Good look at the handlebar setup

Tips and tricks for keeping your devices powered up on bike tours

One of the four questions going into a tour when you’re working from the road is how to keep your electronic devices charged and happy. I suspect there are some people who can work while on tour without needing electronic devices and connectivity, but I know I need them. I primarily rely on my iPhone for a variety of needs, most notably communication, navgation and content production. It also helps with podcasts and audiobooks on those long stretches, and for Nirvana on climbs.

Seriously. Nirvana for climbs. You listen to Nirvana on climbs, right??

As we all know, there’s a finite length of time these devices can last. You have a couple of options… conserve your power, bring additional power, or generate your own power.

Conservation

I’ve found that you can really make life difficult for yourself if you insist on using all of your phone all of the time. The reality is, you tend to need it for bursts of activity rather than lengthy stretches of access. Unless you’re expecting an important call, or otherwise feel the need to be connected, you’ll want to turn off as many antennas as you can. WiFi and Bluetooth are probably the easiest calls here… unless you’re rockin a bluetooth headset, you’re going to burn juice from the battery with that on. WiFi on tour is generally going to be something you’ll only use when you’re out of the saddle… those two are easy calls. Some phones (jailbroken iPhones and Android phones) will allow a finer grain control of your GPS and phone functions, while stock iPhones through iOS 6 only give you Airplane mode or off as your next power-saving function. If you get little to no signal in stretches, I strongly recommend airplane mode… your device will be draining its battery like crazy trying to power through to get a signal, often in vain.

Bring additional power

Extra batteries for those phones that have swappable ones, or external batteries are a real help. I have a couple of these that can recharge my iPhone a few times over, and tend to plug them into any available outlet I can when stopped to build up battery reserves. The more you have, the less conservative you need to be with what you’re doing (especially helpful if you need to use the GPS to navigate while you roll!).

Generate your own juice

The real holy grail is to generate power at the same rate you burn it, or to give yourself tons of additional time between opportunities to plug into a wall. Some people are having good luck with solar, but that seems to be situational and (I know… shockingly…) requires sun. I’ve been experimenting with dynohub technology for about a year now, and have liked the results. It lets me keep more things toggled up on my phone while rolling, and gives me some peace of mind that I won’t run low when I’m tapping out an email or fixing something important from afar.

My west coast tour (starts Monday… no pressure) is on a bike with 26″ wheels, and my dynohub happens to be on a 700c base. I’ve written about my solution before over on Uncommonly Silly but today was the big build – I’m happy to say it was successful, and the 700c wheel juuuuuust fits. I’ll be without a front fender when I roll like this, so he dynohub wheel strikes me as a dry tour -only option on this bike.

Check out the gallery to see the results… I’m pretty pleased with things, and the higher front wheel is hardly noticeable:

There are other options to be sure. What do you do to keep your electronics powered up on tour? Or do you go with the flow and plug in when you can?

What do you think?