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Once a crowdfunded start-up making phone mounts for cyclists, Quad Lock has grown to become an international name. The Melbourne-based company launched right around the time the iPhone was finding its feet and has since expanded its product offerings to allow the vast majority of smartphones to be mounted securely to bicycles, motorbikes, inside cars and even on office desks.
For years I’d known about Quad Lock. I’d sold them in stores, played with them at trade shows, and ridden with others that had them, but I had never felt the need myself. However something changed at the start of this year. Perhaps it was the more time spent riding indoors and wishing my phone was near, maybe it was my desire to go exploring with maps under my nose, or it could simply have been the relentless bombardment of Instagram adverts (which I’m still getting at an uncomfortable rate).
This product has already been tested by countless others but I had questions I wanted to answer for myself. Firstly, I wanted to know if the Quad Lock case would work for me on a day-to-day basis. Could I leave the mount on the bike for use indoors and have it not bother me while unused outdoors? And then there was the issue of having my phone sit in prime position at my handlebars. After a few months of use I can confirm there’s plenty to like here, but it certainly isn’t for everyone.
An intro to the products
- What: Locking phone case and mount system which allows the secure mounting of a phone at your bars, among other things. Three bike mount models tested.
- Weight: Bike mounts from 23 g. Case weights vary based on phone model.
- Price: From US$60 / AU$70 (including case)
- Highs: Wide product range provides plenty of use options, durable materials, rock solid connection interface, easy to detach, turns your phone into a riding display.
- Lows: Somewhat fiddly to mount phone into out-in-front mounts, stack height of mount system plus special case adds thickness to phone, case lacks textured grip, phone at bars is rather cumbersome.
At the centre of the Quad Lock product range is your existing smartphone. Quad Lock offers cases to suit just about all the most popular smartphones from recent years. And if you happen to have something other than an iPhone, Samsung, Google or Huawei phone, then Quad Lock offers an adhesive-based backing plate, too (for AU$20).
For my iPhone Xr, the case costs US$30 / AU$35, weighs 42 g, and adds 5 mm in thickness to the bare phone at the fattest point. That thickness includes an edge that keeps the screen protected and a bulge at the back for the Quad Lock locking interface. Most of the case adds only 2.5 mm in thickness.
The Quad Lock case offers a four-prong locking mechanism to interface with Quad Locks mounts, and there are many options here. From running armbands to holders for motorbike placement to desktop wireless charging stations, through to tripod adapters – the options are plentiful and fully cross-compatible with the entire lineup of cases. That means the mounts should prove useful for years beyond when the designed obsolescence of your existing phone kicks in.
Quad Lock got its start in the cycling market, with mounts that allow you to mount your phone to your bars or stem — perfect for using your phone as a cycling computer, or for having maps available. Today there are three mounts for bicycles. Firstly there’s the original “Handlebar/stem” mount (US$30 / AU$35) that attaches like a simple bicycle computer mount via either the supplied o-rings and/or zip-ties. Like many computer mounts, this can be orientated in either a portrait or landscape orientation for placement on either a stem or handlebar. This mount weighs 23 g with two small o-rings.
Next is the “Out Front” mount (US$40 / AU$50) which mimics the position of common Garmin and Wahoo out-in-front mounts. Like the simpler Handlebar/Stem mount, this is made from a strong nylon / polycarbonate composite and offers stainless steel hardware. With the included rubber shims it can be set up on round-shaped handlebars ranging from 22-35 mm diameter and can be mounted in either a forward or backward (over the stem) orientation. This mount weighs 37 g when set up for 31.8 mm handlebars.
And finally, there’s the relatively new road-specific “Out Front Pro” (US$60 / AU$75) which is claimed to save four watts at 40 km/h. Just kidding, it actually features a stiffer CNC aluminium construction, and compared to the regular Out Front mount it offers a lower stack-height (30.8 mm vs 39.8 mm) and places the phone further forward of the bars (63 mm vs 38 mm centre-to-centre arm length). It’s sized to fit 31.8 mm round handlebars (the most common size on a modern bike) and can be shimmed down from there. This mount weighs a more substantial 67 g.
Both Out Front mounts can be fitted with an optional camera/light adapter underneath which uses the common GoPro-style three prong attachment.
Also tested is the car mount (US$50 / AU$60) and wireless charger (which adds US$40 / AU$50 to the car mount). That car mount kit uses a large suction cup for attachment to the inside of windshields. Alternatively, Quad Lock includes a suction-cup-friendly adhesive-based backing plate that can be mounted elsewhere in the car. The wireless charger is based on the Qi charging standard, so it’ll only be of use to those with a compatible phone.
There’s not much to installing your phone into the Quad Lock case. It goes in with a snug snap-fit, and that’s it. Done.
The bike mounts are similarly simple and arrive assembled and ready to use. If you’ve ever installed any Garmin or Wahoo computer, you’ll know exactly what do.
The handlebar/stem mount needs a round stem or handlebar with a reasonable length to function properly. It fits perfectly on stems of 80 mm or more in length, but is likely to have fitment issues on shorter stems due to its 50 mm long plastic base. That base does feature a rubberised texture that’s enough to keep the phone where you want it with the supplied o-rings, however, the supplied zip-ties will allow an even tighter fit. If you do use zip-ties, please, for the sake of your blood, cut them properly.
The Out Front mounts include the necessary 3 mm hex key. The only adjustment options are related to the vertical angle of the mount and whether you need to shim them for a narrower handlebar. It’s all very easy.
