Axa HR Traction bottle dynamo

The last holdout bike in the household has finally ditched battery lights. After giving her Brompton a dynamo wheel by selflessly buying myself a new Brompton, I had been promising Ms C. that I would sort out her Kona Africa bike with dynamo lights. Due to various upgrades I had managed to end up with a spare B&M Lumotec Retro front lamp and a spare Brompton Spanninga rear light. All I was waiting for was the next time I needed to order something from Rose Bikes and I could add on one of their cheap Axa HR Traction bottle dynamos. Thanks to worn out stock Brompton brake pads, that time finally came.

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This is the same dynamo which used to be specified by Brompton (the left mounting version) before the Shimano dynamo hubs became available. Rose sell them for £14-15, depending on exchange rate, which is probably quite galling for anyone who bought them as a Brompton part. Thankfully, the parts needed to run this dynamo on the Brompton rear wheel (a special stay and a mudguard with a cut-out) are still available as spares, making this particular dynamo probably the cheapest (and fully supported) route to dynamo lighting on a Brompton.

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The bottom of the dynamo has two pairs of remarkably simple wire connectors, simply insert stripped wire into plastic housing and push it into the dynamo body. The arrangement allows front and rear lights to be connected to the dynamo independently of each other, rather than requiring the rear light be connected through the front as is the case with most hub dynamo set-ups. In the end I ran the rear light from the connectors on the Lumotec Retro so that it would be less work if the Kona Africa Bike ended up with a hub dynamo.

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Axa also make a dynamo mounting bracket which screws onto cantilever/linear pull brake bosses (front left/rear right only – requires left mounting version of dynamo). A simple design which works well, although the screw shown connecting bracket and dynamo was not included.

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Since the Africa Bike was kitted out with a front rack in 2011, the front lamp could not be mounted on the fork crown or using the headset bracket. Instead I used the cork-lined p-clip supplied with the front rack to fix the lamp in place on the right hand supporting leg, Japanese style.

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Not exactly elegant, but it does the job.

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Similarly, the rear light attachment was a bit of a bodge. Since the rear rack in integral to the Africa Bike’s frame and lacks a rear light mounting plate, I drilled four holes into a roughly 100 mm section of trunking lid I had knocking about. Two of these were for the fixing bolts on the light, the other two were to create a slot for the jubilee clip used to attach the creation to the rear rack. Not pretty but it does the job.

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I took the bike out for a spin with the dynamo on to make sure I had set it up without too much pressure causing excessive drag. Thankfully it was spot-on; other than the whirr of the roller it was barely noticeable. For a bike such as this which is used as practical transportation rather than high speed, high effort riding, this set-up works really well.

