Dynamo Lighting Kit for Roadbikes
While I am generally a huge fan of dynamo lighting, I do not have it installed on what is currently my only roadbike. My plans for the bike did not involve significant amounts of night-time cycling; it was not meant to be a touring or randonneuring bike. For occasional riding in the dark I do have an excellent rechargeable battery headlight that lasts for hours and attaches easily to the handlebars. And I have an equally good tail light that attaches to the back of my saddle wedge tool bag. To install a dynamo hub wheel and lights on this bike would have added unnecessary weight and expense to the build.
I felt pretty good about my bike's lighting setup until I found myself wanting to join an overnight ride. Initially I thought that my super duper rechargeable battery headlight would last through the night. But when I did the math it became clear that it would not; I would need to add a second headlight and to bring several sets of spare batteries. Even at the height of summer an overnight ride in New England means 8+ hours of riding in the dark - and not the kind of milky suburban dark where you can leave the light on a low setting to conserve battery life; proper boonies dark that requires a powerful headbeam. I talked to the others doing the ride, and they all had dynamo lights. Now I felt foolish for not having a bike with appropriate lighting. But at the same time, how often would I do rides like this?
I was discussing this with local cyclist Pamela Blalock and she offered to lend me her mobile dynamo setup: a spare front wheel with a dynamo hub, and lights that are easy to attach and remove. With this kit, she can turn any 700C wheeled roadbike into an overnight bike. Extremely grateful to Pamela for the offer, frankly I was also skeptical that it would work out. To me, dynamo lighting was something that gets permanently installed - not attached and removed on a case by case basis! Furthermore, my bike has no fenders, no racks, no braze-ons. Could the lights be attached securely? I was worried that the installation process would be tricky, and that in the end something would end up falling off, disconnecting, or malfunctioning.
To my amazement, the installation process took mere minutes. The front wheel switch was seamless and soon my bike was sporting a dynamo hub. Then the headlight was attached to the brake bolt, as shown in the first picture. A thin cable runs straight down from the headlight to the hub, easily secured to the fork with a piece of tape.
For the tail light, a P-clamp was installed on the left chainstay. The wiring got routed along the chainstay and the top tube, secured with zip ties to the brake cable. The result was not beautiful, but neither was it flimsy. It was secure and problem-free. The positioning of the headlight and tail light beams were spot on.
Later I learned that other local cyclists employ a similar system for when they ride in the dark - a dynamo hub wheel and lights that get moved from bike to bike as needed. I would not have thought this to be a good idea until I tried it myself and experienced how easy and hassle-free it was. On a dedicated randonneuring or touring bike, it makes sense to have dynamo lighting permanently installed in a more elegant manner. But for those who want the option of using their pared-down roadbike for occasional night time riding, a kit like this can be a good solution. Pamela's setup includes a 32 spoke Velocity Aerohead wheel built around a Schmidt SON hub, a Lumotec Cyo IQ headlight and a Spanniga Pixeo tail light - though many alternatives exist.
At least here in New England, there seems to be an increasing amount of cross-over between road racing, randonneuring, endurance events, and casual long distance rides. And this cross-over is influencing how roadbikes are defined and equipped. I am still unsure what kind of cycling I will ultimately gravitate toward. But if more night time rides are in my future, a versatile dynamo setup like this is certainly worth considering.