Man, I frikkin’ love this versatile folding bike by Brompton

Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac
Photos: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The Brompton’s not a new bike. It’s not even new to me. But it is the best folding bike around, and it will change how you travel long distances, too. I’ve had mine ever since I recovered enough from a broken leg (busted playing bike polo) to hobble up to the local bike shop and order one. That was a few years ago, and since then the bike has come with me to three different continents, traveling on planes, trains, trams, automobiles and buses.

You can even ride it to the airport and pack it up when you get there.

Gadget Watch: Tar, totes, tarmac and notes


Gadget Watch: July 5, 2014

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?

Tar Field Notes

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

Franklin Tote

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

Lee filters for GoPro

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.

Perar 24mm ƒ4 for Leica M

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 Team Sky jersey

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.

S-Works McLaren Tarmac

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.


Cargo Works MacBook Module Sleeve

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

Nissin i40 Micro Four Thirds flash

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

Photojojo Dream Scope

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.

Gadget Watch: Shooting, cycling, charging and … toweling?


Gadget Watch: June 28, 2014

Cameras, chargers, cycle helmets and saddles. Yes, it’s another edition of Cult of Mac's Gadget Watch, and again we’re heading outdoors to snap photos and enjoy the sun. Take a look at this week’s death-defying gear.

Nikon D810

Nikon’s update to the full-frame D800 is all about image quality. It ditches the anti-aliasing “blur” filter in front of the sensor and adds an option for an electronic first curtain on the shutter, both to increase sharpness. It also adds a new “flat” tone setting that squeezes in the most dynamic range possible. This makes for flat photos, but is perfect for post-processing images later, whether still or video. $3,300

Smith Optics Overtake

Did you ever fall into a box of drinking straws and marvel at how soft the landing was? Well I have, back when I had a cocktail bar in London, and let me tell you – those suckers are impact-absorbing m*therfuckers. Smith Optics has welded these straws together and fashioned them into an ultralight bike helmet that doesn’t block airflow (straws, remember?). Add in top-line aerodynamics and a slot for keeping your sunglasses safe and you have a sweet racing helmet. $TBA

GoPro Dual HERO

GoPro’s new Dual HERO packs two lenses instead of one, letting you capture either 3-D footage or simultaneous stills and video. Now when you strap on your squirrel suit, jump out of a plane over Rio de Janeiro and swoop through a gap on top of a skyscraper, your audience will feel the same gut-crushing fear you did. Only they’ll be sitting at a desk eating Cheetos and wearing dorky 3-D glasses instead of, you know, trying to get themselves killed. $200

The Photo ParTEA Towel

It’s a towel! It’s a miniature pic-a-nic blanket! It’s a sheet of handy food-photography tips! Yes, it’s the Photo ParTEA Towel from Photojojo, and it puts your food photo tips right where you need them – in the kitchen (or under your picnic). Water-based ink on the flour-sack cotton cloth offers up handy tips like “No flash ever!” (and also dries hands and dishes). The price? $20

Giro Synthe

Another skid lid for cyclists, although this one almost sounds like a Dickensian stuntman. Made for dorky road cyclists, the Synthe is light, fast and cool. And by “cool” I mean it stops your head from overheating, not that it is in any way stylish. That said, it does feature what Giro calls the Therminator, a special “headform” that keeps you almost as cool as not wearing your helmet. $TBA

Jump charger

One time my dad lent a neighbor his car battery charger and jump cables. I visited the neighbor’s kids and saw that the big dummy had hooked it up all wrong, and was just minutes from inducing a reverse-polarity tragedy of stream-crossing proportions. Thankfully, that’ll never happen with the Jump, an 800mAh battery pack and Lightning cable combined. That’s because a) it can only plug in one way – the right way – and b) my dad no longer lends anything to any of his damn fool neighbors. Especially not his sweet, retro-styled iPhone charger. $50


Just Mobile AluPen Digital

iPad styluses seem to be making a comeback this summer, just like Birkenstocks and socks with sandals (although when did socks with sandals ever go out of fashion, amirite?). The new Just Mobile AluPen Digital uses power to offer a thinner tip than regular dumb styluses, amplifying your human touch-waves so they still go through its tiny 1.8mm tip. Best of all, this keeps the price down to a reasonable €50.

Braven BRV-Bank

When you’re camping or bike touring, nothing beats a big backup battery for electronic peace of mind. I should know: I once lost my maps, my camera and my bedtime story because I didn’t charge my iPad properly. The Braven BRV-Bank is a 6,000 mAh battery pack for outdoors. It’s waterproof, comes with a plug-in USB flashlight, charges gadgets with its two USB ports and even has a Bluetooth connection to your phone. This lets you find the Bank when you lose it (and you will, because it’s black) and also connect the iPhone and the battery together as a motion alarm system. $130

Cambium C15

The C15 joins Brooks' C17 saddle as a kind of modern update to the fantastic line of leather bike seats. The Cambium saddles look (and apparently feel) like the old B-series, only they’re made from canvas and vulcanized rubber, and constructed in Italy instead of England. The C15 is the sporty version of the comfort-not-speed C17. I’ve checked out (but not ridden) the C17, and I have Brooks leather seats on all my bikes. But I have my eye on this for one good reason: Unlike leather, it’s waterproof, and here in Germany it rains. A lot. $225

Shiny new toys for the two-wheeled set


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.


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

Pump-Hub, an ingenious system that keeps bike tires inflated, is ready to roll again

Kevin Manning has the idea for a hub system which inflates your tires as you ride, eliminating the  need for a bike pump and making sure you have proper inflation every time you hit the street. Manning has the idea the prototypes, but lacks the funds to move into production.
Kevin Manning's ingenious Pump-Hub system inflates bike tires as you ride. Photos: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

SAN FRANCISCO — Sometimes even a great idea falls flat at first. Take Pump-Hub, a self-inflating bike tire gizmo. It was rolling along at trade shows and getting lots of good press before the financial crisis of 2008 sidelined the project.

Now its creator, engineer Kevin Manning, is getting back on track with a new team behind him and plans to expand his original idea — an automatic, adjustable, tire-inflation system housed in the hub of a bike wheel.

For cyclists, the Pump-Hub means no remembering to check the tire pressure or pack a pump, no fiddling around with the valve and then racing to put the cap back on before the air wheezes out and your aching arms have to start all over again. It inflates the tires to the proper pressure while you ride, making a gentle clickety-clack sound reminiscent of spoke cards from childhood days. When the tire hits the designated pressure, the fluttering sounds stop. If you get a flat, just upend your bike and spin the wheel until pressure is restored.

“It’s like how using a Macintosh is easier than using a command-line interface,” Manning says, turning his Gunnar bike upside down on the Embarcadero to show me how the Pump-Hub works. If you really boil down all the technology behind his invention, he adds, the main advantage basically ends up being “it’s easier.”