Final Electrical Installation ~ Part 2

This morning I went out to check on the how well the Sugru had cured and was disappointed that it was still not set tight. It is due to the temperature in the Bike Shed, it was only 49 degrees so I turned the heater on high and went back in the house for a few hours. By early afternoon it was a toasty 75 degrees and the Sugru had set enough to be handled carefully. I removed the Ride & Charge by slowly peeling the blue painters tape off and the mount had formed exactly how I had hoped. A little cleaning up with a razor to remove some excess Sugru and it was ready to mount. The O-rings used to attach the box were designed for a fork blade so a quick trip to the hardware store to get a 2.75″ ring was needed.

Once mounted I cut the taillight lead to length and finished off the end with a double layer of shrink wrap because the box may chafe on the wires where they enter. I may cut a relief in the side of the case where these enter if it seems to be more than just a pinch. Attaching the wire is as simple as pushing down on the plunger, inserting the wire and releasing,(like on the back of most speakers).

The feed from the generator was next. The second half of the quick disconnect plug was secured to the inside of the fork blade using a  P-clip . This will keep the plug securely in place and make connecting and disconnecting easier when I have to take the front wheel off. The connections at the box are the same as the taillight.

The last project for the day was to complete the USB charger that will plug into the stem when needed. the USB connector hole was made by drilling a hole and using a small file to free hand it to size. It is a little larger that I wanted but , oh well. This will be inside the handlebar bag when used so weather tightness wasn’t a design requirement . After a dry fit  the two boards were wired together and mounted in place using non-conductive hot glue. The lead was finished off and soldered in then more hot glue was used to create a strain relief for the cord. An ordinary 1/8″ audio plug is what Busch & Meuller use for their power connection so the other end of the lead was easy.

Done and Done

I know some folks are still shaking their heads at why all this work to add electrical components to a bicycle. For me the ability to be self sufficient while on the road is part of the fun and I have traded the weight of extra batteries and wall chargers for a system that will be part of the bike for a long time and work even if I don’t remember to leech power from the next coffee shop down the road. Being able to recharge 4 AA batterys in four hours or so should give me a more than adequate supply of power for the peripherals I am planning to carry.

(**Added 10:21 pm 1/20/12)

I got an email asking why the taillight is wired in to the charging port and if I could clarify the thought process on charging. The reason for the taillight connection is that the port only diverts power from the generator hub if something is plugged into the 1/8′ jack on the stem. Most of the time nothing will be plugged in here, so the power from the generator is sent to run the taillight. The tail light also has batteries in it so that when something IS plugged in and taking the generator power, the tail light will run off it’s own power. The headlight is really just for emergencies on the road if I get caught out unexpectedly after dark. Otherwise it is my general camp flashlight. It runs on and can charge 4 AA batteries when plugged into the generator so when something dies like my GPS or camera I can pull the charged AA’s out of the headlight and put the dead ones in to charge. The box I built that you see above, can plug in when my phone/iPod needs charging.

I’m currently looking at building one that can take the 6v from the hub and step it up to 18v, if I can manage that then it may be possible to charge my netbook as well, that would eliminate the last 110v power brick from my gear.

Categories: Bike Build, Bike Touring, Long Haul Trucker, Surly | Leave a comment

Final Electrical Installation ~ Part One

I hated to do it. But I had to.

The handlebar tape that took so long to wrap and seal down only lasted a a few weeks . When mounting the Ortlieb handlebar bag bracket it was uncomfortably close to kinking the cables. I really didn’t want to push my luck so I cut off the wrapping and unwound the tape to release some of the bend in the front derailleur cable. I wrapped the tape again  and finished it off with some heavy nylon upholstery thread since I did not want to drive all the way to Bass Pro Shops at Gillette Stadium for more of the fly tying thread I used the first time. This one is a brown that matched the dark part of the wrap. NOW I can begin the wiring.

The taillight has the connections already on with a long braided lead that I made up a few weeks ago. Once mounted it was just a matter of routing the wire. The path I started with was under the left side of the rack far enough from the “working rails” so that it will not get snagged by the pannier hooks or caught behind the panniers. From there it runs along the support rod that locates the Tubus Cosmo rear rack fore and aft, then up to the rear brake cable housing and piggybacks along that route all the way past the headtube where it comes up to the stem.

