23 February 2017


What’s in My Bag? — Mark Slavonia

An avid cyclist shares his road gear

I log about 10,000 miles per year from my home in San Francisco and around the world. I use this gear for short city loops or for 100 mile adventures. It’s reasonably light and easy to carry, and iit gives me what I need to handle mishaps and get home safely.

The bag:

Silca Seat Roll
Silca Seat Roll (discontinued, 100 grams)
Some riders carry all their gear in their jersey pockets, but I like to reserve those for my jacket, phone, and food, so I use a small bag under the saddle. My current favorite is a Silca Seat Roll, waxed canvas that wraps like a burrito. It’s discontinued but similar products are available. I like the tool roll design because I can unroll it on the ground and easily get to all my gear when I need to make a repair.

What’s in the bag:

Spare Tube (varies, 110 grams)
Lighter tubes are available.

Park Tool Self-Adhesive Patch Kit ($6, 4 grams)
Emergency use only if I flat more than once.

Tire Levers ($5, 24 grams)
These are Lezyne Matrix Power Levers which work well for me.

Tire Casing Boot (varies)
If a flat tire damages the casing of the tire it’s helpful to have a tough, flexible material like Tyvek to patch or “boot” the tire.

Ritchey CPR-9 Multi Tool (discontinued, 24 grams)
This handy little multitool includes 2-6mm allen wrenches, a screwdriver and a spoke wrench. It’s got no moving parts and it’s very light weight. I bought a few before they were discontinued. For bigger adventures I sometimes bring a larger Ritchey multitool with a chainbreaker.

CO2 Cartridge (58 grams) and inflator (14 grams)
Although I carry a good pump, on this bike I also carry CO2 cartridges for quick inflation when I’m on group rides and people are waiting. This costs me two ounces, on some of my other bikes I just rely on the pump.

Also included:

  • $20 for emergencies
  • Personal cards with my name and email address for when I meet people

Total weight of the packed bag = 347 grams


pump tube co2
Lezyne Road Drive Hand Pump ($45)
I’ve tried just about everything and I recommend the Lezyne Road Drive pumps that attach with a threaded hose. The larger ones weigh about 110 grams, make it easy to inflate a tire to 100 psi, and mount securely on the bike’s water bottle screws. Doubling up with the cartridge and pump on this bike is overkill, I know.

Phone, with DistilUnion Wally Stick-on pocket ($30) for credit card, $20, and more business cards (in a LocSak or ziploc bag on wet days).

Knog Blinder Mini Dot ($30, 16 grams)
This rear light is so light and small that I leave it on the bike all the time. For a front light I use a Light and Motion Urban 800 ($100, 120 grams), which I mount on the handlebars when needed.

Shimano CM-1000 Sport Camera
I’ve been using this because of its slim and unobtrusive profile, but the image quality isn’t quite a good as a GoPro and there’s a lot less support.

On a lanyard around my neck I carry a dog-tag style personal ID and a reading monocle by Nearsights ($60) — very handy for middle-aged eyes.

Cable Lock
If I might be making a quick coffee stop I’ll throw a small skiing cable lock in my back pocket.

Garmin 500 GPS ($250, 57 grams)
Still my favorite.

Of course I vary this kit depending on the ride and the conditions but as a base kit, this works pretty well for me. Many happy miles.


02/23/17 -- Mark Slavonia

(Cool Tools Readers! We will pay you $50 if we run your "What's in My Bag" story. Send photos of the things in your bag (and of the bag itself, if you love it), along with a description of the items and why they are useful. Make sure the photos are large (1200 pixels wide, at least) and clear. Use a free file sharing service to upload the photos, and email the text to editor@cool-tools.org. — editors)

23 February 2017


RoadRacer Bike Fenders

Mudguards for road/race bikes with minimum clearance

I believe RoadRacer fenders from Crud Products are the best road bike fenders there are.

Fenders are common on other types of bikes, especially commuters and cruisers. But for some reason, they haven’t caught on with road bikes yet. So it bears discussing why most road bikes should have them.