Philips Saferide dynamo lamp

I briefly mentioned this lamp at the end of the recent post about dynamo lighting, having read universal praise of it online. I continued to look for more information on the lamp and I found an online shop selling it at a price which seemed too good to pass up. Wanting to find out more, I bit the bullet and ordered the lamp.
After a few days, the lamp arrived. The Philips Saferide has a rated light output of 60 lux, the same as the B&M Cyo (although this number alone actually tells us very little). Also like the Cyo, the housing is aluminium to facilitate LED cooling (however, only a portion of the Cyo housing is aluminium). Like most dynamo lights, the beam is dipped so that the majority of the light ends up illuminating the road rather than blinding oncoming traffic.
I was most intrigued by this; it appears that in some jurisdictions this lamp is sufficiently bright for use on 50 cc motorcycles too.
The light comes with a bracket and integrated reflector. The reflector also houses the wire after it leaves the lamp, which would have to be dismantled ion order to change the bracket. At the lamp end. whilst similar to the B&M mounting the Saferide mount is wider at this point, use of B&M mountings would require some bracket modification in order to work.
The light source of this lamp is indirect; the beam is formed by a pair of LEDs which sit at the top of the lamp. The optics then direct the light provided by these LEDs into an even beam.
The cables leaving the back of the lamp include a pair for connecting to the dynamo and a second pair which terminate in spade connectors, for hooking-up a rear light.
The only criticism I have seen of this lamp is that the bracket is weak at the fork crown end, due to the scoring pictured above. In order to mitigate this, I used large washers when the light was mounted in order to spread the load over a wider area of the bracket.
The Saferide on the DL-1 (which I should clean). Whilst the Brompton is more in need of a new front lamp, the bracket of the Saferide would not be compatible with the luggage block. The Saferide is less aesthetically appropriate than the Lumotec Retro which was previously fitted to the DL-1, but the DL-1 is a working bike, not a museum piece.
Unlike the Lumotec Retro, the Saferide does not have the automatic on/off via light sensor feature which I came to appreciate. The Saferide is controlled by an on/off switch on the top of the unit, which also turns off the stand-light when switched off. The capacitor holds the charge for at least a day even when switched off, so the stand-light can be turned back on when unlocking the bike.
Now, onto the performance of the light itself. This thing is bright, I mean seriously bright. The first ride I did with it was Halloween Critical Mass, which took place as it was starting to get dark. By the end of the ride it was completely dark and the mass was heading to Platt Fields park (which lacks lighting in many parts). By this point I was towards the back and the Saferide was illuminating the lower half of all the bikes in front of me and completely outshining the lights on the 15 or so bikes in front of me.
The best light I have to compare the Saferide to is the Lumotec Lyt. The Lyt provides enough light to ride quite comfortably on unlit country roads, producing a bright, slightly narrow beam with a halo of light thrown wide to provide visibility of the sides of the road, overhanging vegetation, visibility for oncoming traffic and illuminate road signs. In comparison, the Saferide has a taller, notably brighter beam which is about twice the width. The whole width of a country road is illuminated easily, and the beam stretches up to around 50 metres in front of the bike. The ‘halo’ of the Lyt is replaced by a slightly odd ‘broken halo,’ similar to the stylised rays surrounding a child’s drawing of the sun. These ‘rays’ provide visibility of the sides of the road nearer to the bike and do an excellent job of lighting up road signs and the reflectors on parked cars. When I took the DL-1 on a ride along some unlit country roads in the dark using the Saferide, after a while I wasn’t sure how dark it had been when I set off. Switching the Saferide off for a moment confirmed that it was indeed completely dark at the time.
I would like to compare the Saferide to similarly-rated lights such as the Edelux and the Cyo. If Mr MiddleAgeCyclist would like to go for a spin somewhere at night, I’d be happy to see how the Saferide and Edelux compare.
For urban utility riding, the Saferide is complete and total overkill. For rural utility riding, the Saferide represents a worthwhile purchase, especially considering the battery requirements (and conical beam-shape) of a typical similarly bright battery light. Thanks to good (dynamo) lighting, I enjoy riding at night, both for utility and just for fun. For the most part of my riding the Saferide will be overkill, but it will come into its own when I’m riding for fun.
The Lumotec Retro is currently for sale on eBay, although I’d be willing to sell privately to a local instead.

UPDATE (6/11/11)

Yesterday I was able to meet up with Mr Middle Age Cyclist for a ride down the Floop after dark, to compare the Saferide with his Schmidt Edelux. The Floop is completely unlit, providing a good proving ground for the lights. Whilst the comparison is highly subjective, we both agreed that the lights are effectively equivalent in performance. The Edelux casts a slightly taller, more narrow beam whilst the Saferide casts a slightly shorter, more wide beam. The Edelux is effectively a super version of the B&M Cyo, possessing the same optics and LED, but housed in a more thermally-efficient aluminium housing with a glass lens. This set-up is designed to get that little bit more output from the same core light, suggesting that the Saferide is likely an equal, or perhaps marginally superior light to the Cyo. One day I will do another direct comparison with a Cyo.

