Whether you plan on riding at night or not, it is always good to have a lighting system for security, even just a headlamp for when things go south. If you do plan on riding at night on a consistent basis, it’s nice to have a reliable system where you don’t have to worry about running out of juice. That’s why using a dynamo system has become more appealing for adventure cyclists. It lets you leave home without a bag full of batteries, gives you the ability to charge your devices, and lets you illuminate the trail in front of you – all by pedaling your bike. The one downside? A small bit of resistance.

K-Lite is a specific dynamo hub light manufacturer. Kerry Staite, owner and engineer of K-Lite products, has plenty of brainpower to throw together some of the best dynamo lights on the market. Before Kerry started K-Lite, he worked full-time wrenching on bikes for 25 years. Kerry always had some tricks up his sleeve since he was a kid, making things from scratch. That trait has translated into making dynamo hub lights. K-Lite is a one-man-band, and Kerry plays all the instruments, developing and putting together his system in his home country of Australia.

Klite-01854

When I started looking into dynamo systems almost two years ago, I stumbled over K-Lite first. After chatting with Kerry about his system, I was a bit overwhelmed. The knowledge that came out of his mouth was a bit difficult to grasp, especially for someone that had no Idea how volts and watts really worked. After a while I understood what this system was capable of, but still did not know the technical details, nor did I really want to know them. I just wanted something that worked without complicating my bikepacking setup or mind too much.

So I lay it out to you in an non-technical way…

If you are looking for a light system that will save you batteries, weight and money in the long-run, then a dynamo system is for you. If you are looking to charge other items such as phones, iPods, GPS units, lights, external batteries, or other small items, then a dynamo system is for you. If you are into human powered energy, so much so that each pedal stroke will illuminate light right in front of your eyes, then a dynamo system is for you.

The Bikepacker Pro from K-Lite allows you to do all of those things in a compact little system. The lamp unit is super small, lightweight and comes with three different low-profile mounts to fit on your bars, which Kerry also makes. The 3 LED light system produces 1200 lumens on high setting during maximum output and 700 lumens on the low setting during maximum output. This is an upgrade from the previous Bikepacker Pro which was at 1000/600lm. Connected to the light by way of waterproof wires is a black switch box which holds all of the guts. On the box is a switch that allows you to change from the 1200 high setting to the 700 low setting.

What to expect to see when you order your Klite system with Sinewave USB charger.
What to expect to see when you order your K-Lite system with Sinewave USB charger.


Kerry implemented a standlight into his system so that the light continues to work at low speeds, such as a climb or slowing down when you need to grab a snack out of your top tube bag. The light dims or flickers as it loses energy. Kerry understands the importance of this feature, and because of this, his recent upgraded light not only comes with more lumens, but it also comes with an improved standlight.

I rarely run into problems on dirt roads unless I am climbing a steep grade very slowly. For slower singletrack riding, I found that the light would dim so much that it was difficult to see the trail in front of me. That’s why it’s important to have a good helmet light to compensate for those slower rolling times. The switch box itself comes with three zip tie ports and a rounded back so you can install the box on your top or down tube for easy access.

When riding with this system I found myself using the low mode more often. This was because I could actually feel more resistance on high, and I personally can’t live with not being as efficient as possible. If I needed extra light, I would flip the switch on the box to high, this was typically on the downhills when I was going fast and needed a bigger and brighter beam of light. I found that mounting the switch box in the proper position was important if you planned on switching from low to high.

The black box, Where everthing comes together. Seen here, the up position is on low. While it may not look it, this box is very lightweight.
The switch box… where everything comes together. Seen here, the up position is on low. While it may not look it, this box is very lightweight.


The light itself creates a wide beam, but nothing overkill. When beams are too wide, it tends to reflect off unrelated pieces of the road or trail, which typically distracts me. The K-Lite beam provides just enough width so it can illuminate the track ahead of you and a little bit on each side. I also found the that the color that emits from LEDs gave me an overall sense of confidence, much more than some of my older yellow lights that I have used in the past.

