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Stayin' alive: the iPhone on the 7-Day 545-mile AIDS LifeCycle 7 Ride

How the iPhone held up over a week of no power sources and on a bike

This year many riders in the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the LA Gay and Lesbian Center's annual 7-day AIDS LifeCycle bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles were toting iPhones- tucked away in their spandex or in their Bento boxes on their bikes.

The iPhone was the mose commonly spotted PDA, but man riders had Blackberry devices too. In any case, having a PDA was a great way to keep up with news and to send out updates about our trek's progress. Each day the Ride featured 2500+ riders cycling more than 70-100-plus mile routes. And, at the end of the day, a massive tent city would be set up in such exotic locales as Lompoc, California, which were no more than large grassy fields or state parks. Power sources were very, very scarce if even available. So, in addition to complaints about sore backs, sit ones and tight quad muscles, many iPhone-laden riders noted the battery life was pretty dismal. When there was an errant plug-in found at the park it was immediately swamped with chargers and extension cords to get some precious electricity.

Not being able to plug-in, many ALC riders tried using solar chargers, others like me, only turned it on sporadically during the day, but even after 7 days of doing that my "low battery" warning light popped up by Day 5 of the Ride. For those using solar chargers mounted on helmets, backpacks or tents, a full charge wasn't too common, but a 1/3d to 1/2 charge was possible, enough to get by with conservative use of the iPhone. I preferred not being plugged-in as the Ride itself gave me enough to think about: what was that, another mountain to climb?

But, once again, having a camera phone that can email was great. In addition to being able to keep loved ones and supporters updated via SMS/twitter updates, this year Riders could send pictures of the stunning views from the various mountains we climbed, of the coast and of each other that we were afforded. Also, the quasi-GPS (slated to be replaced soon by iPhone-the-second) still gave us a sense that we were in the middle of no where on some days of the Ride. All in all a great device to have on the Ride, which in itself was an incredible experience.

Already looking to next year's Ride, a rider from a Bay Area solar panel and power company promised to have a service truck vehicle topped off with solar panels to soak up the sun and to offer riders a charge station for their cell phones, camera batteries and PDAs. He was already beta testing it this year with other iPhone Riders and it looked to have worked just as well as commercially available solar chargers. But within a year, he promised the technology to be improved. And, knowing how a year can change everything, ALC 8 may become even more plugged-in.

My friend Zach sends an image on the AIDS Ride somewhere in the middle of the California coast on his iPhone
From just outside of Ventura, the iPhone's camera allowed ALC 7 Riders to send updates to their supporters