Say goodbye to batteries with a dynamo bike light. Simon Vincett lays down the options
When you pedal, your light comes on – brilliant. It’s good to make life more simple and that’s what a dynamo light set-up can do for you.
To equip yourself, buy a bike with a dynamo or have a new wheel built with a dynamo hub. Budget at least $500 for the hub, light and wheel build. Hub dynamos are silent, have very little drag and are very efficient.
Cheaper options are a bottle dynamo and magnetic induction. Bottle dynamos are noisy, less efficient, have more drag and wear tyres a bit from contact with the sidewall. Magnetic induction makes no contact and, therefore, creates no drag, no noise and no wear, but the magnets are heavy and add a bit of weight to your wheels. More importantly, the technology is not advanced enough at this stage to provide light output comparable to a hub dynamo.
These days a selection of bikes available in Australia come with dynamo lights incorporated, particularly bikes from Europe. The best dynamo light in the 2011 Ride On Lights test was one such bike, the Gazelle Medeo Plus city bike. It was a top performer in overall visibility, convenience and value.
Be aware that many European bikes with dynamos as standard usually have lamps without standlight capacity, meaning the light doesn’t stay on after you stop pedalling. Ask for an upgrade to a lamp with a standlight.
How do they look?
Below are photos of the light output of a selection of dynamo lights. These models are four out of the eleven assessed in the 2011 Ride On Lights test. A panel of judges scored their visibility and an Industrial Design team from RMIT university assessed their usability, water-resistance and durability. You can view the ranking of the lights and all the scores, and learn more about the test, on the Lights test 2011 full results page.
You can see the Reelight didn’t have much output at all, which might be OK if it was effective at making you visible to others. Unfortunately it didn’t perform well in this capacity either: its 28% visbility rating was weaker than any of the compact front lights in the 2011 Lights test.
I was disappointed that the Reelight performed poorly because its magnetic induction system is cheaper and easier to install than a hub dynamo set-up. The distributor tells me that he can supply three magnets with each light instead of two, which will speed up the flash rate of the lights, but the output remains at the same weakness.
What does Ride On recommend?