PRODUCT REVIEW: AT THE TRAIL WITH VERTIX VELO
The VERTIX Velo has been making its rounds at events and social media recently. A Bluetooth wireless headset that serves as a earpiece for your smart phone, an intercom set for up to 4 riders or a direct to POV camera for video voice-over aid. The application of this mobile Bluetooth headset goes as far as your creativity. But, one big question remains. Just how good is the VERTIX Velo in the trail? Bikezilla got our riders together for a group ride, and tested the intercom sets amongst the thick tropical rainforest foliages. Read on for the review.
Sometime back, we published an introduction article on the VERTIX Velo. (You can read it here.)
Here's a short recap. The VERTIX Velo is a wireless cyclist headset designed to enhance riding experience. These are headsets that can be fitted onto your cycling helmets, and work as both a communication tool between cyclists during rides, and a hands-free headset for your smart phones. The Velo comes in 2 editions – Road and Mountain Biking. They are feature different headset designs to best suit the conditions of the ride. The Velo headsets delivers high quality audio and are equipped with their very own Cut-the-Noise filtering technology to ensure that audio quality are up to standard throughout the ride. The wireless headsets also eliminates any potential risk of obstructing movements or tangling with overhanging branches.
3 important qualities stood out: Convenience, Safety and Improved ride experience.
The Velo Mountain bike edition is actually an original VERTIX Velo road bike edition set PLUS an extra in-ear low-profile ear piece set that is packed in a separate box. When we first open the 2 boxes (One box with the VERTIX Velo road set and the other box containing the mountain bike ear piece), we are presently impressed with the build quality of the product. They looked tough enough to withstand the various user and elemental abuse that comes with mountain biking i.e. sweat, mud, rain and some rough handling.
The Velo was designed to fit most trail helmets. Fitting the transmitter onto the helmet was easy.
One thing we liked about the VERTIX Velo is it's overall attention to design details. For example, the round snap-on disc from which the microphone is to be velcro-ed onto the helmet's chin strap fits very nicely and results in a really good fit for the rider, regardless of what peculiar preference he/she may have.
And the handlebar control unit, which comes with the bundle is another feature to ensure the ride quality is enhanced, enjoyable and fun with all these added convenience.
HOW DID IT PERFORM
Before we started using the VERTIX Velo as our groups' intercom system, we had to pair the various headsets first (obviously). We had some problem trying to remember the steps at first, and bringing the pocket-sized manual did help. On the day we did this review, the pairing became quite clock-work and it was done relatively quickly. At the trailhead, we did a quick "radio-check" before moving out. It was at an unobstructed area so reception was loud and clear.
Choice of Ear Piece
Some of the riders preferred the mountain bike headset for its in-ear and out-of-the-way feel. Others prefer the road bike ear piece as it can be used for a prolong period of time without causing fatigue to the ear.
Tuning the Right Volume
It is usual that we greet fellow mountain bikers we meet in the trail. And it is also an usual practice that we shout or "throw our voice" into the distance to be heard. As such, it is necessary to take this into account so as not to get an audio volume spike when one of our riders shout out to a fellow rider in the trail. Turning the volume to our personal preference level and keeping it there throughout the ride would greatly minimize any potential "audio volume spiking".
Getting into the Habit
It is not a prior practice that we ride with a mobile phone ear piece. It is therefore not common that we hear our friends talking into our ear as we ride. For example, when we are tackling a difficult section and are focusing on the terrain, a sudden voice in our ear could be quite startling. But as we mentioned, this simply takes a bit of getting used to. We also noticed that as we continue to converse via the Velo headset throughout the ride, we began to really enjoy the clarity of the conversation. It did indeed made the ride more enjoyable.
The Velo is activated by voice. While it goes into some kind of "sleep" mode even with our heavy panting from our riding, it will activate itself once it detects us talking at the normal volume. But we noticed a delay in the activation. So the best practice is to observe some radio protocol or discipline. That is, before we start the sentence proper, we should wake the system up with a typical "Hello" or "Hey guys!" kind of attention phrase. And positioning the microphone near to the mouth is very important for the voice activation to work well. The best position, we discovered, is placing the microphone just slightly below the mouth. Also, the helmet strap should not be too loose as that would cause the microphone to swing around as we ride.
Signal Lost & Found
We experienced some signal loss at some point in the trail. Sometimes, such loss is not even due to the riders going too far apart, but more like the signals were blocked by the vegetation. Signal automatically pick itself up after a short while. Our observation is that in thickly vegetated single track, the Velo has a range of about 70-80m from one rider to the next. In a 4-rider group, that would mean the Velo can reach all 4 riders that are spreaded out about 320m apart. In less thickly vegetated terrain like palm tree plantations, open fields and straight single tracks, the range could go even further to about 100m per rider, making it a total of 400m range in a 4-rider group. During more leisure rides around town or park connectors, the range could easily be doubled.
WHO SHOULD USE IT
While we are sure all mountain bikers would appreciate a VERTIX Velo system in their group some time during their riding life, we singled our a few types of mountain bikers who would probably use them every ride.
The Busy Dude/Gal – With the Velo paired with the smart phone, those who are always busy would never need to worry about missing a call again. And while they are at it, they could enjoy some music to motivate their ride.
The Coach – While the trainee may not like the coach to scream down his/her neck at the slightest mistake, this real time one-on-one method is definitely the fastest way to learn and level-up.
The POV Videographer – Currently, this may not be mass-market feasible as the recent POV with voice-over by Wilson (Watch it here) was one of VERTIX's special project. A special cable allowed the videographer to give voice-over clearly and directly into the video camera as he shoots his POV videos. This opens up a whole new level of POV experience.
Teachers leading excursions – During school excursions, the organizing teachers would usually space themselves out so as to ensure safety for the students. The Velo would provide convenient communication for the excursion organizers.
The Family Riding Group – On top of the safety aspects that is associated with good communication, the fun factor is again increased for the family when they are able to chat and share their experience even when riding in a single file. Now they can alert each other of the floras and faunas in the trail as well as on safety precautions along the way.
The Epic Riders / Explorers – For short rides, the reliance on the Velo may not be obvious. But when it comes to riding for longer hours and distance, the Velo can become your best riding buddy. Serving as either a music earpiece for your music player / smart phone, or as an intercom headset between cycling friends, the Velo would add more fun and convenience for the group. And of course, not forgetting the important aspect of an added safety feature for the whole group as well.
We all play one of more of the above roles one time or other. That is why we think everybody would have an occasion where they would be glad they had the Velo with them. As soon as we get into the habit of wearing a headset / earpiece during rides and observe some simple & basic radio protocol, the Velo would become a part of our riding gear that's as readily packed as our tool kit.
For more information and purchase of the VERTIX Velo, visit http://www.vertixglobal.com