Review : A key lock with a difference – The Tow Hitch lock

Hi All,

Just before xmas I was fortunate enough to be given a demo of a new surf key lock that looked really interesting. I’ve been using surf locks for a while now to keep the old van keys safe whilst out on the water (or anywhere else I happen to be) and I’ve had numerous failings and mishaps with it. My previous lock was a standard lock on a hook type affair and the failings I’ve had have fallen into the following categories:

  • Forgetting the code (not an issue of the lock more me) but this resulted in me driving about with it hanging from the back of my car for a week with the key in it until i either cut it off or remembered the code – thankfully i remembered it after calling the manufacturer and was ready with the angle grinder!
  • Putting my key in it and leaving it in the van BEFORE closing the boot. (Thankfully all kite gear was on the outside!)
  • Having it seize up with the key inside and using rocks to bash it open.
  • This lock now sits in the back of the van with an ‘unknown’ combination after i accidentally flipped the toggle and set a random code. I’ve tried about 4000+ codes through it before thumb cramp set in completely and I got bored.

So, I get this lovely new one that looks the goods! It hides covertly in the larger style tow hitch of the van and is aways ready to be used, I can’t lock it in the back, it won’t dangle, I don’t have to dig about for it and take it on and off so it’s one less thing to muck about with and that means MORE time in the water :)

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Installation was pretty straight forward, it seems there are 2 slightly different types of hitch here in Aus and the fit20141223_165333 was a little too snug for my liking so I hit the corners with a file to give it a little more room to slide in, once adjusted it was easy fit and shouldn’t get stuck. The locking mechanism is really clever, there is no way to remove the 2 locking pins that hold it in the hitch without opening it. It literally takes 30 seconds to get in and out if you need to. Construction seems solid and premium, this is good as there is a chance it’ll get backed into a wall at some stage. The cover that ‘hides & protects’ it hasn’t fallen off yet and clips on very securely. There is even a bunch of differing thickness foam things that you can use to stop the lock rattling about in your hitch so it looks pretty slick when fitted.

20150104_073124For a decent review of this product I decided to use my xmas surf trip of randomness up the coast to really test it out. We had sun, rain, wind, dust & dirt with both sea and inland conditions and this lock was brilliant with a van full of gear! First thing I noticed is I wasn’t digging about in a bucket of old wet wetsuits to look for the lock, it’s always there, no kneeling under the car to hook it onto something. Simply pop the cover off, dial in the combo, hit the catch and the drawer slides out.

20150104_073203It’s easily big enough for my VW zapper key, you can even get a credit card in it or 2! Pop the cover back on and its done.. you are ready to head out. I mentioned to the surf buddy whilst out in the water that it was probably a good idea they know the combo and they managed to suss it out without ever showing them how to use it so it gets the thumbs up there!

20150104_073146The drawer never once had water in it (my old lock would leak) and there is no dust in it despite doing about 40kms on dusty dirt roads over the trip, it hasn’t stuck, jammed, fallen out or failed in any way. You can see how dirty the tow hitch is.

All in all this thing is staying on my van! It’s brilliant and if you are in the market for a GOOD surf lock, have a big square hitch on the back of the car / van / truck / boat / combine harvester then I can’t recommend this more.

If however you don’t have a hitch to fit this into I also have a demo unit of their sister key lock product that is an upgrade of the standard combination lock with a push button code which means you can use it in the dark. I’ll be testing this puppy out over the next few weeks also and be writing a review of it also.

For details on where to get this product head over to http://www.dragonkeysafe.com.au. I’ve managed to negotiate a special kitesurfing.com.au deal that means if you contact dragonkeysafe@gmail.com and say that you’ve read our review and got the details from here they will throw in a FREE MobiSafe  lock with it. That’s pretty good of them!!

Here are some promo shots from the website and a picture of the free MobiSafe lock you can use to lock a phone and cards away in a bag whilst out and about or travelling.

 

Thanks to Jen from Dragonkeysafe up on the Goldy, can I keep it please please please… :)

 

Kitesurfing Waterproof GPS Watch Review: Garmin Forerunner 220

 

by Jono Woodhouse

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Product

Garmin Forerunner 220 with (optional) Heart Rate Monitor

Colour: Comes in a manly red or cute girly purple.

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Cost

Garmin 220 Forerunner and Heart Rate monitor: Approximately AUD 255 to AUD 265 (see details below)

Review

As a keen kitesurfer I’ve been on the lookout for an affordable waterproof GPS Watch for a while. The big challenge is that most of the affordable GPS Watches that have become available in the last 5 years are only “water resistant”. Which just isn’t good enough for kitesurfing. However Garmin have now introduced two GPS watches that are finally waterproof and aren’t going to cost you an arm and leg.

Enter the Garmin Forerunner 220!!

I’m a kitesurfing fanatic, but I also enjoy running, cycling and swimming, so you’ll see some comments in the review about this too.
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Pros

  • Waterproof to 50m !! I take the Forerunner 220 into the sea on a regular basis. Kitesurfing and ocean swimming, and I’ve not had any problems with water leaks. They suggest you don’t press the buttons while actually underwater. And I find the buttons can get a bit salted up, but a quick clean in fresh water and it’s back to normal. You can shower with it too. It sounds like the Heart Rate (HR) monitor is waterproof too, but I haven’t taken that into the sea yet.
  • Kitesurfing. Fantastic for recording kitesurfing sessions. For example you can:
  • record the distance that you kited
  • record downwinders kite trips.
  • see how far out you go to sea
  • see the angles you ride upwind and downwind
  • record your speed, distance, time etc.
  • and impress your mates (upload your activities to Strava.com)
  • Battery life: Garmin estimate the battery life to be:
  • 10 hours battery with the GPS on. I’ve not tested this. But gauging on the battery percentage after long sessions – it’s probably not far from the truth.
  • 1 month of battery life in watch (only) mode. Again not tested, as I’ve never gone a month without using the GPS
  • What you can display on the screen. There are actually there are 5 screens that you can scroll through (by pressing the up/down arrows)
  • The first 2 screens are fully customisable. You can view 3 data fields on each screen. For example I use:
  • Screen 1: Distance, average speed, time
  • Screen 2 Lap distance, lap speed and current speed

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  • Heart Rate is another screen (if you use the HR monitor) – which shows you current heart rate (in beats per minute) and your HR Zone (you can setup 5 heart rate zones which correspond to your heart rate levels)
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  • Clock is another screen
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  • Also if you configure your own “workouts” – you get one more screen which tells you your average speed for the workout and an indication of your progress in the current lap you are working on. e.g. Distance covered, or time left etc.
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  • And if you set up a “work out” or turn on auto lap (where for example every 1km is a lap), you get apace notification every lap too, which tells you the lap number and your average speed for that lap. This notification screen pops up for about 5 seconds at the end of every lap. This is quite useful when kiting (and running) as it beeps and vibrates after each kilometer and shows you your speed for the last 1km.
  • The display is very visible in low light, and also in bright sun.
  • Looks good enough to wear as a watch, all the time. Unless you are into fancy fashion watches… :)
  • It’s designed by Garmin as a Running GPS Watch.
  • And it’s really good at this.
  • Provides measurement and analysis for running training and racing.

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  • Has accelerometer for times when GPS signal is poor (for example when running through the city behind tall buildings). I’ve had varying degrees of success with this. Sometimes it’s great, other times it’s pretty bad.
  • Fast GPS turn on time
  • If you’ve synced your GPS Watch with a PC within the last week the turn GPS time is typically 10 to 15 seconds. (It achieves this by loading a week’s worth of data about the positions of the GPS satellites onto the watch)
  • Otherwise, it typically takes about a minute to acquire the lock, which is still pretty good. You can also start your session before it’s acquired the lock, and it will start recording as soon as it can.
  • Accurate GPS recordings. Better than the older GPS watches and mobile phones.

Cons

  • From a kitesurfing perspective: the biggest missing feature is a Show My Current GPS Location (eg for emergency sea rescue). I’ve submitted this idea to Garmin – and it would also be useful for Mountain Bikers and Trail Runners.
  • From a running perspective: 4 fields on screen would be better (and this is available in the Forerunner 620)
  • From a cycling perspective: Not great. While it can record your bike rides, it’s not really designed for cycling. By default the speeds are in minutes per km (this can be changed in the settings – but it’s a mission to do quickly) And to be fair this is not really multi sport GPS Watch. Garmin have other watches for that.
  • From an ocean swimming perspective: Because your hands spends most of the time under water – the GPS really struggles with accuracy during an ocean swims. You can still see where you’ve swum (when you upload to a map), but the route is pretty jagged and the distances are often considerably out. For example a 1.4km ocean swim often records as about 2.5km. This is true of all GPS devices – and if you google it – the work around is to put the watch into the back of your swim cap (which I’m too scared to do in the surf) or pull a small float behind you.
  • The Bluetooth is version 4.0 (BLE) which very few mobile devices support. So I upload using their custom USB cable direct to Strava on my PC. I’m also not aware of a way to use the custom USB cable and a tablet, which would be handy too.
  • Only one charging/syncing cable. Two would be better. One at work and one at home.

