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Solar, Dynamo, Big 'ol Battery...Looking for advice

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Solar, Dynamo, Big 'ol Battery...Looking for advice

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Old 01-06-14, 10:44 AM
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Lycosa
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Solar, Dynamo, Big 'ol Battery...Looking for advice

Last night on a 25 mile ride, my very nice, but also very expensive Cygolite Expilion bike light went dead mid-ride. It's not the first time I've had this happen either. I have a Cat-Eye back blinker that seems to last forever, but the Cygolite is BRIGHT and it's battery needs are much higher. Also, my cell doesn't last nearly as long with gps on either.

And so...

I'm looking for a touring solution. I have a 12v 7.5 AH gel cell with dimensions of about 2" Wide x 3" tall x 6" long. It weighs about 5 pounds. I use it for Amateur radio projects but I'm thinking of throwing it in a pelican box and running a couple 12v to USB adapters to the outside of the box for charging connections. I have the Cygolite, my cell phone, and a little USB rechargeable speaker that could all benefit from a system.

I want to incorporate a charging system for the battery. I'm not absolutely sure I'd need one since I'm not sure how many light/cell charges I'd get from my gel cell before needing to charge the gel cell back up.

If someone could give me your ideas on how you've accomplished charging batteries on the road, maybe that'll help get me working on a solid dependable plan. I'm not full time touring now, but I'm thinking of giving an extended trip a go. I'd really like to hear the benefits and limitations of different charging systems. Goal-Zero makes a pretty nice looking solar charging kit, and then there's dynamos... just not sure which direction I should go.
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Old 01-06-14, 11:03 AM
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Your battery/charging needs are always dictated by the electronics you carry and where you'll be touring.

For anything other than expedition touring I believe that a 10000 mAh battery is more than enough for cell phone/tablet recharging
and you can solve the lighting issue by using lights that need AAA and just carrying spares.

I have a rear red blinky and a Petzl head lamp that both use AAA and carry spares. I have an external battery for my iPhone that will recharge
it 5 times and just make sure it is topped up whenever I stop at a restaurant, library or motel.

If you are going to be off the grid for a long time (more than a week) I would supplement that system with rechargable AAA and a solar system.
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Old 01-06-14, 11:30 AM
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Originally Posted by nun View Post
Your battery/charging needs are always dictated by the electronics you carry and where you'll be touring.

For anything other than expedition touring I believe that a 10000 mAh battery is more than enough for cell phone/tablet recharging
and you can solve the lighting issue by using lights that need AAA and just carrying spares.

I have a rear red blinky and a Petzl head lamp that both use AAA and carry spares. I have an external battery for my iPhone that will recharge
it 5 times and just make sure it is topped up whenever I stop at a restaurant, library or motel.

If you are going to be off the grid for a long time (more than a week) I would supplement that system with rechargable AAA and a solar system.
I honestly wish I would have went a different route for my head light. Although the Cygolite is extremely bright (rivals my 4 cell mag-lite), it's battery life is limited. I could buy another $49 li-ion battery pack, but I'd be getting to the point of uber-ridiculousness with $150 invested in what is nothing more than a flashlight.

My other needs are definitely keeping my cell going. I use gps, a cycling computer app, and listen to music. It dies pretty quick and my smart phone doesn't have the ability to swap batteries.

Which brings me to my dilemma... I could reinvest in new equipment all around (which I'd rather not do) or figure out an alternative to keep my devices up on the road that is somewhat road friendly. Although I like to travel light, I'll take the weight where it's needed.
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Old 01-06-14, 12:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Lycosa View Post
I honestly wish I would have went a different route for my head light. Although the Cygolite is extremely bright (rivals my 4 cell mag-lite), it's battery life is limited. I could buy another $49 li-ion battery pack, but I'd be getting to the point of uber-ridiculousness with $150 invested in what is nothing more than a flashlight.

My other needs are definitely keeping my cell going. I use gps, a cycling computer app, and listen to music. It dies pretty quick and my smart phone doesn't have the ability to swap batteries.

