Uni Jetstream 4&1 4 Color Ballpoint Multi Pen and Pencil – Purple

15 04 2014
Someone hand me some failing tests, that red is just itching to give out a big glowing F minus minus

Someone hand me some failing tests, that red is just itching to give out a big glowing F minus minus to some poor sap not smart enough to be using a Jetstream

What’s better that a Jetstream? Several Jetstreams rolled into one. Thank you to JetPens for providing this sample!

It comes it several colors, but obviously dark purple is the superior choice

It comes it several colors, but obviously dark purple is the superior choice

The body is simple and professional, with tasteful silver accents. The markings to denote refill colors are unobtrusive—quite appreciable, as multipens are ever in danger of looking like rainbow vomit with their many-colored plungers.

I like how the pencil is referred to as "0.5mm SHARP"...it makes a mechanical pencil sound so much more dangerous and exciting

I like how the pencil is referred to as “0.5mm SHARP”…it makes a mechanical pencil sound so much more dangerous and exciting

The sticker on the body was easily removable and left no residue. Coupled with the subtle branding imprinted on the clip, you’ve got a pen that looks good and keeps distractions low key.

Things I was not expecting to find in here: metal. Things that all of in here consists of: metal.

Things I was not expecting to find in here: metal. Things that all of in here consists of: metal.

The pen itself is nicely balanced, with the majority of its light weight focused lower, in the grip. The grip section is metal, with a nice grippy rubber on top (though it would be PHENOMENAL to have the grip be Alpha Gel instead, that would probably make the pen unbearably wide, and would collect more debris than this grip does). The upper half is mostly plastic (excepting the clip), and the overall composition of the pen makes it pretty comfortable for a longer writing session.

In the event of a graphite emergency, break the snap seal located on the top of your multi pen and apply eraser directly to the emergency

In the event of a graphite emergency, break the snap seal located on the top of your multi pen and apply eraser directly to the emergency

Normally I’m not a fan of easily-lost caps covering uselessly tiny erasers, but this cap hold surprisingly firm to the pen. It’s not going to get lost unless you set it down and forget to put it back on. The eraser itself isn’t much to speak of—more of an emergency provision. The pencil component is deployed by pressing down on the clip, and lead is advanced by pressing the deployed clip down again. It’s a wise design choice, providing a larger plunger for easy use of the pencil while concealing it design-wise in the clip. The only improvement I’d like to see here is for Uni to find a way to shrink the Kuru Toga mechanism into the size of a multi pen refill. A multi pen made of Jetstreams and a Kuru Toga would be unstoppable.

If you need more colors than this, be sure to give yourself a stern lecture about how back in my day we didn't have any newfangled ink colors. Pens were also used uphill both ways. In the snow.

If you need more colors than this, be sure to give yourself a stern lecture about how back in my day we didn’t have any newfangled ink colors. Pens were also used uphill both ways. In the snow.

I’ve had some problems recently with certain Jetstream color models not living up to the Jetstream name—consider this pen redemption. All colors perform smooth and vibrant, as a Jetstream should. The 0.5mm provides crisp lines that glide onto the page with almost no pressure whatsoever. The barrel is a bit wide, as almost all multipens are, but it’s not unwieldy—only if you really prefer a slim pen will it be something that might bother you. And, after handwriting out this whole review, the side of my hand is clean. This is the Jetstream I know and love.

If someone at Uni isn't feverishly working right now on adapting the Kuru Toga mechanism for multi pen use, then they don't know good money

If someone at Uni isn’t feverishly working right now on adapting the Kuru Toga mechanism for multi pen use, then they don’t know good money

If you use red, blue, green, and black ballpoints on a regular basis, you’ve got to give one of these a try. I’m thinking especially professionals and students in the science, technology, engineering, and math fields, plus anyone who needs to mark up papers, or just likes having access to all the traditional pen colors at once. The refills are smooth, the mechanisms solid, and the pen looks good. Classic Jetstream goodness!