Advantages of fenders on road bikes:

– Unless you live in the Mohave Desert, you will encounter rain sometimes. Everywhere else, fenders mean you can ride more often. Also, unlike jackets, fenders stay on the bike, and will help you cope with even unexpected showers.

– They keep water off you. Nobody likes a stripe of water sprayed up your tuchus. But the front wheel also can throw water on your feet and legs.

– They keep water off your bike. Actually, I believe the FRONT wheel is more critical here than the back. Without a front fender, the front wheel will kick up road water (which is full of dirt and grit, unlike rainwater) and throw it on your bottom bracket, crankset and chain, and thence to your rear derailleur and cogset. They don’t like that.


– They add a bit of weight. But I use my road bike for commuting. It is faster and more fun than city bikes or commuters. Also, it is the only bike I have right now. So it is loaded with a rack, lights, saddlebag with a flat kit, and a lock. So it isn’t going to break any weight records, and the weight of fenders won’t make much difference. It will still be lighter than most city bikes.

– Some buses or trains have bike carriers that hold onto the bike with a hook that presses down on the top of the tire. A fender might get damaged or keep the hook from working correctly.

– Some fenders can be difficult to mount, especially if the forks and stays wrap tightly around the tire.

– Depending on your bike’s geometry, a sharp turn can swing the front wheel out so it contacts your outside foot as you pedal. If you have a front fender, that can pull it out of position. But you can avoid that issue easily by being just conscious of where your pedals are when you are turning (Hard to explain, easy to do).

– If you have to take wheels off for transportation, say when you want to throw the bike in your car trunk, the fenders will be unprotected and easy to damage.

Advantages of this particular RoadRacer fender set:

– It offers a lot of coverage, about 50% of the wheel circle. With all extensions installed, the tail of the front fender is just a few inches off the ground.

– Being made entirely of plastic (including the screws and mounting hardware), they are very light, just 260 grams. Compare that to Planet Bike’s system at 465 grams, and the SKS set at 689 grams. – The all-plastic construction is designed to break if it hits any part of the bike, like the spokes. So if you somehow jam part of the fenders into a moving part, nothing dramatic happens (you don’t fly over the handlebars.) Some of the Amazon reviews complain about their flimsy construction, but I consider that a safety feature.

– It uses unique system of brush-like pads to prevent rubbing. The pads stick to the inside of the fenders, and have numerous fine, long fibers that actually touch the wheel and “float” the fender away from the wheel. They do add a truly minuscule amount of friction, almost unmeasurable. It works great. It also makes installation easier, because it doesn’t have to be adjusted with the micrometer precision of some other systems.

– The system is quite modular. The front fender itself consists of three or four pieces (depending on how long you want it.) If a piece breaks, you can replace it separately. All the pieces may be purchased separately.

– It has a graceful, swoopy but not extravagant design that I personally like.


– They use nylon nuts and bolts to connect certain parts. They are very light, but prone to shaking loose. But you can prevent that with a drop of threadlock, or by just flattening the end of the bolt with pliers, so it goes out of round. The nut can still be removed. The nuts and bolts can be replaced at any hardware store, incidentally.

– They are made in Great Britain, so replacement parts can be slow to arrive.

Purchasing notes: The link below is to the Mk II version, with long “stays” (note the graceful curves.) A Mk III version is just out, which is compatible with disk brakes and tires as wide as 35mm. They attach to the fork and stays higher up, away from the hubs.

02/23/17 -- Karl Chwe

22 February 2017


ScopeAround Flexible Digital Endoscope Camera

An extension for your eye

We own a four bedroom house on a mountain in Saratoga, California. I built our house 20 years ago, it is still a very beautiful house. However, year after year the house needs quite a bit of maintenance work.

Since we live so high on the mountain, we use water from our well. Before I got the ScopeAround, I had to drop a rope into the well, and if the rope came up wet, I would know we had water and wouldn’t need the water truck to come up.

After I got a ScopeAround, I can now just drop the cable into the well. I’m able to see if the well has water, and see if the water is clean or if there is any moss on the wall.