Which brings me to my dilemma... I could reinvest in new equipment all around (which I'd rather not do) or figure out an alternative to keep my devices up on the road that is somewhat road friendly. Although I like to travel light, I'll take the weight where it's needed.
Seems strange to have everything driven by a headlamp. $40 will buy you a Petzl that is good on and off the bike. A smartphone charge lasts me at least a day and I use google maps a lot and listen to music. My hyperjuice mini weighs 8oz and will power my iphone for at least 5 days.
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Old 01-06-14, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by nun View Post
Seems strange to have everything driven by a headlamp. $40 will buy you a Petzl that is good on and off the bike. A smartphone charge lasts me at least a day and I use google maps a lot and listen to music. My hyperjuice mini weighs 8oz and will power my iphone for at least 5 days.
Sorry, I must have not been clear. My Cygolite doesn't power other things. It's USB rechargeable. It's just another place to sink some battery current. That's why I was thinking I could use a battery/charging system to recharge the light as well.

My phone is an Optimus G Android phone. It's an amazing phone, but it lasts maybe 4-6 hours with apps, gps, and music playing.
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Old 01-06-14, 02:31 PM
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there are Hub dynamo based lights with a USB plug in , to trickle charge at a USB low level ..

to solar charge the 12v battery, a solar panel big enough to require a 2 wheel Bike Trailer
will be about right.
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Old 01-06-14, 03:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Lycosa View Post
Sorry, I must have not been clear. My Cygolite doesn't power other things. It's USB rechargeable. It's just another place to sink some battery current. That's why I was thinking I could use a battery/charging system to recharge the light as well.

My phone is an Optimus G Android phone. It's an amazing phone, but it lasts maybe 4-6 hours with apps, gps, and music playing.
When I said "driven" I meant constrained. You can charge your light and phone from any of the USB compatible battery packs available today and 10000mAH should be more than enough. IMHO solar or dyno hubs are only necessary if you are touring places like the Dawson Trail or Mongolia. Here is a nice external battery. I would not want to carry a 5lbs gel cell around given the lighter and higher capacity external batteries you can get today.

http://www.hypershop.com/HyperJuice/Plug/

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Old 01-06-14, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
there are Hub dynamo based lights with a USB plug in , to trickle charge at a USB low level ..

to solar charge the 12v battery, a solar panel big enough to require a 2 wheel Bike Trailer
will be about right.
Do you have any experience with these? I remember riding my gradfather's bike a long time ago with a dynamo that lit up a headlight... that's about as far as my experience goes. I'm just wondering if the efficiency is well enough that you don't experience drag.


When I said "driven" I meant constrained. You can charge your light and phone from any of the USB compatible battery packs available today and 10000mAH should be more than enough. IMHO solar or dyno hubs are only necessary if you are touring places like the Dawson Trail or Mongolia. Here is a nice external battery. I would not want to carry a 5lbs gel cell around given the lighter and higher capacity external batteries you can get today.
Ahh I see. Yeah I checked out that link. Those look pretty nice. Available in "6 sexy colors" too. lol

Seriously, those do look pretty good. Definitely lighter than my 5lb battery. I'm not opposed to the weight though since speed is never really a priority and I can granny gear any hill I come across. Mostly, I just want to be as self sufficient as possible on the bike. Like last night, we were out on back roads with no plug-in points available at 10:30 at night. We were also going a route neither of us were familiar with and I was the only one with GPS... luckily, after the phone went dead, we remembered enough how to get home. Having a decent system that is rechargeable + have the ability to recharge myself by some means on the road is a worthy consideration I think.
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Old 01-06-14, 03:59 PM
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I have 2 Schmidt SON AC generating hubs running LED lights . on 2 bikes , drag is unnoticeable. 3w6v

USB is 5v DC, so somewhere theres a full-wave rectifier chip to change that.



Others must have a Phone running all the time , I dont.
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Old 01-06-14, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by nun View Post
When I said "driven" I meant constrained. You can charge your light and phone from any of the USB compatible battery packs available today and 10000mAH should be more than enough. IMHO solar or dyno hubs are only necessary if you are touring places like the Dawson Trail or Mongolia. Here is a nice external battery. I would not want to carry a 5lbs gel cell around given the lighter and higher capacity external batteries you can get today.

http://www.hypershop.com/HyperJuice/Plug/
Even if you are using a solar or dyno hub, using a "cache" battery (like your "Hyperjuice") is a good idea.