Uni Jetstream 4&1 4 Color Ballpoint Multi Pen and Pencil – Purple at JetPens

Uni-ball Signo 207 Battle – Blue Ink

19 09 2013
Do not believe the faint refrains of advertising media; bolder is NOT better

Do not believe the faint refrains of advertising media; bolder is NOT better

First, a disclaimer: I only bought the bold (1.0mm) and micro (0.5mm) Uni Signo 207 gel pens new, because I already had a regular/medium (0.7mm) and an ultra micro (0.38mm) in blue in my horde. As much as I love wasting money, I decided to cheapskate it this time and so, if any incorrect conclusions are drawn because half of these pens aren’t brand-spanking-new, I apologize. Please lodge any complaints with Uni-ball, since in spite of my undying love for their Jetstream, they have not yet seen fit to shower me with freebies.

The most straightforward, boring picture of the lot. My apologies.

The most straightforward, boring picture of the lot. My apologies.

Overall, the Signo 207s are virtually identical except for two overt things: the iconic clip—

You'd be able to recognize that clip even on your grandmother's old black-and-white notebook-sized television

You’d be able to recognize that clip even on your grandmother’s old black-and-white suitcase-sized television

And the color of the labels printed on the clip and the barrel.

 Why pretty silver for the big bad 0.7 and 1.0mm pens? Why the slightly less attractive gold for the more lovely-writing 0.38mm and 0.5mm?

Why pretty silver for the big bad 0.7 and 1.0mm pens? Why the slightly less attractive gold for the more lovely-writing 0.38mm and 0.5mm?

As far as the design goes, I’m keen on everything except the grip. It’s not a mind-bendingly beautiful look, but it doesn’t need to be. They look slick, and they make the pen cup they’re in look put together. Professional yet disposable (though they are refillable, most casual pen users will likely toss them once they’re empty). My big beef is with the grip. I do not like all the little raised ovals.

Little ovals of sheer annoyance

Little ovals of sheer annoyance

It has been well established that I simply cannot learn the ideal tripod grip. I constantly revert to my ill-advised multi-finger ergonomically-challenged grasping. The little ovals get pressed into the base of my thumb, which gets annoying over time. The Premier 207 body with its Alpha Gel grip doesn’t have this problem, but this isn’t a review of that pen.



I almost forgot the secret bonus difference—like the G2s, it appears the tip of each different size of Signo 207 gets its own color.

Shout out to this nose cone design! Do like. Goes well with the clip.

Shout out to this nose cone design! Do like. Goes well with the clip.

So how do they all write? Doing my best to ignore the discomfort wrought unto me by these cursed little ovals, the ink flow on all these pens seems good. No problems with skipping or the pens not writing. Looking very closely, you can see a problem with uniformity of line.

Choo-choo all aboard the almost-railroading express

Choo-choo all aboard the almost-railroading express

The ink deposits thicker on the sides, thinner in the middle. It never gets to the point of full railroading, but it worries me.

Top: biggest vs. smallest. Bottom row: ultra micro vs.  micro, micro vs. medium, medium vs. bold

Top: smallest vs. biggest. Bottom row: ultra micro vs. micro, micro vs. medium, medium vs. bold

The ultra micro is thin and crisp, but there is an occasional odd feeling at the tip—it’s rare, but it’s there. It’s not scratchy…I don’t quite know how to put it. The micro strikes the right balance that the ultra micro falls just short of—the micro isn’t as thin, but there’s no weirdness to it when writing. It’s smooth, without having a large tip (which leads to messy-looking handwriting for yours truly). The 0.7 is smooth, but we’ve crossed the threshold—my handwriting doesn’t look as nice. And the bold? Now we’re totally off the rails. This pen requires DRY TIME, especially on smooth paper. And it looks SO. MESSY. No thanks.

I like Uni Signos, but the 207 isn’t my favorite in the Signo line. It doesn’t write as nicely as other models I’ve tried. But as far as the 207 goes, the 0.5mm micro Signo is the best of the bunch.

Available basically everywhere, including but not limited to office supply stores, corporate leviathans, select gas stations, the inside coat pocket of a shady individual hawking last minute back to school deals sometime in August, and multiple sources online.

Uni-ball Signo 207 BLX Retractable Gel Ink Pen – 0.7 mm – 4 of 5 Colors

28 05 2013
No brown-black, sorry!

No brown-black, sorry!

