider is planning to bring additional cartridges, a two flat ride will leave the need for major assistance. Ultimately, a CO2 device is ideal for racing scenarios where time and speed are of the essence but they are a slight liability while training. Risking peace of mind for speed is a fine line to straddle.

The Decision
     The Blackburn Airstik 2 Stage Mini-Pump and the Genuine Innovations Ultraflate CO2 Tire Inflator both excel but in different environments. The Airstik is a safer choice for training where reliability is a necessity and speed is not. The Ultraflate dominates the Airstik in race scenarios where time is of the essence. Both inflation devices are highly advanced and worth considering for a compact inflation device. For more information on the Airstik, visit here. For more information on the Ultraflate, visit here. Thank you for reading. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Product Review: Specialized S3 Helmet

Pros: Design, Ear/Chin Strap Compatibility, Fit Adjustment
Cons: High/Low Helmet Appearance
Specialized S3 Helmet (Front)
Specialized S3 Helmet (Side)
Design
     Specialized has outdone themselves, once again, with the sleek and stylistic appearance of the Specialized S3 helmet. The S3 includes numerous outstanding features that typically go unnoticed or are taken for granted in a helmet. First, one of the primary necessities in a helmet is a balance between protection and minimalism. The S3 helmet does not feel bulky and its openness allows for it to breath extraordinarily well. Climbing and descending do not interfere with optimal comfort. Second, the S3 incorporates a minute notch, in the front of the helmet, that securely fastens an optional visor. Therefore, the S3 easily doubles as a road and mountain helmet. The visor is an optimal addition for sunrise/sunset riding. As a complement to the visor for dawn/dusk riding, two reflective strips are located on the rear of the S3. Seeing and being seen are equally important. By incorporating so many features into a simplistic and versatile helmet, the S3 is a fantastic helmet for all bike junkies, especially commuters.
Reflective Strips (Back)
Ear/Chin Strap Compatibility
     Arguably one of the most time consuming, annoying bits that comes with a new helmet is adjusting the ear and chin straps to fit appropriately. Specialized has taken the hassle out of purchasing a new helmet with their one size fits all ear straps. The one downside to the ear straps is their slightly looser design causes increased flapping on fast descents. However, this appears to be a temporary issue that quickly subsides with a change of direction and/or conditions. In addition to the ideal ear strap positioning, the chin strap can be adjusted with ease. A micro fastener complements the chin strap to prevent excess material from dangling.
Ear Straps and Fastener

Fit Adjustment
     As an all inclusive measure, Specialized includes the ideal fit system with the S3 helmet. With five different options to encompass various head sizes, the rear webbing of the S3 can be adjusted in an up and down manner. The adjustment moves the webbing closer to the helmet or closer to the rider's neck. In addition to providing a better fit, the adjustment prevents any hot spot or sensitivity issues relating to personal features. If this was not enough, a tightness adjustor is included at the rear of the helmet. Combining the ability to adjust both tightness and webbing is an example of innovation at its finest.
Fit System (Gray) with Tightness Adjustor
High/Low Helmet Appearance
     The one downside of the Specialized S3 helmet is its tendency to sit low on the forehead and high on the rear of the head. The frontal slouching is not a large inhibitor. However, it does take some adjusting to a helmet that sits higher, in the rear. This is mildly counteracted by the ability to adjust the structure of the helmet.

Overall
     As one complete package, the Specialized S3 helmet is absolutely one of the top pieces of equipment on the market. Seeing other riders switch away from higher end Specialized helmets for the S3, due to the features it offers, is understandable. The sleek and minimal design, ease of adjustment, and superior inclusion of necessary but rarely incorporated features, places my overall rating for the Specialized S3 helmet at a 8.5/10. For more information on the Specialized S3 helmet, please visit here. Thank you very much for reading. Please check back soon for more updates.