Essentials #1

Wheel full 70px I’m beginning to get a handle on the things that, as far as I’m concerned, are “must haves” on my long bike trip.  Mind you, this is because they fit my style of bike touring, so what might be essential for me could be so much dead weight to a different rider.


Wheel full 70px I use my iPhone throughout my riding day as a bike computer, GPS, map server, and entertainment center.  This would ordinarily run the phone’s battery down in three to four hours.  You may recall that I sent my solar panel home- what was I thinking?  And my Schmidt Dynamo hub has turned out to be great for powering the bike’s front and rear lights but, as for my plan to have it power a USB charging port- well, let’s just say that it was an expensive experiment.


Wheel full 70px The one thing I got right was my purchase of two high-capacity Anker 20100 storage cells from Amazon.  Each one of these can keep my iPhone going all day and into the next day if necessary, along with charging camera batteries, Bluetooth speaker and my Bad Elf Pro GPS as needed. They charge overnight- taking about 10 hours, and I alternate them so as to always have one ready.  Each weighs about 3/4 of a pound/.3 kg.  They are small enough to fit nicely into my handlebar bag without taking up a lot of space.  I would still buy the power hub again for the bike lights, but for all other power needs these are all I would bring.

Wheel full 70px Highly recommended.


Rockport, Maine


Wheel full 70px As I ride along, I’m using the Audible and Downpour apps on my iPhone to listen to a selection of audiobooks.  I’ve either read or listened to most of them before, but “Razor Girl” is Carl Hiaasen’s newest and “Debt to Pay” is Reed Farrell Coleman’s just released Spenser novel.  I’ve attached an almost weightless Bluetooth speaker to a bike helmet strap and I can hear the reader just fine over all but the loudest traffic or wind noise.


Wheel full 70px Here’s the list so far.

Mortal Stakes, Robert B. Parker
The Coming Plague, Laurie Garrett
Razor Girl, Carl Hiaasen
The Scarlet Ruse, John D. MacDonald
The Shepherd’s Crown, Terry Pratchett
The Black Marble, Joseph Wambaugh
The Choirboys, Joseph Wambaugh
Red Square, Martin Cruz Smith
Polar Star, Martin Cruz Smith
Debt to Pay, Reed Farrell Coleman
Early Autumn, Robert B. Parker
Free Fall in Crimson, John D. MacDonald

Wheel full 70px Another beautiful day today.  I should wind up near Bucksport, Maine for the night.


Have a heart… rate


Wheel full 70pxThe Scosche Rhythm+ heart rate monitor [linkie] I ordered came in today.  I read a lot of reviews of all the non-chestband monitor devices out there and the consensus appears to be that the Rythm+ is pretty good.

Scosche Logo 250px

Wheel full 70pxIt took about two hours to fully charge and five minutes to set up, link to and add to my various apps.  You wear it on the forearm just below the elbow.  It looks to me like it works as advertised.

One Point Two One Gigawatts…

Great Scott 800px

Wheel full 70pxWell, not quite.  While I am looking for a bit of onboard power on my bike, it’s kind of impractical to be tethered to one of these.

Chief Joseph Dam 800px

Chief Joseph Dam, Columbia River, Washington* – Image credit: Wikimedia

Wheel full 70pxA few posts ago I wrote that my ride was not going to be about how many tech gadgets I could bring with me [linkie]. I have to admit that I’ve found there’s a fine line, though, between bringing just what you need and going full Navin Johnson.

I don't need this 800px

Wheel full 70pxBut I do want bright reliable LED lights front and rear without the hassle of carrying extra batteries and keeping up with them and enough auxiliary power to recharge small electronic devices, like my iPhone and Bad Elf GPS unit [linkie] on the fly.  So I added to my bike build one of Schmidt’s P-238 filled hubs.

Peter Schmidt Generator 800px

…heh, just kidding about the plutonium part…

Wheel full 70pxYou can read real facts (and probably more than you ever wanted to know) about the Schmidt dynamo hubs here [linkie].  The big thing for me is that the hub sounds bulletproof.  I just need it to last about ten weeks without any issues.  It sounds, though, like it will still be functioning after I’m not.

Wheel full 70pxTo pull off power to charge electronics I had one of these included in the build.

The Plug 800px

Wheel full 70pxYes, it’s an honest-to-gosh USB port on a bicycle.  Swiss-made, too, by a company called Supernova.  There’s more information here [linkie].  The little rubber cap hanging open in the photo covers the port, which delivers cleanly regulated 5 volt power at 500 milliamps.  That just happens to be the spec power for USB 2.  The only catch is that I have to be riding at least 12 kilometers/about eight miles per hour.  Something about “engaging the flux capacitor,” probably.

Wheel full 70pxBut enough about tech.  In the next post we’ll talk about why my ride is different from this guy’s [linkie], and how I intend to keep it that way.

David Edgren

* I have to admit that having the bike built in the Pacific Northwest, where pretty much everything runs off hydro power, put me in a “if they can do it, I can do it too” frame of mind. I love wild rivers as much as the next guy, but the hydro dams up here are, by and large, magnificent pieces of civil engineering.

It’s Not about the Tech

Wheel full 70pxI’ve been looking at the great comments that have been made on the “to-do” list thread as the train I am currently riding traverses the Great Plains in northern North Dakota and it crossed my mind emphatically that my focus during this ride will not be on the gadgets that I would be taking with me.  In other words, I don’t intend to ride for 4,000+ miles watching the screen of my handlebar-mounted iPhone.  I’m not going on the ride for that. If that was the point, I could do the same ride by sitting on my stationary bike at home for about 500 hours over 10 weeks or so. Either way, I’d never see this.


Now, we can argue the merits of whether that is worth seeing or not, but hey… I’m the one doing the pedaling.

Wheel full 70pxAnd don’t get me wrong.  The tech is great.  On my first long distance bike rides I packed a bunch of paper maps, a North Face tent with shock-corded 1/2 inch/1.25 cm aluminium poles that I had to bungee to the frame, a brass Svea pressurized white gas backpacker stove, a fuel flask, a candle lantern (remember those?) and a bunch of stuff that probably all together weighed more than my bike.  Unless I was at an intersection or a landmark I never really knew where I was. If I broke down out in the boonies I had no way to call for help. My finicky little fork mounted generator- the kind that had a little roller that needed to press just right on the side of the tire- made just enough electricity to power a dim to the point of useless front and rear light. Bike helmets as we know them today pretty much didn’t even exist. But I rode anyway, and took some really great trips.

Wheel full 70pxSo for a modest investment, I’ll be outfitted on this trip with stuff I couldn’t have even dreamed up in 1970. But no matter how good it all is, no matter how amazing, it isn’t what the ride is about. That’s how you’ll know me if I happen to pass by. I’ll be the guy with my head up, looking around, and making the most out of crossing the country at about 10 miles an hour.

David Edgren