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Charging Troubles (5v not 12v)

Blog Date 10 April 2022

No, no, wait, don't go. This isn't about the charging and often troublesome non-charging of the 12v lead acid battery fitted to your motorcycle - for a change. This is about keeping all the other electrical gubbins modern life has blessed/cursed us with these last, what, probably 20 years but more so in the last 10 years.

I got my first mobile phone back in '97. The battery would last weeks but that's because it was too damn expensive to actually use. Today I can talk and text perpetually within my monthly bill and with so many hot spots and wifi networks I can surf almost endlessly too without punishing my data allowance. The phone not only provides a connection to family and friends, it's a portable TV, it's a sat-nav, it's a camera, and it's a games console too (solitaire only on mine).

So for myself the phone in particular needs to be kept charged. The other thing for me is my vape stick. I'm no longer a smoker but I am a vaper.

Other folks will be running an actual sat-nav. Heated jackets and gloves and pants and socks used to be plugged directly into the bike's 12v system, today they're often powered by a USB power pack or a bespoke USB charged battery. A lot of the moto-vloggers use drones to capture quite excellent footage of themselves riding somewhere beautiful, those will need charging. I bet there's a few folks out there with tablets or laptops even when they're on holiday. 

A montage uf usb powered items like phone, vape, light, drone, sat-nav
Ooooh kit! It all needs charging.

Anyhoo. This last 4 or 5 years I've had a "thing" on my bike to keep the phone charged, as well as a couple of USB power packs. It was cheap, has a cigarette lighter port and 1 standard USB type A port, and an on/off switch. It's been located behind the right side fairing panel and to be honest it's worked a treat. 

We've really struggled with Sharon's set up, none of the USB ports seemed to put out sufficient current to keep anything charged. We purchased "quality" items, same problem. This cheapie of mine just kept on feeding the angry pixies at a satisfactory rate just fine.

Alas all good things come to pass. Living on a scruffy motorcycle that's used in the wind and the rain and the cold and the winter salt it has become somewhat "crusty". It's getting to the point where the USB socket's connecting abilities have become "intermittent". As such it's time to shell out the staggering amount of £6.99 (robbing swines) and get myself a new USB come cigarette lighter port thingy and get it fitted.

The old USB charger with type A socket and cigarette lighter socket looking scruffy and rusty
The old thingy is a bit rough around the edges now.
The new version is the same as the old one just less rusty and crusty
The new one is a little fresher.

I'm trying a different tack. Rather than mounting said USB thingy behind the fairing I'm going to mount it under the seat. The thinking is it'll be drier (not totally dry mind) and less prone to unwelcome attention under there. It does mean I'll need to remove the seat to access it, but that's easily done. It does mean I'd have to run a wire to the 'bars if my phone needs charging while also acting as sat-nav, but that's easily done. 

The new charger is positioned under the seat close to the battery this time
I won't see the nice little blue light under the seat though.

The plan is to charge the USB power packs when riding during the day and use these to charge the phone and/or vape stick. I have learned the hard way it is perfectly possible to flatten a motorcycle battery by charging USB power packs, it is unwise to charge these while the bike is not running for any length of time (see Of Batteries and Glendaruel).

Nothing is perfect and there is one small area of concern. Charging from USB power banks never seems to *quite* get as much charge in as it does when charging directly from the charger. I am most definitely not an electrical engineer but this feels like charging from a thing that's been charged from a thing is like a photocopy of a photocopy, it's fine but never quite as good as the original. The phone will show 100% fully charged but won't last quite as long as it would if charged straight from a mains socket adapter. Hmmmm. 

It'll be fine, I'll work it out. As you can see I've surgically removed the handlebar clamp from the thingy, neatly packed the wire (but not shortened it yet in case I change my mind) and I've ordered a sticky pad to stick it in place so it won't wander around. 

We see the charger wired to the USB power pack under the seat of the CB500X
This is the present set up. 

I've also fudged a USB power bank retaining system (patent pending). There's random screw posts moulded into the mudguard for purposes unknown and I've made use of these, an old bicycle inner tube strap and a used old washing up sponge for padding. My genius knows no bounds.

A rubber strip, an old sponge and the underside of the seat
USB power bank retaining system (patent pending).

