Dynamo, aka generator, hubs are a great way to power bicycle electronics. You never have to worry about carrying spare batteries for your lights, and if paired with a dynamo USB charger, you’ll never have to worry about keeping your smartphone/GPS charged. The problem I’ve found with dynamo USB chargers, though, is that the reliable models are not modestly priced, and the modestly priced models are not reliable. Enter Sinewave Cycles (formerly Brite-Bike Labs) of Cambridge, Mass.
At the Philadelphia Bicycle Expo, I was lucky enough to meet Dave Dean, the resident electrical engineer at Sinewave. I told him about the frustrations I had with the effectiveness (rather, lack thereof) of low-priced USB chargers, and then he told me about the Revolution. It’s a no-frills dynamo USB charger that is as functionally effective as it is solidly built, all at a very reasonable price. My old USB charger struggled to charge my phone, even with the wireless network disabled; the Revolution boasted best in class efficiency. My old USB charger burned out on a long downhill (Rabbit Ears Pass); the Revolution has high speed overload protection. My old USB charger was corroded after a few rainy rides; the Revolution has a gold-plated USB connector so it won’t corrode, and it’s 100% waterproof, so rain is no issue. On top of all that, it also has a one-year warranty on materials and manufacturing.
Needless to say, I was impressed by the specs, but I wouldn’t be sold until I gave it a try for myself. When a sample arrived on the Philly Pedals doorstep, I was eager to take it for a spin. Here are my test results, as well as some overview information about the rides:
Phone: LG G2
Hub: Shimano Alfine
Concurrent Power Draws: Supernova E3 Pro 2 Headlight, Supernova E3 Taillight
Installation Time: 5 minutes (less if you don’t have lights to add it to)
Test 1 West Philadelphia to Aston and back (45 miles)
Duration: 5 hours
Starting Battery Charge: 95%
Final Battery Charge: 86%
Running Features: Mobile Network, GPS
Running Applications: Strava, Google Maps, Pandora
Results: The Revolution requires a constant minimum speed of 3.5 mph for a slow charge, and 9 mph for a normal charge. The first half of this ride involved a lot of stops and starts while riding through Upper Darby and other burby areas. The battery dipped to 81% at its lowest, but after a long stretch of no stop lights, it charged back up to 86%. Worked as described.
Test 2 Oaks to West Philadelphia (25 miles)
Duration: 2.5 hours
Starting Battery Charge: 70%
Final Battery Charge: 82%
Running Features: GPS
Running Applications: Strava, Google Maps, Android Music
Results: On the ride out, I used all of the same apps and features as I did the day prior, except without having my phone plugged into the charger, and it drained my battery from 100% to 70% in 2.5 hours. Upon reaching Oaks, I plugged my phone into the charger, disabled my mobile network, and then switched from Pandora to locally stored music. Just by disabling the mobile network, I was able to get a 12% positive charge even with frequent stops and starts.
That little box delivers a lot of power, even when installed upside down Photo by Troy Mustache
After two days of riding with this charger, I was sold. It delivered a solid charge when maintaining a constant speed of nine mph, even while running GPS, the mobile network, and a bunch of apps (Test 1). When motion wasn’t constant, it was still able to charge up a phone with ease when the mobile network was disabled (Test 2). Also, please take note that all of this was happening while sharing the electricity from my value-priced hub with a 3.0 amp draw from my lights. There was no need for compromise with this charger; I could have everything running at once.
The Sinewave Revolution will enable you to maintain a full charge while running a GPS-driven ride tracker and streaming audio all day. That kind of performance should appeal to cyclists that enjoys long rides as well as commuters that like to pump up the jam on the way to work. Most importantly, it should appeal to everyone that realizes how important a charged phone can be in a tight spot.
Finally, in Sinewave news, they have just released the Reactor. This sweet baby fits into the top of your steerer tube (the top of your fork), making your bicycle one with the machine. It’s pretty slick.