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If you baulk at paying for a Garmin when a modern smartphone can do the same job, albeit generally with less resistance to the weather, then you'll probably want the means of fixing one to your handlebar. There are lots of options out there, from the hyper-minimal to military-spec ruggedness, and Zéfal's Z Console Lite does the job reasonably well, firmly holding your phone where you can see it and offering some optional rain protection.
The Lite is a simpler, lighter system than the previous Z-Console for iPhone 4/5, which gave full water-resistance and some shock protection from a well-sealed case. What we have here, by contrast, is a tray that clips to the back of your iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus and fixes to a simple plastic bar-mounted bracket. There are versions available for Samsung Galaxy S4/S5, and iPhone 4/5 phones as well, but that's as far as the range extends at the present time.
‘How can it be used with both an iPhone 6 and an iPhone 6 Plus?’ you’re probably wondering. The answer is simple – in an apparent bid to keep the product range as small as possible, Zéfal puts two trays in the box, one for each version of the latest iPhone. You get the same with the Samsung Galaxy model – two clips in the box – which is handy if you liked your GS4 as you'd be all set should you choose to upgrade. But it's more an either/or with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
The mount fixes to the bike with a plastic worm-screw mechanism, tightened with a 6mm Allen key. The strap is amply long enough to fit any bar or stem; you'll probably want to trim it once fitted. It works better on a handlebar than it does the stem, though, as the mounting boss isn't central. On the bar, the phone sits a little further from your knees, but on the stem it sits off to one side, looking a bit odd and putting it more at risk from a stray knee.
The plastic tray holds the phone firmly – I tested it on a bumpy canal path with inappropriate tyre pressures and a brand new iPhone so that you wouldn't need to, dear reader. The tray fixes to the mount via an eighth-turn mechanism, meaning you can fit it landscape or portrait. It's reminiscent of the Quad Lock, in fact.
Whereas the Quad Lock uses a sliding collar to prevent unintentional phone release, Zéfal opts instead for a couple of buttons that you have to squeeze together before twisting the phone off. If that's not enough security for you, there's a further sliding button that you can use for an additional lock. This seems pretty unnecessary to me – I can't conceive of when the two buttons wouldn't suffice.
One-handed operation may be just about possible for those with large hands, but it's not as easy as a Quad Lock. If you're used to the ease of removal of a Garmin, you might find the two-stage release here irritating and fiddly, but iPhones are a bit more fragile than Garmins so it's probably no bad thing that it can't be knocked off.
The tray is fairly unobtrusive and allows unobstructed access to the buttons, connectors and camera. The plastic used is strong but doesn't have the more appealing rubberised finish of the Quad Lock tray, and the looks and feel are in direct contrast with the high-end iPhone. I certainly wasn't tempted to leave it on the phone when it wasn't attached to the bike.
As with the Quad Lock kit we reviewed, there's a rain cover that fits over the phone and mounting clip. Operation of the touchscreen and buttons is pretty straightforward even with the cover fitted. There are sealable openings at the bottom for the headphone and Lightning power connector, although you'd only want to use them somewhere dry, for obvious reasons.
With the phone mounted on the bar and at relatively low speeds, the rain cover does its job, but the mounting tray has a hole around the camera lens, and at speed water will get onto your phone through here. There are also holes in the mounting recess on the back, so plenty of ways for water to get in if it's not just gently falling on the front of the phone. Following a wheel at speed on a wet day, your phone will get a soaking that it might not survive.
I found it annoying not to be able to chuck it in a back pocket safe in the knowledge that my phone was properly protected from the elements. Put simply, the rain cover is better than no rain cover, but I'd be much happier on a wet day with either a fully sealed cover or – my preference – a waterproof phone like a Sony Xperia or Samsung Galaxy S5 and the patented road.cc Garmin hack.
All in all, the Zéfal Z-Console Lite can be summarised as a half-price Quad Lock alternative. It's inelegant, but it holds onto the phone well. The rain cover offers some limited protection from the elements, but you won't want to go too far or fast on a wet day.
Holds your iPhone firmly but doesn't match it for looks and feel, and rain cover offers only basic protection from the elements
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Make and model: Zefal Z Console Lite iPhone 6 and 6 Plus
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?
Zefal says: “The Z Console Lite is an easy mounted smartphone case holder. It is safely secured to the bike thanks to the Double-Lock-System. Look and record your data through the phone's apps. Available for iPhone® 6 & 6 Plus range, the Z Console Lite is light and easy to use.”
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Material: Case and mounting: thermoplastic / Waterproof cover: soft
Weight: 70 g
Mounting: Adjustable bracket (Ø 20-45 mm)
Compatibility: iPhone® 6 & 6 Plus (yes, both; they also have a version for iPhone4 & 5, and a further one for Samsung Galaxy S4 & S5)
Accessories: 2 cases, 1 mounting system , 2 waterproof cover, 1 Allen key
It's effective but it feels quite plasticky and a bit ugly. I'm equally reluctant to leave the clip on my phone and the bracket on my posh bike when I'm not fixing the two together.
Does what it says on the tin – my phone stayed firmly in place even over bumpy terrain. The efficacy of the rain cover is limited, though.
No obvious weak points.
As it's all plastic, it's not overly heavy (although obviously more than a Finn.
You can get a fully-enclosed (and IP-rated) mount for the same sort of money if you shop around.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It holds the phone well, and maintains a good grip on the bar, too. The rain cover keeps light rain off, and you can still operate the touchscreen fairly easily (although obviously not the finger-print unlock function), but the phone is not fully enclosed, and water will get inside the mount through the opening around the camera lens.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
That it didn't drop my new iPhone, and the bracket is easy to fix to the bar or stem. Spare parts are available too (eg a spare bracket for a second bike)
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The contrast between the design-led elegance of the phone and the utter lack of elegance in the mount. Offset bracket makes stem mounting less than ideal. Rain cover keeps water off screen but it can (and will) get onto your phone in all but the shortest and mildest of showers.
Did you enjoy using the product? Mostly
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your score
It's effective in the dry, but if you've shelled out that much on a phone, I'd suggest you'd want better protection from rain.
Age: 37 Height: 190cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.