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.
Beginning with the mounts, Syntace offers their CNC-machined MegaForce stem pre-configured with TwinFix threaded bosses for €118.00, or if you own a Syntace MegaForce or FlatForce stem, a pair of TwinFix clamps will only set you back €19.80. Like the stem, TwinFix clamps are shot peened to equalize stress across the surface of the part and anodized black. The bosses are threaded 5 x 0.8mm and spaced to direct-mount to Lupine's Piko head-mount
lighting systems, or Syntace's Smart-Map Gripper.
MegaForce TwinFix Stem
• Use: All disciplines
• CNC-machined aluminum, black anodized
• 6-degree x 30mm (lengths up to 90mm)
• Titanium clamp hardware
• 31.8mm handlebar only
• Weight: 121 grams
• MSRP: €118.00 (€19.80 TwinFix clamps only)
• Syntace accessories
Buy the TwinFix mounts separately. It's only a guess, but if you're going to dive this deep into next level product, you'll want to reinstall Syntace's sleeker looking standard stem clamps for rides or races where moving map displays and high-output lighting are unnecessary. The weight penalty is slightly more than two grams, but you'll know it's there.
Syntace Smart-Map Gripper
GPS apps with moving map displays are widely available for smartphones. Syntace's Smart-Map Gripper positions your smartphone ahead of the stem, accessible and in plain sight. Syntace says the machined-aluminum mounting tray can support loads up to 25 kg - strong enough carry your kid sister. You can adapt almost any smartphone to the tray, which requires no tools to mount to the TwinFix stem bosses. Ports are machined in the usual places to access key side-buttons. It's lightweight too. Beautifully CNC-machined from aluminum with titanium hardware, it tips the scale at only 89 grams.
• Fits smartphones and devices up to 90mm wide and 12mm thick at edges
• CNC-machined aluminum construction
• No tools required to mount or install
• Titanium hardware
• Docks with Syntace TwinFix compatible stems
• Direct-mounts to Lupine head-lamp systems
• Weight: 89 grams
• MSRP: €108.00
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.
Smartphones vary in thickness, so Syntace designed snap-in gripper strips that can be reversed to alter the deck height by two millimeters, or stowed under the tray to make room for the fattest phones. Slotted ports are machined into the sides of the tray clamps that match up perfectly with iPhones, and I found they will line up with the side controls on most smartphones. In practice, however, you'd have to be off the bike to accurately access most of the buttons, so you'll be relying on touch-screen controls the lion's share of the time.
Lupine's direct-mount adapts its lighting units to Syntace's Smart-Map Gripper. MSRP: €17.00.
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.
Lupine Lighting Option
Take a close look at Lupine's products and it is easy to see why Syntace would reach out to the German lighting system maker for a collaboration. Lupine's manufacturing quality and design features are second to none. Syntace's TwinFix stems will directly mount to a number of Lupine's helmet-mount lamp-heads using their adapters. One fits the TwinFix stem, another mounts to the underside of the Smart-Map Gripper.
All of Lupine's helmet-mount lamp-heads share the same pivot dimensions and hardware so, theoretically, you could choose light outputs ranging from their unholy 7200 lumen Alpha system
, which costs over a thousand Euros, down to their "entry-level" 900-lumen Neo 4 which sells for 180 Euros. That said, Lupine suggests that you stick to their mid-power Piko, SL, and Blika systems.
Piko R4 SC System
• Use: Trail riding, adventure
• Features: Twin LED, aluminum lamp, polycarbonate armored battery case.
• Mounting: Helmet, (handlebar or TwinFix options)
• Battery: Li-Ion 7.4V, 3.5 A-Hr
• Max power: 1800 lumens / 1.25 hours (22° x 250M illumination cone)
• Max burn time: 40 lumens / 80 hours
• Bluetooth wireless and direct controls (4 power options)
• Waterproof to IP 68 standards
• Accurate, one-touch audio and LED battery level checks
• Weight: System 195g, lamp 55g.
• MSRP: €354 (TwinFix mount + €18.)
• Lupine lighting systems
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.
Most riders, however, will be switching between the top two: the maximum, 1800-lumen option's wide cone of illumination fosters aggressive trail speeds, while the 950-lumen second-tier setting is optimal for climbing and fast-paced riding on moderately technical terrain. The 950-lumen option extends the battery burn to 2.5 hours. Need more? Lupine offers a 240 gram battery upgrade
that doubles the R4's run times.
Lupine's lighting systems are pricey, but they remove all of the hassles that come with most high powered battery devices. Heat sensors in the lamp automatically reduce illumination levels. Battery saver circuits guard against over-drawing the cells, and battery life can be assessed with 10% accurately with either an audio or an LED signal.
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.
Wait! there's more. Running your smartphone display for hours at a time will decimate its battery life. Lupine offers a wire harness with a pigtail that connects your lighting system battery to your smartphone. Micro USB and iPhone jacks are supported. MSRP: €28.00
A lot of us regularly use a smartphone trail app, a GPS, and a lighting system, and somewhere in the shed, we have a hodgepodge of handlebar mounts that would make those items more convenient to use - provided they didn't make our bikes look so bad. When the time comes to re-up on those electronic devices, here's a comprehensive system you'd be proud to own. It looks great, functions equally well, and should last a lifetime. Plus, it can be mounted or removed without tools in less time than it would take most of us to read this paragraph.
Armed 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.
After the novelty of watching my position change on the map display wore off, the one benefit that I reaped from using Trailforks in real time was being encouraged to select an action for the next intersection well before I arrived. The first surprise was not discovering a new route, as I anticipated I would, but noticing a few familiar trails that were either not on the map, or (I assumed) had been "delisted" by the local managers.
Just for science, I veered off on an unlisted horse trail and was pleased to discover (after I had committed) that I'd be connecting with a known fire road in a little more than a mile. It was a steep descent, so there was a real potential that I'd have
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. So far, no issues.
This is my second time using Lupine's lighting systems and I'm a fan. This is my first time, however, with the Bluetooth remote, and it was a seamless transition. I prefer smaller, longer lasting systems because I can stash them in a pack for those rides when I may not make it back before dark. I often ride late in the summer months, so I think the Piko's compact size and powerful beam is going to make it a new favorite. The small amount of real estate that the Piko takes up under the stem is also a plus. I never thought about it until I needed it.
Lupine's Bluetooth wireless remote.
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.Pinkbike's Take: