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Are Dynamo Hubs Worth It?

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Are Dynamo Hubs Worth It?

Old 01-03-14, 12:11 AM
  #1  
Nickfrogger
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Are Dynamo Hubs Worth It?

I'm putting together a touring build for my first long tour (~2000mi). It will be primarily "stealth camping" and I'm concerned about plug availability for charging for my phone and gps. On the other hand, getting a USB charging system with a Shimano dynohub looks like it'll be $200-$300, which is more than a month's rent for me. Anyone have advice in regards to whether or not a dynamo hub would be a worthwhile investment? Sorry if this has been covered already; I didn't have much luck searching the forums.

Thanks in advance,
~Nick
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Old 01-03-14, 12:44 AM
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In my opinion yes, but my desire to have a back-up should I run late on a day's ride and end up in darkness has come from experience. And having a dynohub means I don't have to ever worry about batteries for a front light (ergo, read my opening sentence in which the batteries died).

Compared with the weight carried by most touring cyclists, the losses in the dynohub are minimal, in my experience. In addition, I have used my touring bikes for other purposes such as commuting, and of course a dynohub light system certainly works well for me in that case.

I have two Shimano dynohubs standing by now to be built into the wheels on our current touring bikes.
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Old 01-03-14, 01:53 AM
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I added a 3rd LED Dyno hub , wheel & 2 LED lights were aprox. $200.

Your Phone charging electronics will be added to that.
maybe same 2C
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Old 01-03-14, 03:47 AM
  #4  
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Are Dynamo Hubs Worth It?

Obviously needs are different. On tour I rarely ride in the dark, but have a small rear light and a "miners headlamp" (which doubles as both front lamp and torch in camp). Batteries for LED lamps last for ages with such little use.
Finding outlets to recharge iphone has never been a big problem, especially if staying at campsites. OTOH going without iphone for a few days is no big deal for me.

In the also somewhat unlikely event of hub failure, I imagine finding a replacement and rebuilding a wheel would be more problematic, especially in some parts of the world.

So - for me - the cost and weight isn't justified.

However, if you wild camp a lot, are more dependant on bicycle lighting, GPS, google maps etc, then I can understand the need of a dynohub.

Last edited by imi; 01-03-14 at 03:56 AM.
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Old 01-03-14, 04:17 AM
  #5  
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Originally Posted by imi View Post
Obviously needs are different. On tour I rarely ride in the dark, but have a small rear light and a "miners headlamp" (which doubles as both front lamp and torch in camp). Batteries for LED lamps last for ages with such little use.
Finding outlets to recharge iphone has never been a big problem, especially if staying at campsites. OTOH going without iphone for a few days is no big deal for me.

In the also somewhat unlikely event of hub failure, I imagine finding a replacement and rebuilding a wheel would be more problematic, especially in some parts of the world.

So - for me - the cost and weight isn't justified.

However, if you wild camp a lot, are more dependant on bicycle lighting, GPS, google maps etc, then I can understand the need of a dynohub.
My original SON dynohub has probably done around 50,000km in various places around the world, some of them reasonably remote, and I haven't had an issue. I'd like to think it has been the most reliable piece of cycling equipment I have had.
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Old 01-03-14, 04:28 AM
  #6  
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Are Dynamo Hubs Worth It?

