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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
My three year old NightRider battery (a six volt "smart" battery) looks like it's fixin' to die...sooo...I'm exploring my options.

One would be to buy a replacement battery -- that's about $90.

The other would be to change up and head a different direction. I've been fascinated with dynamo powered light systems. No batteries to futz with and an unlimited run time are the big benefits.

I've read about the Schmidt hub dynamos and the Busch&Muller sidewall dynamos offered by Peter White. They sound killer. And expensive.

My questions are:

Is anyone out there running a dynamo hub or sidewall dynamo?

How do you like it?

I'd prefer a system that I could easily swap between bikes, which makes a dynamo hub less attractive. Any thoughts?
 

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I've been commuting with a NiteRider 6V system for years. It's great for my commuting distance. It sounds like you're in the same boat.

I've taken an interest in brevets, which can require lighting for durations that NiteRider lights can't handle. I've looked into the Schmidt and the Shimano hub dynamos, and I've seen the Shimano on the road. The Shimano is much cheaper than the Schmidt, but has the downside of having much higher drag. From talking to people, the drag of the Shimano is hardly noticeable and could be wholly acceptable for commuting (though probably not in brevets).

The main downside to dynamo lights is that many go out when you're stopped. Some have an LED stand light that will run for awhile at a stop, but I think it's very important to be well-lit at intersections. That could mean needing an additional light, which defeats part of the purpose of the dynamo system.

Even though I like the environmental benefits of dynamos (no nasty batteries to dispose of) and I think I might get a Schmidt hub dynamo if I really take to brevet riding, I plan to stick to the Niterider for commuting. I think bright lighting even at stops tips the scale over to the Niterider. But, if you are interested in doing longer rides that will outlast your Niterider battery, then the dynamo would be the way to go.
 

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Note re Niterider batteries....

It's always the charger that's smart, not the battery. Do you have a "microbrute" charger that plugs in inline from the wall-power-converter-thing or the charger with the led that blinks when you put the battery on? The former is a truly "smart" charger that senses how charged your battery is and backs off when you are nearing max charge. The latter is basically a "dumb" charger with a timer in it. So, over time, if you kept putting the battery back on in a less than fully discharged state the battery performance would erode more quickly than with a truly smart charger.

Additionally, you can get www.batterystation.com to make you a small battery pack using 4/5A batteries which ends up being the size of a deck of cards and is good for 4.0 amp hours (probably better than the 3.7 which I suspect your niterider has). The final cost shouldn't be more than $30. If you are a do-it-yourselfer you could do it for under $20.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you for that tip....

I have the "Microbrute" charger -- which I love. You're right about the battery being "dumb" -- the only difference is (I think) that the "smart" batteries have a different plug into the light/charger. I have the "old style" plug, before they switched over to the multi-prong plug..

I was thinking about whomping up a battery pack -- something smaller than the waterbottle would be nice. I'd use the cord/connector from the old battery.

The symptoms are this -- I have a Pro 6 Digital light that has the LED "gas gauge" on it. The thing functions normally for the first LED, and then cycles directly to the red "Reserve Tank" light once the second LED starts to blink. It appears to charge normally. It's about three years old, so I would not be surprised to find that it is past its stale date.
 

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The deal on generators

Sidewall generators 1) slip when wet or damp and/or 2) chew up your tires. Hub or BB generators are by far preferable. Hub generators can be made much lower friction than the sidewall units, but are not a common item in North America and so tend to be pricey. You've discovered that the most expensive part of lighting systems is the battery, and that battery life is typically around 3-5 years.
 

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Shimano Nexus

I have a Nexus dynohub on my touring bike. It's nice, not as heavy as a good battery pack, and it always is there, so no more dark rides home with a dead battery. The hub gives the same amount of slightly noticeable drag whether the light is on or off, so I often ride with the light on. Really handy on a heavy touring bike, especially when you are on a busy road.

The drawbacks are that the amount of juice doesn't result in a lot of light. I often ride with my old NiCad and Halogen Cat's Eye light setup, just for extra light on those really dark, fast stretches.

The Nexus Dynohub works quite well, but the Schmidt works better-and costs a lot more, too. Still, what you gain in lower weight over a really long-lasting battery, you lose in overall performance. It's great to have the peace of mind that you always have light, tho..
 

