After finally tweaking everything on my year-old commuter bike so it was perfectly set up, I decided to risk a good thing and change to a new lighting system for this fall/winter commuting season. I was happy with my Dinotte headlights, but I was getting weary of the (small) nightly task of making sure I was plugging in the batteries for a recharging, which I felt I had to do every day because of the length of my commute.
So I started down the path of looking at dynamo hubs - which will power a headlight and tail light and never need re-charging. Though pricey, they give you a dynamo wheel that can be used on different bikes over time, and of course are great for long night-time rides, since you aren't bound by battery life.
The premiere hub on the market is made by Schmidt of Germany, but a couple of years ago Shimano updated their dynamo hubs and significantly improved the efficiency of their hubs with an item that is about half the price. After stumbling around trying to buy what I needed at local shops (including one that quoted me $900 for a custom-built wheel with top-of-the-line parts and a headlight!), a poster here at Bike Forums directed me a much more reasonably priced alternative from a German mail-order house, Rose Versand. The whole thing -- hub built into a wheel with good rims and quality spokes, plus the Lumotec headlight, plus shipping from Germany - cost about $260.
(This is my thread here at BF where I sought and got detailed help finding my set-up:
Below are pics of the end product. I've been using this for a couple of weeks now and really like it -- installation and set-up was simple, and I'm very happy with the light itself. I can't notice any drag from the hub, but there is a bit of a high-frequency vibration on very fast descents that isn't bothersome. The light is great -- it doesn't throw out as much light as much Dinotte system did (which was a bit of overkill) -- but the beam is much more tightly focused on the areas ahead that you need to use, so I feel like I get more than enough light without blinding oncoming cyclists on a MUP.
You can see more clearly here how I mounted the light to the fork. I picked up the little knob that mounts on the fork in a local bike shop (I forget the brand name, there are several out there), and the light mount itself is an R&M handlebar mount. You can see I have not trimmed any extra wire, which is simple to do, but I wanted to get through a winter before finalizing this mount -- I may get another mount fabricated to move this up on the fork crown, or get a front rack.
Also poking out is the wire that would allow me to power a tail-light, which I have not yet done.
This will be my 4th winter of commuting, and if I had to do it over again (and if I knew I was going to stick with commuting in the dark), I would have invested in a system like this to begin with. What made this much more doable was finding the spectacular deal on the complete wheel from Rose Versand -- the wheel (with dynamo hub, Mavic A319 rim and quality spokes) - was only 97 Euros, which was less than I would have paid for the Shimano dynamo hub alone in the U.S. Plus, for whatever reason, I could only find a 32H hub in the US, while Rose Versand offered the pre-built wheel with a 36h hub, which I prefer for a commuter/touring bike. Service from Rose Versand was great -- they answered several questions for me (in English) within an hour or so after I sent each email.
If you want to research dynamo hubs yourself, the best sources I found were:
- Peter White Cycles (a ton of detail on dynamo lighting, including charts showing the drag from the old Shimano hubs vs. Schmidt vs. the new generation of Shimano hubs)
- The reviews at Bicycle Quarterly
- Longleaf Bicycles (good prices on pre-built wheels)
- Harris Cyclery (good catalog of what's available)
- Shimano's website
And this is the great deal on the wheel:
BTW, the bike is a year-old bike made by Chris Boedeker. Here's his gallery of photos on my bike: