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Let's talk about Dynohubs and drum brakes!

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Let's talk about Dynohubs and drum brakes!

Old 02-05-08, 09:56 AM
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Let's talk about Dynohubs and drum brakes!

I posted these questions over in the Electronics & Lighting forum, but I want to get the commuter's views on this.

I've been looking at the Sturmey-Archer front hubs for a little bit now because it seems like they'd solve a couple of problems for me. I'd love to get some feedback from you folks who have some experience with dynohubs and/or drum brakes.
  • Lighting. I currently run a dual 20W halogen setup with a lightbrain controller, and it's like having flamethrowers out front to light the way. The batteries are a pain, though... recharging and constantly doing the mental calculations to figure out if I'll have enough juice to get me home in the pitch black rural area that I live in. I realize that I will not get the same levels of light from a dynohub setup, but will I get enough light to truly see by? I have a couple of fairly signifigant downhill runs, and I don't want to outrun my lights at 30MPH. I'm a nerd engineer, so feel free to talk techie if necessary!
  • Braking. I recently had a near miss where a car started to pull out in front of me on wet pavement... and it scared the crap out of me. I saw him ahead of time and knew he didn't see me. I was going downhill @ about 25 - 30MPH and started riding the brake levers to clear my cantilever brakes. But the brakes would not clear and start braking! I was bombing straight at this car's driver door with no way to stop. Fortunately, he saw me at the last minute and stopped as I swerved around him. I keep my brakes in top condition, and I run high quality pads... so I've decided that I simply need more dependable braking for my fully loaded commuter. That's a lot of weight to haul to a stop. I've thought about disc brakes, but the drums appeal to me if the stopping power is really close to that of discs. And what is the lifespan like... and what do you do for drum brake maintenance? How do the drum brakes really stack up?

In addition, using this hub wouldn't require a fork swap like going to disc brakes would. It seems that the choices of road forks with disc brake bosses is getting better, but is still somewhat limited compared to the selection of non-disc road forks. Another added benefit is that my wheels would last LOTS longer... no rim wear in front at all and very little in the rear since I hardly use the rear brake under normal conditions.

So weigh in with your experiences...
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Old 02-05-08, 10:27 AM
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I've ridden nearly every workday for seven years with a dynohub and drum brakes. Here are some answers.

Lights. My dyno hub and Lumotec halogen combination is adaquate for my riding, which is mostly in a well-lit urban area. Whether it would work well downhill at 30 mph on a dark rural road is unknown, although it works fine for me on a dark route at 15 mph. There are LED headlights low available for dynohubs. Like the lumotec, these send out a highly focussed beam, howrver, they are much brighter. In your case, you could simply keep the battery lights and use them only for brief periods on the fast dark portions. Just like fitting driving lights to a car.

Brakes
Drum brakes require more force than do rim brakes to get the same decelaration rate. I can lock up my front wheel if I squeeze hard. On slick rain or snow slick, this characteristic is an advantage, in that it makes it much easier to precisely modulate the amount of braking. From a maintenance standpoint, drums are great. Once a year, my mechanic puts some grease in them. If this is not done, the brakes will start to squeak. Lifespan appears to be unlimited.

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Old 02-05-08, 10:54 AM
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I can't comment to the efficacy of drum brakes, but the Supernova E3 dynohub light is hella bright. It rivals any Li-on LED light in the $250-300 range, without the concerns for battery life and recharging hassles.

The B&M Lumotech Fly IQ is a great dyno-light, also. Not as spendy as the E3, but also not the same lux output or beam-spread.
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Old 02-05-08, 12:00 PM
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If ya go the LED route ya gotta remember the difference between see and be seen. The new high-lumen LED's are great lights to see with considering the weight. They're very poor at providing a "be seen" light because the light is so focused. A better option might be to run a traditional incandescent or low-power halogen light as the "be-seen" light off the hub, and a battery operated LED light for forward vision. Blinkies are a poor substitute. IMHO. YMMV.
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Old 02-05-08, 12:13 PM
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I have the Sturmey Archer dynamo drum hub on a couple of my bikes, and I like them. It's a good dynamo and a good brake.