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What people do on brevets

- some people have the Schmid dynamo. It's reasonable, but equivalent to a small cateye 2.4W halogen, or barely more. Maybe 10-15% of the people have it.
- the others run on the 2.4W halogen lights, and on the newer cateye with 5 LED. The one with LED has the advantage of lasting more than a complete night. It makes a nice clean white patch, although not very large. I've seen on a 600km brevet a guy who had 5 of them, now that's something. Personally, I take two of the LED powered stuff, and one 2.4W halogen that I turn on when going downhill, or when stuff is sketchy and I need to see a bit more.
- some have helmet lights, like camping headlights. That's nice but I don't like the added weight on the helmet.

Pierre
 

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Do you have a lot of stops in your commute?

If you have to stop frequently, then there is one reason (and PdxMark seemed to already touch on this) that I say to stay away from Dynamo lights is that they only tend to work when you are moving. And some (mostly the tire driven ones) only work well if you are moving pretty fast. If there are a lot of stops on your commute, stay with a battery powered light. The most common accident at night between car and bicyclist is the car hitting a stopped cyclist from behind at an intersection. That's when they can't see you with dynamo lights. As a bare minimum, I would recommend you at least get a LED flashing rear light in addition to the dynamo lights just to prevent that.

Russ
 

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Au contrere!

russw19 said:
If you have to stop frequently, then there is one reason (and PdxMark seemed to already touch on this) that I say to stay away from Dynamo lights is that they only tend to work when you are moving. And some (mostly the tire driven ones) only work well if you are moving pretty fast. If there are a lot of stops on your commute, stay with a battery powered light. The most common accident at night between car and bicyclist is the car hitting a stopped cyclist from behind at an intersection. That's when they can't see you with dynamo lights. As a bare minimum, I would recommend you at least get a LED flashing rear light in addition to the dynamo lights just to prevent that.

Russ
I have a setup that will give you light even while stopped with a dynohub. You need a switch, a diode, a bridge rectifier, and a small 6v set of NiCads. The rectifier will convert the AC to DC, and the diode will prevent backcharging. It's a fairly simple wiring diagram-I can send it to you if you want.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Thanks Folks!

Thank you for all of the input -- I think that I have a plan of action for now....

* I'm going to check out building up a battery pack from scratch -- 5 NiMH cells @ 4500ma/h will match the output of the Nightrider system that I have. This should run about $40 or so bucks if they build it up for me. This beats the stuffing out of $90 from Nightrider.

* I'm still going to look at alternatives to the rechargable option. I don't think that the dyno hub or sidewall hub are for me right now. With a big price and a 2.4 watt output, I can do just as well with a Cateye LED system for a lot less money. Yes, I'd have to replace the batteries now and again, but it would theoretically provide enough burn time for a brevet series.
 

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LightSPIN

Gregory Taylor said:
My three year old NightRider battery (a six volt "smart" battery) looks like it's fixin' to die...sooo...I'm exploring my options.

One would be to buy a replacement battery -- that's about $90.

The other would be to change up and head a different direction. I've been fascinated with dynamo powered light systems. No batteries to futz with and an unlimited run time are the big benefits.

I've read about the Schmidt hub dynamos and the Busch&Muller sidewall dynamos offered by Peter White. They sound killer. And expensive.

My questions are:

Is anyone out there running a dynamo hub or sidewall dynamo?

How do you like it?

I'd prefer a system that I could easily swap between bikes, which makes a dynamo hub less attractive. Any thoughts?

Greg,

I've been using LightSPIN for 4 years now, and it's been great for brevets, long rides and daily commute. It is the best sidewall dynamo you can get, more efficient then Schmidt hub or Busch&Muller. With proper set up slip hadn't been a problem, even in rain with two 2.4w lights on. Light output with 2 Union Basta lights was sufficient to comfortably descent at 40-45mph.

Set up originally cost me 115 swiss francs + 40$ for 2 lights+ switch+speaker wire ~130-135USD. You can get it direct or in US from yellowjersey.org (he has more info on diff light systems). LightSPIN headlamp is rebadged Schmidt and is very $$$, you can get Marwi/Union lights from QBP much cheaper and they're better lights IMHO

With respect to switching btw bikes, forget about it go with battery type. Sidewall dynamos aren't any easier to swap then dynohub, and take a bit of fiddling to set up properly.
 

