Guide to SON Generator Hubs

Guide to SON Generator Hubs

Generator lighting make bikes far more versatile. You can ride at night and never have to worry how much charge you have left in your batteries. Your lighting system is always there, not consuming significant energy when off, and very little when turned on.
Which generator hub is best for your bike? This post will explain the differences between different Schmidt generator hubs and introduce a few exclusive models made specially for Compass.
Since introducing the first modern generator hub in 1995, Schmidt generator hubs and lights have become the choice of randonneurs, long-distance riders and commuters all over the world. What makes Schmidt hubs special?

  • Low resistance. Some other hubs now come close, but none are faster.
  • Pressure-compensation system. Generator hubs have a larger volume, and as the temperature changes, moist air gets sucked through the bearings into the hub. Many early generator hubs failed that way, so Schmidt developed a pressure compensation system that prevents this. No other maker has addressed this issue.
  • Made in Germany to the highest quality standards.

Schmidt offers a large range of generator hubs. Here is a short guide to the mainstays of the program:
The SON28 is a descendant of the first generator hub. It provides ample power, which was necessary with old halogen lights that consumed far more current than modern LEDs. Today, the SON28 is the perfect choice if you need a lot of current to charge digital devices. With the SON28, you can charge your cell phone and/or GPS while riding at low-to-moderate speeds with your lights on. The downside is a little more weight and resistance.
The Delux was developed originally for bikes with small wheels. Those wheels turn faster, so the hub doesn’t need to produce as much power per revolution. Some of us figured out that it worked fine with larger wheels, too, as long as you rode faster than walking speeds. Then came LED lights with their much-lower power consumption, which illuminated brightly when powered by the Delux, even at low speeds. The minimalist design and aluminum axle make this SON’s lightest generator hub. The downside is the narrow flange spacing, which results in a weaker wheel (and looks a bit odd). When riding out of the saddle on a bike with a Delux hub, the rim can rub on the brake pads.
sonwiThe Delux Wide-Body is our favorite. We use these hubs on most of our bikes. It features the ultra-low resistance of the Delux, but with extra-wide flanges for a much stronger (and nicer-looking) wheel. The weight penalty over the standard Delux is a paltry 27 grams. The Delux Wide-Body is strong enough for off-road racing and even tandems.
We’ve had many requests for Wide-Body hubs with fewer logos. Compass now offers them with only subtle “SON” logos. As another Compass exclusive, we also asked Schmidt to make them with 28 holes (in addition to the standard 32 and 36-hole versions). With the wide flanges, 28 spokes are plenty for a front wheel, even in rough terrain.
All the above hubs are available with the connector-less SL system. This eliminates the wires between hub and bike – a special dropout incorporates an insulated ring that mates with a matching ring on the hub axle. (All you see above on Peter Weigle’s BQ test bike is that there are no wires…)
You remove or install the wheel just like you would on a wheel without a generator hub: Open the quick release and pull out the wheel. Apart from a clean look, this means that there are no connectors that can fail and no wires that can break. You need a bike – or at least a fork – that is prepared for this system. In North America, that means a custom bike. The system is so brilliant that if you get a custom bike, I consider it a “must-have”.
For bikes with disc brakes, we recommend the Delux Disc. Its symmetric flanges are as wide as possible, while still leaving room for the disc rotor. Its internals are the same as the other Delux models, with superlight weight, ultra-low resistance and proven reliability. The Delux Disc features a Center Lock disc mount, but you can get adapters if you want to use a 6-bolt rotor.
The Delux Disc 12 is designed for bikes with thru axles. It has the same ultra-low resistance as the other Delux hubs. Compass now offers a special version of this hub in anodized silver. (Not shown. Usually, it’s available in black only.)
Schmidt’s headlights match the quality of their generator hubs. They simply are the best in the world. The Edelux beam pattern is shaped specifically to provide even illumination of the road, unlike many battery-powered headlights with symmetrical beams that put more light into the sky (and into the eyes of oncoming traffic) than on the road. The beam shape is far more important than the output in lumens, which tells you nothing about where the light goes. The Edelux features a sturdy aluminum housing that will survive tens of thousands of miles on rough roads, where other lights with plastic mounting eyelets tend to crack.
All of us on the Bicycle Quarterly “team” use Schmidt’s generator hubs and headlights on our bikes, because we don’t want to think about lights when a ride takes longer than planned, and we end up returning home in the dark. And for spirited night-time adventures in the mountains, there simply is no other choice for us.
Compass Cycles now is a distributor for select models of Schmidt generator hubs and lights. This means that in addition to offering them directly to our customers, we also wholesale them to bike shops, wheelbuilders and bike builders.
Click here to find out more about Schmidt hubs and lights.

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Comments (83)

  • 47hasbegun

    What are your thoughts on the B&M Luxos IQ-X? Unlike other B&M headlights, its entire body is anodized aluminum. Unfortunately, it still has a plastic lens, unlike the glass of the Edelux.

