Mounting Dynamo Lights
First I'll cover mounting headlights
Most of the dynamo powered headlights I sell are designed to meet strict German standards for bicycle lights. In a nutshell, the standards exist to ensure that the headlight beam illuminates the road surface without blinding oncoming drivers and cyclists. The beams are brightest at the top, and become progressively dimmer towards the bottom. The road closer to the rider needs less light to appear as bright as the road further away. These progressive beams are like an automobile's low beam. In order to work as well as possible, the beam is designed with the height of the headlight off the ground as one of the parameters. If the beam is too low, the ground near the rider gets more light than is optimal. If the headlight is too high, the ground near the rider gets too little light. However, mounting too low is far worse than too high.
So these German lights are all designed to work best when mounted at the fork crown, just above the front tire of a normal bicycle with 26" or 700c wheels. You can position them higher or lower, but the further you get from the top of the tire, the more the beam is compromised. Mounting at the handlebar still works well, but if you mount the light too low, the beam deteriorates badly. So I recommend against mounting lights at the level of the front hub, even though many people find that to be a very convenient location for a headlight. It may be convenient, but the beam will be poor.
All of the Busch & Müller headlights and most of the others attach to a mount via a 6mm hole in the base. The hole takes a bolt, horizontally aligned, and perpendicular to the direction of travel. While this interface is almost an industry standard, that doesn't mean you can use any headlight on any mount. Busch & Müller headlights have plastic housings which make them extremely light. Most weigh about 2 ounces. But a few headlights, such as the Schmidt Edelux and Supernova, use aluminum housings. The Schmidt weighs almost 3 ounces, and the Supernova weighs in at about 5 ounces. Busch & Müller goes to great lengths to ensure that their headlight mounts are strong enough for their headlights, but they don't test their mounts with lights made by other manufacturers, and so you can't just assume that a B&M mount will be suitable for some other brand of headlight. None of the B&M metal mounts can be used with Supernova headlights. Though some are probably strong enough, they usually position the switch at the rear of the Supernova headlights too close to the bicycle.
I have different mounts for different bikes. For example, if your bike has sidepull caliper brakes, you can't use a mount designed for cantilever brakes if you're mounting the light at the fork crown. Caliper brake mounts generally also work with V brakes, as the connecting wire passes in front of the mount. However, all mounts for V brakes won't necessarily work with caliper brakes. The base of the mount must be fairly flat and thin if you're going to mount a caliper brake.
Some headlights are designed to project light not only at a distance, but quite close to the bicycle. These are ideal for commuters and people who ride bike paths. The Busch & Müller Lumotec CYO R headlights and the Lumotec IQ Fly RT, introduced in October, 2010 are ideal commuter headlights. But if they aren't mounted high enough above the front tire, the lower part of the beam will be blocked by the tire, or the fender. You do have fenders on your commuter bike, right? So the height of the mount must be taken into account. Some light housings are tall, like the Lumotec IQ Fly, and so they don't need a tall mount to get the light's beam high enough. Other lights, like the Lumotec CYO R are very short, and need a tall mount for the beam to clear the tire and fender.
I list every dynamo headlight mount I sell below, and with each mount, I will soon list all of the headlights it is compatible with. Some headlights ship with a mount included. I note that with each mount.
Some headlights, like those from Schmidt, have a switch that protrudes upwards from the body of the light. If the light is mounted at the fork crown, and if your bike has lots of cables routed past the fork crown, such as for STI and ERGO shifters, those cables might contact the switch, turning your headlight on or off as you turn the handlebar. So you may find that you need to arrange your cables differently.
Mounting any headlight at the fork crown has several benefits. It leaves your handlebar clear for cyclecomputers, altimeters, heart rate monitors and hot & cold running beer dispensers. And as noted above, the beam shapes of German headlights are optimized for the height of the fork crown on a standard bicycle. Positioning the light too high or too low makes the beam less effective.
Here you can see the hot setup back in 1999. On our tandem, using a standard Lumotec, I use a Schmidt cantilever style fork crown mount. The headlight is high enough above the tire that the beam isn't blocked by the tire. There's a handlebar bag above the light. I'm tall enough (5'10") that the handlebar is high enough to hold the bag high enough to clear the light. If you ride with a lower handlebar, you might not have space for a headlight there.
The handlebar mount can be used to place the light low on the side of your fork. Just add the Cronometro Nob. The Nob is intended for mounting computers on aero bars so that the computer is aligned correctly, rather than turned 90 degrees to the side. But the Nob can be mounted to your fork blade, and then my handlebar mount can be mounted on the Nob.
Notice that in the photo above, the mount is on a steel fork. I get lots of telephone calls asking me if this Cronometro Nob is suitable for use with a carbon fiber fork with some bizarre shape. I don't know if it is or if it isn't. I don't use carbon fiber forks, so I'm not competent to comment on the suitability of this method of mounting lights for some sort of carbon fiber impregnated plastic fork.
My handlebar bracket (a slightly modified Shimano Flight Deck computer bracket) holding a Lumotec, attached to a Cronometro NOB. The NOB can be mounted on an aero bar, or on a fork blade, or just about any tube of your bike.
Front view of a Lumotec, mounted on my handlebar bracket, mounted on the NOB, held by fingers. I stock everything but the fingers. By the way, back in the year 2000 when I made this image, the Busch & Müller Lumotec was by far the best dynamo headlight available. It's still a good low cost option, but we now have better lights from Busch & Müller, as well as a few others.
Mounts for Handlebars
Riese und Müller in Germany make a very fine handlebar mount for traditional diameter bars; the R&M mount. This works on handlebars up to 26.0mm diameter. For larger bars, I have other mounts.
If you use a halogen headlight powered by a hub dynamo, you can add a Schmidt E6-Z Secondary for more light at high speeds.
You can put two R&M handlebar brackets, one on each side of the stem and mount both the Primary and the Secondary headlight side by side. The bracket on the left just goes upside down. You still have space on the handlebar for mounting a computer, make-up mirror, or hot & cold running beer dispenser.
This is useful with halogen bulb headlights, since the beams are relatively small. The bulb's output must be concentrated in order to be bright enough. But some people don't like such a small beam, and so they can add a secondary headlight. This is generally not needed with modern LED headlights, though with some models it can be done.
If you use the dual headlight system by adding the E6-Z Secondary, it's helpful but not essential that the Secondary be easily reached while you're riding, since at low speeds (under 8 - 10mph or so) you'll get more light output by having the Secondary switched off. So, if you want the primary headlight mounted on the side of the fork, you may want the Secondary mounted on the handlebar, or at the fork crown. You could have the primary headlight mounted at the fork crown, and the Secondary mounted on the handlebar. You can have both headlights mounted on the handlebar, or both on an Excess Access bar. Some people simply put both headlights on the fork blades; one on each side, using two Cronometro Nobs and two handlebar mounts.
With all the stuff people have on their handlebars, it can be nice to mount the headlights down on the fork blades, out of the way of cables, odometers, heart rate monitors, etc. By using the Cronometro Nob and my handlebar bracket, you can place one or two headlights on your forks. This page shows you how to do it. The bike is a Rambouillet.
The lights shown here are the Schmidt E6 Primary and E6 Secondary. But this installation will work with the Lumotec and Lumotec Oval Plus headlights also. And remember, both headlights can be the Schmidt E6 models, or both Lumotec models, or a mix. Mix an E6 Primary and Lumotec Secondary or have a Lumotec Primary with an E6 Secondary. It doesn't effect the wiring or mounting.
Start by mounting a Nob on the left fork blade. This will be for your Primary headlight, assuming you live where it's customary to ride on the right side of the road. If you use just one light, or if you have a Secondary but only use it for fast downhills, this keeps the light that's on all the time positioned on the left, where it will be more visible to oncoming traffic.