That means trying the battery first would make sense.
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Old 01-07-14, 08:00 AM
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I am often hauling too much weight but even I would never consider hauling around a five pound lead acid gelcell. Consider replacing that with some of the newer Lithium Ion rechargeable battery packs that charge from and to USB devices.

On my older touring bikes that do not use a dynohub, I have used LED headlights and tail light that I use rechargeable batteries to power. In the past I usually carried enough AA and AAA rechargeables so I can operate for about 5 days away from a power line.

On my latest touring build, I went with a dynohub. I have not invested yet in the USB charger to be powered by the hub, there are several options I am considering. Considering how many long distance touring cyclists use this option with or without a Lithium Ion battery pack, there must be a reason why this appears to be the prevalent option.
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Old 01-07-14, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by njkayaker View Post
Even if you are using a solar or dyno hub, using a "cache" battery (like your "Hyperjuice") is a good idea.

That means trying the battery first would make sense.
I've found that a litium ion "cache battery" and some regular batteries to be the simplest solution to power my electronics when on tour. I've never needed a solar charger or hub dynamo becuase there is ample opportunity to buy batteries or recharge my cache battery before it runs out. I carry 6x spare AAA batteries for my lights and tiny FM/AM radio and a spare watch battery for my cycle computer. I recharge my Hyperjuice/iPhone whenever I stop at a restaurant or motel. The most of it I've ever used was half it's capacity when I rode in Iceland. If you'll be away from shops or recharging opportunities fro more than four days I would consider a solar dynamo charger, but for most touring you don't really need them.
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Old 01-07-14, 12:53 PM
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Checking Amazon reviews of Hyperjuice Plug gives mix reports on reliability. How long have you been using yours ?
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Old 01-07-14, 01:41 PM
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Originally Posted by biker222 View Post
Checking Amazon reviews of Hyperjuice Plug gives mix reports on reliability. How long have you been using yours ?
I have the Hyperjuice mini (7200 mAH). I've had it for 3 years and it's been reliable. The charge level indicator isn't very good and it takes 8 hours to fully charge from empty. But I like being able to plug it into my iPhone wall plug and then plug the iPhone into the Hyperjuice so both can charge up.
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Old 01-07-14, 01:50 PM
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I haven't used my idea yet... but you asked.

AA batteries are common. You can find them anywhere in the USA, including backwater small towns. Since they are stored almost everywhere, you don't need to store them in your rig (at least more than 1 or 2 at a time). Just get some replacements in the next town you roll through.

I'm building a DIY mount to hold one of these:

http://www.zebralight.com/H52-AA-Hea...ite_p_131.html

It has decent throw as well as spill and you can use it around camp. If you need more light, 2 should do the trick. As far as cost goes, that's a personal preference matter.
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Old 01-07-14, 03:20 PM
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Have you used the H52 while riding ? Is so, how well does it work at normal cruising ? What lumen setting ?

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Old 01-09-14, 01:20 PM
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I struggled with the charging dilema for a few months. I don't do much touring, and not much late night riding. BUT, having remembered my childhood and having a bottle type generator and the convenience that it brought helped to make the decision. That, along with the desire to charge my iPhone and possible GPS. So I have a SON28 dynamo, hooked to a Luxos U headlamp, and a wired tail light/brake light. It's a new system to me, which means that it's winter and extremely cold here so I've not had the opportunity to use it yet. The system has a cache battery as well and usb port. I've had the experience of loosing battery power on rides. No lights in the dark sucks. Loosing battery power on the phone bites, especially when you're being tracked and the tracking stops. Then everyone is wondering why is he not moving? Yes it is an expense, but one has to consider how trouble free these units have been. But, I do get to hear about how I belong to a unique genre of cycle tourists when I go to the LBS. Their thoughts are batteries and LED's. I choose to think differently. But I find it funny that those that don't agree with my thinking have to put me into some funny group! Whatever.
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Old 01-10-14, 01:18 PM
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My bike has a hub dynamo to charge my junk as I ride. I have a battery pack that weighs a few ounces and will store power to charge things when I need it. I plan to add a small solar panel to the rear rack for those slow crawling and squatting days in camp. Power is everywhere, use it all. Smart phones, cameras, and GPS are part of my touring experience.
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Old 01-17-14, 05:13 AM
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My approach which I have used for fairly longish rides where I was off the grid for days is a dynamo (SON in the case of my Surly Long Haul Trucker) + PedalPower+ SUper-i-Cable. I used it to charge my Garmin Edge 800 and my Apple iPad 2 and my phone (which had limited use due to be out of range a lot).