    December 2, 2016 at 6:23 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The Luxos IQ-X is very nice. I like that it can be mounted hanging or standing, without modifications (the light can be turned inside the mount). What I don’t like is the plastic mounting eyelet. We’ve had these crack on many B&M lights.

      December 2, 2016 at 7:11 am
      • Kirt

        I’m using the IQ-X and find that at low speeds, you get the strobe-like effect – very irritating on long slow climbs in the dark. I was hoping it would store enough juice to not do this. Jan, do these hubs reach a state where their output begins to falter? My commuter has a ~10 year-old model on it.

        December 2, 2016 at 10:41 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          At low speeds, you’ll get the highest output with the SON28. With modern lights, the “strobe” effect is mostly affected by the hub. The Edelux electronics take a second or so to switch to standlight, so they buffer the pulses at low speed very effectively. Even when walking the bike, the illumination is very even.

          December 2, 2016 at 10:48 am
    • Tamaso Johnson

      IQ-X is a great light at that size. The beam shape/pattern is very similar to the Cyo/Edelux and Cyo Premium/Edelux 2 but MUCH brighter. I have noticed the same flicker/strobing at low speeds (sub 10mph?) at Kirt mentioned (I am using it with a ~18mo old SP hub). IMO, the internals are the reason to buy it, and the encasement is neither here nor there for me– no Edelux has the same 100lux internals (yet?). The plastic mounting eyelet/band is a different, less brittle seeming, type of plastic than used on the mounting eyelet on the Cyo-series, so I don’t know if the cracking concerns necessarily carry over.
      The Luxos has a much more robust stand-light/buffer (which eliminates the slow-speed flicker) and the beam shape is wider & more expansive, though not *quite* as bright.

      December 2, 2016 at 3:34 pm
  • Patrick Moore

    SP claims less drag on their “fastest” model than with the SON Deluxe. Who has done comparative tests?
    I’ve used both the original SON R and various SPs and certainly can’t tell the difference by “feel”.
    On Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 5:46 AM, Off The Beaten Path wrote:
    > Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly posted: ” Generator lighting make > bikes far more versatile. You can ride at night and never have to worry how > much charge you have left in your batteries. Your lighting system is always > there, not consuming significant energy when off, and very little when > turn” >

    December 2, 2016 at 6:51 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The German guys at Fahrradzukunft who did all the generator hub power measurements have found that the latest SP model has a bit more resistance than the manufacturer claims, and that the SON Delux/Delux Widebody still is the fastest. As you say, on the road, both have so little resistance that the difference will be difficult to feel.

      December 2, 2016 at 7:22 am
      • Harald

        Did they publish those results somewhere? I don’t see anything on the Fahrradzukunft website.

        December 2, 2016 at 7:58 am
  • Jambi

    These hubs are awesome. This being said, nowhere on the SON website do I see a mention of a wide body Delux hub. Are there only available in the U.S. or through compass?
    Also, a pity that the Delux does not come in 6-hole variant.

    December 2, 2016 at 7:25 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The SON Delux Widebody currently is a U.S. exclusive. No distributor in Europe has ordered the required minimum quantity to get these made. If you need one, Compass will ship all over the world…
      For the disc version, I actually prefer the Center Lock, since it doesn’t rely on the bolts to transmit the braking torque. (Bolts shouldn’t be used that way, even if using 6 bolts means that they are strong enough.) If you want to run a 6-hole rotor, many adapters are available.

      December 2, 2016 at 7:43 am
      • Sam Carlson

        What makes you say bolts shouldn’t be used to transmit braking torque? Cars, locomotives, motorcycles, tanks, and at least some airplanes all use bolts, nuts, studs, or some variation on the nut/bolt connection to affix their brake discs to hubs, wheels, or axles. These bolts are often not highly specialized, and in many cases (motorcycles in particular) they are very similar to those used on bicycles in their simplicity along with the the rotor being directly bolted to the hub with nothing else to sandwich it in place.

        December 3, 2016 at 6:49 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Simple bolts that are threaded all the way from the head to the end are intended to be stressed in tension, not in torsion or shear. You are right, special bolts can be designed to take those loads, but they aren’t used on bicycle disc rotors. It’s not an issue, since there are 6 bolts – rather than the 3 you’d need – because more bolts give you a better chance to keep the rotor true and not rubbing on the brake pads.

          December 3, 2016 at 12:32 pm
      • Alex

        Hasn’t Gerrit Gaastra (idworx) been offering the wide body Edelux since its inception? He’s certainly offered it on his bikes for that long.

        December 3, 2016 at 10:06 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Yes, the Widebody initially was designed for idworx, but only as an OEM part. Compass asked Schmidt to make it available to North America, and we placed the initial order that made this possible. That is why the Widebody is available here, but not in Europe.

          December 3, 2016 at 12:34 pm
      • verbekeerik

        Correctly tightened bolts are never subjected to shear; a bolt creates a high normal force between the disc and the hub. The torque is transmitted through static friction, not through the bolt itself. A bolt is made of hard steel not though steel, exactly for this reason; it needs to be able to “compress” the two items it is holding together, it should never be loaded in any other direction than along its axis.

        December 3, 2016 at 2:27 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          I see your point. The failures I have seen were in places where the bolt was loaded in torsion, rather than along its axis.

          December 3, 2016 at 2:34 pm
    • Jimmy

      I’ve been using a 6-bolt adapter on a centerlock hub for quite a while, no issues.

      December 2, 2016 at 12:09 pm
  • Nick Bull

    Although I would agree that a metal mounting eyelet is better, I have never had one of the plastic ones crack, in over 40,000 of official rando kilometers since I bought my first Cyo, plus tens of thousands of unofficial events and bicycle commuting. My strategy has been to assume that so long as technological change in LED’s continues to be rapid, I will buy less-expensive lights that can be moved from primary rando use to secondary commuter use every couple of years. I now have a Luxos-U on each of my main rando bikes, and hand-me-down Cyos on my tandem and two main commuter bikes. Had I bought Edeluxes, at most I would have one newer Edeluxe II on my primary rando bike, and an older Edeluxe on my secondary rando bike, and my commuters would all still be running hand-me-down E6’s. But it now seems like the rate of technical change in LEDs has slowed, so it’s possible that when the next generation comes along I will buy something I expect to last a decade.

    December 2, 2016 at 8:25 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I agree with you that lighting technology has become quite mature. The step from the halogen lights to the LEDs was so big that I retired all my E6 lights immediately and replaced them with Edelux lights. However, the Edelux II wasn’t such a quantum leap forward. I rode PBP last year with the Edelux I on my René Herse, because it wasn’t worth the hassle and cost for me to upgrade. I have the Edelux II on my Mule, and it’s nicer, especially on gravel where you pick your line among a much wider path, but it’s not a “game changer”. I don’t see how new lights can improve over the Edelux II in a truly significant way. When I see enough at night to descend mountain passes at 80 km/h (50 mph), perhaps that is all I need.

      December 2, 2016 at 9:36 am
      • Nick Bull

        I’d still like to see a next-generation that is both brighter and wider than the Luxos. Particularly on fast, twisty descents, I want a light that I can see a little further down the road, and that lets me see around corners better. And of course, I want all that extra light without requiring more power input from my legs!

        December 2, 2016 at 11:49 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          We all would love to go even faster in the dark… but I am not sure how to reach that goal. Our testing shows that the beam width now is at the maximum of what is useful. When you go down twisty roads, the problem is that the bike is leaning, so your beam is tilted compared to the road surface. There is no good way around that, except perhaps a mount that keeps the light horizontal as the bike leans.
          As to beam length, what I find most important is that not too much light is projected into the near field (as with most battery lights). Otherwise, I am riding into a curtain of light, but my eyes cannot pick out objects in the distance, which doesn’t receive as much illumination. The Edelux (and corresponding B&M) lights put more light into the distance than the near field, so you get more even illumination of your path.

          December 2, 2016 at 12:00 pm
      • Harald

        I think having a “brights” setting for bike lights would be one substantial improvement. I know that BQ likes to aiming lights higher than what the manufacturers recommend (and what I’m comfortable with). Aiming lights as recommended but then having a switch to get additional light in the distance when needed and appropriate would further improve things. I believe one of the BUMM Luxos models already has such a feature, but I have not had a chance to see it myself.

        December 2, 2016 at 12:18 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          That would be useful. It’s not so much a matter of brightness, but a high vs. low beam. On my bikes, I modified the lights with a forked mount that allows changing the light angle on the fly without loosening the attachment bolt.

          December 2, 2016 at 3:01 pm
      • Michael

        I find that my edeluxeii light isn’t anywhere near as bright and the beam is not nearly as evenly dispersed as the pictures I see online from sellers. Is there any way to get it a little brighter and even? I use a widebody hub.

        December 2, 2016 at 1:45 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          First, please make sure you mounted it the correct way. If you mount the optics upside down, you get a very bad light beam, with most of the light going in the sky. (Check that the writing on the reflector inside the light is oriented right-side up.) Beyond that, it could be that the LED isn’t in the right spot any longer. In that case, the beam will not be focused as it should. You could return the headlight to the shop where you bought it to have it checked.

          December 2, 2016 at 8:32 pm
    • Bill Gobie

      Like Nick, I have several Cyos and never damaged an eyelet. There is a Goldilocks tightness where the screw is tight enough to prevent the light from vibrating off aim while riding, yet loose enough that I can aim the light while riding — low for bike trails, high for country roads.
      As for a brighter light with more reach, if there is nothing on the road ahead, you will still see nothing with a brighter light except perhaps some backscatter from the air.
      One thing I miss about the old dim tungsten lights is seeing the stars at night. The new lights are too bright to allow my eyes to fully dark-adapt.

      December 2, 2016 at 5:32 pm
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        I, too, enjoyed watching the stars on rides with the E6. The new lights are a bit like riding in a tunnel of light. Sometimes, I turn off the light (with the handy light switch on my stem) and ride by the standlight for a while. Then, the stars are readily apparent during those wonderful night-time mountain rides.

