The JBL Charge and Flip are wireless, portable, rechargeable, Bluetooth compatible self-contained speaker systems. While technically neither is an “urban cycling” accessory in the strictest sense, as they aren’t specifically designed to be used while riding, they are certainly both cool and useful items for those who are willing to shell out the money for entertainment on the go. Think rooftop hang out sessions, rocking out by the river, wrenching in the basement, bike polo under the bridge, etc.
Of the two, the Charge is the clear choice unless money is tight. For a device that’s not too much bigger than a can of beer, this thing pumps out some serious volume. And, I kid you not, it delivers a respectable amount of bass. Sure, you’re not going to compete with the lowriders in the park, but the Charge actually creates enough sound pressure to make your music sound good, not tinny. And if you crank it up indoors, you’ll probably be impressed.
The Charge features a 6000mAh Li-ion battery that charges via USB or the provided wall charger. It has a claimed runtime of more than 12 hours, and you can even take advantage of this gratuitous power source and use the Charge to recharge other mobile devices. It’s got a simple battery life indicator, and
Construction-wise, the Charge is clean and solid, and it seems like it’s built to withstand abuse. Intentionally or not, the Charge just so happens to fit in a bicycle water bottle cage. Electronically, it’s been flawless. I was able to sync it to my iPhone for the first time in less than 30 seconds, and since then I just turn the speaker on and hit play on my phone. No muss, no fuss.
The Charge does retail for a cool $150, which might carry a little sticker shock for some people, but consider that premium headphones are often considerably more expensive. And while there are competitively priced speaker systems on the market, they’re simply not JBL—a company that’s been around since 1946.
The Flip is essentially the Charge’s little brother. It’s still plenty loud—impressively loud—but it’s just not quite as powerful as the Charge. The $99 unit’s battery boasts a 5 hour run time, which is nothing to sneeze at, but lacks the ability to recharge other devices. The Flip also uses a dedicated charger (included) not a universal USB charging system.
The Flip does have one unique trick up its sleeve, however. It features a built in microphone and a call answering button. It’s not a feature that I personally found necessary, but I’m certain there are some who would really appreciate such functionality.
Both models are available in several color options and come with a neoprene carrying case. Check out www.jbl.com
Nikwax began as a one-man operation in the UK. Nick Brown simply wanted a better waterproofing product for his boots, and so he developed his own formula. In 1977 he started selling his wax in tins which he had silk-screened the labels onto. In the 1980′s he began to develop his signature line of water-based products that were more environmentally friendly than the competition, and arguably easier to use.
While I’ve long been a fan of Nikwax waterproofing wax for leather, until now I hadn’t tried their other products. Though I had seen them on the shelves of the local outdoor retail shop, I never really thought about buying products to care for my waterproof clothing. Then one sad day I discovered that my uber expensive softshell jacket no longer functioned like it once did.
Nikwax explains that softshell jackets like mine feature a “durable water repellent” finish. Designed to prevent water from entering while allowing vapor to escape, DWR finishes become degraded from exposure to contaminates. Apparently this was the case with my jacket, as a mere dribble of water would still bead up and run off, but any significant deluge would soak right through the fabric. Nikwax calls this “wetting out.”
The first step in reviving my jacket would be to properly clean it. Tech Wash is a soap based cleaner that removes both dirt and detergent residues without degrading the existing DWR. A few ounces in warm water is all it takes.
TX.Direct is a solvent-free waterproofing product. The directions were simple: set the top loading washer for a small load, fill with warm water, dial the settings for heavy duty, dump the entire 10 oz bottle of TX.Direct in, and add no more than three garments.
To make a long story short, the TX.Direct made my jacket every bit as waterproof as the day I got it. And to be honest, it might work even better. As an additional experiment, I treated a pair of non-waterproof cycling knickers with TX.Direct. While it didn’t fully waterproof them, it did impart a water-resistant quality that made light amounts of water bead up and run off.
Sold as a kit, 10 oz bottles of Tech Wash and TX.Direct retail for about $20. Individual bottles retail for about $9 and $13, respectively. While these products are nowhere near as cheap as ordinary laundry detergent, it’s a pretty small price to pay to extend the life of expensive waterproof outerwear. Check out www.nikwax-usa.com
One would think that in the grand scheme of things, nothing should take precedence over self preservation. And second to that should be the protection of all human lives. But anyone with an ounce of sense knows that’s far from the case. Countless motorists drop big bucks on cars that offer “driving excitement” that consequently turn transportation into a matter of entertainment. Even tree-hugging hybrid car owners have been known to break the speed limit and roll through stoplights in the name of expedience, forgoing fuel efficiency and safety.
Let’s not just point the finger at motorists. Pedestrians are perhaps the most vulnerable road users, yet I challenge you to find a city free of jaywalking. You might think that common sense would win every time, but the desire for instant gratification via Starbucks Frappuccino has lured many a law abiding citizen to step out from between parked cars.
Contents Include: I Love Riding in the City, Racing Red Hook Crit, Stoopidtall, Penrose Velodrome, A Bike Shop for the Whole World, Gallery: Red Bull Ride + Style, Product Reviews: Raleigh, Swobo, Timbuk2, Hold Fast, Knog and more, Anti-Seize Compound, Gear Inches, Battle for the Midwest