When you’ve got a good pen in your lineup, it’s important to keep the body fresh and modern (or at least keep it from being the pen design equivalent of padded shoulders (or fetid swamp water)). Or, more accurately, it’s important to me, maybe you, and probably absolutely no one else in the general market.

Any scrap of novelty in standard American pens is exciting to me.

Any scrap of novelty in standard American pens is exciting to me.

As soon as I saw these babies at my local office supply store, I snatched them up. I didn’t see brown-black, but red-black, green-black, blue-black, and purple-black were all there. Compared to the regular Signo 207, there are only a few major differences, biggest of all being the BLX clip is plastic instead of metal (presumably so it could be a stealthy matte black).

Yeah, that's definitely cool enough to be worth sacrificing structural integrity.

Yeah, that’s definitely cool enough to be worth sacrificing structural integrity.

I just find plastic clips inherently suspect, as I’m certain all they’re there for is to one day break off. And why isn’t the nose cone the same matte black? Why is it glossy black? Why isn’t everything matte black? Who decides these things?

The brooding Batmanesque colors of the Signo line

The brooding Batmanesque colors of the Signo line

I do like the body; no longer a translucent barrel, the BLX features a color fade to black that isn’t too tacky. The grip is the same as the standard Signo 207.

Now, when can we expect 0.5mm? 0.38mm? Approximately never?

Now, when can we expect 0.5mm? 0.38mm? Approximately never?

One of my biggest problems I’ve had happen when writing samples for reviews with some brands of gel pens is that the dry ink will somehow come off the page onto my hand and get redistributed back on the page. Pentel’s EnerGel line is a particular offender. I didn’t have any of that happen on this writing sample with the Signo 207. The writing is smooth and the colors are gorgeous (this purple-black is my new best friend). The ink is also allegedly resistant to check washing and other such grandiose claims you can find printed on the back of a standard blister pack. Not yet being of criminal mind, I’m not sure how one goes about attempting to wash checks (and I’m pretty sure that’s one of those google searches that gets you put on a watch list), so I can neither confirm nor deny this claim of the ink’s properties in that regard.

And they are technically refillable! (I’m not sure where one necessarily gets such refills though.) The refill size is comparable to the Jetstream retractable or the Zebra Sarasa retractable refills, so you could, for example, put this refill in the body of the Zebra Airfit Jell or the Jetstream Alpha Gel Grip, and have a fantastic hybrid fancy body Signo BLX.

You can find these pens in most big box stores, at my local office supply store (Office Supplies and More), and JetPens also carries them.

Uni-ball Signo Sparkling Glitter Gel Ink Pen – 1.0 mm – Blue

26 01 2013
Feel the sparkles in your heart

Feel the sparkles in your heart

I’m no connoisseur when it comes to glittery gel ink pens—I may snag one as a novelty, but I don’t have my finger on the pulse of that movement like I did in the 6th grade. My knowledge of the quality of entrants in the field is lacking. That said, I do have a rather cat-chewed Sakura Gelly Roll gel pen in sparkle purple that I will use for comparison.

Pleasantly acceptable!

Pleasantly acceptable!

The body is nice, as far as these cheap things go. Sparkles in the body and cap—noticeable but not gaudy. Cap posts securely on both ends. Pen itself is theoretically easy to refill (who knows how easy refills will be to find, however).

Looks like a mess waiting to happen, though I assure you it isn't.

Looks like a mess waiting to happen, though I assure you it isn’t.

First, how the ink writes. I find it smoother than the Sakura Gelly Roll, and generally more consistent. If I’m gonna be taking some sparkly notes, on writing quality alone I favor the Uni Signo over the Gelly Roll.

Unless I'm writing on my hand, then the day goes to the Gelly  Roll

Unless I’m writing on my hand, then the day goes to the Gelly Roll

As far as personal preference goes, be advised that the Signo ink is more translucent and the Gelly Roll more opaque.

Let it shine

Let it shine!

There is a big flaw in the Signo that you have to be warned of, one that does not plague the Gelly Roll: the Uni Signo glitter ink smells like fish. Smells *powerfully* like fish. If you write with it long enough (read: at all), you’ll think you’ve been transported to an open air fish market. It is truly bizarre.

