While I love to spend my free time on a bike to disconnect, I admit it is also a great feat of our time to benefit from all those capabilities modern technology provides, especially on longer tours. However, using your phone with Google Maps to navigate, record everything on Strava, taking pictures and more is not going to get you very far and definitely not through a long 10h+ day without charging. There is always the lunch time restaurant stop to sooth some of the pain or you stick a power bank in your handlebar bag which will get you through a couple of days.
For the longer trips, especially in remote areas and on those increasingly popular ultra cycling events such as the Transcontinental Race or the French Divide you might be looking for a solution to convert a few of your pedaling watts into juice for your high-tech.
This summer, during a 2500km bike trip across France, I have put my confidence in German technology and tested the probably lightest set up you can find in the market to reliably charge devices on the go while riding at average Joe speed: The Velogical three-phase generator and the geeky “Forumslader” (installed on my Transcontinental bike).
The light Velogical dynamos are relatively well known among frame builders, yet not so much in the long distance cycling community, even though it’s a great product for such events. I have used the regular race version on the bike for the Concours de Machines 2017 in connection with the Supernova E3 Pro 2 and Tail light. It illuminated my path even after a cold start directly into a climb at 4am. However, the regular versions will not generate enough power to run the lights and charge a device. For this the Velogical team developed the three-phase generator, a device that can generate more than twice as much electrical power output as the regular versions at the same speed.
The “Forumslader” (Lader [German] = charger, Forum = the solution was developed by an online forum of enthusiasts trying to find a reliable solution to charge devices on longer bike trips) is a semi-custom solution which consists of a USB socket that sits on top of the head tube, a battery pack that can be integrated into the fork steerer or kept external, a bit of technology that assures constant power output and that allows you to connect the charger via bluetooth to your phone to check the charging status and other data via a proprietary app. The size of the battery pack is the part that can be customized depending on your needs and available space in the fork steerer (only available for 1 1/8” steerer tubes or larger).
The advantage of the Forumslader vs. other solutions I have tested, such as the Supernova Plug, is that it constantly collects your energy output up to the point the batteries are fully charged, even if you only ride at slow speed, and it releases it at a constant rate which allows you to charge smartphones or have a constant light output going up the hill. And evidently you can also charge your device or use your lights at complete stand still. With the set up Velogical 3-phase generator and Forumslader I usually charge the high capacity battery of my Samsung Galaxy S7 in 3 hours, a charge of a Garmin 810 takes about 1 hour at long-distance travel speed. The set up has shown to be waterproof even in heavy downpour. The rain and the resulting wet rims may reduce the charging capacity slightly but I didn’t notice any significant impact as I was connecting the set up mainly in long descents, another advantage of a rim dynamo - it can be engaged when needed, avoiding drag when no electrical power is necessary.
Being a frame builder I can assure that the Velogical generator and the Forumslader can be neatly integrated in the frame design, for example hiding the charger in the fork steerer and adding dedicated mounts for the rim dynamo. Both devices and their respective versions are available in my shop.
Price of the Velogical 3-phase generator: 200 Euro TTC (168 Euro outside of EU plus local taxes and shipping)
Price of the Forumslader as tested with 3 batteries (each 0.7Ah = 6Wh), USB port and 1 1/8” expander with cable guide: ca. 200 Euro TTC
For further reading on this topic, here is a quite comprehensive article on other charging set ups, not necessarily compatible with the Velogical generators.