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Outdoor Tech Buckshot: The Little Speaker That Can.

Earbuds and cycling are not a good mix in my opinion, though there is obviously controversy with this statement. Just look at the variation of law by state regarding headset use in cars (and bicycles) (1). In California, for example, “wearing headsets or earplugs in both ears is not permitted while driving or operating a bicycle” (1). Not sure about you, but a huge pet peeve of mine is listening to anything with just one ear. Most of us were born with 2 ears, making stereophonic perception the “norm,” if I may use that term.

The point is, wearing earbuds in both ears while cycling, I believe, can present a significant safety hazard by preventing the rider from hearing critical audio cues, such as another cyclist attempting to pass you, a siren, an approaching car, a pursuing dog etc. On the other hand, wearing an earbud in only one ear, while legal in most of the United States, is annoying. There are some alternative designs of headphones out there, most notably, Aftershokz’s ® open ear sport headphones that rely on bone conduction (as opposed to air conduction seen in conventional headphones/ earbuds) (2). However, review of these headphones has revealed relatively lacking audio quality, especially in the bass frequencies(3).

Outdoor Tech (OT) ® presents another approach to the issue of safely listening to your media while cycling by creating a simple, portable, durable speaker that can be mounted on your bicycle. As an introduction, OT is a Los Angeles based company whose goal is “to address the ever growing issue of blending a modern lifestyle in the age of mobile technology with the drive to be outdoors” (4).

They present a unique array of products including apparel, mobile phone cases, and pretty innovative wireless audio equipment. Featured in this article is a review of the OT Buckshot ®. Here are some stats:

Dimensions: 3.5in (9cm) long1.5in (3.8cm) diameter

Weight: 5.5 Oz/ 150 grams

10 hours on a single charge

Rechargeable lithium-ion battery, micro USB charging compatible

Built in microphone for conference calls

Bluetooth-enabled with range of up to 33 feet from device

Handlebar mount accessory

IPX5 dust and waterproof standard: will protect from water jets at any direction.

OT Buckshot fullOT Buckshot 3-4OT Buckshot profile

 

Construction (5/5): Mfirst impression of the speaker when it came was the quality, simplicity, and beauty of the construction. Very Bauhaus. It was a monochromatic (matte black) cylinder. The outer protective layer consisted of a geometrically texturized rubber sleeve. On one end of the cylinder was the metal speaker grill: solid construction. At the other face of the cylinder were three push buttons (the 2 volume buttons, and a “link” button) and a micro USB charge port nearly hermetically sealed by a thick plastic cover; these were harmoniously arranged. Overall, the the speaker felt good and solid in the hand. No clinking of internal parts when shaking it vigorously, not even after dropping it (accidentally of course) from about 5 feet.

OT buckshot panel

Ease of use (5/5): Perhaps they did this on purpose, but OT ® never sent me the instructions for the Buckshot ®, and I am glad they didn’t. Because it gave me a sense of the ease of use of this robust little speaker. There are only three buttons, two of which are to raise and lower the volume. The only other one to tweek around with was the “link” button. It took me about 5 minutes to figure out, but basically I enabled my phone’s Bluetooth then held down the link button for a good 4-5 seconds. After a few beeps and some blue and red LED flashes, I was connected. Phone calls, stored media, streaming media etc. were all connected.

Charging is a cinch. And what’s cooler is that the Buckshot ®  takes the very common micro USB port, which charges many smart phones. I actually forgot the Buckshot ® charger on one occasion but was able to charge the speaker with my own phone charger. Once again, simplicity of design, ease of use.
Finally, mounting the speaker to my bicycle handlebar (aerobar) was pretty easy to figure out.

Sound Quality (4/5): I was impressed with the sound, both as an indoor speaker and one to use whilst riding. Regardless of it being a monophonic speaker, I was able to enjoy listening to music and other audio programs through the speaker over extended periods of time. I had to turn the volume all the way up (both on the speaker and my phone) for the music to be audible in 40MPH traffic rushing by me, but it was still audible. Poorer quality of course, but audible. Not unlike car speakers in a noisy old car.

Being a cylinder, the Buckshot ® tends to concentrate sound towards whatever it is pointed at. So I felt that when biking outdoors, my own ears made up the majority audience, i.e. not as much “noise pollution” as I might expect that may or may not annoy other riders, pedestrians, etc. However, people still noticed when I rode around with the speakers on. As a pet peeve of mine is loud music blasting from neighboring cars, I tend to be more conscious of what emanates from my own vehicle (in this case my bicycle). However, I did not get a strong impression that the speakers were disturbing anyone elses’ peace.

Speakerphone Capabilities (2/5):  Having a speaker phone conversation was very good indoors. But when on the road with 40mph traffic rushing by, I could neither hear the other side of the conversation, nor could the other side hear me even when I was shouting into the speaker. I must have looked like a crazy man, screaming into my aerobars, “What’s for dinner tonight?!”

And even when the cars had passed, and it was just me, the road, and the passing breeze, I really had to raise my voice and put my ears close to the speaker to carry any semblance of a conversation, and even then, it was butchered at best.

OT Buckshot mounted CloseOT Buckshot Mounted profileOT Buckshot Mounted

Utility(3/5): Admittedly, I dropped the speaker a few times during this review, but the sound was unflinching. The Buckshot ® was also very portable and was easily packed into the top pocket of my pack. It hasn’t rained much in SoCal, but I had to test the water resistance, so I played some M83 through a row of sprinklers, and it was unscathed and unfazed. I made sure the water sprayed into the speaker grill too and there was no change in sound quality. Plus it was cool seeing the water vibrate when the music hit certain notes!

I noticed that the speaker was pretty wobbly when mounted “over the bar” and shifted significantly when going over even small bumps. As such, I mounted it under the bar, and it was a bit more stable. But going over larger bumps really caused the speaker to wiggle and nearly come off the mounting strap, and intermittently I had to push the speaker back into place to be resecured to the strap. Maybe it was because my aerobars are thinner than the handlebars.

OT buckshot laptop compare

Applications:

1. Bike to work with your speakers then set up a conference call (indoors) at work with those same speakers.

2. Bicycle-picnic trip with portable music at your destination to set the right mood. No more need to lug around larger speakers/ radio.

3. Fun way to watch movies on your phone in a group. I actually leaned my phone against the speaker and the audio-visual worked pretty well.

Overall, the OT Buckshot ® is a robust speaker for playing music on bike rides that are not too bumpy or noisy. A nice beachside cruise would be one appropriate setting. Unfortunately, it did not perform well with the speakerphone function while riding. For $50, I think it is a good purchase, and besides the three aforementioned scenarios, this speaker has many unrealized applications.

Hope you enjoyed the review. Do good and ride well.

1. http://drivinglaws.aaa.com/laws/headsets/

2. http://www.aftershokz.com/

3. http://gizmodo.com/5972389/aftershokz-sportz-m2-review-decent-sounding-headphones-no-ears-required

4. http://www.outdoortechnology.com/Welcome_2/-Outdoor-Tech-.html

 

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Review: Funk in the Trunk, Bontrager Cooler Racktop Bag

Summer, Summer, Summertime!  It’s time to sit back and unwind like the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.  The time has come to give you our FINAL THOUGHTS on the super-summer-ready Trek  Bontrager Funk Trunk.  This bag is Trek’s response for utility cycling for a picnic, trip to the beach, AND impromptu dance parties!  The side pocket of the cooler comes with a built-in speaker connection – bold beverages and tunes, what more could a bike commuter ask for on a lazy Sunday?

Cooler and Tunes on the go!

So I’ve decided to give this product a review based on a 6-pack of Dr. Pepper.  6 Cans means an EXCELLENT score and 1 Can means WEAK.  Here’s the scoop from Bontrager/Trek:

With a built in cooler, battery powered speakers and a shoulder strap for off-bike portability, the Funk Trunk has you prepared for the next picnic or tailgate party.

Features

  • Secures to rear rack via 2 Velcro straps
  • Main compartment can hold up to 8 drink cans and is thermo-lined to keeps contents cold
  • Includes two side pockets: one with internal mesh pockets, one with speakers and battery powered amplifier (batteries not included)
  • Speakers are compatible with any self-powered music device that includes a standard 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Includes removable, adjustable shoulder strap, shock-cord top storage and reflective light attachment strip
  • A rolling party favor
Part No. MSRP* Cargo Capacity Color Model
423460 129.99 560cu.in. (9,177cc) Black Funk Trunk

*Pricing is set by Bontrager retailers and does not include freight, import duties or taxes for retailers outside of the US.

photo 2

Velcro Strap Security: 6-Pack of Dr. Pepper worthy.

