“Inspiration comes in weird places,” says Eric Fischer, owner of ILE Equipment. Photos: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
BERKELEY, Calif. — ILE is big in Japan. The California bag company has found a market with the Japanese bike website Blue Lug, and the collaboration keeps pushing ILE into new bags, materials, hardware and color choices.
Eric Fischer, 26, launched ILE (short for “Inside Line Equipment”) out of his apartment four short years ago. He was racing bikes, buying fabric and making bags one at a time for himself, his friends and friends of friends.
“I always liked making things, but building buildings didn’t seem scalable,” Fischer told Cult of Mac. “Making bags seemed more like a painting rather than building a house.”
Each month, Cult of Mac's Lust List has a date with the hottest gear in the world. This time around we're talking impressive audio experiences, fantastic bicycling equipment and awesome accessories for iPhone users (which basically means everybody, right?).
Soho Wireless headphones by Harman Kardon
“Hey Jim, what are those?”
“Hey Jim, let me check those out.”
“Hey Jim, are those any good?”
“Hey Jim, I bet those are expensive.”
Never has a pair of headphones brought me such attention. To a person, everyone wanted to know what was up with the wireless Sohos. There is no denying the fact these cans look good. The design is very much in line with Harman Kardon's aesthetic, but in a petite package.
The big question on everyone’s mind is, "Do they sound as good at they look?" And the answer is, "Almost."
The $250 Soho Wireless headphones are comfortable to wear, as long as you aren't overly active. The sound quality is good in the mids and treble, but lacking slightly in bass response. And the Bluetooth is great, when it works. But using numerous devices is mildly frustrating at best and downright annoying at worst. The touch sensors on the side of the cans is a great added feature, but can’t be relied on to work consistently, as I found myself trying to pause my music with a tap over and over and over again.
Oddly, I still find myself recommending these to friends as a pleasant alternative to traveling with earbuds, but with the caveat being you have to be prepared for the limitations of the Bluetooth connection. — Jim Merithew
Looking for a wallet case for your iPhone that will get everyone talking? Take a look at the new BookBook for iPhone 6 and 6 Plus from Twelve South. I've been asked by waiters, bartenders and casual passersby whether I’m carrying a Bible, a dictionary or a tiny leather notebook.
When I flip it open to show the capacious five-card interior and my connected iPhone 6 Plus, the oohs and ahhs increase exponentially. When I show them how the iPhone separates from the BookBook for easy access and sharing, most people are ready to go buy one.
This is one fantastic iPhone case, and I can’t sing its praises loudly enough. The iPhone 6 Plus version has six pockets, including one with clear plastic for my ID. Snapping my iPhone out of the delicious leather portfolio wallet case is a breeze when I want to take the device on a run without carrying my wallet. You can even snap half of the iPhone off the wallet and prop it up for easy movie watching on an airplane. You can’t go wrong with this for any price, but the affordable $60 makes the BookBook, available in black or brown leather, an iPhone case you’ll take everywhere. — Rob LeFebvre
Giro designed the Synthe to be a high-end aero helmet, but it's really a great everyday, all-day road helmet. Sure they claim the Synthe is some percentage more slippery, while going some mph and at varying yaw angles, but what’s really impressive is how all this aero blabbity blah doesn’t stop the helmet from being comfortable, cool and stylish.
And by cool I don’t mean hip: I mean the airflow through this helmet keeps my head temperature regulated nicely. Also, you can thank the Roc Loc Air retention system for keeping the helmet comfortable and secure against your noggin, while eliminating hot spots.
Although the $250 Synthe's looks may not be for everyone, it is clear that only aesthetics should keep you from sporting this helmet, as the fit and finish are impeccable. — Jim Merithew
I love me some saturated tube crunch more than just about anything in the world, but sometimes it is just not possible. That's when I turn to my iRig PRO and my laptop or iPad for jam time.
You can use IK Multimedia's multitude of apps, including the popular AmpliTube, but I still prefer to dick around in GarageBand on my iPhone 6 Plus, iPad and Macbook Pro. The iRig and your Apple device let you lay down a recording pretty easily, including using the microphone input with phantom power, but I mostly find myself plugging in my guitar and jamming through a bunch of preset amplifiers in GarageBand.