The Nob works just like a hose clamp. Wrap it around the fork blade, preferably where the blade is not tapered. If you put it on the tapered part of the blade, it can slide down. On steel forks this means placing the Nob up on the oval section of the blade near the top. On plastic forks, aka carbon fiber, perhaps this method will work; perhaps it won't. I don't know. I only know it works well on steel forks without a taper, or on the non-tapered upper section of an otherwise tapered steel fork, such as shown in the photo below. If you have a plastic fork, you would be well advised to mount your lights directly off the handlebar. You might also want to replace your fork, but that's another matter.
Next, trim the excess from the Nob's band with a sharp blade. Don't scratch the paint! ;-)
Now, mount a handlebar bracket onto the Nob. My handlebar bracket is made from a Shimano Flight Deck computer mount with some added hardware. Place the handlebar bracket with the nut for the light away from the wheel, giving maximum clearance between the light and the wheel.
Now, mount the light onto the handlebar bracket. The wire from the Primary light needs to wrap over the back of the fork and down the right fork blade, since the hub's connectors must be on the right side of the bike, unless you have an older SON hub with the black center section between the spoke flanges. With the older hub, the connectors can be on either side. And remember, always mount the headlight right side up. The hole for the mounting bolt is on the bottom. If you mount the headlight upside down, you ruin the superb beam that justifies the cost of these headlights. The light will be very bright close to you and extremely dim further away. Keeping the headlight mounted right side up gives you the most even illumination of the road in front of you.
Here's how it should look from the front. If the headlight is so close to the wheel that it touches the spokes, you've mounted the handlebar bracket backwards. Take the headlight off and reverse the handlebar bracket. If you'll just be using a single headlight, and lots of people do, you're almost done! But this is the Dual Headlight page, so we'll continue. ;-)
Now mount the second Nob on the left fork blade, opposite the Nob on the right. Trim the end and mount the other handlebar bracket. Then mount the headlight onto the handlebar bracket.
Use some cable ties or zip ties to hold the wiring in place. You can get zip ties at any hardware store. Loop any excess cable from the headlight around the Cronometro Nob.
You may still have some excess wire. Loop it together between the fender and the fork crown. Use zip ties to keep everything tidy. If you don't have fenders, try to wrap as much wire as you can around the Nobs.
Here are the wires as they attach at the hub. One wire from each headlight plugs into the hub. The two remaining connectors, one male, one female, connect to each other. (The black plastic block bolted to the dropout eyelet in the upper left corner of the photo is part of the front fender mount. It has nothing to do with the lights or wiring.)
Use zip ties to gather the loose ends together. Trim off the excess length from the zip ties. It makes no difference how you orient the connectors. Here they're pointed down. If you want to point them up, or consult with a Fung Shui Master about it, feel free.
Each light can be easily aimed right to left, and up or down.
Oh, ah, please excuse the mess.
And here's the finished product, all ready for Paris Brest Paris. You can also mount the headlight or headlights directly on the handlebar, if you have space, or off the handlebar with an accessory mount like the Minoura Space Grip. That would eliminate the need for the Cronometro Nobs. But with the lights on the fork, there's no interference with brake and derailleur cables, and your handlebar is free to mount whatever else you need.
You can find mounts for the front hub skewer. But I don't recommend having your headlight that low. The beam won't project well on the road surface. Mount your lights as high as you can on the fork blades.
How Not to Do It!
Don't mount the lights upside down. Many dynamo headlights and taillights can get water inside if they're upside down, and most of the headlights (B&M, Schmidt, Inoled) are designed to project brighter light at the top of the focused beam, to give more even and safer road illumination. The top part of the beam is projected further down the road, therefore it needs to be brighter. Our headlights tend to be more expensive than many other headlights designed for use with dynamos. The higher prices are partly due to the superior design of the optics. If you mount the lights upside down, you'll end up with a headlight that doesn't even work as well as the cheapest headlights available, you've wasted your money, and you're less safe while riding because you can't see the road ahead of you as well. Please don't mount the lights upside down!
