Archive for Bike

Annex Quadlock for iPhone 5

I am always on the lookout for a way to merge my bikes with being a geek.  Since I have the Interfone F4 bluetooth kit in my helmet, (FYI, there is an F5 model now),  I have used my iPhone for satnav, podcasts and music/calls on the move.  Finding a good motorbike mount for the iPhone though, has been a challange.  I have had one in the past for the iPhone4, but it will not fit the newer model.

Enter the recently released Kickstarter project, the  Annex Quadlock.  In a geek-biker chat I am a member of, a colleague mentioned this upcoming release so I contacted them and asked if I could have one to review.  This Australian company obviously focus on pushbikes, but the design looked compatible with multiple size bar-frames.  Yesterday, I got this in the post from down-under (disclaimer: they have not charged me and I will return the product).

QuadLock1

Opened, it consists of a rugged polycarbonate iPhone5 casing with a mounting fitting built in, the bike handlebar mount and wall mounts (if you fancy mounting your device to a wall).  The wall mount doesn’t interest me, so lets look at the phone casing.

Quadlock2

 

 

I like the casing.  It feels tough and secure.  There is a bump on the back side where the mount attaches. About 2mm increase in size in the centre point, which means the iPhone does not lie perfectly flat in this case.  Power and volume buttons have polycarbonate covers for pushing, but all options in the phone are available.  The only issue I have is that the Apple Lightening to 30-pin converter (to attach to older device cables) cannot connect anymore to the device due to the covering.  It’s a minor gripe.  A real Lightening cable works fine.

Quadlock4

 

The bike mounting comes with rubber O-rings (2 sets of different sizes) and tie-wraps.  You put the mounting on the handlebar and attach using the O-rings.  If you wish, you can also use the tie-wraps.

Quadlock6

Assembly takes all of 20 seconds and then it is fixed to the bike.  Attaching the phone is a simple twist/release mechanism.  Here are some pictures of the mount, and the phone attached to my Ducati Monster.  As you can see, the mount is not obtrusive when not in use.

Quadlock8 QuadLock7

Just using the O-Rings, I took the bike out on an 80 mile spin, over country roads.  It was secure at all times.  When stopping at a station, it was a simple twist/click remove to take the phone with me.  All in all, I am impressed with this product and would recommend it to bikers looking for a handlebar mount.  My only reservation is with trusting the O-Rings for a period of time.  I could remote/attach the mount when not in use, but I do think some sort of  handlebar mounting attachment (like on the GoPro or SwannCam Freestyle) would be a better option.  However, the super-rough trip I took with the mounting yesterday was no issue to the mount, at any speed).  The pricing is reasonable and the company has been very responsive.  Recommended.

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Getting crowded in there…

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IAM

For those thinking I am going to talk about this (and how it looks remarkably similar to this), you are about to be sorely disappointed.

Over 2 1/2 years ago I started riding a motorbike.  It was on my todo list for a long time, and after moving to Belfast I bit the bullet and started lessons.  After the basic lessons, a CBT exam, manoeuvres test and on-road test were passed I purchased my CBF600.  Since then I have put over 14k miles on the bike involving a lot of short runs and a few longer ones.  Doing all these miles presented four interesting observations.

  1. I never realised how bad car drivers could be, until I started riding a motorbike.
  2. If I rode a motorbike the way I rode a car when I was 21, I would be dead.  I enjoy riding a bike.   I have no interest in dying.
  3. After you pass the motorbike test you have basic skills.  And I mean BASIC.  It’s nowhere near enough to drive effectively or safely.
  4. Watching riders like my brother, Bill Buchan, Tim Clark, or even talking bikes with Steve McDonagh and Sean Cull, I realised I don’t know dick about bikes. (not forgetting the lotusphere hog riders too).

So at the start of the Summer I began research on more advanced biking techniques. Enter the Institute of Advanced Motorists.  This course (and subsequent exam) is aimed at upping your game to becoming a safer and more progressive (read: faster) rider.  You sign up to the Institute, pay your very small fee and you being your training.  If you pass the test, there is a side benefit of having significantly discounted insurance in future.

My training was hosted by adelaide insurance in Belfast.  They scheduled nights where you are followed and assessed by certified observers and they beat you into shape.  These guys stick to you like glue on the road, watch every move you make and cajole you to ride better, safer and typically faster.  They want you to get better.  They work around your schedule and observers even met me when it suited me to help me get ready for the test.

From an abysmal start in May I slowly got better until they decided I could put in for the exam.  Last night, I took it.  Think back to your driving test all those years ago.  Yeah.. it was as stressful as that but advanced.  The relief when I heard the sentence “I am pleased to tell you you have met the required standard….” was incredible.   The best line of the night when I was finished?  The examiner reminding me that “You are not an expert now.  Don’t ever consider yourself an expert.  It will be a learning experience until you never ride again”.  Noted.

I cannot recommend this course and exam enough.  No really, I can’t.

The strangest thing about all this expert training and examination was the cost.   There is a cost to join the IAM.  It’s not much.  After that, all these hours of education and practical skills transfer?