Light is Running Out

It’s that time of year again. When Sunday comes it will be dark a lot of the time for anyone who works a conventional 9-5 shift pattern. This will be my second winter of riding with dynamo lights, with dynamos on all of the bikes this time, although still only enough lights for two of them; the Brompton and the DL-1. This is the perfect time of year to ‘go dynamo,’ not only for the long-term savings but, as I learned myself last winter, it’s extremely liberating.
Some people hang up their bikes for winter. If you are a utility cyclist however, this is unlikely to be the case. I have ridden through every winter since I started cycling again as an adult. However, until last year I never really got any enjoyment doing it.  Having to remember to take my lights everywhere, carry them around when off the bike was a minor hassle. What really bothered me was the persistent, nagging concern that I’d be caught out by flat batteries and have to risk a ride home without lights. The battery lights I had used in the past were adequate, but never truly that bright. I knew of the much brighter options available but the price never seemed justifiable to me, for something which could so easily become useless if forgotten of accidentally uncharged.
When I bought my first dynamo lamp, a B&M Lumotec Retro N senseo plus, it was mainly because I was concerned with having a light which was in-keeping with the aesthetics of my then new-to-me DL-1. English-language information regarding dynamo lights was pretty sketchy, I wasn’t sure what I was going to get. Because of this, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the light I had purchased was actually a lot brighter than my previous battery-powered LED lights, despite being a halogen bulb. It was always there when I needed it and would even come on automatically when darkness fell. This started to change the way I felt about riding in the dark, from something to be avoided to something to relish. As that first dynamo winter drew in, I found myself riding as much as I had during summer.
Naturally, I had to get the rear light powered by the dynamo too, whilst permanently attached to the bike, the rear the battery light which came with the DL-1 was still a weak link, dependent on batteries. Once again, information was lacking. B&M produced rear lights with the same automatic light-sensor on/off control as the Retro, although it seemed that this feature was only available with the battery or battery/dynamo hybrid models. Once again I took the plunge and purchased a B&M D-Toplight Plus. The tail-light was wired into the connectors on the front lamp for this purpose; to my surprise the automatic light sensor in the front light also controlled the power supply to the rear light. When it got dark both lights would come on automatically (including when passing through a tunnel). Brilliant.
Having this kind of set-up on the DL-1 made the Yuba Mundo seem almost a hassle to ride. The Shimano dynamo hubs available in my price range were all intended for use with Centerlock disk brakes, rather than the standard 6-bold arrangement used on the Yuba Mundo. The additional cost of a new Centerlock rotor or an IS adaptor pushed the price to more than I could justify spending at the time. A post from Lovely Bicycle! gave me the answer I was looking for, a bottle dynamo. Older bottle dynamos (and modern cheap ones) have contributed to the poor regard with which dynamo systems are viewed here in the UK. However, higher-spec bottles such as the Nordlicht 2000 or the B&M Dymotec seemed to offer a reasonable trade-off between performance and price. I decided to opt for the Basil Nordlicht bottle dynamo in combination with with a B&M Lumotec Lyt plus, a reasonably priced light with a higher light output rating than the Retro. Due to budgetary constraints, an additional rear light would have to wait.
Unlike the Sturmey Archer X-FDD hub dynamo on the DL-1, the Basil Nordlicht took a bit more work to find the optimum fitting. The advantage of the Basil Nordlichtis that the rollers can be changed. Multiple variants are available including a steel roller for running on the tyre, a rubber roller for running on the rim and a larger rubber roller for running on the rim at higher speeds. The larger roller is particularly useful as it allows the dynamo to be ‘geared down.’ As bottle dynamos are typically designed to produce full power output at relatively low speeds (<10km/h) they can produce too much drag when used by faster cyclists. The larger roller compensates for this by reducing the amount of dynamo revolutions per tyre revolution, and hence the resulting drag. Initially the bottle dynamo was mounted on the fork, unfortunately the pressure it exerted on the rim caused the rotor of the disk brake to rub against the brake pads when it was engaged. Eventually I mounted the dynamo on the seat-stay and adjusted the mounting angle which produced ideal dynamo contact pressure on the rim, enough to prevent slippage but not enough to create noticeable drag.

At present the Basil Nordlicht bottle dynamo is still fitted to the Yuba Mundo, although there are no dynamo lights fitted for it to drive. This is due to my acquisition of a Brompton. After a few weeks with the Brompton, I felt that a bike such as this really needed to be all in-one, including self-sufficient lighting. It was around this time that the annual price increases for Brompton components were being rolled out. The Brompton dynamo wheel RRP was about to increase by about 15% making that then the ideal time to upgrade to the Shimano hub dynamo wheel. I had considered the fitting the Basil Nordlicht bottle to the Brompton, but the relatively good price of the wheel and my uncertainty about clearances for fitting the bottle led me to choose the hub over the bottle.

Rather than splash out on a new front light, my limited budget led me to fit the Lyt from the Yuba Mundo instead. My intention was to replace the front lamp on the Yuba Mundo at a later date, which I have still yet to do. Initially I bent the Lyt mount to fit it into the tight space between the caliper brake and the luggage block, a solution which was far from ideal. I was later able to use a Brompton Cyo mounting bracket to fit the Lyt into the limited space offered by the Brompton. I also added a Brompton rear dynamo light (made by Spanninga) to complete the set-up

The version of the Lyt I had purchased for the Yuba Mundo was the bottle dynamo version; when connected to the hub dynamo on the Brompton, both front and rear lights ran whenever the bike was in motion. Whilst not as optimal as the automatic on/off light sensor of the Retro, this set-up actually works well, due to the extraordinary operational lifespan of LEDs. It now appears that I was a little ahead of the curve in choosing this set-up; B&M’s entire 2012 range of dynamo lighting comes with the option for daylight running lights.

My experiences with dynamo lighting have not been universally positive. The standlight functions on both of the lights fitted to the Brompton failed by summer, although they were both relatively easy to fix. However, it is my ‘off-label’ riding with the Brompton which is more likely the cause of this failure than any deficiency in the lights’ designs; Bromptons are not really ideal bikes for fast riding on cobbled paths, the resulting vibrations were obviously a bit too much for the capacitors powering the standlight. Under more typical riding conditions I doubt that this problem would have occurred. For this reason I would still strongly recommend dynamo lighting to anyone, including the models of light which I have had problems with.

A great deal of dynamo lighting technology is designed by (or for) the German market. German regulations stipulate that a bicycle must be sold complete with a dynamo lighting system (except lightweight sports-bikes), including lights which conform to specific regulations for beam shape and light intensity. These regulations are more strict than elsewhere and have effectively become the de facto international standard. The misconceptions about dynamo lighting which persist in the English-speaking world means that we do not constitute a huge proportion of the market for dynamo lighting components, with equipment and information  often difficult to come by. B&M in particular make great equipment but the English-language information about them is lacking. They also suffer from the Windows Vista effect; huge numbers of variants on each light model exist with relatively subtle differences between them and confusing nomenclature. These differences are seldom well explained in product descriptions on the handful of retailers which stock them.

Because of this, to help prospective dynamo light users I have produced a B&M dynamo light nomenclature guide:

Lumotec: The front dynamo light brand name.
Toplight: The rear dynamo light brand name.
Retro, Lyt, IQ Fly, IQ Cyo etc: The model name.
Plus: Includes standlight. The light (or a portion of it) remains illuminated for a few minutes after motion stops.
Senseo: Includes automatic on/off via light sensor.
N: Includes an on/off switch, intended for use with hub dynamos.
B: Basic version, lower light output but still meeting German minimum standard.
R: Taller beam, including near-field illumination of dark patch in front of wheel.
T: Daylight running lights. In addition to the beam aimed at the road, a series of small LEDs direct light at oncoming traffic to increase cyclist visibility. During the day these lights remain lit, whilst the main beam runs at reduced power or is switched off.


B&M are of course not the only manufacturer of dynamo lights, merely the one with which I have most experience. Mr Hembrow gives high praise to the new dynamo front lamp manufactured by Philips; the Saferide (repeated elsewhere). It is my hope to test out a Saferide in the future and share my impressions here. If anyone has any questions about ‘going dynamo,’ please feel free to leave a comment and I will endeavour to help you if I can.

Ten bike parts & accessories due for a comeback

Progress is generally accepted as a good thing, but sometimes new trends, materials and components come along which don’t have all the advantages of the things they replace. This is especially true in the world of bicycles. I present here my top ten bicycle technologies and accessories which I feel are due for a comeback (some of which are already enjoying a bit of a resurgence).

Hub Gears

The innards of a Sturmey Archer AW hub I am currently working on. Even in this state, the hub is still working.
My first experience of hub gears was in Belgium, on a hire bike used for a bicycle tour of Brussels. The bike was equipped with a Nexus 8-speed hub which offered a similar range to my 24-speed derailleur-geared bike of the time. I instantly appreciated being able to shift gear when stationary, the possibilities for enclosing the chain and the increased durability from sealing away the gears inside the hub.
Two of the Three bikes I now own have hub gears.

Drum/Roller/Coaster Brakes

Image courtesy of Ecovelo
The same bike in Brussels had the most basic model Shimano Roller brakes. These were weaker than the disc brakes I was used to at the time, but once I had gotten used to the reversed brake levers (left-hand front, as is common in countries with right-hand traffic) I came to like the idea of trading a little stopping power over discs for a great deal more durability. Being sealed away in the hub means that their performance is independent of weather conditions, unlike rim brakes. For a bike you depend on to get around, drum brakes are a great option.
The Raleigh DL-1 has similar front and rear Sturmey Archer drum brakes.

Briefcase Clips

Briefcase clips were a common feature of rat-trap pannier racks here in the UK in the days of mass cycling. Naturally in The Netherlands and Denmark they are still relatively commonplace. A small loop protrudes from the side of the rack into which a briefcase handle is placed. The spring-loaded rat trap is then lowered, and a small protruding rod from it holds the briefcase in place.
Whilst briefcases are not as common as they were, I regularly use the clip on the DL-1 for plastic carrier bags when I have been a bit over-zealous with the grocery shopping, or for my U-lock when I have no space in my regular pannier.

Saddlebags

A Carradice saddlebag on a Raleigh Wayfarer. Image courtesy of Urban Adventure League
I am hoping to join the saddlebag club soon. Saddlebags were once commonplace, but declined in popularity with the decline in transportation cycling in the UK. Like panniers, they place the load on the bike rather than the rider, reducing the amount of effort required for carrying and preventing the risk of a sweaty back which comes with backpacks. They also offer advantages over panniers; the load is more central and less likely to affect balance and they do not require a rear rack, only a saddle with bag loops such as a Brooks.

Wool

Wool is great. I’m not a big fan of having special clothing just for cycling, I’d rather wear something which is practical both on and off the bike. In the colder months wool is ideal for this, it is warm, it breathes and it absorbs a decent amount of moisture without feeling wet and it doesn’t readily hold odours.

