Monday, September 13, 2010

Light up

The cellist starts putting pressure on me this time of year to quit cycling and start driving because of the darkness. Eventually I heed, but a really good light system still makes sense.

I had fiddled around with my 1982-vintage generator light system a few times over the years, but its performance did not seem to be worth the complication of mounting it. Technology really has improved in some areas. Dynamo lighting releases the night rider from concerns about battery life and dead battery disposal. Systems that include a standlight keep the light on at short stops. My old system used a battery pack to provide the standlight. It weighed about a pound and occupied a box mounted on the down tube. The new systems incorporate the circuitry into the light itself.

After seeing the setup on my brother's Trice, I knew I would get myself another dynamo light set. As the days shorten, I have just ordered a Busch & Mueller system from Peter White Cycles in Hillsborough, NH.

Peter seems like my kind of cyclist. He also builds wheels. It's another case of parallel evolution, in which different forms of the same organism develop in different places. Peter obviously stuck with the cycling thing more closely than I did. Even so, we developed similar opinions about bling versus substance and realistic wheels as opposed to impressive-looking dispo-a-wheels. Everyone read his Wheel Rant.

This stuff is not cheap. I did not buy anywhere near the top end, and I laid out just over $200 US. But a really hot rechargeable battery set would cost at least that much and has limited life.

Some of the systems on Peter's site include battery chargers for NiMH batteries in the lights themselves or for powering and charging the batteries of other devices. If you get out more than I do, you probably already know about all this. It only makes sense, considering how many electronic types are out there innovating like crazy.

I will still use the Beamers for supplemental lighting and unplanned dusk and dark riding on the bikes not equipped with the new system. The helmet light and blinkies complete the array.

Because Hillsborough is so close, I hope to receive my new lights tomorrow. UPS doesn't usually show up until late in the day, so I may not get them installed right away.


Big Oak said...

Good luck with your new lighting system. I'm interested in hearing how it works for you. I've thought about investing in that same setup.

I can vouch for Peter's wheel-building skill, as I have had him build two rear wheels for two of my bikes. After several thousand miles, they each run as true as the day I received them in the mail.

cafiend said...

They didn't come today.:-(

I loved my old generator setup in the 1980s, when I lived closer to work in a flatter landscape. I had been reluctant to add equipment to the bike with my longer, hillier route here. I'm finding I like the amenities enough to make it worth toting them around.

This set isn't the biggest, baddest fireball he sells, but it looked plenty big and bright on my brother's rig. Maybe it will stroll in tomorrow.

Steve A said...

I presume this is a Dynotec system? If so, do you plan to increase the diameter of the generator drive to get less drag at the expense of slow speed light? Forester has details of why you'd do this. Has it arrived yet?

Unknown said...

I have basically this set-up on the Retrovelo -- the headlight doesn't stick around for very long when you're not rolling, but it fires up again instantly and the taillight if good for about 5 minutes or so, which is plenty. It's also plenty bright -- genuinely useful for seeing stuff, and as visible as a motorcycle with its light on. It's super foggy here at times, and I don't have to think twice about switching on the headlight (the taillight is always on).

cafiend said...

The package arrived Wednesday. I had to get some parts to adapt the headlight bracket to my bike, so I did not start installing it until last night after work. That process is still underway. The wiring is a bit confusing.

The generator is a Dymotec S6. The headlight is the IQ Cyo R Plus. It has wiring options for hub or sidewall generators. I'm having trouble interpreting all the instructions with the various parts of the system to figure out how to wire the tail light.

I don't know if I want to sacrifice any low speed light. Some of my night routes include paths and dirt roads. Also, at low speeds a cyclist really needs to be visible and maneuverable. I'll start with the stock arrangement and see what, if anything, I might want to change.

As usual with any purchase, it seems like a hideous extravagance right now.