Free.  They wouldn’t take money.  Adelaide Insurance paid for all of it.  Even if you were not a customer.  They didn’t try to sell insurance to me once.  All they want to do is promote safe riding and driving.   No catch. No obligation.

What did I do?  I moved my insurance to them.  Of course I did.

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Corners

En route to Admincamp for the week, both Bill and I decided that the sensible approach of flying over the Gelsenkirchen just would not do.  So we decided to meet up and do something silly.  Enter the “advanced cornering course” from pro-scot.

I left Belfast at 5am, and  drove through horrible rain to Larne for the ferry to Scotland.  Berthing at Troon, I drove to Kirkaldy to meet Bill.  From there, the “five-hour” course started.   This was the route taken (click on it for more details).

Not one dual-carraigeway or a motorway.  All secondary roads, for SEVEN hours.  The start began with the instructors (two instructors for just Bill and I) following us for 30 minutes.  They assess you, then show you what is possible by leading for a few minutes.

That was a humbling experience.  One of the riders (Ruth) was on a 20 year old baby fireblade.

For the rest of the day, they encourage, cajole and force you to up your biking game, staying within the law (with exception to speed) but safely progressing at a pace I personally had never done before.   Using radio links to your helmet, they push you hard.  Progression is the key.  Nothing unsafe.  Nothing illegal.  But no hanging about.  By the end of the day, I passed through over 250 miles (and another 100 miles to get there) of the toughest driving I have ever done.   I will say that the scenery was stunning, because I know it is (ask Warren and Kitty) but you are too busy reading the road to look.   Both Bill and I were exhausted at the end.  The instructors?  They had another hour to go to get home and were chilled and ready for more.   If you are interested in biking, this is a fantastic day.  Excellent value for money.  Drive to scotland.  Take this course.  Hell, let me know when and I will do it again.  Just get ready to up your game.  Marvellous.

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Interfone F4. Short run(s) verdict

As mentioned last week, I purchased my Interfone F4.  A few short runs have impressed me.  Making a phone call at 60mph/100kph to my brother.  His opinion on sound quality was “better than your car kit”.  And I have a pretty good car kit.  Music, Sat Nav worked well, although a few times it lost A2DP connectivity when both iPhone and Blackberry were connected.  Still working on a workaround.

Today I purchased two more.  One for said brother and one for Senior Buchan.

Photos as requested Mr Olson!

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New tech. Interfone F4

Over the past two years, I have had a number of long journeys on the bike.  Most riders take comfort in the solace of taking a 2-wheeled journey.  You are uncontactable.  In the moment.  Focussed on the task at hand.  Selfish (it’s my life.. I want to keep it) and in control.  I love it.  But as the trips get longer,  access to good technology becomes more and more important.  I started with Tom Tom for my iPhone, and then spent months looking for a good iPhone Motorbike mount.  Having solved that I was simply using in-ear headphones under my helmet.  Useful, but arkward.

As some of the trips have been work related, pulling in every hour or so to check voicemail and mail was becoming more and more of a nuisance.  So I began to do my homework on an in-helmet bluetooth system.  This week, an Interfone F4 was purchased.  It is a bluetooth in-helmet communications tool.

There are two parts to the helmet construction.  Fitting the earphones and mic snugly in the helmet.  Then fitting a mount piece for the Interfone on the side of the helmet.  This takes some time to do right.  With my Shoei Helmet, it also requires small incisions in the padding to get the cable neatly out of the helmet to the mount.  My brilliant local stockists, Belfast Honda, fitted it for me, free of charge.  After that part is done, the rest is geeky, and quite straightforward.

First charge of the interfone kit is overnight.  After that you get approx 5-7 hours of usage.  Subsequent charges are only three hours.  I paired with my iPhone4 and immediately get call control, voice control, voice answer and volume control through my helmet.  As the iPhone4 supports A2DP by default I also get stereo music and sat nav commands as I go.  To make this work on earlier iPhones, you need to buy the bluetooth adapter.

Not only that, but this device can pair with multiple bluetooth devices concurrently.  It can also do exactly what I needed.  Pair with two phones simultaneously.  My work phone (Blackberry) and my UK work phone/iPod/Sat Nav (iPhone) are both connected.

The sound quality is good on the device, and I can make/take calls up to 60mph (100kph) easily.  After that, helmet noise gets in the way a bit, although I do think my Arai is a tad noisy.  There are some limitations on the dual-device support though.  It seems that when my blackberry gets a call, it takes over the A2DP status from the iPhone, so I lose music and Sat Nav instructions until I disconnect the berry.  I need more time to play to find a workaround and play with all the other functions.  After my next long run, I will give a verdict.

Let me know if you want images of the device fitted.

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Busy week ahead

Bad ideas look good from a distance.

This week will be tough.  Lots on tomorrow, followed by starting my journey to BLUG tomorrow evening.  Going to head to Dublin tomorrow night so I can take a meeting Tuesday morning before the ferry.  I hope to tweet pictures and log the journey as I travel it.  Keep an eye on the map to see how it is going.  While I am doing it, my conscience will constantly remind me that I could have booked a 50quid ticket.

Either way, looking forward to BLUG.

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