I also have drum brakes on my Strida; in 2000 miles of riding on that I wore out the pads on the rear brake, which was a nuisance. That situation was probably specific to the way that brake is mounted on the Strida, which only allowed me to tighten the brake a little bit. Part of the problem may be that I ride the R brake unnecessarily; my rear brake pads always wear out before the front. For that reason I'm not sure I'd want a drum on the R wheel; but for the front, they're great.
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Old 02-05-08, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by vincentpaul View Post
Blinkies are a poor substitute. IMHO. YMMV.
For being seen in general, or just for use on the front of the bike?
I've seen 360-degree visibility blinkies that people strap to helmets and backpacks, etc... and they're very noticable from a long distance.

I know what you mean about the LED based dyno-lights being very focused. Most dyno-lights use better focused optics than a battery powered light because of the limited power being generated when compared to long-life Li-on batteries. Especially the Fly IQ. The side-to-side beam cutoff is very crisp.
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Old 02-05-08, 12:28 PM
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I have a bike with '97-ish Sachs drum hubs. The front brake surface must have been out of round and has a kind of modulated feel to it. Probably could have disassembled it and cleaned it up with sandpaper, but figured it would wear itself away in time. It kinda has in the past decade, but there's still noticable ABS-like pulsing. No problems with the rear.

I'd say they brake marginally better than cantilever brakes, but not V or disc brakes. In the wet, snow, mud, they rule over just about anything--where cantis, Vs, or traditional road brakes would be looking for traction, the drum brakes work just as well as they always do. Disk brakes are much more powerful and provide most of what you want out of drum brakes, plus they are more prolific.

I got the drums because I wanted weatherproof and there weren't too many affordable options compared to drum brakes back when I got them. Now that so many disk systems are out there, they might be the way to go. I mean, you'd be lucky to find a drum front on ebay (or a LBS for that matter), whereas you can find any number of disk ready wheels and brake systems. How much will a screaming deal on a front wheel with disk hub + brake system + fork cost vs. Hub + spokes + rim + wheel build?
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Old 02-05-08, 12:44 PM
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I would be interested in a comparison of the dynamo-powered lights (especially the LEDs) versus battery-powered lights, not just in illumination, but in cost-to-benefit ratio. From my rather limited and hasty research, it looks like a decent, from the ground up, dynamo lighting system would run you about $214.90 for a Shimano Nexus generator hub built wheel and light (prices from Harris Cyclery).

That breaks down to:
Shimano Nexus built wheel: $174.95 (which includes the $89.95 Shimano Nexus dyno hub)
Shimano Nexus light: $39.95

Other Lighting options:
Busch & Müller Lumotec IQ Fly: $ 83.00 (price from Peter White)
Busch & Müller Lumotec IQ Fly Plus: $ 90.00 (price from Peter White)
Schmidt E6 Generator Headlight: $110.95 (price from Harris Cyclery)

Versus:
Dinotte 200L-LI-2C 200 lumens: $249.00
Fenix P3D Premium Q5 flashlight: from $62.50 (price from Amazon.com)

Either way, a good lighting system is going to involve a significant investment in money. Therefore, which option offers the best overall performance and longevity for the money? Now that is a review worth reading.
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Old 02-05-08, 12:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Hydrated View Post
I posted these questions over in the Electronics & Lighting forum, but I want to get the commuter's views on this.