Whatever your software choices, the iRig works exactly as advertised, letting you plug in and jam on. And, for those looking for even more sonic possibilities, the little black box even has MIDI in capabilities. — Jim Merithew
iPhone docks have never really been my thing, but the Spool Dock just begs to be appreciated. Quell & Company dock is “crafted in the U.S.A. from sustainable North American white oak, merino wool felt and a weighty metal base,” and it's quite the looker. From a design perspective, it’s also pretty smart.
The biggest issue I have with docks I’ve tried in the past is cord management. They usually make it difficult to plug the iPhone into the Lightning port, resulting in a bunched-up cable that looks messy.
Not the $65 Spool Dock, which comes in white and black metal. Its base swivels, letting you roll out the cable as much as you desire. It also lets you turn your docked device 360 degrees. Setting it up is super-simple, with removable support bars for the iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 5, 5s, 5c, iPad mini and 5th-gen iPod touch. Most normal cases will work just fine too, as long as they’re not bulky like an Otterbox. — Alex Heath
I want extra pockets without having to wear goofy cargo pants. So while perusing one of my favorite guy websites, Everyday Carry, I came across a little bag made by Koyono called the bolstr bag.
It's perfect for tooling around Chicago, allowing me to discreetly store a phone, iPad mini, notebook and point-and-shoot camera. Plus, its slim design and asymmetrical shape look way cooler than knee-level flapped pockets on either leg.
The bolstr small carry bag comes in a variety of colors and left- or right-side orientations (as a lefty, I appreciate this design consideration). — David Pierini
With the PowerControl 8, SRM will finally add GPS to its line of outstanding cyclocomputer head units.
This is truly a computer designed by bike nerds for bike nerds. It lets you use from one to four screens, with two to eight fields per screen. You can configure your data in so many ways it will make your head spin as fast as your wheels. The new $850 model, available for preorder now and shipping before summer, also comes with Wi-Fi and is compatible with ANT+ and Bluetooth. — Jim Merithew
If you think the UE Boom is fantastic, you’ll double over with delight at the newer, bigger version of the best portable Bluetooth speaker we’ve ever used. This thing is seriously loud with deep bass, sparkling highs and clear mids that will faithfully reproduce pretty much any music you throw at it.
It’s also seriously rugged, with a strong, rubberized top and bottom and a tough outer mesh cloth shell. Just toss it in a bag and go. Hell, this bad boy is waterproof to the point of still working after a full-on shower or dip in the pool.
The UE Megaboom's battery life is amazing, too, taking just a couple hours for a full charge that seems to last all day long (rated at 20 hours of play). Download the iOS app and you can remotely EQ your sound, set up a booming alarm and turn the speaker on and off. You can even connect two Megabooms for a massive stereo blast in any room. At $300, this thing is worth every penny. — Rob LeFebvre
Freakishly tall bicyclists no longer need resort to modifying a smaller bike or paying the tab for a custom frame. They can just take flight on an off-the-shelf Flite 747 from KHS Bicycles.
The company partnered with the Tower of Power, Leonard Zinn, to create this huge road bike. Zinn, who has been building bicycles for big fellas for somewhere around 30 years, helped design the Flite 747. It comes in 64 cm and 67 cm frames made of Reynolds 520 chromoly, and delivers standard road bike geometry at those massive sizes. (It's so huge i couldn't even get my leg over it.)
All Zinn's trials and tribulations came to bear on this bicycle, which sports impressive 200 mm crankarms. It's allegedly plenty stiff going up and a blast coming down. Priced at $1,899 list, this is the second year the model has been offered (last year they sold like hotcakes). Big fun for big guys like Zinn. — Jim Merithew
There we were, walking down the street, when suddenly I decided to snap a quick selfie of the six of us. We all hunched together, trying to jam ourselves into the frame of the iPhone that I was holding out as far as possible with my arms to make sure we all got in the picture. It was that moment when I realized that I wanted one of the more ridiculous gadgets out there, a selfie stick.
