Packing a Tern Verge S27h Folding Bicycle into a Suitcase

I like to have a bicycle wherever I travel. And my recent five-day conference trip to Mexico was no exception.

Tern Verge S27h in Mexico (San Cristobal de las Casas)

And with many airlines offering free carriage of bicycles as sports equipment, often there’s no need to pack them into a box. Just put them into a bag of some description (either padded or not), and check them in. So long as the final package doesn’t exceed the weight limit (often 23kg for international flights), you’re good to go. Airlines I’ve flown recently that accept bicycles as free sports equipment include Air New Zealand, ANA (Japan), Austrian Airways (pre-registration required), Lufthansa (pre-registration reguired), and Air China.

Some airlines, however, still charge exorbitantly for bicycles that exceed the regulation size (157 linear cm for most flights). Some recent airlines I’ve flown recently include United Airlines and Aero Mexico. For airlines like this, you’ll either have to pay up to US$200 one-way for the bike, or try to fit the bike into a regulation-sized package.

This is where a small-wheeled folding bike comes into it’s own. Even a long-wheelbase, touring-oriented Tern Verge S27h folding bike (see my review here) fits into a regulation suitcase in less than 30 minutes. You can have your cake and eat it too.

Tern Verge S27h folding bicycle in an airline regulation size suitcase

Fitting a folding bike into a suitcase for the first time, however, is sort of like doing a jigsaw puzzle. So here, I’ve outlined how I managed to fit Tern Bicycle’s flagship touring folder into a cheap, very run-of-the-mill suitcase.

Suitcase size

Mine was a 75cm x 31cm x 50cm semi-rigid suitcase. To be honest, the size was less than ideal. A few extra centimeters in width would have been helpful. Being a semi-rigid case, however, I was able to force the case to accept the bike. The suitcase weighed 4kg when empty. Other options for suitcases include Tern’s Airporter, but the total linear dimensions of that case are 192cm, and this makes me reluctant to use it. It would only take one over-zealous check-in staff member to cost you US$200. That said, the Airporter option is super attractive, as there is much less disassembly required. Bike Friday also produces an awesome suitcase-tralier option which would allow me to ride away from the airport (I love being able to do this after a long flight), rather than having to lug the heavy suitcase to accommodation. The wheels etc add weight to the entire package though.

Total package weight

Including the suitcase, padding (tarp, cardboard, and foam pipe insulation), bike (Shimano Alfine 11-speed internal gear hub equipped) with no rear rack, tools, pedals, and locks, the total weight was 23.3kg. Add the collapsable Tern Cargo rack, and you’re probably looking at something around the 24kg mark. Remove the locks and add them to carry-on baggage, and you’ll be within the 23kg limit.

Packing

Step One - Remove the rear wheel, front wheel, mudguards, front and rear racks, kick-stand, seatpost, seat, handlebars, stem, and front forks. Collapse the Tern Cargo rack. Deflate the tires to reduce the diameter of the wheels; the Schwalbe Big Apple 2.15 tires are big! With a slightly wider and deeper suitcase, I think I would not have needed to remove the saddle from the seatpost, nor the handlebars from the stem, nor deflate the tires. If you’re using the standard (and in my opinion sub-optimal) DualDrive setup, you’ll need to remove the rear derailleur also. To avoid the rear triangle being crushed, make sure to insert a pipe secured by a quick-release or something similar. My pipe is made from cheap PVC tubing cut to the right length.

Tern Verge S27h folding bicycle in an airline regulation size suitcase

 Step Two Place the saddle, padded seatpost and stem, and Spartan rack on the outer bottom of the suitcase. Next place the rear wheel on the bottom right-hand-side of the suitcase, with mudguards around the tire. It is highly recommended to remove the disk brake rotors, to avoid them getting bent. To protect the bottom of the suitcase, a plastic axle disk is recommended.

Tern Verge S27h folding bicycle in an airline regulation size suitcase

Step Three - Fold the tarp over this layer. Place the handlebars at the top. Place the folded main frame into the suitcase top-tube down, with the rear triangle at the left bottom. Slide a piece of cardboard between the top tube and handlebars to protect against rubbing. The forks can now be slid into the rear triangle. Make sure to pad all metal-on-metal contact points with cardboard or foam. In particular take care to pad the area where the axle on the rear axle protrudes; I missed this point on my first try and ended up with some serious gouging on the seat tube.

Tern Verge S27h folding bicycle in an airline regulation size suitcase

Step Four - Fold the tarp over this second layer, and lay the front wheel down. Once again, better to remove the disk brake rotor to avoid it getting bent. Make sure there’s a generous layer of cardboard or other padding between the bottom of the wheel and top of the wheel.

Tern Verge S27h folding bicycle in an airline regulation size suitcase

Step Five – Cram that suitcase closed, and use a suitcase strap to reduce load on the zippers, and to keep everything in place.

Tern Verge S27h in a suitcase

Step Six - Fly to your destination store that suitcase somewhere, and go for a rice (in my case this was southern Mexico).

Tern Verge S27h in Mexico (San Cristobal de las Casas)

Summer Solstice Overnight Cycle Trip to Lake Shikotsu (Hokkaido, Japan)

Sometimes the stars align and your younger brother you’ve not seen in a year comes to Japan for the weekend. When that weekend is the summer solstice, there’s only one way to celebrate: get him on a bike and take him to one of the most pristine lakes in Hokkaido for a camp-out.

Morappu Campground, Hokkaido, Japan (Lake Shikotsu)

Chris didn’t travel all the way from New Zealand just for a weekend in Hokkaido (although that certainly would not have been a waste of time). He happened to be in China the week before, and had a stop off in Tokyo on his way back to New Zealand. He made the 1.5 hour flight from Tokyo to Sapporo on a Friday night, and we had a full two days to explore.

We are fortunate to live in Chitose City, only 25km from Lake Shikotsu. Lake Shikotsu is a caldera lake, and is one of Hokkaido’s deepest lakes. Best of all, there is a perfectly paved cycle path all the way from central Chitose to the lake, winding its way through cool forest. We packed up some camping gear on Saturday morning, and were out the door by 11am.

Tern Verge S27h (Chitose City, Japan)

We put Chris on my Tern Verge S27h folding touring bike. His first reaction upon riding it before we set off was that “it looks like a kid’s bike, but it doesn’t ride like one!” That pretty much sums up the Tern Verge S27h. Looks are deceiving.

That said, I think for him (height: 183cm), the stock 6° handlepost (350mm length) would be better replaced by the 12° version (http://premiumbikegear.com/product/tern-physis-3d-t-bar-handlepost/). For me, the 6° version provides acceptable effective top-tube length, although perhaps a little longer would replicate the cockpit feel of my bigger bike (a Surly Karate Monkey, converted for touring).

