MotionX GPS app, ReeCharge Power Pack, Dynamo hub

For my recent trip to the Middle East, I ended up leaving the Garmin 705 at home. Even though it was indispensable in guiding me to small roads in Europe and New Zealand, there are no maps for it for Syria, Jordan and Egypt. And there was little point in collecting data on distances, speed, elevation gain, etc., because, well, I don’t care. I was, however, craving street maps of the urban areas I was visiting. And while I always take along or find paper maps, having a GPS as backup to confirm that you are where you think you are on a paper map is convenient.

I had had the MotionX app for the iPhone for some time, but I was still astonished when I was able to use it to download clear and detailed maps of the region.  I loaded all of these at varying levels of resolution (Zoom setting from 6 to 15, for those of you who use the app) to store on the phone. That way, I would not need to be connected to the network to look at the maps.  All the maps together took up a few gigs. The built in GPS was then able to project my location on the maps, and do all of the things one normally expects a GPS to do. It worked brilliantly: the maps showed even alleyways and dirt roads. As a bonus — though it didn’t seem so initially — the place names at most resolutions are in Arabic. This made it so I could show the phone to locals to confirm my directions and route. Even in that mobile-jaded context, where phones are routinely used for everything and far more than ever occurs to me, several people seemed surprised that such things could be on a phone.

Zoomed down to the street level

 

A fairly macroscopic resolution

 

The route that I took into Cairo
the first time I was there, before the revolution started

To keep the phone charged, I was using the Biologic ReeCharge Power Pack connected to a generator hub.  The converter is zip tied to the fork leg. It has leads going to the hub and a plug in connector for the power pack itself, wrapped around the headtube.

After a half day of pedaling the charge pack was full, and I could then connect it to my phone. One full power pack could recharge the phone fully about three times.

It is possible to mount the iPhone on the bars and charge it as needed from the recharge pack. That, I suppose, would allow you to observe your location in real time. I don’t use the GPS this way, as I prefer to have a map memorized or on paper which I follow until I get stymied. At that point I’ll turn on the GPS to figure out where I am. Just a luddite habit, I suppose.

The Shimano hub I took is designed for a 20″ wheel, for, say, folding bikes or recumbents. It has a bit less drag than the unit designed for bigger wheels. The assumption is that the 20″ wheel version will be turning more quickly, so does not need to put out as much power at a given rpm. The upshot is that, with a 26″ wheel build, one must go faster to get the same output from the hub that would be achieved in a smaller wheel. All of these measures are fairly conservative, since dyno hubs are designed for slow-ish moving commuter bicycles. I was getting a full green light in the charge pack even at modest climbing speeds.  The wheel was built by Rob English.

Everything worked flawlessly.  Of course, the front wheel is now gone along wit the rest of the bike. I’m pretty sure I’ll replace it with the same at some point.