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Rokform v3 case bike mount | review

As important to my rides as having a clean kit, plenty of food and water, and a spare tube, is having my iPhone. It keeps tracks of my rides, keeps me connected to my family and friends should something go south, and more often than not, maps to get me through newly discovered country roads or maybe to take a pic trail side. Now where to put it. I have always thrown it in my jersey pocket but  doing so isn’t the greatest with sweat or for hot days, the occasional dowse of water. What about mounting on the handlebars or stem? Everything I had seen made the iPhone’s overall size much larger and more in the way. Then enters the new v3 bike case and mount from Rokform.
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Machined from anodized Billit 6061 T-6 aluminum and only weighing approximately 64 grams, it won’t impact your ride for the weight weenies out there. It connects to any of Rokform’s v3 cases, which include cases for the iPhone 4/4s, 5, and Samsung Galaxy S3 (not verified, but possibly the S4 as well). The case adds around 25 grams so still keeping it light. Rockform sent us the iPhone 4/4s version for our review.
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Very easy to install, remove your existing top cap and bolt from your stem and install the mount. The mount is adjustable with a -20 to +55 degree viewing angle and is set during install. Once installed, your phone is then securely placed in its polycabonate case, with an optional lanyard for ease of carrying and for a third level of protection for your phone. Third level? What is the first and second? Well, I’m glad you asked. There are three ways the Rokform case and bike mount work together to keep your phone secure and with you along your ride. First, you twist the case onto the mount, while doing this you will feel the tug of the second level of protection, which is the nice sized magnet embedded in the case.
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I tested the case and bike mount over a couple of months on all types of riding, be it road bike on asphalt, gravel, dirt, and also mountain bike trails. I didn’t use the lanyard and never did the case and mount disconnect. On particular rough road or trail, there is a small inherent rattle, which I believe to be where the case and mount touch. My gut reaction always was to check to make sure it was still locked and it always was. The overall size of the case is the most minimalist I have seen to date. With that said only on my road bike would I occasionally brush the case while climbing with my thighs. One might say a simple fix is just to keep my weight shifted back and this fixes the problem, don’t tell anyone, I sometimes bump my legs against the top of my bar on the road bike while climbing also.
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For less than $100 you have a case and bike mount that will withstand the long rides or abuse you put it through. The case you can bring anywhere, fits well in your pocket and protects your phone in the event it takes an accidental fall to the floor. It fits other Rokform accesories, such as their sport clip or their tripod mount, as well comes in several colors.

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Boombotix Boombot2 Review

Whether clipped onto your messenger bag, sitting on your workbench or your office desk, the Boombotix Boombot2 delivers great sound from your Bluetooth device. Three button operation makes it simple. Press the center button to turn it on, when the light turns green you can use the headphone jack input to play music. Press the button again, the light turns blue, you can connect via any Bluetooth device. The outside two buttons are simply to turn the volume up and down. When you are done or need to charge the battery, press and hold the center button and it turns off with two beeps. Charging is done with the supplied mini-USB cable, to your computer or USB wall plug you might already have from your iPhone.

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The Boombot2 comes in a handful of designs, but you can paint it very easily and make it all your own. Boombotix sent us over one for our review and we were impressed by the sound and volume. It comes in handy not only around the bike but also around the house and outside. We found where our iPhone lacked in sound the Boombot2 was right there to solve that problem. It took a beating; getting tossed around and the occasional splash of water. At around $70 the Boombotix Boombot2 gives you some great sound that is totally portable and lasted for hours.

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Gestalt Haus – Beer, Brats & Bikes

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This weekend after a mountain bike ride in Fairfax, it was suggested that we must stop at the Gestalt Haus for a beer and a brat hot dog. “You can bring you bike inside and hang it on the wall!” was said on our way through the quaint town. As we pulled our bikes through the door, wound our way by the line and along the wall to group our bikes and order one of the seventeen available brats and one of a dozen beers on tap for ten dollars. Waiting for my name to be called to pick up my brat, I found a wall of board games to play and several classic mountain bikes attached to the wall to look at.

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The beer is large and well worth the five dollars. I ordered the chicken-apple brat without sauerkraut and it hit the spot, especially after the ride. If you are ever in the Fairfax/Mt Tamalpais  area, be sure to check them out, you can find them at 123 Bolinas Rd, Fairfax, CA 94930.

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Wahoo Fitness Blue HR Review

As you may have figured out from my previous review here, I have been using my iPhone 4S to record my rides and runs.  A few weeks ago I got a Blue HR heart rate monitor from the folks at Wahoo Fitness.  It’s a Bluetooth heart rate strap which was incredibly easy to set up and use.

At the time I first started using it a couple months ago, Strava didn’t support it (they do now), so I downloaded the WahooFitness App from the app store.  There is a big list of supported apps so your favorite training app is probably on the list.
I didn’t play around too much with the settings, just turned it on and let it find the HR monitor.  It has options to upload saved runs or rides to Strava so it all gets over there in the end.
For $79.99 it’s a really great accessory for the iPhone 4S.  Worked seamlessly, easy to set up, and pretty versatile with variety of compatible apps.
Here’s the Strava chart for my off-road lunch ride from Tuesday with the Heart Rate input:

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Element Case Vapor Pro Chroma iPhone Case Review

An iPhone might not be your idea of standard cycling equipment, but your cell phone is one of those things (like your keys) that pretty much go with you on all your rides. I recently got an iPhone 4s and was very happy when Kurt sent me the Vapor Pro Chroma case to review.

I had not put a case on my iPhone yet. There’s just something about being a mechanical engineer and a cyclist that makes me cringe at covering up beautiful stainless steel housings with brightly colored silicone rubber or plastic covers. I’m also a bit skeptical with the fact that you are putting in extra effort to protect something that probably will not be an heirloom in your family passed down from generation to generation.

Here is where the Chroma comes in. If you’re going to cover up a nice metal housing, what better than to use machined and anodized aluminum? And despite my “heirloom” comments above, nobody wants to accidentally drop their phone and crack the screen or accidentally scuff it across the parking lot.

So, here’s what came in the box. A black anodized case, a nice little zippered case (more on that later), a little keychain/hex wrench for assembling and with a couple extra screws, a microsuede cover for the back, a smaller one for the front, and a screen protector.

A couple of features on the case that I liked was the integrated button on the top, and the dove-tail press fit (see below). I did notice that on the black phone, most of the housing has a slight matte finish but the dove-tail piece is more of a brushed finish. It’s different enough to notice but not different enough to look like it was intentional. Some of the other color cases use a completely different color for this piece.

Installation was pretty easy. The installation tool has a nice little o-ring for grip. I am willing to bet that the small diameter of the installation tool is designed to try to prevent you from stripping out screws so use it! The frame really doesn’t add much physical size to you phone, but the phone feels much bigger. It’s a lot easier to grip and hold, especially with your full-finger cycling gloves on. The frame has a generous cutout around the headphone jack but a standard 90 degree non-Apple one may not fit.

I was pretty skeptical of the microsuede back cover. It’s just kind of weird to go from smooth glass to living room sofa. I was curious if over time it will start looking like my living room sofa, but a couple months in it looks fine. So what is it for? Want to put your phone on your legs while your sitting legs-up on the couch? The microsuede grips your jeans perfectly. Also the thickness is just close enough to the frame height that if you set your phone on flat surface, the frame contacts the table but you can’t accidentally slide it around and off the table due to the friction from the back cover. It’s different but it’s really grown on me. With that said, I chose not to install the little microsuede cover for the front. At first I put the screen protector on the front instead. Then I decided that de-resolution of the screen wasn’t worth it. Maybe the front cover would help with grip but the frame is already doing a great job on that.

Another thing I was skeptical of at first was the zippered case. Looks nice but why do I need a zippered case for my phone? I pretty quickly figured out why the case is awesome. I use my iPhone on all of my commutes and lunch rides and runs to track miles using the Strava app. I don’t have a handlebar mount or anything. I don’t really care where I am or how fast I’m going in the moment (that is until someone invents the hands-free bluetooth heads-up display), but I’d like to track my miles and see how I did when I’m done. This means starting the app, stuffing my iPhone in my pocket or bag and heading out. Not a problem in nice weather, but when you’re talking about a lunch time mountain bike ride in the rain, I need something better. I didn’t test if the case is waterproof, but it’s in my bag anyways. I figure the added protection against water and the added padding protection against any superman-over-the-bars moves are totally worth it.

As far as durability goes, While changing for one of my lunch rides I dropped my iPhone about 3 feet onto a hard tile floor. If I look hard I can find a little dent in the frame. No issues with the phone. As with most cases, you will get some dust between the case and phone over time, so you might want to take the case off every once in awhile and dust.

My main gripe is actually the difficulty I had finding an armband for running. The frame is not big, but it’s big enough so you won’t be able to fit it in most iPhone specific armbands. I found one from Cygnett which sort of works. Maybe if you got one for a larger phone. You do have the tools to take the frame off, but that’s not something you want to do every time you go for a run.

So if you have an iPhone and you are looking for a case that doesn’t totally ruin the looks of your phone you should check out the Vapor Pro Chroma. Being a machined metal cover, it’s going to cost more than an injection molded silicone cover, but you probably already guessed that.

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Lab-Gear “Merino J” jersey | Review

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Lab-Gear got their start in 2001 with the idea to locally create cycling apparel for mountain bikers (and roadies) that was different than what was available. Since then the Sydney, Australia company has grown and offers clothing for both on and off the bike. Lab-Gear set us up to create and review the “semi-custom” Merino J jersey.

 Here I go again throwing out some apparel jargon, “semi-custom”. What is meant by “semi-custom” is that you pick the fabric and thread color, as well, the measurements of the jersey. Lab-Gear makes owning a one-of-a-kind jersey easy and straightforward and with a few clicks of the mouse, you’re done. You have ten fabric colors to choose from, you can have short or long sleeve, quarter or full length zipper and for safety, reflective strips. You can see from the screen shot (as of 4/17/12) each jersey panel (orange color) can be made as you see fit.

 The Merino J not only is handmade, it is made out of, wait for it, 100% Australian superfine Merino wool. If you’ve never owned Merino wool clothing you must change this dilemma as soon as you can. Why you ask? Merino wool has specific natural attributes that make it perfect for cycling. Not only is it soft, it regulates body temperature, wicks moisture from your body and unlike cotton, maintains warmth when wet.  Merino wool, as most wool does, contains Lanolin, which has anti-bacterial properties.

Above is the photo sent with my order confirmation showing the panels for my jersey about to be cut.

As I unwrapped the jersey from its package, I couldn’t wait to see what I had created and how it fit. Being a tall, skinny guy, fit is always something I end up sacrificing either in arm length or trunk width in jersey’s. So being a “semi-custom” jersey I had this going for me and the fit was great. I opted to go with the full length zipper, which led to my only qualm is that the full length is slightly more robust and so bunching occurred in the stomach area, as if I was hiding something while in the crouched position.   Beyond that minor item, the jersey kept me warm and dry through rain storms and cold rides. Even on warm ride, when sweating, the Merino worked its magic and kept me from feeling sweaty and gross. The Merino J held up well on continuous laundering, which is washing on delicate cold setting and line drying. Color has stayed true to the original over the three month review. For owning a one-of-a-kind, designed by you, handmade for you jersey for $115 (US Dollar) you really can’t beat it. As well, shipping costs from Australia to the US is not that bad paired with a quick turn around time, you are set.

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Rudy Project Hypermask Sunglasses | Review

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Rudy Project has brought to the sport eyewear scene sunglasses that are not only impressively light weight but also very durable and good looking. I introduce the new for 2012, Hypermask. Rudy Project wanted us to see what the Hypermask touted and sent over a pair in the Frozen Ash frame with Multi-Laser Red lens.

The Hypermask first and foremost are light, weighing in at a stated 28 grams. Even with being light, the Hypermask do not sacrifice durability.  The ear pieces are firm, not flimsy and hold well against the head with the grip on the ear piece tips. Hinges of the Hypermask are covered so as to protect you injury in the event of impact during a crash.  Fitting of the glasses are comfortable and not tight and sit well on your ears and nose. Frame are available in three choices, Frozen Ash, a transparent grey, black gloss and cystal, transparent clear.

The nose piece is adjustable to adapt to different nose placement. This is one area I would like to see improved. The nose piece actually moves too easily, a simple slip while wiping your glasses could push it out of place. Sure, it easily moved back to where you prefer, but can be a slight nuisance.

Lenses are replaceable, with four to choose from, one being smoke and three Multi-Laser (red, purple and green). The smoke  lens has 22% light transmission and the Multi-Laser, slightly darker at 21% light transmission. For the Multi-Laser lens the reflective coating is well muted, but can scratch easily so do take care. But rest assured, Rudy Project has an lifetime replacement guarantee, in which you scratch them, they will replace for a nominal shipping and handling fee.

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The Hypermask’s are a great pair of light weight sunglasses. I did find that I would once in awhile push the glasses back up, a better working nose piece would solve this. I appreciated the lack of weight though, you do seriously forget you are wearing them. I found the glasses to have great protection from the sun, as well, great airflow to avoid fogging on those cold, crisp air rides. Included with the glasses are a hard and soft case and will cost you $204.99 for the Multi-Laser and $179.99 for the smoke, paired with Rudy Project quality and lens replacement guarantee, they will last for years to come.

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RoadID | review

How do you write a review for something you hope never to use as intended? I mean, I can give you all the details about the bracelets and the ordering process and the laser engraving, but let’s face it, nobody orders a RoadID because it’s the cool new trend, it’s not a Power Balance Bracelet, it actually serves a purpose, one that we never want to test.

It’s a little bit like your insurance company, you hope it works well, but would be happy never to find out.

With a few promo codes sent by the folks at RoadID, the Tread Heads ordered a Wrist ID Sport (Sam), Wrist ID Elite (Kurt), and Wrist ID Slim (Michael). Here’s the rundown:

Wrist ID Sport ($19.99): Basically a nylon strap with RoadID tag and Velcro closure, is probably the most durable of the three we tested. According to Sam (this is the only style of the three we’ve tested that I’ve never worn) it’s more comfortable than it looks and it has the added advantage of being easily identifiable to any medical personnel that might need the information. Available in six colors and supports up to six lines of text.

Wrist ID Elite ($29.99): A little more expensive and a lot more stylish. For $10 more than the sport you get a band made from “Fashionable Rubberized Compound” (think sports watch band) with metal clasp. The elite is comfortable and easy to size. The watch-like clasp makes putting it on and off a breeze. Our only complaint was the slight rattle in the clasp when riding on rough roads and the tendency for grime (sunscreen, dirt, soap scum, etc) to build up on the clasp. That said, when asked what he would change, Kurt suggested adding a bottle opener. Available in eight colors and supports up to six lines of text.

Wrist ID Slim ($15.99): In my humble opinion, the best of the three. Basically, a high quality Livestrong bracelet (far more durable, however) with a smaller stainless steel ID tag. More stylish (in that it’s less obvious) and more comfortable than the Elite, the Slim is designed for people, like me, who, either, can’t be bothered to take it off or have trouble hiding the inevitable tan-lines that came free with every Wrist ID (somewhere around here there’s a photo of my mid-summer RoadID tan-line…). Of course, the tradeoff for the small design is that, perhaps, it’s less likely to be noticed by medical professional. Available in seven colors and supports up to six lines of text.

All three IDs come with laser engraved stainless steel tags that can be customized with whatever information you think might be helpful in the event of an emergency. Choosing who or what to put can be daunting and the limited amount of space makes it likely you’ll offend the person you didn’t choose to include. Mine looks something like this:

MICHAEL SMITH
ALICIA XXX-XXX-XXXX WIFE
MOM XXX-XXX-XXXX
DOB 19XX * ORGAN DONOR
O POS BLOOD TYPE

Kurt drops the organ donor and blood type info and includes a home phone number (because he thinks it’s 2003 and still has a landline), drug allergies, and an inspirational quote. Sam has included me on his list of contacts, which is only a little silly because we ride together so often – or, that’s what I tell him so his feelings aren’t hurt. But, don’t fret, the RoadID website also offers examples and suggestions for how to abbreviate things so you can fit as much as possible in the small space.

If you’ve got a long medical history or your emergency contact keeps changing his/her phone number, you can also get an “Interactive” RoadID which has your name and a phone number/url for medical personnel to call/access in the event of an emergency. The pin # printed on the back of the tag will give emergency responders access to the information you’ve uploaded to your Emergency Response Profile. The first year is free with purchase of a new RoadID, each additional year is $9.99.

I’ve had my RoadID for…a long time and ridden over 3000 miles with it. Except for a few minutes here or there, it’s been on my wrist 24 hours a day. It has been exposed to heat, cold, sand, salt water, chlorinated water, soap, grease, yard work… The bracelet itself still looks new but, most importantly, the laser engraving is still as clear and easy to read as the day I took it out of the box (I’d take a photo, but then you might call my wife and talk her ear off about how awesome I am and she gets enough of that from me).