        December 2, 2016 at 8:56 pm
  • Jambi

    Thanks Jan! So funny to be buying a German made product in the U.S. while living a few hours drive from SON! Thanks for the explanation!

    December 2, 2016 at 8:46 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Yes, that does seem strange. But unfortunately, if SON sold the hubs directly at the factory, they’d chat with customers all day and never find the time to actually make the hubs!

      December 2, 2016 at 9:32 am
  • Daniel Ridings

    With all due respect, I wouldn’t call this a “Guide to Generator Hubs”, but rather “A Guide to SON products.” I am certainly not negative to SON products, I have two front wheels based on their products, but I expected something more than marketing in this post.

    December 2, 2016 at 9:03 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      It’s difficult for us to comment on products we don’t sell. As a distributor, Compass can sell almost any component. We pick the ones that work best for the riding we and our customers enjoy. But if we explain too much about why we don’t pick other components, it sounds like we are disparaging the competition. Instead, we focus on the positive and explain why we pick the parts that we do sell.
      If a great component becomes available, we add it to the program. The latest are HED’s Belgium 650B rims. We’ve tested them for a few years now, and they are great. So we sell them. If we find a generator hub that works as well as the SON hubs, we’ll probably add it to the program.

      December 2, 2016 at 10:45 am
      • Gugie

        I think Daniel is commenting on the title. When I clicked on the link I have expected to see some comparison to the competition. Daniel’s alternate title is more accurate.

        December 2, 2016 at 5:06 pm
      • Greg

        I was going to ask what 28-hole rims folks are using (in 650b and 700c) with the 28-hole generator hubs, but I think you have (at least partly) answered that question! Still, $300 for a pair of rims stuns even me, a bona fide equipment freak. Where are they made (no mention of that on the website. Also, what is the material, and there are no photos. of them either (for the moment?))?

        December 2, 2016 at 9:57 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Greg, you’ll find all that info on the Compass web site. Yes, the HED rims are expensive, but tubeless-ready rims really need to be made to very tight tolerances. Otherwise, your tires either don’t seat well (requiring huge pressures to pop into place) or fit so loosely that setting them up tubeless is very difficult. The HED rims are the only ones that have been consistent in that regard. With other brands, we found some good ones and others that weren’t, because the tolerances (usually from one run to the next, rather than within production runs) are too great.
          You and I still recall the days when we could buy Fiamme Ergal rims on closeout for $ 40, but with complete wheels costing $ 1000 and more, $ 150 may be a fair price for a rim these days.

          December 3, 2016 at 3:02 pm
          • Greg

            OK, the link to the HED rims works fully and correctly, now. Not sure what happened the other day.
            As aero rims go, those look not-so-unattractive-at-all…. I believe that they would be quite strong, and if the quality is as excellent is it sounds, then apparently the market price is what it is. The market sets the price, anyways, regardless of what I think…. 🙂
            FWIW, I recall when Fiamme Ergal rims were $15 each, perhaps $12 each when “on sale.” That was many moons ago! Nothing great is cheap, typically.

            December 4, 2016 at 11:39 am
      • Ray Varella

        Are the HED Belgium rims made to use rim brakes or disc only?
        I didn’t see that information in the specs or technical info.

        December 4, 2016 at 7:57 am
      • Robert Cochran

        I was wondering about tubeless rims for disc brakes myself. My Giant has rim brakes and my Jamis has disc brakes and I greatly prefer the disc brakes. HED does offer disc brake wheels: “Ardennes Plus SL Disc Brake”.

        December 4, 2016 at 9:24 am
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          There are many good choices for disc-brake only 650B rims, all the way to the very expensive, but excellent, Enve rims. It’s the rim brake rims that are harder to find.

          December 4, 2016 at 9:52 am
    • james

      My thoughts as well. I’ve been using a SP hub with B&M IQTec Premium for a few years. Must be 25,000km so far. Going strong. Love it.

      December 2, 2016 at 11:59 am
    • Jimmy

      Yep, agreed. This is a fine guide to SON hubs, but definitely not what I expected when I clicked on the link to “Guide to Generator Hubs”.

      December 2, 2016 at 12:10 pm
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        Somewhere along the line, the word “SON” in the title was lost due to editing changes. I put it back in to avoid confusion. Sorry about that…

        December 2, 2016 at 8:29 pm
    • Greg

      Jan, regarding using 28-hole front rims, are folks running 28F/32R in that case? If not, what 28-hole rear hubs are you using, typically?

      December 5, 2016 at 11:22 pm
      • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

        Most of us use 32 spokes on the rear wheel. However, I’ve ridden test bikes with 28-hole rear wheels without problems. With wide tires, the shocks that come through to the rim are so much less than with a narrow tire pumped to 130 psi. That is why mountain bikes can use 32-hole rear wheels, even though they get ridden in really rough terrain.

        December 6, 2016 at 7:58 am
  • Gugie

    The one issue with connectorless is that if you have multiple bikes and want to interchange wheels, all of them must be connectorless.

    December 2, 2016 at 9:10 am
  • ZigaK

    What happens when you stop? Does the light have any amount of accumulation? I would be much more comfortable with say 5 minutes of “reserve”.

