In Ontario motorcycles have to ride with their lights powered on all the time. This has been legally mandated as a way of making the motorcycle much more visible to drivers of other vehicles.
When I replaced my Trek 520 with a Surly Long Haul Trucker, in preparation for my bicycle touring adventure around Lake Superior, my bicycle rims went from 700C to 26 making me purchase a new set of wheels.
As an avid Ice Biker and someone who enjoys the thought of one day randoneuring I had heard about a type of hub dynamo called the SON. This device has 26 magnets installed that are used to generate power with every turn of the front wheel where it is installed.
A concern with these types of devices is the amount of strength sucking drag that it introduces. It's been mentioned elsewhere that the drag is the equivalent of climbing five vertical feet for every mile of horizontal travel. In my experience it is an undetectable level of drag and is not worth worrying about.
Historically riders with the SON hub powered standard light bulb type lighting units. Recently various LED based lighting systems have become available including several that use 2 watt bulbs. I installed one of these lighting systems in conjunction with the SON hub.
Runtimes for a LED light bulb run into the tens of thousands of hours compared to the older type bulbs. This has the practical effect of making it possible to actually have constantly running lights on a bicycle with minimal impact to riding performance.
I decided to do just this for my ride around Lake Superior. During my rides around other lakes I experienced an average of two or three dangerous vehicle manuvers each day. With the lights on going around Lake Superior I only experienced three events in total leading me to believe that having running lights front and back that were on all the time made a real difference!
Another benefit of the SON hub is that it removes the need for battery management. Since I wasn't worried about keeping batteries alive I was able to ride later on those nights when I wanted to do so. The lighting was vastly superior to all typical battery powered systems commonly used. The only lighting systems that produce more light would be a system designed for use trail riding on mountain bikes in the dark. This type of system is relatively expensive and the run times for the batteries would make it less useful for a bicycle tour.
While I originally picked up the SON hub as a luxury for bicycle touring, I have since found it to be wonderful for bicycle commuting as well. It's ability to give me great light, freedom from batteries and a much higher visibility for other vehicles has led me to a strong desire to have one of these on all of my bikes.
I've recently discovered that there are also compatible lights that allow you to charge AA batteries from a dynamo hub while pedaling. This could have a dramatic impact on my ability to use electronic equipment without needing to stop somewhere for charging time. This is one option that I will be looking into in greater detail!
A dynamo hub is NOT something that's absolutely required for a bicycle touring adventure. Now that I have one on my touring bicycle I absolutely intend to use it on all future tours.
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