Tern Verge S27h (Chitose City, Japan)

That said, any intricacies in geometry were largely lost on Chris as he well and truly put the bike through its paces. On road…

Tern Verge S27h (Chitose City, Japan)

And off-road…

Tern Verge S27h (Chitose City, Japan)

The Chitose-Lake Shikotsu cycle road is a completely separated cycleway, which I have written about previously (http://14degrees.org/lake-shikotsu-to-chitose-cycling-road-cycle-path-in-hokkaido/). This was the first time we had taken the trip on from the Chitose City end. The previous few times we were going the other way, downhill to Chitose. While the other direction – from Chitose to Lake Shikotsu – is a climb all the way, the gradient is always very gentle.

Tern Verge S27h (Chitose City, Japan)

We arrived at Lake Shikotsu at around 3:30pm, whereby we went straight to the Kyuka-no-mura hot spring for a soak. It was my first time to share a Japanese hotspring experience with my brother. It was mildly weird.

Hotspring formalities over, we tracked down a feed of local kokanee (sockeye) salmon, and made it to Morappu Campground on the southeastern side of Lake Shikotsu just as the sun was setting. I went for a swim. It was properly cold.

We were taken aback at how many campers were there. On all our other trips (either later or earlier in the season) we’ve often been the only ones camping. Tonight, it was like tent city. Like most Japanese campsites, however, the mobs were subdued and orderly.

Morappu Campground, Hokkaido, Japan (Lake Shikotsu)

Day broke the next morning (at just before 4am) clear and warm. Most campers were rousing themselves at around 6am. By 6:30am, the tent city was positively heaving with activity. Barbeques were being stoked, kayaks paddled, and children encouraged to explore the shoreline.

Morappu Campground, Hokkaido, Japan (Lake Shikotsu)

We had managed to put our tents up in a clear space towards the northern end of the campground.

Morappu Campground, Hokkaido, Japan (Lake Shikotsu)

We didn’t get away until just after 10am…it was just too idyllic.

There was only one other cycle tourist at the campground that we knew of. And it happened to be Kumiko, someone I’ve met by chance on two other occasions while either attending bicycle-related events or cycle touring. Kumiko has only ever owned one bicycle in her life, and that is the Surly Pugsley she is riding now. When I asked her what it was like to cycle on pavement with the bike, she explained that she’s not got anything to compare it to, so it feels just fine. The frame bag and other packs attached to the bike are all home made.

Kumiko and her awesome XS sized Surly Pugsley with self-made custom bike packs (Lake Shikotsu, Hokkaido, Japan)

Once were were on the road again, it was straight to one of my favorite rides in the Chitose region: the Kita Go-Jo rindo. This delightful slither of very rough gravel road runs through beautiful forest all the way to Chitose City proper, and towards the end runs parallel to a beautiful little creek.

The perfect place to see if the 20-inch wheeled folding bike can take a beating.

Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle (Chitose City, Japan)

The conditions of this road should not be under-stated. On my 29er Karate Monkey, with 50mm wide rims and 60mm wide tires, I’ve come away snake-bite punctures on the jagged blocky gravel. Such is life when you want to have the least amount of tire pressure in order to smooth out the bumps, but not too little pressure that the tire ‘bottoms out’ and pinches the tube between the tire and rim.

Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle (Chitose City, Japan)

The Tern Verge S27h with its 2.15-inch (55mm) wide tires performs really well even on these rocks. “The best strategy is just to go really fast,” said Chris as he careened past me. I couldn’t agree more.

Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle (Chitose City, Japan)

Not to be one to be outdone, however, I cranked past him in order to get some distance in front of him so I might get a photo of him coming towards me. I gained around 100m on him, rounded a corner, and dropped my bike and waited.

And waited.

When he did finally appear around the corner, however, he was pushing the bike. The pressure in the tires was a little too low, it seemed, and he’d ended up with a snakebite puncture.

Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle (Chitose City, Japan)

Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle (Chitose City, Japan)

We managed to fix the puncture(s) fairly quickly, without the need to remove the back wheel. It all made me wonder if it would be at all possible to run the 20-inch Big Apples tubeless…

Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle (Chitose City, Japan)

Puncture sorted, we were on the road again.

Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle (Chitose City, Japan)

Milking every last drop of speed.

Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle (Chitose City, Japan)

And we were soon (all too soon) back on pavement.

Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle (Chitose City, Japan)

All in all a fantastic way to spend a weekend, happy that Hokkaido had put on some awesome weather in one of our favorite locations in Japan.

——-

As mentioned earlier, Chris was on my Tern Verge S27h (see my gravel road review here). The bike is set up with an 11-speed Shimano Alfine hub (42-tooth chainring with 21-tooth cog on the hub), which replaces the stock Sram Dual Drive transmission. The rear wheel is built up with the Alfine hub and a Velocity Aeroheat rim. A Hebie Chainglider provides full coverage of the chain, with very little added friction. On the front of the bike is the Luggage Truss, to which an Ortlieb Handlebar bag is attached. The panniers are some cheap second hand ones that drape over the rear carrier. The saddle is a Selle Anatomica leather saddle. And yes, the kickstand is broken. I managed to land on it when jumping off a curb, which snapped it in half :-(

Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle (Chitose City, Japan)

Longboard Portugal

Bustin Longboards sent me a heads up about their Longboard Portugal series. I’m not up with the play on the specifics, but I’m a serious sucker for far away places and old cities; two things this unfolding series delivers on. Makes me want to go to Portugal even more.

Looks like Bustin has a push-specific board these days too: the Nomad Pusher. Looks nice on my computer screen :-)

Full Portugal series here: http://www.bustinboards.com/longboard-portugal

Episode 1 below

Traveling with a Tern folding bike on the train in Japan

In Japan, traveling on the train with a bicycle is both a blessing and a curse. These are the pros and cons, as I see them.

Pros

  • You don’t pay extra for taking a bike on the train in Japan. Even on the mighty shinkansen bullet trains. Nada.
  • You can take a bike on any train at any time on any carriage.

Cons

  • You have to partially dismantle the bike. That is, at the very least, remove the front wheel. If your bike is of the folding variety, you’re off the hook – no dismantling required.
  • The bike must be completely covered with a bike bag (or wrapped in something such as a 500 yen large blue tarpaulin).
  • There are no ‘bicycle areas’ on the trains. This means that if your bike doesn’t fold down small, you may need to stay with your bike and move it when people want to move between carriages etc.

Long story short, if you own a small-wheeled folding bike, traveling on a train in Japan can be extremely straight forward. Here’s how the intrepid Virgina Toy from New Zealand managed it when she visited Sapporo on a whirling academic research visit to Sapporo in northern Japan. I stood back and snapped pictures as she got the bike ready for the train.

Step 1 – Pack your panniers into a lightweight fold-up sack, and attach this to your fold-up trolley. You do have a lightweight fold-up trolley, right? Virginia bought this one for $15 at an electronics store in Sapporo.

Packing up a Tern folding bicycle for train travel in Sapporo station, Japan

Packing up a Tern folding bicycle for train travel in Sapporo station, Japan

Step 2 – Panniers snugly ensconced in their bag and trolley, time to sort out the bike. Prepare the bike bag.

Packing up a Tern folding bicycle for train travel in Sapporo station, Japan

Step 3 – Fold the bike. Virginia travels extensively around the world on academic conference trips and the likes with her Tern Link P24h. The ‘N-fold’ is very simple, and best of all, the bike stays standing upright once folded.

