Much excitement on Saturday in the Townmouse household with the arrival of a *very* firmly wrapped parcel from the Netherlands containing not contraband but a Nordlicht Dynamo from Dutch Bike Bits. I’d already got the headlight for Christmas from my Mum and chosen the one I wanted; all I had had to do was order the dynamo so, naturally, this took me a month and a half of procrastination to get round to.

Despite all the putting off (it’s just what I do), dynamo lights seem a bit of a no-brainer to me, as long as you’re not massively worried about weight or efficiency.* And besides, bottle dynamo can be flipped on and off the wheel so it only affects the bike when you need to run the lights. However, fitting a dynamo setup to a British bike that wasn’t designed for it in mind feels a bit like shoeing a giraffe: technically possible but pretty bloody awkward. For a start, once all the parts had arrived I had a few anxious moments as the instructions for connecting the headlamp to the dynamo seemed to bear no relation at all to the connections that were available in either the headlamp box or the dynamo box. This, it turned out, was because the instructions were for someone attaching a headlamp to a hub dynamo, which all sensible bikes, of course, are expected to have. A bit of anxious googling clarified how to wire it up to the dynamo but then a second problem reared its head. UK bike lights usually come with a handlebar bracket that allows you to bodge them onto any bike with a bit of ingenuity and swearing. German lights have no such compromises: they are designed to be mounted to a bolt on the headtube which will, of course, be there, because that’s where your bike headlight goes. But the only suitable bolt, the one holding my front brakes on wasn’t long enough to also accommodate the light and the other half (and chief bike engineer) didn’t feel messing with the integrity of my front brakes was a very good idea. It looked as if a trip down to the bike shop might be in order until the other half managed to make a nut with a bolt on it that magically meant it did fit after all (you’ll have to excuse all these technical details).

Then all I had to do was wait for dark and have a go. I’d post pictures of how bright it is but it switches to standlight mode when I stop and I’m not going to attempt to cycle along at night one-handed taking photos. So far, my impression is that it’s pretty darn bright although it does flicker a bit after riding through the deeper puddles so that may be something to watch out for. And if this photo is anything to go by, I shouldn’t be getting any Smidsys, at least not after dark…

It’ll probably need a bit of tweaking – and definitely a longer ride – before I know if it really works for me but so far I’m pretty happy with the results.

* as I clearly am not: this morning when I rode down to the papershop I had to keep checking to see if the dynamo had somehow flipped itself into position because the bike felt like it was dragging an anchor. Turns out that a twig jammed into the cogs at the front is way more of a drag on the bike than any dynamo. Really must clean my chain more often


16 Responses to Dynamite!

  1. commuterjohn says:

    I took my GT Transeo out for an evening out with some mates tonight, It’s fitted with a B&M bottle dynamo and is a dream just to jump on and go without having to worry about battery lights.
    Some finer adjustments will soon get your dynamo set running fine.

  2. John Gibson says:

    That is a very impressive light, I’m amazed they did not open it in customs though, or maybe they did.

  3. 2whls3spds says:

    Nice combination! I use a Nordlicht dynamo on an old Raleigh Sports with a halogen headlight (B&M Lumotec Retro) Just got an email from Dutch Bike Bits, the B&M Classics are on their way! Those are for the Raleigh Superbe and Colt which have dyno hubs. I can not for the life of me fathom why anybody would want battery lights when a dyno is so convenient.


    • welshcyclist says:

      My son bought me the Terra 2 rechargeable headlight set at Christmas, which is superb. It reminds me to recharge at 20% full, so I never go without light when I need it. I do cocede a dynamo set up is better. When I get my Rohloff gears, maybe with a hub dynamo built in……..perfect.

  4. Kirsten says:

    If my lights flicker after puddles, usually it means either the tire needs more air or I need to position the dynamo closer to the tire. This of course adds more drag, but if that mattered I’d have battery lights.

    Congratulations on seeing the road in all weathers — you can now cycle with a certain peace of mind.

  5. livinginabox says:

    A review of a number of lights including the Philips with beam shots are here:

  6. disgruntled says:

    The front tyre probably could do with more air, now I come to think of it. I’ve been leaving it a bit soft because of the ice but we seem to be out of the worst of that now so I should probably pump it up again.

    Rechargeables are good too, but there’s something quite satisfying about generating your own light – a bit like riding a bike in general, really…

  7. Nick says:

    Sounds like a nightmare to me. I’ll stick with my simple turn-on-when-you-need-them-turn-off-when-you-don’t battery lamps thanks. But then again, maybe there’s more daylight here than there is in your part of the world.

  8. emma c says:

    I just recently got a rechargable headlamp for winter dog walking. It is amazing how bright a light you get nowadays with LEDs and very little energy. Maybe one day there’ll be something rechargable for walkers. It really must make sense for bikes nowadays. I can only remember dynamos that felt as if you were dragging an anchor. How much do you really notice it in the legs?

  9. disgruntled says:

    I’ll get back to you when I’ve done a proper ride with it!

  10. I had wondered if the eventual recipient of the parcel to the other Hinchcliffe might be you. Great to hear that you have it all working. Nice work by “the other half” to make a long bolt.

    FWIW, I wrote a guide to selecting and setting up dynamo lights on one of my other blogs. If you or anyone else has any problems you may find some help there (let me know otherwise as I’ll happily add more to the setting up and FAQ sections).

    Oh, and the swhs website linked to by livinginabox above is really excellent. He’s testing not MTB lights, but those suitable for cycling on roads and cycle-paths and doing so in a very comprehensive way.

  11. disgruntled says:

    Thanks. I had read that post, it was pretty helpful in knowing what to order (like the bracket). The specifics of wiring it up to the light will vary from light to light and dynamo to dynamo. I suppose what might have been useful for an idiot like me would be a ‘from scratch’ dynamo kit, with all the parts bundled together with some instructions on joining those particular components together and fitting it to a UK style bike. But that might be assuming a degree of standardisation that bicycles don’t seem to have…

  12. Looks great, and Very Sensible.

    I’ve been thinking of upgrading my Pashley’s front light, and even got as far as downloading drawings & circuit diagrams for DIY Monster LED lights. What can I say – I used to be an engineer.

    In the end, I found that I can just pop in a replacement LED bulb, which includes all the circuitry for handling the dynamo’s output.

    It doesn’t include a standby mode though, so maybe there’s scope for me to get some soldering iron burns after all…

  13. 04smallmj says:

    Nice post! I’m planning on ordering the same combination of parts from the same website soon (but with a V brake mount for the dynamo). I have had the battery version of the Philips Saferide for at least a year now, and I’m still impressed with the light it gives out, but want to switch over to a dynamo system because it’s a lot less hassle.

  14. disgruntled says:

    At this time of year, when the dark has a way of creeping up on you, it’s very handy to have a light on your bike that’s just *there* and ready to go. As I found as I staggered out of the pub last night…

  15. […] it’s still organised too). In Feburary the bike got to go back to its home town  and got properly lit up. In March we got a cute new neighbour not to mention a cute new bike and I took up extreme […]

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