The Power of a Hub 

The two popular dynamo hub options are the Schmidt Son 28 and the Shutter Precision PD 8X. These are two of the most popular options as they both come in 15mm thru axle versions, which most mountain bikes come with these days. There has been a lot of talk about which one is better than the next. Last year I used the Shutter Precision PD 8X during the Stagecoach 400 and Tour Divide.

Klite-02565

About half way through the Tour Divide, the hub had some significant drag. I believe my bearings failed, but the there is no way of knowing as you need to send the hub in to access the bearings. SP is apparently changing the bearings, but I decided to change it up this year to avoid any further trouble. I moved on to the Son 28 15, It worked great for the Arizona Trail Race and other bikepacking trips. I couldn’t tell you if there is any difference in resistance and both hubs have continued to create energy and illuminate the trail in front of me, which is the goal. The hubs are significantly heavier than non-dynamo front hubs, and even rear hubs. But it’s a sacrifice that I am ok with making for bikepacking.

Klite-02538
The Spoke Holes on the SON Hub are slightly larger than most, so Dustin at Southern Wheelworks had to use some spoke washers.

To make the system work properly, you need to ensure that the wired system plugs into the dynamo hub itself. Using both the SP and Son systems, I never had any issues with the cable coming out unexpectedly, I would just recommend zip-tying it down to the fork leg a number of times or use some silicone tape from ESI or Revelate Design. I also recommend, like any power cables in wall outlets, to unplug the wire at the connection and not just pull the wheel out. Do note that the SP and SON have different dynamo connection ports, they are not universal. So when ordering, you will need to specify. Personally, I liked the SP connection port better, as it seems more reliable, and less likely to break or bend.

For reference, dynamos hubs only produce 3 watts when riding at good speed. Most devices that we charge want at least 5 watts. While 3 watts will work, the charge will be that much slower. These hubs were designed for riding on roads, at reasonable speed. You will not be able to charge anything under 6 MPH. So when you purchase a hub for singletrack oriented riding, make sure you test out what you need to charge and how long it takes to charge before you rely on it.

There are a few forms of systems that you can choose from.

Basiclamp-no switch-direct to hub connection port –  If you asked Kerry to keep it as simple as possible, you would tell him to keep it basic. This system will produce light directly from your hub, but you would not be able to charge anything off this system.

Switched BasicLamp- inline switch for lamp/USB-hub connection – This system now allows you to turn off the lamp and turn on the Sinwave USB charger. This gives you the ability to charge your head light during the day or perhaps your phone if need be.

Klite-02556-2
Inline switch, which was used on the Tour Divide last year.

Top Cap Switch: Lamp – top cap switch for lamp/USB- hub connection – Similar to the bar switch the top cap switch allows for easy transfer between the lamp and the USB. The top cap is super convenient and is a nice alternative to the bar switch if you need more space.

Bar Switch: Lamp- bar switch for lamp/USB- hub connection – This system allows you to have easy access to to switch between the lamp and USB. You can put this directly next to your brake and shifters.


Klite-01164
Bar switch which I have been using in 2016.

Kerry has recently developed a system where the lamp stays on and you can continue to run your Etrex/GPS at the same time. I have not had any experience with this system, and will likely continue to use batteries to power my Etrex. But if this interests you, he can certainly help you out. 
The main difference in these systems is where the switch is placed, which is nice to customize for your convenience. With the inline switch, top cap switch, or bar switch, you have an option to tell it to go to the light, or the option to tell the power to go to the USB port. Most recently, I used the bar switch, which proved to be super convenient. After a night of riding, I would take my Diablo Exposure light off my helmet and plug it into the Sinewave Cycles Revolution Charger, which was basically ready to go in my Bedrock Tapeats. With the quick flip of the switch, I would be charging the Diablo Exposure all day, or until it was fully charged.

