Reviews Archive

Bicycle Helmet Ratings: Giro, Bell, Schwinn and Scott

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Comparison of Safe Bike Helmets for Older Kids and Adults: Bell Piston Review, Giro Revel Review, Schwinn Merge Review, Scott ARX Plus Review

In our previous blog on bicycle helmets, we covered some of the statistics involving brain injuries to cyclists.  While serious injuries are not uncommon for adults or kids, fatal injuries tend to be much more likely with increasing age.  That’s not only a big deal for tweens and teens, but especially for parents!  But how do you pick a helmet?  Here are a few tips:

  • Select one with a CPSC certified label.  This means it passed basic requirements and testing.
  • Make sure it fits correctly.  If it is too hard to adjust or doesn’t stay in place correctly, it may not be in the right spot to protect well after shifting around during a long ride.  Most helmets should fit snugly and should not move much front-to-back, side-to-side or twisting.  Have a question?  Try shopping at a local bike store and have an expert help you!
  • Select one for comfort.  If it is too hot, or pokes you or gives you a headache, you won’t wear it and it won’t protect you.  Ventilation and padding differ greatly and it’s not always the priciest models that are the best ones for you, because everyone has a different head and preference.
  • Choose a helmet for cycling or one labeled for dual or multi-sport use. Models specifically for other sports like skateboarding may not be as suitable for cycling use.
  • Select one you like.  Fashion may seem irrelevant for safety, but if you aren’t going to wear it, it won’t protect you.  Styles vary a lot, from motorcycle style with drab colors  to ultralight racing models with fancy designs.

Much like carseats, independent testing is difficult to find.  To my knowledge, only Consumer Reports® has done additional safety testing of select models in the USA.  Their ratings of 22 models are available to subscribers online and can be found in the June, 2015 issue of the magazine.  I don’t know if their testing is consistent with industry expert analysis, but much like carseats, it appears to be the only independent testing out there.

Consumer Reports also tested youth helmets.  Their top choice was the Bontrager Solstice Youth at $40, available online and at local bike stores and Trek stores.  For tweens, teens and adults, you probably need an adult sized helmet. Below, I have quick reviews on a few budget models that were recommended in CR’s ratings.  In addition to being best buys, all three received very good impact absorption scores.  All three have dial adjustments that ratchet to tighten and loosen the helmet.

Quick Reviews:

Giro Revel (Left), Schwinn Merge (Center) and Bell Piston (Right):

HelmetComparsionSide HelmetComparisonBack HelmetComparisonInside

I recently tested four helmets, ranging from $15 to $150.  Do you need to spend a fortune to protect your head, or does a bargain model work just as well?

SCOSCHE MagicMount Review

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Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 10.48.28 AMI have a confession to make: I use my cell phone in the car.

Before you jump on me, though, I use it in place of a navigation system. I don’t play Candy Crush while I’m driving.

The problem I’ve had, though, is finding a good way to mount my phone so I can glance over at the map. Until recently, I’ve had to keep my phone in a console down low under the dash board, meaning I’d either have to grope around and raise the phone up when I needed to see it, or I’d have to glance very far down, without even my peripheral vision on the road. Not safe.

I’ve tried a couple cellphone mounts before, the kind that stick to my windshield with a suction cup, and then have a clamp to put the phone in. I found the suction cups fell off a lot, and it was a pain to get the phone in and out of the clamp.

Then I found the SCOSCHE MagicMount system. There are various mounts available, but they all contain a powerful magnet that clings to a metal plate you stick onto your phone or set inside of your case. This means that the phone can be put on or taken off the mount in a split second.

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 11.17.46 AMI chose the dashboard mount, which sticks onto the car with powerful 3M adhesive. The nice thing about this mount is that it can be placed on a horizontal or vertical surface, or even a curved surface. The face of the mount can swivel in any direction, meaning you can place it pretty much wherever you need it. There are also mounts that use the suction cup, a gooseneck that sits in a power outlet, and one that clips to a vent.

FullSizeRender-2Each mount comes with two adhesive metal plates about the thickness of a business card. The small plate can adhere directly to the back of a phone or phone case. Or, if you’re like me and aren’t thrilled with the idea of sticking something to your phone, you can simply place the larger plate (without removing the cover from the adhesive side) between your phone and its case. I worried it might not be strong enough, but it’s worked perfectly on my CandyShell case and my husband’s Otterbox.

IMG_0789  FullSizeRender

Since I needed two of the large plates (one for my phone and one for my husband’s), I ordered a replacement kit, which comes with a small and large plate for the phone, a mini-size metal plate for any other small object you might want to display, plus extra 3M adhesive for the mount. All together, the original mount and replacement kit were less than $30. Once we figured out where we wanted to stick the mount, we were installed and ready to go in minutes.

We’ve been using the MagicMount for several weeks now, and I still get a little nerdy thrill each time I pop my phone onto the mount. It’s just so easy! It’s also nice that if you’d prefer a landscape view, you can just turn your phone before sticking it on—no adjustments necessary.

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 11.17.33 AM FullSizeRender-1

Here’s a video showing how easy the mount is to use:

There is one important warning: Because the mount uses a strong magnet, you shouldn’t use it if your phone case also holds credit cards. It’s fine for smart phones, though, and since the metal plate you put on the phone isn’t magnetic itself, you don’t need to worry about it co-mingling with credit cards in your purse or pocket.

