Why you should care
You’re riding already. Why not juice up your phone at the same time?
You have to admire cyclists. Biking is super environmentally friendly, reduces congestion on already choked urban arteries and has health benefits, too. But if you weren’t already sold on the idea of becoming a two (or three) wheeler, here’s another benefit to add to the list: Cycling can also charge your favorite gadgets.
No doubt you’ve seen other bike-based generating systems, like hub- or bottle-style dynamos, which use pedal power for lights. The Siva Cyle Atom not only powers lights but also much more, including pretty much any device you own — smartphone, GPS, GoPro or even your aging iPod. If it can plug into a USB port, the Atom can power it. The unobtrusive, weather-resistant charging system mounts easily to the rear wheel of your bike. To start producing power, you need to be going at least 5 mph. A bonus: If there’s any leftover juice, the 1,650-mAh battery pack stores it and kicks in to charge your devices whenever you’re stopped or riding slowly.
It was originally conceived as a way to bring much-needed power to unreliable electrical infrastructures in the developing world.
Invented by Aaron Latzke and partner David Delcourt in 2011 in Oakland, California, the Atom was originally conceived as a way to bring much-needed power to unreliable (or in many cases nonexistent) electrical infrastructures in the developing world. While that’s still Latzke and Delcourt’s plan, they decided to “start where the money is,” as Latzke puts it. So the pair headed to Kickstarter in 2013, where the Atom met its funding goal, and is now available for purchase online for $129.
So how much extra pedaling will you need to do to charge your dying phone? Latzke says the device adds 10 percent to your effort, but that most riders won’t even notice. “It’s silent and you don’t feel it,” he explains. You will need to pedal at an average speed of 13 mph for 100 minutes to fully charge the battery (which is a little bigger than the one in an iPhone 5s). While it’s an option for anyone, the device is targeted more toward long-distance touring cyclists. Cheryl Phair, an avid rider in Whitehorse, Yukon, who averages about 3,000 miles a year, thinks it’s a great device for “serious cyclists” who carry their phones on long rides, but not for urban commuters who are not going very far or very fast.
A few other drawbacks: compatibility and security. The Atom won’t work with bikes that use disc- or hub-style brakes because those mechanisms interfere with the device’s mounting position. And if you don’t secure your rear wheel with a hex nut, it becomes easy pickings for thieves — but you lose the convenience of a quick-release hub.
But these are relatively minor issues for a charging system that takes an eco-friendly form of transportation and turns it into an eco-friendly way to keep your devices powered. Just keep in mind: You may be saving the planet with all of that pedal power, but if you text and ride, you might not live long enough to appreciate the fruits of your green labor. Be safe.