The Busch & Meuller Ride&Charge has a break out box that they designed to mount on the trailing edge of a fork blade. Since I want to use the generators’s power to run other devices I decided to use it as a power tap so I can plug in whatever I want. Either the headlight to run it without using up the batteries or to charge the AA’s in it, or my custom USB charger for my phone, iPod, GPS   anything USB actually. I will mount it on the stem where I can plug into it easier and keep the device that is charging in the handlebar bag. Since the mounting is made for a fork blade it has a smaller radius on the mounting side than I can use on the stem. Enter my favorite product of the decade, Sugru. I covered the stem with blue painters tape and placed a piece of Sugru about the size of a marble in the narrow groove meant to wrap around a fork blade and pressed it down to conform to the stem. In 24 hours it will be a perfectly molded piece of tough silicone with the charge distribution block mounting  impression on one side and the shape of my stem on the other.

The last photo is the roll of Shrinktek  black braided wire covering, some folks have asked about it. I bought this years ago when I was building custom gaming PC’s so I don’t know if this brand is still available but you can find the same stuff here.

In part 2 of the installation tomorrow I will run the lead from the quick disconnect at the generator up to the distribution block and make the lead that will plug into my custom USB charger.

Categories: Bike Build, Long Haul Trucker, Surly | Leave a comment

Crazy seeps in with the cold…

Thermometer showing 25 degrees

The warmest part of the day

I don’t know why I do some things, maybe that is the definition of crazy.

I was working on the electrical charger this morning while the temperture was around 10 degrees outside. In contrast it was a relatively balmy 57 in the bike shed after having  the electric radiator on high all night . It was too chilly to stay in there without putting on heavier clothes so I decided to come inside. It had warmed up to around 18 by then.

It is now 2:30 in the afternoon, the warmest part of the day. The thermometer in my office window shows about 27 degrees.  As I write this I’m getting ready to go for a bike ride. Partly because I really want to ride, partly to see what kind of clothing and equipment I really need to do it.

Either way….

I’m going for a ride……

(sorry it took me so long to get to the crazy part)

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Handlebar Tape and Fly Fishing Supplies

Fly Tying Thread

With the electrical charging system on hold until I can get out to Needham (You Do It Electronics) to get some additional parts I am working on the finishing touches of this build. The Handlebar tape I had was a light blue, and with the blue hoods on the brake levers it was just too much. The light blue handlebar tape just didn’t go with the Surly blue which is really almost purple. I had Assabet River Bicycles in Hudson, MA get me a brown Salsa tape that is a nice complement to the Brooks saddle.

Surly with ugly blue handlebar tape

The dilemma on how to finish off the wrap was not something I anticipated. Posting a question on the Adventure Cycling forums convinced me that most people just use electrical tape and that is it. I really wanted something a little nicer so I decided to go old school and use a twine wrap and varnish it down. I wanted the wrap that they use to do the handles on custom fishing poles or billiard cues but it was not readily available. I stopped at Bass Pro Shops at Gillette Stadium to see if they carried it and all they had was fly tying materials. Looking for a good color match yielded a nice , almost copper colored thread at under 3$ per roll. I bought 2 to have a spare in the shop.

Wrapping something this fine and not having a big bulge or uneven looking coverage is not easy. The method I used was to align the inside of one end of the spool to where i wanted the wrap to stop and keep tracking exactly over that spot. This allowed the thread to unspool from the roll at the same back and forth frequency that it was on the roll. It took a lot of winds to get a nice solid coverage and look, almost the entire 100 yards, per side! This also gives the handlebar a nice constant diameter. The bulge in the center (to 31.8mm) is masked by the thickness of the tape on the thinner part and the wrap on the transition area.

Carefully tracking around the bar to get an even wind

The end result is pretty nice (in my humble opinion) the copper color and the brown handlebar tape go well with the brown and copper of the brooks. I am going to use Helmsman Spar Urethane to “varnish” the wrap and seal it down. The day I have to take a razor to it out on the road for some cable issue will be the day I get to try the electrical tape method.

