I’m a big fan of bike touring and commuting, and I hate having to rely on others, outside equipment, and general mooching. This includes searching for electrical outlets at lunch stops, paying extra for electric hook ups at campgrounds, and carrying pounds of extra batteries when on a tour. Another thing I’m a big fan of? Dynamo power! The only thing better than powering forward on a bicycle is using that power to juice up your essential gadgets.
In 2010 I discovered modern dynamo power in the form of a SON Dynamo hub. I had a wheel built up with a Salsa Delgado rim to the dynamo, with the express purpose of using it on my touring bike in the summer and my commuter the rest of the time. Right away I purchased a dynamo powered headlight and the Busch and Muller e-werk charger. Long story short, in 2013 it was time for an upgrade.
As technology has evolved, just about everything can be charged via USB. There are a few products on the market that are ideal for cycle tourists. Personally, I need to be able to charge my iPhone, iPad Mini, Garmin Edge 705 GPS, and a few rechargeable headlights and tail lights. Two ideal products for charging all of these and more are the “Revolution”, by SineWave Cycles of Cambridge, MA, and the USB-Werk, made by Busch & Muller and available in the U.S. from Peter White Cycles in New Hampshire. Both devices are designed to harness the power of a dynamo hub to charge USB devices.
Ordering, and Out of the Box
Ordering each of these is easy. Order online from SineWave’s website, or from Peter White’s. Your LBS can also obtain these for you. But, out of the box, there are a couple key differences. The Revolution does not have any connections for dynamo hubs included. You are to purchase the little connectors for Shimano or SON separately, then connect them. The USB-Werk includes connectors for both Shimano and SON, so everything is right there. This is kind of an important point, as I didn’t know that the Revolution didn’t include the actual connectors for the hub. I had extras, so no big deal, but if you need a Shimano connector and wait to order this until the last minute before a tour, you’re sunk. Point goes to B&M here.
The USB-Werk comes with a huge assortment of connection options. Cords for everything: micros usb, male to female usb, iPhone (old and new), etc. The Revolution simply has a regular usb input as part of the device, so you can plug any regular usb cord into it. Equal points for both devices here.
I am not an electrician. I’m an avid cyclists, pretty self-sufficient, and a heckuva bike mechanic. I am pretty dumb when it comes to wiring, amps, volts, even polarity. The B&M comes with a multi-page booklet that assumes a base knowledge of electronics and wiring (perhaps this is core-curriculum in Germany?) So even though it comes with an instruction manual, I didn’t find it very helpful. The Revolution comes with virtually no instructions, which in some ways is even clearer. So neither product gets extra points here. Both are pretty even, and neither is great. Both could come with a “how to wire this device and not fry your gadgets” manual for dummies like me. Even score.
On the Bike
I took a little time to create a “first ride” video for the revolution.
You’ll see there that I have not directly plugged a fancy device into my Revolution. Rather, I have a Lime Fuel external battery with “pass through” charging plugged into the device, then my iPhone plugged into the battery. This is a safeguard. I’m paranoid about frying an expensive device, so this method serves two purposes. If something goes wrong, I’m more likely to fry a $30 external battery than a phone or gps worth hundreds. Additionally, when I’m done riding for the day, I have a fully-charged extra battery that I can use to charge up another device. This is especially helpful as many GPS units and lights do not operate while plugged in. Charge the phone and battery while riding, then charge the other device from the battery while in camp. Win/win. Both dynamo chargers can do this.
So it’s easy. Plug your device into your charger and ride. You’ll get a steady trickle of juice. I will say that the logistics of actually having things plugged in and cords strewn about the front of your bike can be tricky. You’ll need either a handlebar bag or frame bag to store your device, and be careful to route wires so they don’t snag on anything or mess up your steering. While both devices claim waterproof properties, let’s face it – you’re hooking up expensive electronic devices to USB inputs out in the elements. I’m too chicken to actually try to charge something in the rain. I can say, however, that the charging units themselves have stood up to rain, snow, sleet, and general wear and tear with no problems.
I have about 2000 miles on these units this season. While I never made it on an extended week-long tour, I did use both on many commutes and day tours. I love the ease of being able to ride long distances without having to charge anything, and the knowledge that I can ride all day, then charge stuff up around the campsite.
I LOVE the simplicity of the Revolution. Hook it up, then plug your stuff in and go. That’s it. I also love its size. It’s a bit smaller than the B&M, and it tucks nicely out of the way. In my case, I have it mounted under the downtube.
The USB-Werk comes with everything you need and more. I like that it comes with a variety of connectors, and that it came with options to connect with different brands of dynamo hubs.
As a person who has worked in bicycle shops off and on for more than 25 years, I’m big on accessible and understandable customer service. While Busch and Muller is a reliable company with a sterling reputation, and Peter White Cycles is a great resource, you just can’t beat being able to actually communicate with a product’s inventor. Such is the case with SineWave. I sent an email to the company, asking a few questions about the product, and received a detailed reply from the president of the company. What?? Yeah, that was cool. He IS an electrical engineer, and a touring cyclist, so he gets it.
So my verdict is to buy the Revolution. It’s a great, simple, effective product, and you just can’t beat the customer service that backs it up.
Ride hard, ride safe, and remember that a clean bike is a happy bike!