Dynamo Lighting

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Dr C.
Dr C.'s picture
Dynamo Lighting

I know many of you will have had experience with using dynamo lights back when battery-powered options were not really viable. Typically these would have involved bottle dynamos coupled with incandescent bulbs which, whilst fine by the standards of the time, very few would elect to use nowadays. As the market for cycled became more sport-oriented here in the UK, dynamo lights have fallen out of favour, despite the same advances in technology which made battery lights feasible being incorporated into dynamo lighting systems sold in other parts of the world where the market for bikes is more transport and utility-oriented.

Over here, the dynamo lights which are popular in Germany (due to local laws), The Netherlands and Denmark are rarely seen in bricks and mortar bike shops, and when they can be bought online, information is often lacking. I have converted all of my bikes to use dynamo lighting (to a certain extent). A lot of it was trial and error. I’d be happy to help anyone else who is thinking of going down this route but who wants more info, perhaps I can help you avoid making the same mistakes I made when discovering the joys of self-sufficient lighting. It would also be useful to hear from anyone who has experience of shops whose staff are knowledgeable about this area, personal experience or recommendations

Fatbob
Fatbob's picture

Hi Chris,

My roadster is fully equipped with a hub dynamo and includes a capacitor in rear light so it stays lit at traffic lights etc. It is brilliant (literally and figuratively).

My big problem was the hub dynamo in my Dahon Speed TR, it was set so tight that the drag eventually caused the wheel to literally collapse. Unfortunately this was my first experience of hub dynamos and I thought the drag was normal (imagine riding with front brake slightly engaged all the time for 12 months). This assumption was compounded by the bike shop (shall remain nameless but there are lots of them esp in the South East!) who also told me it was normal. I realised it wasn’t normal as I took a corner on the way home one night and the wheel fell to pieces under me.

I was just out of guarantee and ended up ripping the dynamo system out and buying an ordinary wheel

I suppose the lesson is that hub dynamos shouldnt really be noticable!

Cheers,

Geoff

The best bike is a used bike!

Dr C.
Dr C.'s picture

A lot of the shops where I’ve expressed an interest in dynamos have expressed the same disdain & dismissive attitude towards the technology. As for the drag of hub dynamos, I have the Shimano one fitted to my Brompton switched on all the time and I don’t notice it whatsoever when riding.

I’m glad your initial hub dynamo experience didn’t put you off for good.

PaulM

Having ordered, at great expense, a SON hub dynamo/Bausch & Muller lights (halogen front, stand-light for rear) on my Brompton, I am not sure I would bother again. Perhaps the new LED versions throw more light but what I have is only really any use as a stay-legal measure. They don’t shed much light forward or make much impression on following vehicles, and for the last bit home from the station down an unlit country lane I now rely on an Exposure Joystick LED – highly recommended, if pricey. (There is also a problem with the Brompton front light bracket, that it only lasts about 6 months before the street surfaces in London have pulverised it and you have to replace it)

Perhaps in a city centre where there is plenty of street lighting and legality is the only real issue, but even then I wonder whether those Reelights attached to the hubs/spokes, or Pedalite pedals, would be more useful – at least they flash.

PaulM

markbikeslondon

I love the back up of having a bottle-dynamo on my bike – it means I always have an (allbeit dim) front light and a red light even if my battery powered torches give out. I thought about the idea of a front wheel hub dynamo for a long time but decided against it purely on the grounds of weight and cost.

Maybe you should write a blog post about the ‘joys of dynamo lighting’ for the website, using it as an example to illustrate how utility bikes have gone out of fashion in bike shops?

Dr C.
Dr C.'s picture

I might just write something along those lines, especially if I end up buying myself a B&M Cyo when the nights start to draw in.

Dr C.
Dr C.'s picture

The SON hub with the Halogen front lamp is a bit of a waste (if it’s the standard Brompton offering that is). The SON offers exceptional performance, but it seems a shame not to couple it with a similarly-specced lamp, such as the Cyo. The standard B&M Lumotec Halogen is rated at 17 lux, vs 40 or 60 for the Cyo, plus it weighs more which will have an effect on bracket longevity. I use a Lyt on my Brompton, with the much cheaper and lower-spec Shimano hub and the amount of light it puts out is much better than my Lumotec Halogen, despite only being rated at 25 lux. I’ve heard exceptional things about the Cyo. The other advantage is that I can run the lights all the time because they are LEDs, having a very long operational lifespan.

sallyhinch

You don’t have to go into a car showroom and know all about the lux rating for your headlights, vs. the output the battery will put out… Cars just have headlights. Bikes should really just have lights. I’d love a dynamo light but I know very little about it – I should be able to just walk into any bike shop and get set up with what I need, but instead I’ll either get laughed at for wanting a dynamo, or sold the wrong thing unless I’ve done my homework …

AKA TownMouse

Dr C.
Dr C.'s picture

That is a very good point.

It reminds me of a little computer shop I used to go to, it was great for me because I knew exactly what I wanted and their prices were good. A few times I was in the queue behind someone who only had a vague idea what was wanted, and the same shop really took advantage. Luckily for those less experienced with computer components there are places like PC World, which whilst still far from perfect, you can walk in with very little knowledge and leave with something mostly right for your needs (and possibly a gold-plated oxygen-free USB cable and an extended warranty – it’s not perfect). A bike equivalent of that would be a nice idea. Kind of reminds me of this old piece.

markbikeslondon

I had a PC World experience not dissimilar to that recently… oh the joys of being a technophobic bike blogger!

RobfromRUB
RobfromRUB's picture

dyno hubs are great, bottle dynamos too.
The UK importers do not bring in all they can so choice is limited, i bring some over from Holland/Germany, they are cheaper and more choice, you can also get switchable hubs so you can turn off the ‘drag’ for sports riding…wheels should not collapse for the drag of a hub dynamo, there is actually very little and it varies with design. There is a good choice if you find the right shop…

Rob Bushill

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