    December 2, 2016 at 12:39 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      All lights we sell have a standlight function that keeps the lights on for more than 5 minutes.

      December 2, 2016 at 2:58 pm
      • ReidH

        The most surprising standlight reserve is that of the little rear tail light LED bulb you sell. It appears to last 5 minutes after the Edelux II standlight has extinguished. I wonder if that is the little bulb itself or is the Edelux assisting it to last longer.

        December 2, 2016 at 5:04 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          Good question, but we’ve been pleasantly surprised by the performance of the little screw-in bulb that allows converting any classic taillight to LED and standlight. Realistically, when you are stopped at a light (or elsewhere), your taillight is the most important one, so this is a good thing!

          December 2, 2016 at 8:54 pm
      • Gugie

        When I get to work, I ride right up to the rear door of the building I work in. Badge in, walk about 50 yards to an elevator. Press the button, wait, go up two stories, then walk about 150 yards to my cube, where my employer allows me to park my bike. A few times, as I’m getting my kit together to go and take a shower, someone has walked by and told me that my rear light was still on. It has to be more than 5 minutes!
        If I had to wait more than 5 minutes for a light to change, I’d find a different route.

        December 2, 2016 at 10:28 pm
  • Richard Wolf

    Actually LED technology continues to improve. Haitz’s law (, an analogue to Moore’s law, is an observation that LED’s have been improving in their output per power input by a factor of 20 each decade and improving in cost by a factor of 10 each decade. R&D is driven by the need to reduce energy consumption in household lighting, street lighting, and so on. Additionally, batteries continue to show an improvement in their energy density by a factor of between 11% to 15% per year (, a doubling in density every 4-7 years. R&D is driven by the desire to improve battery life in devices (phones, etc.) and the growing trend toward electric propulsion (autos, trucks, etc.), which we are even seeing in bicycles. This suggest to me that it won’t be long before battery powered lighting becomes the most practical form of lighting for cycling.

    December 2, 2016 at 3:26 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I have no doubt that LEDs continue to improve, but the question for me as a rider is whether that results in tangible improvements in the lights that change my riding experience. The speed of computers also is increasing all the time, but for the work I do, it’s already sufficient, so a faster computer won’t help me. (I could use more memory, though!)
      As far as batteries, I find that the ability to hold a charge diminishes rapidly. My cell phone now runs out of charge in half the time it did just a year ago when I bought it. My first SON generator hub, bought at the end of the last century, still is going strong! Add to that the environmental concerns about batteries, and the philosophical satisfaction I get from having my bike powered entirely by me, and I don’t see myself switching to batteries any time soon.

      December 2, 2016 at 8:35 pm
  • Tom

    What about the underrated safety of daytime strobes? Or flashing rear lamps? I don’t have science to back this up, but am I correct that most generator lights, even the high end ones, don’t offer a strobe or flashing mode? I love the hub generator concept, but must admit I’ve grown accustomed to the current 400-800 lumen affordable lighting that recharges via a USB, and really grabs driver’s attention even in bright sun. I know this is isn’t practical riding a 1200km, but I would think Son/ B & M, would find a way to offer more modes. Forgive my ignorance if this has already been done, with any hubgen manufacturer for that matter.

    December 2, 2016 at 3:39 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      Flashing lights are somewhat controversial. At night, they are illegal in most states, and for good reason. They blind other traffic, and they make it difficult to judge the cyclist’s speed and position. Plus, you can’t really see where you are going – all of which makes you less safe than you would be with a steady light.
      I can see why some riders use a flashing light during daytime, but I also wonder where the race to “grab drivers’ attention” will end. If everybody puts 800 lumens of flashers on their vehicle, then soon we’ll only see flashing lights everywhere. It’s already close to that point in Seattle, where you often have three cyclists at various distances competing for your attention, even though all are still many blocks away. As a result of all the flashing in the distance, you might not see the pedestrian who is trying to cross the street right in front of you, unless they also put a flashing beacon on their head. And so on.
      At night, cycling in the city is actually quite safe, because with a good set of head- and taillight you are as visible as a car. Add some pedal or ankle reflectors that identify you as a cyclist (so drivers know you are slower than a car as they approach from behind), and you may have everything you need. Also, a steady taillight, or at least one with a pulsating “high-low” pattern, makes it much easier for cars to judge your speed and distance than a flashing light…
      Overall, I feel the goal should be to clearly communicate your position and speed to drivers, so they can make good decisions, rather than try to grab the attention of drivers who are too far away to pose a concern. It’s tempting to think “If I flash the brightest, at least I will be safe”, but I prefer to see traffic as a game of cooperation rather than a zero-sum battle of “dog eat dog”.

      December 2, 2016 at 8:50 pm
      • Gugie

        Agreeing with Jan here. If anything, flashing lights are very distracting, and take the driver’s attention away from the rest of the road. It’s very difficult to judge a bike’s speed when the lights are flashing.
        I bike commute in the Portland metro area, so I see a lot of other bikes on the road, in the dark this time of year. It’s distracting to me, another cyclist, when those flashers are coming towards me. It’s damn near impossible to ride behind one.
        Let’s save our flashers for emergency vehicles and Christmas lights where they belong.

        December 2, 2016 at 10:21 pm
      • Robert Cochran

        I too agree with Jan. I bicycle commute and/or ride pretty much daily, often at night. I will not point my headlight directly at traffic because I don’t need to do that to be seen and I can’t really see the road surface either. I tilt it a bit so it illuminates the road. Nor do I use the strobe function. It is dangerous to strobe anyone, including pedestrians. I don’t want to strobe small animals either. I agree that working traffic from a bicycle is ‘…a game of cooperation rather than a zero-sum battle of “dog eat dog”‘.

        December 3, 2016 at 11:39 am
      • B. Carfree

        Two points:
        1. Now that many cities have changed their streetlights to LEDs that give out the same temperature light as bike lights (and very bright car headlights), we are washed out in the background of stationary lights and are easily mistaken for them if we insist on steady lights aimed low. Particularly when I’m riding with a bit of speed, I have found that I have far fewer left-cross issues when I go ahead and add a battery-powered flashing light to my generator (steady) light. It also appears to help when motorists are running stop signs with limited sight distances; they notice the flashing where they would not have seen the steady headlight. In my opinion, the difficulty that motorists have in discerning my exact location and speed is a feature, not a bug, as it causes them to hesitate rather than plowing on through. And no, flashing lights don’t “blind other traffic”. That’s quite an overstatement.
        2. There’s a lot of road that is neither city nor rural that lies between the two. It’s got enough traffic that it has city-like issues, but is built like a rural roadway. Motorists on these suburban roads are generally a bit on auto-pilot and are not concentrating on their driving. I agree with the people who sell the Dinotte lights that it is safer to be seen as early as possible in those settings. My rear flashing light can be seen for over two miles, and that’s a good thing since it gives weary suburbanites lots of time to realize there is something up ahead that is out of the norm. It also happens to be so bright that one cannot stare directly into it, which should reduce target fixation. Yes, it could be construed as rude to be so bright, but I’m the one with skin in the game and this approach has worked noticeably better than playing nice with dim steady lights, if I judge by the passing distances I am given.

        December 3, 2016 at 7:29 pm
        • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

          It also appears to help when motorists are running stop signs with limited sight distances; they notice the flashing where they would not have seen the steady headlight.

          I see your point that a flashing light might allow drivers to notice you before they can actually see you, but I wouldn’t rely on that for safety. When approaching an intersection at the same time as a car, we cyclists should always be prepared to stop, whether it is day or night.
          One other problem I have noticed with some strobe lights is the long “pause” between flashes. When you scan the side roads, you only look there for a split-second, and if the light is dark, you don’t see the cyclist. Riding my bike, I once almost crashed into one who was completely invisible to me, despite having a powerful flashing strobe on his helmet.

          December 4, 2016 at 9:58 am
      • Greg

        Concur also. I am not a fan of bright, flashing lights, on bicycles, at night……

        December 5, 2016 at 11:20 pm
  • Austin

    Happy to read the wide body will have less logos. I was surprised to find the old version had a large “For Peter White Cycles” engraved right in the center of the hub.
    Is there a reason why the Sondelux thru-axle hub is silver anodized instead of polished?

    December 2, 2016 at 3:56 pm
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We figured that the thru axle version will be used mostly with modern bikes, where the very shiny polished finish might not look quite right. The anodizing has the advantage that it’s easier to maintain – for polished parts, use a good car wax to protect the surface. On bikes with disc brakes, you get brake dust, which can discolor the aluminum when mixed with water and oil from the road.

      December 2, 2016 at 8:52 pm
  • B. Carfree

    This was a nice review of the hubs Compass sells and quite helpful. Thank you for this and so much more. Your efforts are very much appreciated.
    That said, I disagree that generator hub lighting systems offer enough light for full-speed night time descents. I’m much happier when I add a nice bright battery-powered light and I don’t mind the small weight penalty. I use it much like one would use a high-beam and it’s aimed as one. I have avoided many potentially nasty encounters with deer,bobcats, fallen branches and road defects simply because they were picked up by my “high beam” where they would have remained unseen until it would was too late for me to take adequate evasive action if I had relied only on the light from the hub-powered light. Granted, my battery and extra light aren’t going to win any beauty contests, but neither am I.
    I do wonder if I would need the extra light if I still had the keen eyesight of a younger person. I remember many night rides in the ’70s and ’80s with those lousy old systems, both generator-driven and battery-powered, and I was just fine with those faint lights. Perhaps I was just bolder, like most young men, and didn’t fear what I couldn’t see but I really thought I could see just fine.
    With some luck, I’ll be able to make do without the “high beam” in a few years when I have the inevitable cataract surgery that seemingly all old folks get. Meanwhile, I’ll keep charging up my accessory light for the 10k miles of night riding I do annually.

    December 2, 2016 at 4:06 pm
  • nickskaggs

    Overall, LED lighting is a huge step up from halogen lighting on bikes, except in one area- I much prefer the color temperature of halogen bulbs. The warm light is easier on the eyes at night and especially in rain and fog- or at least I think so.
    As far as improvements to LED lighting technology go, I feel the only other major development I’d like to see in the future is for lights like this to be available in both a “warm” and “cool” color temperature.

    December 2, 2016 at 6:20 pm
  • Michael Arciero

    Great post/thread. A few comments-
    Regarding light brightness- I agree that we’ve reached the point where we have plenty. It seems that a number of riders find the IQ-X already too bright for night time riding in groups due to shadows. USB lights are brighter, but on the rare occasion when I use one I find the washout and the fact that the light is not evenly dispersed to be a little distracting. With tail lights we are way beyond too bright, IMO, with, for example, the Dinotte Quad. It depends on your intent, as Jan suggests.
    I can see how some riders used to the washout effect might be underwhelmed by the brightness of modern lights. At twilight, and when there is any ambient light at all, the visible effect of the light is not dramatic or noticeable. But this is no different than car headlights. You can only really see them when its dark. When I ride in total darkness, I cant believe how bright and wonderful my Luxos is. Even the Eyc, the miniature “commuter” light, is pretty darn good.

    December 3, 2016 at 6:37 am
  • Michael

    1. Is it true that glass lenses fare much better through wet weather and salty winter roads than plastic?
    2. Is it true that silver anodized finishes fare much better than the polished aluminum ones in same?

    December 3, 2016 at 6:38 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      The answer is yes to both. Glass is more scratch-proof and totally UV-resistant, so it remains clear. And anodized surfaces are easier to maintain, but they are a) not as brilliant and b) scratches cannot be polished out. B) isn’t a big deal on hubs, but it can be a nuisance on parts that see a lot of rubbing, like cranks.

      December 3, 2016 at 6:58 am
  • julianactive

    I have a Luxos U light and a SP dyno hub. Both have given me thousands of miles of use with no problems. The endless light of a dyno powered light is intoxicating and liberating.
    As far as it being bright enough, I would say for road riding yes, but for mountain biking, particularly at slower speeds it is not adequate. A battery powered helmet light will take care of this and allow you to see around corners better. Off road riding requires more light to safely ride at higher speeds.
    I do agree that the rear flasher wars are getting a little out of hand.

    December 3, 2016 at 9:54 am
  • Hifast

    I have two of these for remote touring: One on my front wheel and another on my Bob Yak trailer. Each charges a lithium battery with a USB outlet to recharge tablet, phone, tail lights, etc.

    December 3, 2016 at 10:06 am
  • Hifast

    Another feature of the SON hubs is that they are dynamos putting out AC current, so polarity of the wiring doesn’t matter, simplifying installation and maintenance.

    December 3, 2016 at 10:13 am
    • 47hasbegun

      This also applies to the current dynamo offerings from Shimano and Shutter Precision. I couldn’t confirm if it also applies to the same from Sanyo or Sturmey-Archer, but it might.

      December 4, 2016 at 4:13 pm
  • Rolly

    I have a SON Delux built into a 36 hole 650b Velocity A23, with double butted spokes, and it’s a pretty stiff wheel. The wheel size and extra spokes must make the difference. It’s also laced pretty tight as I’ve heard A23s can take a lot of tension. I wonder if the narrow wheel makes it more aerodynamic at all. I don’t mind the look of it.

    December 3, 2016 at 11:14 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      We’d have to test that in the wind tunnel… At least in our rolldown comparison, there is no difference between standard and Widebody Delux hubs. I am glad yours works for you. I still use one on my René Herse, too. No need to change it while it works. Given the choice, I used a Widebody (and the SL system) when I built my Mule.

      December 3, 2016 at 12:36 pm
  • LEe RIngham

    I have been using a SON28 on my randonneuring bike for several years now. At first I paired it with an IQ Fly, which was sufficiently bright for brevets on the back roads of Vancouver Island. As a side benefit, I found that I really enjoy riding at night, especially after midnight. I liked the SON generator hubs so much I bought a Deluxe for my wife’s Boulder Allroad and passed the IQ Fly to her, which is suitable for the after dark urban rising she does.
    In one brevet, while still using the IQ Fly, I found riding in a night time pace line nearly impossible as the other riders were using Edelux lights. The shadow cast by these lights, when riding behind me, overwhelmed the beam of the IQ Fly, causing me to continuously move to one side or the other so I could see. This, of course, disrupted the pace line, as did my sitting at the back in order to see using the other riders lights. Eventually I upgraded to a an IQ Cyo, which helped in situations like this. I found that the one downside of riding in a group when you have slightly inferior lights is the shadow issue. Once I upgraded, the problem went away.

    December 4, 2016 at 8:59 am
  • Robert Cochran

    What are the essential requirements for building a wheel with one of these generators? I understand that the front wheel will have to be custom built. What about the rear? On a low-end production bicycle like the Jamis Allegro, would I need to replace the fork, as well? Perhaps even as an inexperienced person — I might be able to buy the needed parts and build the wheel myself?

