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  1. #1
    Bicycle Tinker'er
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    Self-powered Bike Lights/Quality cheap light?

    It boggles my mind that all these bike lights use batteries and some are outrageously expensive too. Batteries are a terrible way to power lights. If I rode an hour every night, I would spend a small fortune in batteries. So it seems to me their has to be away around this battery dependance

    I'm looking into bike lights as I'm car-free, and I'm looking to ride 3-4 nights a week 20 minutes a night; but I don't want to make duacell's stock jump a point from all the batteries I buy!

    Why can't a bike light harness the energy of the bike? Like an alternator does for a car. Aren't there small generators out there that could convert the energy into the light? Obviously, the cyclist would have to carry a good pace to light the way, but only the better for their health!

    Does anyone use a bike-powered light? Are they available on the market? Has anyone made their own? I'd like to hear your success stories on self-powered lights, battery lights and how you cope with the cost of the batteries

    Thanks,
    josshua
    Last edited by Mr_Wrench; 10-12-08 at 09:04 PM.

  2. #2
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    Could get rechargeable batteries and LED lights really don't use that much power... (At least from what I know)

  3. #3
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    Dynamo hubs http://www.sheldonbrown.com/harris/l...g/shimano.html are one option, or you could get one of the bottle generators http://www.sheldonbrown.com/harris/lighting/bottle.html. They both achieve what you are wanting, albeit at a bit more of a price, as noted above with rechargeable batteries and LED's you can get good run time on a charge.

  4. #4
    Senior Member GTALuigi's Avatar
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    have you checked out Reerlights?

    i'm using them, excellent

    no maintenance required
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  5. #5
    Senior Member SweetLou's Avatar
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    Sure there are some. Dynamo hubs have been around for a long time. I even had a bottle generator on my bike when I was a kid, some 30 odd years ago.

    If you are going car free, I'd go with a dynamo hub over the bottle generator. They are typically more efficient. Also, since it snows in Kansas City, you won't have slippage with the bottle generator. Check out Peter White's web page about lighting systems.

  6. #6
    Bicycle Tinker'er
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    Thanks for everyones replies. Dynamo hubs are exactly what I was thinking of but putting those on my entry-level Fuji Sport is like putting spinner' rims on an oldsmobile.

    I don't think I want to drop $120 a dollars for a new dyna wheel

    I think I'll just go with Battery-powered and use rechargable batteries

  7. #7
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Haunt Ebay, Craigs List, local LBS used bike rack, garage sales, etc.

    I bought a complete bike for $175 that came with Shimano generator hub, front and rear lights, plus a bunch of other stuff. (the one below) I was going to strip it down for parts but ended up keeping it and using it as a utility bike. You can also get a bottom bracket mount generator They do suffer from the same issue as the sidewall, slipping in bad weather. But have the advantage that they won't wear out a sidewall if improperly adjusted. IMHO the best way to go is the dyno hub. Learn to build wheels and the cost will drop to a more reasonable level. I have used most of the more basic lighting systems out there, much prefer the generator hubs. They are always ready to go and you don't have to remember whether you charged the batteries up or not. Also in cold weather batteries always have given me the fits. For what I have spent over the years in batteries, lost and broken lights I could have paid for a couple of dyno hub systems. FWIW I am upgrading a new bike I bought back in may with a Shimano dyno hub system, because it is becoming my go to bike, and I want lights when I grab it and go.

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    Last edited by wahoonc; 10-13-08 at 02:58 AM.
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  8. #8
    is a cheesehead kweichsel's Avatar
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    I think GTALuigi was referring to Reelights which are powered by magnetic induction. You can get ones that flash with each wheel revolution, ones with a capacitor for a steady flash rate that also flashes when you stop, or a steady model that does not flash but stays on while your wheels are rotating. IHowever, these are not as bright as the battery-powered lights. I like the idea of never being without lights, and always run another set of LED lights in the dark.