With the MiniSuit Selfie Stick's telescoping pole and Bluetooth shutter button on the handle, I could have taken a much more well-composed shot of all the people in my party, with much less effort and grunting. The included adjustable mount holds smartphones small and large, and the selfie stick has a standard tripod mount so you can even use it with a regular point-and-shoot camera.
My iPhone 6 Plus nestles nicely in the holder and lets me take photos of myself and many other folks from farther away than my own arm can handle. And, at $20, it’s hard to not grab one for a friend, too. — Rob LeFebvre
VX Adventure Race mountain bike pedals by VP Components
Taking a play from their strong platform mountain bike pedal lineup, the team at VP Components has released the Shimano SPD-compatible VX Adventure Race pedals. The clipless pedal adds a giant platform for additional stability. At a reasonable 460 grams and spinning on a roller and double-sealed cartridge bearings, these trail-worthy pedals are rider serviceable and run about $130. — Jim Merithew
If you want to know if your smoke or CO alarm is going off while you’re away from home, the Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight could be your best option. It’s an attractive little $99 night-light that lets you customize its color, but its real trick is letting you monitor your home’s safety alarms remotely.
You use an iPhone app to connect the Leeo to your home Wi-Fi network for set up and monitoring, and if your alarms go off while you’re out and about, the Leeo will notify you right on your iPhone. If you don’t respond, it will even notify other folks that you specify in the settings. If that isn’t enough, the Leeo will monitor your home temperature and humidity and notify you if they change much. — Rob LeFebvre
Timbuk2 cranks out bags to order from this San Francisco factory. "This is where the magic happens for all the custom bags," says Noel Kopp, the company's social media manager. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Michael Chan, who has worked at Timbuk2 since 2000, listens to Chinese radio as he precuts the fabric for custom bags using an Eastman Blue Streak II machine that works like a saw. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Timbuk2 CEO Patti Cazzato points out that manufacturing in a city like San Francisco is expensive due to higher real estate and labor costs, but it's part of the company's DNA. "We own our factory," she says. "We operate our factory. It's part of our corporate headquarters." Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
A large gong hangs in the front section of the Timbuk2 complex in San Francisco. It's used to signal the start of all-hands meetings, birthday parties and mealtimes catered by the company (every Tuesday is "make your own sandwich day." Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
SAN FRANCISCO — Twenty-five years ago, a bike messenger sat in his garage and used an old-school Singer sewing machine to stitch his mark on the world.
That bike messenger was Rob Honeycutt, and the bags he made in 1989 were called Scumbags. They were designed for use by the city’s notorious two-wheeled delivery riders, whose fashion sense tended toward crude cutoffs, T-shirts and hoodies.
A year later, Honeycutt changed his operation’s name to Timbuk2, and the company’s been crafting an increasingly ambitious line of bags ever since, expanding far beyond the world of tattooed dudes on fixies.
“Timbuk2 wasn’t going to the office 25 years ago,” CEO Patti Cazzato told Cult of Mac during a recent tour of the company’s Mission district factory, where all of Timbuk2’s custom bags are made.
The MixBag is versatile, but it won’t necessarily make you look super-cool. Photo: Evan Killham/Cult of Mac
I was pretty sure I would never need to look any further than my trusty Chrome bag when it came time to be out and about with my electronics. It was a simple system, really: Just chuck everything into the bag’s cavernous pocket, buckle it in and go. It was quick, and it worked — until I needed to actually get anything out of there.
See, for all its style and the novelty of its seat-belt strap, Chromes are really only meant to transport one or two larger packages. Because they’re messenger bags. You know, for messengers.
The MixBag takes a different approach: It’s smaller, but it has a pocket for everything you might possibly need to carry around.