My son is a car racer, and he borrowed my ScopeAround to check for an oil leak on his car. Before, he had to use a stick attached to a tiny mirror.


02/22/17 -- Henry Zhang

21 February 2017


Simple Green Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner

Non-toxic, bio-degradable formula for all-purpose cleaning

I bought a gallon of Simple Green about 3 or 4 years ago at Home Depot for about $10. It works great as a cleaner and degreaser. We use it to clean every room in the house. It has a nice pleasant kind of neutral smell. (You go into some people’s houses, and the smell of their heavily fragranced cleaners is kind of overwhelming.)

It is non-toxic and biodegradable. So it is not only better for you and your family but also better for the environment when that soapy water ends up out in the environment. I am still using the original gallon I bought 3 or 4 years ago, and I am still using the sprayer bottle I bought back then. That is probably at least 30-40 bottles that I would have otherwise bought. Recycling such plastic waste helps, but not even buying it in the first place is the best thing to do.

It saves trips to the store to buy cleaner. I have not had to even think about buying an all-purpose cleaner for years. On the bottle, it tells you how to dilute the product. 1 to 30 for light cleaning, and 1 to 10 for heavier duty cleaning. The re-usable spray bottle I bought has volume markings on it, so it’s easy to get the ratio correct. Home Depot also sells an empty bottle that says Simple Green on it. That would negate the need to mark the generic bottle with indelible ink to show what it contains. It is widely available at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other larger stores. Also your local hardware store probably carries it.

02/21/17 -- Justin Lamar

20 February 2017


High Temperature Glue Gun

For better bonding to metal, wood, plastic, ceramics, magnets, and other non porous materials

I am in my second year of using the Surebonder high-temperature hot glue gun. As a crafty type, I have used a hot glue gun most of my life, but as a maker, I always opted for epoxy or other stronger, less convenient adhesive options.

There are many high-temp hot glue guns, but I like the Surebonder because it has an attached stand. You can put it down and brush away the glue webs, and hold the piece with both hands. For some reason, it rarely dribbles, unlike most other hot glue guns I have owned. Now I can put two irregular shapes together, tacking first then filleting.

For dirty or rusty pieces that you don’t want to clean (you might like the look of that metal urn, for example, and don’t want a shiny spot), I have found that gluing a tongue depressor or the like down first, then peeling it away, cleans just the glue area and lets you get good adhesion.

The only “drawback” is that it takes longer to harden. But the bond is so much stronger it’s worth blowing a few extra breaths onto the glob to get it to set.

02/20/17 -- Andrew McElfresh

19 February 2017


FFF Tour/OverDrive/Exploratorium

Recomendo: issue no. 30

If the Found Footage Festival tour ever comes your way, I highly recommend you check it out. The two guys who host the events scour thrift stores and yard sales for the most obscure and awkward infomercials, public access shows, training tapes and home videos to showcase. I’ve been to four of their shows and I always laugh so hard it hurts. They currently have 8 volumes available on DVD. You can watch videos of some of their findings on the website. — CD

The US is basically the only country in the world not using metric. It’s not that hard to learn a rough sense of how many kilometers in a mile, or pounds in a kilo. But it is very hard to convert temperatures between Centigrade and Fahrenheit. The solution is to convert all your thermometers to Centigrade: on your phone, in or outside of your house, on websites. Have any digital device display only Celsius, so you can’t cheat. In about a year, you’ll have a reliable and native sense of what’s cool and warm in degrees C. This is supremely handy if you travel anywhere outside of the US. — KK

I feel like an idiot for not discovering OverDrive sooner. It’s a free mobile app that lets you check out ebooks, audiobooks, and videos from your local public library. To use it, you need a a library card from your town or county. I got an Los Angeles Library e-card by signing up online and a couple of minutes later I was reading A Burglar’s Guide to the City. — MF

