To hold a charge

Thursday, July 6th, 2006 at 11:07pm

On my way home from work tonight I made a detour to drop something off that almost doubled my ride from 25 to 45 minutes. That in itself is not an issue, what was an issue was that 30 minutes in the batteries for the front lights on my bike ran flat. Riding in the dark with a very very dim light is Not A Good Thing™.

I rambled on about the lights when I moved them to my current bike but I will repeat it here: I have a set of CatEye ABS-20 which consists of two 10W halogen lights (one wide, one narrow) and two Ni-Cad rechargeable battery sticks. When I got them almost three years ago I didn’t want to spend the extra on NiMH batteries as I could get at least 45 minutes out of the Ni-Cad’s. Skipping ahead to the present day I am now getting just over 30 minutes which, under normal circumstances, is acceptable for my 25 minute ride.

One of the many items on my (long) list is to supplement these lights with a flashing LED light. The batteries in that will last for ages and while it will not let me see where I am riding its purpose will be to make me visible to others. Given that around half of my ride is on well lit streets there is generally enough other illumination to avoid hazards and in those areas there is little point in using the halogen’s just to be seen.

I have been giving this thought for some time now and I believe I have the following options with regard to the halogen’s:

  • Do nothing. The current setup is serviceable and as the days are now getting longer I will be riding home in plenty of natural light if I get to work early enough so I can leave early.
  • Replace the Ni-Cad cells. Each battery stick consists of five C size Ni-Cad cells which should be a straightforward matter to replace with equivalent cells. This means I can use the current battery charger.
  • Build a new battery pack. The second drink bottle holder mounts on my bike are useless for a bottle but it could be a nice location to mount a battery. I would need to determine what battery would be suitable, possibly a NiMH pack, but I would also need a new charger as well as having to make a suitable connection to the existing harness.

Obviously option 1 involves the least effort and option 2 is also pretty straighforward but it doesn’t give me a fallback option if I mess up the battery pack. Looking long term option 3 is the best as it will be a superior battery as well as allowing the fallback position of the current batteries but it is more effort up front.

The ironic aspect of this is that as the days are now getting longer I need the lights less and less…

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