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A Better Phone Mount

When I purchased my first smart phone in 2013, I was motivated primarily by the promise of using Open Street Map for bicycle navigation. This does not require, but is greatly assisted by, a mounting system of some sort. I’ve tried a few over the years. Since 2015 I’ve used the Aduro U-Grip Plus Universal Bike Mount, which I think is an excellent design. It uses a ball and socket to provide complete adjustability. It secures the phone with a spring-loaded cradle and silicon band. Between the two, there’s no way the phone is falling out, unless the mount breaks. Unfortunately the whole thing is cheaply made of plastic. Earlier this month, mine finally broke.

  • Aduro U-Grip Plus Universal Bike Mount: Failure
  • Aduro U-Grip Plus Universal Bike Mount

After seven years, I feel I got my money’s worth out of the Aduro U-Grip, but when a tool like this fails I want to replace it with something better. Purchasing another of the same just resets the countdown to the next failure. Unfortunately, the bicycle phone mount market seems to be flooded with shit. Either they provide limited adjustability, or they require a special phone case. I have no interest in either. I was disappointed, and about to just order another Aduro U-Grip, until I happened upon Tackform. Their Enduro Mount was advertised for motorcycles, but I figured it ought to work on a real bike.

Cockpit

Tackform’s offering is similar in concept to Aduro’s, with a ball and socket providing complete adjustability, and phone security provided by a spring-loaded cradle and silicon band. But it raises durability to the extreme. I’ve had mine for just a few days. I am impressed.

The only plastic component is the wingnut used to lock the position of the cradle. Everything else is metal. The spring that operates the cradle is no joke. It is capable of operating as an improvised finger guillotine. Yet it is quick and easy to operate one-handed. Tackform includes a silicon band for further security, but in the packaging material they say that you really don’t need it. I believe they are correct. When it is installed in the cradle, I can lift the bike with the phone. The phone doesn’t move at all. It is difficult to imagine a scenario where the phone would escape.

The top of the cradle has a lip to prevent the phone from being pulled out straight up. The sides and bottom of the cradle are lined with a thin rubber to provide some protection to the phone. The outer edges of the cradle are quite sharp, which makes me somewhat nervous about a crash. I have no doubt that the mount would come through, and that the phone would still be secured in it, but my face might not fare so well if it comes into contact with the cradle. But, hey, that’s what eye pro is for.

The primary disadvantage to the Tackform Enduro is that the arm which connects the cradle to the bar mount is tightened with a single wingnut. To rotate the cradle from portrait to landscape mode, you have to loosen this wingnut, which also loosens the connection to the bar mount. So while the ball and socket connection gives you complete freedom to position the phone as you like, it’s the sort of thing where you need to figure out what position you want and then tighten the wingnut to lock it in. You won’t leave the wingnut loose enough to allow for adjustments while riding. With the Aduro U-Grip, the socket is part of the cradle, the ball is part of the bar mount, and I was always able to leave the nut which secures the two just loose enough that I could make minor in-flight positioning adjustments without compromising the security of the system. In practice, I have yet to find this limitation with the Tackform to be something I really care about. But if you want to be able to rotate between portrait and landscape modes without stopping and using two hands, look elsewhere.

The other disadvantage that some riders will identify is weight. I didn’t weigh the components, but what you’re dealing with here is basically just a chunk of aluminum. I imagine the whole system is somewhere around 6 oz, which is significantly more than the plastic competitors. If you have much spandex in your wardrobe, you won’t be happy with Tackform. But my bike is carefully built for what I see as the ideal compromise between performance and durability, and the Tackform mount makes the cut.

Beyond the durability of the system, what endures me to Tackform is that their products really are systems. They are not just selling a few application-specific packages, but have whole series of components. It’s like a grown-up Lego set. I appreciate knowing that I could replace an individual component, or buy just the piece I need to expand the mount’s applicability to different vehicles or environments.

None of Tackform’s products are cheap, but they claim that their products are designed to last a lifetime. After the first 100 miles on this mount, I believe that statement will prove accurate. I suspect that the slab-format pocket terminal will be phased out and become irrelevant well before the Tackform Enduro will fail.

Tackform Enduro Mount

The mount is manufactured in the country of Taiwan, so get yours before China expands its beachfront property.

Titanium Fuel Transport

Last January I bought a pack of generic stretch silicone lids. My hope was that one of the sizes in the pack would fit my 16 year old Snow Peak Trek 700. One did. This turns the mug into an excellent fuel transport container. It’s kind of a poor man’s Vargo BOT 700.

Rando Supplies

  • Snow Peak Trek 700 with Silicone Stretch Lid
  • Snow Peak Trek 700 with Silicone Stretch Lid

I have filled the mug with water, installed the silicone lid, flipped it upside down, and left it standing overnight. In the morning there were no leaks. I’m still hesitant to actually transport liquids using the lid. Mostly because the silicone is extremely thin, and I’m sure it is going to tear eventually. But if you’re into cold soaking food on the trail, and don’t want to carry a dedicated jar, I think this could be an attractive option. For leftovers, it’s perfect.

