‘Self Reliance’ is what cycle touring is all about. Self propelled bike travel with a tent affords a freedom that for me, can’t be rivalled. However, I want to record as much detail of my journey as possible. Cameras, iPads and smart phones all need recharging. Dynamo hubs allow electricity to be generated as you roll which can be used directly or with some additional kit can be stored for later use to recharge your electrical kit.
For some, bringing a smart phone on tour is an absolute ‘no-no’. I consider my iPhone the most versatile bit of kit that I carry, for me, it’s an essential. My iPhone heads-up my bikes cockpit behind the waterproof window of my handlebar bag. Ironically, the function I use least is the telephone itself. Whilst on tour I want to escape the pester of everyday life but knowing in the case of an emergency, help is only a call away, is reassuring.
Cycle tourists are renowned for ruthlessly cutting back on what they carry. Light, compact versions of only the most necessary kit are highly sought after. My iPhone condenses several bits of kit. It serves as a sat nav, laptop, library of books and my entire music collection. It has an excellent camera and the ‘app store’ will almost certainly have a selection of useful applications to enhance your travel experience.
Whatever electronics you carry they will at some point need recharging. Cycle tourists have two options; we either return to civilisation and seek out a convenience such as a McDonalds that offer use of their power points or we gear up to generate our own power. If you plan to travel far from civilisation and carry electrical kit dynamo hubs are an essential.
What to look for in dynamo hubs for cycle touring
Inners – efficiency of the unit will be determined mainly by the internal design. Dynamo hubs internally aren’t very complicated and most models will be very similar inside. That said, efficiency between models do differ so check the manufacturers output ratings.
Outers – the hub body, casing and seals are maybe the most important factor regarding longevity and reliability of your dynohub. Although the hub inners are a relatively simple affair with little to go wrong keeping them dry is key. Look for robust casings and quality end cap seals.
Weight – as with all things cycling, keeping unnecessary weight down is key. However, the lightest model may not always be the best. Look for a mix of efficient design, quality outer casing and the use of lightweight materials
Drag – in my experience resistance is almost non existent when riding. Certainly it’s noticeable when spinning a dynohub on it’s axle in hand but once the wheels built up it’s negligible. New hubs maybe a bit whiny but they usually break in and quieten down.
The Best Dynamo Hubs for cycle touring
Hub dynamos or ‘dynohubs’ have been around since the 1930’s and was the creation of Sturmey-Archer in the UK. A hub dynamo is an over-sized front wheel hub that contains a ring of magnets that revolve around a coil that’s fixed to the wheels axle. There are no moving parts or mechanical friction and therefore very little to go wrong within a hub dynamo. There is a huge array of hub dynamos available, I’ve whittled down the choice of three of the best for cycle touring.
Schmidt Son 28 Dynamo Hubs
The German made Schmidt SON is the benchmark hub dynamo, it has a proven reputation for efficiency and durability. The Schmidt hub offers a five year warranty and won’t need servicing until it’s reached 50,000km! Schmidt really have perfected the dynohub, the secret seems to be the unit is sealed superbly therefore preserving bearing life. Kevin from Ghyllside Cycles recommends the Schimdt Son highly and says he ‘has never had to renew the bearings on a single hub ever’. The downside unfortunately is the huge price tag (around £200) which I consider unreasonable. However, if you’re planning a tour through the back of beyond can you put a price on reliability?
Shimano DH3D80 Dynamo Hubs
Shimano offer a range of hubs for different applications and budgets. The DH3D80 is Shimano’s premium disc brake friendly dynamo hub. There is also the DH3N80 which is the rim braked equivalent. As to be expected with this Shimano hub, it’s not as nice looking as the Schmidt. The Shimano is a bit heavier and although it doesn’t have the same bullet-proof reputation as the Schmidt, it has been around for a while and proven to be fairly reliable. These hubs cost around £60 which, in my eyes, is a much more realistic figure for the amount of engineering contained in any dynamo hub.
Shutter Precision SP PD-8 Dynamo Hubs
This is my choice of dynamo hub for my latest build. It’s the newest release of the three hubs I’ve compared, take a look at its spec here. Build quality looks to be very good, certainly it’s more impressive in hand than the Shimano and maybe as good as the Schmidt? Aluminium end caps protect the sealed bearing races and coil inside.
The Shutter Precision dynamo has a different arrangment to most other hubs: A magnetised metal ring rotates with the hub passing through the stator. A traditional dynamo build has magnets individually placed to the hubs interior which revolve around the stator rather than through it. The SPs magnet ring allows a quick assembly which must be a key factor in the very reasonable price tag of around £80. This appears a very clever and efficient design and looks likely that it will become common place behind other manufacturers casings, SP have sold the license for their design to several other big name brands.
Although it’s relatively early days for this model, the most important factor in determining a hubs longevity is the design and quality of the casing and its seals. The SPs feel is reassuringly solid and looks to be impenetrable, I’ve not heard of a single unit failing to moisture ingress or through any other reason. The Shutter Precision SP PD-8 reassuringly comes with a two year warranty.
Considering ingenuity of its design, robustness of its casing and seals, category leading efficiency and value for money the Shutter Precision SP PD-8 is my choice of dynamo hub for cycle touring.