Power Yourself: The Tout Terrain Solution (Part 1: Overview)

Power Yourself: The Tout Terrain Solution (Part 1: Overview)
Power Yourself: The Tout Terrain Solution
by William Ramey
Copyrighted ▪ March 2012
Part 1: Overview
The Plug I from Tout Terrain debuted in early 2010 as an integral part of a hightech bicycle power system. They advertised it on their website as “the world’s first
electric power supply, which is fully integrated and can be operated and serviced on
devices such as GPS devices, mobile phones or MP3 players.”
The product’s first use was after taking delivery of my Panamericana bicycle in
early February 2011, purchased from and quality-built by Peter White Cycles. Tout
Terrain’s description of the device’s purpose intrigued me because I always take on
tour a few electronic devices such as a cell phone, digital camera, and a GPS. As
everyone knows, batteries require periodical charging to keep electronic devices
functioning. So, I asked Peter to install The Plug I, with the Schmidt Son28S front hub
dynamo serving as its power source.
I have enjoyed The Plug I’s benefits the past year during my fitness training and
long-distance touring in conjunction with a Garmin 705/800 GPS, Apple’s iPod Touch 4,
a Sanyo Eneloop USB AA/AAA Charger, and a cell phone. I recently upgraded and
installed on my bicycle The Plug II with the optional P.A.T. (Power Amplification
Technology) module. The combination offers unparalleled benefits for the committed
urban commuter or the long-distance touring cyclist. Unless otherwise stated, this
article pertains to The Plug II and not its predecessor, The Plug I.
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The Plug II is an electric power supply, not to be confused with a power source.
What is the difference? A power supply provides electrical energy to an electric load. It
must obtain the energy it supplies (and any energy it consumes while performing its
task) to its load from an energy source, such as a battery, alternator, or generator.
The Plug II’s power source is from a hub dynamo (electromechanical generator)
built into a bicycle’s front hub, although it can also be built into a bicycle trailer’s wheel
hub. Tout Terrain’s bicycle-specific power supply converts the hub dynamo’s alternating
current (AC) to direct current (DC) and supplies power for small electronic devices’
batteries. Although the hub dynamo may supply higher voltage, The Plug II regulates a
constant 5 DC voltage output. Whereas the voltage output remains constant, the
amperage varies, depending on several important variables.
Important Considerations
The Plug II’s capability to supply appropriate power to a 5V DC device largely
depends on five critical variables: first and foremost, the hub dynamo’s maximum
power output (usually 3 watts at 6 volts); second, whether a lighting system or other
© March 2012 by William Ramey • Power Yourself: The Tout Terrain Solution
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electric load simultaneously shares the hub dynamo’s generated power; third, the
wheel’s diameter in which the hub dynamo is built and the forward velocity at which the
bicycle is travelling; fourth, the device’s charging and operating characteristics as well
as any intermediary inline cache battery; and fifth, whether the optional inline power
module is installed (marketed as The Plug II +). Several other mitigating factors also
affect The Plug II’s performance, including the inherit resistance in conductors to and
from it, as well as any dirty or ill-connected connections at the hub dynamo or device.
These potential compromising variables will be individually examined later concerning
their impact on The Plug II’s overall performance.
The Plug II + with the optional inline P.A.T. module provides more power at a
slower speed. This is Tout Terrain’s exciting patent-pending innovation that optimizes a
hub dynamo’s available output power with The Plug II by 50% at 12 mph (20 km/h).
More information about The Plug II + will be forthcoming.
Making the Connection
The Plug II’s host portal interface is a standard A-Series USB female upper
connector port. The USB port is the same type of port found on laptop and desktop
computers. Depending upon the above five important variables, if a device’s battery
charges when connected to a computer’s USB 2.0 port, then The Plug II will also
charge it with a hub dynamo as its power source. It’s built-in compatibly with E-Bikes
© March 2012 by William Ramey • Power Yourself: The Tout Terrain Solution
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with 12-48V DC output and the Apple iPhone 4 is a plus. However, there is a notable
exception: Tout Terrain’s literature expressly states that the Apple iPad will not work
properly with The Plug II.
