Thanks to regular reader and past photo contest contributor d’Andre Willis for her guest post about a nice light.
I love bike commuting. Really, really love it. But this isn’t about why I love it; instead, I’d like to tell you about the thing I hate most about bike commuting….riding in the dark. I’ve been commuting by bike for about four years, each year adding more days per week and more weeks out of the year to the “biked it” commutes instead of the car or the bus. I’ve learned what I need to wear so that I don’t mind the cold, wind or rain. But as I’ve pushed further into the months between November and March I still am fighting my dislike of the dark. I commute between the East Side and Milwaukee’s Third Ward and choose a longer path in the way home in the dark that keeps me on the lakefront all the way to the Kenwood hill to avoid the dark Oak Leaf Trail. Even with the street lights spilling onto the path along Lincoln Memorial Drive I am bothered by not knowing if the dark spot ahead is a pothole or a bit of black ice. Now I’ve completed a rig that I hope will be the answer to not minding the dark.
The pieces are a Shimano DH-3N72 generator hub and a Busch & Muller Lumotec IQ Cyo Senso Plus headlight. That’s the one with three switch positions: off, on with sensor to turn light on when you need it, and always on.
Installation was simple. I had Bikesmith’s order the hub and rebuild the wheel using my rim. I ordered the light from Peter White Cycles. Both did a great job and I recommend them highly. This was my first phone call to Peter White Cycles and I have to admit the website made it seem a little intimidating to call them….but the woman who helped me had answers to all my questions and even though I called at 4:50 Eastern time they shipped the light that day.
Strategizing the mounting took a little more time – as you can see, I have a porteur rack on the front of the bike which interferes with the standard light mount on the fork crown. The light comes with a nifty bracket if you are going to mount it there which is not shown in my pictures. The rack is the Camper Rack from Capricorn Bicycles in Minneapolis and the proprietor and craftsman there, Bradley Wilson, made mine with a couple of extra braze-on locations for mounting a light. I used the one on the strut below the rack to help protect the light from the inevitable moment where I let the bike fall over on the ground (already tested that, worked great). Some black nylon spacers and a long bolt help fit the light between the wheel and the strut. I still want to find something to cover the wiring wrapped around the strut and the little pigtail of wiring that provides the connection for a taillight.
Performance is awesome. I’ve made two night time rides home so far and I am really impressed by the beam. This baby lights up the pavement. The beam pattern is a tightly focused box with a little bit of spill around the edges. In addition to lighting the way ahead, it seems to work well for the “being seen” function; cars appear to be aware of me at close to the same distance they are in the daytime. The pics below show the beam compared to a 4-LED Planet Bike battery powered light – in fairness this is the blinky that I use on my helmet, not a Blaze or other better headlight. Keep in mind that in the pictures the light is being thrown further from the bike with the Lumotec – the other light won’t even make a dent that far out and this is really where the light is needed when you’re moving.
The senso function works very well with only a couple-of-seconds delay when going from light to dark. It is sensitive enough to flick on after I roll into the parking structure at work and in the evening when I go under the bridges along the bike path. The hub does give a little vibration when the light is on, mostly at higher speed, but it’s not that bothersome. I don’t notice much of a drag factor – my bike is heavy due to the racks, kickstand, fenders, generator hub and an internal gear hub and my panniers are usually weighed down with laptop, clothes, lock, lunch, etc., so I don’t know that I would notice a slight drag.
Total cost totaled up to around $250 for purchasing the hub and headlight and having the folks at Bikesmith rebuild my wheel to mount the hub. Yes, this would buy a lot of less expensive non-generator headlights and a lot of batteries (or around 10 tanks of gas), but the light is fantastic and the convenience factor is awesome. I’m ready for Central Standard Time.
d’Andre Willis is an architect with HGA Architects and Engineers and the Board President of the Wisconsin Green Building Alliance. She has been working for several years on fitting out her bikes for the best all-weather commuting, errand-running and basic getting around experiences possible and enjoys a great year-round commute by bike along the lakefront between her home near UWM and office on the Milwaukee River in the Third Ward. She is a frequent reader of this blog and interested in changing perceptions of the role of the bike in normal American life.