Perhaps I should have known, blue---> water---> ocean---> FISH.

Perhaps I should have known, blue—> water—> ocean—> FISH.

If you like fish, get this pen. If you want glittery and smooth writing, get this pen. If the mere thought of seafood turns your stomach, DO NOT get this pen.


Uni-ball Signo Sparkling Glitter Gel Ink Pen – 1.0 mm – Blue at JetPens

Uni Live Pigment Sign Pen – Extra Fine – Black

18 05 2012

After an unexpected disappointment comes an unexpected delight!

Porous tip pens aren’t usually my kind of thing, but the Uni Live Pigment Sign Pen was fairly new, and whims are funny things. Thank you JetPens, for indulging those whims with this sample free of charge. I expected this to be the most underwhelming of the recent goodies, but I was five cents shy of a full order, so I threw it in.

Do not be fooled by its commonplace appearance. It is not what is outside, but what is inside that counts. But hey, the outside actually ain’t too bad!

Inexpensive pens have a unique design challenge. You don’t want the pen to look like cheap crap, but at that price point, options are limited. The Bic big mistake is overcompensating with gaudy printed-on accents. Minimalist is probably the best way to go, but if you don’t play it right you overshoot minimalist straight into boring ink cylinder territory. I think Uni got it just right on this one. The barrel’s evocative of a Kuretake No. 33 brush pen, and the cap looks like a happy face.

Oh mai gahsh! It’s greaeat to be a pen, eh!

The only bit of design I don’t know what to do with is the directions printed on the barrel in a language I obviously don’t understand.

The only language I speak is “Pen.” And also “English.” And I used to know French and Italian but we’re getting off topic here, moving on

For writing, the porous tip style of pen just isn’t very amenable to my left-handed pushing across the page style. But it’s sufficient for any writing I need to add to a drawing, and boy howdy am I digging this pen for drawing.

Plays well with other art supplies. I’d say it’s almost 99% waterproof. The water test has a faint, nigh-impossible-to-see-in-the-scan wash of gray picked up from the ink, but the ink itself didn’t get washed away.

I haven’t quite puzzled out exactly why some of the pens I don’t like writing with, say they’re too scratchy or have too much resistance when writing, can be such absolute delights to draw with. Once I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

Porous tip pens baffle me. How do they work? Is it witchcraft, or advanced space technology?

There’s a nice amount of pressure-dependent line variation while sacrificing none of the stability and control that get lost when you first try to use a brush pen. The lines have character (within a limited scope), and the ink is a rich, dark black. I had no problems with smudging, smearing, no ink getting picked up onto my hand—the pen performs like a dream.

If I had to guess, I’d say this part says something like “Uni Live Pigment Sign Pen / Awesome Little Treasure”

I’m trying really hard to think of any suggestions for improvement regarding this pen, but I can’t think of anything. It hits all the right points—great price, pleasant design, stellar performance—with no niggling problems or caveats needed. Good job, Uni! I didn’t even know I needed this pen, and now I’m not sure how I’ve managed so long without it.

Uni Live Pigment Sign Pen – Extra Fine – Black at JetPens

Uni-ball Jetstream Color Series Ballpoint Pens – 0.5mm – Light Blue & Purple

17 05 2012

Angels are weeping right now, Uni-ball, and they are not tears of joy.

I’m not particularly subtle when it comes to my feelings about the Jetstream line of pens. I constantly shoehorn in mentions of them. I rank them somewhere between a writing utensil and a god (perhaps on par with Hercules, or something that writes in a combination of butter and black gold). I hold the Jetstream to a high standard, because that’s what the Jetstream delivers. That said, I’m not sure these are Jetstream pens.

They are perhaps wolves in pens’ clothing

They look like Jetstream pens. Exactly like the black 0.5mm Jetsteam I so dearly love—that same slick and sweeping modern design, attractively and accurately color-coded to match the ink inside.

The purple seems to be coming out too dark in several of these pictures. This is a more accurate representation of what this purple looks like. Pretty close to what Wikipedia terms “Mardi Gras” purple

Really spot-on with the color. You have no idea how much I appreciate that.

