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What are the options for on-bike charging of iphones?

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What are the options for on-bike charging of iphones?

Old 01-07-11, 05:56 AM
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Gotte
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What are the options for on-bike charging of iphones?

Well, I don't have an iphone, I have a HTC hero, but it's the same kind of deal.

I've been looking and there seem a few options - this for example:

http://www.evanscycles.com/products/...mpaign=froogle

I've also read there are some bottle dynamo chargers, though some research seems to suggest they won't work as the current has to be constant (?).

I found this, also, which seems to suggest otherwise:

http://garote.bdmonkeys.net/bike_cha...Generator.html

I quite like the look of this:

http://www.ikonglobal.com/

as it seems to suggest any usb charged device can be charged from a bottle generator, and looks to be relatively cheap (though can't actually find a price, yet)

I know the obvious thing is to take extra batteries for the phone, or just charge from cafe, etc, when you get the chance, but I like the option of not having to do that (say on an extended tour, or when quite far from civilisation.

Anyone charge their smartphone or other USB devices on their bike with any real success?
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Old 01-07-11, 06:23 AM
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What about a solar charger?
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Old 01-07-11, 07:25 AM
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I have seen some tourers with small solar chargers. They said that they work pretty good. I think they got them at Radio Shack. I plug my phone and ipod into my mini netbook computer each evening where they charge while I work on my trip Journal entries.
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Old 01-07-11, 09:11 AM
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I've heard mixed reports about solar panels. Some seem only to work in bright sunlight, and living in north Europe that can be a problem. It just seems logical with all that free energy from a turning wheel, especially with hub dynamos, that it could be a better way to go. If it works, of course.
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Old 01-07-11, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Gotte View Post
I've heard mixed reports about solar panels. Some seem only to work in bright sunlight, and living in north Europe that can be a problem. It just seems logical with all that free energy from a turning wheel, especially with hub dynamos, that it could be a better way to go. If it works, of course.
That energy isn't free, unless you only engage it coasting downhill.

I also wonder if there isn't some type of hand crank generator that would work as well.
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Old 01-07-11, 10:17 AM
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a dynamo hub, a Busch and Muller E-WERK rheostat and a battery puck if you want backup battery storage will get you the results you want.
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Old 01-07-11, 12:04 PM
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I attempted to use a Solio brand solar charger two years ago on a long tour and it was a pain in the neck. I got wildly inconsistent charging results, trying to position it for optimal sun-angle was frustrating, etc. I definitely would not use it again.
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Old 01-07-11, 12:06 PM
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I've been considering one of these solar options:

Sunlinq 12
Sunlinq USB Plus
Powerfilm USB + AA
Powerfilm F15-600

Leaning toward the Sunlinq 12 but not decided yet. Tried a 12v, 4500ah battery pack to recharge my smart phone (Motorola Q9C) on tour with unacceptable results. The phone would indicate charging but after 6 hours showed no difference in battery level. Works fine charging from a car. Hub dynamos don't appear to produce enough power for this phone. The phone's wall charger puts out 850 milliamps at 5v, but it appears the hub dynamos max out at 500 milliamps. Wish I knew someone who had one so I could test it out.

Also want to recharge my mp3 player and power my GPS (Garmin 265T) while riding, although not all at the same time. Still not sure what the answer is.

Edit: After a little more research, the Brunton Explorer looks very interesting. It puts out 1000 milliamps at 5v (USB only) which is enough power to supply my phone. I believe it will also work with my mp3 and GPS, as both of those work while plugged in to my phone's wall charger which only puts out 850 milliamps. It's also cheaper than the the other options. Now if I can just find a place that will let me return it if it doesn't work.

UPDATE: The Brunton Explorer was a failure. Details on next page.

Last edited by simplygib; 05-09-11 at 12:15 PM. Reason: update
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Old 01-07-11, 12:08 PM
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I like the dynohub solution. I keep my light running all the time and don't notice the drag at all. I don't have anything I want to charge right now, but I would get the e-werk should that change.
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Old 01-07-11, 12:52 PM
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I like the look of the "power monkey" products. Their explorer looks like a good option

http://www.earthtechproducts.com/p25...FQJN4Aod7Qming
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Old 01-07-11, 04:19 PM
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Originally Posted by SBRDude View Post
That energy isn't free, unless you only engage it coasting downhill.