Although it may seem like one of the least “exciting” features of the Funk Trunk Cooler Racktop Bag, the two heavy-duty velcro straps on the bottom of the bag are worthy of six cans of bubble-prune-corn juice! The velcro straps run the entire width of the bag in two places; they held the cooler tight to my rear-mounted flat rack. Despite riding the bike through the grassy park, crappy “bike paths” loaded with tree roots that mess up the concrete, and over curbs, the Bontrager Funk Trunk stayed PUT.  Bonus, easy mounting spot for your rear blinky light too, if you weren’t already mounting it to your rack!

Plenty of room for Sapporo and Green Tea! Bottles need to be laid on their side a bit.

Storage Capacity: 5 out of 6 pack of DP!

For the size of the bag the Funk Trunk gets a 5 out of 6 cans for pretty significant storage.  Max capacity according to the website is 8 canned beverages.  Ample room, but I only gave it 5 out of 6 because there were some things that were just a tad too big to fit in the Funk Trunk, like a round salad to-go container and a typical plate lunch container from my favorite picnic pick-up spot, Diamondhead Market and Grill.  The workaround was: eat half the salad and then smash it into a smaller tupperware that fits inside the cooler!  Also, the two sides unzip entirely to reveal a spot for your mp3 player or smart phone + speakers, and another with mesh mini-pockets.  The mesh stretchy pocket was great for forks, chopsticks, napkins, wine bottle opener, etc.  And of course: the bungee on top of the bag was great for stashing a rolled up towel or thick blanket for your picnic!  A nice addition.  One time I did use the bungee to strap down an enormous bundle of kale.

Cooler Thermo-Lined Ice-Ice-Baby Factor: 4-Pack of Dr. Pepper.

The Funk Trunk cooler compartment definitely kept my drinks, lunch, or groceries from the Farmer’s market cool as if they had just come from the fridge.  I would have given this category a perfect 6-pack, BUT one downside to the cooler compartment is that it leaked melted ice water!  Summer, BUMMER.  Works great if you have gel ice packs instead of actual ice cubes, but somehow, the compartment would leak when it was sitting in the grass at a BBQ at the park and watered the lawn.  Not a big deal if you are going on a short jaunt, but could get annoying if you were carrying the Funk Trunk over your shoulder for a long-ish walk and weren’t prepared for the cooling sensation trickling down your bum!  The gel-type ice packs are a good work-around, or chilling your foods and bevvies in the fridge before carting them to the partay.

photo 1

Speakerboxxx: 3 out of 6 cans of Dr. Pepper for the musical set-up.

Okay, okay, maybe my expectations of this “party on wheels” was a little too high considering that it is primarily a cooler, and the speaker set up is a secondary function.  Overall, the Funk Trunk is a great idea, and professionally executed throughout, until you get to the speakers.  The speakers seem a bit shoddy and flimsy, but they do the trick.  No way you can play music and hear it blasting from the rear as you ride, you’d be better off with headphones for that application.  BUT, the speakerbox feature does work pretty well when you are cruising over to a BBQ or outdoor party and somebody has forgotten to bring the tunes!  It is louder than a speaker on your iphone, but don’t expect to be blown away by the quality or the volume.  Also, the AA battery connection pack is a little on the janky side.  Still a fun feature that will work in a pinch.

TOTAL SCORE:  4.5 CANS OF DR. PEPPER! (or maybe 4 cans of Dr. Pepper and the first half of the next one, so you don’t end up drinking someone’s backwash!)

The corn syrup gods have spoken:  my overall impression of the Bontrager Funk Trunk was a great one!  The bag got of a lot of attention from friends because the plaid is cute for girls but also awesome for guys and it’s way more fashionable with the long strap than most cooler bags.  For the price of $129.99 (or 1.3 million cans of Dr. Pepper) I wish the speakers were better and the cooler didn’t leak.  Source of the leaking melted ice was definitely not through the zipper, but through the bottom of the compartment and in one corner.  However, the Funk Trunk is extremely useful for everyday commuting:  fits snug on the rear rack with the velcro straps, is easy to get on and off your rear rack, and can pack enough lunch for two if you play your cards right!  It’s also VERY handy for running errands on your bike like grocery store runs for Bubbie’s mochi ice cream, chicken thighs, or human organs.

Mmmm... Put some Bubbie's in my Funk Trunk anyday!

Welp, that’s a wrap for this summer soda-filled review.  See you at the beach, Cycle Ladies and Gents!

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.