The lids I bought are no longer available, but there is certainly no shortage of equivalents floating around on Amazon-AliExpress-eBay. Based on the number search results, my impression is that China is drowning in silicone stretch lids.

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Every Day Pliers

I carry Fix It Sticks for screwing and small Westcott scissors for snipping. Since learning about them last year on Jerking the Trigger, I’ve carried Knipex 87-00-100 Cobra Pliers for gripping. There are times when a classic multitool, like a Leatherman, is preferable, but I find this selection is more functional for most of my mobile tool needs.

Knipex 87-00-100 Cobra Pliers

I measure the baby Knipex pliers at an overall length of 103 millimeters and a mass of 60 grams. They are an excellent purchase.

A Better Kanteen Lid

My favorite lid for standard mouth Klean Kanteen bottles is the Topoko Straw Lid B. It’s a simple flip-top straw lid. The only thing that makes it special is that the mouthpiece is covered when closed. It seems like a common sense concept, but so many sport lids have no provision for some sort of mud guard.

Topoko Straw Lid

Other than that, there’s not much to say about the lid. It is completely leak-proof when closed. It is easy to operate one handed. It comes with two straws that can be cut to length. One is stiff and the other is bendy. I’ve found no functional difference between the two.

I have these lids installed on both the bottles I use on a daily basis – the 27 oz that I carry on my bike, and the 40 oz I use at home.

I did break one of the lids by accidentally dropping the bottle from about 4 feet onto concrete. It broke where the carry loop connects to the base. The lid still sealed and functioned properly. I only use the loop for pulling the bottle out of a cage or pouch, but I still purchased a replacement (and another spare) immediately.

The new lids I received were slightly different from the old ones. The bit that covers the mouthpiece is clear instead of black, and the edge of it is flush with the edge of the lid. On the old model, the black cover was a couple millimeters proud of the edge of the lid, which provided more purchase when grabbing the piece to flip it open. The older design seems superior, but I haven’t actually noticed a practical disadvantage with the new one. I can still easily and reliably flip the lid open, even with a gloved finger. (That is, however, with light gloves – the older design may have more of an advantage with heavy winter gloves.)

Topoko Straw Lid: Old and New

I’ve only used the lids on Klean Kanteen bottles. I use these bottles for water. I don’t know if there are any special considerations that would make the lids less than ideal for hot beverages.

I’ve used every iteration of Klean Kanteen’s Sport Cap since I bought my first bottle from them in 2005. They’ve all left something to be desired. The Topoko lid is a superior solution.

Cablz Eyewear Retention

I’ve previously mentioned my fondness for Rudy Rydon eyewear (particularly with the photochromic laser red lenses). One of the benefits of the Rydons is the adjustability of the temples and the nose pad, which allow for a secure, custom fit. This makes added retention via a strap unnecessary for securing the Rydons on the face, yet I’ve come to appreciate having a retainer attached simply because it allows me to drop the eyewear around my neck when I don’t need it. This offers more security than pushing them up onto the crown of my head or hanging them over the edge of my shirt or pocket, without requiring the hassle of putting them away in a pack.

For this application I’ve come to like the Cablz Zipz Adjustable Eyewear Retainer. I use the 12 inch version. These are made of a coated, stainless steel wire. When you’re wearing the eyewear, the wire sits up off the neck so you don’t feel the retainer at all. When you’re hanging it around your neck, it is thin and light enough that you soon forget it is there (this is also a result of the lightness of the Rydons, of course). The zip allows the length of the retainer to adjust from about 6 inches to 12 inches. At the smallest setting this keeps the Rydons tight on my face, but since that is not what I’m looking for I keep it adjusted about half way. At roughly 9 inches in length, I find that I can easily don and doff the eyewear, and that they sit at a comfortable position on my chest when I’m hanging them around my neck. The “universal” silicon ends of the retainer grab securely on the Rydon temples.

Cablz Eyewear Retention

Cablz isn’t the only company to offer this style of retainer.

The Croakies ARC Endless is the same basic idea. I bought one to try out, but found it to be inferior. The silicon ends are significantly thicker and less comfortable behind the ear. I could bend the Rydon temples to account for this extra thickness, but I appreciate that the Cablz retainer requires no adjustment of the eyewear. With the Croakies, the pieces you grab to tighten the retainer are quite small. You’re adjusting the retainer blind by reaching behind your head, so the haptics are important. I found the Croakies difficult to use when wearing gloves. The Cablz adjustment pieces are large enough to be easy to use whether gloved or gloveless.

The equivalent from Chums is the Adjustable Orbiter. It only adjusts from 10 inches to 15.5 inches, which is too large for my needs, so I didn’t buy one to try.

I recommend the retainer from Cablz. It provides a simple but helpful augmentation to my eyeball protection system.

Zensah Leg Compression

I purchased a pair of Zensah Compression Leg Sleeves in 2008 after reading about them at MilitaryMorons. This was when minimalist running was beginning to take off – Born to Run was published the following year – and I found that the sleeves ended up being a valuable part of my transition to less supportive footwear.

