Touring with Tech

Zoe and I just finished our annual overnight trek to Givens Hot Springs.  50 miles from our doorstep to the springs.  The weather this year was spectacular:  endless sunshine, highs in the upper 70’s, though a bit brisk in the early ride out from Boise at about 45 degrees.  Temps change fast in the high desert.

As usual, I had a mildly ulterior motive for the trip:  see how the latest technology pans out in hopes that one of these days I’ll be on another big tour.  This time around the tech consisted of the following:

  • Nokia 6.1 Android phone
  • Strava app running on phone to measure total distance, for upload to LoveToRide web site
  • CycleTrip running on phone to provide route guidance
  • Anker PowerPort solar charger
  • Anker PowerCore 10000 (10000 mAh Li-Ion battery pack)
  • Schmidt SON dynamo hub
  • Sinewave Cycles Reactor dynamo charger
  • Shimano Ultegra Di2 rear derailleur

The general idea is this:

  • Charge the battery pack from the sun during the ride and at camp
  • Use the phone throughout the ride, extending its life via the dynamo hub / Sinewave charger
  • Overnight, top off the phone from the battery pack
  • Repeat
  • Top off the phone and battery pack whenever the 115 VAC power grid is available
  • Occasionally charge the Di2 battery from the Anker battery pack or 115 VAC grid (if necessary)

Here’s how it all went down, without tapping into the power grid after initially charging everything at home:

Trip Waypoint Phone Battery Anker Battery Di2 Battery
Leaving Boise 100% 4 out of 4 bars 2 out of 4 bars
Kuna (20 miles) 86% 4 bars 2 bars
Arrive Givens Still working (can’t remember %) 3 bars (after charging Zoe’s phone in Kuna) 2 bars
Leave Givens 100% 2 bars (after charging Android phone and downloading and watching an episode of “Anne with an E” in our tent, and charging Zoe’s iPhone) 2 bars
Arrive Boise 5% 4 bars 1 bar
Charge Di2 n/a Still 4 bars after charging 4 bars


  • The phone was always displaying the CycleTrip app with adaptive brightness (meaning 100% brightness in these sunny conditions).  The display never turned off because I had CycleTrip Display mode set to Always on.
  • Turning off display except during turns should dramatically improve phone battery life during ride.
  • CycleTrip (an app I’m writing) performed well.  Not quite ready for prime time but close.
  • Charging Di2 from the Anker battery appeared to work, though I’m a little suspicious that the Anker battery didn’t lose a single bar of battery life  (still 4 out of 4 after charging).  Di2 says 4 out out of 4 bars though.  And the Anker battery has way more capacity than the Di2 battery so probably makes sense.


When the CycleTrip app intelligently turns off the display (on the list of feature enhancements), I should be able to run the phone and Di2 indefinitely with only occasional access to the power grid.  Di2 has worked so well that I don’t even think I’d pack a spare battery.  As always, here’s my battery performance since installing Di2:


Bike Routing, Tricycles, and the Cinema

When my family gets together we like to see movies and ride our trikes. Sometimes we combine the two, assaulting the trails north of Denver with as many as five trikes hell-bent on making it to the movie on time. We take advantage of some excellent bike paths to avoid automobile traffic in a very congested part of town, but I have to admit I’d be hard pressed to find my own way. It takes a local guide with tons of experience riding in the area to get us through the web of interconnected bike paths. That role falls to my brother Mark and it’s about time he got some help. I’d offer but I don’t want to upset the delicate family dynamic. Better to leave it to Mark so that when we get lost I can point out his silly mistake with righteous indignation. Recently I’ve been exploring some technology that might help us avoid family counseling. Spoiler alert: it isn’t Google Maps.

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Sawtooth Loop: The Third Shoe Drops

Day 2• Sept 4, 2016 •  Celebration Park to Bruneau Dunes •  65 miles

Day Two of the tour dawned with the threat of a recurrence of last night’s rain and no small amount of apprehension.  Rationalization was over:  we were now committed to what was most likely a criminal act.  While I stand by the convictions expressed earlier, in the grand scheme of things it’s difficult to make the case that this act of defiance rises to the level of, say, civil rights or women’s suffrage.  We were a band of middle-class white people trespassing on the property of another band of middle-class white people.  If anything, this act was embarrassingly trite.

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Di2: One Bad Shift

After 4,863 miles of shifting nirvana (5,217 total miles on my Di2 drivetrain), today I had a bad shift.  I’ve grown so accustomed to absolutely perfect shifting with Ultegra Di2 that this was a rather soul-wrenching experience.  The reason I don’t have 5,217 perfect  miles is that it took me a little over 300 miles in the beginning to figure out that Di2 is less forgiving of lateral chain sway than a conventional drivetrain.  Once that was solved, Di2 has been a dream.  What follows is the reason my record of perfect shifting ended today.

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Ebikes: A pedal is a pedal

A bill was recently introduced in the Idaho legislature that would treat a certain classification of electric bike as a plain ol’ bike.  This action spurred much needed debate about the legal status of ebikes in Boise, where their current classification as motor vehicles makes them illegal to use on the greenbelt.  I’m convinced ebike naysayers have no pedal to stand on.

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Sawtooth Loop: Bridge to Nowhere

A Digression

Perhaps Celebration Park’s biggest attraction is Guffey Railroad Bridge.  It was built in 1897 for the Boise, Nampa, and Owyhee railroad, intended to carry ore from Silver City to Nampa for smelting.  However construction of the track never made it further south than Murphy and was used instead by the farming community.  It was “abandoned in 1947, saved from demolition in the 1970s, and purchased and restored by Canyon County in 1989”(1) as part of Celebration Park.  It now connects Owyhee and Canyon counties via a rail trail suitable for walking, biking, and horseback riding, providing a rare opportunity to cross the Snake River without getting wet.  The nearest bridge is about 4 miles downstream at Walter’s Ferry.

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Slash Rides Again

It’s been five years since Slash, Zoe and I last made our traditional weekend overnight ride to Givens Hot Springs, about a 100 mile round trip to the Snake River and back.  Slash hasn’t been on a trike since completing our trip across the country.  It was past time to get back in the saddle, and this time around we recruited an accomplice.

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