Chain Cases

A completely enclosed chain on a Pashley bicycle. Image courtesy of Let’s Go Ride A Bike
When dérailleur gears are no-longer used, the possibility of completely enclosing the chain is opened up. A chain guard has the advantage of protecting the rider from the chain, meaning no more trouser clips or rolling up your trouser leg. A chain case offers this advantage whilst also protecting the chain from road filth and rain, leading to a longer life and reduced maintenance.

North Road Handlebars

Most of the bikes on sale in the UK come with either riser or straight bars, as seen on mountain bikes, or drops (resembling ram’s horns), as seen on racing bikes. These bars offer a moderately aggressive (straight) or aggressive (drops) riding posture suited to sport cycling. For everyday transportation, they are not the best choice for everyone. North road handlebars (and similar variants) offer an upright riding position. The advantages of this include; comfort for the rider, increased head height (ideal when negotiating traffic) and rider weight is shifted back (reducing the possibility of going over the handlebar under heavy braking).

Steel

A lugged joint between a top-tube and head-tube on a steel frame. Image courtesy of Rivendell
Aluminium has become a very popular frame material in recent years, due to the pursuit of ever lighter bicycles. It is light and stiff, making it an appropriate material for frames. The different properties of aluminium mean that it is desirable to use oversized tubing, which makes the frame particularly light and stiff. Despite this, many feel that steel produces a better quality of ride, the reduced stiffness of the narrower tubing used in forks seems to allow more of the vibration from the road to be absorbed and dissipated before it reaches the rider. This perception is of course completely subjective, but is something worth considering. Other advantages of steel include the possibility of lugged construction, which I find to be aesthetically pleasing, and the relative ease with which a steel frame can be repaired in comparison to an aluminium one.

Relaxed Geometry

I read somewhere that most of the bikes which have ever been manufactured are of the same basic design as the English Roadster or the Dutch Bike. In the UK however, this design in geometry have fallen out of favour. Whilst the roadster is enjoying a bit of a resurgence due to the popularity various models of Pashley Cycles, the relaxed roadster geometry is mainly only seen on bikes marketed as “traditional” or “heritage” bikes. The geometry of these bikes makes them ideal for everyday transport for the average person’s needs. In addition to the models make by Pashley, I’d like to see some more designs based on this geometry available in UK bike shops.

Dynamo Lighting

A topic I have written about extensively, dynamo lights are a great option for an everyday transport bike, where an “always available” lighting solution is very desirable. Most people are put off by memories of cheap bottle dynamos driving terrible filament lamps, but modern hub and bottle dynamos are much better. Combine these with modern LED lighting technologies and you have the perfect dependable lighting solution for an everyday transport bike. No batteries, no fuss.
What bicycle components and accessories which have fallen out of favour would you like to see coming back?

Brooks B67 Update

In the style of Yakov Smirnoff, it would seem that you don’t break in a Brooks Saddle, it breaks you in. This is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but after my first proper ride on my new B67 saddle, it feels as comfortable as my older B66. It is probable that a small amount of breaking in occurs, but most of the changes seem to be in the rider’s arse.
Brooks saddles are like many luxury items, once you have one, it becomes more of an essential than a luxury. Think back to life before your first mobile phone, you managed fine without one, but now it feels like an essential item. A Brooks is the same. I wholeheartedly recommend the B66 based saddles for upright bicycles, but just be aware that once the saddle has broken you in, other saddles may feel like crap.
The B67 is almost identical to the B66, differing only in that it is compatible with micro-adjust seatposts. Having a B67 saddle on the Yuba makes it much more pleasant to ride, plus I prefer to have the same saddle on the bikes I use regularly (providing they have similar riding positions).
My test ride was along the Fallowfield Loop, in the fog and later fog and rain. It was still quite an enjoyable ride, the dynamo light illuminated the fog creating the sensation of riding through an over-exposed photograph. When the rain picked up, it gave me a chance to test out the rain-worthiness of the bottle dynamo. Re-assuringly there was minimal slippage (if any) and the light stayed perfectly bright throughout the rain. The increased temperature also meant that I didn’t have the same gear problems which the Yuba suffered from on Xmas day.
If you have a Brooks saddle and have been considering investing in another one for a second bike, but have been worried about going through the break-in again, don’t worry. Your new saddle will feel almost completely broken in from the start, because you already have been.

Yuba Anniversary

On Thursday the 9th of December it will be exactly one year since I took the trip up to Ansdell to pick up my shiny, brand new V2 Yuba Mundo from Practical Cycles. I have really enjoyed having this bike for the past year, it has been both useful and fun. I bought the bike in the hope that it would be a lifetime investment; if I looked after it well and replaced the moving parts as they wore out, I would be able to keep it running forever. Because of this I have not shied away from doing upgrades and modifications to the bike over the past year.

