Peninsula Light

By PeninsulaLight

Old and newer cycle lights, and a couple of well worn bottle dynamos. 

There was more bicycle tinkering work, and a rationalisation of some of the ancient, never-likely-to-be-used-again stuff in the bike bits boxes. Stopped using those dynamos when I moved to the Black Isle, about twenty one years ago. Main reason being related to the steepness of the hills on the way to and from work. In use they're a bit like having your brakes slight stuck on. They really are a drag. For the nine years prior to moving, they were great, and the best lighting that was available in the era before white LED's became available, useful, and affordable. Most cycle lights in those days gave other road users a clue that you were there, rather than being any use at lighting up the roads. Fine for around areas with street lighting. Near useless for out in the country.

I lived in the wee village of Croy back then, ten miles from work. There were plenty hills on that route. Heading home, there was a long climb of 450 feet to the high point at Culloden Battlefield, about half way, and then a mostly gradual descent to home, at 300 feet. Good lights were essential over the darker months, and those wee dynamos that worked by rubbing against the side of your rear tyre (suitable tyres were essential too) and one would easily power both the lights. They weren't perfect, and I certainly tested them a lot harder than most.

That blackened bulb still works. They'd all do that, before eventually going pop. The dynamos were most likely intended for sensible folk travelling at relaxed speeds... not the likes of this loon doing thirty plus mph on the nights with a good assisting wind, and that's being slowed down by that dynamo's friction drag on the tyre. If one of the bulbs blew, the load on the dynamo would drop, and the voltage applied to the remaining bulb would increase, meaning it would blow too, unless you were lucky. On one particularly black night, whilst hurtling down a hill towards a bend, there was a little "ping" noise, as I went from good lights to no lights. Panic braking ensued. Heading home on snowy nights, if the snow was more than an inch thick, it would get onto the tire sidewalls and the dynamo would just slip, so no lights. The metal roller part of the dynamos would wear smooth, so I'd revive them with a needle file, for a few thousand more miles of usage, until they totally wore out (as per the one on the left).

Did come up with an idea to remedy some of the issues, but didn't implement the design until faced with the different hills of the Black Isle route, which has a high point of 330 feet above sea level. The idea, that did work very well, was to keep the lights and wiring, but replace the dynamo with a small 6 volt sealed lead acid battery. Had the battery in a plastic box, and fitted the box with a small waterproof connector socket. There was a matching plug on the wiring of the bike, and I'd keep the battery box in a bag on the rear rack, with a small hole to pass the plug and wires through. Would charge the battery each night after it had been used. It did mean lugging a one kilo battery box about, but lost some weight from the dynamo. In the dozen or more years of usage: never blew another bulb; the lamps didn't blacken, so remained bright; the lights stayed on when stopping at traffic lights etc., and the battery never needed replacing. Further improvements were changing the headlight to one like that in the top right, which has a brighter halogen bulb, and swapping the rear bulb for a red LED type, when they became available.

In more recent years I've been using LED lights that run on rechargeable AA or AAA cells. And since January 2019, I had been using a front LED light that was powered by a hub dynamo - that has next to no noticeable drag, and was working well. Just a pity I've worn through the rim of that bike's rear wheel... with hub gears, that's one expensive to replace rear wheel, that's only lasted twenty months. Not sure that I want to replace it with another hub gear wheel. Perhaps time to replace that bike... or repair the truly ancient workhorse tourer, again.

Apologies for the long ramble.

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