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Some weird replies on this thread

I've used, and use, both types of system. I have a low-end B&M 6 sidewall dynamo and round Lumotec on my tourer / commuter and a Schmidt dynohub and oval Lumotec on my brevet / go-fast bike. Both bikes are set up with a single 3W headlight; I use LED blinkies on the rear. Over the last couple of years of doing a lot of riding, both commuting and pleasure, at night I've found either system to be more reliable and functionally superior to the small battery systems they replaced. While the rated wattage of the lights is less, their focused optics mean that the light they produce is directed onto the road, and not into the Milky Way. In practice, that means that if the Lumotec headlamp is properly set up you can get a usable illumination pattern that's about three feet wide and thirty feet or so long. The Schmidt does not produce appreciable drag either on or off. The sidewall dynamo produces quite a bit of drag when on, but not so much that it's a real drag (sorry) when commuting or touring. And contrary to Kerry's assertion, it has not, in my experience, chewed up the tires on the bike it's mounted to. I have an LED helmet light that I use as a "being-seen" light at intersections. Even before I had it, though, I never noticed any problem with cars noticing me at intersections. Being seen at night requires more than buying a big light, anyway.

As someone who's had the chance to compare a lot of bike lighting systems in operation over the last few years (I live in Seattle, home of a lot of nighttime bike commuters), I've seen few battery systems that light the road as well as a dynamo unit. The ones that do are the expensive new HID units. I'd still go with dynamo lighting for its other benefits: greater reliability, lower long-term costs, and ability to get on the bike and ride any time without worrying about how charged your battery is.

FWIW, my wife (who posts here occasionally) was impressed enough with the dynamo units that she chucked her 10W battery system and uses them on both her bikes.

Trent
 

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Trent,

I am getting ready to build up a touring/commuting bike and lighting is a big issue ad I ride for 90 minutes in complete darkness during the shorter days. I am using a 10w bar mounted light which is fine since I am very familiar with my route but find it is really only good for under 15-20MPH's. Anything faster than that and I am going faster then the speed of this light.

Plus with a total of three hours of commuting I have to nurse the light here and there on the shortest days.

I was considering the Dynohub but since the wattage was rated so low I was worried about the amount of light on fast rides/downhills.

So are you are saying the Dynohub is as good as a 10 w light and even a bit better?
Are you running just one front light or two off of the hub?
If you can run two does that help and do you point them differently?

Do you have any brevet links?

Thanks, WIlly
 

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wily in pacifica said:
Trent,

I was considering the Dynohub but since the wattage was rated so low I was worried about the amount of light on fast rides/downhills.

So are you are saying the Dynohub is as good as a 10 w light and even a bit better?
Are you running just one front light or two off of the hub?
If you can run two does that help and do you point them differently?

Do you have any brevet links?

Thanks, WIlly
Willy,

In response to your direct question, I would say that to get the same usable illumination with a battery system as with either the Lumotec, BiSY, or Schmidt E6 headlight coupled with a dynamo, you'd need to go with a 20W system.

Most of the battery lights I've seen are comparable to fog lights on a car: they throw an intense but diffuse light pattern directly in front of your front wheel. The Schmidt + Lumotec combination is like low beams, good for normal driving but not for going at higher speeds. The Schmidt + Lumotec + E6 combo is kind of like having high beams: the E6 is more tightly focused and throws a longer beam, but doesn't illuminate as wide an area. Having said that, I know plenty of randonneurs who use the Schmidt and a single 3W light to descend at speed on unfamiliar roads.

Here are a couple of randonneuring links:

Randonneurs Ontario http://www.randonneursontario.ca/
Seattle International Randonneurs http://www.seattlerandonneur.org/
BC Randonneurs http://www.randonneurs.bc.ca/

You'll find lighting info on all of these sites, along with links to some of the national-level brevet organizations.

Trent
 

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Here's the most economical solution yet!

Gregory Taylor said:
Thank you for all of the input -- I think that I have a plan of action for now....

* I'm going to check out building up a battery pack from scratch -- 5 NiMH cells @ 4500ma/h will match the output of the Nightrider system that I have. This should run about $40 or so bucks if they build it up for me. This beats the stuffing out of $90 from Nightrider.

* I'm still going to look at alternatives to the rechargable option. I don't think that the dyno hub or sidewall hub are for me right now. With a big price and a 2.4 watt output, I can do just as well with a Cateye LED system for a lot less money. Yes, I'd have to replace the batteries now and again, but it would theoretically provide enough burn time for a brevet series.
Email Niterider and describe the problem you're having. They'll probably go through a few troubleshooting ideas and if it still doesn't work, they'll likely provide a RMA number to have the unit repaired or replaced.

I just went through this process with a Digital Evolution a few weeks ago. The light is more than two years old and without any prompting of any kind, they provided a RMA number and said send it back and we'll take a look at it. They ended up replacing the battery with a new one. All it cost me was postage to NiteRider, about $4. Don't you just love it when customer service exceeds your expectations!

No guarantees, but worth a try.

Bryan
 
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