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Powering Your Gadgets For Endurance Races

Most people who do long-distance bicycle endurance racing are somewhat obsessive/compulsive about their gear. That’s putting it kindly. I’m definitely no exception and my blog is littered with posts on the most esoteric aspects of bike setup, equipment etc.

Providing power to your gadgets (GPS, lights, phone, trackers, etc.) during races is an area we spend a lot of time on, and has provided endless hours of entertainment and frustration over the years. Since my first attempt at the Tour Divide in 2011, I’ve refined my approach—and there have also been sea changes in technologies—so I thought it was timely to put down my journey to hopefully assist others in finding the best solution for their needs, be it endurance racing or just touring.

If you don’t want to read further, here is the 30 second elevator pitch:

  • If all you want to do is to have power for your GPS or phone, don’t bother with dynamos etc. Get a couple of small 5000+ mAh power banks and use these. I’ve run my Garmin 1000 for almost 40 h on one of these—before it had to use the internal battery. 
  • If you are going to be running multiple gadgets and doing night riding get a dynamo and headlight
    • The SON 28 is the best dynamo—but expensive.
    • The Luxos U is the best light for road riding—particularly because it has the integrated USB converter and a cache battery. Plug and play. Only challenge can be getting it mounted …
    • For mountain bike riding the Luxos is probably too fragile so better getting a K-Lite, Exposure, Supernova or similar. Run them with the something like the Pedal Power Universal cable and a small cache battery, or the Reecharge which has its own small cache battery.
  • For a larger cache battery find one that works with solar power systems. These will pass through the current while charging so you can also power your device at the same time. The Goal Zero recharger is a great unit which gives lots of power with Eneloop 2550 mAh AA batteries and passes through while charging.

I’ve bought most of my gear from Peter White cycles in the USA. His site has excellent information on dynamos and a wide selection of gear.

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After a wet suit, the open water swimmer’s best friend …

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When I go for my long open water swims, I have two concerns (and drowning isn’t one of them!):

  • Will the boaties—particularly those towing water skiers—see me (a black wet suit with a white/yellow cap isn’t that visible); and,
  • What do I do with my car keys?

Enter the ‘Real Swim Bag’ which solves both problems. This is one of those inventions which is so obvious I don’t know why they aren’t common place.

It is a dry bag which contains two bladders. You inflate the bladders and it floats like a buoy. There is a small belt that goes around your waist.  It is completely unobtrusive and you don’t notice it when you are swimming.  My wife Lis advised that it was very visible from the beach—especially as it was moving (slowly) across the water.

The are only $NZ 50 (about US$35) from www.realswimadventures.com. I can’t recommend it highly enough. If you do any open water swimming get one. You won’t regret it.

Stabilizing the Gamin 1000 Dynamo Power Cable

A short post on powering your Garmin 1000 from the dynamo while riding. Often, the micro-USB power cable works loose losing power. Here’s my solution.

The first step is to get a right angle micro USB cable like this:http://www.ebay.com.au/itm/321370444583

Then use the rubber ‘bands’ that come with your Garmin and loop one of them around the GPS and the flat side of the micro-usb cable. I have one of those silicon covers for my Edge 1000 which serves to hold the cable in place. If it slips put a bit of tape on the top side.

This arrangement makes the cable really firm in place and yet easy to remove when you want to pop your Garmin off to go shopping.

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Postscript: Worked great for a few rides but I’ve done one modification. I used a file to put a groove into the back of the plug which serves to hold the rubber band in place firmly.

Testing the Magnic Light Against a Supernova E3

The Magnic bicycle light (www.magniclight.com) is an amazing contactless dynamo light. It generates light through its proximity to a moving wheel.  I supported it through the inventor’s Kickstarter campaign, and as part of this received a pair of front lights and a rear light suitable for my road bike.  I was particularly attracted to the fact that with the Magnic one does not need to have a wheel built around a dynamo hub, or by being contactless it avoids the noise issue with rim dynamos. What follows is my assessment of the Magnic light, in particular its suitability for long-distance endurance riding.

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My Attempt at Dog Protection

During this year’s Transcontinental Race I was chased by countless packs of dogs and was very traumatized by it all. There is nothing worse than having food poisoning, being exhausted from cycling 24+ h, and trying to dodge dogs. I fantasized about what to do with them but some of my more effective solutions—like taking my rifle with me—are not feasible. Let along legal. So I’ve decided to try a very, very loud horn—at around biting level.

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Mounting the Luxos U Light – Part Two

Readers of this blog will know that I consider the Luxos U to be the ultimate dynamo light – at least for road bikes. I have two of them and have relegated my Supernova E3 to my seldom ridden bike.  Brilliant light and an integrated USB connection which powers my GPS and other kit. What more does one want?  A better bike mount. I did an earlier post on one solution, but I now have two others …

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2015 Transcontinental Race

My 2015 ‘A’ race was the Transcontinental Race (TCR) which went from Belgium to Turkey. It took me 16:10:17 to cover the 4,214 km (with 31,515 m of climbing) for 54th place out of the 156 starters (only 76 of us finished).

The key rules of the race are simple:

  • It is self supported which means it is just you and your bike with nobody else to help. If something goes wrong, you deal with it. You can’t get/give help to other riders, and only commercial services available to all riders (e.g. bike shops) can be used.
  • You must visit four check points on the way to Istanbul. Between these points, you select your own route—which you must navigate on your own.

These races are very challenging not only physically but more so mentally. One plumbs the depths of exhaustion beyond what is imaginable and trying to average 275 km/day and 2,000 m of climbing each day (my target) puts huge demands on the body—hence over half of us not finishing!

Like all bikepacking races it had many highs and a few lows, and overall was a fantastic race which I would highly recommend. Rather than a ‘blow by blow’ account of the experience, I’m going to share some special (and not so special) aspects of the race.

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