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  1. #1
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    My big winter upgrade: a hub dynamo lighting system

    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:
    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...eadlight-combo)

    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
    - Bikebiz.com

    And this is the great deal on the wheel:

    http://roseversand.com/wheels/wheels...&detail2=11181

    BTW, the bike is a year-old bike made by Chris Boedeker. Here's his gallery of photos on my bike:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/boedeke...7622152129839/
    Last edited by BengeBoy; 10-24-10 at 10:59 PM.

  2. #2
    tsl
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    I put a dynohub setup on the Portland last year around this time. I like it a lot.

    I too went with a Shimano hub, the Alfine, which also has mounts for a disc brake rotor. I went with the Schmidt Edelux headlight, which has the same LED and reflector as yours--just a different heat sink and lens. I'm very happy with the way it puts its photons on the road ahead of me instead of in the trees and the passing landscape.

    Unfortunately, night-blindness, which runs in my family, it hitting me pretty hard. I have to supplement the Edelux with a pair of DiNottes. And even that's not quite enough. But, I like that each system backs the other up.
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  3. #3
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    Thanks for the detailed report and pics. That's a really nice installation.

    I've wondered about the drag induced by a dynamo. Based on your experience, it appears not to be an issue.

    You might want to put some electrical tape over the bare leads for the tail light so that they don't touch while you're riding.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by doctor j View Post
    Thanks for the detailed report and pics. That's a really nice installation.

    I've wondered about the drag induced by a dynamo. Based on your experience, it appears not to be an issue.

    You might want to put some electrical tape over the bare leads for the tail light so that they don't touch while you're riding.
    Oops! Thanks.

    If you want to see the exact drag figures, check out the info on Peter White's sight. It's really minimal (1.5 watts or something). I'm such an awesomely powerful rider I have lots of watts to spare, so it's no big deal. (that's a joke, son.).

    As far as installation goes, I'm thinking about contacting Chris (the builder) to get a little custom mount made for my front fork - I could lose the gadgets I'm using now and come up w/something a little more elegant.

  5. #5
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    How many times have we thought of something we need and made do with a poor substitute?

    If you ride at night- you need good lights. I know I started off with a couple of "Weak" lamps that were recommended to me- but that recomendation proved to be a poor quality. Went on an organised night ride and most were using a lamp that cost around $500 Thought about it and got one. 5 years later and I still use it and often come across regular commuters struggling on candle power. My only downside is the recharging of the lamp. Unfortunately- Dynamo hubs are not good for the normal use my bike gets put to (Offroad Tandem). On top of that- A dynamo hub is not tranferrable between road and MTB- wheras my lamp is.

    But in your case- it looks as though you have got a pretty good lamp that will do the job and do it well. And you got away a lot "lighter" than I did.
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  6. #6
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    I should be getting my dyno setup on the bike soon also. I didn't really plan for it; rather, it just kind of fell into my lap when I got a superb deal on a wheelset that includes a SON 28 hub in the front wheel. I sat on it over the summer, but now that winter approaches I went ahead and ordered a headlight and tail light.

    I decided to go with the Busch & Müller Lumotec IQ Fly with standlight



    and a Busch & Müller Toplight Line Plus



    A little bit over my $100 budget, but I think they'll work well. My LBS ordered them through Peter White and charges the same prices shown on the Peter White website, and I think they said they will do the mounting and setup for free.
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  7. #7
    gone ride'n cyclinfool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stapfam View Post
    How many times have we thought of something we need and made do with a poor substitute?

    If you ride at night- you need good lights. I know I started off with a couple of "Weak" lamps that were recommended to me- but that recomendation proved to be a poor quality. Went on an organised night ride and most were using a lamp that cost around $500 Thought about it and got one. 5 years later and I still use it and often come across regular commuters struggling on candle power. My only downside is the recharging of the lamp. Unfortunately- Dynamo hubs are not good for the normal use my bike gets put to (Offroad Tandem). On top of that- A dynamo hub is not tranferrable between road and MTB- wheras my lamp is.

    But in your case- it looks as though you have got a pretty good lamp that will do the job and do it well. And you got away a lot "lighter" than I did.
    Not sure what you had before and what you have now but I purchased a Magic Shine last year, very reasonably priced and excellent light output. My morning ride is only about an hour and I only need the light at full power for about 2/3 of that - for the last 1/3 I can put it at half power. I easily get three rides out of a charge, I have never tried to push it further.

    My question about the dyno lights - what happens when you are stopped, do they have some energy storage that allows them to continue to put power out? Looks like an interesting system that could be useful for some commuters and serious night riders.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclinfool View Post
    My question about the dyno lights - what happens when you are stopped, do they have some energy storage that allows them to continue to put power out? Looks like an interesting system that could be useful for some commuters and serious night riders.
    Yes, they have a function called a "stand light;" there is enough energy stored up to power the headlight for a couple of minutes (maybe more) while you're stopped at a stoplight. In fact, when I am getting my bike out of the garage in the morning I can turn the light on and there is enough light for me to light my way out of the garage, even before I get on the bike.

    Likewise, even when you are going very slow up a hill there is plenty of light. It's not quite as bright as when you are going at normal cruising speed, but it's plenty.
    Last edited by BengeBoy; 10-24-10 at 05:50 PM.