The Plug II replaces the headset’s top cap during installation; hence the main
unit’s name “TopCap” on Tout Terrain’s website and elsewhere. A stainless steel button
head bolt slips through the TopCap’s center, firmly securing it to the bicycle by
threading into a headset’s expander female nut in the steerer tube. This yields a “quick
grab” theft-proof assembly. All necessary wiring feeds up from the hub dynamo to the
TopCap through the bicycle’s hollow steerer tube and the provided channel slot in the
headset expander nut. Although not unsightly, after assembly the stainless steel bolt’s
head is visible on top. If one prefers, a 6mm anodized-black button head bolt could
substitute for the supplied bolt to make the assembly more cosmetically pleasing, albeit
less weather-resistant than the stainless steel bolt.
The Plug II functions as a stand-alone interface (power supply) between a
connected power source (hub dynamo) and an electrical load such as cell phones,
GPS devices, MP3 players or SPOT tracking devices,
typically mounted on the handlebars or stored in a
handlebar or top tube wedge bag. It connects to the
user’s device by its supplied connector-specific plug
(such as the iPhone’s docking plug, Micro-B, ExtUSB,
or Mini-B plug) and mates to The Plug II’s standard
USB female port by a varying length of conductor cord
which terminates with a standard USB A-Series male
connector. The TopCap’s design allows lateral
incremental rotation on the steerer tube to
accommodate the USB’s port to face any direction.
The supplied cable between the TopCap and hub
dynamo is two-conductor multi-stranded copper wire.
Both conductors are electrically identical and correct
polarity is not important since it does not make any
difference which conductor attaches to the hub
dynamo’s positive and negative poles. The wiring’s
insulation is black in color. The 43 inch (109.2 cm) cable length amply reaches a front
wheel’s hub dynamo.
The white molded connector, which mates and locks into the TopCap’s bottom
module, is already securely attached to one of the cable’s ends. The cable’s other end
is blunt-cut. During installation, the installer first cuts the blunt-cut cable’s end to proper
length to reach the hub dynamo and separates the cable’s two “legs” apart, then
removes a short length of insulation and crimps the connector terminals (not supplied
with The Plug II) onto each cable’s leg wire that attaches to the hub dynamo’s
© March 2012 by William Ramey • Power Yourself: The Tout Terrain Solution
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connectors. Peter White Cycles sells connectors for different hub dynamos. Also using
heat-shrink tubing during the procedure to cover the wires’ ends to their connectors
makes a professional looking job.
Although certainly not absolutely necessary, an intermediary battery between The
Plug II and an electronic device works best during cycle touring. In this manner, The
Plug II first supplies power from the hub dynamo to the battery, and then from the
battery a device receives constant power irrespective to a bicycle's speed, such as
when slowing down at busy
intersections or briefly stopping
to take a photograph. Also, when
an electronic device is not
connected to the cache battery,
it is trickled-charged for possible
later use.
As an illustration, whenever
my speed drops too low for the
hub dynamo to output enough
power, the annoying “External
Power Lost” message appears
on my Garmin 800 GPS.
However, it no longer does after
adding the cache battery. During
the past nine months, I have
been extensively testing a portable external lithium-ion battery pack and do not notice
any depreciation in battery life or noticeable "memory effect" because of the battery’s
repeated charging cycle. I store it in a top tube Velotrac pac, in which I also place my
Apple iPod Touch 4 and other small items.
Appearance and Features
Tout Terrain’s logo brands the TopCap with encircling lower-case white letters on
top, opposite of a recessed LED green light. Two-tiered, horizontal positioned lowercase white letters flanks both sides of the
USB host port with the product’s name, “the
plug,” and below its name, the slogan in
smaller cursive letters, “power yourself.”
The TopCap’s stylish cosmetic
appearance exudes a lustrous reflective
finish, a quality highly desired in component
parts. Its anodized-black exterior, composed
of tough corrosion-resistant 6061 aluminum
© March 2012 by William Ramey • Power Yourself: The Tout Terrain Solution
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alloy, ingeniously encases all of its internal electronics in a waterproof sealing liquid.
This innovation helps to ensure the circuitry's protection against unwanted vibration, as
well as corrosive salt water and moisture. However, Tout Terrain’s literature strongly
suggests that high pressure washers not be used near The Plug II; if it has an Achilles’
heel, it is the exposed USB port.
A neutral-black colored silicone molded insert, tethered and securely attached to
the TopCap’s base by a circular plastic ring, helps to protect the TopCap’s USB port
from moisture and debris when not in use. The insert’s proper orientation is labeled by
the raised letters “TOP”. Depending upon environment and/or usage, some corrosion
may form at the mouth of the USB port. However, one may easily swab it away by
using an alcohol moisten Q-tip. The overall
TopCap’s weight with its tethered silicone
insert is approximately 145 grams.