Bags, bags, bags. Literally – there are three hot bags in this week’s gadget roundup, and if you buy them all, you’ll be out by around a grand. Or you could buy the ultra-expensive Leica M-P, a new camera so minimal it doesn’t even have the trademark red dot on the front, yet still costs $8,000. Or you can go to the other end of the price range and pick up LensBaby’s new iPhone optic for just $70. And that’s just the beginning…
H.O.T. Those are the three letters that best describe Pad & Quill’s new Attaché bag, a beautiful leather satchel with unbreakable, high-copper-content hardware and parachute-grade stitching on the outside. Inside, you'll find padded MacBook and iPad pockets, plus orange suede pocket linings.
As a bonus, the marketing copy for the Attaché seems to have been written by Hannibal Lecter, containing this line: “Your taste buds and your liver deserve top shelf [and to be] savored in a glass.” (some words added for comedic effect). How much? $420
You can’t get much simpler than the Dragon device holder – it’s a pair of aluminum clips that snap onto the cylinder at the back of your Apple wireless keyboard and slide up and down, letting you space them to fit anything from an iPad to an iPod nano. The clips have a tail at the back to provide stability, and a little lip at the front to hook the bottom edge of your gadget. If you use a full-size keyboard with your iPad, this little gadget should be in your bag. $25
This bag comes from Brooks, the English bike saddle maker. Weighing in at a hefty 1.6 kilos (well over 3 pounds), it has a roll-top enclosure and adjustable clips that can attach the bag to the rear rack of your bike. The body is “water resistant cotton” and the straps are leather. The price? Around $400.
There’s little to say about KERO’s micro-suction portable battery other than, “What a frikkin’ great idea.” It’s a regular, modest-capacity backup battery (1800mAh, which will get your iPhone back to 75 percent) with a USB port and status-indicator LEDs, but on one side it has a micro-suction layer so you can stick it to the back of your iPhone, over and over. This is so much smarter than having to use a special case to clip the battery on, or just using a case with a built-in battery pack. Or you could do what I do, which is use a regular backup battery and a rubber band. $19
The Pyle PSBCG90 Smart Bicycling Computer tracks your rides with GPS and displays them on Google Maps back at your computer. You can also hook up any ANT+ accessories wirelessly (heart rate and cadence sensors, power meters and so on), and even challenge yourself, Mario Kart-style, using the ghost-route feature. It looks like a decent alternative to something like the Garmin EDGE 500, and it costs only $130.
Lensbaby now makes a sweet-spot lens for the iPhone. It sticks on with magnets (you need to stick the included ring over the iPhone’s lens) and blurs everything in your photos except a sharp sweet spot in the center. It's just like the regular Lensbabys, only less adjustable and made for the iPhone. There’s another neat feature – the front has a metal ring on it, too, so you can attach any other iPhone lenses you have onto the Lensbaby for some really freaky FX. $70
The Magnus Air updates the minimalistical Magnus that originally shipped for the iPad 2, way back in the mists of 2012. Typical of TenOne’s design, it is so simple it almost doesn’t exist, sticking to the Air with magnets and adding an almost invisible stand that holds your iPad at 22 degrees from the vertical, and at 22 degrees from the horizontal if you lay it down to type. And that’s it – an aluminum bracket that looks kinda like a taco shell, for $40.
Fact: Cobra Brief is the name I gave to my favorite pair of underwear. And now, it is also the name of a “business laptop” bag from Booq. It has all the compartments and pockets you’d expect, with a space for almost literally everything, plus an outer quick-access pocket for your iPhone and iPad. You can even hook it onto the top of your carry-on trolley, allowing you to be one of those morons who sneaks too many bags into the plane and takes up all the overhead bin space. $295
Do try this at home — if you’ve got a LokSak. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
Today I’m going to review a plastic bag. A new low, even for me? Maybe, but this is no ordinary plastic bag. It’s a bag that has beaten out pretty much every waterproof gadget case i’ve ever tested, because:
It fits almost every gadget I have
It weighs almost nothing. I can keep one in every bag I carry.
The bag is the LokSak, and it’s designed to keep your gadgets safe.
Everything for a couple weeks away, including transport. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
Travel can be a chance to practice minimalism, or an opportunity to drive yourself nuts. What am I talking about? Luggage. You can pare down your essentials to fit in a carry-on – even if you’re away for a month – or you can throw in every item of clothing and every charger you have. The second approach will result in a broken back, and you’ll still find that you left something essential at home.
