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dynamo Jeff's Bike k-lite

Jeff’s Bike – Jeff’s Bike Blog: K-Lite 2nd impressions


I was very excited to get a hold of the latest kit from K-Lite
to run through its paces recently. Kerry is constantly iterating his designs but recently he has launched a
couple of very cool additions to his line-up. His new rear flashing lights, (QUBE) and a new
USB converter with dual outputs.

If you followed
the world’s gnarliest bikepacking events, like the Tour Divide, or the Silk Road Mountain Race you
would have noticed that many of the riders were using various models of K-Lite
kit. These guys are using the kit in the crucible of fire, if anything can possibly go wrong, it will.

Dual-port USB-charger, QUBE flashers, switch wire/loom and front light.

The flashers
Kerry makes the only dynamo powered flashers, in
the world, called the QUBE, available in 1x or 2x formats, or front and rear sets, for attaching to the seatpost, seat stays or bars.

Runs for 3 mins after a 15 second spin of wheel.

Somehow
he has crammed little super capacitors into them so that a 15 second
spin of the front dynamo wheel means your rear flashers will go for 3
mins before needing more juice. Not many traffic lights take that long
to change. 

The QUBE flashing pattern seems
quite random, but in fact, the LONG/SHORT flash-pattern is
actually what NASA use. It is the best for judging the distance to the rider, and also catching the eye from a distance.

They
are very bright and yet Kerry tells me they draw less than 30mA
intermittently, a typical rear dynamo light draws 110mA at all times. That’s a big difference. If it means anything to you, the standard
bikepacker’s GPS, the Etrex 30, draws 50mA-110mA (back light dependent)
at 5 volts. 

Even in the daytime the QUBE’s are a great addition.

Kerry has also done something smart with the optics, so that the further you are away, the brighter
they look, the idea is that the rider behind, sitting on your
wheel, is not blinded, but a car, in the distance gets full blast, clever stuff. These QUBEs are the only item that Kerry is building by hand these days,
so he only does a run on them when he has a big enough order. Check
your local K-Lite dealer for stocks.

The switch / wire loom

Mount the switch on bars, stem, or steerer

The
switch wire/loom comes in two styles. The first one is where the USB-charging out-puts are active all of the time, and you just toggle the front light off and on. This is the mode you will need if you are wanting to run the QUBE flashers.

In the second style, you just flip back and forth between front lighting, or USB charging.

The USB charger

Kerry has some clever smarts hidden in the new dual-port  USB-charger to help with
charging supercap systems like the QUBE. He has more smoothing caps than any of the other USB chargers out there. This does make it a little larger, but it allows safe direct connection of phone or GPS to USB charger, should your USB cache battery stuff up.

Normally connecting a sensitive USB device direct to a dynamo charger (without an inline cache battery) is not advised, as the output can be a bit “choppy” due to the AC conversion done on board. This can cause re-sets and crashes of sensitive USB devices. In the new K-Lite charger with its extra smoothing, it offers another layer of back up, in an emergency situation.

The new design retains the little LED activity light
introduced in the previous model, so you know if the power is making its way from the dynamo to the charger. Apparently the new USB charger lets you run
your SPOT-tracker and charge your USB cache battery at the same time, because the SPOT trackers draw so little power.

The SPOT-tracker will run from the dynamo all day and automatically switch to
it’s own battery only when you have stopped moving. You can even power
your SPOT tracker with no batteries in the bay, just plug it in to the
USB-charger and get pedaling. I haven’t tried this out myself as I
don’t have a personal SPOT tracker. As in his previous model Kerry has all the plugs going in and out of the USB-charger at
the same place, this is great for space saving in your gas-tank, if
that’s where you store your electrics.

Here are a few potential scenarios that you might hope to run from your dual USB-charger. Obviously
it depends on whether its day or night, and the terrain, as the front
lights will use a lot of the power coming from the dynamo hub at night time.

Night-time riding

  • Front lights and QUBE F and R flashers
  • Front lights and QUBE F and R flashers and GPS (Etrex and Edge as they are low powered)
  • Front lights and QUBE rear flashers and GPS and SPOT tracker. In this scenario you’d need a USB splitter as there are only two out-puts from the USB converter. It’s not until the demand exceeds 500mA that you start to rob power from the front lights. Flashers+SPOT+GPS should be under 500mA if you are moving at any kind of pace.

Day-Time riding

  • Charge cache and run SPOT tracker
  • Charge cache and run QUBE F and R flashers
  • SPOT tracker and GPS 
  • SPOT tracker and QUBE rear flashers 
  • SPOT tracker and QUBE rear flashers and GPS (need a USB splitter).

Obviously the idea is to charge your cache battery in daytime if you can as there is a lot more power available when the front lights are off.

My experience with the USB charger and the Etrex GPS was pretty good. Basically, if you have it plugged in to the USB-converter, and you are moving, it defaults to the dynamo for power. I found that it wasn’t until I dropped below 9 kmh that I got the nag-screen. However, if you run the GPS via a cache battery you don’t get the drop-out at all. Etrex AA batteries last for 4 days anyway, and are easily available at most stores or gas-stations, which is why they are so popular.

My buddy ran his Garmin 1030 without a cache battery in the Japanese Odyssey last year with no problems using his K-Lite kit. It would just drop down to the internal battery when the dynamo power was too low. The 1030 is a much more sophisticated piece of equipment than the old Etrex though and you have to look at the pros and cons of each device. Matt pointed out that in Japan a lot of the riders used phones instead of GPSes for navigation. In an event where most of the people are topping up their devices in accommodation over-night it’s an option.

The lights
The
lights have undergone a weight-loss programme that shaves a bit more
meat off them but they still share the same internals as the previous
model. Coming in 2 variants, the Gravel/Road and the MTB, the major
difference being that the MTB has a wider more diffuse spread for the
great outdoors, vs the more punchy beam of the Gravel/Road light which
has to compete with urban light pollution.

In both variants the outside lights come on first and are supplemented by the centre beam at higher speeds. Everytime I go out I am amazed at the strength of these lights.

The new K-Lite kit also contains an adaptor for the Universal fork crown mount, allowing easy connection to Supernova or B&M style mounts. The GoPro mount is still a very popular mounting mechanism, and rightly so, with thousands of cheapie variations of it available online.

I did a bit more field testing in the weekend with a proposed trip down south to do the Old Ghost road. There was always the chance that the weather was going to be bad, so I had to be open to other options, and I had plans to visit my parents 120kms away in Nelson. As it happened, the trip was cancelled and after some local riding, I rode over the Mangatapu Saddle that links Nelson to Marlborough. I had installed the Dynamo Kit on my Santa Cruz Tallboy mainly for safety as I knew I would be on the seal for at least 60 kms. The dazzling brightness of the rear QUBES made me feel a lot safer on a main road with no shoulder, on a Sunday afternoon. What really impressed my though was the low speed at which the QUBES kicked in. I confess I haven’t checked it with a computer, but for most of the 14.3% hike-a-bike section on the Mangatapu saddle the little buggers were flashing away maniacally. That was an average speed of around 3.3 km/h. Impressive.

Kerry is always tweaking and launching new stuff, so if you want to get the heads-up on his next thing, its best to follow him on http://instagram.com/klite_dynamo_power/  He has quite a few things going on in the back-ground just now.

If you want to get a feel of what is behind the K-Lite ethos then tune in to this podcast,  https://bikesordeath.com/ep-22-kerry-slaite-mad-scientist-klite/ I guarantee you will be entertained. Warning, contains occasional expletives.

Related links:

OPEN UP.





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dynamo Jeff's Bike k-lite

Jeff’s Bike – Jeff’s Bike Blog: K-Lite Ultra first impressions


A while back a buddy asked me about dynamo systems, as he had just
signed up for the Japanese Odyssey rando/bike-packing event and was
considering one. I’d been using an Exposure/SP dynamo kit after an
impulse buy in the lead-in to the 2016 Tour Aotearoa, and I have been
very happy with it to date.

Kerry’s never not been involved with bikes. [ R ]

There is a bit of a learning curve
to dynamos so Matt had a few questions. The landscape had also changed a
fair bit in 3 years, so I did what I normally do when I have dynamo
related questions. I asked Kerry Staite from K-Lite. >>

Kerry has to be the most wired guy on the planet, and replies to most emails faster than an army of Russian bots.

I
had never actually bought a system off Kerry before, but I had certainly
benefited a lot from his know-how, and I had a couple of his
switch/wiring looms which he built me for my lighting kit in
2015. His knowledge is encyclopedic, especially in how dynamo set-ups
relate to Bikepacking, GPSes, cache batteries and the many different
scenarios brain addled endurance athletes and Bikepackers find
themselves in. The Tour Divide is the proving ground for Kerry’s designs
and at some stage most of the big hitters have used his distinctive
little gold coloured lamps .