Yeah, I wasn't suggesting that Dynamo hubs are more likely to fail - I have absolutely no idea about that.
My thought was rather in an extreme situation, in, say, S.America, Asia or Africa where only 26" MTB components may be available. This is, of course, not everybody's reality.
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Old 01-03-14, 05:15 AM
  #7  
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I havnt had a bike without a dynamo hub for many years....... Probably 25 years now. I started with old Sturmey Archer GH6's and then went for Son dynamos.
Current bike has a Son28/E-werk combo which powers my lights (front and rear), Edge 800 gps and my phone.
I"m in the process of building up a trailer with a second Son28 to hopefully charge my laptop and camera.
I wouldn't be without one.
If I was doing a tour of a overseas third world country like the above, I'd make sure my front wheel was new to minimise failure.
I dont use the lights much on tour, but nothing could be worse than sitting in the campground bathroom or kitchen waiting for things to charge being too scared to leave in case they are stolen.
Even bigger a deal over here in Australia is the distance between towns can be many days so relying on campgrounds would see you doing without.
No need to do without in this day and age.
.
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Old 01-03-14, 06:11 AM
  #8  
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Originally Posted by Nickfrogger View Post
I'm putting together a touring build for my first long tour (~2000mi). It will be primarily "stealth camping" and I'm concerned about plug availability for charging for my phone and gps. On the other hand, getting a USB charging system with a Shimano dynohub looks like it'll be $200-$300, which is more than a month's rent for me. Anyone have advice in regards to whether or not a dynamo hub would be a worthwhile investment? Sorry if this has been covered already; I didn't have much luck searching the forums.

Thanks in advance,
~Nick
Hi Nick,

The real answer to the overall question is - it depends on how much you use your phone and how often you find yourself in a place where you can access a wall outlet. It won't take long to find the answers to those two variables and you don't have to go on a long tour to learn.

I have found restaurants, including some fast food places will usually allow me to plug in my electronics if I am also buying something. Doing that might mean you would spend more time in such a place than otherwise but it doesn't sound as though your tour is one involving speed or particularly high mileage days. I say that because true "stealth camping" usually takes more time than wild camping or permitted camping, although when you are stealthing it you often get a pretty early start. In addition to restaurants I have found other places that will let me plug in when I need to - bike shops, campgrounds that I pass but am not staying at, office supply stores, municipal offices, tourist/welcome centers, etc. Sometimes you can access an outside plug without even asking. I have done that at a high school parking lot and at many campgrounds at the covered pavillion.

Be aware that there exists batteries such as this

http://www.amazon.com/10000mAh-Smart...=anker+battery

which you can use to charge your phone. Obviously that battery has to be charged, too, but it will extend the time you can go between using wall outlets and by definition, if you don't get the hub you will have to access wall outlets from time to time and you can often charge two devices at once. I even carry a plug with 3 outlets so that I can take full advantage of an outlet when I find one.

Also, keep in mind that using a dyno-hub to charge a portable electronic device is a relatively new and not entirely perfected process. Some phones won't charge directly from the dyno because they require a minimum current that they dyno does not achieve. In such case you need to charge a battery (perhaps like the one I referenced) in order to charge your phone anyway.

Finally, I have no quibble with what you propose at all, but high tech electronics and low tech stealth camping are not really made for each other and this is one of the ways they do not go together nice. I suspect lots of tech users stay in motels and don't worry at all about finding juice, but I am not one of those. I love my SON dyno hubs but I don't use them for charging my electronics. I use wall outlets, the portable battery above and a solar charge from Goal Zero

http://www.goalzero.com/p/79/guide-10-plus-solar-kit

which I just strap onto the top of my tent and sleeping bag which are carried on the rear rack and ride down the road.

Bottom line - there is much more involved in this decision than just money and several ways in which the desired end can be achieved. There are also tech issues to be considered.

Good luck
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Old 01-03-14, 06:12 AM
  #9  
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It's a personal call, and I think all of the advice given so far, both pro and con, has been valid.

For me, the cost is worth it, especially as I was already building up new wheels for my touring bike. In that case, I rationalized the main investment as just being the difference in price between a Shimano generator hub and any other reasonably good hub -- not a huge premium, IMHO.

I rarely ride after dark, but I (sometimes) enjoy starting before dawn. And, I like to have my lights on in the daytime if it's raining or even just dreary. For that, dynamo powered lights are great.

When not powering lights, I use the dynamo to charge up a cache battery that I then use to power my USB-based devices: iPad, camera battery charger, and cell phone. That's largely for the novelty, though, because I stop in places for food, restrooms, etc. enough that I could probably keep the battery charged just by plugging in every time I had the opportunity -- even without relying on campsites.

So, if you want the most cost-effective way to keep you gadgets charged, I bet you could get by with just getting a USB backup battery from a cheap online supplier like Monoprice.com and getting into the habit of plugging that in every time you can get access to power. You could then use that to charge whichever devices have the greatest need once you're at camp.

EDIT: 58Kogswell posted his reply during the time it took me to write mine, hence some redundant information. He makes several good points, but one thing I'd like to add is that although it's true I've found direct charging of some devices from my power converter (an E-Werk in my case) to be problematic, all such problems went away once I got in the habit of storing energy in a USB cache battery and charging my devices from it.

My cache battery can store 10 Wh of energy, and I've found that to be just about the ideal capacity, as that's about the amount of energy I'm able to consistently store during a day of touring. I've bragged about this many times before, but I did a 4,600 mile tour during which I took lots of photos, called home each day and wrote a blog entry each night on an iPad in my tent, entirely with power from my dynamo hub -- I never plugged in. Here's the blog, if interested: http://hpscott.wordpress.com/

Last edited by Derailed; 01-03-14 at 06:25 AM.
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Old 01-03-14, 06:31 AM
  #10  
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Since cost is a factor, I'd go with batteries or maybe a bottle generator. If you are touring in May, June or July in Northern regions, you probably won't need to ride much in the dark. Battery powered lights would probably suffice for riding, and they could double as flashlights while camping. Maybe you could use a solar charger for your electronic gadgets.

For years I toured with a bottle generator with incadescent bulbs. Looking back, I wonder how. LEDs are so much better. The advantage the bottle generators have is that they have no drag when not in use. In midsummer that would be most of the time.

If you are planning to use the bike to commute or ride in the winter, a Schmidt dynamo hub would be a good long term investment.
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Old 01-03-14, 07:32 AM
  #11  
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Not directly answering the OP's question, but I often contemplate this as well, but come to a conclusion based on my main purpose. When I am away on a trip/tour I am there first off for the tour itself (fill in whatever that means to you). I find that the more electronics I bring the more they start to lead the tour (as opposed to the riding, boating, kayaking, etc.). In other words, I concern myself with keeping them charged up (where is the next plug) or if blogging I am thinking of how what I'm experiencing will come across to my "readers." This can often take away from the moment to moment enjoyment of what I have originally set out to do - that is, tour.

In my mind, there should be a balance between the things we bring with us and what we are trying to accomplish. This goes for other items that we bring with us as well (unnecessary items that is).

After writing all that, I still like the idea of a dyno hub It's just unlikely that I'll build one into any of my wheels.

I do like to have a bright light for night-time riding, but with LEDs so efficient I can easily bring a few AAAs, or even stop at a store now and then and pick up a few new ones.
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Old 01-03-14, 07:34 AM
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Another vote for me as I use a GPS which is USB powered and I also tour with my iPad. I also like the option to be able to ride with my lights on during the day. If it was just to power my phone I would probably not bother and instead take a Power Traveller Mini Gorrilla or similar. Really comes down to time between recharge points.

As Rifraf said, the distances between power points can be days apart here in Australia.

Andrew
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Old 01-03-14, 08:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
In my opinion yes, but my desire to have a back-up should I run late on a day's ride and end up in darkness has come from experience. And having a dynohub means I don't have to ever worry about batteries for a front light (ergo, read my opening sentence in which the batteries died).

Compared with the weight carried by most touring cyclists, the losses in the dynohub are minimal, in my experience. In addition, I have used my touring bikes for other purposes such as commuting, and of course a dynohub light system certainly works well for me in that case.

I have two Shimano dynohubs standing by now to be built into the wheels on our current touring bikes.

Great info . How would they b on a off road bike ?

Thanks Thom
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Old 01-03-14, 08:30 AM
  #14  
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The problem with Shimano dynohubs is that they are effectively unserviceable, despite being cup and cone.
I use a bottle dynamo on my old touring bike, which has similar power output and illumination. On my more modern urban commuter I use a Shimano dynohub.
My recharging solution on tour is solar power.
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Old 01-03-14, 09:10 AM
  #15  
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IMHO, dyno hubs are definitely worth it for commuting. But since you're talking about touring, I don't have a strong opinion.

I usually quit before sundown, so, like Derailed, I don't do much touring after dark. There may be some plugs at restaurants or libraries, or they may be taken or unaccessible.

I question whether you'll be able to keep both a GPS and a phone charged with a hub. OTOH, if your alternate solution is to recharge at a motel, the hub might pay for itself within a week or two.

So think hard and let us know what you decide!
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Old 01-03-14, 01:19 PM
  #16  
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
IMHO, dyno hubs are definitely worth it for commuting. But since you're talking about touring, I don't have a strong opinion.
I'll second that. Cell phone service and power was pretty darned available in Peru... an nice bathroom not so much. In the USA hiding at a McDonalds during the heat of the day drinking a $1 beverage using wifi, AC, bathroom and power, priceless.

Edit:

Always on GPS for tracking and route saving would push me toward a dyno.
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Old 01-03-14, 01:33 PM
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Assuming you are not travelling some place where you can not get batteries.
Assuming your devices can be charged with Dyna hubs.
Assuming your devices can use batteries or can use a external battery recharging option.
Assuming the difference in drag of Dyna hub or weight of batteries and/or external charger is negligible.

Simple math.
T=How long on Tour?
B=How many batteries needed to recharge devices?
C=Cost per battery?
Ch=charger?
H=cost of hubs and associated gear?

T*B*C vs. H

Practical math example
T= 16 days
B= 4 batteries
C = .4
CH= I already have a charger
Total = $25.60

Hub is not cost effective for me.
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Old 01-03-14, 01:48 PM
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After riding home, drunk, in the dark at least 3 times now where my blinky light was dead I've decided the cost of my Dynamo hub was not a consideration.

I live in a urban area and it is totally worth it. It came in handy on tour at least once. I just don't worry about batteries anymore.
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Old 01-03-14, 02:18 PM
  #19  
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Originally Posted by boomhauer View Post
After riding home, drunk, in the dark at least 3 times now where my blinky light was dead I've decided the cost of my Dynamo hub was not a consideration.

I live in a urban area and it is totally worth it. It came in handy on tour at least once. I just don't worry about batteries anymore.
+1. On tour I run my lights often for a couple hours leaving before daybreak. Then the hub keeps my iPhone plus other rechargeable lights including a camping light charged day to day. I don't stop at motels to charge up, I'm not searching for places to let me plug in. I don't hang out somewhere when I'd rather keep moving, because I'm waiting for something to charge.

I keep a mophie juice pack pro charged up with it plugged into the hub for most of the day. Then I use the juice pack to charge the iPhone/other at night.
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Old 01-03-14, 03:02 PM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by RWBlue01 View Post
Assuming you are not travelling some place where you can not get batteries.
Assuming your devices can be charged with Dyna hubs.
Assuming your devices can use batteries or can use a external battery recharging option.
Assuming the difference in drag of Dyna hub or weight of batteries and/or external charger is negligible.

Simple math.
T=How long on Tour?
B=How many batteries needed to recharge devices?
C=Cost per battery?
Ch=charger?
H=cost of hubs and associated gear?

T*B*C vs. H

Practical math example
T= 16 days
B= 4 batteries
C = .4
CH= I already have a charger
Total = $25.60

Hub is not cost effective for me.
That's great math to show that a dynamo hub might not be cost effective for one trip. But what if the bike is ridden regularly for a year, including commuting, touring, etc.? I would think that a dynamo hub and lights would be far more cost effective than battery lights in the long run.