Over the years, I’ve perfected my packing technique so that I only take the bare minimum. And when I say “perfected,” I mean “struggled with.” But it works for me, and the principles can be applied even if you’re the kind of person who hires a boy to carry your trunks for you when you take a cruise on the Titanic.
So here’s the Cult of Mac Guide to Traveling Light, a roundup of strategies, product recommendations and other tips to make your next trip a breeze.
Tote-ally awesome: The Franklin Tote can go anywhere. Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
This is Waterfield’s Franklin Tote and I l-l-love it. It’s an open-topped leather bag with hand/shoulder straps and a bunch of pockets inside and out, and it’s just about the most practical daily carry-around I’ve ever used. Does is replace a backpack? Of course not.
Does it do the job of a messenger bag when on the bike? No frikkin’ way. But can I reach into my backpack as I walk to grab sunglasses, or drop in that sweet cantaloupe I just bought from the fruit store on the high street? I think you know the answer to that one.
This week's Gadget Watch has a special summer something for everyone. Fixing up the house? Laying around the house? Getting drunk and stumbling about the house? Then these toolboxes, breathalyzers and hands-free, in-bed iPad stands will serve you well.
The Flare pan looks like an oversized aluminum cupcake cup. It has heat-catching fins on the outside, like the opposite of a heat sink, and a regular-shaped inside. The idea is that the heat (not the flame – keep that turned down like you would for a regular pan) from your gas hob will stream up the sides and pump its energy into the pan through the increased surface area of those fins. The best part of all? It was designed by a real rocket scientist. $150
This magical adapter performs the seemingly impossible. Not only does it put Nikon (or Canon) lenses on your Micro Four Thirds camera body, but it also boosts the speed of the lens by one stop. That’s right – it doubles the maximum amount of light your lens can gather. It also reduces the crop factor of your lens by 0.72x. That won’t keep your wide-angle lenses wide, but it will stop them from turning telephoto. I’m in. $160
When I saw the Tablift, my first thought was “LOL.” And that was my second thought, too, if I’m honest. But as a person who uses his iPad in bed far more than is healthy, I began to see how the stable stand could help me. What’s better than hands-free viewing in the sack? Angle-adjustable hands-free viewing in the sack, that’s what. Yup, you can even tilt it down to watch while lying in bed. You might scare yourself when you wake up, but you’ll never fall asleep and drop your iPad onto your nose ever again. $60
I’m writing about this gadget mostly because of its name – Forked Lightning. It lets you charge two devices off a single USB port, which is certainly handy for those travel situations where you only have access to one power outlet (I’m looking at you, cheapskate hotels). You probably don’t want to plug two iPads 4 into one iPhone charger, but other combinations should fare better. $50
I don’t even care that RØDE makes great microphones, I just want the new Lightning-compatible iXY to play with. Look at those stereo mics: Don’t you just want to twiddle them? Or try to jam your finger between the barrels? No? Perhaps you’d rather record sound through the two half-inch condenser capsules and onboard analog-to-digital converter. You can totally do that. $200
These Japanese toolboxes, painted in bright blue enamel, are tough enough to use every day, but pretty enough to live in the house without anybody complaining. They go from a stackable small trunk-style box up to the big cantilever model with a double-hinged top level and movable dividers. From $20
Do you know how many drinks you should have if you’re driving? None. That’s how many. What if you had a couple and then you need to drive, for an emergency or whatever? Nope. Get a cab, or you’ll be killing a cyclist or a pedestrian to do whatever thing is so important that you’re happy to risk another person’s life doing it.
