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The Great Dynamo-USB Power Run Off

Following on from my earlier post on powering your gadgets for endurance racing, I decided to do a series of parallel tests with the dynamos and USB power units that I had accumulated. This included three dynamos (SON, Shutter Precision and Velogical) and six different USB power units (B&M Luxos U, Biologic Reecharge, Cycle2Charge, PedalPower Universal Cable, Supernova Plug III, and the ZZing). Interesting results …

Updated 19/4 to include Sinewave equipment

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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 great 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.
    • If your light has a USB output (like the Luxos U):
      • Get a Goal Zero recharger with Eneloop 2550 mAh AA batteries and which passes through while charging. You will be able to power your devices when the dynamo can’t and have 4 x AA batteries as well if you need them.
    • If your light does not have USB output:
      • Get the ZZing or Reecharge Powerpack which will convert the dynamo power to USB, and have integrated cache batteries. Alternatively, get the PedalPower Universal Cable and the Goal Zero recharger.  The latter is best if you have extra devices which run on AA or AAA batteries.

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.

  • Updated 11/3: Additional details including run times for battery packs
  • Updated 27/2: Included Reecharge PowerPack
  • Updated 17/2: Included ZZing

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Powering your Spot 2 GPS from USB

The SPOT GPS is widely used during endurance racing for tracking purposes—and in some instances for emergency rescue. They run off Energizer Lithium AAA batteries which are often difficult to source. My generation 2 lasts about 5 days under ideal conditions before requiring batteries, and the generation 3 are said to last about three times as long.  I’ve tried running my Spot 2 with rechargeable batteries, but I’ve not had much more than a day between charges. So I’ve come up with a simple ‘hack’ of the Spot 2 which will allow you to run it from either AAA batteries or USB.  Not needed for the Spot 3 which has USB power (although not waterproof if using it unlike with this hack!).

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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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