Now, readers of this blog probably have two main concerns with this product, and I’ll address them.

1) What about projectiles???

Yes, in a crash, the mount and/or phone could theoretically come off. That could happen with any mount, though. I’m not sure if it’s more or less likely with this one, but so far this one hasn’t fallen off at all, which is more than I can say for my previous clamp-style suction-cup mount, or the suction cup that holds our Garmin unit in our other vehicle.

And I have another confession: My car is not otherwise free of projectiles. I try not to keep excess stuff in there, but at any given time, we have water bottles and travel mugs in the cup holders, and my kids usually have books, toys, or tablets to keep them entertained. My phone would be somewhere in the car anyway.

2) Isn’t it a distraction?

Sure, it can be, but it doesn’t have to be. Like I said, I’m not texting or watching movies on it. I have a map displayed, which is no different than a display on a car’s built-in screen or a stand-alone navigation unit (except that it’s better positioned, in my opinion). Can I guarantee that other people won’t misuse it? No, just like I can’t guarantee they won’t misuse any other mount, or skip the mount all together and text away while driving. Anything has the chance to be misused–it depends on the person using it.

I can’t say how well this device will hold up over time, but so far I’m loving it.

CarseatBlog was not compensated in any way for this review, not even with samples. I spent my own money, and I’d do it again…and probably will when it comes time for holiday shopping. I’ll give the gift of magnets. The SCOSCHE MagicMount system used in this review can be found for under $20 at Amazon.

Maxi-Cosi Mico Max 30 Infant Carseat Review – Customizable To The Max!

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maxi-cosi-mico-max-30-infant-car-seat-grey-gravelMaxi-Cosi is Europe’s most popular brand of premium carseats. Even though the Maxi-Cosi carseats sold here in the U.S. are not the same seats that are sold in Europe (due to different standards and regulations), American parents are embracing the brand and everything that it stands for – safety, comfort and style.

The Mico Max 30 is the newest infant carseat from Maxi-Cosi and it offers a few significant upgrades over the previous Mico AP and Mico NXT models. Namely a 30 pound weight maximum and the addition of an anti-rebound bar on the base. But they didn’t stop there. The Maxi-Cosi team was ambitious and wanted to be the first carseat manufacturer to offer a completely customizable product!  Do you really want a white base and shell with a black cover and a pink canopy and inserts? No problemo as long as you’re willing to wait up to 3 weeks for shipping. And if you don’t want a custom Mico Max 30 there are still plenty of amazing and fun fashion choices to choose from, plus the basics like Black and Grey.

Maxi-Cosi Mico Max - 2015 fashions

Mico Max 30 Specs & Features:

  • Rear-facing only: 4-30 lbs.; 19 – 32″ (1″ rule also applies)
  • 4 harness height positions
  • 2 crotch strap/buckle positions (plus adjustable crotch strap length for smaller babies)
  • Air Protect® technology for enhanced side-impact protection
  • Adjustable base with anti-rebound bar
  • Premium push-on lower LATCH connectors
  • Thick energy-absorbing EPP foam
  • Extra large canopy
  • Easy to remove cover is both machine washable & dryer safe
  • FAA approved for use in an airplane
  • 8 year lifespan before expiration

Extra Mico Max 30 bases are available for $99.99

Each Mico Max 30 comes standard with a wedge cushion insert (mandatory for low-birthweight babies who weigh between 4-5 lbs.), a round head support insert, a buckle cover and harness strap covers.  All of these extras are entirely optional but the lower body wedge insert is required if you have a preemie who weighs between 4-5 lbs. The purpose of the wedge insert is to boost a small newborn a little higher if his or her shoulders are below the bottom harness slots without it. The wedge insert will probably be helpful for smaller newborns but may not be needed for many full-term newborns.

maxi-cosi mico max 30 - inserts maxi-cosi mico max 30 - wedge insert

Mico Max Measurements:

Clek Infant-thingy Review: Clek for Noobs!

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infant thingy green

Clek Infant-thingy Infant Insert

The Clek Foonf and Fllo convertible carseats both have minimum starting weight limits of 14 lbs. with the addition that the child must be able to sit upright alone. Right off the bat, this eliminates both seats from parents who want to use a convertible from birth since most babies don’t reach this “advanced” stage until 6+ months of age. Enter the Infant-thingy, Clek’s new hotly anticipated insert that allows the Foonf and Fllo to fit noobs from 5 lbs. It’s available in Shadow black Crypton fabric, so it’s easily cleanable for those baby blow-outs you’ll inevitably have.

Basics

  • Rated from 5-22 lbs., 19-33” rear-facing use only
  • Body support cushion is required until 11 lbs.
  • Crotch strap adjusted to the rear slot position
  • Energy-absorbing material in head support
  • Infant-thingy manual supersedes Foonf and Fllo manuals

Measurements

  • Bottom harness slot with body support: 9”
  • Crotch strap position: 3”

Before using the Infant-thingy, the carseat’s headrest must be removed. Raise the headrest to its uppermost position, then use the troubleshooting tool on the back of the carseat to release it. There’s a small hole on the front of the right headrest guide where the tool fits in (that’s the one that doesn’t have the push button release). If you’ve lost the tool, you can use a paperclip. Don’t worry, there are directions for this maneuver in the Infant-thingy instruction manual. Be sure not to lose the headrest because you’ll definitely need it later on when your child is taller.

Clek troubleshooting tool with circle removing Clek headrest