Copper wrap complementing the Brooks

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Seasons Greetings & Happy New Year


The Bike Shed

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VeloOrange fender installation today

VeloOrange 50mm Hammered Aluminum Fenders
VeloOrange Logo on rear fender

Today’s the day after Christmas, faced with the choice of working in the shed on the bike or going to the store to try and return a return a gift. It was a no-brainer. The VeloOrange hammered aluminum fenders (50mm wide) arrived this week and I’m anxious to see how they look. Right out of the package I think they’re beautiful, and I’m hoping they will look even better when mounted.

Hardware part

The other thing I noticed right away is that the hardware package contains a LOT of parts. You can see in the picture that the hardware bag contains over 50 items. The instructions offer several ways to mount the fenders depending on what braze-ons are present on your frame and the type of brakes you have.

VeloOrange Hardware Detail

I’ll be starting with the front fender and using the daruma for the attachment at the fork crown. The daruma is an eye-bolt that hangs from another bolt inserted through the brake bolt mounting holes. You can see the daruma at the very top right in the parts photo. Since I have cantilever brakes these holes on the crown are unused. A trip to the local hardware store was required to get a stainless steel 50mm x 6mm Allen cap to hang the daruma from.
The lower mounting points for the front fender are the strut mounts. These are attached to the lower fork eyelets near the axle dropout. I have the Tubus Nova Stainless front rack so I have additional options for the strut mounts. I’m going to use some unused mounting point holes on the rack instead.

Front fender strut mounted

The struts need to be cut to length once the fitting is completed. (Remove the fender after marking the length unless you are very brave) Since they are 5mm aluminum I decided a Dremel tool would be the quickest way to do it, bolt cutters would leave a large burr and possibly deform the end a bit. Some blue tape to protect the strut was applied and the end was finished off with a hand file, 800 grit wet sand and re-polished with 000 steel wool.

Rear fender strut mounted

The rear fender was a breeze after the finicky fitting on the front. It bolts directly to a braze-on in the chainstay bridge, the L-bracket attaches to a braze-on in the seatstay bridge and the rear is attached with a set of strut clips like the front. Again cut to length and attached to extra mounting points on the rack. The only part that required careful attention was getting a hole drilled in the center of the fender exactly where the seatstay l-bracket needs to be. I used a sharpie to mark the spot then removed the fender completely, used a spring loaded center-punch to precisely mark the spot, then used a drill press and deburring tool to finish. All in all I think they look great and should add a lot of riding days to the calender.

Seatstay bridge fender mount
Dremel with cut off pieces of front strut
Strut end, cut to length and filed
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at least it wasn’t a burned out Christmas light.

Spent yesterday morning working on a final placement for the “black box”. I need to make a decision so I can begin wiring the tail light. I ran into a malfunction before it manifested itself in my circuit. The Busch & Meuller Ride & Charge box I posted about previously, has a switching 1/8″ jack to divert power from the hub when the cable is connected. I wanted to know which 2 connectors on the plug (it is a stereo3 pin jack) were live. I was assuming the barrel would be one connection and the tip would be the other (at this point it’s still AC so there is no Pos -Neg yet) , but I wanted to be sure the center section was unused. Lo and behold with no plug in the jack I could not find where one of the feeds was going.

After about a hour of re-drawing the circuit in my head I was determined that I was right and something was wrong. Mind you this is a brand new piece that has never been installed. I checked the jack for the connections I knew should be there and found an open circuit, the little spring that is supposed to push the contact closed when the plug is removed wasn’t pushing it all the way and that leg was remaining open. With a jack plugged in , it was working correctly. What this would have done is let my USB box work just fine but NOT send power to the taillight when the USB is turned off, I am SO SO glad I found this before connecting my home brewed USB charger to this, I would have figured the problem was with my stuff, not the parts that are supposed to work already. Call it good luck, call it thorough testing, call it anything you want….I’m calling it an early X-mas present.

Luckily I had a similar jack left over from a headphone extension project I made for my computer monitor and was able to remove the original and solder in the new one without any problems. Post transplant testing yielded the results I expected to find. This allowed me to finish up the assembly on the prototype all-in-one board for the on board black box. An old machinist vice lined with gaffers tape makes a fine holder and is heavy enough not to move around. The 6v AC to 3v DC part is on the bench, the Minty Boost is in the vice. These will be mounted together on the larger board.

