Like it or lump it many people in developed nations now live in a techno-dependant society. For example I own a  Android-powered HTC smartphone which I absolutely love using as it has so many purposes and functions that makes general life and travelling so much easier and more comfortable. These features include a decent 8.0MP camera, HD video recording, media (music, movies etc), ebooks, internet, social networking, email access, weather forecasts, mapping and orientation software, translation apps (Google Translate is great!) calendars, reminders, timers, alarms and more. You get the point!

However the major downside to a smartphone or similar device with a nice big screen, wifi capability and a powerful processor is that the battery only lasts around a day with light-moderate usage. Obviously while you are at home this isn’t an issue as you can just plug your phone in each night. However while you’re on a cycle tour this can become problematic. I was originally planning to simply conserve and ration out my battery, which might stretch the battery to two or three days if I am super careful and have everything non-essential disabled, and then find a outlet somewhere to charge it up every few days.

However I decided that this wouldn’t be a great idea as the phone takes 2-3 hours to charge and would be at risk of being damaged or stolen while it is being charged. So I then started to look into the various options to charge your phone and other energy hungry devices while on tour. I had a few basic criteria, that being the device be as light, non-bulky, weather resistant and power efficient as possible. There were a few different options using dynamo or solar energy sources, such as the dynamo powered Biologic Reecharge Dynamo Kit and Power Pack, the Pedalpower Super-i-Cable, and the solar powered Powertraveller Powermonkey Extreme or Solarmonkey Adventurer kits.

However many of these devices seemed to have some flaws, including being expensive, difficult to source, bulky and/or heavy or having quality issues. For sure there are many people who happily use these devices with zero issues, I would love to be able to test them all out to really give them a good trial. However the one unit that really stood out for me in terms of value, quality, reliability, versatility and multiple favourable reviews was the dynamo powered, German designed and made: Busch & Müller (B&M) E-WERK. The fact that my Vivente World Randonneur came with a Shimano dynamo hub in the front wheel also encouraged me to get a dynamo powered solution, rather than something solar powered.


Busch & Müller E-WERK

Here’s the benefits of the E-WERK as far as I am concerned:

  • It’s made by a reputable German company that is known for designing and producing top-notch bicycle accessories and equipment (my dynamo lights are B&M too).
  • It’s quite small (32x88x23mm) and light (53g) – these figures exclude the mounting bracket and modular cables.
  • It works with a variety of devices as it has a variable output setting (up to 13.3V and 1.5A) that can be tuned to suit a variety of electronic devices (standard USB devices run off 5V @ 500mA which is very easy to produce).
  • Effective at relatively low speeds (~8km/h); optimal at moderate speeds (~15km/h).
  • It comes with a variety of cables and connection interfaces to suit most devices, and you can also modify the adapters to suit special devices if required.
  • It costs ~$130-140 AUD delivered from stores such as Starbike in Germany. This isn’t super cheap I admit, but it’s still a lot cheaper than many other options on the market whilst also being good quality and well designed.

The main downsides I see of the E-WERK is:

  • Price. Some people may find it too expensive still. There are alternative options out there depending on how keen you are to save a buck, including DIY dynamo USB charger options.
  • It needs to have a extra “buffer battery” for most Apple iOS devices (e.g. iPhone) and some other devices in order to create a stable 5V charging. This adds extra cost (~$65 AUD), bulk (80x40x40mm) and weight (180g) but also greatly increases the effectiveness and versatility of the E-WERK not just for using with Apple devices.

I have to admit, I don’t have my E-WERK just yet. I only just ordered one (as well as the accompanying Universal Cockpit Adapter) tonight after many weeks thinking about how I will keep my smartphone charged while cycle touring. The price and bulk put me off as I want to keep things simple and light during my trip. But in the end the idea of being able to charge my phone while I ride and not have to constantly worry about using draining my battery influenced me to take the plunge and buy one. I’ve had it sent to my pre-tour address in Germany, so when I arrive I’ll be testing it out a bit before embarking on any longer tours. I’ll update this post after my trip once I have had more field experience with it and advise it if was worth the money (or not)! Stay tuned.

Happy cycling!

Karl

**UPDATE 06/10/2012**

After spending approximately 4 weeks cycling through Germany and France I can say with certainty that the Ewerk was money well spent. I set it to 4.9v at 1A for my HTC Desire HD phone and after cycling for 3-4 hours at a moderate pace (over 15km/h) the phone has charged from ~20% to 100%. However we had issues with using the Ewerk with my brother’s Samsung Galaxy Ace phone. For some reason it just didn’t charge from the Ewerk. Might be some sort of setting I am not sure. We never managed to find out how to get it working. It may have needed the cache battery.

 I have used the eWerk with my GoPro HD Hero 2 which I took with me on tour and it charged it fine. I also had it on 4.9v @ 1000mA and it took around 3-4 hours to charge the battery. Very helpful as the GoPro’s battery only lasts for 2.5 hours worth of filming.

Finding a free powerpoint to charge up your phone or camera is a real hassle if you are only staying at camp sites, so having the eWerk with me to charge my gear was a great relief in order to be self-sufficient. Overall money well spent!