    December 4, 2016 at 9:41 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      You’ll need only a new front wheel, and headlight and a mount to attach the light to your bike. On a production bike, it’s often easier to stick with a battery-powered taillight, and the batteries last a long time.
      Wheel building is a skill that some people learn easily, while others struggle. Front wheels are much easier to build than rears, so they are a good way to start. Get a copy of Jobst Brandt’s “The Bicycle Wheel” which not only explains how to build a good wheel, but also the theory behind what makes a good wheel.

      December 4, 2016 at 9:54 am
  • Matt Cook

    I’m having trouble with a SON Edelux II headlight and taillight paired with a Sanyo NH-H27 hub on a 520 chromoly frame. They worked brilliantly for about a year when the headlight was mounted on a steel Wald basket but now that I’ve attempted to mount it on an aluminum front rack the whole setup doesn’t work. I have re-checked the official wiring instructions, applied fresh connectors, re-heat shrunk, and done anything else I can think of. The lights work when not touching the aluminum rack. I assume the problem lies somewhere in the fact that the hub is grounded through the axle but I don’t know enough as to why this would be a problem. Would love any guidance here, nice to find any info on dynamos in English!

    December 4, 2016 at 6:05 pm
    • Bill Gobie

      Reverse the wires in the hub connector.
      According to Peter White’s site Sanyo hubs ground to the frame. Evidently the headlight’s ground wire is connected to the case.
      Right now you have the light’s ground wire (outer conductor) connected to the hub’s hot connector. The steel basket must have been insulated somehow, or it had a very high resistance. The aluminum rack is a better conductor so it shorts the light’s case to the frame and ground side of the hub.

      December 5, 2016 at 11:20 am
  • James

    Regarding the connector-less setups. How does the dropout connection hold up over time? Isn’t this dropout connector plate exposed at least somewhat more to the elements vs the standard wire connections? Have you noticed any additional maintenance or issues using the connector-less in the wet pacific north west weather?

    December 6, 2016 at 12:22 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      That is a good question. Fortunately, the SL systems have required absolutely zero maintenance on all out bikes. The dropout plate is stainless steel, and so is the axle end cap that connects to it. The quick release provides enough force to guarantee a good connection. The wire goes straight into the fork blade, so it’s exposed only for a few millimeters, in a place that is protected (inside of the fork).
      It’s really amazing – all you have to make sure is that you don’t install the front wheel backwards, but otherwise, it’s like a standard front wheel without a generator hub.
      With the standard wire connectors, moisture is more of a problem, and you have to squeeze the spade connectors, because if they get loose, your connection can be intermittent. That is also why I prefer the “primitive” SON spade connectors over the more sophisticated connectors used by other makers: you cannot increase the pressure on the other ones as they wear out.

      December 6, 2016 at 7:55 am
  • Brucey

    regarding low speed flickering; this is to do with design features such as the number of poles in the generator as well as the electronics in the light. Unfortunately when hub generators are reviewed, this information is not always listed.
    The Schmidt generators are very nice but for cost reasons I recently built a utility wheel using a DH-3N72 shimano hub generator and at first I was a little disappointed with the off-load drag; it seemed to slow fairly quickly when spinning the built wheel in a jig . However once I had done what I normally do with cup and cone hubs, i.e. adjusted the bearings correctly (which required almost 1/4 turn on the cone from the factory setting!) and put in some better lubricant in the hub, things improved considerably. To my surprise the wheel now span for about twice as long off-load. I’d estimate the difference (based on the mass of the rim and tyre etc and the rate of change of speed) as being of the order of 1W, which is far more than I would have assumed possible beforehand.
    I have noticed previously that different published tests of the same model shimano hub generators have tended to show slightly differing amounts of off-load drag. Shimano hubs are always supplied with the bearings ‘set wrongly’ (which is inevitable, because the correct bearing adjustment changes when the wheel is built and the hub sees the spoke tension). However between this and varying seal conditions (the seals have a large contact area), such is the potential for changes in drag I now wonder if any such tests give a result that correctly represents the performance of a correctly adjusted and lubricated hub of this sort.
    By contrast in other (cartridge bearing equipped) hubs, there is a much smaller seal contact area, and there is usually relatively little grease inside the bearings (IIRC Schmidt may use bearings with a slightly greater grease fill?). In any event there is probably less scope for unintentional variations in off-load (e.g. seal) drag with such hubs, and test results seem more likely to be representative.

    December 9, 2016 at 3:16 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      You are right, Shimano generator hubs are notorious for being adjusted much too tight at the factory. Adjusting cup-and-cone bearings is skilled work (compared to just tightening a nut), and that skilled labor seems to be hard to find in the places where these hubs now are made. When you adjust the bearings of new Shimano generator hubs, you don’t only reduce the drag, but you also increase the lifespan of the bearings. However, you have to be careful not to damage the wires – it’s easy to do. It would be nice if Shimano could address this quality problem. It isn’t inevitable at all – there are plenty of hubs that come from the factory adjusted correctly, including many older Shimano “road” hubs.

      December 9, 2016 at 7:13 am

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