The story I was sold in various wilderness medicine courses was that compression aided recovery because it constricted the blood vessels, raising the percentage of oxygen delivered to the area, which in turn speeds muscle regrowth. I understand there is some debate about whether this explanation is accurate but, whatever the reason for it, there seems to be no debate that compression aids recovery and performance.

I still use my 12 year old pair of Zensah sleeves. They’re not a piece of equipment I reach for frequently, but they’re invaluable when I do use them. If I’ve been pushing myself on runs – or, in the Before Times, if I had a hard training session at the boxing gym – there’s nothing better than the immediate comfort I get when sliding them on. Because I don’t use them often, sometimes I’ll forgot that they’re buried in the bottom of my sock drawer and I’ll go a couple days with discomfort in my calves that I can’t get out with a roller or massage ball.

Prior to buying the Zensah sleeves, I would occasionally accomplish the same thing with 3M Vetrap. It works, and is worth having around for splinting (the self-adhesive property makes it superior to the classic ACE elastic bandage), but wrapping and getting the tension just-so is more of a hassle than just sliding on the sleeves. Vetrap is also not as comfortable as Zensah’s material, which is both breathable and moisture wicking.

How Not to Die

Last year I read How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger on the recommendation of Hundred Rabbits.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part addresses common killers and how they can be mitigated, prevented or reversed through nutrition. The second part of the book covers specific food groups and gives guidelines for their regular consumption.

The book is meticulously researched, with every claim backed up by real, peer-reviewed science. When reading it, it felt like every other sentence had a citation. It’s unlikely that the average reader could actually go through each of the cited studies to confirm that the conclusions presented in the book are an accurate representation of the paper, or if they’ve been skewed to better fit Dr. Greger’s message.

The book grew out of NutritionFacts.org, a non-profit organization started by Dr. Greger with the goal of reading and understanding as much of the published science on nutrition and health as possible, and presenting the results as dietary guidelines actionable for normal people. (Unfortunately the website focuses primarily on video dissemination, which for me is an ineffective means of information transmission. I prefer plain text. Hence the book.)

Dr. Greger is largely opposed to consuming meat. He eschews terms like “vegetarianism”, instead preferring to advocate for what he calls an evidence-based diet centered on whole-food, plant based nutrition. I like to consume flesh, do not intend to stop, and think the consumption of it does provide important nutritional value (a point on which the doctor does acquiesce). Many of his warnings about flesh eating are less about the nutritional value of the meat itself and more about the cleanliness of the production and preparation environment. However, if you can look past the anti-meat tendencies and the possible biases in which type of research is reported on, there is still a lot of very good data in the book. It’s one of the best owner’s manuals for the body that I have read.

Better Bondage with ROK Straps

ROK Straps are superior bungie cords. They are designed to be safe and long lasting during prolonged outdoor use. Each end of the strap consists of a sewn loop, allowing it to be securely fastened to a wide variety of frameworks without concern for scratching or marring the surface, or for a hook coming released under tension and finding its way into an eyeball. Cargo secured by the ROK Strap is easily accessed via the side-release buckle. Most of the ROK Strap is simple webbing, adjustable thanks to the buckle. One side of the ROK Strap has a short segment of a durable natural rubber, giving the strap some elasticity, but not enough that unintended recoil will likely result in the strap finding its way into an eyeball. The rubber is contained in a polyester braid for UV protection and additional durability.

ROK Strap: Models

For securing cargo to a bike rack, my preferred model is the Pack Strap. These expand from 12” to 42” inches. They are 5/8” wide and are rated to carry up to 55 lbs. I find this is the right size for most cargo and have used it to transport: sleeping pads, folding chairs, toilet paper restocks, a year’s supply of paper towels, pizza, and takeout yakisoba.

  • ROK Straps: Toilet Paper Transport
  • ROK Straps: Yakisoba Transport

The smallest model is the Commuter Strap. These expand from 12” up to 28”. They are 1/2” wide and are rated to carry up to 40 lbs. If you just want to lash down a jacket or sleeping bag, these may be appropriate. They are long enough to secure common small cargo on a bike, but I would always rather have the extra range of the Pack Strap for handling awkward loads.

ROK Straps are also available in the ATV Strap model. These expand from 18” to 60”. They are 1” wide and are rated to carry up to 100 lbs. Apparently these are popular among people who ride motor-scooters. The 18” minimum length is too large for some of what I want to attach to a bike, and I’m not keen to carry cargo that would require the 60” maximum length. I saw a photo once of somebody who used these to attach a 45 gallon trash can to the back of his scooter. If that’s what you need to do, I guess consider these, but for what I find myself carrying I don’t need the extra length or weight rating of these over the 42” Pack Strap. This model stays at home in my bag of miscellaneous bondage.

The above measurements are of the ROK Straps when the rubber is at rest. When under load, all three models can stretch about an additional 4”.

The loose ends of the ROK Straps can be secured using either VELCRO One-Wrap or ITW Web Dominators.

ROK Straps: One-Wrap

ROK Straps: Web Dominators