  9. #9
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    I have three bikes with dynohub systems - road, tour, and commute. I feel as nekkid without them as I would driving a car with a light I had to remember to pack and charge.

  10. #10
    Senior Member NOS88's Avatar
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    Good psot BengeBoy. Gives me something to think about while on the road the next week. When I return, I might jsut start a similar project.
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  11. #11
    www.ocrebels.com Rick@OCRR's Avatar
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    When the light is not on, does the drag go to zero? Obviously, I don't know much about Dyno hubs, or I would know the answer to that!

    I used the old fashioned Dyno (bottom bracket mounted) when I rode Paris-Brest-Paris in '91, and when it was morning I simply pulled it away from the rear tire (or tyre for Stapfam) so of course the drag went to zero.

    Now I use rechargeable Nite-Rider or Princeton Tech for double centuries, but a Dyno hub is not out of the question, esp. for the doubles at the beginning or end of the season when we ride quite a few hours in the dark.

    Rick / OCRR

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick@OCRR View Post
    When the light is not on, does the drag go to zero? Obviously, I don't know much about Dyno hubs, or I would know the answer to that!
    No, the drag doesn't go to zero. According to Peter White's website, the hub uses up 2.2 watts of (rider) power when the lights are off, at 30kmh. That compares with 1.5 watts for the (more expensive) Schmidt dyno hubs.

    There has been some buzz on the Internets about a new hub that Velo Orange is going to import that reduces the drag even more, but it's not yet available. Supposedly the idea of a dyno hub that can be switched off so that it's totally disengaged when the light is off is a "Holy Grail" of dyno hubs that no one has introduced. At some point in the past year I read a sound reason why the current hubs can't/don't shut off, but I don't recall it (I think it had something to do with optimizing the weight/engineering for low weight and low drag, changing the mechanism so that it would disengage introduces more weight and complexity, from what I recall).

  13. #13
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rick@OCRR View Post
    When the light is not on, does the drag go to zero?
    There's no such thing as zero drag, even on expensive wheelsets with ceramic bearings. However, in the workstand with the lights off, my wheel spins a satisfyingly long time.
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  14. #14
    Council of the Elders billydonn's Avatar
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    I don't do enough night riding or commuting to get into that technology, but I really enjoy posts like this one. Very informative.... thanks! (And good follow-up questions too.)
    Last edited by billydonn; 10-25-10 at 07:56 PM.

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  15. #15
    Around now and then DnvrFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by billydonn View Post
    I don't do enough night riding or commuting to get into that technology, but I really enjoy posts like that one. Very informative.... thanks! (And good follow-up questions too.)
    + 1000 Most interesting to a very sometime night MUP rider. My hat is off to you guys who do it daily.
    DnvrFox - still bicycling, swimming, walking and weight lifting at 74yo is participating a bit in BFN 50+.

  16. #16
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    Hah, I just built one of these wheels this weekend. Same hub, but the 32 hole. Bought the hub from Velofred.com ($107 shipped, after 10% discount), and built it on a Velocity Dyad rim. Bought the rim and spokes from Peter White, since I was getting the B+M IQ Cyo Senso and the Toplight Line Plus from them anyway. Ordered Wednesday morning, and they had it to me in Cincinnati by Friday afternoon.

    Just have to get the whole mess mounted.

    I like the idea of mid-fork blade mounting, although it might work in the fork crown hole on my Gunnar Crosshairs. What is the consensus about side? I thought it would be logical to have it on the traffic or left side of the bike. But, Shimano put the connector on the right side, making it difficult to accomplish that mount. I see you went with the flow, and put it on the right. Besides lighting the way, I want to be seen.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Staggerwing View Post
    I like the idea of mid-fork blade mounting, although it might work in the fork crown hole on my Gunnar Crosshairs. What is the consensus about side? I thought it would be logical to have it on the traffic or left side of the bike. But, Shimano put the connector on the right side, making it difficult to accomplish that mount. I see you went with the flow, and put it on the right. Besides lighting the way, I want to be seen.
    As I understand it, there are 2 reasons to mount on the right hand side:
    1. It lights up the shoulder and right hand side of the road really well; that's where all the road debris likes to live.
    2. If you have to lay your bike down to work on it or transport it, it's on the the same side as your derailleurs....if you mount the light on the left, you'd have a hard time picking a "good" side to lay your bike on.

    Even w/the light on the right, I get plenty of light out on the road where I need it. There is a bit of a shadow from the tire, but it's not significant.

    Another supposed benefit of mounting the light low is that it helps to highlight anything in the road by throwing a shadow...I haven't really noticed that. There also are mounts available so you can mount a light right down at the skewer level; that seems too low to me.

  18. #18
    Senior Member CHAS's Avatar
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    What is the best dyno for a bike with disc brakes?
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  19. #19
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by CHAS View Post
    What is the best dyno for a bike with disc brakes?
    I use the Shimano Alfine DH-S501 dyno hub on my disc brake road bike. Requires a CenterLock rotor. Whether it's the best or not, I couldn't say. I'm pleased with it though.
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    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    Oops! Thanks.

    If you want to see the exact drag figures, check out the info on Peter White's sight. It's really minimal (1.5 watts or something). I'm such an awesomely powerful rider I have lots of watts to spare, so it's no big deal.....
    That's known as DYNO-MIGHT!!!

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