To go with my new SON hub I need to get a super dooper front light. I intend to go for a Schmidt Edelux in black. Here is a video someone shot cycling with this light and if that is not enough to impress you I don't know what will. I think it looks great; there are no batteries to change/recharge, it's always on the bike and ready to go, it's got German build quality (same maker as the hub) and it has mega lumens! However, there is a slight fly in the ointment. As the new hub and wheel has set me back a tidy sum and I have no real need of the light until autumn I will be waiting until until September to purchase it. I do have another use for the hub in the meantime though - gizmo recharging while touring.
Anyone who just likes cycling as a simple pleasure, an escape from the hurly burly of busy life might wish to stop reading now as I intend to talk about GPS units, mobile phones, digital cameras, bullet cams and netbooks and keeping them charged while cycling and camping. If however you like this kind of thing then stick with me while I review the PedalPower+ (PP+) Super-i-Cable (SIC) I took delivery of last week.
Most hub dynamos produce AC current. I think most or all electronic gizmos need DC current to recharge. Something has to convert the fluctuating raw power to a friendlier steady version at the right voltage. There are a number of cycling related gadgets that do this. The main three are the: Busch and Muller eWerk, the Dahon/Biologic ReeCharge and the PedalPower+ range of cables and batteries. I opted for a PP+ SIC because it provided what I wanted at the price I was willing to fork out. The other two units I thought were better in some regards but I either didn't need what was being offered (variable voltage on the eWerk) or I could overcome the shortfalls of the SIC (limited mounting options).
The SIC is new product from PedalPower+ and essentially is a current converter that includes a rechargeable 2200mAh cache battery. The eWerk does not include a battery but offers one as an additional extra at a significant cost while the ReeCharge battery is rated at 1600mAh only. The use of a battery in the circuit is not essential for charging on the go but is useful for some items that get a bit touchy if the current stops. Using a battery means an item can carry on taking power even if you stop for a while (assuming the battery has some juice of course). It is also possible to charge the battery from the mains or a USB connection as well as an AC hub. So it can be used as charging unit in the pub/cafe plugged into a handy mains outlet or you can just charge the battery by whatever means and then recharge a gizmo in the comfort/security of your tent.
The electronic items I take touring are: a SatMap Active10 GPS, a Contour HD bullet cam, a mobile phone (a SonyEricsson at present but soon a smartphone ?model), a Nikon D5000 dSLR, a cheap battery radio and perhaps a little netbook. The dSLR has a great battery life and can go for 2-4 days of shooting stills/video before needing recharging. It requires more than the 5V the SIC battery will provide so I will have to use mains for this. Not a problem or concern as the battery charges very quickly (courtesy of the higher voltage) and I can easily keep this topped up using pub/cafe stops. A radio will give me a weeks worth of life on a couple of NiMh batteries and can run on alkalines if I need to buy any. I haven't toured with a netbook before and not sure I will yet. If I do it will be for updating the blog and storing and editing photos/video. I would be doing this mainly from the comfort of a cafe with a large coffee, free WiFi and mains access too (I have never been refused access to a mains outlet when I am buying something to eat/drink).
The GPS and bullet cam are the power hungry things I need to charge everyday. The GPS can run on alkaline or rechargeable batteries but requires three new ones every day using it conservatively and I don't like using disposable batteries if I can avoid it. The bullet cam runs for 2 hrs which is enough for a days filming but uses a propietary rechargeble battery only. The phone needs charging every 3-4 days at home but when touring needs a charge every second day. When I get a smartphone I would probably need to charge it daily. So I plan to use the SIC to keep the GPS topped up during the day and use the cache battery to charge the bullet cam and/or phone in the evening.
The SIC unit comes in a simple box and, for UK customers, is sent from Germany. It is nicely finished with the one on/off button and LED lights on the front and an adequate little leaflet. The hub/AC cable is permanently attached underneath and from the top comes the DC cable to attach to your chosen gizmo. Included are a large number of attachable generic jacks, USB and propietary connectors for a range of items plus a cable with a bare end you could attach your own connector to. I was disappointed with the mounting option/s which sees a piddly little handlbar mount and some corresponing rails on the rear of the unit. The eWerk and ReeCharge are much better designed in this regard and also have detachable cables making it very quick and easy to remove these units while leaving the cabling in place.
I knew I would not be using this option as my bars are as busy as I want them to be and it is just too exposed to being knocked off IMHO. Instead I moulded some Sugru over the rails on the rear of the unit and shaped this to the head tube where I can then strap it. From this position the DC connector cable comes up very nicely to my bar bag where I keep the GPS and phone amongst other things and it is also out of harms way. I shortened the AC cable and crimped some new connectors on. As I will need to disconnect these from the hub everytime I remove the SIC, I also applied some Sugru to the crimped connectors making them extra secure, water resistant and the whole end section more ergononic to handle. I wind this cable around the fork once and secure with a velcro strap top and bottom. All very quick and easy.
I have only had a couple of small journeys with it so far but it is working very well. From a fitting aspect it is very secure and does not foul any other cabling. From a weather aspect it looks well sealed but in heavy rain I would detach it from the head tube and put it and any attached gizmo into my front pannier where it can continue to charge. From a charging aspect I can keep the GPS running in high power mode (i.e. screen on all the time and updating every second rather than every four seconds) even with a flat internal battery and flat cache battery. If I use the low power mode I can begin to charge the GPS internal battery as well. I need a longer trip to really test the effectiveness of the charging and so this will have to wait till 29-30 May when I have a little 2 day excursion planned. I will post some more details again after that. Any questions in the meantime feel free to ask.
|Super-i-Cable attached to head tube and DC cable going to bar bag|
|Super-i-Cable attached to GPS unit in bar bag|
|Super-i-Cable attached to head tube|