Advertise your USB products here! Contact

Reader's Comments

nab301 said :-
Ren ,
Would you be better off with one of those miniature power pack /jump starter thingys , a little larger than your current set up but much more capacity and with a usb powerbank port, alternatively , fit a little wind generator on the handlebars and maybe a kickstart conversion as a back up..


10/04/2024 10:31:53 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Firstly, do your friends and family wish you to be in constant contact?
Secondly, stop being a drug addict. Whisky does not require electrons.
Thirdly, you need a power pack thingy as per Nigel.
Fourthly, you'll do as you please anyway.
Fifthly, I agree completely with your solution because you are our leader.
10/04/2024 11:41:54 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
I have a powerpack jump-starter thingy nab301. Let me play out a little scenario for you...

You've charged your power bank jump starter (PBJS) dutifully while riding the bike. You park up and pitch up and that evening you charge your phone from the PBJS, as well as keep the phone topped up while watching a few YouTube videos. You also charge the e-cig and all is good.

You wake the next morning and for reasons unknown the battery on the bike is unwell. Fear not! I have my PBJS, lucky me. Oh wait. Oh no. The PBJS is also flat after charging the phone and e-cig etc. Now you can't start the bike to charge the PBJS to start the bike to charge the PBJS...

While the PBJSs are incredibly forceful when it comes to throwing amperes at a starter motor it's been my experience they are less wilful when charging items over a long slow charge. This thing of mine can (allegedly) output 1,000 amps but as a phone charger it's no better than the small regular power banks. It's size is probably due to big wires and circuitry to handle those big amps, I doubt it contains a lot of actual battery.

This PBJS comes with me on my travels. It lives at the bottom of the bags and I hope to never use it in anger.

Right Upt'...
Firstly no, mercifully.
Secondly yes I have a problem.
Thirdly see above.
Fourthly yes.
Fifthly I admire your sarcasm.
Posted Image
10/04/2024 13:13:00 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Didn't know that about the PBJS' Ed.
Good information. Not that I've got one, but.....thinkin.....
10/04/2024 13:57:42 UTC
nab301 said :-
Ren , I guess the answer is, carry two PBJS' ..... and the question might be, is it really necessary to watch youtube videos while reconnecting with nature...?
10/04/2024 16:14:38 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
Quite correct Nigel. What on earth is this modern generation all about eh? When I were a lad.......
10/04/2024 17:21:42 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
Ay you pair, leave our leader alone.
If he wants to watch TV, go on the interweb thingymabob and sat nav his way around the UK whilst "roughing it" in hotels, that's OK. OK!
Although I would draw the line at spare pants.
You're welcome Ed.
Don't they have electrical sockets in hotels?
10/04/2024 17:43:08 UTC
ROD¹ said :-
Use a campsite at the top of a hill. In the morning you can bump start the bike down the hill if the battery is flat.
Of course if you had covered proper milage in the day, you would just want to sleep and not use all of these electronics.
10/04/2024 17:53:44 UTC
Ren - The Ed¹ said :-
Blimey! I'm under attack - help help I'm being oppressed!

Erm. Errrr. Yes yes yes I'm sorry I'm not "the real deal" sleeping under a tarp at the end of another 500 mile day. I'm sorry I'm not the sit there cross legged type, enjoying a transcendental moment while being at one with nature and the stars. I think you're all secretly wishing you were me and could watch YouTube in a tent and be happy about it.

ROD - tried bump starting a modern bike lately? You can still get the pistons moving like the good old days but without the battery pumping the high pressure fuel to the injectors and running the computer and sensors, you're just peeing in the wind. You need a long steep hill to get the alternator moving as well as the pistons.
11/04/2024 13:21:14 UTC
ROD¹ said :-
It's probably my age, but are modern motorcycles really progress?
I would still like to bump start my bikes if needed, or preferably kick start them.
Fuel injection has improved the bikes, but we're carbs that bad. A well set up carb bike was still nice to ride, and now we have to worry about fuel pump failure.
11/04/2024 16:18:55 UTC
Upt'North ¹ said :-
I haven't kick started a bike since 2008........haven't missed it.
11/04/2024 20:32:17 UTC
Ian Soady¹ said :-
I must admit that both my recent purchases have had electric starts. The problem is not kickstarts as such, more that as age progresses I find it more difficult to start from an astride position when the engine has died when I'm at the front of a queue and the lights turn green. It's for this reason that I have done few miles in the last year on the Norton.
12/04/2024 11:23:12 UTC

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