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Veloshine Wipes | Review

Does your bike or you ever get dirty after a ride? Veloshine wipes have you covered or I should say cleaned with their bike wipes. Veloshine sent over a sample to bring light to the fact that after a ride, whether you want a clean bike, a visit to the local burrito joint, or head out to an event, you and your bike want to be clean.

When I am in a hurry, as we typically all are, I neglect my bikes a little. Sure I put some chain oil on and occasionally pivot points but I don’t have time to clean it all of road grime, oil or sweat every time I go out or comeback. As well, I have long used baby wipes after rides for myself, which typically are small and leave a powdery residue. So for the most part, we are both succumbed to neglect. Veloshine changes that.

First to say, Veloshine Wipes are not a degreaser, so do not expect them to clean your drivetrain. For everything else, they are your new best friend. They work very well to clean your bike parts of most residues left from a great ride. If you do hit some tar and it lands on your bike, Goof-Off or a similar product will remove it and wipe it clean with the Veloshine wipe. The wipes are large at 8.5″ by 11″, so one sheet will easily clean your entire bike. Another nice thing about the wipes that they are 100% biodegradable so they won’t be caught in a landfill for the rest of eternity. The cleaner that is used in the wipes is as well safe for Steel, Aluminum and Carbon-Fiber bicycles. I found the wipes to clean well and not cause any discoloration or fading to any of my bikes. One obvious recommendation for mountain  bikes, if it was a super muddy ride, hose of your bike first prior to using the wipes.

You would think that being a bike cleaning wipe, we could just stop there, that is not the case. Veloshine Wipes are non-allergenic and are safe to clean you face and body. I really found this handy after a destination ride or just coming home and not having time to jump in the shower. The wipes clean away the sweat/salt and muck super well and don’t leave any powedery residue or perfume smell. I was really impressed with the Veloshine wipes. You can either purchase as a single item at $8.99 with 18 extra-large wipes or purchase in bulk, 24 packages of the 18 wipes, for $180, that is saving you $1.49 a package. The only qualm I have on the wipes is the price, you could buy a large package of baby wipes from a warehouse store for far less, but would have to use multiple wipes. If the price were to come down a bit, this would be great and would seal the deal. Next time you finish your ride, try a Veloshine bike wipe and look good.

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Ryders Eyewear Seeker Sunglasses | Review

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Ryders Eyewear got their start twenty-five years ago in 1986 when neon was everywhere. Those times have passed, but Ryders is still bringing to the scene eyewear for cyclists, skiers and snowboarders a like. Ryders eyewear sent over a pair of their photochromic and polarized (polarphoto) Seeker sunglasses for our review.

The Seeker sunglasses are available in a multitude of options. First, frames are available in either black, white or red. Lenses are available as either standard, polarized, photochromic, polorphoto (polarized and photochromic) and interchangeable. Keeping connected to your face, the thermoplastic frame is aided by hydrophilic (non-slip) nose pads and temple tips, which essentially provide the grip and work better when wet. Weight of the Seekers are not bad at 32 grams. Seekers provide a larger lens coverage area and most likely would be a bit large for a smaller faced rider, front bridge measurement is 135mm. The photochromic grey lens offers 34%-12% visible light transmission, which for my review I barely saw the difference, I would have liked to see the lens move slightly darker for middle of summer sun. The polycarbonate lens offers 100% UV protection, is shatterproof and as well has a scratch resistant coating. The lenses held up very well to the “Kurt test” (I occasionally drop my glasses), I didn’t see any scratch from my fumblings, but they are not completely scratch proof so do take care.
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The Seekers are great for either road cyclist or mountain biker that is looking for a higher-end, but affordable sunglasses. They stayed well connected to my face without the need to push them up during a ride. The design and look is fitting both on and off the bike. Being someone with light sensitivity I appreciated the lens coverage and while I would have liked to see the lens have a slight darker end point, they worked well for the partly cloudy to full sun rides. At a $89 price point for a photochromic and polarized lens, they are affordable, which I see is because the frames, very-slightly, are more flexible than other higher priced similar glasses. My only issue with the frames is that the ear piece tips would occasionally come into contact with my helmet head basket, so on next versions if they were shorter, this would be an improvement.

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