Since my first days on the job as new-products editor for Pilot, it seems I've been a magnet for folding bikes. We've tested a few, pedal-powered and motorized — and they all offer great utility for pilots. The latest innovation in this arena is from Downtube.
Yan Lyansky based Downtube on his experience cycling cross-country. By designing and importing the bikes and processing every order himself, he's created cost savings that he passes along in an extremely competitive price. The Mini, which we tested, and the FS, which an AOPA staff member owns, are both rugged, yet light, snap open with ease, and ride well around airport terrain and local roads.
The Mini features an eight-speed internal shifting crank hub (so there's no rear derailleur and no gears) and rear suspension. The forged crank has a replaceable chain ring, and the wheels have stainless-steel spokes and V-shape rims for additional strength. The handlebars fold down — when the post is extended, the wide handlebars fit me well, giving me an almost upright riding position. The seat post also drops so that the bike essentially folds into its rear wheel and crank hub — measuring about 10 inches by 20 inches by 29 inches and weighing 24.5 pounds.
The Mini features smaller tires than the FS, which helps on size (the FS folding dimensions are 12 inches by 24 inches by 33 inches, and weight is 27.5 pounds). The only drawback is slightly twitchier handling — when you initiate a turn, it happens a little more quickly than if you had a larger-diameter tire. But I adjusted quickly and don't foresee this as a problem for most pilots. The bikes do have a maximum rider size — the Mini tops out at 225 pounds, and the FS allows for 245 pounds.
Price: $399 for the Mini; $329 for the FS
John and Martha King developed the Practical Risk Management series to address what they saw as a pressing need for guidance in teaching pilot decision making. Many instructors (and pilots) would argue that judgment cannot be taught — but I disagree, in the sense that it can be shaped if the pilot in training is given a solid road map to follow in making good decisions. The latest in the King Schools' series is Practical Risk Management for Single-Pilot IFR — addressing probably one of the most challenging realms of flight.
Because flying IFR successfully is about workload management rather than physical skill, according to Martha King, the course focuses on helping pilots "work smarter" through planning and shifting workload from busier phases of flight to quieter ones. It also offers strategies for optimizing the use of the autopilot and GPS in reducing overall workload.
The two-CD course qualifies you for credit in the FAA Wings program (formerly the Pilot Proficiency Program).
Contact: 800/854-1001; www.kingschools.com
AOPA members who practice preventive maintenance, maintenance shops, and independent aircraft maintenance technicians will benefit from being able to refer to a copy of the Mechanic's Toolbox and Engineering Manual Companion, from the Sacramento Sky Ranch. This compendium of technical data, troubleshooting tips, formulae, and reference information is a one-stop answer center for maintainers. Chapter titles include part-number cross-references, alternator charging system checker, Continental and Lycoming engine troubleshooting, and metals identification using field methods. The "toolbox" can be reviewed and tested before purchase by downloading the 394-MB file from the company's Web site. An individual access code is issued upon the payment of the purchase price. — Steven W. Ells
Price: $21.95 to download; CD for $24.95 plus $1.85 shipping
Contact: 916/421-7672; www.sacskyranch.com
My uncle told me that I always had two choices when faced with a repair task — I could pay someone else to do it or I could spend the same money buying my own tools and learn how to do it myself. Now there's a third way, thanks to a new aircraft tool rental service.
Hangartoolbox.com has recently started renting top-quality aircraft-specific tools for what appear to be very reasonable prices. The toolbox Web site is very user-friendly. Kits of tools have been made up for common tasks. For instance, the kit for changing Lycoming cylinders includes tools such as specialized cylinder base-nut wrenches, a calibrated torque wrench, a set of assorted one-quarter-inch drive tools for removing exhaust system parts, a ring compressor, a copy of Lycoming Service Instruction 1029D (which relates to cylinder stud torque instructions), and several other required tools.
Tools rent for an 11-day period. This time period permits users to remove the cylinder during one weekend, ship the part for repair during the following week, and re-install the cylinder over the second weekend. — Steven W. Ells
Skyhorse Publishing, imprint of Sterling Publishing, now offers several FAA publications: Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3a, full color, second edition since major revision in 1999); Pilot's Encyclopedia of Aeronautical Knowledge (supersedes FAA Advisory Circular 61-23C, Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge); and Rotorcraft Flying Handbook (supersedes AC 61-13B, Basic Helicopter Handbook).
Price: $16.95 for the Airplane Flying Handbook, $24.95 for the Pilot's Encyclopedia of Aeronautical Knowledge, and $14.95 for the Rotorcraft Flying Handbook
Contact: 212/532-7160; www.sterlingpub.com
Mountain High Oxygen has introduced a new electronic oxygen delivery system, called O2D2 EDS, that delivers precise pulses of oxygen to the company's masks and cannulas. A two-place regulator features quick-disconnect couplings and shut-off valves to prevent leakage, and the flow rate is matched to the altitude by a pressure sensor. Four-place regulators are also available.
Contact: 541/923-4100; www.mhoxygen.com
SkinWear is a new dirt and grease repellant applied to your hands before starting work, such as changing the oil or lubricating bearings. The biodegradable, silicone-free, nonflammable, and nontoxic gel comes in a 6.8-ounce tube.
Price: $9.99 plus shipping
Contact: 336/751-3543; www.skinwearsupply.com
Unless otherwise stated, products listed have not been evaluated by AOPA Pilot editors. AOPA assumes no responsibility for products or services listed or for claims or actions by manufacturers or vendors. However, members unable to get satisfaction regarding products listed should advise AOPA. To submit products for evaluation, contact: New Products Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701; telephone 301/695-2350. Links to all Web sites referenced in this issue can be found on AOPA Online.