Product Review: SPIN UP F12W-PRO Bicycle USB Charger Dynamo from SunUp Eco (1)


Feature Overview of SPIN UP F12W-PRO

SPIN UP F12W-PRO, a new front-mount model added to SunUp Eco’s line of bike dynamos released to the market in late 2019, is a high-power low-drag 3-phase bicycle USB phone charger that promises to keep your smartphones and other electronic gadgets charged while you are pedaling along. Robust, durable, and efficient, it starts pumping out a stable current of 1A through its USB port as soon as your cycling speed reaches 15km per hour, without having to wait until a certain amount of energy has been accumulated in the reservoir battery.

The generator, weighing a portable 370g, is to be mounted on the spokes of the front wheel and will be driven directly by the wheel to achieve minimum mechanical drag. It works with both disc brake and rim brake, and is compatible with 26”, 700c, and 29er wheels. An assist kit is included to help make the installation easier, quicker, and more precise.

The most distinctive feature of F12W-PRO may be its adoption of Intelligent Power Management System (IPMS), which is the first among bicycle dynamos. It helps maximize energy efficiency, prevent unnecessary energy loss, prolong the life of the reservoir battery, and charge your phone as fast as possible.

The more adventurous touring cyclists will surely welcome the all-weather feature of F12W-PRO. Operative in a wide temperature range between -25 and 65 degree Celsius and with a water resistant rating of IPX4, which means it can stand water splashing from any direction with no harmful effect, F12W-PRO is your reliable source of power even in the toughest of times.

But, let’s be honest, the bundle of all these wonderful features does not come cheap. A hefty price tag of USD499 per set will make most who are interested in F12W-PRO think twice, if not stopping them at all. So, we try to find out if it is worth the price or not.

I have always wanted a bicycle dynamo to save me from my “range anxiety” for my smartphone. We all know how indispensable our smartphone is. When I’m on my bike, especially during cycling trips, I need it for photo-taking, navigation, ticket booking, searching of accommodations, checking of train schedule, communicating with my friends, and a bunch of other random tasks. There is not one phone with battery life long enough to sustain such extensive use, so I have been using power banks along with my iPhone. But the capacity and output power of power banks deteriorate as they age. When we are using old power banks, we may often find our phones stop charging soon after they are plugged in, while the power banks indicating they are still full of power. Without dwelling further into the technical explanations behind this, I should only say this does not help much in easing my range anxiety.

Besides, even though I don’t do multi-day cycling trips often and seldom go bike touring in the wild, and therefore don’t really have a pressing need for a bike dynamo, I still want one on my bike as I like the idea of being self-sufficient and untethered  by electric outlets. 

My First Try with SPIN UP F12W-PRO

I contacted SunUp Eco, the developer of F12W-PRO, to see if they can loan me a trial set. As a former electric engineering major, I am also very interested to meet them in person to learn more about the design and development their bike dynamos. It turned out they are friendly with Rikulau Taiwan, one of our partners, and have heard about us. The answer is: yes, they’re happy to loan us a set of F12W-PRO and happy to meet with us.

We were greeted warmly by Mr. Mark Yang, founder and President of SunUp Eco, in their workshop on the outskirt of Taoyuan County. Mr. Yang and his team wasted no time to show me how to install the dynamo on a bike. The demo bike happened to be a Rikulau in my size. Within 10 minutes, the generator was ready. I took the bike out right away for a test with my iPhone plugged in. At first, nothing happened. Then I started doing a long climb to the Shimen Reservoir at a speed of around 7km per hour. After 5 or 6 minutes, while I was still climbing, the screen of my iPhone lighted up to show that the charging started. It lasted for around 3 minutes and then stopped. I later learned that it is because my speed then was not fast enough to generate the amount of power that the system needs to accumulate in its reservoir battery before it can pump out the electricity at the required rate. After the climb, I rode for a little bit more on the top of the dam before descending back to the SunUp Eco workshop, with an average speed of over 15km per hour. Electricity was churned out steadily the whole time and my iPhone took in the energy automatically whenever it was available – in the case of some power banks I have used, once the charging has stopped, I have to unplug and re-plug the lightning cable in other to kick start the charging process.

Back in the workshop, I started grilling Mr. Yang and his team on the design and development of F12W-PRO Bicycle USB Charger Dynamo.