Conclusion

I’m very happy with Garmin Forerunner 220 and highly recommend it. It’s fully waterproof and works amazingly well for kitesurfing and running.

(GPS kiting session uploaded to Strava)

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Where to Buy

I bought one from DWI Digital Cameras with the Heart Rate monitor (which also included free shipping to Australia from Hong Kong – arrived within 10 days) $265 – $275

http://www.dwidigitalcameras.com.au/astore/Garmin-Forerunner-220-GPS-Watches-with-Premium-Heart-Rate-Monitor.aspx

And I found a $10 off discount here:

http://www.retailmenot.com/view/dwidigitalcameras.com.au?c=5526908

Further Reading

 

REVIEW : 2015 Cabrinha Overdrive 1X Bar

So, we’re half way through 2014 so that of course means we’ve got the 2015 gear turning up ready for summer. This year sees Cabrinha make a massive change to it’s bar system , Finally!

I’ve been lucky enough to be flying Cabrinha kites for the last few years and was very fortunate to get my hands on a new 2015 Overdrive 1X bar a while back, I’ve been testing this bar out on the water and in the snow and have to say this is exactly the move Cabrinha needed to make.

So what’s new? Well the bar itself is similar to the last few years in terms of comfort and grip, colours have changed to a orange / grey combo. The adjustable ends are still there similar to last year (there is now a version without these if you like) They have extended the floats on the bar ends now I guess to help keep the additional weight afloat when in the water, the lines are still classic top quality Cabrinha.

But there are 4 MAJOR improvements made this year that are a massive to me.

  1. They have simplified the 2 front lines at the V, they are now spread with a nice lightweight metal spreader that makes self landings so much easier, the V is also lower so it’s easier to reach.
  2. The spring (overdrive) system now sits a little lower, this means I can let go of the bar and still reach it with ease, this is much better for the girls and short chaps like myself.
  3. The chicken loop is FINALLY a chicken loop worth using! The old system with the breakaway chicken loop was to be honest not very good, if you have ever tried to reset that sucker you know its a total pain and depending how many years back you go you ran the risk of actually loosing your chicken loop completely! This year it’s been replaced with a fixed loop that releases on one side with the push of the safety release, best of all it takes 2 seconds to reset and get back together. This means that you can now hook your loop around posts or rails for safer unassisted landings if required. The donkey dick is also shorter and easier to use and doesn’t jab you in the gut. :)
  4. The leash connection is now free running through the centre and pops out on a spinner at the top of the chicken loop, it simply extends one of the front lines so the additional safety line from last year has gone. It’s so simple, I’ve pulled the safety, gone to one line, walked back to the bar, reset it and relaunched without any issues!

Check out the quickloop vid:

All in all, I’m REALLY impressed by these improvements, if you want to check them out for yourself come and find me on the beach at Longy and come and have a go! Here are some pics I took when I first used it.

 

For more info check out The Cabrinha website http://www.cabrinhakites.com/controlsystems/overdrive-1x.html

Review : 2013 Blade Trigger 9m

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“The 5th generation Trigger went through a bold reconstruction of the profile shape, which positions the kite to sit further in the edge of the window, causing more vertical pop, significant increase in hangtime and much better upwind performance. Still maintaining its reputation of ridiculously quick turning speed and powerful delivery gives the proper Blade-edge to riders who don’t fear going all out on the water. Don’t expect a park and ride kite. The Trigger would be insulted if used in such ways. The high performance characteristics let you position this kite exactly where and when you want it.”

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Well that is the blurb from blade kites, how does the 9m trigger stack up to in some of the toughest conditions and does it travel well?

In the 2013 Torres Crossing Kite Expedition Blade kites blew everyone away by producing 24 custom printed PINK kites in only a few weeks. This was an amazing feat and all credit goes to Blade kites for getting on board, pulling out the stops and getting us pimped out for the trip. So how did they fair up?

For the entire 400km crossing I used a single 9m Trigger unstrapped on a surfboard, The Trigger saw conditions ranging from < 15knots to 35 knot rain squalls. Long 100km upwind legs and a dead downwind leg of 110km.

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I’ll stick on record right now that the kite is a good kite, it’s quite an intuitive kite to fly and gives more than adequate feedback back through the bar to know where it is and what its up to without visually looking at it all time. This is nice when riding one handed, toeside & unstrapped on a surfboard in 3m breaking swell whilst trying to keep an eye on other people. Not once did the kite want to fly itself up high or drop downwards into the water. Bar pressure is very nice, there is some without it being too much to cause fatigue for extended durations. I’m not a fan of kites with no bar pressure, it can lead to all sorts of rookie style errors with kites flying all over the place.

