Bike lights: Is pedal-powered dynamo or rechargeable battery better for cycling?
Bike lights: Is pedal-powered dynamo or rechargeable battery better for cycling?
There are, generally, two types of bike lights. In North America, where most bikes are built for speed rather than practicality, lights are often an aftermarket product, powered by rechargeable batteries and affixed to handlebars and seatposts. But there is another way, common elsewhere, to stay lit up while riding by integrating lights that are powered by the rider’s pedal strokes through a dynamo.
Which type is best? In this video, I set out to answer that question.
0:56 Aftermarket battery lights
2:56 Dynamo lights
5:20 Pros and cons of aftermarket battery lights
6:32 Pros and cons of dynamo lights
7:35 The winner
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First of all, thanks for your channel, I enjoy it quite a bit in the background while I am working, which also is why i don’t click the ‘like’ button often enough as I should, sorry.
Somebody probably already said it, not gonna read all comments, but for me while dynamo light seems cool, i like to be able to clip the battery operated ones to my helmet so cars can see me over other cars. Can’t imagine dynamo lights doing that, so that is another con for them. That is until most poeple upgrade from SUVs to semitruck sized vehicles, bigger is better, than we’re all scrooed…
What kind is bike is that you’re riding?
Back when I first started riding occasionally at night in the 1970s, battery powered incandescent bike lights were practically useless, throwing maybe 10 to 30 lumens, and a dynamo powered headlight was the way to go. Now? Battery powered LED bike lights can throw several hundred, even thousands of lumens. The difference is incredible. Battery powered LED bike lights are the way to go!
You can mount the aftermarket red light on the back of your helmet, where drivers can see it better.
I actually use the light that came on my bike, and a Nitecore aftermarket light. The aftermarket light is far brighter, and has a remote switch for changing between high beam/low beam without taking your hands off the handlebars. I just leave it mounted all the time so it never gets forgotten, and the display gives you the remaining runtime in hours and minutes. I ride at night frequently, and recharge about once a month.
As a bike rider year round, I have gone through a lot of lights, head lights and tail lights. However, with the introduction of LED lights things have gotten brighter 🙂 For a head light I use the Bright Eyes Fully Waterproof 1600 Lumen Rechargeable Mountain, Road Bike Headlight, with a maximum light out put of 1600 Lumans, it uses a external rechargeable battery, so I carry two batteries. As for tail lights Any of the LED blinking tail lights are good. Cateye Omni 5 is one of my favorites. But its battery powered, but lasts up to 120 hours on two batteries, I think AA, might be AAA. So lights are important. Too many accidents involving cars and bikes, happen after dark. Stay safe and wear a helmet. P.S. Unless the Dynamo light has a small capacitor, your light goes out when you stop. And they can slow you down. P.P.S. Yes, I’ve used a Hub dynamo and the kind that ride on the tire. Lights where never bright enough fo rme.
Imagine someone proposed to sell cars without permanent lights and instead to rely on the after-market for people to buy detachable lights that they have to charge frequently.
Everybody would look at you like "are you crazy???". That would get considered by most everybody as obviously a HUGE downgrade, and detrimental to basic road safety, as you could forget them at home or run out of charge.
Cool, video😊! and nice trick for getting comments!
My old bike didn’t come with Dynamo lights, so I bought an aluminum one for my handlebars. It’s VERY bright, and the power button changes from blue to red when the battery reaches 20%, so I’m never blind-sided by a dead battery at an inconvenient time.
The new vine I just bought has Dynamo lights, but I might keep the aluminum one as a backup, just in case. I get off work at 10PM, so I’m might not be a terrible idea for me to keep a backup.
What a practical mom! A pro and con list of prom dates! Women make plans for us.
I would actually put dynamo lights being hard to remove as a pro, not a con. Where I live in the UK, leaving your bike somewhere for more than half an hour is an advert to thieves. If they can’t take the bike, they’ll take anything attached to it that isn’t wired in. I don’t always remember to remove my lights when I’m just nipping in to the shop etc., and I’ve had lights stolen more than once. Imo the harder they are to remove, the more likely they are to actually remain on my bike.
Uh nope not sold I’m good with my bike lights.
For the domino lights I think>
What happens when your at a stop light and a car coming right up you and your lights are out because your out of juice ?
Good things are………………………………you won’t forget them…………….you don’t have to charge them………that’s I have to say about those light’s.
For the traditional bike lghts I think>
O man you have to charge them ? O no what a nightmare ! You have to remember to take them with you ? Uh keep them on your bike ? If you can charge them while on your bike that’s even better ! They stay on till you turn them off or you forget to charge them ? Remember to take them off when you leave to your destination. They are more brighter They have different settings. And you can put them anywhere including your backpack.
Ride safe everyone use your dam lights and wear your dam helmet !
