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Local non-profit offers bike lights with free batteries for life

Posted by on July 8th, 2009 at 4:39 pm

Bike Swap Meet

Free Geek is one of Portland’s most
bike-friendly businesses.

In Portland, we’re fortunate to have many local businesses and organizations that support bicycling. Free Geek, a non-profit based in Southeast Portland that recycles and sells used computers and parts, makes biking easier by selling a few accessories in their Thrift Store.

One of the items they sell is a bike light (the Knog Beetle 2). Today, an alert reader informed me that Free Geek will give everyone who buys one of them free batteries for life.

Story continues below


The Knog Beetle 2

The Knog light is powered by watch (button-type) batteries, which Free Geek says can be quite expensive. Well, it just so happens that Free Geek has an abundant supply of those batteries. Here’s how they put it on a story posted to their blog:

“…as luck would have it, Free Geek is swimming in these things, since they’re the same button batteries that run the system clock on almost every computer we recycle.”

Anyone that buys one of the bike lights from Free Geek (they’re $15 each) will get a laminated card that allows you to exchange old batteries for new ones with “plenty of life left”.

Here is the fine print on the card:

The bearer of this card is entitled to exchange up to 5 dead 3.0v, wafer batteries (a.k.a. 2032s) for working ones each day in the Free Geek Thrift Store. This offer will remain valid as long as we are able to meet the demand. Barring plague, pestilence, Zombie Apolcalypse, the imposition of martial law, or the Earth’s sun experiencing a supernova event, we see no reason we will not be swimming in these things for a long, long time; we can’t legally use the F-word, so let’s just call it “Phorever.”

More at FreeGeek.org.

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  • buzz July 8, 2009 at 4:40 pm


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  • Joe July 8, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    sweet 🙂

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  • Lillian July 8, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    I love Free Geek.

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  • indy July 8, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    I donate machines to free geek all the time, and I highly doubt the batteries of 4,5,6 year old machines have “plenty” of life left.

    but whatevs.

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  • -b July 8, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    how long would the average battery last in these lights?

    do they have a rear light available?

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  • YOUR-INN.COM July 8, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    KNOG Lights are awesome! They just hooked us up with a bunch of stuff and the bags are amazing as well!

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  • Aaron July 8, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    Free Geek totally rocks. They’re so amazing, that I bet they’ll still honor this offer even after the Zombie Apocalypse

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  • Dan July 8, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    FreeGeek saved me more than $100 when my puppy chewed through some wires underneath my desk. I was able to replace my keyboard and mouse with like new units for under $5. They’re the best. We’re lucky to have them in Portland.

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  • bikieboy July 9, 2009 at 7:19 am

    now get extra phunny-ness with all that Free Geek greatness!

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  • E July 9, 2009 at 8:15 am

    Wow, awesome. I have some stuff to donate to them; guess I’ll be buying a light while I’m there. 😀

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  • Matt Picio July 9, 2009 at 8:38 am

    I wouldn’t exactly call CR2032s “expensive” – they were once upon a time, until they became the standard for every PC.

    But it is cool that Free Geek is re-purposing the batteries rather than just junking them when they still have some life left.

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  • Mark Allyn July 9, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Just to let you know, folks, when I was unemployed back in ’02 and ’03, I volunteered pretty much full time at Free Geek.

    The experience in Linux that I got at Free Geek is what got me the job that I currently have as a Linux device driver.

    I currently earmark 100 percent of my Community Giving pledge here at work to Free Geek.

    Yes, I do very much respect Free Geek as well as another volunteer run place, which is KBOO FM, a community radio station here in Portland.



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  • revphil July 9, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    greatest nonprofit ever

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  • Will Radik July 10, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Free Geek Phorever! One of these days I hope I’ll have time to start teaching there again.

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  • Nathan July 10, 2009 at 1:43 pm


    Regarding how much charge is left in the batteries: I believe it’s very high, over 90%. I personally tested the first batch, using a cutoff voltage of v. Here’s the an example discharge curve for one brand of the CR coin cells covered by the program:


    Find the point where the voltage crosses 3 volts, it’s all the way on the left, near the most fully charged side. I discarded batteries with an open circuit voltage of less then 3.05 volts – if I recall correctly. More recent batches have been tested even more rigorously – under a representative load.

    This correlates nicely with the fact that in most computers the button cells last longer than the computer. (Longer, actually, then their own shelf lives.)

    Coin cells certainly can be cheap in some contexts – namely in bulk and online. But in the context of a bike light consumer I think you’ll find they’re rather expensive at a drugstore or wherever you’re able to find them locally.

    So: Yes, the batteries are good, and yes it is an big economic win.

    -Nathan (PSU Bike Co-op / BikeFarm / Free Geek)

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  • Amanda July 11, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    Nice! Support Free Geek!!

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  • efglez July 12, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    I was riding down and said hello to an old fellow working on his garden, he is one of the regulars I see everyday and we started talking… I found out he is over 80 years of age and works at Free Geek pro-bono for over 60 hours per week! So I say support FREE GEEK for the batteries and the fact that they do not discriminate about age. Feels good to know that even when your old you still can make a difference. Thank You Free Geek!

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  • IanO July 14, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    This is the most awesome thing ever! Free Geek FTW!

    While on the topic, they also have a free bin of powerful magnets salvaged from dead hard drives. They made for an excellent replacement for the little bike computer spoke magnet that fell off my bike. I got a two so I’d have a spare (and paper holder on my steel frame).

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  • Tony July 22, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Well, all good things have to come to an end. The response to this idea has been great and we’ve seen a lot of new faces in the Thrift Store as a result of this posting. Unfortunately, our wholesaler informed us that we can no longer get the lights from them, so the ones we have in stock are the end of the line (guess we’re selling them too cheap, but hey, that’s what we do). We just bought a huge rack of these things, including about a dozen colors, but once they’re gone, they’re gone.

    Thanks for all the great comments on this thread! The support we heard here spread a big, pink fuzzy all around Free Geek!

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