Lust List: Killer gear for iPhone lovers, bike riders and ax wielders

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Lust List: March 2015

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

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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BookBook case for iPhone 6/6 Plus by Twelve South

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

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

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Giro Synthe bike helmet

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

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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iRig PRO by IK Multimedia

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

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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Spool Dock by Quell & Company

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

Photo: Alex Heath/Cult of Mac

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bolstr bag by Koyono

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

Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

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SRM PowerControl 8

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

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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UE Megaboom 2 by Ultimate Ears

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

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

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Flite 747 by KHS Bicycles

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

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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MiniSuit Selfie Stick

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

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

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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

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

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Leeo Smart Alert Nightlight

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

Photo: Rob LeFebvre/Cult of Mac

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Shiny new toys for the two-wheeled set

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It's summer somewhere. Get out and ride.

PARK CITY, Utah — It’s now officially summer (although you couldn't tell it by the snow here last week). That means it’s time to talk about our favorite warm-weather tech obsession: bikes. We recently flew to Utah to check out the newest offerings from several of the most important bike companies. What follows in the gallery above are the items we’re most excited about. There’s everything from battery-powered, full-suspension mountain bikes to ultra-aerodynamic wheels and jackets that glow in the dark. Time to step away from your computer, put down your phone, turn off your tablet and get outside.

Smith Optics' Overtake helmet

Smith Optics is known for its shades. But the company launched a pretty damn nice mountain-bike lid, called the Forefront, last year And this week they rolled out their road bike helmet, which is called the Overtake. Like the Forefront, the $250 Overtake uses Koroyd (those tubular things you see in the vents), a breathable material the company claims offers 30 percent more impact protection than traditional EPS.

In addition to solid protection and ventilation, the Overtake is also plenty aerodynamic — almost as good as the Specialized Evade, which is a big deal because the Evade is considered an industry leader in aerodynamics. As you might expect, the Overtake is designed to integrate with the company’s frameless Pivlock sunglasses, and kudos to the design team because the helmet comes in 12 different colorways, including bright pink.

CamelBak Kudu 12

CamelBak’s new Kudu 12 mountain-bike-specific pack will keep you hydrated but will also add some protection if you wreck balls. The $200 pack has a flexible, lightweight and removable impact pad that fits in a pocket in the reservoir compartment and cushions your fall if you land on your back. The pad itself is designed for enduro racers and meets even higher motorcycle standards, but the company says it’s “geared toward anyone who is doing any kind of technical riding where you just want a little extra protection.” The pad, or insert, is rated for multiple impacts so you won’t have to throw it away even after you’ve landed on it several times.

Like all of CamelBak’s bike-specific products, the Kudu 12 has some nice features, like a wide hip belt for support, a tool kit and an outer flap specifically designed to hold your helmet when you’re not on your bike. The bladder holds 3 liters, which is plenty for several hours out on the trail.

Zipp 404 Firestrike Carbon Clincher wheels

These ultra-lightweight carbon wheels will set you back $3,600 — they're more expensive than most midlevel road bikes. It’s a mind-boggling amount of money, but Zipp has put a lot of work into pushing the limits of wheel efficiency, so they’re charging a premium. According to the company, the biggest development in the 404 Firestrike Carbon Clincher is a better way to handle vortices, pockets of low pressure that form behind your wheels and yank them sideways, making you work harder than you should.

To deal with this, Zipp placed a set of dimples on the rim that shed vortices more quickly and reduce that sideways movement. Simply put, these wheels cut down on the turbulence your bike would otherwise feel out in a crosswind, which means you can go faster and farther with less energy. Our trip up and down Royal Street to Deer Valley's midmountain seemed to prove that whatever Zipp is up to works. The wheel spun up quickly, felt light, had great braking power and was not in the least bit affected by the early morning wind gusts.

Sugoi Zap jacket

This $150 jacket will make your mom proud of you. That’s because she’ll know you’re doing everything you can to stay safe when you're out riding your bike in traffic. During the day, Sugoi's Zap jacket looks just like a regular rain shell. But at night, micro-glass beads on the face fabric glow whenever they’re hit by car headlights. Paired with a front and back light on your bike, the jacket should catch the attention of even the most unaware driver. Other bike-specific features include a longer tail and longer arms for full coverage when you’re hunched over in the saddle. It’s not the jacket you want for long rides, but it’s perfect for commutes.

GT Bicycles' Grade adventure road bike

Those of us who dream of KOM wins on Strava and out-sprinting our friends to the city-limits signs tend to lust after bikes ridden in races like the Tour de France. Thing is, most of those whips are designed for the type of riding most of us don’t really do. Instead, what we like to ride at Cult of Mac are bikes from the adventure category. These bikes are still designed to be wicked fast, but they’re also a lot more comfy and much more versatile than a pure race bike.

Our newest obsession in this category is the Grade from GT Bicycles. The top model is full carbon and the frame design is a lovely mix of elements that provide plenty of power transfer, but also create a plush ride quality (taller head tube, slightly lower bottom bracket, longer wheel base, etc.). You’d have no problem racing this bike, but it’s really designed for people who just want to get out and ride (perfect for centuries, gran fondos, etc.). "We’ve loaded up on features that matter to the kind of rider who rebels against what road riding 'should' be," GT said about the new Grade. GT also designed the bike to take tires all the way up to 35c, allowing riders to get off the pavement and onto dirt roads. If you’re not sold yet, the price is also right at $3,300 for the top build. Stop thinking about the Pinarellos that Team Sky is riding and buy this bike instead.

Fabric ALM bike saddle

This full-carbon saddle looks wicked uncomfortable — like your ass would hurt after two minutes — because it’s paper-thin and only covered by a strip of padding. But looks can be deceiving. According to the Brits who run the operation, the ride quality is actually quite plush, thanks to special built-in carbon leaf springs that Fabric designed in conjunction with airplane manufacturer Airbus. Like all carbon bike products, the $330 ALM has a fine-tuned ability to dampen your ride and keep your tuchus happy. We’ll believe it when we ride it later this year, but for now we’re at least intrigued by the potential of this ultra-lightweight, ultra-slimmed-down saddle.

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Lapierre Overvolt FS 900 Mountain bike

Who in their right mind would want a $5,500 electric mountain bike? That’s what we asked the first time we saw the Lapierre Overvolt FS 900. But then we rode the silly thing and realized it’s a hoot. It’s not meant to be ridden like a motorcycle — you’re still supposed to pedal — but the Bosch motor and 400Wh battery will supposedly give riders two to three hours of assistance and make climbing and cruising easy as pie.

People who might be toast after 45 minutes can now go out and ride for a couple hours. Riders who want to concentrate on picking their line on the way up a technical section don’t have to worry as much about pedaling. Those who just want a little added speed now have it. We’re not ready to give up our pedal-powered steeds, but we see how this electric contraption might help some people get out and enjoy a little more single track. "This bike is not going to displace regular bikes, but it definitely augments the market," said Larry Pizzi, who works with Bosch.


Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac