Review: Syntace's Smart-Map Gripper & Lupine's Piko Lighting Combo
Tech geeks gather 'round. I take on the role of art critic here, because "product review" seems too vulgar. If you thought stem clamps, smart-phone accessories and LED lights were cycling's most ubiquitous products, you haven't seen this over-the-top collab' from two influential German design studios. What we're looking at here is a way to hold your smartphone in front of your bicycle's stem, so you can keep an eye on your moving map display. Oh, and it also doubles as a light mount. Simple concept, right? But these guys took it to eleven. When I unpacked this thing, I debated whether I should thrash it on my bike, or display it behind glass
Syntace is well known for its meticulously thought-out and manufactured cockpit items, and they also own Liteville - one of the world's preeminent aluminum frame makers. Lupine has carved a niche for its high-end LED lighting systems - some of the most powerful and intelligent kits on the market. Last year, the two brands joined together to produce a modular docking system that screws directly to threaded "wings" that are machined into a Syntace stem clamp. Lupine produced adapters for its lamp heads, while Syntace developed the tray to hold a GPS or a smartphone. Lupine's lighting system also integrates to the tray. Almost every component is CNC-machined aluminum and the hardware is titanium. The fit and finish of each component is instrument quality, and the attention to detail is the stuff that one would expect to see under the bonnet of a vintage Bugatti.
Anyone who has had to pay full pop for an iPhone lately would be justifiably concerned that their last look at its moving map would be watching it eject, spinning through space, and landing in the middle of a boulder field. Syntace's assurance comes in the form of a wide, sliding clamp that is fixed by an aluminum thumb wheel below the tray. A pair of smaller thumb wheels screw the tray to the stem. Viton O-rings are threaded onto the screws to prevent them from dropping out and becoming lost, and also to resist vibration to lock the screws in place. The device is clamped rattle free and (unless you take a big digger) safe from harm. Mounting and removing your device only takes a few seconds, so you can keep it on your person for that quick dash into a cafe - and the entire system can be popped off the stem just as quickly for transport.
I was furnished with the 1800-lumen, dual-LED Piko R4 SC system. Priced at 354 Euros, the Piko is one of Lupine's most compact and versatile lights. The lamp head only weighs 50 grams, and the 3.5 amp-hour Smart Core battery, 120 grams. A handlebar-mounted Bluetooth wireless button toggles between three burn times ranging from 1.25 hours at full power, to 80 hours in survival mode. Burn times and lumen outputs are programmable via the lamp-head button. Recharge times are 2.5 hours, and all of the connectors are watertight and stupid proof. The user-friendliness of Lupine's products strongly suggests that they regularly ride what they make. Everything works the first time. Lupine's well-thought-out technology removes the guesswork and sets you up for a successful experience.
How Much Does All this Add Up to?Quality like this never comes cheap. It's a safe bet that most penny pinchers have fled to the comment section by now, but if you've hung this far and haven't done the math yet, the sum of this complete kit: the Syntace Megaforce TwinFix stem, Smart-Map Gripper, mounting hardware, and Lupine Piko R4 SC lighting system, would be around 615 Euros - plus shipping charges. That's a hell of a lot of money to spend for a clean looking light setup and the pleasure of never having to stop and pull your smartphone out of your pocket to consult your trail app. But there's another way to look at it.
Trail ReportArmed with Trailforks and my new stem-mounted kit, my bike looked like it was ready to rally. My first trailside stop was necessary to switch my phone from eco mode, so the display would remain illuminated. Duuh. I'll be honest. I am not a statistics type who dines over Strava and logs mileage before bedtime. My first concern about my new navigation accessory was not having to climb back up a downhill to retrieve my phone - which never happened. to retrace my route. Not a huge deal if I had to push back up, but it illustrated that having my map function in sight would pay dividends on a longer journey in less forgiving, unfamiliar territory. At the least, it promised to eliminate a number of time-consuming stops to verify information that I would have had ready access to. Don't expect to read names or numbers, though. I was happy if I could see the cursor and pick out intersections while in motion. Technically, I have no sour points to relay. The tiny ears that stick out from the minimalist Syntace stem don't bother me when I'm not using the Lupine Piko for Winter night rides. I've never lost a phone, nor heard a rattle from the Smart-Map Gripper. I removed the unit each time I stashed my bike in my car because the tray makes it an awkward fit without any issues. As for pairing up the light and smartphone tray together, I'll have to be on a much bigger ride to realize the benefits. Most of the time, I found that a second glow above the lighting system was more of a distraction while night riding than a help. That said, I've done some big rides at night in the past, and it's so easy to blow by an intersection when you're staring down a cone of wiggly light. Knowledge is power when you face uncertainty. I'm thinking a top to bottom run down Arizona's Black Canyon may be in order this fall. That should be a decent test for both elements.
|This over the top combination of accessories is not for everyone, but that's the point, isn't it? Syntace and Lupine collaborated together because the Smart-Map Gripper and Piko R4 SC lighting combination is what they ride with. I'm confident that there are others out there who would be equally stoked to ride with such quality gear. Explorers, big ride specialists, the ones who never miss a Wednesday ride - those are the riders who will appreciate the effort that went into these pro-quality tools. You know who you are. Check this stuff out.—RC|