This is shattering every fundamental truth I ever knew about the universe, Uni-ball. The sky is blue, the earth orbits around the sun, Pilot G2s are generally pretty terrible, and the Jetstream writes like an oil-based miracle. THAT IS THE WAY THE WORLD IS SUPPOSED TO WORK

Let’s not kid ourselves—even on Clairefontaine paper there, this ink performance isn’t up to snuff. The tip is an absolute mess, and I think that’s where all the problems are coming from.


Picture it: the ink gums up at the tip, leading to blobs. Blobs that don’t get transferred to the page lead to slight, jerky resistance as they get worked around the surface of the ballpoint, and all this inconsistency and uneven distribution of ink leads to the occasional ghosting.

These two are up to no good

It wants to be smooth, really it does. But something about the formulation for colorful inks is having this terrible side effect. This is a ballpoint pen. Maintenance is not part of the repertoire for a ballpoint pen this inexpensive. I shouldn’t have to be cleaning off the tip of a ballpoint pen. I’d also like to note that in handwriting this post, the blue pen just started having the pen equivalent of agonal breathing, and I had to switch back to the purple.

I thought maybe using bottom-barrel paper might bring out some kind of desperate last-minute hat-trick-miracle, but no.

What is going on here, Uni-ball? Whatever it is, it’s not okay, and should NOT be called a Jetstream.

Take those nametags off right now, you rank impostors!

You can either find a way to fix this ink, or don’t dare call this thing a Jetstream. Your choice.


So, where do we go from here, my fellow penficionados? I suggest stockpiling canned goods, and buy up more REAL Jetstreams.

Real Jetstream Ballpoint Pens at JetPens

But it’s your money, you can do whatever you want.
Uni-ball Jetstream Color Series Ballpoint Pen – 0.5 mm – Light Blue Body – Light Blue Ink at JetPens
Uni-ball Jetstream Color Series Ballpoint Pen – 0.5 mm – Purple Body – Purple Ink at JetPens

P.S. Many thanks to JetPens for providing these sample pens free of charge!

Mini Review: Uni-ball Style Fit Mystar 5 Color Multi Pen Body Component – Black

23 12 2011

Old body, new body, and my bathroom counter.

Can’t go mentioning the sleek new 3-component Mystar Meister without also acknowledging the slightly cheaper (in all senses of the word) 5-component body. In my undoubtedly never-ending quest for the Perfect Multipencil, the Mystar Meister is an upgrade from my first multipencil/my first Style-Fit body.

The new body might be the teensiest bit thicker than the old body, or I might be the teensiest bit hallucinating; it's hard to tell.

I didn’t get any new components to go in the new body, because why would I need two fully-loaded multipencils at the same time (/why would I need to spend an extra quantity of money exceeding $10)? So this will just be about the body. The Mystar Meister has a matte finish to its plastic body (as opposed to smudgy-fingerprint-showing slick plastic), a tapered end with streamlined plungers (as opposed to airplane wings), a metal clip on a plastic plunger (as opposed to an all plastic clip that could break at any moment), and an eraser with easy-to-lose cap (as opposed to no eraser whatsoever). I like these improvements, for the most part, but there are still some problems with the Mystar Meister’s overall design.

You don't need to know what components you're using, right?

The tiny window is a slight problem. All the labels, on the gel pens especially, are at the bottom, now hidden by the grip. The only thing I can see on this 0.28mm Black Gel component is the beginning of a label that says ” .24 BLACK” (what happened to 0.28??) and the only thing I can see when that component is deployed is “CK”…. ink components need to be labeled with all Style Fit bodies in mind, not just the original model.

At least I could relabel the pencil components myself.

Remodeling the plungers, however, was a good move. Looks much nicer/less like a rocket ship.

No one is ready for take-off now

Much of the improvement in this model is geared toward making the Style Fit a better multipencil. The old model body, while technically multipencil capable, was a pain in the thumb when you needed to advance lead. You had to press down on the little airplane wings, which were not exactly optimized for the task. And the old model body had no eraser.

Let me quote my first Style Fit review: "I think I’d rather have no eraser at all than be saddled with a uselessly small eraser beneath a tiny, easily lost plastic eraser cap." ...... it's like they listened...to half of what I was saying.

