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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The light hack two: Electric Boogaloo.

After all the work done to the Raleigh Crested Butte, there remained one important thing to figure out: what to do about the headlight.

It's no secret that I've become a convert to dynamo-powered lighting. It's always there, you don't have to worry about removing lights or batteries dying. But there's also another benefit: a light not mounted to the handlebars. Dynamo powered lights are usually lower and/or more forward, meaning the road gets lit up a lot better. After all, dynamo headlamps are not just for being seen, but for seeing. Having the headlamp off the bars frees up valuable "real estate" on the handlebars. You only have so much room on your bars, and it's a given that grips, brake levers, and (usually) shifters will be located there, which take up a lot of space as it is. Anything one can take off the bars and put elsewhere either opens up opportunities for different things to be put on the bars, or if you are a minimalist, an opportunity to get rid of clutter.

While dynamo powered lights on the Crested Butte would be nice, I am in no hurry to do this. For one, dynamo hubs require the cost of the hub and building a wheel around it. The front wheel is still perfectly functional and pretty nice, so I don't want to nix it right now. And I don't have the cash. Heck, I might try a nice bottle dynamo at some point, but that's not going to happen soon. So a battery powered light is what will be used. And I do have a nice one, the Cygolite Metro 300 I bought last month.

So where to mount it? I don't want to mount it to the bars, not only for the reasons above, but for the added pain of the front basket. I've done the whole "mount a handlebar light to a basket bike" before, and frankly, it sucks. If there's too much stuff in the basket, it blocks the light. Even when the basket isn't completely full, the light ends up lighting the basket more than anything else.
You can see how a handlebar mounted light would be problematic in this scenario, as the top of the box is higher than the bars.

The hack I've used in the past is using one of Wald"s "flashlight mounts" that bolt to the side of a basket. It works, but barely. For one, they're designed for antique flashlights, not modern bike lights, so I would have to use a number of straps to secure the light in the bracket. Even then, I've had lights fall off after hitting a bump. And the bracket doesn't offer the best positioning for the light; rather than tilted slightly down, it aims straight ahead. This was problematic on bike paths at night, as the light aims directly into oncoming bicyclists. You better believe I got yelled at more than once.

Rather than buy a fancy "down low" mount for about twenty bucks, I finally figured out an appropriate, workable hack, one that allows me to mount the light under the basket. This is what I did:

The light itself  is mounted  to a 3/4" diamter PVC pipe "endcap". I drilled a hole into the center of it. Through this hole went a bolt that attached to one half of a 4" steel "L" bracket (the type sold for shelves.) The other half of the "L" attached to the underside of the front rack via bolt and judicious zip-tying (for now.)


The cost for this hack? About three bucks. Parts found in a typical hardware store. Not bad.

It's worked so far. It's not the most elegant thing, but it works, and it's in a position where most folks aren't going to see it anyway. The biggest drawback to this placement is it's almost impossible to turn the light on/off or change settings while I'm on the bike. But it's pretty minor in comparison to the hassles of the handlebar mount.


  1. Well thought hack. I need a light mount solution to get around a handlebar bag. The fork leg isn't making it for clamp on lights as it angles the light too high. This might be just the trick. thanks!

  2. Replies
    1. Raleigh Crested Butte of the "Mountain Tour" mtb series. More here:


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