The Plug II does not have a physical
external power switch for the user manually
to turn on or off (one less thing to forget); but
instead, integrates an automatic internal
electronic switch. In addition, when a device
is not connected, The Plug II does not
consume any energy except to power its
small indicator’s LED green light.
Whenever the hub dynamo is providing
a constant 5V DC to the TopCap, the LED’s
green light steadily illuminates. It also
illuminates when sufficient power is
available at the USB port for a connected device. Tout Terrain states in The Plug II’s
installation instructions, “When accelerating or after a longer stop this might take a few
seconds due to its internal electronics.” However, if the light does not illuminate at all,
then the TopCap probably is not receiving any power from the hub dynamo. Finally, if
the LED light intermittently blinks, then it indicates that the connected device requires
more energy than available at the TopCap’s USB port.
The TopCap’s discreet and elegant tailored design fits into a 1-1/8 inch steerer
tube, leaving visible and annoying cable clutter behind, unlike Busch & Müller E-Werk,
PedalPower+, and similar competitive products. In short, its simplistic design is brilliant.
Its sleek, unobtrusive profile visually complements the lines of the bike and does not
disrupt its aerodynamics. Best of all, The Plug II advances the idyllic ethos that the
bicycle uniquely remains the “most efficient form of human powered transportation,”
especially when paired with a hub dynamo and a favorite electronic gadget for the
committed urban commuter or long-distance touring cyclist. If you need to power
© March 2012 by William Ramey • Power Yourself: The Tout Terrain Solution
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yourself, then The Plug II from Tout Terrain may not only be their solution, but yours as
Price Tag
The Plug II’s quality and well-engineered design do not come without a monetary
investment. At this article’s publication, The Plug II costs $221.37 USD (€ 167.24) from
SJS Cycles. It includes the TopCap with mounting stainless steel bolt, aheadset
expander assembly, cable, and installation instructions. The Plug II and optional P.A.T.
module costs $253.00 USD (€ 191.13). These prices do not include shipping, the
required hub dynamo, or any of the user’s electronic devices attached to The Plug II. In
the United States and Canada, one may purchase The Plug II from Peter White Cycles.
If The Plug II is ordered from Tout Terrain’s website, the aheadset expander assembly
must be separately purchased.
A Look Ahead
The next segment digs deeper into The Plug II by examining the critical variables
that affect its performance. In addition to a step-by-step illustration how easily The Plug
II installs on a bicycle, the P.A.T. power module’s benefits are specifically considered
for cycle touring. The module conveniently installs inline between the TopCap and hub
dynamo, and discreetly hides in the steerer tube. This is Tout Terrain’s exciting patentpending innovation that optimizes a hub dynamo’s available output power with The
Plug II by 50% at 12 mph (20 km/h), thus allowing to ride at slower speeds while using
and/or charging at a faster rate onboard small electronic devices.
Helpful Links
Tout Terrain’s website [German] [English]
FAQs about The Plug II [German] [English]
Installation instructions for The Plug II [German and English]
Purchase from Peter White Cycles (United States & Canada)
Purchase from SJS Cycles (Worldwide)
Purchase The Plug II + from Tout Terrain (Germany)
Purchase from dotbike
Thank you for reading Power Yourself: The Tout Terrain Solution (Part 1: Overview).
Disclaimer & Acknowledgments: The author is not associated with Tout Terrain or any
of its distributors, nor has he received any monetary compensation for this article. The
views and opinions concerning The Plug II or any other products are solely those of the
author and do not necessarily represent those of Tout Terrain. All photographs are the
© March 2012 by William Ramey • Power Yourself: The Tout Terrain Solution
Power Yourself: The Tout Terrain Solution (Part 1: Overview)
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author’s and shot with the Nikon D7000 16.2MP Camera with a Nikon 35mm f/1.8G AFS DX lens. Macro photographs were taken using the Zeikos ZE-CVAFN Auto Focus
Macro Extension Tubes and GTMax Macro Ring Flash LED Light.
All text and photographs are copyrighted and may not be used without the author’s
prior permission.
Power Yourself: The Tout Terrain Solution (Part 1: Overview) web version on CGOAB.
Other articles by the same author include Flying With Aero Butterfly Handlebars.
© March 2012 by William Ramey • Power Yourself: The Tout Terrain Solution
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