Saturday Nov 04, 2006

In praise of....

Customer Service.

I started riding my winter bike a while back in case I got caught out in the dark on the way home. On the first trip I checked all the lights and all was well. However just over two weeks ago I was returning home and it was getting properly dark so I turned on the secondary front light. Nothing happened so I figured the bulb had blown. If I have one complaint against the dynamo it is the life span of bulbs, in my experience it is about a year, about 5000 miles on the road and about half of them switch on, perhaps not that bad after all.

I always carry a spare bulb or two so stopped and changed the bulb. No joy, so I continued home. Since the lights are wired in series and the primary light still worked the lamp was still passing current and after a posting to uk.rec.cycling to see if there was any known issues or ways to fix them. I emailed SJS cycles where I had bought the light two years ago to see if they could get it repaired. By return of email, less than 24 hours, they said send it to them and they would get it repaired.

Today it arrived back in the post. Well it did not, instead a brand new one did with an invoice for £0.00 “Warranty Free of Charge replacement”. No questions about where or when I bought it. No receipt had to be produced.


Sunday Apr 16, 2006

Night Ride

I'm not out riding today with Molesey BBT. The same BBT that was mentioned in the back of the Times Magazine on Saturday (Beta Male).

On Saturday morning I did my first ever CTC ride. The ride was from Hyde Park Corner to Brighton via Gatwick Airport. The reason for travelling via the delights of Gatwick Airport was that we left at Midnight and so there are not many Cafes open in the early hours of the morning. The ride went out through South London, Balham, Tooting, Mitchham, Wallington and then out into the Surrey. Despite the near full Moon the darkness was complete thanks to Fog which made for no view allowed the shadows created by the lights of the following cyclist to form strange patterns. It also limited our speed since only two of the four riders had lights that allowed to safely travel at a moderate speed without street lights. The good lights were both SON powered lights, mine traditional lights but wired for 12V operation, the other a very bright LED. Another vote for “Dynamo” lights in particular SON generators wired to deliver 12V.

In Surrey we climbed out of Wallington and into the Fog. Fog that would be with us until we dropped down into Brighton at Dawn. Along Chipstead Valley and up over the North Downs at Rigate. Dropping down Rigate hill some riders managed over 40mph which as the street lights cut through the Fog was not as crazy as it would have been on the hill down into Chipstead Valley.

Out of Rigate, turning onto Lownsome Lane into the back of Horley. Here we took to the back roads and paths to suddenly find ourselves on the Gatwick cycle route. Then our leader rode into what looked like a cupboard in which there was a Freight Lift which took all four of us, plus bikes onto the Check-in area of Gatwick airport's South Terminal.

At the airport we had a Coffee at Costa Coffee to perk us up a bit. By now I was beginning to feel the loss of sleep so this was good.

Out of the Airport via Schlumberger's car park and a short path, a road with seed bumps that were hard to see and then turned into bumps with a gap for cyclists in the middle, then a mud track. This was the only time I wished the SON could deliver 12V at less than 10mph as the extra light would have helped to pick out the path.

After this we were on the same road as the annual London to Brighton bike ride so things were more familiar and our progress quicker. We reached Ditching Beacon as the light was beginning to break through the Fog and by the time we were dropping into Brighton day light was with us and the Fog a memory.

On the front we posed for a photo, taken for us by someone returning from all night out, who found it hard to grasp that we had also been out all night and even harder to grasp that we may have enjoyed it.

Our Leader then caught the train home leaving me to lead the other to back via Devils Dyke and St Leonards Forest for a breakfast at Henfold Lakes then home the usual way: Dorking, Leatherhead, Oxshot, Esher.

Home by 10:45 116miles, slower than I expected but it was just brilliant fun. It did however mean I was even more useless Saturday afternoon and today decided that riding some more would be pushing my luck. Still the first 300mile week of the year.


Tuesday Oct 19, 2004

My SON saves Michael's Frog.

So I'm cycling along in the dark up towards Fairoaks Airport from Chobham when in the beam of the new lamp I see something right in my path which I'm able to avoid. It was a frog, so my SON saved a frog. Oddly this reminded me of the new release on DVD of “Ripping Yarns” the excellent TV series by Michael Palin and Terry Jones, which includes the fabulous “Over the Andes by Frog”, I kind of for taste of where Michael Palin was going to go in the future. I'm really pleased about the release as for once I have not actually seen all the programs, but the ones I have seen were hilarious.

Then when I get home I get to see the new shed that has just arrived, which makes me Chris “Two Sheds” Gerhard, not quite the same as Arther “Two Sheds” Jackson, but featuring once again Terry Jones. Today must just be a Terry Jones day.

Sunday Oct 17, 2004

Even more Impressed with my SON

The interesting thing about the SON generator is that while it is rated at 3W at 6 volts, if you go faster it will generate more volts. This allows the addition of a second light wired in series giving two 3 Watt lights rather than one operating the generator at 12V but with the same current.

The second lamp is wired with a switch that bypasses the bulb so that at slow speeds (less than 10mph) the original lamp will give the normal brightness.

The second lamp is quite stunning. It is a Schmidt E6-Z front SECONDARY lamp which seems to cast light so far I struggle to believe that it is only a 3W lamp.

The new lamp is the round one on the handlebars, so that the override switch is close at hand, with the original lamp mounted just above the wheel. My backup LED light can also be seen on the handlebars.

I've only tried it up and down my road to test it, and it seems great, the real test will come on the way home tomorrow.

Wednesday Oct 13, 2004

My SON changed my life

As the nights draw in, cyclists thoughts turn to how to illuminate the road and how to be seen by other road users. If there is a type of lighting system then I have tried it, from those nasty “EverReady” lamps from the '80s to the “Wonder lights”, I wonder how they got away with them, to powerful lights powered by re-chargeable batteries.

Last year my re-chargeable lights decided they had had enough, irritatingly just after I had bought a new battery for them. The stress of 15,000 miles of being rattled to and from work took it's toll and the whole lamp unit stress fractured. Luckily my rule of having two independent lighting systems on front and rear meant I could get home.

The re-chargeable lights had been good, they were bright, twin 10W lamps would light up even unlit roads on which I commute. However they did have drawbacks:

  • The battery would not last my full commute with both beams on in both directions. Not a problem most of the year (but would be on my new improved, upgraded and longer commute).

  • Even when I knew I had recharged them the night before I always had a nagging doubt that they would fail.

So what should I replace them with? More of the same? I kept reading that real cyclists, use a Dynamo. A Dynamo?? We all know that dynamos don't produce enough power for real lights, 3W, come on. Also they produce and enormous drag, at least 50% of your energy goes into them, and then when it rains, IE all the time, they slip and the lights go out. A bit like those who have never used a SunRay and will tell why they are no good for them.

However those real cyclists just kept on writing about how good they were.

So I took the plunge and bought a SON hub generator, see it is not a Dynamo after all, this is a generator. Combined with the 3W Lumatec Oval plus senso switched front lamp, which comes on automatically when it gets dark. All that was required was to build the thing into a wheel and fit it on the bike and ride in the dark.

Well those real cyclists were right, a 3W light is good enough to ride on unlit roads, just. What is more it is always there ready for use when it's sensor decides it is dark, which surprisingly often. There is no noticeable drag. I can honestly say it has changed my view of cycling in the dark.

Plus it just looks fab, so if you don't ride a bike get one just to have around the house.

So my SON has changed my life, but the story does not end here, more later.


This is the old blog of Chris Gerhard. It has mostly moved to


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