    They're not stocked at most LBS's but Hiawatha Cycley will ship them anywhere. If you want a specific model email him to see if they have it in stock. I recently bought the steady model for $80 with shipping. That's competitive with what you'd pay for a set of battery-powered lights plus rechargables and a charger.
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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by josshua View Post
    Does anyone use a bike-powered light? Are they available on the market? Has anyone made their own? I'd like to hear your success stories on self-powered lights, battery lights and how you cope with the cost of the batteries

    Thanks,
    josshua
    Hub Dynamo's are the best if you use lights a lot but they will cost.

    One thing to remember about night riding is that you can only ride within the limit of your lights. If you are only riding in well light areas- then a 1w LED will be completely sufficient and they are not that expensive to buy or run. 4 AA bateries for around 20 hours use or Days if it is on flashing mode. However- if you want to be able to see with the lights- you need something good. 10w Halogen with rechargable batteries (Ni-cads) will be sufficient and not that expensive.

    And whilst on lights- Rear lamps- Fit two of them. You will not be able to tell when on the bike when one of them stops working.


    And I do a lot of night riding so I have a twin 5W luxion LED that gives fantastic light for 100 yards'. I even use this light off road so it has to be good.
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  10. #10
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    Reelights are great, but they're just see-me blinkers - they won't help you see the road. I run them on all of my commuter bikes, as both a supplement and a backup for my main lights.

  11. #11
    Uber Goober StephenH's Avatar
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    I've got a rechargeable Niterider that I bought for about $60 on sale at REI. It has a 6w and 10w bulb, good light for my riding, have an hour or so with both bulbs running, or turn one off for longer.

    I had a bottle-type generator when I was a teenager 30 years ago. The headlight was bright enough that I could see the chuckholes before I rode into them. That was about it- pretty pitiful. But a heck of a lot better than nothing. It had noticeable drag, but not bad.
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  12. #12
    Senior Member Bob Nichols's Avatar
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    I bought the Blackburn Quadrant and Mars 3.0 Combo Bicycle Light Set from Amazon. Their current price is $32. I bought these lights in July and haven't put any new batteries in yet. Don't really know how long they have been on, but I would guess 20 hours.
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  13. #13
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    As has been mentioned, LED lights are easy on batteries. A couple of sets of rechargable batteries last years. I have a couple of "high power" lights that work on rechargable batteries that fit in the water bottle holder. Those batteries have lasted several years.

    The very best generator lights are the ones that work with a front hub generator. They work well, but are VERY expensive to buy brand new.

    The "Commuting" Forum has had many long threads discussing the merits of various lights, generators, different types of batteries. Lots of folks over there build "custom" systems.

  14. #14
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    yeah using batteries is truly ridiculous..
    in germany, every bike is required to have a working headlight by law.. and they all use a simple generator attached to the wheel that powers the headlight. it is standard there.. certainly not a $60 luxury. i bought a used bike for 40 euros and it came with the headlight and charging system... so you can imagine how little this thing costs.
    so my advice is search german websites. the tiny thing wont cost much to **** to the US. (if you dont know german.. google makes it easy to search with its translator)

  15. #15
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    You can use rechargeable batteries. they sell them in every store that sells batteries.

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  16. #16
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    several ReeLight products, some have Capacitors to steady the light.
    The Basic induces a current as the magnet attached to the spokes
    passes a coil of wire in the light, attached to the end of the axle

    http://www.reelight.com/ Produced in Denmark.

    Hub Dynamos obviously require rebuilding your front wheel around a new hub.

    Bottle Dynamos roll against the sidewall of the tire,
    can have drive of generator hydroplane on a wet tire.

  17. #17
    Senior Member slorollin's Avatar
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    Here's 1 for you.....: http://cgi.ebay.com/5w-LED-CREE-Flas...#ht_3523wt_814

    This is a great little light. I've bought 3 so far. I cant believe that it costs so little. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. The tail light is icing on the cake and it works well too.
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  18. #18
    xtrajack xtrajack's Avatar
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    I recently heard about a product called a Magten light I believe that it works along the same lines as the the Reelights. However I get the impression that they are designed to be "to see with" lights as opposed to "see me" lights.
    The last time I had heard about the Reelights, I had gotten the impression that they were designed more as "see me" lights.