I still much prefer the Hi-Tec-C Coleto eraser component. I’m glad to see an eraser on the Style Fit…but I doubt I’ll use that dinky thing very much.

Finally, I want to mention the biggest improvement/problem in the new Style Fit:

Forget doofy wings; we can go back to advancing mechanical pencil lead in the way our ancestors intended.

Deploy pencil you want to use. Push down on the top. Lead advances. EXCELLENT….at least conceptually. In practice, I have frequently (not always, but enough to be very annoying) had the component I was trying to advance lead on spring back up into undeployment whenever I clicked the top to advance lead. The lead advanced, the component retreated. NOT EXCELLENT.

The design is a much better—and most importantly, more aesthetically pleasing—way to advance lead (PILOT I HOPE YOU ARE TAKING NOTES). But Uni needs to work out whatever design bug is causing this frequent retraction problem. I don’t know what condition causes it (I am sitting here right now trying to replicate the problem on command, but the multipencil refuses to obey, as if to say “I can change! Please don’t tell the world about my one major design flaw! I swear I won’t do it again!….until after you’ve posted your review”)…and that unpredictability makes it all the more annoying.

I can be a good multipencil! A good multipencil like you wanted!

It’s an improvement, yes, but it still has a ways to go. If you’re looking for a good multipencil without outrageously flaring wings, I’d just load up the Mystar Meister 3-component metal body. No eraser, true, but I haven’t had any problem with components waywardly retracting in that model. And it looks all kinds of snazzy.

 Uni-ball Style Fit Mystar 5 Color Multi Pen Body Component – Black – at JetPens

Uni-ball Style Fit Mystar 3 Color Multi Pen Body Component – Brown

14 12 2011

I was going for "autumn" but it seems I achieved "Halloween"

I’ve been waiting for this pen body to exist ever since the first Style Fit model rolled onto my radar. Lo, I asked for a nicer body around the $15 price point, and I have received.

It's like they read my mind. Or my blog. Or really, just came to the conclusion that any sane individual would: Style Fit is awesome, needs more bodies.

The Style Fit Mystar/Meister (which is it? Jetpens says “Mystar,” which sounds demure and twinkly; the stickers on the pen say “Meister,” which sounds like Burgermeister Meisterburger, and the only thing to do at that point is just accept that Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town) is made of lovely, shiny metal that looks like Serious Modern Business but isn’t heavy to hold. Deploying the components has been changed from plunger-deploy to twist-deploy, making the pen look much more neat and normal.

Mystar/Meister spelled here simply as: <>

Plus there’s a sturdy metal clip now.  I’m very happy with this model; you can have a Jetstream and a Signo DX in one sharp looking pen ….AT THE SAME TIME! The only thing missing is a Kuru Toga component (if only such were possible); that alone would make the Style Fit an instrument of utter perfection.

Now you know the difference between daylight white balance and incandescent white balance on my camera when sitting by a window inside a cafe while drinking an Irish coffee. So glad we cleared up that mystery.

The three components I chose to load the Meisterburger up with are an 0.38mm brown-black gel ink component, an 0.7mm black ballpoint ink component, and an 0.38mm golden yellow gel ink component. As I mentioned before, the gel ink is the same as that found in the Signo line, and the ballpoint ink is Jetstream ballpoint ink.

I had my Style Fit customized with an extra-dimensional portal so I could include a fourth component.

For curiosity’s sake, I swapped in one of my pencil components to see how it works in the Burgermeister. Much more comfortable than the plungers on my old Style Fit model. You just push the top down when the pencil is deployed, and the lead advances. It’s exceedingly satisfying, and unlike the previous model, doesn’t make my thumb feel like it’s going to slowly transform into a bloody stump.

Hey, the components are helpfully labeled! Hey, wait, this isn't actually helpful.

Brace yourselves for my only complaint. Though the component refills are labeled with size on a background of easy to discern color, you can’t see any of that through the window on the Mystar. They were designed for the see-through grip of the first model. It would be nice if labeling could continue up the barrel so that the little window is actually useful; the coloring on the tubes fades out right where the window starts, and there’s no indication whatsoever of tip size. But that’s a minor annoyance in light of the overall improvement that this model offers! Good job, Uni-ball.

