The Great Summer Trip – Power To The People

Photo courtesy of some parent's goofy kid

Less than two weeks until my trip.  I’m so excited that I’m about to pee my pants.

As promised, one of the things that will be available on this blog is a live map that will allow you to see my location in real time.  Not only will that be immensely interesting for you the reader, but it will make my wife and parents sleep more easily.  I’ll also be updating the blog while I’m on the road via the Word Press application for my phone.

The problem is, how do I keep from draining the phone’s battery while sending back live location data, using the aGPS functions and navigation, and using it for blogging?

It used to be that nearly every external accessory that you’d use on a car or bike was powered by a cigarette lighter adapter. Nowadays, though, so many electronic items are charged through a USB port that it only makes sense to have a direct USB power port on the bike, rather than use a bulky, clumsy cigarette adapter on the fairing or underneath the seat.

Via the Pashnit website (a great website for lovers of traveling by motorcycle), I learned of 3BR Powersports and their line of bike-specific USB power adapters. I decided to buy one and check it out.

The 3BR unit features a small, sealed power port with a mounting base fitted with double-sided adhesive. The base is flexible and can be mounted on both flat surfaces and round surfaces (like handlebars). I decided to mount mine about half way up the rise on the right side of the handlebars, since putting it near the base of the bars would interfere with the choke on one side, and the top triple clamp gets in the way regardless of which side you use. The instructions say to wrap a couple zip ties around the base for 72 hours to secure it while the adhesive cures, but I may just leave them on permanently. They’re virtually impossible to see anyway.

3BR gives you six feet of power lead, which is more than enough to get everything hooked up. The important thing is to take care in routing the wires so that you can go lock-to-lock on the handlebars without straining the wires. After a couple false starts, I settled on a cable route that followed along the front brake line, curved between the ignition switch module and the headlight area wiring harness, and then along the left side of the frame near the choke/throttle cables and the main wiring harness. I snaked the power leads through the triangle area in the upper frame, and then ran it alongside the wiring harness until it got back to the battery.

To mount the phone itself, I re-purposed my RAM mount that I originally used for my iPod. A friend of mine had machined me a plate that fit the iPod; I just cleaned off the old Velcro pads and repositioned the mount to put the phone in the center of my instrument cluster.

Rather than go with some fancy-pants hard shell mount specific for my phone (or a generic smartphone mount, all of which are ugly), I decided to go the “simpler is better” route and use adhesive-backed Velcro. I put two strips of the “rough” side on the RAM mount, and put two strips of the smooth side on the back of the phone. (I learned that lesson from my experience with the iPod… I put the rough side on the iPod to begin with, but then I could never get it out of my pants pocket ’cause it would stick).

The end result is – in my opinion – simple, elegant, and effective.

The Super AMOLED display on my Galaxy S phone is still fairly well readable in direct sunlight, so I can even use Google Navigation while on the road. I can even plug the headphone output into my intercom and listen to music while I ride. Of course, if it rains then I’ll have to take it off and put it someplace safe, but that’s no big deal.

All in all, I’m pleased with the results. I’m looking forward to testing it before I go on my trip.

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