Since I live in the San Francisco metro area, I get a lot of out-of-town visitors. My favorite place to take them is the Exploratorium along the bayside waterfront. It is the original hands-on science museum, and still the world’s best hands-on learning experience. Many of the interactive exhibits now common at science museums around the world began here; the Exploratorium has all of them and many more found nowhere else. This sprawling temple of innovation and maker-goodness can easily occupy me — even after my 50th visit — for four hours or more. (I normally get saturated after only one hour in other museums.) Of course while it is perfect for kids of all ages, every Thursday evening it’s reserved for adults, and crowded with innovators and artists of all types. — KK

I spent the last year buying and returning boots in search of a pair that come close to Lucky Brand Basel boots in comfort and style. I’ve gone through two pairs of them in black in the last 5 years and I finally gave up searching and bought an additional pair in brown. I love these because they’re stylish enough to solicit compliments, and they’re so comfortable that I can literally walk miles in them every day. — CD

Would you like to improve your chance of having an empty middle seat when you fly on Southwest? Here’s a trick I’ve started to use that works. When I board, I look for a 3-seat row of chairs where a very large person is sitting in the window or aisle set. I will sit in that row, either in the aisle seat or window seat. As the plane starts to get full, passengers will be reluctant to sit in the middle seat because the big person is encroaching on the space. One time when I did this, the guy sitting in the seat (he was probably 6’5” and weighed 300 pounds) leaned over and said conspiratorially, “No one will sit here. It’s always the last seat they take.“ — MF

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02/19/17 -- Kevin Kelly, Mark Frauenfelder, Claudia Dawson


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What's in My Bag? 23 February 2017

Announcements: 09/6/16


CargoRAXX – unrecommended

This appears to be a shill review. Many thanks to Cool Tools reader Matthew Connor for looking into this. He wrote:

Meaghan Hollywood works for CargoRAXX. Meaghan Hollywood put a review up quasi-anonymously on Amazon. A similarly worded review is now anonymously on KK.org.

On Amazon there are two reviews for the product (https://www.amazon.com/CargoRAXX-S1A-Interior-Management-System/dp/B01A6X4MBS). Neither is attributed by name but the one from January 18th, 2016 refers to “my Tahoe” and read similar to the KK.org review. Let us suppose the author is, in fact, the same person.

Clicking on the name for the review – merely “Amazon Customer” brings up their profile (https://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A1CF94IIWSAE00/ref=cm_cr_dp_pdp). This profile contains one Wish List on the left side. Clicking on it revels – the name of “Amazon Customer” – it is Meaghan Hollywood.

Ok. I believe at this point the author of the KK review and the author of at least one of the two reviews on Amazon are in fact the same person and that person’s name is Meaghan Hollywood.

Here’s the kicker, CargoRAXX has a website with a blog feature – their blogger’s name is Meaghan Hollywood. (http://cargoraxx.com/5-reasons-re-organize-suv/)

About Cool Tools

Cool Tools is a web site which recommends the best/cheapest tools available. Tools are defined broadly as anything that can be useful. This includes hand tools, machines, books, software, gadgets, websites, maps, and even ideas. All reviews are positive raves written by real users. We don’t bother with negative reviews because our intent is to only offer the best.

One new tool is posted each weekday. Cool Tools does NOT sell anything. The site provides prices and convenient sources for readers to purchase items.

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We recently posted a short history of Cool Tools which included current stats as of April 2008. This explains both the genesis of this site, and the tools we use to operate it.

13632766_602152159944472_101382480_oKevin Kelly started Cool Tools in 2000 as an email list, then as a blog since 2003. He edited all reviews through 2006. He writes the occasional review, oversees the design and editorial direction of this site, and made a book version of Cool Tools. If you have a question about the website in general his email is kk {at} kk.org.

13918651_603790483113973_1799207977_oMark Frauenfelder edits Cool Tools and develops editorial projects for Cool Tools Lab, LLC. If you’d like to submit a review, email him at editor {at} cool-tools.org (or use the Submit a Tool form).

13898183_602421513250870_1391167760_oClaudia Dawson runs the Cool Tool website, posting items daily, maintaining software, measuring analytics, managing ads, and in general keeping the site alive. If you have a concern about the operation or status of this site contact her email is cl {at} kk.org.