Keith is a Flagstaff resident, an all-time, all-weather, all-conference/all-state bicycle commuter. If you want to get him a present he would love a Park Tool TM-1 spoke tension meter. He writes a filthy, NSFA (Not Safe For Anything) blog at www.spacedriftin.blogspot.com. He aspires to own a pair of Bar-Mitts one day.
Before trying out this portable, bike mount-able, music dock I strictly used earbuds to listen to music while riding, which is about 90% of all my bike trips. After trying out the Jam-Pac Premium Handlebar Bag by Audible Rush I’ll probably still wear my earbuds most of the time, but there was much about the Jam-Pac that I liked and there are times when I’d prefer to use the Jam-Pac.
I just think that for me, at this time, I like to irritate the Orange Vests and all other self-appointed safety monitors by wearing earbuds and no helmet. But this music dock is high quality and a nice change I could get more used to if I keep using it.
However, at $159.95 I would not currently be buying one of these, but Audible Rush has other products and if I were buying I’d probably go for the Jam-Lite at $49.95 that runs on AA’s and has no bag storage as I already have plenty of bike bag space and I’m cheap. Knowing that about me, I’m glad I got the chance to review this particular model because based on its features and performance this is the model I’d most like to own.
Here’s what I liked and didn’t like:
- Sound Quality:
Amazing, and I’m not even qualifying that based on the small size and light weight of the Jam-Pac. The sound is great regardless with actual bass and treble tones that I can hear separately and therefore the clarity and lack of distortion from these speakers is impressive.I really like that I was able to set the output level on my MP3 player, (Creative Zen, but you can hook the Jam-Pac up to anything that accepts a 3.5mm audio jack and is within the size parameters, 3.25 x 5.25 x 0.75 inches), all the way up to the max and then crank the volume on the Jam-Pac and I could “feel” the volume with no distortion.I was mildly worried about irritating other people with my “bike stereo” but the speakers are so directional that to anyone who isn’t sitting on the saddle of a bike with the Jam-Pac installed on it they are not likely to notice the fact that you have a bike stereo. Unless you like to listen to John Denver at the kind of volume I like to. In that case they should thank you. I know I would. Rocky Mountain High, brother.
- Portability & Size:
I didn’t notice any wind drag from having this mounted out in front of my handlebars. It’s similar in width to lots of handlebar bags, but it stands a tiny bit taller. The Jam-Pac was light enough that there were no bike control issues as well. The sturdy clamp-on quick-release is rock solid and hasn’t budged a millimeter since the installation. This is surprising because I hit lots of bumps and am frequently having to tighten other accessories I have mounted to my bike. There are D-rings and an included shoulder strap so you can easily take this off the bike with you in a very classy European fashion. I think the kids call it “cycle chic” but I don’t know what that is. Does anyone else ever read the word, “chic,” and wonder how it’s pronounced? I know I always do.
- Battery Life:
In my experiences so far it takes about two hours to fully recharge the 3300 mAh lithium ion battery pack, and I got all of the advertised six hours of playback time. I fully charged the battery pack on a Sunday night and the battery pack didn’t go dead until the following Tuesday, so that’s eights days, probably 45 to 50 minutes of playback time a day.
- Storage Capacity:
Everything I need to carry with me on a bike could be stored in the bag portion of the Jam-Pac. I never use it because I already have my stuff in another saddle bag, but I tried it out and my multi-tool, patch kit, and spare tube all fit inside no problem. Maybe the Jam-Pac will enjoy being on my beach cruiser better. It doesn’t have any bags so that would work out for me as well. I could also throw in a phone, a small camera, keys, and a bottle of water before running out of room. Another reviewer here at CbB, Karen, wrote up a review on a handlebar bag designed for carrying small dogs, and I would say the Jam-Pac’s internal storage capacity is just about “teacup Chihuahua” sized, but I’m not giving anyone permission to put a tiny dog in there; that’s all on you.
- Durability & Usability:
Not only does the Jam-Pac look durable, it is durable. Everything about this thing is solid and tough. The first day I rolled with this thing here in Flagstaff, it was snowing and there were no problems at all. The nylon shell repelled the moisture that day but I won’t claim that this is a waterproof bag. There is a cover that unzips and folds back and you can easily fold it back over the player and speakers if there’s precipitation and the sound is still loud enough to hear. The Jam-Pac is designed to be out doors and be able to deal with the elements, and I haven’t seen any damage from the few wet days I rode with the Jam-Pac. I already mentioned the quality construction of the clamp and quick release bracket, (looks exactly like the one that comes with some Banjo Brothers handlebar bags), but the zippers and buckles are higher quality as well. There are two controls, a power button and a volume control roller, and I had no problem finding and using them while wearing gloves. Your device will be sandwiched in between a foam cradle and the clear outer protective screen. (The unit comes with an assortment of foam pieces so you can customize the foam cradle to whatever size and shape your particular device may be.) I also had no troubles with using my player’s buttons.
- Tiny Allen Wrench:
The Jam-Pac installs with four Allen bolts: two each on two separate clamps that bolt into the mounting bracket. The included Allen wrench is “itsy” at two inches long and my big fat sausage hands gave up on installing the bracket with this tiny tool and I used a Craftsman t-handle Allen wrench instead. I know this is a nit-picky complaint because it has nothing to do with the actual music dock but if I can’t install it then it doesn’t matter how great it sounds.
- Takes Up All My Handlebar Space:
Even though there were no handling issues due to the size of the Jam-Pac, I had to move my headlight down to my head-tube because the bag is so wide. Again, this is not extraordinary for a handlebar bag of decent size but I prefer to have my headlight as close to front and center as possible. Where my light is now the cables hit it and I have to constantly reach down to re-aim my light, and the beam doesn’t follow the movement of my handlebars. Again, not a major complaint but I like my headlight to be front and center and that just will not happen with the Jam-Pac bag mounted on it’s bracket. The solution is to move your light or just not use the Jam-Pac at night.
Like I said at the beginning, I’ll probably use my earbuds most of the time while riding and listening to music because it’s my habit and it feels easier, but I did enjoy the feeling of not having my ears occluded while also getting to listen to what I wanted to listen to instead of the road noise next to me.
During the day when I’m riding to the gym or the grocery store or wherever I’m going my ears are full of car noise and I’m doing most of my riding on a separated multi-use path that runs parallel and in between several train tracks and a major thoroughfare — Historic Route 66 here in Flagstaff — and I don’t want, or need, to hear all the trucks and trains so I jam earbuds in my ears to have some control over my hearing damage. Sometimes, usually at night, I enjoy the train and street sounds because there aren’t so many, but in the future I see myself using my Jam-Pac mostly as an off the bike, portable music dock for when I go on leisure rides that end either at a park or in the forest where I like to sit down and relax for a while. You know, commune with nature, but sometimes I’d like to commune with nature while listening to my favorite death metal albums and now I can do that at the appropriate high volume. No need to thank me, that look on your face tells me everything I need to know.
I will add that due to my freedom from all Apple products I can’t offer any experiences using the Jam-Pac with an iPhone or iPod. You can refer to www.audiblerush.com for more info and full details on compatibility related to all their products. Obviously the iPhones and iPods are supported, and if your smartphone has hands free and GPS you can use these features with the Jam-Pac. I suppose the best thing I can say in this review is that after reading everything I could find on the Audible Rush Website that pertained to this particular model that they are completely honest and truthful about the features and performance of their product. No empty promises or marketing misrepresentations from them, and if you think this is the right kind of add on for you and your bike then you won’t be disappointed.