Monday, August 27, 2012

Quick BikeCharge Impressions

Because many readers have asked, here are some quick impressions of the BikeCharge integrated light/dynamo/USB charger. We've used the BikeCharge several times, including a hilly 53-mile ride and several local rides in our hometown.

BikeCharge mounted on a steel fork
General Impressions: Overall, we're impressed with the quality of the unit. It's solidly made and generally works as advertised. We took the unit up to speeds of over 40 mph with no problems.

The exception so far is the USB function, which is not working on our unit. We informed the manufacturer, and they're sending a replacement unit, which we will test and report on as soon as it arrives.

Riding with the BikeCharge: On that recent 55-mile ride, we rode with the BikeCharge's dynamo engaged for the entire ride (it's easy to disengage the unit for daytime riding, but we kept it on for test purposes). The unit's drag is minimal--we honestly couldn't discern any loss of speed caused by having it on. Lacking any special testing equipment, we'll guess that the drag is equal to or perhaps a bit less than a Schmidt hub, and certainly less than a B&M bottle generator. The unit's gearbox emits a very low level of noise, certainly less than a bottle generator. The only time the unit produces more noise is when changing speed, when the gearbox and/or the "clutch" mechanism that rests in the spokes make slightly louder gear meshing sound.

Brightness: We've been pleasantly surprised by the brightness of the headlight. The LED lamp is rated at 100 lumens, but it seems brighter than that. We used the BikeCharge for a brief nighttime ride, paired with a helmet-mounted Exposure Lights "Joystick" on the lowest setting, and adequate light for riding at about 20 mph. It's certainly not as bright as an Edelux or a similar high-end light, but certainly enough to ride with. We can certainly see this light working well for randonneuring events. The light is quite visible from the front, even in bright sunlight, making it a great running light for full-time use.

Our only minor complaint with the front light is its low-mounted location, which makes it somewhat hard to aim properly. We prefer a light mounted on the fork crown or handlebars, but the BikeCharge offers the tradeoff of being a single, easy-to-mount unit.

The red LED taillights, on the other hand, are a bit of a disappointment. They're not nearly as bright as the headlight (good thing, too, because you can see them while you are riding), and I wouldn't want to rely on them as my only source of rear-facing illumination. Riders in the USA and other countries where we drive on the righthand side of the road will also note that the unit mounts on the right side of the bike, making the taillights less visible to cars approaching from the rear on the left side of the bike.

USB Charging: As noted earlier, we couldn't get the USB charging function to work. The manufacturer said this was rare, and is sending a replacement unit. We're a little concerned about the relatively lightweight connector for the USB cord, but we'll wait to see how well it withstands regular service once we get a working unit.

More photos of the mounted BikeCharge after the break. Click here for unboxing photos.

Top view of the BikeCharge
Remote switch for the BikeCharge

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