On the Tour Divide I could charge the Diablo Exposure in roughly 2/3rd of a day, especially with the fast road and ample sunlight there is in the middle of June. For the Arizona Trail, it took nearly all day for it to charge on slower singletrack. Something I was a bit worried about going into the race, and something I realized could be a problem during the race. I did end up turning off my headlight on some simple road sections to save the battery, but those were few and far between on the AZT. Luckily, my head lamp only ran out once, towards dusk one morning. While the bar switch is so convenient, I was a bit worried about how it would fair if I took a tumble, luckily that never happened.

Cache Batteries

My Emergency backup, especially useful if you are moving slow on a singletrack route.
My Emergency backup, especially useful if you are moving slow on a singletrack route.


On the Tour Divide, I did start by plugging in my cache battery into the Sinewave so I could charge something at all times of the day including my helmet light, iPhone, or iPod. But like many have experienced, the Micro USB port on my cache battery broke after it got jared around, rendering the battery useless weight. If you want to use a cache battery, be sure to secure it properly and perhaps reinforce the micro USB cable when installed into the cache port. I decided to carry a cache battery again on the AZT, but this time just for emergencies. Going slow speeds would not allow the hub to charge the battery, and I was better off just using the Sinewave port for the Diablo Exposure, and iPhone/iPod when needed.

Overall, the system is pretty darn bomber and you can tell Kerry pays attention to the detail in making each wire and port waterproof and insuring that the system continues to work in all conditions. During the setup process, I did have a difficult time mounting the light to my specific needs, but that was a problem on my end, as Kerry provides plenty of mounting options, even zip ties to help you connect the system to your bike. The Bikepacker Pro may be a bit confusing at first, but once you get your hands on it, you will notice how easy the system really is. Please let me know if you have any specific questions, I have used this system for a solid year now, and would love to help out if I can.

Klite-01114

To find out more, head over to their website.

12 Comments

  1. I have a older Stella 200L that is great for this type of riding. If I use the 6 cell battery instead of the 3 cell I can get 10 hours on high and 24 hours on low.

  2. Awesome. Thanks so much for this!

  3. WOW…..hats off to you…..you nailed all the details…..pretty impressive for a non electronic guy!!

  4. I have the ‘basic’ k-lite package with an SP PD-8X. So far I’ve racked up about 4000kms over 2 years.

    Zero issues. Love it.

  5. Great article and very informative. I work nights so am biking home at 3-4 in the morning. It doesn’t happen often but every-so-often my light will run out and I have to bike home in the dark. A dynamo would fix that and I could charge my phone on my way to work.
    One question. I have two wheelsets, one for commuting/road riding and another for gravel riding, how easy is it to switch the wheels if one has a dynamo hub and another has a regular hub? Will I have cables hanging or is everything pretty easy to take on and off?

    • Hey there,
      my partner got Kerry from K-lite to build up a basic commuting wheel with the dynamo built in. This was for a road bike for road commuting in darker winter months. Simple wheel swap and he uses it for winter commuting. No issues swapping between a standard wheel and dynamo wheel.

  6. Pingback: Readers Rig: Lael Wilcox - Trans Am Bike Race - Bikepackers Magazine

  7. Pingback: Readers Rig: Chris Plesko's Record Setting Singlespeed Ride - Bikepackers Magazine

  8. Alex larsen

    Hi

    I have the bikepacker Pro setup with SP Dynamo – just had 3 Weeks og testing in insane heavy rain, everything held up just perfect.

    What i have challenges with is the SP hub, it seems to rotate out of the klite connecter many times, special on single tracks, unsecure why or whenthis happens, but atleast 20-30 times i had to releqse the tension on front wheel and push the Dynamo plug back again.

    Any ideas??

    Tx in advanced and great review 🙂

  9. Pingback: 2017 Grand Depart Photo Journal - Bikepacker

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *