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Like disc brakes or, say, Gates Carbon Drive (belt drive), dynamo lighting is one of those things you just have to experience in order to appreciate.
Here’s why we recommend dynamo lighting.
–You don’t have to worry about your lights getting stolen –Which means you don’t have to remove your lights and shove them into your pockets anymore –You’ll never lose or leave home without your lights –You don’t have to worry about your lights dimming –You’ll never have to replace batteries –You do get to enjoy features like a rear brake light (see our Busch & Muller collection) –You do get to charge your smart phone, Garmin, or other GPS device simply by riding your bike (see The Plug III, the Busch & Muller Luxos U, and the AXA Luxx70 Plus) –It costs more up front, but in the long run you save money. You can also charge your USB-rechargeable batteries for your other devices. You will not be able to satisfactorily charge larger smart devices such as iPad.
What about the extra weight of the dynamo hub? The lighter dynamo hubs on the market are 200-300 grams heavier than most a non-dynamo front hubs. And the batteries in non-dynamo lights weigh…200-300 grams.
Regardless of what kind of bike you have, what kind of brakes you have, or the size of your wheel, we’ll handbuild you a complete new wheel built around a Shimano S701 dynamo hub for $250 including labor and parts. We wire up your bike with the lights of your choosing, and mount them where it makes most sense for you and your bike.
Right now we’re recommending Busch & Mueller Toplight Line Plus with Brake Tec ($55; that’s the one with the brake light) for the rear and the Busch & Mueller Luxos U headlight ($234), which features a USB charger, a handlebar-mounted switch, wider light dispersion, and a super bright 70 lux (along with the ability to beam 90 lux for short periods). And of course it has a standing light so it stays on while you’re stopped at a red light.
Want to save about $100? German lockmaker AXA recently introduced its Luxx70 Plus for $130. It’s just as bright as the Luxos, its dispersion pattern adjusts to speed like the Luxos U does, and it charges your smartphone, too (although it will not simultaneously charge your smart phone and power your lights). Here’s what it looks like:
If you’re commuting in the city and don’t need the overachieving power of the Luxos, you might consider the new Busch & Mueller Lumotec Eyc T Senso Plus. For $80, this diminutive (we’d even say cute) but powerful headlamp is an excellent choice for city commuters who usually ride slower than 17 or 18 mph and who want to be seen without necessarily needing to light their own way. The version of Eyc (rhymes with “Ike”) that we carry features a daytime running light and a senso that boosts light output when it gets dark. (Or you can choose to turn the daytime running light off.) It also has a standing light, meaning it remains on (for 4 minutes) while you’re stopped.
For the rear light, the vast majority of our Portlandistan customers choose the rack-mounted B&M Top Light Line Plus with Brake Tec, $55. It pulses and it has a virtual brake light that’s activated by deceleration.
This was our most popular dynamo hub through 2013. 6v, 3.0 watt output. Works ideally with your touring or commuting bike. It can also power most smart devices via a handlebar-mounted USB port, in conjunction with a Busch & Mueller Luxos U or AXA Luxx70+ front light. But we have a better idea: for $50 more, you can get a superior Shutter Precision PD-8 or PL-8. Those are now far and away our preferred hubs.
Shimano Alfine S701: $125 hub only, or $230 built into your existing rim The Alfine S701 is one of the first 1.5 watt (6 volt) hub dynamos with German StVZO approval for LED lamps. It combines filigree appearance, light weight (only 433g, vs. 575g for the S501), and extremely smooth rotation. Powers many front and rear lights easily–except for the newer very powerful lights, such as B&M Luxos. When this hub is used, your big powerful lights won’t put out normally. Also, if you plan on charging a smart phone (such as with the Tout Terrain The Plug III or the Luxos U light), do not use this hub; get a normal 3-watt hub instead, like the Shutter Precision, for $25 more. The Shutter Precision hub is lighter, too.
Shutter Precision PD-8 Price: $150 hub alone; $255 built into your existing rim
This is now by far our most popular dynamo hub, going into about 90% of our dynamo wheel builds. SP dynamo’s hubs are not only the lightest, but also the most efficient 3w hub on the market, and are virtually identical to the BioLogic Joule 3. The lightest SP dynamo weighs in at an unprecedented 360-390g (lighter than the little Shimano S701 1.5w!) while attaining an unmatched efficiency of 72%. These 3w dynamo hubs are premium products designed and engineered for the most demanding cycle tourists, commuters and enthusiasts.
Although various colors are occasionally available, usually we can get them only in silver or black.
It should be noted that the bigger your wheel is, the faster you’ll need to be going to get your dyno hub to produce power. And this is where the Schmidt SON28 hub beats the Shutter Precision; it supplies lights and The Plug III with power at lower speeds than does the SP. This may not matter if you’re on 26″ wheels, but if you’re riding a 29er and will be riding long stretches at under, say, 15 mph, just go for the Schmidt OR go for the American-made Sinewave Cycles Reactor, which outperforms The Plug III and lets you charge your smart device while simultaneously power your lights.
Schmidt SON28. Price: $346 hub alone (price may vary with color); $450 built into an existing rim
This is traditionally the world’s most highly regarded dynamo hub. Its very similar in performance to the Shutter Precision hubs.
- Recommended when more light is required at low speed or when other devices are to be operated or their batteries recharged
- Available with ISO 6 Bolt Disc or Centerlock Disc configuration
- 6V / 3W
- Hub Shell: aluminium 6082 T6
- Axle: hollow axle Ø 10 mm, strain-hardened stainless steel
- Bearings: deep groove ball bearing 629 2RSH
- Magnets: neodym iron boron, 26 poles
- Weight: 460g. (6 Bolt); 430g. (Centerlock)
- 5 year warranty
Want to charge your iPhone or other smart device even if you don’t have a Luxos U or AXA light? Tout Terrain’s The Plug III ($189) is one of the best converters on the market, second only to the Sinewave Cycles Reactor. For use only with 3w dynamo hubs. Doesn’t work sufficiently well with 1.5 w hubs. One advantage The Plus has over the Luxos U and AXA lights is that it’s probably less likely to be stolen.
This is a nifty and highly efficient USB charging port that channels current from any standard 3w dynamo hub to charge smart devices such as phones, Garmins, and other GPS devices. It can also be used to recharge USB-rechargeable batteries for your lights or other devices. Not designed to charge iPads or other large smart devices directly. With a little wiring re-work that we can do, The Plug will function even while your dynamo is also powering front and rear lights, although you will have to maintain a speed of around 15 mph for all of that to happen. Otherwise, this latest version of The Plug charges even at slow speeds, starting at about 6 mph. That’s a nice benefit to bike tourers hauling heavy loads.
Finally, it’s pretty inconspicuous and is considered relatively theft-resistant.
A challenger to The Plug is the American-made Sinewave Cycles Reactor ($220). Similar to The Plug but even less conspicuous (there’s not a single letter, number, or graphic on it), the Reactor has two big advantages over The Plug III: first, it begins charging at under 4 mph, and second, it lets you charge a device even while the dynamo powers your lights. All the electronics are encased in resin, so the Reactor should be weatherproof and shock resistant.