Taming handlebar cables

I have not yet found a way to completely tame the weird squiggles that brake and shifter cables make on a recumbent, but these TerraCycle clamp-on cable guides help quite a lot:

Yeah, these are an indulgence, because you can hold your cables in place with a handful of zipties if you position them right. But these guides really do clean up that problem area on the steering mast, and I’m sure they’ll last longer than any other component…

(If you’re getting these for a Giro 20 recumbent steering riser, get the 1 1/4 kind, not the 1 1/8 kind.)

A larger mirror for recumbent riding

When you’re riding a recumbent, a rearview mirror is essential, whether it’s mounted on your handlebars or on your helmet. You can’t turn around in your seat for a quick glance behind you.

I prefer a handlebar mirror, because I can view it with two eyeballs instead of one, and my eyes don’t have to adjust as much when I switch between looking at it and looking at the road ahead. So I bought a Busch & Muller “Cycle Star Mirror”. I’ve never been satisfied with it though, because it’s too small and the support rod hits against my hand when I’m resting my arms on the handlebars. Then I upgraded to a Busch & Muller “Cycle Star 80” and solved both those problems:

Now I can see a huge chunk of the road, and there’s room for my hands. The mirror is heavier so it tends to vibrate more, but it’s still way more useful. I put some plastic epoxy in the adjustable base to cut the vibration down to almost nothing, and now I’m pretty confident that I’ve found the best recumbent mirror there is.

Wiring up a tail light: How to keep it out of the way?

If you’re riding at night, you need a tail light. If you’re riding a lot, you want one that’s wired in, so you never leave it at home by accident and never need to worry about powering it. But how do you wire the thing up?

In the past, my solution has been to ziptie the wire to the frame and the rack, but more than once I’ve accidentally broken the wire while moving the bike around or arranging heavy gear. So now I’m trying something else: Plastic adhesive!

I taped the wire down over the fender, leaving most of it exposed, and then I busted out the JB-Weld.

Using some rubber gloves and a paper towel, I applied enough adhesive to cover the wire, then cleaned up around it to make a smooth ridge running almost the entire length of the fender. When that was set, I peeled off the tape and covered the remaining gaps.

The result: A wire that is as out of the way as possible, safe from corrosion, and won’t get snagged by rack equipment.

Improvised strap holders for Ortlieb Sport Packer Plus bags

The long carrying straps for these Ortlieb bags are really handy…

Until you want them out of the way. For example, when you’ve placed the bags on your bike and you don’t want the straps getting tangled in your wheels.

What’s a busy bike tourist supposed to do with these dang things? Unclip them and stow them inside the bag, every time? Leave them clipped, but drop them inside the bag, where they’ll get wrapped around bits of luggage?

Here’s a solution. It works so well it should probably be part of the original bag design. First, get ahold of a bag of extra Ortlieb doodads.

Then get ahold of two velcro straps. These are pretty common; you can find a dozen different kinds on Amazon. Using the same brass punching tool that Ortlieb supplies for mounting pockets and water bottles, poke a hole near the lip of each bag, on the side where the lid is connected. Then poke a hole through each of your velcro straps, near the buckle.

Use a nut, a screw, and a couple of washers from the spare parts collection to attach each velcro strap to one of the bags. You can now fold up the carrying straps, and secure them neatly to the lip of each bag, using the velcro straps like so:

It’s very tidy, on and off the bicycle. Now you can keep the straps attached and available all the time, but totally out of the way then you don’t need them.

Using USB-C to charge a Mavic Air?

Somewhere I got the crazy idea that it would be fun to bring a camera drone on my bike tours. Every bit of weight counts, of course, so I got a portable one called a Mavic Air.

It’s great, but it uses a custom battery that can only be charged with a large power adapter, and the adapter weighs half a pound. I’m already packing a 5-port USB charger that has one USB-C output suitable for charging a MacBook. That should put out more than enough voltage to charge the Mavic battery. Why can’t I use that?

Well, it turns out I can.

This is a little widget called a PD Buddy Sink. You can plug it into a USBC charger like so:

Then you can program it to ask for any voltage that a USBC power source can supply, and make it available. For example, 15 volts at 2 amps, which is enough to feed into this Mavic Air charger designed to plug into a vehicle’s accessory port:

I removed part of the casing to expose the wires, then linked them up to the PD Buddy Sink, like so:

Then I decided to get arts-and-craftsy. I formed a gross looking extension to the car adapter case, using some two-part epoxy and silicone glue. Now it looks like the adapter is digesting the PD Buddy. Mmm! Delicious!

Using my MacBook, I then programmed the PD Buddy Sink to ask my power adapter for 12.5 to 15 volts at 3 amps, with 15 volts preferred:

And after writing the configuration to the PD Buddy, I plugged it in, and presto! It started charging.

On the left, I’m using the 5-port USB charger to charge my MacBook, with a digital USBC power meter attached. The MacBook has negotiated for 20 volts and is getting about 19 volts. On the right, I’ve plugged the same USB charger into my Frankensteined car adapter, and it’s negotiated for 15 volts. Success!

(If you look closely you can see the adapter is pulling only 0.005 amps. That’s because the Mavic Air battery is fully charged.)

So, was it worth it? Well, I weighed my new Frankensteined adapter, and it’s a little less than 1/4th of a pound. So I’ve saved 1/4th of a pound, but I’ve lost the ability to charge my laptop and my battery at the same time, and lost the two extra USB ports that the power brick provided. Nah, it wasn’t really worth it. But I had a good time!