I've been looking at the Sturmey-Archer front hubs for a little bit now because it seems like they'd solve a couple of problems for me. I'd love to get some feedback from you folks who have some experience with dynohubs and/or drum brakes.
  • Lighting. I currently run a dual 20W halogen setup with a lightbrain controller, and it's like having flamethrowers out front to light the way. The batteries are a pain, though... recharging and constantly doing the mental calculations to figure out if I'll have enough juice to get me home in the pitch black rural area that I live in. I realize that I will not get the same levels of light from a dynohub setup, but will I get enough light to truly see by? I have a couple of fairly signifigant downhill runs, and I don't want to outrun my lights at 30MPH. I'm a nerd engineer, so feel free to talk techie if necessary!
  • Braking. I recently had a near miss where a car started to pull out in front of me on wet pavement... and it scared the crap out of me. I saw him ahead of time and knew he didn't see me. I was going downhill @ about 25 - 30MPH and started riding the brake levers to clear my cantilever brakes. But the brakes would not clear and start braking! I was bombing straight at this car's driver door with no way to stop. Fortunately, he saw me at the last minute and stopped as I swerved around him. I keep my brakes in top condition, and I run high quality pads... so I've decided that I simply need more dependable braking for my fully loaded commuter. That's a lot of weight to haul to a stop. I've thought about disc brakes, but the drums appeal to me if the stopping power is really close to that of discs. And what is the lifespan like... and what do you do for drum brake maintenance? How do the drum brakes really stack up?

In addition, using this hub wouldn't require a fork swap like going to disc brakes would. It seems that the choices of road forks with disc brake bosses is getting better, but is still somewhat limited compared to the selection of non-disc road forks. Another added benefit is that my wheels would last LOTS longer... no rim wear in front at all and very little in the rear since I hardly use the rear brake under normal conditions.

So weigh in with your experiences...
I've run the Sturmey-Archer XFDD dyno/drum hub for about 1,200 miles without too many problems. The only problem I've had is that on the 20" wheel of my RANS I was overspeeding the hub and blowing bulbs. I am now running a Lumotec Plus, a Lumotec secondary and a wired taillight.

The drum brake is not as good as a disc brake, but is at least as good as rim brakes in stopping power. The brakes also feel a bit spongy at first but that soon improves. The brake does require a fair amount of effort to work correctly. As I've got the brake warm going downhills the effort required has increased. I have recently done a 550 mile fully loaded tour, including several decent hills, and the brakes held up fine. I had to use about 1/3 of the available adjustment on the cable stop in those 1200 miles, so the brake pads have a long way to go before I have to replace them.

With the dynamo, initially I only had one halogen light on the front. I found that on fully dark rural roads, the light was sufficient for about 15 - 18 mph. I couldn't pedal much faster than that, because I'm slow, but I wouldn't have wanted to go much faster. I haven't tried a rural ride since adding a secondary headlight to the system. With the new LEDs, the lights may be brighter.

You may want to ask the people in the long-distance forum about dynohubs as well.

There is some additional drag, when riding with the lights on with a hub dynamo, to bear in mind as well.

I have been satisfied with my dyno/drum hub and it is good to have dependable wet weather braking.
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Old 02-05-08, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by harleyfrog View Post
...
That breaks down to:
Shimano Nexus built wheel: $174.95 (which includes the $89.95 Shimano Nexus dyno hub)
Shimano Nexus light: $39.95
...
Either way, a good lighting system is going to involve a significant investment in money. Therefore, which option offers the best overall performance and longevity for the money? Now that is a review worth reading.
Two remarks:

--The Nexus hubs are fine, but I don't like my Nexus automatic switch, and have not heard good things about Nexus lights.

--Consider building your own wheel. It's easy, and it's very rewarding. I knew a guy who rebuilt all his wheels because, he said, he didn't like the nipples (sheesh, what's there not to like about nipples?), but I think he just liked building wheels. Try it, you'll like it!
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Old 02-05-08, 01:20 PM
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Unfortunately, the topic of both bicycle and motorcycle lighting are lacking in research evidence. It's my experience as a weekend SUV driver (my wife works nights, we have 4 kids and I'm often hauling 5-7 people around) that blinkies work really well. From about 15 feet away. Anecdotal. Perceptions differ from person to person, so we really need to have some controlled studies done to see what works best on average. I've written the Oregon Department of Transporation asking them to do some real research on the issue since they are actively promoting bicycling and have bicycle program.
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Old 02-05-08, 01:21 PM
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Originally Posted by harleyfrog View Post
I would be interested in a comparison of the dynamo-powered lights (especially the LEDs) versus battery-powered lights, not just in illumination, but in cost-to-benefit ratio.
Good "see me" dynohub setup:
Shimano hub/wheel you mentioned $175
Shimano light $35
Total cost = $210
Replacement bulbs or even a whole new light would run maximally $35 every couple of years. The hub, properly serviced, should last you for a decade.