If you insist on drinking and driving, breathe into the BACtrack Vio Smartphone Breathalyzer first – if you’re not too far gone to use the keychain device. The Vio will measure your blood-alcohol content, send the result to your iPhone via Bluetooth, and even estimate how long it’ll take you to return to zero. $70
Let’s face it – the people you go to the beach with are boring. They either spend the whole time with their nose in a paperback, or they insist on annoying the rest of the folks on the beach by kicking a volleyball around the place, or whatever it is you do with a volleyball. So, you should either pack some weed and just get stoned, or bring along a Solio Sun-Powered Charger to keep your iPhone going in the bright sunlight, so you never have to interact with your “friends.” $70
Load up your manly new leather tote with dreamy camera filters, stick a handmade lens on your Leica, slip into a hideous, advertising-overloaded shirt from Rapha and jump on an outrageously expensive bike that’s unique selling proposition is its paint job. What could be more fun this July 4th weekend?
This is basically three of Blackbird's Pitch Black Field Notes notebooks, stuck together at the spines with real tar and wrapped with a cord that has had its tip dipped in yet more of the special Field Notes tar formula. If it sounds like some kind of Clive Barker-esque nightmare, that’s because it is. Don’t write the names of any loved ones in this book. Just in case, you know… $24
I tote-ally want this bag for the summer. It’s a carry-all version of WaterField's Rough Rider messenger bag, fashioned from the same tough leather with colored panels and pockets. Nonslip shoulder grips and interior pockets organize your gear, and a big central chamber will swallow all your other crap. $289
Got a GoPro? Want to add some sweet filters in front to pep up your pics? Then you need Lee’s new Bug Action Kits. There are two kits: one for underwater and one for everywhere else. The underwater kit slips green or blue color-correction filters in front of the lens in a special mount, and the dry-land (and air) kit features a polarizer and neutral-density filters, for amping up saturation or cutting out excess light. They’re reasonably priced, too, starting at around £45.
Still got money left over after wasting ten grand on a Leica M? Then you might want this handmade Perar 24mm ƒ4 pancake lens to go with it. The millimeters-thick sliver features a 10-blade aperture, full manual focus and rangefinder coupling, and can even be converted to fit other cameras. Around $660
Rapha makes lovely clothes for cyclists that don’t make you look like a dork when you’re off the bike. Usually anyway – the Team Sky jersey is not only as dorky as can be, it is also plastered with logos, so you are effectively paying the $225 asking price to become a human billboard. But you’ll be a very comfortable human billboard, with mesh fabric, angled rear pockets and a full-length zipper. I’ll stick with my merino wool.
Not long ago, anyone could buy the best bike in the world. Whichever bike that might have been, it would have been affordable to Average Charlie with maybe just a bit of saving up. But then things got ugly. Take the S-Works McLaren Tarmac, a bike as useless to the non-team rider as an F1 car is useless on the road. This carbon-fiber princess costs $20,000, and its prime feature is that it is painted in the “same location where the $1.2 million McLaren P1 supercar is painted.” If you like, you can read the specs with a calculator close at hand and tot up the weight savings – 30 grams here, 10 grams there. Then you can chuckle to yourself that the dentist who buys this bike will add all that weight back with a single hamburger.
Strictly utilitarian, the Cargo Works MacBook Module Sleeve will carry your notebook plus anything else you need to take along with it. Carved from a block of 900-denier polyester canvas, closed with YKK zippers and trimmed with “military grade” webbing, the pouch and pockets keeps your MacBook, power supply, trackpad and other essentials all together. Not that you ever actually need a power supply with today’s MacBooks, but you could always stow a delicious sandwich in there instead. $60
The Nissin i40 is billed as a flash for Micro Four Thirds cameras, but it’ll work just fine with anything that has a hotshoe up top. The MFT part really refers to the size – it’s small enough not to look ridiculous mounted on a tiny camera body.It also has two sweet clicky dials on the back so you can easily set the output power (for manual use) and select the auto-modes if you hate having control of your own photos. $269
It’s Instagram IRL, for your iPhone or other cellphone camera. The Dream Scope clips onto the iPhone and an adjustable filter mount can be finagled into place over the lens. The filters themselves are graduated circles of color, clear at one side and red, blue or yellow at the other. Use alone to hop up the hue of a dull scene, or combine to get totally psychedelic. Best of all, the whole shebang costs just $30, and nobody will be able to snoop your metadata and call you out as a #nofilter faker.