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Powering Your Device While Riding: USB Port

Have you ever wondered if your phone, GPS, camera or other device will run out of power just when you need it most (especially the way some of these phones go through power)? Maybe it’s time to think about a steady power supply/charger while you ride.

In the previous article, I explained how to use a Direct-to-Battery Harness to accomplish power. Today we’ll take a look at USB Power Ports.

(Note that for the purposes of these articles, I focus on powering small electronic devices only.)

I like to compare the idea of a USB Port to a cigarette outlet in a car. The USB Power Port can be mounted anywhere (on a fairing, dash, or handlebar – I used to have mine on the tank in a hidden area up front). Once it’s there (and wired) you always have a power source no matter what device you’re using. Many USB Ports (such as those from 3BR Powersports) even have a cap on the USB to keep dirt and rain out when the plug is not in use.

Need more than one plug-in? Some USB Ports feature two, such as this one from BikeMaster.

A note about USB Types

Many USB Power Ports utilize the USB Type A (which was the standard for many years, before GPS and phones became popular), while others can be purchased with Mini (common to most GPS) or Micro (common to phones) plugs. You can buy ‘converters’ (Type-A-to-Micro, etc) at electronics stores and computer stores for $10-$20. They are very common (you probably have one plugged in at home to charge your phone), so if you end up with mismatched USBs (or change devices), it’s easily fixed!

There’s a Caveat

Power Ports consume power even when nothing is plugged into them and can drain a motorcycle battery in as little as three to five days if connected directly to the battery. This is why most manufacturers will tell you to wire it to a switched circuit. The most common switched circuit is a headlight (Harleys make it a little easier with what they call a “deutsch plug” under the seat). So it’s a little more work than a direct-to-battery harness, but the wires can be more “permanent” and hidden.

 

  • Tracey Cramer

Mount Multiple Devices with the Ultra-Swivel “Diamond” Mount

Got a gadget you want to mount on a motorcycle? The Ultra-Swivel Mount can be used to mount a variety of devices such as phones, GPS and satellite radio.

The Ultra-Swivel features our patent-pending connector that provides unlimited positioning ability (right/left or up/down). It is so sleek and slim, you'll hardly know it's there. All components are aluminum and stainless steel so they’ll never rust or break!

Mount Location Options: Choose from handlebar, brake/clutch/controls, mirror stem or windshield (as well as a specialty application for the Can-Am Spyder). Most options are available in both chrome and black finish. Prices start at $44.99.

For GPS & satellite radio

For iPhones

  • Tracey Cramer

Powering Your Device While Riding: Direct-to-Battery Harness

Have you ever wondered if your phone, GPS, camera or other device will run out of power just when you need it most (especially the way some of these phones go through power)? Maybe it’s time to think about a steady power supply/charger while you ride.

The good news is that you have a lot of choices. The bad news is, there’s still no way to avoid running wires (I imagine someday our devices may ‘go solar’ but that day’s not here yet!).

So, over the next few articles I’m going to talk about EASY ways to run power to your device, because I believe most riders like easy and have simple needs.

NOTE: These articles focus on powering a phone, GPS, camera or other electronic device. (Heated gear, tire pressure gauges and other things you might want to power are NOT part of this series, nor is charging the motorcycle battery itself.)

The most straightforward way to run power to a phone, GPS, camera or other device is by using a Direct-to-Battery Harness.

If you can take your seat off and access the battery, you can wire this in minutes. Its simple red-to-red and black-to-black setup on the ‘business’ end of the battery harness makes it super easy. The other end terminates in your choice of plugs, most common of which are the Mini USB and the Micro USB (and because Apple does their own thing, there’s also a harness for the iPhone 5 and up “lightning” plug).

Mini USB is common to most GPS (although there are exceptions), while Micro USB is more commonly associated with smart phones and cameras. If you’re unsure which plug your device has, here’s a photo to help you out.

Keep in mind that you can buy ‘converters’ (mini-USB to micro-USB or vice versa) at electronics stores and computer stores for $10-$20. They are very common, so if you end up with one USB and need the other (or change devices), it’s easily fixed!

Important Note about Voltage: You want only 5V going to your device (or you could fry it). Most motorcycle batteries push out way more than that, so you want to make sure that whatever brand battery harness you purchase has a built-in regulator to “step down” the voltage (you can see it at the bottom of this photo).

  • Tracey Cramer

How to Keep your Hands & Fingers Warmer

They’re hangin’ out there with no protection from the windshield or fairing. Yep: your hands (and by extension, your fingers). So what’s a rider to do?