Clicking the phone case into the installed mounts is also akin to using a Garmin or Wahoo device. Just locate the prongs and give the phone 1/8th of a turn in either direction. All three cycling mounts feature a locking mechanism which prevents the phone from accidentally untwisting.
From a functional point of view, the most basic handlebar/stem mount is the easiest of the three to locate and lock the phone into. To undo, you simply pull down on the central collar and twist your phone.
However this original locking design suffers from a taller stack height, and so it makes sense that Quad Lock moved to a different method with its Out Front mounts. These two mounts use a side-placed lever which pivots out of the way when you insert the phone.
I found the phone case just a little fiddlier to locate with the Out Front mount as the mechanism doesn’t evenly pivot out of the way. Even with practice I still find myself missing the mount on the first go. Removing the phone is a matter of using a finger or thumb to depress the lever while twisting – this part is extremely easy.
While the simpler original mount is the absolute easiest to get the phone into, all three cycling mounts offer a wonderfully positive-feeling and -sounding spring action that lets you know the phone is secured.
Living with the case
The cases feature a composite plastic (polycarbonate and thermoplastic polyurethane) construction with a soft microfibre liner. After a few months of daily use my sample case still looks and functions as new, and has kept the phone safe despite a few accidental drops.
Coming from a rubberised case I found the Quad Lock case’s exterior to be a little slick in the hand. I’ve gotten used to it, but wouldn’t complain if there was a little more finger grip on the edges. However, I do believe Quad Lock has found a decent balance between a durable material that isn’t too slippery, while also keeping it smooth enough to easily grab from a pocket.
The bulge on the back from the Quad Lock locking interface hasn’t bothered me like I thought it might, although there’s no denying that the case adds thickness to the phone. The case covers the phone’s side buttons but doesn’t impact their function, while the raised lip doesn’t limit the ability to use the corner edges of the screen.
As noted, the case is compatible with Qi wireless chargers, however, I found the additional thickness of the case made it sensitive to placement (at least with my somewhat crummy wireless charger). On more than one occasion I awoke to find my phone had not fully charged. Alternatively, Quad Lock offers its own wireless charging head that can be used with either the desk stand or car holder and this works without hiccup or fear of misalignment.
On a similar note, I’ve heard others complain that the case makes contactless payment a little finicky. I didn’t experience this issue but I’m sure results will vary based on the phone model used.
Those wanting greater water protection should check out the optional Poncho accessory. This is a clear cover that effectively seals off the open-side of the case. Do beware that you’ll likely have more limited function of your phone with this cover in place. I found it made my phone almost unusable and so I quickly gave up on it.
On the bike
Do you have fears of the Quad Lock accidentally dropping your phone upon hitting a pothole or a gravel sector? You can breathe easy — these things are crazily secure and the phone will only come out when you want it to. Likewise, there’s zero sign of rattles, knocks or other annoying noises from the locking interface. The Quad Lock keeps the phone impressively snug and you won’t be distracted by anything moving around when it shouldn’t.
For me, the bigger issue is simply related to the size of a phone. I often find larger bike computers distracting and having a smartphone at my bars took that to a whole other level. Yes, it’s something you’d get used to, but there’s just no hiding the fact that a 15 cm screen is now in front of you.
I also didn’t get along with the placement of the simpler handlebar/stem mount. I occasionally rub my knees on sharp stem bolts (in sprints) and so having my phone sitting either side of the stem was a no-go for me. And it’s the same story for having the phone sit back from the handlebar.
However, I have a number of riding friends who use the Quad Lock in this very position and suggested I was nuts. I know I have a narrow stance on the bike, and so my issues may be rare. Either way, the Out Front mounts make this a non-issue.
Between the two Out Front mounts, I prefer the more expensive “Pro” version which places the phone further in front and in a lower profile that more closely aligns with the stem. The Pro version is stiffer, too. By contrast, the regular Out Front mount places the phone well above the handlebars, and I simply found it more distracting and less appealing to look at. The flip side of that regular Out Front mount is that the phone screen is just that little bit closer and easier to access, and those using the Quad Lock for mapping purposes will likely prefer this element.
Both Out Front mounts go exactly where I’d typically keep my Wahoo mount, and so really it’s a matter of having one or the other. Those who typically use Strava through their phones won’t have such a hard decision to make, but those who want ride metrics on a dedicated device and mapping on a phone will need to choose which device goes on the stem.
Those who ride indoors plenty will also find appeal in the Quad Lock, but like me, you may find yourself debating whether to keep a simple handlebar/stem mount on your bike in addition to your regular cycling computer, or whether you forego the Quad Lock all together.
Converted, sort of
It’s pretty obvious why the Quad Lock ecosystem has found such popularity. It really is a simple idea that’s done extremely well. All items are durable and replaceable, the mounts simply won’t drop your phone, and it is rather easy to use.
Personally, I found the general clunkiness of having a phone at my bars rather distracting, and so it’s something I’ve since removed entirely from my mountain and road bikes. The luxury of a more compact and dedicated cycling computer still has its place in my eyes.
However, I’ll almost certainly reattach the Quad Lock to my bars the next time I ride somewhere that requires a detailed map of where I’m headed. Likewise, I’ve come to love the Quad Lock car mount when driving somewhere unknown. I’d also set one up in a heartbeat if I had a dedicated indoor trainer bike.
In the simplest sense, if you want your phone at the front of your bike then the Quad Lock is the benchmark. And you’ll get the most value from it if you use it for more than a single purpose. Of course, that comes with an investment in the various mounts, but the asking prices are more than fair.