Having made decent progress on the circuits I turned back to the tail light and box placement. I have decided that a small frame bag, mounted behind the head tube makes the most sense.The power from the gen hub can come right up the head tube and the tail light wire can run along the underside of the rear rack on the left side , continue along the top tube near the rear brake cable to the head tube. I wired up the tail light connections and fitted the braided  “anti-chafe” jacket over the leads. I’ll cut the leads to length at final install.

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Electrical System Install

Well it’s been awhile since I last posted,  a lot of things have been happening so Ill break them into individual posts over the next few days. The First one I want to get to is the design for the electrical system.

I know, I know…it’s a bicycle! Why on earth does it have an electrical system at all ?

The first reason is safety, If I’m caught out after dark due to a (insert horrible scenario of your own here)  I’d like to be able to count on my headlight working without worries about batteries., so this bike has a generator hub on the front wheel. I also run with a taillight on even in daylight, battery worries there are also removed by using the hub.

The second reason is my personal attachment to small electronic gizmos. Since I am generating electricity as I roll down the road, I can use that to keep my personal electronics charged and ready to go without having to plug in someplace or buy batteries. I will generally be using a cell phone, iPod touch and a Nikon L24 camera at least. That is a lot of batteries to carry and replace, all AA’s. My headlight and tail light also run on on AA’s. The headlight can charge 4 at a time even if the lights are on so that takes care of most of my power issues.

SON28 Dynamo Hub Quick Disconnect Pigtail

The problem arises with the iPod and cell phone needing a USB connection to charge (5v). I have previously posted about my step up charger that takes 3 volts and ups it to a 5 volt USB port. The new one I built uses the generator hub to supply it with 6v AC then converts it to DC, steps it down to 3.5 v to simulate a pair of AA’s, then steps it back up to a stable 5v USB connector. I have to do the slightly less efficient down then up because I didn’t design the USB circuit and don’t know how to modify it to accept more than 3-4v without cooking it. (The Minty Boost USB charger from 2 AA’s was engineered by the Amazing Lady Ada).

2 Conductor Trailer Connector

So I have combined the charging circuit that came with my headlight, a Minty Boost USB Charger and a 6v AC to 3.5v DC rectifier of my own design into 1 box that will mount between the top struts on my rear rack.

Spade Terminals

The first part of the install was to create an easy way to take the front wheel on/off without messing with the 2 little spade terminals that are right on the axle behind the fork brazeons, and the rack struts. I can see that being a pain even before I’m tired, wet and have a flat, so let’s make that as easy as possible. By using a 2 connector trailer harness I created a small pigtail that will stay attached to the generator. Just unplug the connector and drop the wheel. The pigtail runs right up the inside of the fork blade and is held in place by its mate.(attached to the fork about 2/3 of the way down)

Categories: Bike Build | Tags: , | 2 Comments

and away we go……

Well It has been a long week of Holiday feasting, bike building and equipment organizing but I managed to get out this morning and take the maiden voyage on the new bike. I found time this week to mount the Tubus stainless steel racks and give everything one last double check. However, being the pessimist that I can sometimes be, I took a lot of tools with me as I expected just about everything to be wrong. The only thing that WAS wrong was my expectations.  The ride went very smoothly with only a saddle height adjustment period, and a slight stem alignment. There is also a click in the left pedal cleat that I have not figured out yet. Needless to say I am very happy with the way the build came out, it rides beautifully and I’m told it will ride better still with a touring load on it.

To add a note:  I received a lot of comments and disapproving murmurs when I mentioned mixing Campagnolo Ergo Power levers with a SRAM X7 rear derailleur, chain and cassette. The word “blasphemy” was uttered more than once I believe. So far they have not started a food fight with each other and all is good. I am by no means an expert tuner of drive trains and I suspect that once an experienced mechanic gets to tweaking this it will not only be good, but superb.

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Handlebars and Front Brakes Today

Spent this morning finishing up the front end of the bike. The Funky Monkey hanger came in yesterday so I was able to finish the brake cabling . Since the cabling is all done I went ahead and wrapped the bars and swapped out the stock Campy hoods for a set of Hudz.

I really don’t like the way Cinelli handlebar tape terminates. They provide a crappy piece of tape that neither sticks well or conforms well enough to be attractive or useful. I think I am going to do an old school twine wrap around the last inch, or maybe superglue the very trailing edge down.

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