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As stated the kite does want to fly forward, you’ve got to let it go there, find the sweet spot on the bar and it’ll haul you upwind as well as any other but that can cause problems when wanting to crack off dead downwind. In the normal bridal setting you’ve got to work hard to keep the kite back in the window, it won’t park and ride unless you’re really lucky. Give it one wiff of an edge downwind and it’s off trying to find the edge of the window and you’re no longer going downwind. I found oversheeting the kite will slow it down a little when slightly depowered and helps to keep it deep in the window and the 12m’s seemed not as hungry for the windows edge from an outsiders view.

One thing I did find curious about the Trigger was the knots on the steering lines on the kite. There is 2 and on mine they were a good 4+ inches apart. This is a quite a big gap and testing both led to either being over sheeted or under powered. I tied another knot between the 2 stock knots and this proved perfect for the whole trip! A few others were complaining about similar things and followed suit on the 12m Triggers too.

Let’s talk about the bar.. Hmm the bar. I’ll come out with it blunt. It’s crap, maybe that’s a bit harsh. All the running gear on the bar is good quality, credit goes in here for keeping it simple, a lot of big brand kite bars are way too complicated. The Trigger setup is good with depower of a decent cleat and pulley at the top of the chicken loop rope, not my personal preference as I have short arms and like to adjust depower when unhooked but it’s something that I’ve now adapted to with my usual brand. When depowered the tail of the rope does wrap up around the chicken loop rope and it a little frustrating but is manageable. Lines seem reasonable quality and the safety system works well. The bit I don’t like is the actual bar itself. Firstly the grip, it is WAY too abrasive and hard, it has a diamond like studded finish that is very hard. I kite a lot and have tough hands but in one day this bar ripped a callus off that has been there for years and was so bad I swapped to another bar that I usually fly and continued gloveless for another 4 days without so much as a blister. There also seems to be a bend in the bar, maybe more of a slight curve. I’m curious to know why this is, surely its more expensive to make and I see no real advantage. When riding toeside for an extended period I found that it twisted my wrist just the wrong way as to cause me some pain, with the wrist twisted a little its just not as mechanically efficient to hang from it for so long.

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Build quality seems on par with most other brands. It’s not a leader but it’s certainly not the worst. The single point inflation system is ok, the hoses seemed quite plasticy and tended to kink a little but sorted themselves out eventually and the clips seemed to work. The ‘old style’ inflation valves with the balls inside them are a PITA. They were never very good and it’s surprising to see them still in use, the small valve also does make pump up a little slower. It’s certainly not a deal breaker but worth thinking about when looking at $$ value.

 The pumps are standard cheapies with a metal shaft, we broke quite a few handles and when pumping up hard (oh these kites need to be rock hard to work well) you can feel the handles bending.

The bags also are not too bad, I managed to get 2 kites, harness and a whole bunch of other stuff in one 12m bag (without bars) and it came in at around the 10-11kg mark. (handy for travel & a bar weighs ~1kg)

There were a number of other little niggles that really started to bug me on the trip. I launched a lot of kites in the week for other people in all sorts of totally non IKO approved ways and locations :) and it’s the bridals! The 12m’s did it a lot, we only flew a few 9m’s so I’m unsure if is a common thing but the bridal seems to be configured just so that the front one will hook around the tip and not release. Countless times we were screwing about in sharky water trying to untangle the things. Maybe by adjusting the length of that V this problem could be rectified.

Over the course of the week landing on coral beaches, squalls, constant loading and unloading from boats, crashing into things and generally not nice conditions for a kite we had one LE pop from landing onto dead coral on the beach, one kite totally shredded from crashing into a reef and one mysterious strut valve blowout on a LE on the last day when the kite was on the beach. This is from a sample of 24 kites where 16+ were abused daily. This is pretty good by all accounts.

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Roundup.

Good

Performance is great, feedback and bar pressure are good.
Quality is OK
Top and bottom and on par with others for the size.
14 kiters of all abilities didn’t complain and had no issues flying them
It got me safely 400km from Aus to PNG unstrapped and for that I thank Blade Kites.

Not so good

The bar grip and the curved bar.
Pump up system not the best on the market
Bridals that hook up all the time
Pump could be better quality

 

About the reviewer.

Pete has been kitesurfing for over 7 years and has a background in world championship level sailing. Currently a Team Rider for WindSurfnSnow Watersports in Sydney.

 

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