Over the last few years I’ve noticed more and more bikers inexplicably mounting their smart phones in the cockpit of their motorbikes and I’ve found it hard to understand why. For me one of the joys of motorcycling is the ability to plug in a set of earplugs, plant a helmet on my head and escape the world of modern life. Be it a mid week burn or a full on tour of the Alps this time is a kind of “off switch” for me which I call the “Great Escape”. By this I mean that when I’m on a motorcycle nothing else exists, family, friends, work, stress, money problems, nothing, and I mean nothing else matters.
Once I put on the helmet Denis has left the building, the helmet is as good as a “PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB” sign and I cannot be contacted in any way! I become utterly focused on the road ahead, getting the corners right, the wind, the smell of nature, the sound of the engine, other road users, the changing condition of the road, the environment, the weather, road signs, indicators to potential hazards, sensory indications from the handlebars, engine, breaks, back wheel grip, g-forces – you get the picture…
Even if it’s just a 2 hour rip once a winters week it’s like a reset button, a reboot that allows me to cope with the constant barrage of stress, responsibilities, family and the constant assault of information being fired at my head from emails, txt messages, subliminal advertising, news feeds, feckbook, twatter and the darker side of the internet. It’s a way of flushing out all the crap that starts clogging up my brain, messing with my ability to think straight and deal properly with the things that are truly important.
Riding motorbikes has, for me, become as much about the joys of riding bikes as it is about escaping modern life. So why, oh why would someone consciously bolt a smart phone, a gateway facilitator to all the stress of the office, some idiots Facebook status (eh, including my own) and the ability for your wife to ping you to pick up some groceries on the way home????
I’m far from being a technophobe, but for years I refused my wife’s incentives of upgrading my perfectly usable 10 year old Nokia mobile. When I eventually succumbed to her wilful insistence to be “AOL” – Always On Line, I could only see the down sides. Gone was my 2 twice daily 5 minute escape to the porcelain throne room with the latest copy of Adventure Bike Rider and in came the multi tasking potty-mails. Although conference calls did became far more interesting lol…
So when Remi and Cedric at www.TwistyRide.com contacted me last December and asked if I’d be interested in testing their new invention, the TwistyRide iPhone 3G/3GS/4/4S Waterproof Holder for Motorcycles I was a little worried to be honest. I was not sure if I could test and write about something I strongly disapproved of. My mind was set, there was no way anyone could convince me that smart phones on motorbikes was a good idea. I viewed other bikers with their iPhones strapped to their handlebars as sad AOL addicts who had lost one of the fundamental joys of motorcycles – escape!
Upon this statement my more tech-friendly wife promptly told me the get over myself and pull my stone age head out of my opinionated arse. So with my puritan bikers attitude suitably chastised I set about seeing how a smart phone can benefit me as I continue to explore the world on the back of a motorbike. Of course unknown to my tech-savvy Borg wife my devious stone age Homer Simpson type mind secretly wanted to prove the addition of an iPhone to a bikes cockpit as being just a ludicrous status symbol.
No-one likes to be proved wrong, and I really hate to admit this, but my lingering Neanderthal tendencies may be in need of a serious overhaul. From the SatNav functionality of “HELP, I’M COMPLETELY LOST” and Apps to get me the feck out of this city traffic, or finding the nearest Burger King, having a smart phone to hand does come in handy. But my BMW Motorrad Navigator III does that too. However, with the SavNat ability aside the smart phone absolutely excels as an on-the-fly aid to motorcycle touring. What dedicated SatNavs don’t have “as yet” is access to the increasing number of travelling apps which definitely have their uses while motorcycle touring. Most apps I found were complete junk, but not all. Here is my current list of favourite travel apps and websites…
I’ve even downloaded to my phone a YouTube video showing me how to fix a flat tyre on my F800GS in case I need some road side assistance. Then of course there is the ability of having an easy accessible music database within easy reach on those long motorway days. I even got used to using my smart phone as a SatNav, it’s not as good as a dedicated SatNav, but as I travel a far bit sharing my time between Ireland, the Isle of Man and Spain, carrying around the Garmin StreetPilot can be a right pain. So, long story short, I now see the benefits of having a smart phone mounted on the motorbike and within easy reach when touring.
One big problem remains however…
Smart phones simply were not designed to withstand constant 80mph windblast, vibration, pothole shock, rapidly changing temperatures, rain and suicidal ballistic bugs exploding on them and 90kg adrenalin fuelled gorillas poking them with armoured gloves!
An earlier search on Amazon for motorbike phone holders and their respective customer reviews left me with little doubt that some of the holders on offer for motorbikes looked suspiciously like re-branded iPhone holders for bicycles. I had little doubt that the majority of the holders were not designed by anyone who had ever actually spent any time on a motorbike at all. So how can something like this be designed properly without any realistic experience on a motorbike? While the price was fine for these holders, the risk of either damage or loss of my phone was far too high a risk for my liking.
So how does the TwistyRide compare against the competition?
First off, here is the product description from the TwistyRide website:
My first impressions
The price for all this is £69 with an extra £35 for the waterproof iPhone Charger for connection to the bikes battery. Alternatively you can just buy the case for £20. On the face of it that’s approx twice, or even 3 times the price of other market alternatives, but the devil is in the details, or in this case the quality.
Upon receiving the package I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the packaging itself, but like most kids with a new toy it lasted scant seconds as I ripped it open to spill it’s goodies
Like I said, this system ‘aint cheap, but one of the first things to come out of the box was the mounting system, and yes it’s most definitely all RAM. Anyone using RAM mounting system knows the quanlity and how well their systems work. With zinc coated metal, powder coated marine grade aluminium and high strength composite materials the RAM mounting systems work perfectly and look good even after countless miles in all weathers. I only use RAM mounts for both my Garmin SatNav and for the cameras I mount to my bike for making videos. Basically, if I want to mount any important or expensive device to my bikes it’s done with a RAM system. Ram gear is not cheap, but you get what you pay for, a rock solid mounting for any device. So with the RAM Mount included the highish cost of TwistyRides iPhone holder becomes fully understandable and now easily acceptable.
Next was the Waterproof iPhone Charger which was also designed by the TwistyRide lads which looked like it was built for purpose. It’s properly weather shielded (IP54), cabled, fused (2 amp standard blade fuse – also weather shielded) and has short circuit and reverse voltage protection. With a cable length of 3 meters you have plenty of length to hook this up no matter your bikes battery location. The good quality yet again qualifies the cost of the system.
Next up is the Waterproof iPhone Case itself, with my first impressions being, looks good, feels solid! Inside the case is a soft removable rubber liner for holding and cushioning the iPhone. It took me a minute or two to figure out how to open the case as there is not just a big fastening clasp on the side, but additional clasps both on top and the bottom of the case body. No fear of my phone falling out so. Note to self, RTFM to save looking like a five year old trying to figure out a child proof bottle cap!
iPhone Holder Rubber Insert
Next out of the box was another soft rubber liner to hold other iPhone models, a pack of screws and bolts for the RAM mount and the TwistyRide attachment thingy to connect the case to the RAM mount. It took me almost 5 minutes to figure out how it all fit together as a mechanical engineer I’m not. And worse, I’m one of the many millions (you know who you are) who never take the time to RTFM (Read The Fecken Manual) first lol…..
Anyway, with a quick glance of the clear and easily read manual the whole thing is idiot proof. The RAM-Case mount socket is first bolted onto the case, the case mount socket also has a sturdy quick release system. The case-RAM mount socket then fits to the RAM motorcycle mount. The whole mounting system is a very solid, sturdy and feels like it’s built to last under regular use. Once it’s all mounted, tightened properly with phone added it’s not going anywhere, even if you take a very spirited ride on rutted, potholed mountain roads. On my first test ride out with this there was no risk of my phone falling out despite the shockingly rough roads that I like to ride my F800GS or Tiger on.
Is the waterproof case actually waterproof?
Well not if you stick it in your pocket and go swimming! There is a very small gap at the bottom of the case to feed the power cable to the phones power socket. While this is a very small gap, if fully submersed in water it does let in a little water, but this is another case of RTFM! This system is for bikers and not scuba divers. While I’ve been out and about doing my thing I’ve been hit by downpours, prolonged rain and misty drizzle as well as sleet and hail and at no point did any water get through the case and in at my phone while mounted on the bike.
So while the case is mounted on the bike it is waterproof when subjected to even the wettest of weather. Although if possible, I’d advise to angle the mount so as to take advantage of a motorbike or mopeds screen. If you don’t the case’s clear screen gets covered in road dirt/grease/grime etc., if you then try to wipe it with your gloves you can scratch the screen making it more difficult to see through. Like any screen, glass or plastic – care is needed when cleaning the screen or you may well ruin it.
I’m not going to mention how easy or hard it is to access your phones functions through the iPhone case while on the move as it’s both dangerous and now illegal to do so in many EU countries along with SatNavs etc so I’m not going there. Please remember doing so can all to easily see you facing a fine and penalty points. This should only be done while stationary. While stationary I had no problem accessing the phones functions through the case screen, but I did still have to take my gloves off to it, but that was more to do with the phones small screen menus and nothing to do with the case.
The soft rubber inner case liner also seems to do a good job at protecting my phone from average pothole shock and usual road vibration, at least the phone I used in these conditions is still working. Just take note however I was riding rough mountain roads and NOT off road, there is only so much abuse to which I’ll risk subjecting a delicate €500 phone too. In this case the phone in question was my wife’s, and handing her back her iPhone in less than optimal condition would render my life null and void.
I’ve even found a second use for the iPhone Holder when I don’t need it for it’s intended use
I’ve recently invested in the new Drift Ghost action camera, the remote control for this fits perfectly within the case allowing me full view of the remote status leds and functions without stopping which saves me a huge amount of time and trouble. The new action cam is fully rain proof, but not the remote – unless it’s safely mounted in TwistyRide iPhone Holder. I love bike gear that has multiple uses, especially on a tour…
All in all I really think that if anyone wants to have their iPhone mounted on their motorbike then the TwistyRide/RAM system has to be seriously considered. From what I’ve seen so far it is by far one of the most robust products for protecting your iPhone from an environment it was definitely not designed for.
If I was to have any criticisms, and this is just being picky, I’d like to see some sort of optional way to secure the iPhone case so I don’t have to keep taking it off while popping in to pay for petrol etc. For example my Garmin SatNav uses a security screw to lock the SatNav in place which works very well for short absences from the bike, like while paying for petrol. For me the quick release system for detaching the case and phone from the mount is really handy, but that also works all too well for thieves. Although maybe that’s just me being plain lazy…
All-in-all it’s a brilliant product, and well done to Remi and Cedric in TwistyRide for going through the time and undoubtedly immense trouble of designing this and bringing it to the market. I really hope to see an option for a holder and mount for Android phones too in the near future as I still think the iPhone is a pain in the arse and I will be sticking with my Galaxy S2. If a TwistyRide holder for the S2 becomes available I will certainly be buying one which is about as high a recommendation as I can give…
So, at the end of the day, what do I now think of having a smart phone mounted on a motorbike? Was my Borg wife correct in kicking me to upgrade my life? Or was my Fred Flinstone stone-age puritan arse attitude to keeping my ride tech free correct? Well I think we were both right, and wrong in equal measures. Personally I think having your phone in the cockpit can be a tempting distraction from the road ahead and potentially dangerous, not forgetting it’s a fine-able offence to take your hand off the handlebars to touch a phone or SatNav for any reason. And trust me on this, the Euro Cop and especially the Guardia Civil have an even dimmer view of phones/SatNavs in cockpits, it’s not illegal to have it there, but it’s certainly illegal to operate it while riding.
I also found using a smart phone specifically as a SatNav both positive and negative in equal measures. I tried downloading and installing the TomTom Maps App, unfortunately it refused to install as stubbornly as TomTom support refused to help or refund me the hefty price for this experience. Reading reviews of Garmins smartphone software left me wary of this solution also. This then forced me to try the navigation function in Google Maps which was not bad and can be extremely handy, but limited in functionality. It can also be expensive, prohibitively so if you are on roaming.