People may ride bicycles for a lot of different reasons, but avoiding the need for gasoline has got to be a plus no matter how you come down on the “green” issue. But if you use any of those juice draining functions like GPS, etc., then having to carry a portable power supply to recharge your phone is just one more thing getting in the way (not to mention having to charge it up before leaving). So why not go the whole “green” route and let the bike provide the power for your smartphone? That’s easy enough if you’ve $79.99 to buy the bike2Power SpinPOWER Bicycle Phone Charger Kit and have an iPhone 4/4S.
There are three stages to using the SpinPOWER properly: the first being to connect the power generator to the wheel of the bicycle. This involves a series of steps which definitely require using the manual and having placed all the included parts out where they can be matched against the diagrams and accessed easily. The tools needed consist of a socket wrench or the use of an adjustable pliers (which is what I used) and electrical tape for connecting the exposed wiring between the charger and the dynamo (generator). The diagrams show 4 ways of connecting the dynamo, so personal preference rules. The main issue as I see it is to have plenty of room to do the assembling and then plenty of light when attaching it — don’t be rushed and it’ll get done fine. And it can’t hurt to have once attached a similar kind of dynamo that powered a blinking light to the rear wheel of my bike back when I was a kid.
The phone holder/cradle includes the charging unit and is designed for the iPhone 4. The cradle attaches to the handlebars and again, does not take a lot of time or experience with tools to work. Frankly anyone who has a bike will already know enough from having to keep the chains clean to be able to handle this. When connecting the wiring, it’ll be helpful to keep the wire against the framework of the bicycle as much as possible. This can be done a number of ways: painters tape will hold and can be removed without causing any damage to finishing material on the bike or for a more permanent solution use twist ties.
You’ll want to test the setup before setting down any wiring or connecting the phone cradle. For this you just spin the wheel with the dynamo set to make a connection and with the power plug at the far end going into a mobile device. Having a second person to hold the bike up so the wheel can be spin will work much better than doing it all by yourself. There’s a lever that engages the dynamo against the wheel and, as is obvious, this causes a bit of drag to the wheel that must be compensated for. Some noise is also generated, but SpinPOWER provides a little cap that when placed on, will decrease the volume.
Now the best part is that you don’t need to be going at high-speed to spin the dynamo so it can create electricity, although the fast your go the more juice is being generated. You just need to be traveling fast enough to keep the bike upright obviously. What is an issue is the fact that the generator is NOT waterproof — water-resistant, yes, but if you’re caught in a deluge there could be problems. So that makes it imperative to take the generator off when the weather is inclement (snow not good either) if the bike is stored outside, but as there’s no fast mounting of the generator, expect to spend some time getting this done the first time out. Of course if the bike is stored safely against the elements and never taken for a spin when the weather’s a threat, then this won’t be necessary.
I placed a friend’s iPhone 4 into the phone holder, connected the USB dock connector cable and went for a spin. I could see on the phone that it was being powered and without using it, was able to drive up the power supply by almost 30% within a short period of time. Of course this kit’s main purpose is to send power to the phone while it’s being used so that it can continue to be used, and while it does that, if you’re heavily impacting the power supply of the phone (using GPS, accessing graphic-intensive apps), then it does seem to lag behind a bit. The lesson here is to never connect a phone that’s low on power or, if it is, don’t use it for a while so that the SpinPOWER can concentrate on charging it up. Also, since electricity is only being generated when the wheel is turning, the best method for using it with some other device that has to be carried in a backpack or saddle bag might be to use a small battery charger that can be taped to the phone holder and which will store the power being generated to distribute to devices later.
Bottom line: The bike2Power SpinPOWER Bicycle Phone Charger Kit is a competent and usable method for generating electricity while cycling. The bit of time and effort to assemble and place it on the bike is well worth the trouble for those looking to both find the means for getting power while on the go while also being “green.”
Green power source
Case only configured for iPhone 4/4S
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.