Good "see things" dynohub setup:
Shimano hub/wheel $175
SON E6 light $110
Total cost $285. Replacement bulbs at $3.00 maybe twice a year if you really use it a lot.

Great "see things" dynohub setup
SON28 hub/wheel ~$350
Supernova E3 light ~$175
Total cost $525. Hub will outlast you and your children. So will the light. It is likely you will never need to replace anything with that setup. EVER.

(I'm going to use Dinotte lights exclusively for this comparison.)

Good "see me" battery setup:
Dinotte 200L-LI: $269
2x 4cell Li-on batteries @ 16 hours total runtime at 100%
Batteries last for average of 500 charge cycles. Two batteries = 1000 charge cycles for 8 hours each, or 8000 hours of use. That's 2000 days of 4 hours a day use. Replacement batteries are $75 each.

Good "see things" battery setup:
Dinotte Dual 200L w/ 2x 4cell batteries. $374
Gives 8 hour (two full batteries run out) runtime at 400 lumens. Batteries are $75 each.

Better "see things" battery setup:
Dinotte 600L/200L combo w/ 2x 4cell/ 1x 2cell battery combo: $499
7 hour runtime (both batteries on the 600L run out), $75 replacement 4cell, $50 replacement 2cell.

It's likely with any battery lights you'll wind up replacing the battery at the 3 -5 year point if you really use them a lot. If the $50-$80 investment over 4 years' time is too much when compared with the TCO of a really great dynohub setup, then go with the dyno. Maybe it's a convenience factor you're looking for, and it's worth the initial $500+ for a great dyno setup that you never have to fuss over again.

If it's just blazing hot light you're after, then a battery setup will always win out for the same price. It's just a matter of runtime vs. light output when you start getting into those top-dollar prices.
A $700 dyno setup will get you 120 lux of E3 lights on a SON28/Open Pro. $50 more will get you 7 hours of runtime at 1200 lumens with the Dinotte Dual 600L setup and 4x 4cell batteries.
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Old 02-05-08, 01:56 PM
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I've got the SA dynohub/brake on my commuter and love it. Using it saved me having to buy new rims (stainless = very bad braking when wet, not an issue with the drum brake). I've been using it for about 6 months now and it's great. The lighting is more of a CYA than anything else, since most of my riding is in the light. I have used the lights coming up an alley from my friend's place (no lights) and it does the job. I highly recommend it and will probably put one onto any bike I build up.
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Old 02-05-08, 02:07 PM
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CliftonGK1:

Thanks for the info and the break down. (I'm a geek when it comes to that. ) I might just have an excuse to try at least one of those set-ups. I found a Schwinn aluminum mountain bike frame in a dumpster at my apartment complex. The frame, forks and bar/stem look sound, but I'm going to have my LBS look it over before I do anything else. This could very well be a project for me and my wife (I build it, she rides it). And since the wheels are AWOL, I'll need to either buy (easier) or build (cheaper) the wheels. One option was to have a dynamo hub up front, but I wasn't too sure about my lighting options. Now, I have a much better idea of what's available. Now, I just need the money.
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Old 02-05-08, 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by harleyfrog View Post
CliftonGK1:

Thanks for the info and the break down. (I'm a geek when it comes to that. ) I might just have an excuse to try at least one of those set-ups. I found a Schwinn aluminum mountain bike frame in a dumpster at my apartment complex. The frame, forks and bar/stem look sound, but I'm going to have my LBS look it over before I do anything else. This could very well be a project for me and my wife (I build it, she rides it). And since the wheels are AWOL, I'll need to either buy (easier) or build (cheaper) the wheels. One option was to have a dynamo hub up front, but I wasn't too sure about my lighting options. Now, I have a much better idea of what's available. Now, I just need the money.
I've been researching it for a while because I'm constantly flipflopping over what to upgrade my L&M Solo with.
I do some distance riding at pre-dawn into the dusk/night, but no all nighter rando's and/or 24 hour events. I like the idea of twin E3 lights, but the drag on the hills doesn't sit well with me considering some of the v e r y l o n g c l i m b s I do around here. The cost isn't the issue, it's the longevity of lighting: I need more than 4 hours worth. I finally found that for a reasonable cost/weight/lumens ratio with Dinotte lights. The Dual 600L comes with 4x 4cell batteries that can give me 7.2 hours of runtime at 1200 lumens! I'm never going to need that full capacity for the full runtime, so I'm looking at more like 1 light running at 50% power with a wide-lens and one running 100% with a spot-lens, for a combined total of 10.5 hours of total runtime. Plenty enough to take me on an all-day (or all-night in the summer) adventure.

