Bromptons have changed very little since we’ve been riding them. Their latest release is perhaps the most significant upgrade in a while and is actually more of a refinement of the bike than a huge evolutionary step. Check out the video to see our ride impressions of the new changes.
For those that would prefer to read than watch, here is the executive summary:
The Brompton is an expensive bike. No doubt about it. For many new users, the experience of such an elegantly engineered frame is quickly ruined once you touch the wobbly, noisy shifters. For a long time, the touch points of the Brompton have seemed out of place with the rest of the bike. Until now.
The new shifters are pleasing aesthetically and function beautifully. The shifting pods themselves tell you the numbered gear you are in, as well as if you are in the high or low part of that range. In our opinion they are a welcome upgrade.
The brakes on the new model we test rode also seem more powerful. I’m not quite sure if that is a change in the lever or the brake caliper itself, but it is a noticeably stronger brake.
The stock foam grips are of nicer quality and removable with an allen head. The older grips were uninspired and glued on to the handlebar.
Overall, this iteration of the Brompton brings refinement to the components in the cockpit and rounds out the experience of a nice high end bike.
Related to this, all our recommendations of touring on a Brompton in our Unauthorized Touring Book still apply. There have been no major upgrades in terms of gearing, elastometer, etc.,
During the last few months we’ve been mixing it up on our Youtube Channel expanding the types of content from just bag reviews to include tech and some travel vlog style content. Our interest in vlogging has evolved slowly over time as a means to share what we do in a little more immediate way. While testing the waters with this format, we didn’t really want to spend a whole lot of money and wanted to use gear we already owned. For us, that meant an iPhone with a few choice accessories. The bonus with doing it on the iPhone is that I could edit videos at night in the tent!
You can see the results from our experiment in our #GreatWesternRamble playlist. While the production value is a little less than the client work that we do, having a small innocuous system really allowed us to capture some great extemporaneous moments. Some of our favorites include interviewing the owners of Tiger Town Brewing and Spoken Hostel in Mitchell, OR. Sure, we could have rigged up the larger camera, but at the cost of these quick great moments.
Here’s a list of the gear we used for vlogging during the summer and some notes on whether we would use the same thing again or not.
The Saramonic iMic is an ESSENTIAL piece of gear. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about video, it is that you can get away with a little sub par video if the audio/narrative is strong, but not the other way around. The Saramonic is small and inexpensive and works pretty well. You do have to use it fairly close for best results (about an arms length away) but for most vlogging uses that is fine.
Gorillapod and Phone Holder
This Gorillapod and phone holder combination came in handy as well. The Gorillapod allows you to extend your reach to capture more of you, your surroundings and your partner in the frame. It was also great for setting the phone down on a table or wrapped around a bike for quick timelapses. If there is one flaw in this system it is the cheap phone holder. I went through two of these in a month. If I were to do it again, I would get something nicer like the Glif!
Clip on Wide Angle Lens
We used the least expensive and Primeable clip on wide angle lens we could find at the time. A wide angle lens is essential for talking into the camera (especially with two people). The wide angle also allows you to hold the camera closer to you and thus improve the sound quality of the mic. The clip on mechanism worked fine but was fidgety when aligning it for the best quality. If you missed the lens on the camera you will get some extremely soft corners. It was also a bit of a pain to have to unclip and reclip it to switch between forward facing and rear facing cameras. Ultimately, we would have liked to get something like the Olloclip but weren’t ready to invest that kind of money.
Vlogging is a good way to run down your phone battery! Some sort of external battery pack is essential especially if you are touring through remote areas without a way to charge things. Fortunately, external batteries have gone way down in price (like this one!) and allow you to travel and shoot for several days “off the grid”. A bonus is that a lot of gear these days (GPS, camera, phone, lights, etc.,) can also be charged by external battery packs almost getting rid of the need of other heavy and complicated systems like dynamos and solar panels.
Dedicated Vlog Camera
One of the things we considered was getting a dedicated vlogging camera. Perhaps the most recommended is the Canon G7 Mark 2. It is packed with lots of great features like image stabilization, high image quality and a passable mic. However, it DOES come in at a hefty price point for a camera with a singular purpose. We are on the fence on this one, but if we did have the available funds it would be a strong contender.
We are pretty dedicated to doing future vlogs on upcoming trips. For us it is a fun way to share our experiences with others. The gear we use may ultimately change, but for us using the phone was a good place to start. One of the cameras we are eagerly anticipating is the Lumix G85 which works well with our other camera lenses, has a mic input and amazing image stabilization. Stay tuned for more vlogs in the future and a gear update when we get that sorted out.