    I am seriously considering getting the Magten set up. The only reason I haven't yet, is that I would have to swap my rear disc brakes out for cantis. The magnetic ring is smaller than my disc rotor, hence the need to swap my brakes.
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  19. #19
    Gear Hub fan
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    Niagara Cycles has both 700c and 26" dynamo hub wheels for less than $85 + shipping I noted the other day. They also sell through Amazon. By far the least expensive dynamo wheels I have seen.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/ref=...mo+wheel&ajr=3
    Gear Hubs Owned: Rohloff disc brake, SRAM iM9 disc brake, SRAM P5 freewheel, Sachs Torpedo 3 speed freewheel, NuVinci CVT, Shimano Alfine SG S-501, Sturmey Archer S5-2 Alloy. Other: 83 Colnago Super Record, Univega Via De Oro

    Visit and join the Yahoo Geared Hub Bikes group for support and links.
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  20. #20
    Formerly Known as Newbie Juha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by suchiha View Post
    in germany, every bike is required to have a working headlight by law..
    True.
    Quote Originally Posted by suchiha View Post
    and they all use a simple generator attached to the wheel that powers the headlight.
    Umm... no. Bikes under certain weight limit (think training bikes for road racing) are free to use battery operated lights. And I doubt the police there will actually harass anyone as long as they have working lights, be those battery operated or dynamo.

    That said, I have used battery operated, sidewall dynamo and dynohub lights. For my commuting use I prefer the dynohub.

    --J
    Last edited by Juha; 11-25-10 at 07:05 AM.
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  21. #21
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    Most modern German bikes use dynohubs.
    I have a sidewall generator on my old touring bike and a dynohub on my commuter. The sidewall version is mounted on a solid braze-on tab, not a clamp, which helps it run in the wet. Dynohubs are far better in all conditions.
    Any dynamo can power a modern LED dynamo lamp. They put out a lot more illumination than old style lamps, they are much more reliable and you get full illumination at a quick walking pace.
    If you want to see what is available on the market, Peter White Cycles is a good place to start.

    If you want to use an LED battery lamp that takes AA or AAA cells, the modern hybrid style rechargeable cells maintain their charge very well. They come fully charged and can be recharged like any others.

  22. #22
    Senior Member rekmeyata's Avatar
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    Not sure why your against self contained battery powered lights. With LED's you would only have to recharge once a week and even then, according to your useage, they would be no where near going dead. Cateye makes a couple nice bright LED lights, one is the Cateye Single Shot ($79 at Amazon) which uses a eternal battery and the brightest at this price, and the other is the Cateye HL-EL530 ($45 at REI) which uses 4 AA's which you could use rechargeables for it. If you want something really bright but don't want an external battery but don't mind spending a bit more, the Cygolite ExpiliOn 250 is very bright but cost around $112 on sale at REI right now. The Cygolite uses a self contained rechargeable battery that is user replaceable with a new battery from Cygolite.

    Here is a web site that shows the beams of all the above lights for comparison, plus beams of quite a few others: http://www.modernbike.com/light-comp...singleshotplus

  23. #23
    Gear Hub fan
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    I prefer dynamo lights just from the convenience standpoint. They make using a bicycle at night about as convenient as a car and some for dynamo hubs even have automatic light turn-on as it gets dark, typically called "senso" dynamo lights. You cannot get much more idiot proof than that. I consider rechargeable bicycle lights to be in the same category as running a car without a generator so you need to charge the battery before every trip. People would not put up with that in a car so why accept it on a bicycle used for transportation?
    Gear Hubs Owned: Rohloff disc brake, SRAM iM9 disc brake, SRAM P5 freewheel, Sachs Torpedo 3 speed freewheel, NuVinci CVT, Shimano Alfine SG S-501, Sturmey Archer S5-2 Alloy. Other: 83 Colnago Super Record, Univega Via De Oro

    Visit and join the Yahoo Geared Hub Bikes group for support and links.
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  24. #24
    Senior Member rekmeyata's Avatar
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    First of that's a idiotic comparison. A car needs a generator or alternator to keep the car running so the battery doesn't drain. And if you want to be that idiotic then lets compare a 100% battery powered car like the Nissian Leaf or the Tesla and more to follow that requires plugging the car in every night and be limited to 90 to 100 miles...that is a closer comparison to having to plug in a simple light. Yet there are people willing to plug in cars used for transportation.