Packing up a Tern folding bicycle for train travel in Sapporo station, Japan

Step 4 – Get that bike in the bag. Virginia’s bike bag is a Tern padded ‘Stow Bag’ made of extra heavy duty fabric and has some degree of padding. She puts the bike on planes just with this bag and the bike seems to have survived multiple inter-continental flights.

Packing up a Tern folding bicycle for train travel in Sapporo station, Japan

Step 5 – Shoulder the bike-in-the-bag, grab the trolley, and head to the ticket dispenser, parting the crowds like Moses and the Red Sea.

Packing up a Tern folding bicycle for train travel in Sapporo station, Japan

Step 6 – Buy the ticket.

Packing up a Tern folding bicycle for train travel in Sapporo station, Japan

Step 7 – Squeeze through the gates and look for an elevator up to the platform. TOP TIP: Trains stop at pre-determined locations on Japanese platforms; find the end or front of the train that you’re fixing to board – end or front carriages usually have less people in them, and less thoroughfare. You’ll spend less time stressing about whether your bike is getting in someone’s way. Also, use the handrails etc to secure the bike from falling over…then just enjoy the ride.

Packing up a Tern folding bicycle for train travel in Sapporo station, Japan

Tern Verge S27h folding touring bicycle – A gravel-road-touring review

I took Tern’s dedicated cycle touring 20-inch folding bike, the Verge S27h, on one of New Zealand’s more challenging back-country gravel road routes this past week – the Molesworth Muster Trail. The plan was to see some of New Zealand’s spectacular remote scenery, and also put the bike through its paces – can a 20-inch folder (and its rider) handle the rigors of almost 200km of corrugated gravel and 3,300m of vertical climbing over four days?

After four days’ riding, here’s my summary:

Overall – Considering the ease with which the folding form factor allows me to transport this bike, the Tern Verge S27h is a fantastic bike for short-notice, on-a-whim cycle touring – including gravel roads.

Pros

  • The ease with which the bike can be folded and taken on public transport (airplane, bus etc.) cannot be overstated.
  • Super solid-feeling bike, even over rough gravel roads – the fat tires are superb. For a 20-inch wheeled bike, this thing eats up rough terrain.
  • The long wheelbase is awesome – the bike yearns to travel in an effortless straight line.
  • Loaded up with heavy panniers, the bike shines – so stable.
  • The cargo rack is superb – the low pannier rails are great.
  • The seat post pump was very handy.
  • Those BB7 disk brakes – so reliable and powerful.

Cons

  • For gravel road cycling, this bike will never compare to a big-wheeled expedition bike.
    • More care is required in picking one’s line through the rough stuff.
    • On the gravel roads, I felt bumps more than I would have on my 29er touring bike.
    • Softer wet patches felt slower than they would have on a larger-wheeled bike.
  • On the morning of the second day of riding, I did a check of all the bolts on the bike. A disturbingly large number of them were loose, including the brake adapter bolts! This is clearly a factory issue, so make sure you check and tighten all bolts before heading off.
  • No bottle-cage mounts(?!). Seriously, there is nowhere on this bike to directly screw a bottle cage onto the frame. For a dedicated tourer, this is very curious! (UPDATE 2015/5/27: Thomas, the designer of the S27h from Velowerks, was kind enough to give his opinion about this on my previous post here; his reasoning sounds perfectly sound…looks like I need to find a bottle cage adapter).

The Tern Verge S27h 20-inch wheeled folding bike on the Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

The bike

Developed in collaboration with Velowerk in Switzerland, the bike is Tern’s dedicated folding touring bike, the Verge S27h. It is built from the ground up to be a solid, versatile bike: front and rear racks, eccentric bottom bracket (allows for hub gears without chain tensioners), Avid BB7 mechanical disk brakes, wide (2.15 inch) tires, dynamo hub lighting, and a long wheelbase. The bike’s catalogue weight is 16.4kg – this is no lightweight.

Gears/drivetrain

In the gearing department, the bike came equipped with a Sram DualDrive system. This consists of a three-speed internal gear hub on the rear wheel, to which a 9-speed cassette is attached. That gives you 27 gears without a front derailleur. I really can’t be bothered with the maintenance associated with external gears (we live in northern Japan with 4 months of snow a year), so I had a new rear wheel built up using a Shimano Alfine 11-speed hub (I used a Velocity Aeroheat rim for the new wheel). Using an internal gear hub on the Verge S27h is a no-brainer; install, adjust the chain tension using the eccentric bottom bracket, and you’re set.

Alfine inter-11 internal gear hub on the Tern Verge S27h folding bike (near Blenheim, New Zealand)

I’m also a fan of the Hebie Chainglider – a fully enclosed floating chainguard that keeps dust, mud, grit, and splashes of water away from the chain. The fully enclosed version only works with a single chainring at the front and a single cog at the back. That is, only if you’re running single speed or an internal gear hub. At present I have a 21-tooth cog on the back wheel, and a 42-tooth chainring. With the Alfine 11-speed hub, this gives me a gear range of approximately 19.7 to 80.4 gear inches. The original gear range on the bike, using the 46-tooth front chainring, SRAM 11-32 cassette and SRAM DualDrive hub, was 22 to 117 inches (link saved to PDF here).

Long story short, with the Alfine hub I have around the same ‘easy’ gear as the standard DualDrive setup, but have lost a little bit of the ‘harder’ gears (which I never use much anyway).

Hebie Chainglider on the Tern Verge S27h folding bike

The Molesworth Muster Trail

The Molesworth Muster Trail is part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail. This spectacular part of the trail starts in Blenheim at the top of the South Island and ends in Hanmer, the quaint little hot spa town in northern Canterbury. The total length of the trail is 207km, and is classified as a four out of a five point difficulty scale – the trail is almost exclusively on gravel roads, and consists of around 3,300m of vertical climbing.

The route is remote – after leaving either Blenheim or Seddon, there are zero shops for 200km. The route runs through Molesworth Station; New Zealand’s largest operating farm. Water must be either carried or filtered/treated from rivers along the way. The roads are hard-packed gravel, but suffer from washboarding/corrugations for much of the route. And the climbs…oh the climbs. They are steep. While not as long, they are easily as steep as many I’ve cycled in Central Asia. Two basic campsites run by the Department of Conservation (DOC) are available for NZ$6 a night, as well as one free campsite at Heddon Bridge. Wild camping is not allowed anywhere within Molesworth Station. Furthermore, the road is only open to the general public without a permit between December and April. The road can be closed during this time, however. Indeed, it was closed to automobiles on this occasion due to high fire risk.

I started the ride in Picton after arriving from Wellington on the InterIslander ferry, so my route was this one, below.

Day One - Picton to Redwood Pass – 40km (Saturday 21st Feb, 2015)

My first day of this trip actually started in Sapporo City, in northern Japan. I live in Sapporo, and was heading to New Zealand to visit family. What better opportunity to throw the folding bike on the plane and hit the New Zealand back-country for a bit. I flew Air New Zealand, so there was no extra charge for the bike. I boxed the bike up, but in hindsight just a heavy duty clear plastic bag would have been less hassle.