Here's a particularly bad configuration.
A custom builder (who won't be named) thought this location would be perfect. But the Supernova E3 Pro is designed to be used with the mount positioned at the bottom of the headlight housing, even if you have the round or symmetrical beam. The wires connect at the bottom, and water can enter the housing where the wires are attached if you position the light upside down. With the light right side up, it's never a problem. But on this bike, not only can rain fall directly onto the headlight, but water gets picked up by the tire and is thrown forward, directly onto the headlight. This bike was built with a front fender, but the fender doesn't extend far enough forward to keep water from spraying directly onto the light! Who thought this was a good idea?
This bike will have to have the headlight mount moved, and then the rack will have to be repainted. And this isn't just an issue with Supernova headlights. It's true of almost all dynamo headlights.
Don't mount dynamo headlights or taillights upside down, unless, ! You may think that having the light upside down makes for an interesting installation. You may think that it helps get the light out of the way; some place more convenient. Well, maybe it does, but it doesn't matter! When the light stops working, that's not particularly convenient, though it may be interesting.
What does "right side up" mean, Peter?
It means that the part of the light that attaches to the mount is located at the bottom of the light. If the part of the light that attaches to the mount is at the top, then, the light itself is upside down. In the photograph above, the light is upside down. In all of the other photographs on this page, the lights are positioned right side up, with their mounting point positioned at the bottom.
I hope this is clear. If it is not clear, please don't get out the solder and the flux and the brazing torch and start building your frame. Put the torch down. Put the cap back on the jar of flux. Put the brazing rod back in its bin. Pick up the phone. Call me. Please.
What's compatible with what?
Note: The following was true of the 2009 production CYO headlights. As of 2010, the CYO headlights are shipping with a similar mount, but with a short vertical section which eliminates the problem discussed here. We still have a few of the 2009 spec CYO headlights, and your bike may or may not be a better fit with the 2009 version of the mount. If you prefer one type of mount over another, let us know when you order the light. We can easily change it.
Don't assume that because a headlight comes with a mount, that that mount will work well on your bike. Here's an example of a very good mount, and a very nice bike, where the two are not a good mix. The 2009 Busch & Müller Lumotec CYO headlights come with a very strong steel mount. It's made of 4.5mm diameter rod. If you've got a vise and can apply some leverage you can bend it if necessary to get a better fit for your needs. Most of the steel mounts B&M makes are stampings, and so cannot be bent without weakening the mount. So I really like this new mount. But sometimes it isn't a good choice.
The original Lumotec IQ CYO headlight mount from Busch & Müller has a tall vertical section at the bottom for adjusting the height of the headlight. This is helpful when you have lots of cables running from the handlebar for brakes and gearing and you want to reduce interference between them and the light. But on a bike like this Rivendell A Homer Hilsen, which uses a traditional fork crown, there's not a lot of distance between the bottom of the fork crown and the bottom of the headset. If you also want to install a fender on this bike, the light mount extending down will force the fender down closer to your tire, which obviously isn't good.
Here's a side view. On a bike with a unicrown fork, this wouldn't be an issue. A unicrown fork is very tall in this area. But with the traditional crown, raising the mount any further would cause it to rub against the headset. With some bikes, having some vertical adjustment can be a very good thing, as long as the fork crown is tall enough.
So here's the same bike, same light, but using the HD Caliper mount instead. It holds the CYO headlight at the same height as the CYO's standard mount, so the beam is still far enough above the tire so the tire doesn't block the beam. And the mount doesn't extend below the fixing bolt of the brake, so it doesn't reduce the space available for fenders and large tires.
So why not ship the CYO headlights with the HD Caliper mount and be done with it? The CYO mount is open in the center, and with most unicrown forks, will work with old style cantilever brakes, as well as V brakes. If the brake yoke is below the mount, the cable car run between the two sides of the mount.