In this vid, we review the Leatherman Squirt PS4, a tiny multitool packed with lots of useful tools for everyday tasks. For those that would rather read than watch, here is the written executive summary 🙂
I’ve owned and lost many tools during our travels, but the only one I’ve decided to repurchase is the Leatherman Squirt PS4 – it is just THAT handy. What really sets it apart from similar tools like the Leatherman Juice is the size. The Squirt weighs in at 56 grams compared to the Juice’s 125. At less than half of the Juice, the Squirt is a multi-tool you can have on your key ring that won’t feel like a boat anchor at the end of the day.
Beyond just the size and weight savings, the Squirt also has really useful tools. The primary tool is a pair of pliers which are capable of most light to medium duty tasks. The bonus is that they also manage to squeeze in a pair of scissors! Scissors are one tool that is pretty unique and hard to replicate with another tool, so it is such a boon to have them included in a small multitool.
If you’re looking for a great tool to take on tour or just for every day carry purposes, we highly recommend the Squirt PS4. I probably use mine atleast half a dozen times a day! Buy yours locally, or if you want to support site, you can order one through this link.
In our latest video review we take a look at the Topeak Rocket Ratchet Lite, a tool that we’ve been using for well over a year at home and when we travel. For those that don’t want to watch the full video and prefer a written review, here is an executive summary.
Overall, the Rocket Ratchet Lite is a fun tool to use. It is somehow more enjoyable to use a ratcheting mechanism than constantly removing and inserting a tool if it can’t do a full rotation. I also think that the ratchet reduces wear on bolt heads that aren’t made of very good metal. I don’t know if it is the satisfying clicking noise or what, but it is a pleasure to use. It makes short work of installing or removing racks and fenders and other tasks where you are generally turning in a single direction for a majority of the time. We even use ours to remove pedals from bikes (our pedals have allen wrench sockets in the back).
Where the ratchet is more liability than asset is tasks where you have to reverse direction very quickly. For example, straightening or adjusting the height of a seatpost. It’s a not a big deal, but it does make the task less fluid. It is also not ideal for working on parts of the bike where you are using various bit sizes simultaneously. Another shortfall is the nylon case. The bits are held in the open sided case by small elastic pockets. Most of the time they do their job, but I have opened up my bike bag to find that some of the bits had tumbled out.
Despite these flaws I still really really like this tool. The ratcheting system is just a joy to use and makes certain tasks much faster.
+Fun to use
+Makes certain tasks easier (removing fenders, racks, pedals, etc.,)
-Slow to Switch Directions
-Slow to Switch Bits
In this video, we review a pannier from the Swift Industries Hinterland Collection. Lightweight, svelte and black, this pannier if perfect for an overnighter, commuting or if you prefer to do light weight bike touring.
Arkel has recently entered the bikepacking scene with a new set of rear seatbags that they are calling their Seatpacker line. What’s unique to their design is that the bags work with a mini support that lifts the bag from the top! Check out how the support works and if we like it in our video first look.
The best camera is the camera that is the most readily accessible and the one you use the most. Period. We have a lot of different cameras for the work that we do, so it might seem a little strange that we’ve gone “backwards” and are using an iPhone. The truth is that we’ve shot lots of footage but they never see the light of day. The workflow of downloading them to a computer post-trip and then editing them is sometimes enough of a barrier that we don’t ever produce something from the stuff we’ve shot. In an attempt to remedy this and be more active vloggers on our Youtube Channel, we are experimenting with just using an iPhone. We messed around with it on our Lodi trip and got a glimpse of how we can use it for storytelling. Here are three tips we’ve learned so far from using the iPhone for shooting AND editing.
Just posted another video review on our Bicycle Travel Channel (you’d know if you were a subscriber…hint, hint :), this time looking at two popular titanium pot supports for bike touring and bikepacking. Watch the vid below, or scroll down for the executive summary.
+ Lightweight at 2.5oz
+ Very stable base, good for larger pots and pans
+ Compact when folded down
+ Works with alcohol stoves and solid fuel tablets
Vargo Titanium Hexagon Stove
+ Light at 5oz
+ Compact, one piece design
+ Very heat efficient
+ Works with alcohol stoves, fuel tablets and twig fires
– Warps over time and doesn’t fit together as snugly
– A little dodgy to move once lit because of loose fit
Both filters have a place in our touring gear, but they each work optimally for certain situations. Here are some pros and cons of each.
+ Large opening on bladder makes it easy to fill
+ Great basecamp water filter
+ Best option for filtering for 3-4 people
– At 12.5oz, twice the weight and pack size of the Sawyer Squeeze
+ At 5oz, half the weight and volume of the MSR Autoflow
+ Small and convenient enough to take even on long day rides
+ Filters for 1 to 2 people
+ Comes with syringe to backflush the filter
– Stock bladder is too small, must immediately upgrade to a larger one like the Platypus Platy bottle.
– Small mouth on bladder makes it tricky to fill in low water situations
As always, shop local. But if you want to support site click through and purchase them at the Amazon links above and helps us buy a cup of coffee 🙂