Alanf’s blog…
Scattered thoughts

Thursday, February 3, 2005

Power to the people…

Author: site admin
Category: Bike Updates

I posted recently about my quest for a new GPS. Well, this has led to another round of bike modifications since I hope to power my new toy off the bike’s 700 watt alternator rather than a steady (and expensive) diet of AA batteries.

Powerlet goodies

My Beemer came with two Powerlet jacks or perhaps a better term is receptacles. What, you might ask, is a Powerlet receptacle? Funny you should ask…BMW (and some other European manufacturers) decided to go to a standardized connector for electric accessories such as heated clothing and optional factory accessories like GPSes, portable music and the like. The Powerlet connector looks like a half-sized cigarette lighter adaptor but with a more pointy ‘male” connector. In the US, there is a psuedo-standard for DC wiring with the two prong SAE connector but since BMW isn’t American, they have never heard of SAE. So, back to the story. My BMW already has two Powerlet receptacles (the “female” portion of the adaptor) so both the rider and passenger can use electric clothing. If I add another electronic device to the bike like a GPS or MP3 player, I’d like to have a Powerlet adaptor cable and an available Powerlet receptacle to power it. Additionally, since the BMW uses Powerlet, it makes since to either install Powerlet adaptors on my other bikes or build SAE-Powerlet adaptors.

Thus I have been spending money left, right and center to accomplish this job (fortunately, the parts are relatively cheap…). First and foremost, Powerlet themselves may well be able to make this month’s building lease payment thanks to my obsessive nature. I’ve been buying male connectors, female connectors, 90 degree male connectors, inline fuse blocks, “T” molex kits for the spade connectors on the back of the female receptacle, fancy drill bits for making holes to mount female receptacles, pre-drilled mounting plates and pre-made Powerlet kits with everything pre-built.

Second, Gerbing have made a few bucks because I wanted a new adaptor cable to go from SAE to Gerbing’s proprietary “coax” connectors. (Their connectors, by the way, suck bilge water since they come apart with the slightest pressure. You have to use shrink wrap to keep them together. If you end up permanently connecting them with shrink wrap why bother with a connector in the first place? Why do I give them money, I hear you asking…because their electric jacket liner is one of the great wonders of the world.) As long as I was giving them my credit card number I bought a real thermostat so no more on-off-on-off switch games while I’m riding. Whoo hoo, at least I’m spreading the wealth.

My riding buddy Todd gave me an old pair of old Widder Lectric-Heat electric gloves a few years back, probably to buy off his own guilt at having watched me crash over a cliff he led me to on my dirt bike or something. Anyway, he didn’t have the power cable, so I called both Gerbing and Widder in an attempt to cobble together something to power the gloves from my Gerbing jacket liner. Unfortunately, the Widder gloves are designed to be wired in series with their other electric gear where Gerbing’s gloves are wired in parallel with theirs. There is also the fact that the jacket liner is 12V where the gloves are 6V. Rather than melt my hands to the (already heated) grips on the BMW, I shelved that project. I could get a separate cable to power the gloves independently but that will cost $50. Then I’d have to add yet another Powerlet jack to power the damned things. Gerbing, on the other hand, sells their electric gloves for $130 and they work with the liner. Ixnay Idderway. Anyone want a pair of used Widder electric gloves?

Finally, I’m certain to be helping fund Garmin GPS R&D department’s budget once I get around to buying a new GPS. As if the purchase price of the GPS (and software) wasn’t enough, I’ll also be springing for some sort of handle bar mount and, naturally, the power cords and adaptors necessary to power the thing off a Powerlet receptacle. Cha-ching.

I don’t know yet if I’ll bother building adaptor power cables for the Rio MP3 player or the Chatterbox FRS intercom/radio unit. I get overwhelmed just thinking about it.

My current plan is to add two more Powerlet receptacles to the Beemer, both pulled directly off the battery with a separate 15A fuse. If I get really fancy, I may see if there is an unused terminal on the fuse block and wire it through there. More sano and easier to destroy major parts of the bike if I screw up. Oh wait, that wasn’t a reason… Both Powerlet receptacles will be installed up on the “beak” in front of the gas tank and below the instrument cluster. On the fancy R1150GS Adventure, there are two additional Powerlet jacks installed there from the factory…hummm…wonder if the R1200GS has those? Maybe it would be cheaper to upgrade the than to keep buying all these damned parts! In the meantime, I’ll have to hope the temperature in the garage gets above freezing at some point so I can actually install all this stuff!

[image from my photo archive.]

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