By Nick Legan
For extended trips, especially those that head to the backcountry, it can be difficult to decide how to power lights. Increasingly, bikepackers and long-distance cyclists are rediscovering dynamo-hub–powered lighting and charging accessories. With advances in LED technology, the efficiency is drastically improved when compared to older halogen lamp options.
One of the most popular dynamo-powered light names in the off-road bikepacking world is kLite. Handmade in Australia by Kerry Staite, these tough lights are compact, waterproof, efficient and extremely powerful. The Bikepacker Pro model has two modes, offering 1,200 and 700 lumens, respectively.
The Bikepacker Pro uses a very small aluminum casing to house the light. This small size is appreciated as it makes mounting is easier and saves weight as well. The kLite arrives with a series of mounts making it easy to put the light where you want it no matter what handlebar or front bag arrangement you’re using.
The unit kicks on at very low speeds and produces a huge amount of light with a great pattern. Even technical offroad riding is possible with the kLite, though supplementing the Bikepacker Pro with a helmet light may be a good idea if you frequently hit singletrack at night. For dirt and paved roads, the kLite is wonderful. The beam pattern shows relief in the road surface, helping you avoid obstacles and holes on high beam.
In past attempts to go lightweight while providing useable light I’ve used self-contained units that didn’t have nearly the power that the kLite provides. This route is certainly cheaper, but riding at night without sufficient lighting is neither fun nor safe. Alternatively, to reach brighter power I’ve used traditional lights with external battery packs. These certainly deliver the goods over the course of a healthy ride, but the need to them recharge them can be tiresome. A dynamo system keeps lighting at your disposal at any time.
To accompany the headlight and to utilize the dynamo hub during daylight hours, I’ve also been using Sinewave Cycles’ Revolution USB charger. It has worked exceptionally well. I charge my iPhone, a camera, and my GPS using it and it hasn’t missed a beat. I do unplug the USB cable when it rains, but the charger itself is waterproof, with its electronics fully enclosed in epoxy and the connector plated in gold to avoid corrosion. This accessory was sent by kLite and wired into a clever plug-and-play harness with oversized wires and reliable switches.
Once you have a dynamo front wheel, setup and installation is very easy. I found it easiest to install the wire at the hub and work my way up to the handlebars, tidying the wires as I go. I used two zip ties and a length of clear vinyl tape to secure the wire to my fork leg and then a few twist ties to clean up the wires, attaching them to my front brake hose.
K-Lite also sells the Bikepacker Pro as a standalone light with a three-way switch (High, OFF, Low) for $280. A light to run with an existing USB charging setup is $265. kLite's Simple Switch mounts to virtually any round handlebar and costs $54.
For my setup, I also had Staite wire up a Sinewave Cycles Revolution USB charger and an extra switch to directly power either the headlight or the USB charger. This runs an additional $138.
To power the whole thing, you do need a Shimano, SP, or Schmidt front dynamo hub laced into a wheel. This is not the cheapest route for lighting and on-the-go accessory recharging, but it’s perhaps the best.
Nick Legan is the Technical Editor of Adventure Cyclist.