Flying with the Tern Verge S27h folding tourer (Sapporo, Japan)

A few transfers and around 20 hours later, I was in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, arriving at 9:30am on Saturday morning. My wife Haidee was already in Wellington (there doing some home-based work on her PhD), and so we spent a meandering several hours cycling from the airport to the InterIslander ferry terminal, where I would head from Wellington to Picton, across the Cook Strait to the South Island.

Nice weather for the InterIslander Ferry, New Zealand

Bicycles on the InterIslander Ferry, New Zealand

In the end I arrived in Picton at 5:30pm on Saturday and promptly started heading south towards the beginning of the Molesworth Muster Trail, dropping by a supermarket in Picton on the way. Dusk on day one would see me wild camping on the Redwood Pass back-road half way between Blenheim and Seddon. I found out the hard way that the fence I pitched my tent next to was electric!

Stealth camping near Blenheim, New Zealand

Day Two - Redwood Pass to Heddon Bridge – 80km (Sunday 22nd Feb, 2015)

I had a stiff tailwind from Picton to my campsite yesterday, but this morning I woke to a stiff southerly wind; not a great start to the day considering I had to travel south-west for the entire day.

I woke just on daybreak, and was on the road by 6:30am. I forewent breakfast, planning on cycling an hour or so before stopping for food. The day started with a stiff climb up Redwood pass. While it was only 200m in height, the road was loose gravel at times and steep; this would be the first test of the Tern Verge S27h on a steep gravel climb, and later a fast downhill.

Tern Verge S27h on gravel road Redwood Pass (near Blenheim, New Zealand)

The previous day I had bought a big loaf of wholemeal sourdough bread, Parmesan cheese, Dutch salami, and some fresh vegetables, so I stopped about an hour into the climb to make a sandwich. Only one car had passed in the entire 2 hours I was on the road. The silence, only broken by gentle birdsong, was exquisite.

It wasn’t long after breakfast that I hit the top of the pass, and hurtled down towards the sleepy little town of Seddon, where I would spend a few hours at the local Backpacker’s using their WIFI to send some urgent documents to my research collaborators. The Verge handled the gravel downhill OK. Not as fun as a 29er, but not entirely kill-joy-esque. The relatively fat 2.15 Schwalbe Big Apples I think help greatly in this regard – drop the pressure in them and they do a valiant effort at absorbing bumps and keeping the bike upright and stable.

Coming down the Redwood Pass on a Tern Verge S27h folding touring bike near Seddon, New Zealand

After a quick lunch in Seddon, I set off for the Molesworth Muster Trail proper. I was away at around 12:30pm, and would not make the 55km to Heddon Bridge until 5pm.

The stretch of road from Seddon to Heddon Bridge climbs steadily along a mix of paved and gravel road, until about 20km from Heddon Bridge, where pavement is left behind for good. For much of the first 20km, the road is lined with vineyards, producing the wine that the Malborough region in New Zealand is so famous for.

Tern Verge S27h on the Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

As the wet road in the photo above suggests, the weather was a mix of very light rain, cloud and the occasional sunny spells during the three days I was on the road. This was certainly not a bad thing; it can get extremely dry and hot through here, and I was happy for the respite.

Moody skies looking south from Heddon Bridge, Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

Once past the vineyards, the countryside becomes sheep country. Including the famous merino stud from which all that merino clothing goodness is made from.

Merino sheep on the Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

I made it to the Heddon Bridge campsite by around 5:30pm after a grueling 80km ride. The last 15km or so felt like they would continue forever, and included numerous stiff ups and downs. At the campsite I met up with two other cyclists. Both were on more sensible mountain bikes.

Heddon Bridge campsite on the Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

Day Three – Heddon Bridge to Acheron Campsite – 105km (Monday 23rd Feb, 2015)

I only had 1 litre of drinking water left by morning, so I decided to get on the road before daybreak, to make the most of the cooler hours of the day. If the sun decided to shine today, I would be in trouble, since I wasn’t carrying any water treatment. Streams and rivers in New Zealand are known to carry giardia, and I wasn’t willing to risk it. I knew it would be 50km to the Cobb Cottage campground where I would have access to safe drinking water.

Wooden bridge on the Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

Circumstance would swing in my favor however, as the day was fairly dingy and rainy – perfect cycling conditions. Only once was the rain heavy enough to warrant a jacket and rain pants. The other times it was only a very light misty rain, enough to keep me cool.

10km to go to Molesworth Station, Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

The route carried on with its grunty steep ups and downs, all the while gaining altitude. Speedy descents were tempered by washboard road surfaces, which took plenty of concentration on the small-wheeled bike.

For all my effort, however, I was rewarded with an ever-increasing air of remoteness. By the time I arrived at the DOC campsite at the Cobb Cottage at 11:30am, I had only seen one other vehicle.

Around 7935 Awatere Valley Road, Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

Expansive views on the Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

At the Cobb Cottage campsite, the volunteer DOC rangers greeted me with arms open, offering me a dry spot on their hut veranda so I could make myself a sandwich for lunch. When they offered me a coffee, I jumped at the chance. Amazing souls!

Awesome volunteer DOC rangers at the Cob Cottage campground on the Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

I spent an hour sitting and chatting with the ranger couple, and just as I was readying to leave, the two mountain-bikers from Heddon Bridge arrived. They would stop at the campground to stay the night, but since I was supposed to be in New Zealand visiting family, I decided to carry on and tackle the remaining, mostly downhill, to Acheron Campsite, a further 60km away.

Fellow cyclists on the Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

While it is mostly downhill from Cobb Cottage to Acheron, there is one last big climb before the gradual downhill happens: Wards Pass. It is not a very long pass, but after a few days of remote cycling, it felt very steep indeed. Curious cows watched my every move as I cycled past.

Big open views approaching Wards Pass on the Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

Once up and over the pass, I hit the gloriously gradual downhill stretch of road across Isolated Flat. Imagine tens of kilometers of mildly potholed but very fast gravel, with a nice stiff tailwind. Once again, the small-wheeled Tern was not perfect for the task, but wasn’t useless either. It did the job.

Long straight gravel road along the Acheron River valley, Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

The only souls I met along the way were two other cyclists, making their way up the gradual incline into the headwind…but they seemed in good spirits (see their adventures here).

WestCoastPete on the Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

This part of the route presented me with a few fun curiosities including shallow fords…

Crossing a ford in the Acheron Valley, Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

And massive skies.

Confluence of Acheron and Clarence Rivers, Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

I finally arrived at the Acheron DOC Campsite at 7:10pm, around 13 hours since I left Heddon Bridge. At least 11 hours of that was cycling. Despite the overall drop in altitude after Wards Pass, stiff climbs over bluffs and Isolated Pass meant that it was not all plain sailing.

The DOC rangers at the campsite were expecting me, and invited me in for a coffee. We chatted about Japan and different places they had been posted at. One of them had once spent 7 weeks on the Kermadec Islands without seeing another person for the entire time. These are an interesting breed, those DOC rangers.