WOrks okay for me at least.

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Old 01-17-14, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Aushiker View Post

My approach which I have used for fairly longish rides where I was off the grid for days is a dynamo (SON in the case of my Surly Long Haul Trucker) + PedalPower+ SUper-i-Cable. I used it to charge my Garmin Edge 800 and my Apple iPad 2 and my phone (which had limited use due to be out of range a lot).
+1 on the super I cable. Put the tomtom app on your phone and you can plot great bicycle routes with turn by turn voice and an offline database so you don't need cell coverage.
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Old 01-24-14, 09:01 PM
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If you're only charging usb devices then using a 12V battery is extremely inefficient and heavy.

There are plenty of Li ON battery banks out there that can be charged from a USB port and can charge USB devices, you can find them all over amazon. I myself use a box that houses 4 18650 cells of my choosing since my lights can also take 18650 cells, this gives me more options in case any of them go bad and the box can work with less than 4 cells as well. The box has a micro USB input that lets me charge it using my Brunton Explorer solar panel.

I personally wouldn't go with a light that has an internal battery that can't be swapped easily, as the battery is the first thing to go bad on any device.

As to whether you go for Solar or Dynamos that depends on your touring habits and what the weather permits.
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Old 01-25-14, 08:48 AM
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I hear this all the time, especially with the development of better and better electronics, dynamos etc. I have been taking week long and two week tours for 40 years and have never found need for more than a tire driven dyno & lights. You have to be pretty isolated from people to not find an electrical outlet now and then.

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Old 01-25-14, 09:03 AM
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Buy once and buy right was a decision I wanted to make.
What worked best for me was a Dynamo hub, E-werk and cache battery.
For my use there is not currently a better all round solution (IMHO).
If there was, I reckon I'd have it.
I decided I wanted a serious, fit and forget solution.
I'd had enough of wasting money in a fruitless attempt to save it.
I'm not going to bother leaving quotes and links as its all been done before in other threads.
Dynamo hub was the best investment I ever made and I'm so pleased with it, I'm building a trailer with a dynamo hub, in mirror image of my bicycles front wheel, in order to charge my laptop and photographic equipment.
http://www.extrawheel.com/
Theres a lot of hubs to choose from.
I use a Son28 but Shutter Precision are new to the game and making a good reputation for themselves at a cheaper price albeit for less warranty.

Hope everyone finds the best and cost effective solution for their needs.
I at first balked at the cost because it is a shock to get over initially but in use, I'm so damn happy I never remember the start up costs.

I originally got into dynamohubs purely for light but have since moved on and now rely on my hub to also keep my Edge 800 gps and mobile phone charged.
Its been such a good reliable system that I have no hesitation buying my secondary system for laptop and camera gear charging as well as recommending its consideration to others.

Good luck with your purchase decision making and best wishes for what ever you decide works best for you.

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Old 01-25-14, 11:06 AM
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A 2 wheel trailer offers a place for 2 dyno hubs , if you get Sturmey - Archers ,
they include a drum brake , to slow down your descents ..

and maybe even room for a good sized solar panel .
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Old 01-25-14, 02:39 PM
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Part of my love of bike touring is that it's a practical expression of my love of simplicity. I carry that through to my gear and so I loved it when Smartphones arrived because I no longer had to carry multiple bits of electronics, my phone was my phone, camera, music player, internet browser, emailer and e-reader. Having only one device (apart from a small radio as the iPhone still doesn't work well as a radio over 3G) means that I have simple needs for power and a fully charged 8 oz, 7500mAh, lithium ion battery will keep my iPhone going for five days. I find myself next to a wall socket most days when I stop at cafes, libraries or motels so keeping the battery topped up is easy. My lights (and battery) use AAAs so they are easily purchased along the way if needed. I look at all the solar panels and dynamo hubs and just don't see the need for them unless you will be completely away from civilization for many days at a time.
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