Long-term benefits of a dynamo system:
- cost
- independence (don't need to rely on others for your electricity needs, or to find replacement batteries)
- better optics (most dynamo lights use more sophisticated and efficient beam patterns)
- reliability (don't need to worry about batteries dying)
- environmental impact (no need to continue to consume batteries)

Negatives of a dynamo system:
- upfront cost
- hub not serviceable (how many of you have serviced a front hub in the field?)

As someone who commutes 5 days a week all year for the past 6 years, I've never had to service my Shimano dynamo hub, replace a bulb, or do anything to maintain the lighting system. It just works. I wouldn't hesitate to take the hub on a tour in remote locations. In fact I plan to use it this summer on the GDMBR and in the future in S. America.
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Old 01-03-14, 05:29 PM
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I feel like my dynohubs are the best investment I've made in cycling. The freedom it gives to just ride without worrying about darkness has been very liberating. I just didn't find battery lights to give me the same easy and reliable access to lights. So far, my only experience with charging has been with my Luxos headlight and my garmin 800, and that hasn't gone without issues. I am not sure I'm doing it right though.
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Old 01-03-14, 05:33 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by Nickfrogger View Post
I'm putting together a touring build for my first long tour (~2000mi). It will be primarily "stealth camping" and I'm concerned about plug availability for charging for my phone and gps. On the other hand, getting a USB charging system with a Shimano dynohub looks like it'll be $200-$300, which is more than a month's rent for me. Anyone have advice in regards to whether or not a dynamo hub would be a worthwhile investment? Sorry if this has been covered already; I didn't have much luck searching the forums.

Thanks in advance,
~Nick
For your application, I'd suggest going with a solar panel/battery pack rather than a generator hub. I'd also suggest trimming down the electronics. A smart phone does nearly as well as a GPS.

As for using a generator for lighting while touring, I'm with imi. I don't ride at night on tour. It's easy enough to lose your way during the day while in unfamiliar territory and I'd rather not surprise someone on a dark back road. It's just not worth having your 3rd dimension invalidated.
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Old 01-03-14, 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Cheyou View Post
Great info . How would they b on a off road bike ?

Thanks Thom
Depends. If you are talking riding single track where you might have to hike-a-bike for any appreciable time, a dynamo hub isn't practical. Off-road riding is also enhanced by a helmet light...try negotiating a switch back without being able to see into it Dynamo systems don't work for helmet lights.
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Old 01-03-14, 05:41 PM
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Originally Posted by RWBlue01 View Post
Assuming you are not travelling some place where you can not get batteries.
Assuming your devices can be charged with Dyna hubs.
Assuming your devices can use batteries or can use a external battery recharging option.
Assuming the difference in drag of Dyna hub or weight of batteries and/or external charger is negligible.

Simple math.
T=How long on Tour?
B=How many batteries needed to recharge devices?
C=Cost per battery?
Ch=charger?
H=cost of hubs and associated gear?

T*B*C vs. H

Practical math example
T= 16 days
B= 4 batteries
C = .4
CH= I already have a charger
Total = $25.60

Hub is not cost effective for me.
You forgot, I think, to factor in number of tours. If you have done 50 tours in the life of your dynohub, I think the costs start to favour the hub.
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Old 01-03-14, 05:45 PM
  #25  
Rowan
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Depends. If you are talking riding single track where you might have to hike-a-bike for any appreciable time, a dynamo hub isn't practical. Off-road riding is also enhanced by a helmet light...try negotiating a switch back without being able to see into it Dynamo systems don't work for helmet lights.
While I agree about the use of helmet lights, the capacitors in some models of European dynolights mean you can get several minutes of hike-a-bike time in.

The issue is more that the power output from the hub while grinding up a hill or dodging large rocks for periods beyond that several milnutes means the light starts pulsating with the AC current.
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