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. 

10 thoughts on “The miracle of electricity 

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      Thanks @iggypop37. I’ve never had an issue in the loopline although I’ve heard stories from other people. I’ve often approached groups of lads and expected trouble. But upon saying excuse me and thanks when passing I’ve often had a non ironic ‘you’re welcome’.

      I’ve seen flytipping and scrambler bikes on there but I like to accentuate the positives and fully utilise this amazing resource.

  1. Interesting! I didn’t know Union made modern LED dynamo lights with standlights. Germany is definitely the best place to get dynamo lighting. We just don’t have that kind of selection…yet.

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      Yes when I started researching it was Busch and Muller, Schmidt and Axa that were prominent but I got a great recommendation from Dutch Bike Bits, run by David Hembrow. Bang for buck the Union 35lux is very hard to beat. It worked out at around £14 for the lamp on its own, which is great value for the quality of beam you’re getting. Enough light in the right place to ride at 15 to 20mph in complete darkness. It’s a pretty sophisticated downward projection lens so oncoming traffic isn’t getting the raw glare from the emitter.

  2. Looks great! I recently did the same over here in the US. I have never seen anyone else around here with this setup, but I can’t be happier. I ride 12 miles each way to work in suburban traffic with little to no bike lanes or paths.

    FYI: Here in the states it’s really hard to source inexpensive dynamo options. I found and got a wheel and two lights there for about $200 total.

  3. I am guessing the wheel is from Taylor Wheels… if so I have been commuting 70 miles a week on mine for 3 years now with no issues. I got a 3N30 on a zac2000 26″ rim for just over £40. My previous 1st generation Shimano Nexus hub dynamo is still being cycled by my son now at uni, some 15 years on from purchase. I got sick of bottle and bottom bracket dynamos slipping and have never looked back. Even my daughters bike has one now..complete with Bush+Muller Cyo.. 3 dynamo family!!!

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      It wasn’t Taylor Wheels but I did stumble across them on my travels. It was a German eBay seller that undercut even them. Great to hear about the longevity of your son’s hub. Bodes well for my setup.

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