The pen:

Uni-ball Style Fit Mystar 3 Color Multi Pen Body Component – Brown at JetPens

The components seen here:

Uni-ball Style Fit Ballpoint Multi Pen Ink Cartridge – 0.7 mm – Black at JetPens

Uni-ball Style Fit Gel Ink Multi Pen Ink Cartridge – 0.38 mm – Brown Black at JetPens

Uni-ball Style Fit Gel Ink Multi Pen Ink Cartridge – 0.38 mm – Golden Yellow at JetPens

Appalachian Motorcycle Pen Battle: Round 1

12 06 2011

Round 1, because all of these pens will need to be re-evaluated again after more motorcycling and abuse. These are just the results from a single 4-day motorcycle trip.

You will recall the intended contenders:

The Fisher Space Pen I've tested extensively before. It (or more accurately, a similar model not pictured above) was my default motorcycle pen. That's the standard to beat.

I switched from the basic bullet-style Space pen to one with a Maglite attached both for functionality (hey! I have a pen AND a flashlight! I’m a wizard!) and for the simple fact that I had a hard time finding the slippery little standard Space Pen in my jacket pocket. The clip my standard Space Pen came with is of no help; it has come off so many times in bags and pockets that its whereabouts currently remain unknown. But I rarely want to pull the whole pen-and-flashlight operation out of my pocket; doing so tends to launch a cascade of receipts to the ground. Using the Space Pen with no cap on, it’s too small to comfortably wield and is a bit slippery. A different pen was needed. Let’s take a look at the Fuel Log from my trip and get into the good and bad with each of these pens.

Yes, this is a Moleskine info book. In spite of my loathing of this paper, it /is/ conveniently pre-tabbed; something I'm far too lazy to do to a book with good paper.

Riding over to meet up with my family Thursday evening I used my Space Pen, just for reference.

The most ineffective nunchucks I own

Day One featured use of the Tombow Airpress.

Designed for rugged Japanese construction workers. And also me.

What I like: pen is lightweight, has a decently sturdy and secure clip, compact body, satisfying plunger mechanism. The whole surface of the body is a kind of non-slip rubber, and there’s a lanyard clip. There are a lot of little features here. And it’s not so expensive that I’d be outlandishly upset at losing this off the side of a mountain.

What I don’t like: I want the clip to be even sturdier. Sturdy enough that I feel like I could ride with it clipped in my pocket, instead of zipped securely away. And what is that black arrow piece on the clip for? It confounds me.

Judgment: I wonder how much abuse it will stand up to. I worry it would probably melt if I accidentally dropped it on the motorcycle and it hit something hot. At the same time, I think it has the right kind of look and function for what I need it for. Definitely one to keep around.

Day two  I brought out the Lamy Pico.

I have a lot to say about this one

What I like: Design, design, design. The size is fantastically compact, very low-profile in the pocket, but expands to a full-size pen:

Looks pretty cool, right?

This pen has that screaming jet-black aesthetic you expect from motorcycle things. It’s an item where, eventually, you’ll pull it out to write something down and get asked about it. The body is thick, which makes it easier to hold with gloves on, and it has a nice weight to give it presence.

What I don’t like about the design: one, there have been several times where I pushed the end in but didn’t push it in enough to get the mechanism to catch. You don’t look very cool when you have to push the end of your pen any more than once to get pen functionality. Two: no clip. What Lamy could do, however, is take that little silver logo bit and make it out of a powerful magnet, with the word “LAMY” recessed into the metal. Then you could at least magnetically clip the pen to your bike. I say this because I drove halfway to Asheville with a magnetic pocket tire pressure gauge on the side of my bike, and did not notice till I stopped for gas and saw it was still there. Just a thought.

What I really don’t like: The ballpoint cartridge is crap. I don’t think there was a single time where I started to write with it that it wanted to write right off the bat. Which brings me to another thing I really don’t like: this pen is ludicrously expensive for a ballpoint pen, especially one with a shoddy ballpoint cartridge. And being so pricey, I think I’d have a small heart attack if I lost this pen.