I have a 10-15 mile commute on many unlit, narrow shouldered, winding tree-lined roads. Travelling these roads pre-dawn and after dark, I want to have as much light output as possible. I've found myself the past couple mornings "outrunning" my 13W Halogen Solo.
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Old 02-05-08, 04:14 PM
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CliftonGK1:

Sounds like you get quite a bit of mileage out of your lights (Yes, pun intended). For me, one of the possible scenarios is that my wife and I may end up taking our bikes with us on a trip to, say, Sequoia National Park. Not well known for having replacement batteries or power hookups in the tents. Being able to have plenty of light for night riding without worrying about batteries running out is always a good thing.
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Old 02-05-08, 04:25 PM
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Originally Posted by harleyfrog View Post
Not well known for having replacement batteries or power hookups in the tents. Being able to have plenty of light for night riding without worrying about batteries running out is always a good thing.
And that's where the dynohub setups really make their mark. Sure, I'll look like I stole my lighting from Safeco Field... but it won't do me a bit of good when the batteries run out. This is why many randonneurs and other long/ultradistance riders use dynohub lighting.
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Old 02-05-08, 04:40 PM
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Another endorsement for the Sturmey XFDD dynamo drum. Riding through the slush today, my front drum brake was unaffected. My rear rim brake was inneffective in comparison.
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Old 02-05-08, 09:04 PM
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For years I commuted in Olympia, WA with a S.A. Dynohub feeding a LumoTech headlight. My commute was about 1/2 unlit rural roads with almost no traffic & 1/2 well lit city streets with light traffic. On unlit roads, the Dynohub provided barely adequate light at 15-18 mph, so I eventually added 10w & a 15w headlights powered by a sealed lead acid battery. I only turned the 15w on for fast downhills. I got (at most) 2 Winters from a battery. The Dynohub did always give its light & never let me down.
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Old 02-05-08, 09:34 PM
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You can DIY your own LED dynamo headlight cheap.
Optics; go to luxeonstar.com and order a Fraen Elliptical Beam Lens With Holder for Lambertian type LED. $4.88 +s/h.
https://www.luxeonstar.com/item.php?i...HS-HEB1-LL01-H

Next go to DX and order a Seoul Z-power U-BIN LED on star. $5.82 free shipping
https://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.1445

I used a 1" PVC pipe coupler to hold and protect the optics, LED, and heat sink. The heat sink is cut from sheet aluminum or copper and just fits inside the pipe coupler. RTV is used to seal the space around the edge of the heat sink and pipe coupler to keep water out. A prescription bottle cap is a press fit and holds clear plastic to seal and protect the lens. Use hot glue to hold the heat sink and LED to the holder instead of melting the holder legs so you may upgrade the LED later as these are doubling in light output every year or so. The Seoul Z-power from DX is 120 lumen and is an upgrade from the Luxeon 1-watt 49 lumen LED at half the cost.

A bridge rectifier circuit is required between the dynamo and LED headlight.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridge_rectifier

I use 4 1N5818 ordered from mouser.com
https://www.mouser.com/Search/Product...tht%2fsQ%3d%3d

I solder them to a small terminal strip mounted to the back of the front reflector bracket where it provides a good frame ground to the bicycle and dynamo.


Here is my headlight assembled and fitted on my bike.

Last edited by n4zou; 02-05-08 at 09:43 PM.
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