Sunday, 22 May 2011

Cycling Hazard

I suppose it was the combination of my incredible speed and stealth which made me a hazard to this poor fella. I hope he wasn't too frightened and got home safely. Glad he wasn't driving though!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Cycling At The Airport

In case you haven't seen it, here is one inventive way to get your bike on to a plane. Hope they were OK checking in thier luggage!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Pedal Power!

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.

PedalPower+ attached to head tube of a Santos Travelmaster
Super-i-Cable attached to head tube and DC cable going to bar bag
PedalPower+ cable going to GPS unit
Super-i-Cable attached to GPS unit in bar bag
Super-i-Cable attached to head tube

Super-i-Cable AC wire and SON hub
AC cable attached to SON hub. Curved black end is moulded Sugru

Friday, 13 May 2011

Ride Of His Life

Great cycling programme on BBC FOUR last night - Ride of My Life: The Story of the Bicycle. If you missed it I would recommend a look on BBC iPlayer before it disappears on 19 May 2011.

Auntie says: "Author Rob Penn travels around the world collecting hand-built parts for his dream bicycle and charts the social history of one of mankind's greatest inventions". 

Charming, interesting and geeky all in one! What's not to like?

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Wheely Good News

A visit to the local bike shop with the 'split' rim has confirmed it is nothing to worry about. Trevor at the LBS told me he often gets new rims with bigger pieces missing at the join. It doesn't cause any weakness and is nothing to worry about he says. Nice to get some honest advice. I hope he is right.

I have to wonder why I never noticed it from new though and if it  happened at some point over the last 12 months might it not just get worse? Anyway, I have decided to keep using it and monitor closely for the time being. If it gets bigger I will replace it. I just hope it doesn't fail on my weeks holiday in Wales!

Monday, 2 May 2011

The Good And The Bad

Update 03/05/11

Been informed on a cycle forum the split isn't a split with the suggestion it may not be that serious:
 "That isn't a split as such. It's a piece that's broken away where the ends are butted together to form a hoop."
And then by someone else:
"The spokes are compressing the rim and squeezing the 2 sides of the gap together, so it's not going to come apart or anything. Probably the most likely problem would be chafing of the tyre sidewall, and I doubt the gap is big enough for that to be a real problem. Rims have only been welded over the last 12-13 years or so. Before that, all rims joints were just pinned or sleeved in the box section cavity, with the flanges just butting together. Some still are."
So what do I do? Leave it and monitor? Replace it just to be sure?

Some wheel issues the last few weeks. One pretty good and one not so good.

I decided to get a SON dynamo hub for the front wheel. For two reasons really, 1) I can run a really nice bright LED light for my autumn/winter commute, which is just what you need in April onwards! and, 2) because I can recharge my electrical gizmos (phone, GPS, bulletcam, etc) on the go when I am cycle-camping.
A SON 28 dynohub

 I contacted MrC who was going to do the wheel build for me and then sourced the hub and rim I wanted. I was given a competive price for the components at Spa Cycles in Harrogate but they gave me an even better price for the lot if I got the wheel built by them. The guy on the phone said it was a discount offer they were doing and "...did I want it or not?" So on the spur of the moment I ordered a complete built wheel and it was delivered within a week. Very happy with it except for one thing - they overcharged me. 

The owner/manager denied any knowledge of the "discount offer". He was a gruff and rude and basically told me to send it back if I wasn't happy. Not the best customer service in the World but that is what i've heard about Spa Cycles on the forums so not really surprised. It's still a good price but I don't like being quoted one and then charged another and really don't like being made out to be mistaken or maybe even telling fibs (I clarified the discount offer price twice when I was given it). I doubt very much i'll be using them for anything again. Should have stuck with MrC as he was even going to demonstrate the dark art itself over a beer!

Well that was actually the good thing. The not so good thing was I noticed a small split in the rear rim when I was changing the brake pads. As the wheel is true, the spokes are all tight and there is no rim bulging I thought at first it might just be cosmetic but having cleaned the rim off and deflated the tyre I can see it is full thickness and follows a join. So that is another new rim needed and a rebuild with the Rohloff hub. Aaahhh!!

A split on a 26" Rigida Andra 30 32h rim with Rohloff hub
Who says cycling is cheap? Anyone interested in making me an offer for a used 26" Rigida Sputnik 36h touring front rim with just some normal brake wear built on a Shimano XT hub all with less than 3000 miles on it?