Guide to SON Generator Hubs

Posted by: Jan Heine Category: Lighting

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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