Charging while cycling
November 28, 2007 6:07 PM   Subscribe

I'm going on a 10+ day bike ride and want to be able to use my fantastic Nokia 6110 (with built in GPS) and my ipod Nano as long as possible. I bought a cheap solar panel charger on ebay and have found that it's useless. What are the best solutions? So far under consideration are better solar, a spare battery for the phone and emergency chargers that can be recharged when I can get to mains power. The 'name brand' solar chargers around, the solio and the freeloader also have negative reviews. The Freeplay 12V looks cool, but has also got some pretty poor reviews (but at least it looks like it works). What would you recommend?
posted by sien to Technology (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I would think some kind of electrical battery exists that uses your bicycle tires / pedaling power to generate electricity. I have a light on my bike that is powered by rubbing against the wheel, it might slow you down a little bit but so what?!?!
posted by outsider at 6:34 PM on November 28, 2007

Are you handy? Could you possibly make a charger and hook it up to your bike so while you pedal it will charge?

On preview what outsider said.
posted by lilkeith07 at 6:38 PM on November 28, 2007

Response by poster: outsider : that setup is awesome, I couldn't make it myself however.
posted by sien at 6:52 PM on November 28, 2007


Boooo, do it yourself!
posted by TomMelee at 6:53 PM on November 28, 2007

Just asking: What kind of bike trip? You won't occasionally be eating at restaurants or visting areas where you could plug them in an empty wall socket for a while?
posted by artdrectr at 6:55 PM on November 28, 2007

Response by poster: Has anyone tried an emergency charger? ( or this hand cranked one )
posted by sien at 6:56 PM on November 28, 2007

Response by poster: Sometimes it's good to ride when riding outside. I won't do it all the time, but batteries are still an issue.

So, could that line of argument be left there.
posted by sien at 6:58 PM on November 28, 2007

Seems like getting an emergency charger (powered by AA or AAA batteries) would be easiest here. Although you'd probably be lugging around a good deal of weight for that, but maybe no more than for the solutions mentioned above.
posted by dondiego87 at 7:18 PM on November 28, 2007

I have a Life+Gear 6-in-1 PSD at home for when the power goes out, or to take on trips. It'll provide enough charge for an emergency call. It's not enough to power your stuff for regular use, but couldn't hurt to have something similar along. Life+Gear seems to be pretty US-centric, but I would imagine similar products could be found, especially at a sporting-goods shop. I bought mine here in the states at Wal-Mart for about half what the company charges direct, and have used it a few times on my little Kyocera phone just to see how well it works. With 5 minutes or so cranking I get enough juice for an hour or so standby, or about 5-10 minutes talk.

Not an answer to the larger question, just a suggestion for something to pack along as an extra.

There's always Voltaic bags, or PowerFilm foldable/rollable chargers. I know Joel over at BoingBoing Gadgets isa voltaic fan...
posted by pupdog at 8:40 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: Shoot, goofed the link for the Life+Gear
posted by pupdog at 8:41 PM on November 28, 2007

I made assembled one of these from the kit, and it works fantastically. i have an ipod video, and it adds several hours to it's life...i can only imagine what it'll do to a nano.

It's not like AA batteries are expensive, or heavy.

The kit is super, super easy to put together, and it's a wonderful beginner DIY electronics project.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:09 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: A generator that does not drag. 6v, 3w - With a little voltage manipulation, you should be set - Just be careful about overvoltage: they can really pump on downhills - A ++ system would have a few NiCds in it to absorb the overvoltage.
posted by Orb2069 at 9:53 PM on November 28, 2007

Best answer: Despite the similarity in the names, Freeplay's relatively new "FreeCharge 12V" is not the same product as the earlier "FreeCharge" that was distributed by Motorola. So the review that you linked to does not apply. (Also, the review was not all that negative, so the "0.0" I see there cannot be correct -- perhaps the 2002 review is so old that the data format has changed and the current site cannot access the old data.)

The earlier product contained a battery (increasing its weight) while the new one pumps your cranking power straight into your phone or iPod.
posted by felicopter at 10:32 PM on November 28, 2007

Response by poster: Orb2069: That is fantastic, I'll talk to some EE mates about how easy that would be to hook up.

felicopter: sharp eyes and good points about that setup.

Thanks to everyone thus far for their answers, heaps of good ideas.
posted by sien at 10:50 PM on November 28, 2007

I haven't tried it, but the Brunton SolarRoll looks interesting.
posted by pgoes at 10:56 PM on November 28, 2007

I was going to suggest one of those old fashioned rim-rubbing generators for head lights. It sits on its own spring loaded lockable bracket that enables you to flick it on-to and off-of the rim when you need power and can afford the slight drag it will give you. They are very small and light.

But, Orb2069 came up with a more up-to-date version that definitely seems superior! If you dont want to mess with voltage manipulation, get one for both hubs and have full 12V. Not sure if it will work with the gear cassette in the back though.

The only downside I see if that you can't shut it off like you can with the flick one. But, I'm sure if you remove the load the generator won't drag much if it all.

I might just get one for my bike...
posted by Ryaske at 7:24 AM on November 29, 2007

just a thought, because i have no idea how this would be implemented, but you're going to be riding a bike for ten days straight. that's alot of energy being put into the endeavour.

when i was younger we had this little light on my bike that hooked up to a turbine that was driven by clamping it next to the wheel so the wheel spun it.

there's got to be some modern-day rig or perhaps some creative engineering using older stuff that would allow you to do the same thing to generate power enough to charge your devices.
posted by phredgreen at 7:30 AM on November 29, 2007

gah! the one time i don't preview...
posted by phredgreen at 7:30 AM on November 29, 2007

Best answer: I bought an Energizer AA charger (flash site) for my phone. Tried it, briefly, just to see if it worked. It did. But I haven't "acid tested" it (phone battery completely dead, charge, see how long I can use).

I saw a hand-cranked cell phone charger somewhere, but can't find it. I thought it was one recommended by Doug Ritter at But a quick search there showed nothing.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 10:36 AM on November 29, 2007

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers. I think I'll try a backup light power with AA or AAAs and a hub dynamo.

I'll put what I do and how it goes in here later.

artdrectr: I don't really know if I'll have much access to power points. The trip is around Tasmania and I'm hoping that I'll be able to camp at free places that won't have electricity as much as possible.
posted by sien at 12:55 PM on November 29, 2007

BTW, here's the crank charger.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 6:20 AM on November 30, 2007

Response by poster: In the end I went with spare batteries for the camera and chargers for everything else.

One thing that I'd missed was that Tasmania only has Telstra (an Australian phone company) for reception. Everything else there doesn't work, so my phone was pretty much useless. I did use the GPS on a few occasions. But on a bike in the countryside once you know where you are you don't need the GPS as the next turn won't be for a while.

I ordered a crank charger / flashlight thing that didn't arrive until I'd left on ebay.

The trip was great.
posted by sien at 8:04 PM on January 13, 2008

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