Gloves

Today’s riding gloves are way better than I remember them being twenty years ago (actually I've been riding longer than that but who's counting?). Still, there are drawbacks. The biggest one in my opinion: Gloves add bulk, which can make it more difficult to grip and definitely more difficult to shift gears.

Heated Grips

In the past I’ve had heated grips on my motorcycle. And let me tell you, it is heavenly. But it’s not a perfect solution:

  • Wiring them through the handlebar was a P-A-I-N.
  • They don't protect from rain.
  • I can’t prove this, but I’m convinced they also drain the battery faster
You’ll have to decide for yourself if they are worth it!

 

Hand Guards

Until recently, there were only a few products available that tried to deal with wind chill on the hands, but they simply did not work well (if at all). We know - we've tried them and were disappointed.


What you need is basically a "fairing" for each hand that allows you to adjust the area of protection for each hand. The ATV and dirt bike market figured this out long ago and I can’t figure out why the cruiser market hasn’t embraced this concept!

One of the better ones we've found is the WingShields by Brukus, which are made of a tough polycarbonate which makes them extremely difficult to break, yet light (and clear, which we like). You clamp to the handlebar or mirror stem and align the curved shield ahead of your hands.

 

With a few extras like these on our bikes, we've been able to extend our riding season - and start earlier in the spring!

  • Tracey Cramer

The Dreaded Updrafts: What to do About Them

One complaint we hear a lot is that updrafts come up under the windshield and blast the rider in the face. (In Minnesota we're usually concerned about COLD updrafts LOL.) If you can minimize updrafts, you’ll have more enjoyable riding not just later into the season (and earlier in the spring), but all season long.

The Desert Dawgs Rain Guards/Wind Deflectors do a fantastic job of repelling water away from your legs and feet if you happen to get caught in a rainstorm.

But did you know they also reduce updrafts and helmet buffeting? Instead of air hitting your legs and being redirected up toward your face, the Desert Dawgs force the air out and around (rather than up).

The effectiveness of the Desert Dawgs (or any lower deflector for that matter) varies depending on the motorcycle itself as well as on the windshield. For instance, I’ve noticed certain OEM windshields (such as some of the Yamaha ones) result in more wind in my face than the Memphis Shades windshields I’ve had on two different motorcycles.

Factors that can affect wind flow (updrafts):

  • curvature of the windshield
  • angle of the windshield
  • space between the windshield and the engine guard bar
  • rider foot placement and height
These factors all play a part in how much air is redirected up your body. We can’t promise the Desert Dawgs will deflect ALL the wind flow (in truth, you wouldn’t want them to or you would overheat the engine!), but they can and do cut down updrafts, sometimes significantly.

They are quite possibly the easiest and least costly way to protect your body. And because they are a cinch to remove and store in a saddlebag, you don’t need to keep them on in warmer weather (although they have no temperature restriction and can be used in warmer temps).

Read more about the Desert Dawgs - and check out Tracey's video about "the little things" - right here!
  • Tracey Cramer

Biker Gift Giving: The STEALTH Approach

Getting a gift for a biker isn't easy. Bikers can be choosy. They're after a certain "look." And they may already have accessories on their bike.

And if you're not close to them (or perhaps not as familiar with motorcycles in general), it can be hard to know what to buy them.

We have a few tricks to help with that! First, see our article "Getting a Gift They'll Love: Four Questions to Ask When You're NOT the Biker."

Then: Sneak into their closet (or garage, or cabinet…) and snoop through their stuff. (Just make sure to put it all back the way you found it!)

What you're looking for:

  • Boxes from electronic devices (GPS, phone, camera, radio, iPod, etc) either with or without the item in it. Take notes that include the make and model (example: GPS - Garmin - Nuvi 2595). You can use this information to get them a really awesome mount!
  • Clothing: do they have four pair of riding chaps? (If so, they probably don't like being cold when they ride, and the Desert Dawgs may be a great gift.)
  • Check out any patches sewn onto their riding clothes; this will tell you what they believe in, what they're passionate about (besides motorcycling) so you can get them things related to them

Leader products make great gifts! And, our return policy is extremely liberal. If you buy a gift from Leader and you (or they) want to return or exchange it, we don't give you hassle. That's the advantage of dealing with a small family-owned business!

To get you started (and heck, just for pure entertainment), here's a YouTube playlist of gift idea videos featuring Leader employees (and our kids!).

  • Tracey Cramer