Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Gear Review: Abus Montrailer Ace MIPS Helmet

Abus Montrailer Ace: Stormtrooper Style?
This review has been a long time coming! I got the chance to test out the Abus Montrailer Ace mountain biking helmet in the summer, & got it in time for our camping trip to Newcastle Island. I wore it for two longer days of riding (note: long for me means I was wearing the helmet for two to three hours) in warm weather, as well as a little rain. I wore it to work some more in the fall & meant to write about it before winter hit... but then I got hit by a car.

I was wearing a different helmet that day, so can't give real world crash test results for his one! Sorry! The resulting concussion meant I needed to drastically reduce screen time from late October into December to recover. So here we are into February & I'm finally getting out from under the pile of things on my to do list.
Off we go! Let's start with style, shall we?

When you're wearing a bike helmet--let's be honest--they all look somewhat dorky. If you're going to wear one (not getting into that debate here) it's basically a choice of what kind of dorky you want. Sporty/Space robot dorky? This one is for you! The Abus Montrailer MIPS gets bonus points for unique style. The air vents & overall shape create a space age look in a matte black. It also manages to look a lot less bulky than other Abus helmets; giving you less of a "mushroom head" when wearing it.
Minimal mushroominess!

The visor, which flips up into several different positions to accommodate goggles (I don't ever use them, but you can see a pic here of how the Montrailer helmet does this), is quite large, solid & translucent to block sunlight but doesn't come that close to your face to impede visibility. The Abus Montrailer comes in six different colour schemes: black, mostly white, or black with turquoise, yellow, red, or pink accents.

Okay, enough about looks, how does it feel on?

The Montrailer features a dial adjustment at the back, which is easy to use on the fly. The chin strap adjusts the usual way but I found it a bit short. Though I don't have a particularly long face, there is a bit less than 2cm of slack left in the strap. The side part around the ears was a little fiddly to get adjusted but both the side straps & under the chin stay put well & haven't moved in the time I've been wearing it, unlike many other helmets I've had. The buckle is the lateral sliding magnetic type, which generally avoids pinching the neck.

Does it ponytail? YES, IT DOES
This helmet is definitely designed for a more oblong shaped head, I'd say--longer front to back than side to side. It's higher at the back than the upright city cycling helmets that I typically wear, so if you have a more forward leaning riding position on a drop bar bike or sporty mountain bike, this helmet will allow for that without getting pushed forward when you hunch your shoulders. This helmet also comfortably allows for a ponytail or braids to come out the back. I could have actually had my ponytail higher than shown in the pic here.

If you're buying one of these online, & can't try one on in person, I'd highly recommend sizing up a bit. The helmet comes in just two sizes--medium 55-58 cm & large 58-61 cm. Despite following the measurements on the website, I found the Abus Montrailer medium to be tight fitting because the MIPS inside takes up a bit more space. The MIPS is intended reduce injuries from rotational sort of impact--for more details on that technology, see their website here.
A look inside at the Abus Montrailer MIPS 

I assume because of the MIPS the Montrailer is somewhat heavier, weighing in on my kitchen scale at 438g. I don't find this particularly heavy, however, & tend to prioritize durability over weight when it comes to helmets.

Which leads me to my next question, what about quality?

The Abus Montrailer feels well made. The exterior shell is bonded to the foam & the various parts are precisely made & fit well together, including the sturdy hinged visor. The visor is actually one of the things that helmet companies often seem to skimp on, but Abus hasn't here. That thing is not going to break off & end up in the gutter on a ride. The more durable exterior coating extends around the underside of the edges to protect the foam when you're putting it down. The X-Static pads inside seem good quality & have padding everywhere that your head is likely to contact the inside of the helmet.

The Abus Montrailer Ace is the top in a line of three Montrailer helmets, with the Montrailer & Montrailer MIPS. The range varies from $225 for the Montrailer up to $300 for the Montrailer Ace MIPS (in Canada).

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Save $50 on Drive Time with Modo Car Sharing

A perk for my Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island, & Okanagan readers: if you are interested in signing up for Modo to start carsharing, you can save $50! 

Picking up the colourful Modo cargo van at Olympic Village Station
Modo is your only local member-owned carshare service with over 700+ cars, SUVs, trucks & hybrids. Carsharing with Modo starts at $5/hour with vehicles located in North Vancouver, UBC, Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Surrey, Richmond, Coquitlam, Port Moody, Port Coquitlam, Victoria, Esquimalt, Oak Bay, Saanich, Sidney, Squamish, the Sunshine Coast, Nanaimo & Kelowna. Modo also has vehicles at Tsawwassen, Swartz Bay, Horseshoe Bay & Departure Bay ferry terminals!

In collaboration with Spokesmama, Modo is offering $50 in driving credit for Spokemama’s followers/blog readers. Use code SPOKESMAMA when signing up as a new Modo member. Promo expires two months after redemption. The credit applies to vehicle usage only. Learn more at

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Friday, January 11, 2019

#CarFreeFamily: How Much Does it Cost?

I love riding my bike & there are so many reasons why. I'm happier & healthier when I ride regularly. I feel more connected to my community & I've gotten to know my city so much better because of biking. But living in such an expensive city, the money we save from using our bikes as our main form of transportation is a big factor.

On Twitter recently, I came across this, which inspired me to open up a spreadsheet & tot up our transportation costs for the year too.

After about an hour of logging into online banking, sifting through my email for Square receipts, checking each of our Compass card usage records, browsing Modo invoices, & calculating ferry fares, I came up with a good picture of our transportation costs for 2018.

Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight cc

Here's the summary for you:

Bike repairs, parts, & accessories: $1357
Modo car sharing: $1213
Car rental, insurance, gas: $400
New (used) bike for Linnaeus: $300
Ferries: $238
Poparide ride sharing: $207
Transit: $105

This transportation includes the daily commutes to work & school (when I take transit or use carsharing to work it's paid for by my employer, so that isn't included in the above), all the errands & socializing, appointments, recreation, & whatever else we do around the city. It also includes three camping trips, three trips to the Okanagan to visit family, plus a road trip to Seattle & Portland during Spring break.

*Womp womp* flat tire #2 on the bakfiets
The bike repairs & parts total was higher than I expected, but this is for four different bikes, including paying to get flats fixed four times. I will sometimes fix my own flats, but it just isn't practical a lot of the time. When I'm on the road with the kids, I can't really keep them safe while concentrating on changing a flat. Our cargo bikes are a bit more complicated than a regular bike when it comes to flat fixes. With the bakfiets, we have a dynamo hub & disc brakes on the front, roller brakes & an internal gear hub on the back. If I can just pull the tube out & patch it, it wouldn't be too bad, but we usually need to replace the tube, which means half disassembling the bike.

We spent less than I thought we had on transit--this total represents an average of one round trip each per month. Our Modo bills are a little higher than previous years because used car sharing for two of the road trips, but we spent less on car rentals because of this. Overall, I think we spent less on car travel than previous years, & less than half what we spent per year than we did when we owned a car from 2006-2008.

It's hard to say exactly what our costs would be if we owned a vehicle. The average vehicle in BC costs $9,500 per year, according to CAA, but we tend to drive less than the average family. I used the CAA car cost calculator, assumed we owned something like the Honda Fit that we often drive from the Modo fleet. Looks like we'd be spending around $5000 annually in payments, gas, maintenance, insurance, parking, etc. However, owning one car wouldn't cover all our transportation needs. I assume we'd still make at least some trips by bike & transit, plus the occasional Modo booking to use larger vehicles or when we need a second car. My guess is we're saving $3000-4000 per year by not owning a car.

Have you ever sat down & calculated every cent of your transportation costs for the year? I highly recommend it--you may be surprised at what you find!

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Happy Holidays from the Spokesfamily!

Happy holidays to you & yours!

Our holiday season got off to a bit of a slow start, with me recovering from a concussion since late October, but we've managed to keep it fun nonetheless.

Here are some pics of what we've been up to as part of our Holidays Activities Advent Calendar this month, in reverse order.

I cannot convince Bronte to do a straight up smiling selfies anymore, so here are some bizarre faces for you after our earlyish family Christmas dinner.

The children are actually starting to LIKE ice skating!

The Secret Lantern Society Winter Solstice Festival was fantastic this year! 
Bronte got really into the countdown this year & would bound into the living room as soon as she woke to put up the number & see what the activity was for the day.

Burnaby Heritage Village Christmas was nice & quiet on a Friday afternoon.

Trimming the tree.

Bringing home the tree by cargobike--for the first time!

The kids love gingerbread house decorating... & then they made one each again at school, so we have a small neighbourhood of them now.

Flyover Canada Christmas was pretty fun.

The Vancouver Christmas Market carousel has become a holiday institution for us.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Vancouver Christmas Market 2018 Tips

Bring a little European flavour to your holiday season at the Vancouver Christmas Market. If you've still got a long way to go on your Christmas list, shopping at the market is so much more enjoyable than the mall. Who wouldn't love being able to sip hot mulled wine--aka Gl├╝hwein or the brandy-spiked version, Feuerzangenbowle--while you peruse the shops??

Here are my top tips for this year's Vancouver Christmas Market:

  1. Ich bin ein Berliner! If you're a bit peckish, don't pass by the Berliners at the Schnappsl Kaffee Haus. These beautiful jelly doughnuts are fluffy, not too sweet, but still crammed with a good amount of delicious strawberry or apricot jam so you get a little in every bite. 
  2. Oh the weather outside is frightful... If the weather is a bit wet or cold when you go, remember there's the Alpine Lounge: a large heated & covered area at the north end of the market with benches & tables where you can warm up a bit with hot drinks & a wurst or some raclette.
  3. FREE fun for the whole family. If you're bringing kids with you, bring them to the new heated Kinder Kraft Igloo for them to make snowflakes, decorations & colour to their heart's content, as well as a scavenger hunt activity which earns a free carousel ride if you get all the stamps! 
  4. Selfie your heart out! If you're an Instagram addict, be sure to charge your phone ahead of time--there are tonnes of great spots for photos all throughout the market, inside the huge walk-in Christmas tree & the tunnel of lights. There are lights & decorations everywhere you look--it's honestly hard to find a spot without a cute seasonal backdrop. 
  5. Getting there. I recommend taking transit or biking to the market, though pay parking is easily available in nearby lots. The market is close to Burrard & Waterfront Skytrain stations, as well as bus routes 22, 19 & anything that goes down Granville to Hastings. Biking to the market is easy--the seawall connects with it from the west, or the Hornby protected bike lane from the south (with a jog at Hastings over to the lane on Burrard) There is well-lit bike parking outside the busy lobby of the Shaw Tower across the street from the Vancouver Christmas Market.

The Vancouver Christmas Market is open daily from 11:30am to 9:30pm until December 23, then 11:30am to 6pm on December 24. It's located at Jack Poole Plaza, 1055 Canada Place (home of the Olympic Cauldron) in beautiful downtown Vancouver. Admission is $5-10 per person, which gets you a season's pass, so you can go back again for free!

Disclaimer: I received free admission, drink, & food at the family media night to facilitate this review. I was not otherwise compensated for writing this review.

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