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

Notes

  • 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.

Conclusion

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:  https://seasonalcommute.com/di2-battery-life/

IMG_20190623_091524IMG_20190623_084508IMG_20190622_152636IMG_20190622_152633IMG_20190621_192804IMG_20190621_192718

3 thoughts on “Touring with Tech

  1. David

    I have chased some of your technological solutions down some of my own dead ends. I had intended to post that Di2 with an Alfine 11 was treating me better than it had you. While it is true the Alfine 11 is still working fine after well over 500 miles of RAGBRAI training, the separate front double crank di2 system failed entirely with no shifting whatsoever with full battery life. So … I see you are chasing solar power which I have also done. I gave up on that when my first solar panel died on my first 30 mile ride with it. I’ve since gone to SON dyno hubs and SINEWAVE USB chargers to keep my cell phone charged up. I have not yet tried to charge di2 using the hub. Is that what you’re doing with the panels?

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    1. Kurt Post author

      What appears to be working is to use solar to keep the Anker battery topped off and then use the battery to top off the phone and (very occasionally) the Di2 battery overnight. And use the SON/SINEWAVE to extend the life of the phone while riding (I keep the phone on to run my cycling app and to take advantage of communication hotspots as I ride through them). I’ve considered directly charging Di2 with the SON but Di2 requires such infrequent charging that I’ve decided it’s not worth it. And combining the systems would probably compromise the so far excellent reliability I’ve seen from both systems. As for the Alfine-11 hub, plenty of people have reported good experiences with it so maybe my decision to dump it was premature. But Ultegra Di2 (rear derailleur only) has gone so well for me that I’m not interested in switching back. And even though I was willing to go there, I’m now happy I don’t have the combined losses of _two_ internal hubs (Alfine and Schlumpf).

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      1. Kurt Post author

        I tried solar for our cross-country ride in 2012 and it was a disaster. Bought a really expensive system that repeatedly failed, which the company cheerfully replaced. But the system never really worked and by the time the trip began it was not worth bringing along. In 2019 the situation has improved dramatically. I’d never be able to rely on it exclusively but the Anker solar panel I’m using is consistently able to charge the Anker battery pack in a day or less, which is well worth the minor added weight and bulk.

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