Looking over Acheron Cottage campsite, Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

I paid my $6 for camp fees, set up my tent, and was fast asleep by 8:30pm.

Day Four – Acheron to Hanmer – 22km (Tuesday 24th Feb, 2015)

This fourth and final day of the trip was a short one. Like every day on the trip, I woke before daybreak and cycled around 10km before stopping for breakfast. It was a cold morning as I cycled upstream along the Clarence River – I had to wear a hooded fleece and gloves!

Tophouse Road next to Clarence River, Molesworth Muster Trail, New Zealand

Soon enough I arrived at the junction to head up over the final pass into the spa town of Hanmer. My time in the quiet remoteness of the Molesworth Muster Trail was coming to an end.

At the Tophouse Road and Jollies Pass junction, Molesworth Station, New Zealand

It was only a short hour before I hit the top of Jack’s Pass in the heat of a bright sunny day…

Looking south towards Hanmer from Jack's Pass, New Zealand

And careened down the other side into the relative bustle of the sleepy little town of Hanmer. Only to immediately head to the public library to catch up on all the school work I had left unattended for four glorious days of remote cycling.

Information Center, Hanmer Springs, New Zealand

From Hanmer I caught the 4:30pm bus to Christchurch. $35 (including the bike folded in the trailer).

For more detailed information about the Tern Verge s27H, check out Peter’s detailed overview here: http://www.cyclepeter.com/verge-s27h-folding-touring-bicycle-review/

First Impressions Review of WheelShields – Mudguards for a Longboard

Note: I primarily skate for transport. Therefore, the review below is from a skate-for-transport perspective (see the comment from Moony Lupis below).

———-

First impressions summary PROS: WheelShields – mudguards (fenders) for a longboard – are a game-changer. Commuting by skateboard on wet roads doesn’t mean road grime on your pants, shoes, and deck anymore. If you’d rather skate, even after a downpour, and arrive at your destination clean and dry, these do the trick. CONS: Can be tricky to install (but the video does help: http://wheelshields.com/pages/install), may not fit all trucks, and are a little on the heavy side.

Wheelshields - fenders/mudguards for your longboard

Disclosure: I’m not affiliated with or compensated by WheelShields. I pre-ordered and paid in full for a set of WheelShields when they were still in the crowd-sourcing stage on Kickstarter.

My setup: Gbomb Paramount Board, Bennet Vector Model 5.0 trucks (front), Holey Trucks (back), Orangatang In-Heat 75mm 80A wheels (front), Orangatang Durian 75mm 83A wheels (back), Seismic Tekton bearings (no separate spacers), WheelShields (black).

Almost a year ago, I wrote “Wheel Shields are brilliant. Hands down the biggest innovation in longboarding in a long time. I wish I had Wheel Shields when I skated across the US, Europe and China. Wheel Shields have changed the longboard transportation paradigm forever. They are an elegant solution to a frustrating problem.”

The frustrating problem I was referring to was getting my longboard deck swamped with water (= slippery), and getting soaked shoes and pants due to water flicking up off wheels as they ran over a wet surface. Even just a couple of shallow puddles on an otherwise dry road or pavement could mess up a clean pair of pants.

Already I can hear some people groaning. “What a pussy! Boohoo dirty pants…get over it!” This first impressions review of Wheel Shields is not for such people. This first impressions review is for people who want to skate to work or school everyday (even if it had been raining in the night), and who would actually rather stay dry no matter what the pavement condition.

For such people: WheelShields work.

Where I live, we get a lot of snow during winter. Around this time of year in spring, we get clear sunny days, but lots of snowmelt running across cycleways and roads. It is at times like this that the WheelShields really come into their own for me. Dry road, wet road. Clean and dry shoes and pants, no matter what.

Wheelshields - fenders/mudguards for your longboard

For my inaugural test-skate, I skated around 15km (9 miles) along a river-side cycle path and city streets. To be honest, for the first half of the ride I was nervous. I mean, if for any reason those WheelShields turned with the wheel, they would stop my board in a split-second. Faster than a nice sharp concrete lip in the sidewalk. So far, however, they are holding fast.

For the most part, though, I was amazed at how they prevent almost all water from being flicked up onto my board. Even the 4-foot long patch of muddy snow-melt below would have covered my white shoes in dirty spots in a moment, had I not had the shields.

Wheelshields - fenders/mudguards for your longboard

That said, they are not spell-casters with invisible forcefields. If you hit at speed a puddle of water anything more than 1cm (half and inch) deep with water, the forward-and-upwards splash of water being displaced in front of you will splash up onto you. That’d be very hard to avoid, even if WheelShields came in some sort of uber-full-coverage design.

Wheelshields - fenders/mudguards for your longboard

After all this gushing over how awesomely functional they are, time for some hard truths: In terms of design, they’re not perfect, yet.

In their current form, WheelShields are not only designed for stopping water flicking up off wheels. They are also designed to carry something like 680kg (1500lbs) of weight on them, before they collapse. So you can stand on them (I tried, and they’re solid as a rock). You might want to invent new tricks. They’ll stop wheel-bite (if that is an ongoing, recurring issue for you, in which case you don’t need WheelShields, just some common sense to adjust your risers or get smaller wheels).

This is to say, they’re tough, but they’re a little on the heavy side. They’ll add about 400g (14 ounces) of heft to your board. I’m willing to pay that price in weight because I want to use my board in a wider range of weather conditions, but I’d like to see a lighter-weight fender-only version in the future.

Another little niggle is they didn’t fit my Tracker RTS 129 trucks. The axle length from end of hanger body to end of thread on the axle was about 2mm too short, meaning that the outer nut supplied with the WheelShields couldn’t get enough grip. They fit my Holey Trucks (plenty of room on the axle) and Bennett Trucks Vector Model 5.0 trucks (only just) with no problems though. Perhaps the Trackers just have a particularly short axle?

Also, first-time installation can be time-consuming. Mainly this has to do with getting the WheelShields on the right angle, and at the same angle on each side, at least for me. I have mine installed on an angle, which WheelShields expressly forbids. They insist they are installed so the top flat-ish area of the shields is parallel with the ground. I assume this is to ensure the greatest strength when standing on the shields. For me, however, all I care about is making sure the shields catch splashes. So they’re angled back at the front.

Wheelshields - fenders/mudguards for your longboard

Those minor drawbacks aside, I love them. The picture below shows the bottom of my board after that 15km skate around the city. If I didn’t have the WheelShields, the top of the board would have been just as dirty.

Wheelshields - fenders/mudguards for your longboard

As for why the underside still gets so dirty, I think it may have something to do with water being pushed to the side and upwards away from the wheels, causing a wave of water being driven up onto the bottom of the board.

