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.

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Nice Rack

Despite no-longer being mine, the Kona Africa Bike continues to be treated to upgrades and improvements, the latest of which is a Basil Memories front rack. The Africa Bike originally came with a spring-loaded folding front basket which, whilst an excellent idea in theory, ended up squeaking excessively in use. This may have been partly due to the fact that I one carried a 10 kg bag of cat litter in there, which it became immediately obvious was far too heavy for the basket. The new rack which takes its place has a weight rating of 15 kg, adding a reasonable amount of extra carrying capacity to the bike. I personally find having luggage up-front to be re-assuring because I can keep an eye on it whilst on the move. Access to luggage whilst on the move is another bonus.
The rack is not the only addition to the Africa Bike, a Brooks saddle was added a few months back, and a Carradice Pendle saddle bag is another recent addition.

The Basil Memories front rack attached to the handlebar via hooks, in much the same way as the folding basket which came with the bike. The legs are intended to fit onto the front wheel axle, which would not be a problem on a bike with thin fork tubing or a lot of rake, such as a typical roadster.

Thankfully, despite the thick fork tubing of the Africa Bike, the rack legs were easily attached to the fork via the second set of eyelets above the axle, designed for attaching a large basket or rack.

The hooks which attach the rack to the handlebar are adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of bike sizes and handlebar heights, with at least 20 cm of extra height left over for the set-up on the Africa Bike. The only thing missing now is a wicker hamper to sit on the rack