Monday, November 14, 2011

Uberhood First Impressions and Initial Review

Most of you have probably heard about the Uberhood from Bikesnob NYC, who made pretty nasty comments about the 'hood, and by extension it's users. Here in Plano we are a more more friendly and accommodating to folks, and we give them a chance before we make broad negative assumptions about a group of people.

I was very excited when I received my 'hood in the mail, because it is the first of several products I'll be giving the old PC gorilla test to over the next couple of months.

We had a little fun in the office when it arrived
I couldn't wait to get home and mount it on a bicycle and really give it a try. Despite some city slicker's railing on it, I think that a bicycle umbrella is a good idea - maybe not for rain, but I'm thinking it might keep the 110 degree sun off of my back in the summertime.

I have been in communication with Sandy, the wife of the man behind (or underneath) the Uberhood, and she explained that while her husband was on a business trip to China, he saw many bicycles with umbrellas, and thought that the Uberhood is an "elegant solution" to both sun and rain. The umbrella itself is built in China, but the folding mechanism is manufactured here in the USA, and is patent pending. The company has burst onto the interwebosphere with this product, and they are merely a few weeks old. This is good old American ingenuity stolen from Chinese peasants, and I really want the Luettgens to succeed in their venture. 

Sunday was a nice breezy, sunny day and I wasn't able to go to the Tweed Ride, sadly, but I still wanted to ride around. Needing some supplies for other non bike related projects, I loaded up my daughter in the trailer, mounted the Uberhood on my bike, and took off for glory. 

Uberhood mounted to my 1974  Suburban. 
My first critique of the 'hood is the mounting system. It is a simple system, with two pieces of metal held to the bars by the pressure of bolts, and the umbrella bracket sandwiched inside. All that was supplied was the metal, and even though my Schwinn is old, I had no desire to mar the bars by bolting raw metal around them. Luckily my garage is full of old rim strips, so I grabbed one and cut a liner for the clamp. 

Clamping Mechanism. 
Once had mounted the system to the bike, the next step was to tighten the bolts in order to sandwich the umbrella bracket between the two pieces of metal. I thought I had it tightened well enough, but "well enough" is no match for a North Texas breeze; as we got underway, a strong gust caught the umbrella and made the mount pivot over to the right. I reached out to catch the umbrella and the mast bent where I grabbed it. I rebent the tube, got out a pair of ratchets, re-tightened the clamp, and got back underway.

You can see the bend in the tube here. 
Pictured above the bent mast is the clever mechanism to reinforce the umbrella when it is up, and more importantly allows it to fold down when not in use. 

The hinging/reinforcing  mechanism closed. 
We rode the two miles to Home Depot without much more incident - though the clamp did have a tendency to rotate forward when the breeze caught the umbrella from behind, pushing it forward into my line of vision. This wouldn't be as big a deal if the front two panels were clear plastic, but they are not, and it was a little exciting shooting down the hill towards Home Depot ducking under the umbrella so I could see the what was coming. And that brings us to the other problem with the Uberhood

Uberhood in its dormant state. 
The Uberhood is very low for anything other than casual riding. I couldn't stand up to pedal, and I found myself crouched over most of the ride; despite the tall look of 'hood mounted on my bike, my head hits just where it starts to slope back. When you add in the tendency of the umbrella to rotate forward, it made the ride a little frustrating - and no amount of bolt tightening made it as solid as I wanted it to be. 

Hood from the front. 
After I bought my supplies, I tightened the mounting bolts even more and went ahead and rode over to the park from Home Depot. I do have to say that the Uberhood is excellent for increasing visibility in traffic; I didn't see one person drive past me without swiveling their head to look at my 'hood. For that reason alone, I am a little disappointed in the "lowness" of the hood. I like to be seen when I'm commuting, and I am sure that the Uberhood increases that possibility a thousandfold. However, being unable to stand and pedal would make it very hard for me to ride the entire commute under my 'hood. Or through the hood.

Overall, I like the idea of the Uberhood, and want it to work for me, but I'm afraid that it's not going to be much of an option when I commute - and that's pretty much the only time I'll be riding in the rain. I obviously haven't had a chance to test the 'hood in the rain yet, or the hot summer sun, but my first impression is that this is really best for casual path riding for short folks - and I'm not a giant at 6' tall. 
We are expecting rain this week, so I will be riding in it for sure so that I can give you a report on the viability of the Uberhood in the weather it was designed to work in. Once again, I like the idea of the Uberhood, but the reality is that umbrellas are inherently unstable, and bolting one to a bicycle subjects it to a lot more wind than a regular umbrella. The handlebar clamp, in my opinion, is not up to handling those stresses, and give the whole setup a rather flimsy feeling. The company should certainly include some sort of rubber lining for the clamp, but should really consider putting together a more robust system that clamps to the handlebars much more firmly. The umbrella itself seems fairly solid, and despite being caught in the wind a few times did not turn inside out. Do you need an Uberhood? Don't ask me, I don't know your circumstances. Jeez.


  1. You are far braver than I would be with this thing. A gust of wind and you could be Mary Poppins on a bike.

  2. That is what I was secretly hoping for.

  3. I am in China now and I see these umbrellas all over - on bikes and something similar on motorbikes. so i am going to buy one and see if it can work for me, living in Cambridge, MA which is not so windy - and i am only 5' 7" . fingers crossed.