Dynamo lights tipically have way less intense light compared to a decent light. Most people don’t really realize this, because they buy the cheap, trash lights. Just like that Kryptonite one. That should be banned, so useless.
Thank you for this information. In our country, most are selling rechargeable lights well in fact, the power produced in pedalling is very efficient and sustainable + it is also environment-friendly.
I use modern permanently mounted LEDs with a top end AXA HR Traction tire dynamo. People don’t realize that tire dynamos got very efficient fifteen years ago and only cost $20 and can power any modern lamp. Also, flashing lights should be illegal everywhere. You’re not an ambulance.
Hub dynamo average $130, cheapest found $75 lights, spokes and rim not included.
Cat eye light set $60 complete.
No contest in my opinion.
I never remove my lights at home so can’t forget.
Both mine warn me long before I’ll be left in the dark.
I control if they are on or off.
Bright enough to avoid potholes at 25 mph.
No resistance in the day when I don’t need lights.
No proprietary special order parts.
If they hadn’t invented bright LEDs and lipo batteries I’d be completely for these dynamo hubs but instead I’m the guy shaking my head and sticking to my glorified flashlights.
When it comes to safety – you want it to never stop working or be able to forget it.
Front Wheel hub Dynamo paired with capacitor Lights. This is by FAR the best lighting Solution and will beat rechargeable lights in pretty much any real life Situation.
Rechargeable Lights suck. I have to ride to work at 2AM. Hence it’s dark. I have forgotten to recharge those stupid lights before, everyone has. I don’t have to explain why it’s bad to have empty bike lights at 2AM….
Also: They are detacheable. Ths is neccessary to be able to charge them. This is bad however for theft. If you leave them on, chances are high they get stolen.
This has two side effects, leading to the same event. First, you did ride with lights, someone stole them. You’ll be riding home in darkness. Second, you haven’t brought the lights with you, because it would be still daylight when you ride home and you didn’t wanna carr around the lights. But then it took longer then expected and now your riding home in darkness.
Dynamo Lights are fixed to the bike. They can only be stolen by using Tools. And nobody does that, because those Lamps are worth nothing.
Hub Dynamo with capacitor Lights tough…. Your lights are still on on every crossing. You NEVER have to think about your lights. They are there, whenever you need them, day or night, summer or winter, rain or sunshine. You didn’t think you’d be needing lights on your way home? Just turn them on, there you go!
Dynamos that rub against the Tire are bad tough. They’ll cost you a lot of speed. Front Hub Dynamos on the other hand are way more expansive – but you won’t be able to tell it’s even there.
I wonder if there is a hybrid that can briefly keep it lighted when you stop. Not sure if it generates enough energy for that though.
Con: You have to buy a whole new bike…….
I bought a bike with integrated lights, but they are battery operated. -.-
Make it make sense.
Other pros and cons not included.
You listed the cost of buying rechargeable lights as a con. But built in dynamo lights also cost money which is built into to purchase price.
I leave my rechargeable lights permanently on my bike (never been stolen) which negates the con or having to remember them.
Additional dynamo cons:
When stuck at the traffic lights the dynamo lights run out of power after a couple of minutes
Dynamo system is expensive to fix
Rechargeable lights also have a flashing function option that dynamo lights don’t offer. Flashing lights massively increase your visibility around motorists.
IMO the introduction of LED rechargeable lights was a game changer. I prefer rechargeable lights for overall performance and safety. Having to recharge them after every six night time commutes is easy.
A hub stator; probably.
Great video. Very informative. I’d love built-in lights on my bike, but I guess it requires buying a build already equipped, or can a bike be adapted?
I used to ride with dynamo lights when I was a kid back in the 80s. Roller on the tyre, so it buzzed and sapped your speed, and they turned off the moment you stopped moving. I used to think it’d be a good thing to put in a capacitor to maintain a bit of charge, but they were incandescent bulbs back then and it wouldn’t have been enough.
Nice to see the technology has improved in the last 35 years!
You forgot about ancient tyre-scratching dynamos 💀
Still very common, but in my opinion completely useless.
A pro for dynamos is they are more environmentally friendly. We could really do without the incessant reliance on batteries for every single thing.
Thanks for the video.
There is a second type of dynamo light, which doesn’t require a wheel change. They are way more compatible and quite easy to install.
They work like a speed sensor.
You strap big magnets to the spokes, and put the receiver on the frame/fork.
Then you route the cables to the lights.
I personally use the brand reelight with capacitor. You get a few minutes of back blinking light, a few second of dim front light.
The power is not that big, but sufficient to be seen at night.
As said in the video, the big plus, is that you ALWAYS have a light. It’s a huge plus, security wise.
I also have a powerful front light (800 lumen), in order to see better on dark street, but I can do without it whenever I forget it, or run out of batteries. Best of both worlds.
I think you should’ve mentioned that dynamo lights don’t hold a candle when it comes to maximum power output of battery lights. If you need to commute after sunset through some dark areas, a hub dynamo light might not provide you with enough firepower to ride with any sort of confidence. Especially if you like keeping your pace brisk.
