20151223_134332_HDRI think I’ve finally found the perfect smartphone mount for my bikes: the Finn Plus Universal Smartphone Bike Mount by Bike Citizens. I wish I’d found it a few days ago—I’d have included it in our last-minute Christmas gift guide. But even if you don’t have time to get it for someone else for Christmas, you can still get it for yourself.

As useful as Google Maps’s bicycling route finder is for biking, and as much as I play the Ingress geolocation game, putting a smartphone mount on my bike is practically a foregone conclusion. But until now, I haven’t had the best of luck with them.

I tried a couple that used hinged clamps to hold my phone in place, such as this one, and they worked okay for a while. The problem is, within just a few weeks of starting to use them, they tended to break. In the case of the one I linked, the stem that held the spring-hinge assembly on broke right off from the part that clamped around the handlebar!

My most recent handlebar mount was the Topeak Smartphone Dry Bag, a weatherproof bag for generic 5” smartphones. It had the useful feature of sliding onto a mount you fit onto your bike’s handlebar, so you could slide it off and take it inside with you, or use the same case on different bikes. Thus, I was able to buy an extra mount to go on my old Trek in addition to the one I kept on my e-bike.

It worked all right, but had a few annoying problems. For one thing, I had to take my phone out of its protective case to put it in, and put my case in my pocket, which meant extra time to take the phone out when I started and put it back in when I got where I was going. While the bag was weatherproof, it also made it harder to tap the screen, and to see the screen if the light was good. Also, the mount that held it onto my e-bike was a little loose. Even if I tightened the hex screw that held it on all the way, it would still start to slip around after a while. I probably needed to find a piece of rubber or something to thicken it with.

Another problem was that the case blocked off the charging plug, so if I was riding for a long time and my phone’s battery started to go out, I’d have to take it out to charge it back up. I finally had my brother cut a hole in the bottom of the bag, so I could plug my charging cable in, but even then I had to line the hole in the bag up with the one in my phone to plug it in. The thing was so annoying to deal with that after a while, I just didn’t bother with it anymore.

Then I ran across this article on Ars Technica about an $18 silicone smartphone mount that promised to be universal—and it looked intriguing enough that I decided to give it a shot. It arrived yesterday, and I just tried it out today—and it’s absolutely perfect!

IMG_20151223_122111The Finn is a bit of an unusual option for a mount—it’s not a plastic gizmo that you have to screw on. It’s effectively an evolved rubber band—a molded strip of silicone that you fit in place against your bike’s handle bar, pull through itself, then snap the ends around your phone’s corners. There’s no mounting hardware required; when you take your phone loose, you take the mount loose, too, and you can just stuff the mount in your pocket.

IMG_20151223_122446When you have it on properly, it’s surprisingly sturdy. (You do need to be sure that the thick part at the middle with the “Bike Citizens” logo is on top, up against the back of your phone. Some people put it on the wrong way, with that on the back, and it doesn’t work as well.) If you got it securely over the corners, the phone stays braced in place even if you go over bumps.

This mount has a number of great advantages. I don’t have to take my phone out of its case—in fact, the extra thickness of the case actually makes it grip the phone more tightly. I have no problems seeing the screen or getting it to respond to touch. If I need to plug a charger in, I just need to nudge the middle strap over a little to free up the charger hole. There’s nothing to break or fall off, and I can put it on any bike I use without the need for specialized mounting equipment. I could even put it on one of Indy’s Pacers Bikeshare bikes just as easily as I could one of my own bikes. I could just pull it out of my pocket and put it on, then put it back in my pocket when I’m done.

It’s not without its drawbacks. It does take a little more time to put the mount on than it would to slip your phone into an ordinary bike mount (though I expect I’ll get faster with practice). The straps do block the extreme corners of the screen, if you should need to hit something in one of those corners. It’s not weather-proof the way the Topeak case is. (Though I don’t tend to ride in the rain, and if I did, I could easily use a ziplock sandwich bag to keep the water off the screen.)

But on the whole, the Finn is great! I’m now looking forward to riding with my phone mounted where I can easily see it again.

The Finn also includes a voucher code for use with the Bike Citizens smartphone app—a “GPS for bikes” system that has guides and maps for various cities available. The drawback to the app is that all the available cities so far are in Europe, so it’s of limited utility to someone on this side of the Atlantic. But as I said, Google Maps is great for use with bikes anyway.


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