12 October, 2010

Those New Dyno Hubs

A lot of folks have e-mailed asking about the new dyno hubs I've mentioned. I'm also told there was some rather silly speculation about them in various discussion forums (Due to time constraints I no longer read any forums). In any case I thought I'd say a bit more about them.

First off, I want to repeat that new hubs are not designed by VO. I only wish we were that smart and inventive. We found this new company, or they found us, almost by accident, but when I saw the hub mechanism I was stunned. I realized that they would cut resistance, compared to a normal dynamo hub, by 50% to 90% on most cyclists bikes.

How is this possible without defying the very laws of physics? It works by uncoupling the dyno mechanism when the lights are not on. So the drag, during the day is that of a normal high-quality sealed bearing front hub. At night the drag is that of a nice (say Shimano) dyno hub. My informal survey of VO's dyno-using customers shows that most use their lights no more that 10-15% of total riding time, yet they have dynamo drag 100% of the time.

That's why I can't imagine anyone buying a dyno hub without a clutch now, except for someone who has their lights on all the time. Game changing? It is for me!

The hub looks like most other dynamo hubs, save for a circular on/off switch that activates a sort of internal clutch. They are now in production, but delivery has been pushed back to about the end of the year. The price should be around $120. Pre-built wheels will also be available.

A new head light will also be available. It uses a Cree LED.  Our lighting expert and tester says it's among the brightest light ever made, though the beam is a little narrower than the best European lights. The cost will be around $60.

30 comments:

Erik said...

Hmm. No flux capacitor? No multi-cluster quark drive? I'll bet it doesn't even plane. Rats. I guess I'll just have to buy one for the regular old physics, reasonable price, and above average performance..

yangmusa said...

Sounds a bit like the Renak Enparlite dynamo hub: http://renak.de/wordpress/enparlite2/

Except of course, the Renak clutch lever isn't round, and the Renak uses gears to speed up the internal mechanism - allowing the diameter of the hub to be smaller. Reviews I've seen were mixed.

The clutch idea is great though - looking forward to seeing it implemented on a quality dynamo!

superfreak said...

kind of a let down. i was expecting a perpetual motion machine that would get us off carbon fuels AND power all of our bike lites
tho a clutch is definately novel and new and a good idear
thx superfreak

Anonymous said...

You mean I stocked up on dilithium crystals for nothing?!
Sounds great, actually.
I have a fancy-pants SON 20R hub wheel which is awesome on long brevets, but most of my day to day riding is in broad daylight. It seems a shame to put all that mileage on that $300 hub when it's not necessary, so I sometimes switch to a regular wheel. But then I risk getting caught out after dark.
I'll definitely get one of these new hubs for daily use, and save the SON for those rides with long hours of night riding .

Anonymous said...

Will my bike be more likely to "plane" when the clutch is engaged or not ?

Anonymous said...

The only downside I can see is that the clutch mechanism adds a potential point of failure. The price looks great and I am definitely interested, especially compared with the Shimano hub, which has some moderate drag when switched off. When I get into a new bike next year a dynohub is definitely on the wish list.

Nigel Beardsley Smith said...

Does the clutch function as the light switch then, with the lights left in an on position? Is the clutch on the hub or is it operated by switch? Would I have to get off the bike to switch it on?

Anonymous said...

I don't get it.

Why would I want a more mechanically more complicated dyno hub (clutch, planetary gears) when I can have a simple SON, which adds less drag than a Shimano with lights on, and virtually no drag with lights off?

Nate Knutson said...

Zero percent of utterly negligible does not a paradigm shift make. It will probably be a very nice hub. I'll probably buy one and like it. But, it's going to take either a new, higher power level for the same drag or Schmidt-like absurdly high reliability in a cheaper package to really make the "game" all that different.

Other questions that maybe can now be answered without giving away any of the big secrets:
1. Is a version equivalent to the SON20s going to be released, or is it going to play by the same German-law-bound rules as most generator hubs for power output with big wheels at low speeds?
2. Disc versions?
3. Are you going to provide good, clear info on how to maintain/overhaul them? Now that would be game changing IMO.

Chris Kulczycki said...

The clutch acts as a switch, so no switch on the light is required, cutting down on complexity.

The SON hub does have a little less drag than a Shimano hub, but there is still drag even with the light off. Just try to spin the axle with your fingers and you'll see how much. With these hubs there is virtually no drag with lights off. You'll be able to come to our showroom and spin them-side by-side.

Human nature being what it is, there will be folks trying to publicly justify their $250 hubs. No need for that, just buy what you think is best for you.

Anonymous said...

Nate, This hub puts out more light for a given amount of human power since you only use the dynamo when you need actually light.

Since it is sealed bearing, I assume an overhaul just requires replacing bearing cartridges. Any shop can do that in a few minutes. The hub's clutch is not like a car's clutch that transmits high torque; it's probably a simple mechanical coupler that should be super reliable.

nordic_68 said...

I support a wider variety of dyno hubs at various price points, so kudos to VO. Keep up the good work!

I cannot feel my SON 20R (i.e. resistance) at any speed, whereas the full size SON hubs could be felt (to be notchy) at low speed. Neither bothers me and the finger spinning the axle test only magnifies what is insignificant.

I run both my road bikes on dyno hubs and they're always illuminated, regardless of weather or time of day. There's simply no reason not to, given the high maintenance interval of the german products. A more affordable product might benefit from a clutch to free up the mechanism which could prolong its life...

Ned C said...

Will they be available in bot on as well as QR versions? I'd be much more interested in a bolt version for a city bike.

Anonymous said...

Can the new hub clutch be controlled by a small remote control lever brazed to the upper fork blade, kinda like the Frenchy builders used to do behind the seat tube on their generator-equipped Randonoose bikes ?

Anonymous said...

Any chance of a disc compatible model? I know discs aren't very velo-orange like, but some of us use them.

AJH said...

The Schmidt SON smaller hub has less drag when the light is not running. I think it must have a clutch? These look like the finest dyno hubs around, so I think price will be the determining factor on which hub brand.

Le Cagot said...

All dynamo hubs have more resistance when generating power, but there is still some resistance when they are not generating. It is easy to feel this. Even though this level of resistance is lower, it is always present when the wheel is spinning. Cumulatively, it becomes significant.

If this hub eliminates the "non-generating" resistance, it must, by simple calculation, be the most efficient design yet, and by a wide margin.

F said...

Besides being a bike nut, I've long been a "flashaholic". Since the introduction of the Cree 1 watt LED emitters, I have been using battery powered lights on my bike because the Cree's are truly superior to any other light emitter in terms of efficiency. I have been waiting patiently for someone to make a dyno-compatible one. Since my single cr123-powered Cree can throw a beam that looks like a motorcycle headlight for a solid hour, I know this dynamo headlight is going to blow people away! You just can't understand until you've used a Cree!

Anonymous said...

I'll add to the call for a disc brake compatible model. If you're going to introduce a new and improved design that is unique to the market you should really take advantage of the whole market!

I would immediately buy one for my disc equipped touring bike and have, in fact, been waiting to buy a disc compatible dyno hub until I know if you're going to offer one.

Andres said...

Another vote/hope for disc-brake compatible version!

Anonymous said...

Love the idea of a low-drag, reasonably inexpensive dynohub.

I'd love to get a B&M, but I can't justify the cost for as little as I ride in the dark these days, and most cheap ones sound like they'd add a ton of drag.

So, inexpensive and low drag? perfect.

Build one on a nice 700c rim and I'm on it.

John said...

A bolt on 6 bolt disc version would be a shimano killer.

tjh said...

I like the clutch idea a lot but I'm also not opposed to my light being on during the day...Better visibility by motorists is always a good thing. Now if it had a "pulse" mode during the day like my moto, SHAZAAM.

Anonymous said...

I guess the biggest concern I would have is operating the clutch from the saddle. Or even accessing the clutch with front low rider panniers. I suppose you also kinda lose the "Senso" function of lamps. It operates basically like a sexy bottle gen. I will probably get one just because it's cool. Most likely for a porteur build without front panniers.

Anonymous said...

Reading though the page below a dynamo is described which sounds similar.

http://www.xs4all.nl/~swhs/fiets/tests/verlichting/index_en.html

lee.watkins said...

please offer a drum brake version of the fancy new dyno hub. You see drum brakes make sense for the same exact reason that dyno hubs make sense - they don't slip in the rain, ice, and snow - or when dirty with mud!

second, the obvious response by the competition will be to develop an electronically-activated clutch that senses when it is dark. Might as well get one working before someone else does.

Anonymous said...

The clutch is a great feature for long distance riding where you want to shave off any bit of drag. For my daily commute, a little more drag is not a big deal--I'd opt for a cheaper, more reliable version without the clutch. Perhaps eventually stock a version without the clutch too?

Eric said...

Any update on when these are expected to arrive?

Benjamin said...

They should add the same feature to a motor-driven electric bicycle wheel.

Anonymous said...

What ever happened to these? Are they still in the works or is this project dead?