For 2010, Busch & Müller redesigned the CYO mount. The new version is shorter so it will no longer cause fit problems with traditional fork crowns. We still have the original CYO mount available in both shiny stainless and black plated stainless steel.
Nitto Lamp Holder
With the Lamp Holder you add a considerable amount of real estate for mounting headlights, computers, heart rate monitors and whatnot, compared with the handlebar alone, or with any other handlebar accessory I know of. The Lamp Holder is eight inches long, and 22.2mm in diameter, so anything designed to mount on a handlebar can mount to this, with the exception of a handlebar bag that uses the handlebar as its sole support. I have the two clamps as close together as possible in this photo. But of course you can position them wherever you like as long as you're at the center large diameter of your handlebar. These will not fit the new oversized carbon fiber handlebars, only 26.0mm bars, the traditional road size. If you have 25.4mm bars, we have shims for sale, made by Nitto.
Here we have two headlights, a Lumotec Primary and E6 Secondary, a Busch & Müller F Lite, a Cateye computer and a Topeak computer (the closest thing I had to a heart rate monitor) with still room to spare. The gap between the handlebar and the Lamp Holder bar is 1.25" or 31mm.
Here are the same to dynamo powered headlights, plus two B&M Ixons for backup. Anyone doing Paris Brest Paris should have backup lights. And the Nitto Lamp Holder gives you plenty of space for them. $ 89.00
Terra Cycle Mounts
Terra Cycle makes a handy light mount for recumbents and other bikes with unusual mounting requirements.
The arms of the Terra Cycle accessory mount are available in a variety of sizes. You can get both arms 100mm, one arm 75mm and the second 100mm, and one arm 50mm and the second 75mm. This allows the light to be positioned at various distances from the mounting points. $30.
This is a rack side view of the DToplight XS Plus upside down. It's upside down so you can more clearly see the wiring connections on the left side. This taillight is powered by a dynamo. We have similar taillights that are powered by AA batteries, and mount the same way. The light will have two bolts facing forward to attach to a rear rack on your bicycle. Some racks like most Tubus models have a bracket on the rear to mount these lights. But some racks don't. So we have adapters. The light ships without the mounting bolts attached. You can choose between the 50mm width holes or the 80mm width holes. This light has the bolts at 80mm. But since I know of no rear racks sold in the US with holes only at 80mm, but several with holes only at 50mm, I think it's best to use the 50mm holes.
If your rear rack has a single hole in the rear that will take a bolt which faces in the direction of travel, you can mount this bracket into that hole and then you'll have the 50mm and 80mm mounting points for any of the Busch & Müller rack mount taillights such as the DToplight XS Plus above. Busch & Müller Single Hole Bracket: $ 7.00
If your rack has no hole in the rear but does have either a top plate or some cross braces, this T bracket can be clamped to the top of your rack and then the taillight can be bolted to it. The fore/aft length is 155mm.
Here's a DToplight XS Plus mounted on a T bracket using the 80mm bolt positions. Busch & Müller T bracket: $ 5.50
If your bike has a seat post binder bolt that's big and not recessed into the seat cluster, you can probably use this bracket to mount a taillight on the seat post binder bolt. The hole on the left would be at the seat post binder. The hole is about 8.5mm in diameter. Busch & Müller Seat Post Binder Bracket: $ 3.60
I sell Tubus racks which incorporate a mounting bracket which will fit many types of Busch & Müller tail lights including the DToplight Plus and 4DToplight Permanent. The Tubus Cargo is a heavy duty tubular cromoly steel rack for extended touring and heavy loads. Most Tubus racks will directly mount all of the rack mount taillights.
Check out the great variety of headlights for use with the SON.
For a detailed description of compatible taillights, see my page on taillights.
Almost everything you need to know about pricing and ordering a lighting system can be found here.
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This page updated: Thursday, May 2, 2013
Peter White Cycles