I'm a big fan of the original Blackburn VIP ride wallet, so was intrigued by this VIP QR handlebar phone case, which takes the waterproof phone cover from the jersey pocket to the bike with a quick release bracket.
The whole package is a lightweight alternative to some of the unwieldy phone mounts out there, with an extremely compact and easy to attach mounting bracket that puts most of the competition to shame. The thin nylon wallet has a plastic clip on the back that slides and locks to the mount, but even that is pretty unobtrusive.
The quick-release bracket itself consists of a rubber band secured with a clip with 2 different tension notches. The clip is nice and secure but also very easy to whip on and off, and overall it's a well-constructed and thought out design. It's limited by being stem-mountable only though. The wallet attachment has been designed around a 3 tooth ratchet, meaning the phone can be locked at 4 different angles from horizontal to about 80°. Unfortunately, the ratchet has a fair bit of play in it, so road vibrations are amplified and the wallet shakes around a bit, especially on rough roads. It's perfectly secure, but not great visually and generally a bit annoying.
Moving on the rather arbitrarily sized wallet. At 18cm x 10cm, it's got a fairly bulky footprint, but only in the lateral plane; it's just 3mm thick, with the clip protruding another 15mm or so). It's big enough even for the larger smartphones out there (the Samsung Galaxy SIII is a perfect fit) but it does dwarf smaller ones, though they'll still be sandwiched in securely. The transparent face is totally touchscreen friendly and although it's been scratched up during testing, the visibility or functionality hasn't diminished noticeably, and it looks built to last. Some cases can really dampen sound – not so with the VIP wallet. I've conducted several wet weather calls without issue, and generally had no problems hearing ringtones or alerts.
The wallet features a heavy-duty press-and-seal closure that works amazingly well to secure the phone in the pocket, and keep water out. I've given it a thorough hose down just to be sure. The system would be greatly improved with a couple of tabs to help pull the two sides apart though. As it is, it's not too hard to open, but I've had to give it some serious wriggling and even resorted to using my teeth when wearing gloves.
I've had a play with a few phone models, and unfortunately, the handy one-size-fits-all wallet approach has a massive design flaw – It's useless for any phone that doesn't have a physical button on the front face. The fairly rigid shape and reinforced back panel makes it almost impossible to press the relevant 'unlock' button, which many smartphone manufacturers put on the top or side edges. This renders many phones completely unusable once the screen goes off inside the wallet. All's good if you have any model of the iPhone, but then there are several specially designed offerings for the more ubiquitous phones already.
If it passes the unlock button test, it's a clever and relatively compact way of attaching a phone to your bike.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Blackburn VIP QR handlebar phone case
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Presumably for those looking for a phone-based GPS alternative. It's fully waterproof, and the 'QR' quick release title is valid.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Touch-screen friendly see-through window
* Quick-release mount compatible with most stems
* Welded seams
* Waterproof pressure-zip closure
* 420-denier nylon/semi-transparent nylon
The wallet in particular feels built to last, but the ratchet could do with a re-design.
Works well all round, but again let down by the ratchet.
Compared to what else is out there, the complete package clocks in very well.
A fair price for waterproof protection, and cheaper than many iPhone-specific cases.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The case happily held various phones securely, kept them dry, and allowed me to use them as normal. Mounting the bracket, and locking in the wallet was hassle-free.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The quick release bracket and waterproof seal.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Apart from the fact that lots of phones won't even work with it, the shaky ratchet is annoying, and the one size fits all design means smaller phones will look a bit lost in the wallet.
Did you enjoy using the product? It didn't work for my particular phone, but otherwise - yes.
Would you consider buying the product? It would probably be shortlisted.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Possibly.
About the tester
Age: 22 Height: 170cm Weight:
I usually ride: Specialized Tricross My best bike is: Van Nicholas Mistral
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, Local postal delivery