Judgment: The pen is made to look cool and feel cool, but not actually be worth more than a Bic disposable in terms of writing performance. Unfortunately, the cartridge for the pen is oddly shaped, so I’m not sure if we’ll be able to find a better cartridge to hack into the pen to make the price worthwhile. Accept this pen as a gift, but don’t buy one for yourself.



Day Three I intended to use the Uni Power Tank, but first ended up using my Lamy Vista EF nib with Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses (I wanted to see how a fountain pen would do in my pocket on a hot summer day). Fountain pen ink on Moleskine paper was as suboptimal as you’d expect, but I otherwise saw no difference in performance of the pen. What I really liked about the Lamy Vista was the clip.

I think this clip alone is worth the cost of an entire Lamy Pico

The way the end bevels up makes it super easy to slip onto a pocket, but the way the rest of the clip hugs the barrel makes it reassuringly secure. I rode with the Vista clipped upright in an unzipped pocket and had no worries about it flying away.

Alas, Day Three was a short ride; I only fueled up once, so I had to use the Uni Power Tank to note my mileage at the end of the day.

Is the grip made of tires? It might as well be. Nothing is gonna slip on that grip; it is diametrically opposed to the common banana peel. They are like matter and anti-matter; touching the grip of a Uni Power Tank to a grounded banana peel could destroy the universe.

What I like: writes beautifully every time, solid and dark. Comes out looking very fine for an 0.7mm, which I am a fan of. I’d say, of the bunch, the Uni Power Tank has the unique distinction of both writing the best, and being the most inexpensive. I could stand at an overlook and throw dozens of these pens into a ravine and STILL buy more because it would be a pen worth having. And the grip is pretty neat.

What I don’t like: while it’s well designed for a great, inexpensive pen, I want something with a bit more oomph and dollar signs in the design. I want to put a little more money down and have a designated Motorcycle Pen. If we could put the insides of a Uni Power Tank inside the Lamy Pico, and put the Lamy Vista’s clip on all that, then we’d have exactly what I want. At the very least, I’d like a pen that’s a little shorter than the Power Tank, and with some kind of usable clip in place of the standard plastic snap-off affair.

Judgment: This pen is cheap enough and writes well enough in multiple conditions that I think it’s worth keeping a few in my saddlebags. It writes well enough to be the primary pen, but there’s a bit more I’d like from the aesthetic.

Day four I don’t remember what pen I used, unfortunately (I didn’t write down which pen I was using at the time, oops). Instead, I’ll wrap this up by noting that I didn’t get a chance to try the Sharpie pen :( and I’d like to give an honorable mention to the Ohto Capstick. The Ohto Capstick writes wonderfully and has an excellent, compact design, but if I lose the cap…

The ingenious retracting feature makes the cap LITERALLY INDISPENSABLE; you lose the cap, you might as well switch to another pen.

I can’t have my primary pen contain an integral part that’s sooo easy to lose.

As it stands, every one of the four main pens I tested (Airpress, Pico, Vista, and Power Tank) had enough good things going for them to save them from total expulsion, but no pen had everything I was looking for. As it stands, I’ll probably work on a rotation of these main four (perhaps getting my hands on an EF white body Lamy Safari with Noodler’s Polar Blue, and trying to jam every tiny cartridge under the sun into the Pico until I find something better or give up in despair), plus perhaps a nice orange-body Ohto Pieni in lieu of the Capstick. After a year of abuse, I’ll do an update to see which pens have ultimately fared better than the others. If anyone has any other suggestions, I’ll add them in to the rotation!

In order of appearance:
Tombow AirPress Ballpoint Pen – 0.7 mm – Black Body at JetPens
Lamy Pico Pocket Size Extendable Ballpoint Pen – Medium Point – Black Body at JetPens
Lamy Vista Fountain Pen with Extra Fine Nib (no link because I paid full price for mine in a fancy pen store…if you want this one, you can do your own work to find it at a good price! :P )
Noodler’s Ink Black Swan in Australian Roses Bottled Ink at Goldspot Pens
Uni-ball Power Tank Ballpoint Pen – 0.7 mm – Black Body – Black Ink at JetPens
Honorable Mention: Ohto Capstick Cap-Knock Needle Point Ballpoint Pen – 0.5 mm – Red Cap / Black Body at JetPens


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