If you take a careful look at the photo below, you can see that very little water gets flicked up off the middle part of the closest wheel. My shoes stayed totally dry during this (repeated) splashing through this puddle (for science’s sake, of course). However, water does get displaced towards the center of the board, which then meets water being displaced by the opposite wheel, pushing everything up onto the underside of the board. At least it stays under the board though…

WheelShields - fenders for a longboard

All in all a fantastic product, which I thoroughly recommend. US$49 (plus US$20 for international shipping) might seem a little on the expensive side just for some ‘mudguards’, but think of that money you’ve spent on driving the car or taking public transport just because you can’t skate because it’s raining lightly or the roads are wet – no longer an expense you’ll have to front up.

Just bring on the lightweight fender-use-only versions,  and then they’d actually be perfect.

2014 Spring Tire Change

For four months of the year here in Sapporo, we cycle with spiked tires. That’s mid-December till mid-March. At the beginning of winter, in December, the decision to make the change from normal tires to spikes is fraught with uncertainty: It is snowing today, but will there still be snow on the ground in a couple of days? Inevitably, I do end up cycling a week or so on bare asphalt before the roads finally become firmly in the grip of snow.

In March, the opposite uncertainty is true: The roads are clear today, but will there be a big snowfall in a couple of days? That said, I’m pretty sure today was the right day to make the switch. I’ve grown tired of noisy metal spikes on pavement (and the bewildered looks from pedestrians as I noisily approach).

Haidee was there to document the 45-minute procedure in a relatively balmy 3 degrees Celsius.

First, off with the spikes on the front tire. I use the excellent Schwalbe Ice Spiker Pro tires. This is my third full season on the tires. I think they’ll last another couple of winters. With more than 400 aluminium-embedded carbide studs in each tire, they are some the most expensive mountain-bike-sized studded tires you can buy. But even then they cost less than a full tank of gas in most automobiles.

I opted to switch out the tubes for some lighter-weight ones. This is not so much for the literal weight savings, but the thinner tubes make the tires as a whole more pliable, making for a more comfortable ride (tubeless would be ideal, and I intend to make the change at some point).

The after-switch tires are the fat and plush Schwalbe Big Apple tires. These tires have a very pliable sidewall. That plus very high volume of air makes them a very comfortable and fast ride. This will be my third season on this set of tires. Wear looks to be acceptable on both tires.

I have a Shimano Alfine 8-speed internal gear hub (IGH) on my back wheel. This means removing the back wheel involves a few more steps than a standard quick release setup. I also have a full chain cover (Hebie Chainglider). I haven’t removed the chain cover all winter, and the chain looks in relatively good shape (I give it regular squirts of very light lubricant).

The completed job…

Could do with a more thorough clean of the bike, but that’ll have to wait till a warm weekend.

After a third of a year on the knobbly crunchy spiked tires, the slicks feel like I’m on a magic carpet: Quiet, smooth, steering more direct. Lovely.

Jobs still to do:

  • Change handlebars to ‘butterfly’ trekking bars
  • Take the bike to bits and re-apply anti-rust to the inside of the frame
  • Change the brake pads (Aztec Organic are my pick for quiet braking)
  • Get the dynamo-powered back light wired up

 

 

 

 

Wheel Shields – get in and support a great idea

Get in and support an awesome product for keeping people who longboard for transport clean and dry – Wheel Shields: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1522548247/wheel-shields-longboarding-technology

Way back in 2008, I was in western China sitting in a stifling internet cafe. I had already skated over 6,000 miles (9,600km) across the US and Europe, but in the previous days, I had spent a couple of days skating on wet roads, getting legs covered in road grime, yak shit, and slug guts. Some of the roads were also hard-packed dirt, which were still skateable when they were wet, but caused havoc on my shoes and clothes. This was a super frustrating issue. Sure, dirty pants and dripping wet shoes can be cool. But not when you want to sit down at a restaurant, cafe, internet cafe, someone’s chair in their house, etc.

On my way down unpaved Qinghai Highway 204 4,190m pass towards Reshui, Qinghai Province, China

Wet roads near Chiling, Qinghai Province, China Loving the minor road 304 from Erbou to Chiling, Qinghai Province, China

Sitting in that internet cafe, I thought up an idea for a fender/mudguard setup for a longboard. Below is the sketch I did in 2008, to explain the idea to my product-designer brother. “Can it be done?” I asked. He was confident that it could be done, but it would require a lot of work prototyping before a decent device could be created. The idea promptly got put in the too-hard-basket.

Idea for longboard fenders (circa. August 2008)

Fast forward to 2012. I get an email out of the blue from Chase Kaczmarek from the US, asking for my opinion about his invention called Wheel Shields. He was developing them into a marketable product. I said that they are brilliant. A year later, he’s got a very elegant, refined product ready to produce. The one thing he’s not got is money to create the tooling to mass produce them. That’s where his Kickstarter Campaign comes in: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1522548247/wheel-shields-longboarding-technology.

He needs US$25,000. He’s raised just over US$14,000 so far, with 11 days left in his fund-raising campaign. I’ve already pledged my support by ordering a set. I really want to get my set of Wheel Shields. It will mean that skating to school and work will be a reliable option, without having to worry about rain during the day creating wet roads. So do get in there and support a great idea and the masses of work that has gone into making them work: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1522548247/wheel-shields-longboarding-technology.

To be honest, I think for purely distance skaters, who are not concerned with wheelbite or ‘shoe-bite’ or stand-on-wheels-tricks, they are a little bit on the over-engineered side. For just ‘fender’ or mudguard applications, light plastic would be fine. But still, I do stand by my words: Wheel Shields are brilliant. Hands down the biggest innovation in longboarding in a long time. I wish I had Wheel Shields when I skated across the US, Europe and China. Wheel Shields have changed the longboard transportation paradigm forever. They are an elegant solution to a frustrating problem.

* The quote above was edited slightly on Chase’s Kickstarter page to keep things brief.
** I should also mention that I am in no way officially associated with Wheel Shields, or receiving compensation from them…

自転車のダイナモハブに使う自作(DIY)のUSB充電器

本投稿では、ハブダイナモ搭載の自転車に使える、スマートホン用のUSB充電器の作り方を紹介します。アイディア自体はMr. Howdy,  Arenddeboer.comPeterから来ていますが、彼らのインストラクションでは、回路図がある程度読めないとワケがつかみにくいです。私自身は回路図が読めないので、同じように回路が読めない人間のためにできるだけ簡単にここで説明します。

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

私が作ったダイナモハブ用スマートホン充電器(軽さ:29g)

今回作る充電器の概要

総費用:1,500円程度(部品のみで、半田ごてなどの必要な工具は含まない)
重さ:29g
耐候性:有り
出力:5V 1A DC (USB標準)
入力:6V AC (ほとんどの自転車ハブダイナモはこれにあたる)
充電効率:ソニーExperia Z(わりとバッテリー容量の多い(2330mAh)スマートホン)を、走る1kmごとに1%充電していく(スマホンの電源がOFFの状態)
充電開始時速:5.5km/h

充電器の「役割」
パソコンやコンセントでスマホンを充電するときに、スマホンに流れてくる電力は直流(DC)で電圧は5Vとなっています。これはUSB標準の電圧です。しかし、自転車のハブダイナモが出力する電力は交流(AC)で6Vです。 そのままスマホンの充電に使えないわけです。よって、ダイナモハブの6V(AC)を、パソコンなどのUSBから出力される電力と同様の電力(5V(DC))に変換させる必要があります。この充電器がその役目を果たします。

