Fig. A: Plug your GPS into the solar charger.
Fig. B: Solar panels mount easily to the bike’s
front fender with Velcro.
Fig. C: Bolt a car dashboard PDA holder to the handlebar,
then Velcro the PDA in there. Fig. D: Tuck the wires away
with cable ties, and you’re rolling.
the bike outside, turned on the PDA, and checked its wound up showing a car mechanic how it worked.
battery screen to see if the solar panel was working. He asked me if I used the PDA’s digital music player
Everything checked out, so I proceeded to tuck the as a two-wheeled iPod. That got me started groov-wires away with cable ties (Figure D), leaving a little ing to tunes while I pedaled. I started using the
slack in every run to accommodate road bumps and device’s appointment program to play an alarm
turns. You can also use Velcro straps to make the when it was time to turn around and head home.
equipment more easily removable. Finally, I had a brainstorm and used the device’s
built-in wi-fi data radio to surf the web and listen to
internet radio when I stopped at a local Starbucks
for a break.
All told, this bike project went far beyond its
original intent, opening up a new world of biking
and computers. Some might call it technological
overkill, but it’s liberating not to worry about
where I am or how to get home. Now, I only
get lost when I want to.
Music and More
My first ride lasted only a couple of hours, but was
eye-opening. The GPS receiver and PDA tracked me
every pedal of the way, even when I went off-road.
I started with a half-charged battery, but it was
sunny and I returned with it almost fully charged.
(When it’s overcast or at dusk, the solar cell augments the battery’s power.)
On the downside, the maps were sometimes
barely readable while I rode over bumpy surfaces,
and direct sun washed out the Toshiba e740’s
screen, even though it was designed for outdoor
use. A greater disappointment was that, unlike
newer GPS devices and programs, the Ostia software doesn’t calculate speed and mileage.
But the rig is a natural conversation starter. I’ve
been asked, “What’s that?” and “Does it get cable
TV?” One time I stopped to fill a tire with air and
Brian Nadel is a writer based north of New York City,
and is the former editor-in-chief of Mobile Computing
& Communications magazine. A 25-year veteran of technology journalism, he has worked for Popular Science,
PC Magazine, and Business Tokyo.
136 Make: Volume 10