Con: you can’t relocate them or choose where on the bike they are mounted. (Dynamo still wins but let’s not softball the cons.)
I want a dynamo that charges the battery. Problem solved.
Dynamos are great, if they actually work. Hell, I have spent so much time kneeling down next to my bike trying to figure out why my bottle dynamo doesn’t get proper contact to the wheel or why it flipped back for some reason.
Might be bad quality product, but it’s definitely a con for me.
Yes, I also want to install dynamo at my bike, but it requires more time and money.
None of the "Cons" you talked about where the fault of the light. Yes I’ve had my 1600 lumen headlight go out on me. But I always carry a spare battery. As far as the rest of my rechargeable lights go, just keep track of how long you use them. As for my battery powered blinking lights, I just carry extra AA and AAA batteries. Oh, and those built in lights on your bike, more then likely upped the price of that bike. Plus, if something happens to the lights or the dynamo, that can be a pain to fix or replace quickly. And even though the new dynamo hubs do add much resistance, they do add some. Oh, how bright is your front light, in Lumen’s or candle power?
Any electromechanical device that works by rotating in a magnetic field is considered a dynamo. That means a generator is a dynamo and a motor is a dynamo too. We as English speakers however have come to commonly refer to generators as dynamos. If anything the common use of a word has more value to me than the technical definition.
Just carry spare batteries no drama. My light is a torch it has a sleave it slides into on the bar and it was great for camping also it hung in the tent and if you go shopping just slide her out and put in your pocket to prevent theft.
A little biased
The 1 pro of battery lights, you forgot to mention… is they are way brighter than dynamo lights, which trumps all the dynamo’s pros.
Being able to see 60 – 80 feet in front of you, gives you a lot more reaction time… vs… the measly 10 – 15 feet of dim light a dynamo light gives.
All the other cons of battery lights can be negated by mounting 2 head lights on your bars, & use 1 at a time.
With a battery life of 6 hours each… that gives you 12 hours of BRIGHT light… & if you really need more, you can get an extention bar/battery pack, that will recharge both lights on the go, giving you 24 hours of BRIGHT light.
When at home, just drag an extention power strip to your bike & recharge your lights attached to the bike… no forgetting your lights.
Or… get a usb connector for your dynamo, & use it to recharge 1 light on the go, while using the other, or recharge your lights while riding in the day time.
Worth mentioning dynamos are expensive compared to LED lights. Also worth noting is that battery powered lights do not perform well in extreme cold weather
Another issue that I’ve gotten into is getting rear lights tgat work with rear panniers. With my old panniers, I adapted light bracket to stick out behind the road side pannier. My new panniers sit back more, so now I have a rear light that bolts onto the back of the pannier rack. Npt all pannier racks have a plate with bolt holes for such a light, but the lights tgat I use work quite well for me.
You can’t remove dynamo hub light is a con? Why would you ever want to remove it?
With a little extra cost and effort, you could use your dynamo hub to charge your toys (cell phone, nav, battery lights,…) and still light your bike when you need it.
Biggest pro with the aftermarket lights: They’re the only lights I could get for my bike.
I have been thinking about a dynamo system on my touring bike. It is the one that I might chose for a long ride and run out of battery power. BUT the hardware is expensive and people will steal anything. Someone could undo the light from the bracket or just cut it off and disconnect the wires. It does not matter that it won’t work without the rest of the wiring, it is bright and shiny so it must be worth something. I would not use a dynamo on a commuting bike but it makes sense on a bike you use for longer rides.
Battery lights are a pain to remember to charge. I work evenings and often find the battery fades before I get home on occasion. Also they don’t last very long. The straps break and batteries lose their charge with regular use. Being disposable is not good for the environment.
Battery lights are brighter this is much safer, mine are 500 and 900 lumens and can readily be moved to different bikes but Im sure these things are already in the comments.
I’d rather use bike lights that use AA batteries because lithium batteries last forever so then I don’t have to remember to charge anything before a ride.
Unrelated: what software/hardware do you use for noise cancellation? You clearly film and record outside, but the wind is very subtle!
i use bottle type dynamo so that i can have the option to use them or not and i also use rechargable lights especially on dark areas you can adjust them to how wide the area you want to be lit but at night dynamo light is my main driver
I really dislike dealing with batteries in nearly every facet of my life. If I have to have a battery on a bike, a keyboard and mouse, or a computer, I want it to be removable, and I will use it sparingly anyways. Keeping my phone at a decent charge is enough hassle by itself. With that all said, it wouldn’t hurt to keep a few basic rechargeable lights in a bag.
hub dynamo lights are expensive to purchase/install and are included on very expensive bikes, the light bulb can still fail stranding you without light and the bike becomes more cumbersome to service with extra wires running all over the place .