- How Much Will This Cost: It’s an investment. You’re looking at a the minimum a front wheel build and a light unit. How many times have you been stuck somewhere with a dead light, or have avoided starting a ride because you forgot to charge? Maybe I’m the only one that’s bad at charging things. How much is not worrying about your light source worth to you?
- To Charge Or Not To Charge: USB charging is fantastic when you are on a long or multi-day ride. During the day I plug in my Garmin, extending its usable time exponentially, then at night flip a switch and power goes to the light. You can also charge a cache battery which will keep all of your electronics topped off during your trip. (I carry two cache batteries on long distances in order to rotate charge/discharge duties.
- Light Beam Shape: Symmetrical light beam is preferred. Many touring and “commuter” lights have a beam made to focus on the ground and directly ahead, but cut off the top end of the beam pattern so that it doesn’t shine too brightly in the eyes of oncoming traffic or pedestrians. For night riding on gravel roads or single/double track, this isn’t of much concern. Symmetrical beams give you better light spread, and allow the light to be mounted upside down in some applications (check with the manufacturer’s suggestions as some units may not be weatherproof when mounted in this manner.
- Internal Wire Routing: Some adventure bike manufacturers such as the Salsa Cycles and Rodeo Labs now have bikes and aftermarket forks with internal dynamo wiring routing on their forks. This keeps wires out of the way of rocks, brush, small woodland creatures, etc. If you are building or buying a new bike, it’s worth looking at some of these options.
- Mounting The Light: Definitely a personal preference call, and something that I will cover in more detail in the future, and my preference is on the handlebars or fork crown. Mounting on the fork crown is the standard, and most steel forks have this as an option. When you get into carbon forks, the crown mounting options are severely truncated. The newest Salsa Cutthroat and Firestarter Carbon, and Rodeo Labs Rodeo Spork forks have crown mounting options, as does the fork on the Specialized
- The Myth Of Drag: The amount of drag in modern dyno hubs is negligible, but the myth of added drag slowing you down is still perpetuated by a few non-believers out there on the dusty trail. Peter White has written a great piece on generator hub drag, you should read it for reference, but look at it this way, YOU ARE RIDING GRAVEL. If you were that concerned with going a fraction of a mph faster, you’d be a roadie. I rest my case.
Sam likes to get dusty, icy, muddy, wet, and sweaty for as long as possible… all in the name of turning pedals. He is a veteran of Trans Iowa, CIRREM, and a team member of Guitar Ted’s in the Bike Iowa Gent’s Race. In 2018 he will be racing in the 24 Hours of Cumming (also with GT), Gravel Worlds, and Spotted Horse Gravel Ultra in addition to the Central Iowa Spring Gravel Series and various Rando/Bikepacking/Touring trips. His love of endurance gravel cycling and getting rad with the sickest gear bring him to us here at ridinggravel.com. In addition to being a life long cyclist, Sam is also the chef/creator/owner of Tacopocalypse and Krunkwich Ramen House restaurants in Des Moines, IA, and has been featured regularly on Food Network’s Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives, and Guy’s Grocery Games. He also chronicles his own bike exploits at the cyclistnotbiker.com blog, and gets a little rowdy about eating plant based (yes, he’s a Vegan Cyclist) at his food blog, thevulgarvegan.com