  25. #25
    Senior Member
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    This is always a hot topic. I will probably never throw down 150.00 for a Nightrider. I think a lot of the cheaper LED strobes are not very durable. The switch on my Planet bike Beamer (I think it's a Beamer, it's the cheaper blue one) keeps biodegrading. If you have one of these, BTW, keep any oils off the rubber and put a piece of innertube around it to cover the switch, put some talcum powder in there. I think UV's also mess it up. This is a stupid design flaw.

    It seems a lot of the intense electronics in these lights are also prone to vibration problems.

    The best light I have is a Princeton Tec Tec 40, the older one, the halogen. Mine is 13 years old, bought it initially for fishing. The twist-on design is very smart, as switches tend to break.

    I've seen them on Amazon for 13.00, it takes 4 AA's , it's light, bright as hell, and will burn for 5 hours on a charge. I second the thread on the Energizers,
    I use the Everready "Hybrids" which is probably the same thing with a green label. You can get an awesome deal at Sears. It's like 4 AA's, 2 AA's and a charger for 19.99. And they last awhile. I have no problems.

    I am a firm beleiver in a white strobe on my helmet AND a light on my bars. Cars DO NOT left cross me anymore.

    I use it in daytime also, and I swear if you do this, you will be amazed at how much easier your riding has become.

    On my crappy bike I use a 6.00 ACE hardware flashlight. 2 AA's and 2.5 hours burn, just carry spare batteries, they weigh nothing.

    I have dropped this light in the road many times and it still works. It's black with rubber "armor". Has a lifetime guarantee. I think it's made by garrity. This one is 6 years old.

    I still think incandescents are more durable even though they won't run for 125 hours.

    For a stem mount, I use an old U-lock mount. Another quick mount is two zip ties criss crossed over the bars, fold a piece of innertube under the light for "friction". Done deal.

    On my touring bike I mounted a Garrity "lantern light". These are pretty cool, you pull the lens down to make it into a lantern, with a reflector strut (or peice of bent metal) I lashed it to the neck of the stem. Strapping tape, BTW, is pretty awesome stuff. You can really crank on it. I saved hours of fiddling with mounts by doing this. It doesn't look so cool, but you gotta see the bike (an old Bridgestone MTB converted to drop bars, butt-ugly grey)

    ...But the awesome thing is, when I pull into camp at dusk and start setting up the tent etc. I just pull the lens out and I have light all over. The really big 3" reflector makes this light pretty damn bright too. Runs on 4 AA's. Incandescent halogen.

    My point here is, don't obsess about lighting too much, it's just to be seen, mostly. When you start talking about illuminating the road, then you start throwing down big bucks. Hey if somebody gave me a MagicShine I'd be happy as hell, but keep in mind a lot of guys here in my town have said that motorists complain about being blinded, so they might not really be the ticket in city traffic. Use that stuff in the mountains.

    Shimano makes a hub now to power a light, but now you're gettin into the high ranges. There's also a German hub that a lot of touring guys swear by, but it's like 300.00. I forget the make. It's probably not as good as the German hub.

    But for the most part, use your night vision and study the road well in daylight so you know where the potholes are. The indians used their night vision to navigate in the woods, they seldom used torches. To me, there's an advantage of not being totally reliant on a light beam. Cars need that, though because they go a lot faster. Ideally, a vehicle should be able to stop within the length of its beam.

    One last note: having a helmet lamp AND a bar lamp is good insurance in case you forget to turn one on, or the batteries in one run out. Backups.

    And if you have a helmet lamp, you can aim it at cars who might otherwise pull out on you from the right.
    Last edited by IknowURider; 11-25-10 at 08:59 PM.

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