The Saddle:

The Yuba Mundo came with a very wide and very squishy Selle Royal saddle, probably designed for the comfort of new cyclists. As a regular cyclist who had put the time in developing the “Arse of steel,” I found this saddle very uncomfortable after about 20 minutes of use. I replaced it with the same saddle I had been using on my mountain bike of the time, a Specialized Indie XC. However, having used a Brooks B66 on the DL-1 for the past few months, I now look forward to the day when I will be able to afford a B67 for the Yuba.

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The Top Deck:

This was inspired by Joe George of Urban Simplicity, who made a wooden top-deck for his V1 Yuba. I followed his instructions to the letter before realising that the rack of a V1 is substantially wider than that of my V2. After going back to the drawing board I was able to fabricate this ugly but functional top deck.

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The Fork:

The Yuba Mundo is rated to carry 200 kg of cargo yet is supplied with fairly basic V-brakes. The V2 didn’t even come with disc-brake bosses on the frame or fork. Knowing that the front brake is where the action is, I decided to replace the fork with a similar black one I purchased from eBay, which had IS disc brake mounts. The new fork necessitated a new headset due to the transition from a threaded to a threadless steerer. The new stem placed the handlebar a bit too low for my particular riding posture, and so eventually I added a stem riser to fix this issue.

The Front Brake and Wheel:

The new fork opened up the possibility of a front disc brake. Having had very positive experiences with the cable-actuated Avid BB disc brakes, I decided to take the plunge into the world of hydraulic disc brakes with the Avid Juicy 5. The brake came complete with lever, ready bled and good to go. It has been in service for nearly a year now and has yet to require any attention.

Disc brakes meant a disc wheel was needed, luckily I happened to have an old spare lying around from the old Cuillin Sport mountain bike. All I had to do was remove the old 160 mm rotor and replace it with the new 185 mm rotor.

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The Bottle Holder:

The lack of a bottle holder was a mild annoyance in winter and spring. By summer it was getting to be a more pressing matter. I managed to find a few handlebar-mounted bottle cages online, but none of those were adjustable for normal 500/600 ml drinks bottles like the Topeak one I use (EBC don’t seem to sell it anymore). A bit of an old Kryptonite lock mount and some screws later and I had made my own adjustable handlebar bottle holder.

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The Seatpost:

The original seatpost which came with the Yuba was 30 mm with a shim to fit it in the 31.8 mm seat-tube. The post wasn’t micro-adjust and after shredding the inside leg of a pair of trousers, I decided it was time to go micro-adjust. I tried a 27.2 mm post with a shim, but the result was some rather unpleasant creaking due to the fact that I was really pushing the maximum extension rating. Eventually I decided to spring for the official Yuba seat post and although pricey it has been hassle and creak free.

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The Tyres:

When I retired the Kona Africa Bike from daily service, I decided to fit the brown Fat Franks from that bike to the Yuba. The Yuba came with black Fat Franks, but the brown ones looked nicer and have reflective sidewalls. The original black Fat Franks are now on the Africa Bike, which I eventually intend to sell on.

The Transmission:

The Yuba Mundo V2 has a 130 mm OLD for the back wheel. Yuba spec a freewheel rather than a cassette for the Mundo because it is cheaper and more readily available in other parts of the world. The disadvantages of a freewheel are that the load is taken at a less than ideal point on the axle, which Yuba take into account by making the axle 14 mm thick (rather than 9 or 10 mm). When the ratchet mechanism on the freewheel started to play up, I had to replace the freewheel. I also replaced the chain(s) due to the fact that it had worn along with the old freewheel.

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The Dynamo and lamp:

Very recently, I added a dynamo and lamp to the Yuba. After replacing the bracket and unwinding the cable from the brake hose, I am very pleased with this arrangement.

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The newest version of the Yuba Mundo (V3) addresses some of the issues I have encountered with my V2. The seatpost is now micro-adjust, the frame and fork have disc brake mounts, the bike comes with a plastic top-deck included, the rear OLD has been increased to the more standard 135 mm and the frame even has well placed screw bosses and loops for luggage straps. The bike does cost more now, but the extra cost is justified. After a year of using it, I would heartily recommend the Yuba Mundo to anyone and everyone.

Yuba Dynamo Update

I managed to get a cheap dynamo mount from eBay. Generally these mountings are not designed for the sort of forks found on the Yuba Mundo (the same as on rigid mountain bikes), favouring the thinner fork tubes seen on bikes like the Raleigh Tourist or Twenty. Luckily I managed to find some longer bolts in my box of fixings, and the bottle dynamo is now mounted on the rim.

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The snow has died down a bit now, so I have returned the Yuba to its normal configuration and taken it out for a test ride. The dynamo works fine on the rim, and the drag is negligible. The main difference between this and the hub dynamo is the gentle whirring sound and the vibration it sends to the handlebar. Whilst I can see now discernible difference in my speed for a given effort, the psychological effect of the sound and vibration means that the bottle does feel like it drags more than the silent, vibration-free hub.

Overall I am happy with the set-up and would recommend it when a hub dynamo is unfeasible.

Bottling the Yuba

In July I added a dynamo lamp to my DL-1 and loved it. I was somewhat constrained when it came to choosing a lamp because I wanted something which fitted in with the classic look of the bike. After buying a set of AAA batteries for my front Yuba lamp I decided that I didn’t want to keep buying batteries anymore, I wanted a permanent set-and-forget system like on the DL-1. This time I would be less concerned with aesthetics and able to take advantage of modern-looking LED dynamo lamps.

A hub dynamo was not realistic due to the only reasonably affordable ones compatible with disc brakes being made by Shimano who use a proprietary system for mounting the rotors on the hub (although it is proprietary, it also has some advantages). This would have meant replacing my rotor as well as the front hub, spokes and buying a lamp, at which point the cost became prohibitive. A recent post on Lovely Bicycle! combined with Ian’s positive experiences with the bottle dynamo on his Gazelle inspired me to give the bottle dynamo a chance.

Many people in the UK and in North America have negative associations with bottle dynamos, but both dynamo and lighting technology have progressed a lot, modern bottle dynamos are more efficient and modern LED dynamo lamps can do more with the energy you provide.

I chose the Nordlicht 2000 dynamo, available from Hembrow’s store Dutch Bike Bits. It seemed like a good trade off between quality and price, the roller is rubber and able to run on the rim of the wheel or the tyre itself and replacements are readily available (including a larger wheel for faster riders). The dynamo itself came with no instructions whatsoever, but a bit of playing around with it revealed that the dynamo has a proper – connection rather than using the frame. The two prongs on the bottom are the terminals, they are spring-loaded and have a small hole in them which is revealed when depressed. This allows you to insert a wire and then release the prong to secure the wire.

The lamp I chose is a B&M Lumotec Lyt Plus (includes standlight). Having found the Lumotec Retro to be impressively bright already, the 50% higher rated light output on this model caught my interest. Being German, this lamp conveniently comes with a built in reflector. Once again, information was not particularly forthcoming. This lamp is rated at 2.4W leaving 0.6W for a dynamo rear light. There are connectors on the underside for both the dynamo itself and the rear light. The lamps is supplied with a wire to connect to the dynamo.

Sadly, the dynamo bracket I ordered was not as advertised, described as fitting to the left cantilever boss it in fact fits to the right (drive side) cantilever boss, causing problems with my left-fitting dynamo. Rather than getting it replaced, I decided to use a Birmingham screwdriver to make it fit on the left side. I will eventually replace it with a fork-fitting clamp so that I can run the dynamo on the rim to reduce drag at higher speeds.

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The reflector works well.

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The reflective tape shows up well on the side-rails too.

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I wrapped the wire from the lamp around the hose line of the hydraulic disc brake (probably not the most common combination of bike technologies), and the bodged bracket.

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The current set up is not particularly elegant, but the Yuba Mundo isn’t really about elegance anyway. When the replacement bracket comes, I will run the dynamo on the rim and tidy up the wiring a bit.

After installation I took the Yuba out for a test ride on the Fallowfield Loop. The Loop is great for these kinds of tests because it is completely unlit, plus the snow hasn’t been crushed into ice by cars.

When engaged, the dynamo makes a low whirring noise which is not overly distracting. The fact that the pitch changes with speed is actually quite useful for judging speed when darkness obscures the odometer. The level of illumination provided even at low speeds (10 km.h-1) is impressive. By around 15 km.h-1 the lamp is around three times brighter than my Revolution Vision lamp and probably twice as bright as my Lumotec Retro lamp. The shape of the light cast on the ground is slightly rectangular (tall rather than wide), which is actually quite useful. It was almost like riding with a pimpmobile directly behind me. The light provided my the Revolution Vision LED lamp is slightly too blue for my eyes and I was concerned that the light from the Lumotec Lyt would be the same. Thankfully it is actually very white, making it easier for me to see irregularities in the road ahead. Unlike the Lumotec Retro, the standlight feature uses the same bulb as the main light (albeit at reduced brightness) and so benefits from optimal positioning within the lens producing more useable illumination.

As for drag, I can’t really give a verdict on that yet. The Yuba is currently set up for snow; lower saddle, lower tyre pressure and the slowing effect of the snow itself means that I can’t make a fair comparison. I’ll provide an update after the snow has cleared.

It’s always dark

If you work office hours you may have noticed that it is dark during almost all of your free time. If you want to cycle during your free time this means you need some lights. This year I am fortunate enough to own more bikes than this time last year (when I only owned a single bike, a hybridised mountain bike at that). This has the added advantage of giving me more experience with different kinds of lights, experience I am happy to share.

Battery Lights:

Battery lighting I have used falls roughly into two categories; lighting for you to see with, and lighting to ensure you are seen by others.

Lighting to be seen by is sufficient to discharge your legal obligation, in well lit urban areas it will also be enough for you to get by. A popular example of lighting to be seen by are Knogs, also known as “Hipster Cysts.”

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The Knog lights are basically only as effective as the £2 blinkies you can get from Tesco, but do not require you to attach a mount to your bike.

Unlike lighting to be seen, lighting to see with used to mean halogen lamps. Halogen lamps are bright and produce a lovely warm light but because batteries run out, ideally it is best to use a more efficient method to produce light with batteries. At present this takes the form of LEDs. Halogen lamps powered by batteries are still available and may even seem like a good deal, but any money you save will be paid for with batteries and often shoddier build quality. Currently I am using Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative’s Revolution Vision set:

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The front lamp is a 1 watt LED with a re-assuring aluminium exterior. The beam is  relatively wide for an LED, although the light it produces is a cold blueish-white which is harder to see by than the yellow of a halogen bulb. The lamp also has a flash mode for when you are more concerned with being seen than with illuminating the path ahead. Replacement mounts are available for the front lamp making it easy to share one between several bikes (as I do with my Yuba Mundo and Raleigh Twenty). The rear light comes with 4 flash patterns in addition to the steady state flash. Sadly replacement mounts are not available for the rear lamp, although the EBC catalogue currently residing in my bathroom suggests the rear light has recently undergone a redesign which may filter through to the shop stock soon.

I also have a permanent rack-fitted light/reflector on the Yuba Mundo which is useful if I am caught out after dark:

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Dynamo Lights:

Dynamo lighting is generally powerful enough to fall into the “to see by” category (apart from the rear lights for which being seen is the only purpose). Back in July I purchased my first ever dynamo lamp thanks to some advice from LC. I had owned a dynamo hub for a while before that, but I was initially more interested in the drum brake and the possibility of using the dynamo to charge my phone. The lamp I ended up with is a Busch and Muller Lumotec Retro (with standlight and switch):

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Shown here on the bike before I installed the new tyres, also conveniently doubles as a reflector to make the bike street-legal. 

Because the dynamo provides an effectively inexhaustible source of power, halogen lamps become feasible once more. Whilst they are less durable than LEDs, they do produce a warmer, yellowish light which I find easier to see by, and the brightness is generally greater than that of my LED battery lamp and the beam is cast wider which enhances my visibility to others. The lamp includes an LED standlight, which on its own is about half as powerful as my battery-powered LED lamp. This is designed to ensure you remain visible even when stationary or at very low speeds.

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This dynamo lamp is couples with a battery-powered permanent rear light which I originally considered replacing with a dynamo equivalent. In the end I decided to keep the existing light due to its low power consumption compared to a front light. So far I’ve had a few hundred hours out of the pair of AA batteries which came with the bike.

At present I do not have any experience with bottle dynamos, although Ian at Lazy Bicycle Blog has one on his new bicycle and seems positive about it. I am currently considering adding a bottle dynamo and lamp to the Yuba Mundo. I have become accustomed to the superior light level produced by the lamp on the DL-1 when riding in total darkness and after spending £4 on batteries a few days ago, the initial outlay doesn’t seem too bad anymore. It will also free up the battery lights for exclusive use on the Twenty. Whilst I am happy with my hub dynamo I favour the bottle dynamo approach on the Yuba Mundo because of the disk brakes. The only disk-brake compatible dynamo hubs are Shimano’s, and they use Centerlock mounts for the rotors. This would mean replacing my rotor with a Centerlock version (at an extortionate price for a piece of metal) or buying an adapter which may cause further problems.

Depending on the type of riding you do I would advise using dynamo lighting over battery lighting, at least for the front of the bike. A dynamo front lamp will be bright enough to illuminate the way when riding in total darkness. Whilst the initial outlay may seem high, the level of illumination provided is significantly higher than a £25 pair of LED lights, the battery won’t run out at an inopportune moment and you won’t have to continuously spend money on batteries. If most of your riding is on well lit streets and you are happy to have lights merely to be seen, cheap LED blinkies should suffice.