注意:私はほんの少ししか、電子工作に関する知識はありません。本充電器を今まで1,000kmほどの自転車ツーリングで使い続けていて問題は全くなかったのですが、見逃しているところがあるかもしれません。そのため、この充電器を使うことによってあなたが大事にしている電子機器が壊されてしまう可能性がゼロとは言い切れません。本充電器のご使用は自己責任でお願いします。自己で責任を負うのは嫌だという方はこれらの市販自転車用USB充電器のご購入をお勧めします:Bright Light Revolution(非常に格安だと思います)、Busch+Muller Luxos IQ2ToutTerrain Plug II

用意するな部品(札幌市内は、ストリップボード以外にはすべて梅澤無線電機から入手可能)

  • プリント基板(ストリップボード
  • 5V 電圧レギュレーター(LM2940CT-5.0
    • ハブダイナモの6V出力を5Vに変換するための物
  • コンデンサ①(16V, 22uF, タンタル
  • コンデンサ②(35V, 0.47uF, タンタル
  • コンデンサ③(25V, 2200uF, 電解コンデンサ
    • コンデンサの役割とは、自転車の速度による電流の荒れを安定させることだ。
  • ブリッジ整流器(1.5A, 100V)
    • ブリッジ整流器は、ハブダイナモ出力の交流(AC)を直流(DC)に変換してくれる。
  • マイクロUSB端子(USB→マイクロUSBケーブルを切ったモノなど)
  • 出来上がった基板の収納のための適切な入れ物(私はこの缶の中身を別の入れ物に移して缶をケースとして使った)
    • 上記のテトラPHテストの缶を使う場合は耐候性をアップさせるために熱収縮チューブ(19mm10mm)を使うときれいに仕上がる。
    • ケーブルのひねりによるケーブルのダメージを避けるためにこのようなものを使った。

自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

ステップ1

ストリップボードを4穴ⅹ25穴で長細く切ります。切り方は、カッターで両面に切り目を引いて、割ります。

ステップ2

用意した4x25の基板に部品を並べていきます。コンデンサの足は、長いほうが陽(+)、短いほうが陰(-)。写真をクリックすると拡大されます。

自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB) 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB) 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

ステップ3

ブリッジ整流器を設置する。このステップにおいても、分極(+と―の位置)を注して設置しましょう。

自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

そうすると今の段階では上から見ると以下のように見えているはずです。

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

このようになっているのであれば、次に部品を半田付けして固定して行きます。部品の過熱に注意するとともに、並列になっているメッキを横断的に半田が流れないように注意します。

そうすると以下のように見えるはずです。メッキが削られている箇所がいくつかありますが、下の方の箇所のみメッキを削ります(入力電気が直接レギュレーターに流れないように防ぐために削ります)。写真に写っている他の箇所は無視してもOKです。5mmのドリルで手回しで削ることができます)。

自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

ステップ4

マイクロUSB端子を準備します。USB→マイクロUSBケーブルを切ります。USBの大きい方は不要です。USBケーブルの内側はたいていの場合は黒(-)、赤(+)、白(データ)となっています。今回はデータは要らないので、短く切っちゃいます。時には陰の方はグリーン色になっている場合があります。

自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

ステップ5

マイクロUSBケーブルを基板に固定する前に、適切な容器を探しましょう。ホームセンターに行ってウロウロして探すのもアリですが、今回の基板をきれいに収納するのはホームセンター(ビバホーム)で見つけた「テトラ テスト試験紙 pH」の缶です。同じような寸法のアルミパイプでも有りでしょう。テトラの缶を使う場合、エンドキャップに穴をあけてケーブルひねり防止のグロメッとを入れるとわりときれいに出来上がります。

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

ステップ6

ハブダイナモに接続するケーブルとスマホンに接続するマイクロUSBケーブルを容器の穴に入れ、基板に固定します。まずはマイクロUSBケーブルの方です。ここでの分極が大事です!赤線が+の列に、黒が―の列に固定します。

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB) DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

次に、ダイナモハブに接続するケーブルを付けます。ここでの分極は関係ないです。ブリッジ整流器ちゃんがちゃんと整理してくれます。

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

ステップ7

ステップ5で見つけた容器に基板を設置します。耐候性を向上させるためのシーラントを付ける前に、この段階に一度自転車に接続しスマホンも接続してちゃんと動きているかどうかを確かめるといいでしょう。

自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

ステップ8

このステップが必ず必要でもありませんが、耐候性を万全にするために、熱収縮チューブを巻きます。

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB) DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

ステップ9

自転車への取り付けが簡単にするために、ハブダイナモへのケーブルにコネクターを付けました。私が実際にこの充電器を使うのは年に2回程度ですので、使っていない時は取り外したいです。そのため、簡単なコネクターを付けました。

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

DIY USB dynamo charger for a bicycle - B+M Lumotec auxiliary power outlet (near Nanporo, Hokkaido, Japan) DIY USB dynamo charger for a bicycle - handlebar mounted plugs (near Nanporo, Hokkaido, Japan)

以上で、29gという軽さの自転車用のUSB充電器ができました。

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

実際に使ってみて・・・

今回の自作USB充電器は実は2台目です(回路や部品は全く同じ)。第一回目には、容器としてPVCパイプを使っていました。大変大きくてダサいです。しかし、効率性などでいうと今回のバージョンと一緒です。ソニーのExperiaZスマホンを、走行1kmごとに1%充電できます(電源OFFの状態)。ExperiaZのバッテリー容量が大きい(2230mAh)なので、バッテリーが比較的に小さいiPhoneのようなスマホンなら1kmごとに2%程度の充電ができるかもしれません。

いずれにしても、一日の自転車ツーリングでスマホンのバッテリーをいっぱいまで充電してくれます。注意しなくてはならないのは、スマホンの画面の電力の消費が大変多いですので、画面がオンでかつGPSを使うGoogle Mapsなどのアプリを実行のままで走行すると、充電器を指してもバッテリーは減ってしまいます(充電器を指していないよりも消費が少なくなるのですが)。

DIY USB dynamo charger for a bicycle (Hokkaido, Japan)

DIY USB dynamo charger for a bicycle - charging a Sony Xperia Z (near Nanporo, Hokkaido, Japan) DIY USB dynamo charger for a bicycle, charging a Sony Xperia Z (near Ebetsu, Japan)

DIY Bicycle Dynamo USB Charger for Smartphones and Battery Packs

In this post I describe how I made a USB smartphone charger for a hub-dynamo-equipped bicycle. The idea came from multiple sources, including Mr. Howdy,  Arenddeboer.com, and Peter. But they assume the person making the charger knows how to read a circuit diagram. I cannot understand a circuit diagram. If you’re like me, then this blog post is for you.