I also wonder if there isn't some type of hand crank generator that would work as well.
I thought dynohubs worked with magnets passing close together but with no contact. There are hand crank options, such as torches with emergency chargers, but you'd have to crank for a long, long time to get a charge.
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Old 01-07-11, 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
a dynamo hub, a Busch and Muller E-WERK rheostat and a battery puck if you want backup battery storage will get you the results you want.
I used this system this past summer for the Northern Tier: it provided all of my charging needs for my cell phone, an iPad and camera batteries for the trip (56 days, 4,600 miles). I passed up many easy opportunities to plug in along the way, but I made a game out of only using "bike power." It worked, but was definitely a pain sometimes. (Sorry for plugging this yet again for those tired of me posting about it.)

http://hpscott.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/ewerk/
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Old 01-07-11, 05:27 PM
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Originally Posted by SBRDude View Post
That energy isn't free, unless you only engage it coasting downhill.
It's definitely not free, but it is only a few Watts -- about 2-4% of your pedaling energy. As unterhausen said, it is low enough that I don't notice it.
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Old 01-07-11, 06:22 PM
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So is there less resistance than a bottle dynami? I had one about 30 years ago and seem to remember the resistance was there but not enough to worry me. I seem to remember turrets wear was more of an issue.
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Old 01-07-11, 06:30 PM
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Wait until March 2011, go to REI and buy the Goal Zero Guide 10 Adventure kit for $139.99. Solar charger with power supply that can charge/power your smartphone, camera, GPS, or whatever. Folds up small. It was just introduced at CES on the 5th. They have a boatload of other products that do the same thing and are known for rugged use in some harsh conditions and climates. Google goal zero guide 10 for details.....
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Old 01-07-11, 08:26 PM
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I used the Powerfilm USB+AA mentioned above. It worked great for 21 days and then stopped working entirely. FWIW, I had it lashed over the top of one of my panniers, where it fit nicely. Obviously I can't recommend it.

I like the looks of this product from Voltaic, but have no direct experience with it. This Joos gadget also looks promising, but doesn't seem quite as adaptable to on-bike rigging.
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Old 01-07-11, 11:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Gotte View Post
So is there less resistance than a bottle dynami? I had one about 30 years ago and seem to remember the resistance was there but not enough to worry me. I seem to remember turrets wear was more of an issue.
A hub has much less resistance than a bottle dyno. I remember having a bottle dyno where it was like putting on a brake. A lot of those losses were mechanical, but bulbs also add a bit more of a load than an LED
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Old 01-08-11, 06:45 AM
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I saw this on ebay -

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/BICYCLE-DYNAMO...ht_2397wt_1139

which seems a moderately easy setup. I've done a bit of research, and it turns out that any USB device should charge, as they are all 5v. Its the mA's that determine how long it takes. A USB from a PC pushes about 500 mA, and this charger about 300 mA, so it would take roughly twice the length. My phone takes about an hour to charge on my pc, so a few hours' cycling should, in theory do it.
I'd have to have a closer look at solar chargers to see the average mA output, and what kind of falloff there is when it's overcast.
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Old 01-08-11, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by 82times View Post
I attempted to use a Solio brand solar charger two years ago on a long tour and it was a pain in the neck. I got wildly inconsistent charging results, trying to position it for optimal sun-angle was frustrating, etc. I definitely would not use it again.
I also bought one of those, and I found the same thing. Sometimes it would charge, sometimes it wouldn't. The last time I used it I had it open (and theoretically charging) on top of my rack bag all day while riding in sunny Eastern Washington. Nothing.

I returned it to REI as soon as I got home.
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Old 01-08-11, 09:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Gotte View Post
I saw this on ebay -

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/BICYCLE-DYNAMO...ht_2397wt_1139

which seems a moderately easy setup. I've done a bit of research, and it turns out that any USB device should charge, as they are all 5v. Its the mA's that determine how long it takes. A USB from a PC pushes about 500 mA, and this charger about 300 mA, so it would take roughly twice the length. My phone takes about an hour to charge on my pc, so a few hours' cycling should, in theory do it.
I'd have to have a closer look at solar chargers to see the average mA output, and what kind of falloff there is when it's overcast.
I guess there are pros and cons to every option. With a dynamo you're only charging while riding, and at cruising speed. With a solar charger you're only charging while there's sun, but that could be all day long whether you're riding or not. Then again, if it's cloudy you're probably not going to get much out of it. The battery pack idea is interesting since you can charge it while the sun's out or while you're riding with the dynamo, and depending on how big it is maybe get several recharges to your phone out of it, and you can do that while you're sleeping if you want. Unfortunately the battery pack thing doesn't seem to work with my phone. Still don't know why. Maybe my battery pack was defective. I don't know.

