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A bike / map geek with a gadget obsession and a high-viz fetish. by Vannevar Bush       about       /       murals       /       Pgh-DC bike maps new

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bike Geek Fetish: GPS, ewerk, Droid phone, Busch & Muller dynamo

7/21/11 #223

I took Tuesday and Wednesday off from riding for a few convenient excuses — Tuesday my gear was still soaked from Monday; Wednesday I worked and did an excellent family dinner in anticipation of being on an overnight bike trip Thursday-Friday — but the temps were so high on Thursday that we cancelled the overnight trip.

So on my third day off the bike, with "feels like temps" of 104F, I am left to obsess about bicycle equipment.

My main bike fetishes this year are GPS and lighting. My previous Garmin GPS died recently, and it seems that the rationale for a stand-alone GPS unit have dwindled in the face of smart-phone capabilities, so I've invested in a Droid X2 to replace my dedicated GPS. The main drawbacks of the SmartPhone so far are (1) difficulty in placing the device on the dashboard, and (2) short battery life.

Why put the (expensive, fragile) SmartPhone on the handlebars? Two benefits - the ability to look at the moving map in unfamiliar areas, and the ability to see/discern weather alerts. I'm looking at two options for placing the GPS on the bike, I need to try one out.
The Arkon SM532 is a general smartphone-handlebar mount. I like the bungee strap that promises to keep it in place. One downside is there's no weather protection, so if the skies are threatening you've got to use a Ziploc. Arkon SM532 smartphone handlebar mount
Topeak Smart Phone Dry Bag The Topeak iPhone Dry Bag is a new product that seems very interesting. It can clip onto the stem bolt, which is a great location, the fact that it's a dry bag is compelling, and Topeak makes great stuff.
After mounting the phone on the bike, the second problem is battery life, which is dramatically shorter with a smartphone than a dedicated GPS.
The first thing I'm trying is a supplemental battery power pack, which I can feed with ubiquitous AA batteries. It's not an elegant kludge, but it'll work and it only cost $6 (plus an ongoing stream of batteries). I won't be able to put a powerpack in the dry-bag, though. smart phone external battery pack
 The elegant solution would be a device like the Busch & Muller e-werk, an adaptor that draws power from a bicycle dynamo and regulates it for a variety of USB-powered devices, including smart phones and tablets. Peter White has an excellent article on the ewerk. I'd like to eventually use this.

The e-werk requires a dynamo on the front wheel, and having a dynamo on your bike is like leveling-up (as they say) in Fred-ism. If I took that step and bought a front wheel with a dynamo in the hub, I could also use it as a power source for front and rear-lights, and then I'd be out of the AA and AAA business altogether. That appeals to me and seems to be more in the cycling aesthetic.



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