Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Power to Perform VS Packing my Fears

There are many different approaches to what to ride and what to pack. Being faster is assisted by being lighter and less encumbered but riding longer helps and having more light is better - especially when the going is sketchy.

'We pack our fears' is a term we Bike-Packers throw about and many of us know this to be true. If this is the case I guess I'm more fearful than most:-)

Ventana El Commandante Ultimate - Sporting 'Go Fast' Red Hubs

The advancement of LED lighting and the new range of light-weight, low rolling resistance dyno-hubs, USB charging setups and lithium ion/polymer batteries has made it possible to travel further, faster and lighter than ever before - with all the toys we could want or need fully charged along the way!

I run a Shutter Precision PD-8 dyno hub, K-Lites 1000lm light, Sinewave Revolution USB plug and Plox 6000mah lithium polymer battery for storage.

Shutter Precision PD-8
K-Lites 1000lm Headlight
Sinewave Revolution USB & Plox Box

For a detailed description of the more technical aspects of AC vs DC, amps/milliamps, lumens and other numbers I advise going direct to the sources of these components and engaging in a long and if you are of a mind for it - riveting ongoing discussion...

I will focus on what I've found works for me with what I have put together.

The hub turns and if the switch on the box I have installed on the right fork is turned to light - the light comes on. If it is turned to USB  (there are only two options on mine making it easy for my puny often fatigue addled brain to comprehend) the power is routed through my revo plug to the plox box. The plox lipo battery feeds energy to whatever I want to charge. This is a K-Lite setup. Kerry is an innovator. He is constantly working and re-working his systems. Newer setups now include switchable outputs for lighting (low and high) and constant charging plus lighting as an option. Definitely worth a look. Check K-Lites on Facebook for a great start point. (In my opinion - end point too:-) 

I run a Garmin 810. Some like them and some don't. It has pretty graphs of the upcoming terrain and I like these so I use it... It does not like it when charging stops so the cache battery keeps power going to it no matter what speed I'm doing. I did have a dodgy cable connection on day two or three of the divide and while removing the annoying nag screen, in aero on a speedy downhill I hit a pothole and was ejected from my trusty steed... This is hardly the fault of the Garmin or my charging setup - but it really hurt!

My light is the 1000lm version offered by Kerry of K-Lites. It produces heaps of light at reasonable speed and not quite enough at lower crawling speeds or when picking down really ugly descents. I supplement this with a Lezyne Infinite Light. At 4 or 500 lumens it makes up the shortfall on the front light at low speeds and is charged from USB during the day. Simple and quite inexpensive. I carried a spare battery on the Divide that I never actually required...

I had an HTC OneX that sucked power but covered all my communication needs. I like listening to podcasts and music too and my phone did all of that. Bit of a power sucker but I do like to pack my fears...

I also ran a bluetooth speaker and added an additional camera. Both of these items really were non-essential but they added little weight but gave back a lot on the trip. The speaker kept me entertained and warned large hairy creatures that I was coming. The camera was a late addition purchased in Banff. Waterproof and also chargeable on the bike I took many more photos because it was easy to access, the screen was easier to see in bright light, buttons and not touch screen worked with gloves on and didn't suck power like using my phone would have.

So how to keep it all going...

Number 1 - keep GPS going. I followed the TD line on my GPS and although I had maps and cues I almost exclusively just followed the line - and my nose... So - losing that would be very bad for me... I kept it plugged into the plox and topped up all day long. The second USB out on my plox would charge first the light, then the phone, speaker and camera.

I found that charging the plox back up over the morning then plugging in respective items through the day kept things humming. If the phone was low I avoided overdoing the music/podcasts. 

I did carry 2x small mains chargers. I bought them when I got there so I didn't need adapters for dodgy American wall plugs;-)  They were lightweight and I used them to topup items a couple of times but I don't think I really needed to. They were my backup in case things went wrong with my charging setup.

Plox box - 2.1amp output with pass-through charging

On the cache battery front... it is important to get one that doesn't require a switch to turn on. If it loses power it may require a re-start and you won't even know it's not charging out possibly leaving you with an essential item uncharged. Also ensure it has 'pass through technology' I'm not sure how this is accomplished - but many of the batteries will not charge out while they are being charged. To use one as a cache it is important to check that the battery will do it. I have also found this to be useful for those not using a dyno. The plox will pump 2.1amps out, has an included wired-in micro usb cable out and a USB out. That means when you are in a room with others competing for the one free wall plug you can plug in 2 items to charge out while the plox is being charged up.

At the end of the day you could keep things simple, run lights off batteries and carry only the simplest of phones for emergency (if at all). Of course you could also use only maps and a compass or commit everything to memory after multiple attempts (Mathew Lee) and just ride, ride ride. It's all good! Whatever works for you but me  - I'll pack my fears:-)


  1. Great write up Rob, impressive that your charging everything whilst on the go...looking forward to the Kiwi Brevet 2015 blue dot watching, will be cheering for you from Welly ;)

  2. Great write up Rob, thanks for sharing

  3. Very interesting. What type of camera did you buy?
    Thanks, Mirko

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  5. Hey guys - thank's for taking the time to have a look at my ramblings:-)
    Mirko - The camera I picked up in Banff at the last minute was a Fujifilm FinePix XP70. Proved a great choice as it was not particularly expensive, took great images, had a solid physical zoom and proved bombproof. The wifi connectability to my phone was awesome to. Can link to phone and send images out on wifi when you stop for a coffee:-) After the ride it got lots of use with the kids swimming and I now take it everywhere. It will be going with me on the Kiwi Brevet next month and back to the divide 2015.

  6. Nice set up. I wish I had run across your article sooner, it may have saved me a few steps since I bought and returned a few items before finally getting my set up finished.

    Please check out my blogpost basically covering some of the same issue with different gear using an SP 8D. In the end, I can ride at 7mph and charge my chase battery and phone simultaneously.

    Happy Riding!