Back in the day, traveling by motorcycle meant unplugging from technology. The only power you had to worry about was your bike’s battery. Now, when you contemplate a motorcycle journey, you may be carrying a smartphone, a GPS navigation unit, a Bluetooth headset and more. If you ride long days like I do, you quickly discover that a single charge on many devices may not last the entire day. GPS units, in particular, have a habit of draining their batteries just when the going gets tricky. I have been forced to accumulate several ways of keeping the power going for as long as I ride.
One option is to install a permanent power tap on your bike. This can be as simple as an outlet that is wired directly to your battery like the Bikemaster USB Charging Kit ($14.99), a quick and dirty solution. The challenge is that this kind of connection leaves your battery vulnerable to discharging, and doesn’t protect your devices. It’s smarter, and only a little bit more challenging, to install a fused terminal from Kuryakyn ($53.99) or other aftermarket supplier, and to connect to a switched accessory circuit so that the charging port is only live when the ignition is on. Consult your shop manual, and make sure that you’re not overloading your motorcycle’s charging system or wiring. If you’re not sure, ask a mechanic for advice and help before you start messing with the electrical system on your bike, especially if you have a newer bike with an ECU (electronic control unit). If you accidentally fry your ECU, it could cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to repair.
If you don’t want to alter your bike, or if you’re going to be touring on a rental that you can’t alter, you can still have backup power. Smartphone users have many options, from battery cases like Mophie to compact batteries from many vendors, some starting as low as $10. All backup batteries are not equal, so be sure to choose one that packs a punch – at least 2200 mAh for a couple of charges of your cell phone. A battery that has an LED gauge is handy, so that you can tell at a glance whether or not you have enough juice available to charge your devices. When it comes to power, more is better, and you can find a surprisingly compact, light battery backup for a great price if you look around.
Lately, I’ve been taking my backup power to another level. I’ve discovered a lightweight, multipurpose battery solution that will not only charge all of my devices on the road, it also serves as a jump starter for my motorcycle. The DBPower DJS50 Portable Car Jump Starter ($69.99) packs a wallop – 18,000 mAh of capacity and 600 Amps of output, enough to jump start a 5.2-liter car engine. Weighing just 2.8 pounds, the DJS50 is the size of a paperback book, and comes with battery clips and multiple USB outlets, so you can use it to charge multiple devices at the same time. Carrying a backup battery like this one in my car and on every motorcycle trip has become part of my regular routine, and it has come in handy for charging my devices mid-trip, and for helping out stranded motorcyclists along the way.
Don’t fight the power – back it up!