The miracle of electricity 

The last few months of dark morning and evening commutes have pushed me to invest in something I’ve wanted for a long time. 

Relying on battery-powered accessory lights has always seemed odd to me, akin to buying a car and having to charge up and strap on lights. I suppose it’s just a symptom of how much bike and ‘accessory’ manufacturers are still in the thrall of racing. 

I’ve long hankered after a dynamo setup and have ridden bikes with bottle dynamos before. But the hub generator has always seemed to me the holy grail of dynamo setups, perfect yet tantalisingly out of reach. 

One can spend a small fortune on top end Schmidt hubs and lights but, ever the cheapskate, I found a way in on the ground floor. 

Some furtive eBay searching found a German seller offering pre-built wheels with a range of Shimano hubs on Exal ZX19 eyeletted rims and DT spokes. 

I opted for the utilitarian DH-3N30 quick release hub, a Union 35lux headlamp with standlight and a mudguard mounted standlight rear light, plus wiring to suit. The whole lot cost an astonishing £60 plus £17 shipping from Germany. 

The wheel arrived well-packaged, nicely tensioned and fitting was a doddle. The light, a UN-4268, has a built in wire and piggyback connectors for the rear light, and incorporates a switch for hub useage. 

At this time of year my commute features a seven-mile completely unlit section which demands a strong, well-focussed beam that doesn’t dazzle oncoming riders. The cheap and cheerful hub and light setup delivers this in spades. It’s already been subjected to horrible conditions and has worked without complaint. 

Sure there are lighter and more efficient systems out there, in Shimano’s range and also from manufacturers like Shutter Precision and Schmidt but for less than the price of a standard front wheel, this is a great way to start.