And yes, you can also just plug in at motels, campgrounds, restaurants and forget the whole "recharging on the road" idea. I was forced to do that when my battery pack idea didn't pan out, and it was a pain because I was staying in campgrounds where the only electrical outlets were in restrooms. I had to stay there with the phone, or leave it and worry about it getting stolen.

I went ahead and ordered the Brunton Explorer I mentioned earlier. Found a store that would not charge me a restocking fee if it doesn't work out. I will report results after I've had a chance to use it awhile.
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Old 01-09-11, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by simplygib View Post
I guess there are pros and cons to every option. With a dynamo you're only charging while riding, and at cruising speed. With a solar charger you're only charging while there's sun, but that could be all day long whether you're riding or not. Then again, if it's cloudy you're probably not going to get much out of it. The battery pack idea is interesting since you can charge it while the sun's out or while you're riding with the dynamo, and depending on how big it is maybe get several recharges to your phone out of it, and you can do that while you're sleeping if you want. Unfortunately the battery pack thing doesn't seem to work with my phone. Still don't know why. Maybe my battery pack was defective. I don't know.

And yes, you can also just plug in at motels, campgrounds, restaurants and forget the whole "recharging on the road" idea. I was forced to do that when my battery pack idea didn't pan out, and it was a pain because I was staying in campgrounds where the only electrical outlets were in restrooms. I had to stay there with the phone, or leave it and worry about it getting stolen.

I went ahead and ordered the Brunton Explorer I mentioned earlier. Found a store that would not charge me a restocking fee if it doesn't work out. I will report results after I've had a chance to use it awhile.
I dug out a wind up torch that I got for Christmas, which has an adaptor for my phone. I tried turning the handle, and lo and behold, the charge icon showed on my phone.

Now, I know that it all boils down to the mAs, and how many the torch puts out, and how much effort you want to put in. I read about a similar tourch that put out about 300mA. A USB puts out about 500, so it would take roughly twice as long. My USB takes about an hour to charge fully, so that would be two hour's cranking. A long time, but in an emergency, maybe.
I still like the dynamo option, but it's expensive if I go for a hub - which I would normally do, but the problem with that is I then have to choose which bike to but a dynamo hub wheel for, as I have a mountain bike tourer and a 700c tourer. In that respect a bottle dynamo might be better as I could switch it at will.
Normally, I'd agree that the solar charger would be the best solution - well, if I lived somewhere the sun actually shone.


Oh, there's never any easy solutions...
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Old 01-09-11, 12:51 PM
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Gotte would be favorably impressed by the improvements to modern German B&M,and NL AXA Made
bottle generators ..
Lowest drag seems to be German Schmidt dyno hub .. it's an alternator.
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Old 01-09-11, 01:26 PM
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I use a hub dynamo on my everyday commuter and a bottle dynamo on my tourer (both high grade ones).
The hub is more efficient and reliable and if you want to use as a regular charger, it would be the best choice.
Bottle dynamos need a good mounting system to avoid slipping, mine is bolted to a short braze-on tab on the chainstay. It works OK in the wet but not so good on muddy paths. The only advantage of bottle dynamos is that when not in use, they have zero drag.

I used a solar charger in N Europe and the results were marginal. I was able to keep some AA batteries topped up but couldn't charge my phone. With many phones you can use a USB 5v source to recharge. I made up a USB charger cable for my Nokia 8010 and used campsite-reception computers for the power source.
I tried charging from the USB output of my solar charger but there just wasn't enough power.
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Old 01-10-11, 07:45 AM
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Thanks for that. I like the sound of the AXA HR (just did a little googling).
The more I've thought, the more I like the bottle dynamo.pedal and power phone connection. Trouble is, I can't find a supplier, anywhere. The company doesn't sell direct to the public, and none of the links the home page gives seem to carry it. Frustrating.
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Old 01-10-11, 11:35 AM
  #25  
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I tried a small solar charger and found it impractical because full direct sun is too tenuous while riding and camping. I use external li-on batteries which are relatively cheap and only weigh 40 grams each. Two plus a fully charged iPhone give me enough power for a week or so. I charge them using an outlet when ever I get the chance.

Last edited by BigAura; 01-10-11 at 11:38 AM.
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