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

The rundown:

Total cost: approx. US$15 (parts only; you need tools such as soldering iron etc.)
Weight: 29 grams
Weatherproof: Yes
Output: 5 volts DC (USB standard)
Input: 6 volts AC
Efficiency: Will charge a Sony Experia Z smartphone at a rate of approximately 1% per 1km (with the smartphone turned off).
Charge start:  5.5km/h

What this device does
When charging your smartphone using a wall charger or your laptop’s USB, the electricity going into your phone is direct current (DC) at 5 volts. A bicycle dynamo hub, however, usually creates electricity in the form of alternating current (AC), at 6 volts. So, we’ve got to change the electricity created by the dynamo hub (6V AC) into the same type as what comes out of your smartphone wall charger or your laptop’s USB (5V DC). That’s what this device does.

Disclaimer: I know nothing about electronics. This charger has worked well for me so far (about 1,000km of cycle touring), but it may turn on you and eat your smartphone’s innards alive, rendering it a useless shell. Also, note that in very hilly terrain where constant high cycling speeds are expected (on the downhills), the charger may not cope with the high voltage output from the dynamo (voltage output often varies depending on speed) (thanks to commenter Prashant for the real-world observation). This may mean a need to unplug the charger on long, fast downhills. If you’d rather let someone else take the responsibility for your delicate electronics, check out the Bright-Bike Revolution (amazing value for a solid charger) or the Busch & Mueller Luxos IQ2 headlight with USB charging built in, or the Tout-Terrain Plug II.

Update (2014/06/08) – Thanks to commenter Prashant, I’ve just found out that you can buy a perfectly good charger for only US$30 or so: The Biologic ReeCharge Dynamo Kit. See the demo on Youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnlB68KulcE, and looks like you can get it on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/BioLogic-Reecharge-Dynamo-Kit/dp/B006OSQUNI. For that price, the only reason you’d ever need to make your own device is if you’re really into DIY! Official page for the kit here: http://www.thinkbiologic.com/products/reecharge-dynamo-kit-micro-usb-cable

Update (2014/09/21): Note Viktoras’s comment that the Biologic Reecharge may not give enough output for some devices.

What you need:

  • Parallel stripboard (example)
  • 5 Volt Regulator LDO LM2940 (example - max input voltage 26V) (changes 6V to 5V)
  • Capacitor 1 (Tantalum bead, 16V 22µF) (example)
  • Capacitor 2 (Tantalum bead, 35V 0.47µF) (example)
  • Capacitor 3 (Electrolytic capacitor, 25V 2200µF) (example)
    • The capacitors help keep the flow of electricity steady as you slow down and speed up on your bike (see Wikipedia for more).
  • Bridge Rectifier, 1.5A, 100V (example) (changes the input from AC to DC)
  • Micro-USB terminal (example; you’ll cut off the big USB end and keep the small end, to plug into your device)
  • Wire and terminals to attach to dynamo outlets
  • A case of some kind to hold the electonics
DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

Step 1

Cut the veroboard (stripboard) into an oblong, 4 holes wide by approximately 25 holes long. I did this by scoring the board with a craft knife on both sides and then snapping it.

Step 2

Start to populate your board. On the capacitors, the long leg is positive. Click on the photos for a larger version.

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB) DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB) DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

 Step 3

This step can be tricky…aligning the bridge rectifier in place. Note the polarity (positioning of the negative and positive legs).

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

Looking from the top, your board should now look something like this.

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

You can now go about carefully soldering the parts in place at the rear of the board. Take care not to overheat the parts, and make sure not to ‘connect’ any of the copper strips on the stripboard with stray bits of solder.

Post-soldering should look something like below. Ignore all the drill-marks, except for the one at the bottom. You need that one to stop current going directly to the regulator (LM2940). Holes can be made by hand-turning a 5mm drill bit.

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

Step 4

Prepare your micro-USB connector by butchering a cheap USB to micro-USB cable, discarding the big USB end. We will attach this to the circuit-board, and it will plug into your smartphone. Frustratingly, USB cable inner wire colors are sometimes different (like, green for negative). But most of the time, they will be red (positive), black (negative) and white (data). You won’t be needing the white wire, so you can cut it short.

Micro USB inner wire colors (positive, negative, data)

Step 5

Before attaching the micro-USB cable to the circuit-board, a suitable case needs to be found. I happened to have an old fish-tank PH level tester container hanging around that was a perfect size.

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

Step 6

Container sorted, time to thread the cables through the openings and solder them to the circuit board. I first attached the micro-USB cable. Red on the positive line, black on the negative line.

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB) DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

Next, attach the wires that will run from the dynamo hub. The polarity (negative and positive direction) here doesn’t matter at all; the bridge rectifier has magic fairies inside that sort all that out.

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

Step 7

Install the circuit board in a suitable container. Before sealing the container up properly, now may be a good time to hook the unit up to a dynamo hub and smartphone to check that everything is working.

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

Step 8

This step is not essential, but I wanted to make this unit as weather-proof as possible. Using a couple of different size heat-shrink tubing, I covered the whole thing up, making it very weather-proof.

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB) DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

Step 9

I wanted to be able to easily attach and remove the charger from my bike. The only time I use it is when I am cycle touring (about twice a year). This was easily done by using simple male/female connectors. The wire running from my hub to the female connectors is on my bike all the time, and I can just connect the charger when I need to.

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

DIY USB dynamo charger for a bicycle - B+M Lumotec auxiliary power outlet (near Nanporo, Hokkaido, Japan) DIY USB dynamo charger for a bicycle - handlebar mounted plugs (near Nanporo, Hokkaido, Japan)

So there you have it. A weather-sealed USB charger, powered by a bicycle dynamo hub. It weighs in at 29 grams. Just lovely.

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)

Performance in the real world

This is the second charger I have made (using the exact same circuitry). The first one ended up in a PVC pipe casing, which is ugly and bulky. It works exactly the same as this new slick-cased version. Using the PVC-pipe-case version, I was able to get around 1% charge for every 1km pedaled on a laden, flat-terrain four-day cycle tour (with the phone powered off). That was charging a Sony Experia Z smartphone, which has a very large battery (2330mAh). With an iPhone, with its smaller 1440mAh, this might be more like 2% charge per 1km.

In any case, with the phone powered off, it will charge fully over a full day of cycling. It does not put out enough charge to keep up with intensive computing tasks like Google Map Navigation. That is, with the screen on all the time, plus the GPS running, the battery will still run down even while charging.

DIY USB dynamo charger for a bicycle (Hokkaido, Japan)

DIY USB dynamo charger for a bicycle, charging a Sony Xperia Z (near Ebetsu, Japan) DIY USB dynamo charger for a bicycle - charging a Sony Xperia Z (near Nanporo, Hokkaido, Japan)

My wife has claimed this new version as her own, so I am still stuck with the PVC pipe version. On her bike, this is the set up we have at present (she doesn’t use a handlear bag). Here, the charger is attached using a cable tie, in the photo at the top of this post, we have attached a velcro strap, which will make attaching/removing the charger easier.

DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB) DIY Dynamo USB Charger for a Bicycle | 自作の自転車用のダイナモ充電器(USB)