So I sent off a list of about 6
good questions that would set my buddy Matt up with some guidelines when Kerry
replied. To my surprise, within a minute or two I got a voice call via
FB messenger, it was Kerry.

I’d never actually spoken to him
before directly, but we had a good yap and Kerry offered
to send over a prototype of the new Skunkworks Ultra Bikepacking Kit
that he had been developing and testing on a bunch of test riders out
in the real world, people like Jay Petervary for example. In fact, if I
peered closely at my Instagram feed I could see little K-Lite prototypes
sneaking out under bed-rolls and handlebars in quite a few places. It
was under the radar though. These guys were field testing the latest
iterations of his new design. Matt could test it and see if it fit the
bill for his upcoming adventure. I could run it through its paces and blog  about it when it wasn’t so #secretsquirrel

Switch, light and USB converter for charging devices.

Kerry is a master of the 3d printer
so he uses this technique as a way of constantly refining his designs in real time. He
can adjust his model and print out a tweaked version.

He had also been
working on a brand new USB charger. People wanting to use their dynamos
for charging devices, (other than their lights) need a USB charger, and
most people were having to shell out for the Sinewave Revolution model
which seemed to have the bikepacking market sewn up, but was also very
expensive, for people not earning US dollars. Anyone, like me, who had
tried to build their own USB converters soon realised that the Sinewave
was the best option back in 2015.

Next version USB charger
in “see-thru” colour-way

When the kit Kerry sent over
arrived it included the new funky USB charger, the Ultra MTB Bikepacker
version of the lights, a switch/wiring loom and some extensive mounting
options. I couldn’t wait to get it set up on my bike and test it up
against my existing Exposure Revolution Dynamo light, before passing it
on to Matt to try.

Wiring
————–

Loads, on GPS top, Phone below.
(Why you don’t use a phone as a GPS) 

It
took me a while to figure out something about the new
switch/wiring loom Kerry sent over. (I hadn’t read the instructions). It was a “PRO system” only available to the big guns. When it runs on
lights mode, it also lets the other plug in the harness charge your GPS,
if it is plugged in.

Unlike Phones, GPSes power demands are quite small
and the effect on the light itself is minimal.

The system available to the man on the street uses a simple toggle, lights or charging. keeping it simple. See the picture to the right to see the difference between the load from an Extrex 20 GPX vs a Samsung A5, with a medium sized battery.

The USB charger
———————–

A new run of the USB chargers.

The
design of the K-Lite USB charger really impressed me. Both the input
and output cables went into the same end of the unit, which means it
takes up less room, and there is less kinking of cables if it is stuffed
into a Gas-tank. Kerry says this set-up is designed specifically for
use with the BikeBagDude Gas tank.

The fit of the “USB-in” port was very
tight, which is great, to stop any water egress. An even better surprise came later when I saw
the next iteration of the USB charger, it was transparent, so you could
see all the techie internals, and best of all, an activity light, so you
KNOW if the charger is receiving power from the hub. Imagine how much
help that will be if you suddenly lose charging power in the boonies and
you are trying to trouble-shoot a fault in your hub, wiring loom, USB
charger, USB cable, or actual device. If the light in the USB charger is
going, you have just ruled out 3 separate points of failure. It’s been
tested running under water as well, so it would have been a godsend in
this years Tour Aotearoa.

The lights
—————

So there are two different lights, both designs share the same housing, but have completely different characteristics.

1. MTB/Snow version, 2 wide optics on each side with a spot in the middle.
2. Gravel/Road version, 2 spot optics on each side with a flood in the middle.

The side optics light up first, and the middle optic chimes in at higher speed.

These

new lights are a completely different beast from the old K-lite, the
stand-light is now included into the casing rather than being a separate
unit as it was in Kerry’s first generation designs. This simplifies the
set-up a lot. The stand-light is now as good or better than the
Exposure Revolution which I always thought of as the best off road
stand-light.

Another thing that
stands out for me are the mounting options. Kerry has
opted to go with a GoPro styled mount because it is so widely available. There are a heap of cheapie variations of it on
Ali-express with all manner of extenders to create a solution to fit
around the way you distribute your front baggage. There are some
incredibly creative set-ups being used, and by creative I mean that in a
very “Fredly” way. The nature of the mount means that it can be removed,
and the light can be mounted off a fork brake hole as well, so it is
adaptable. There are also a bunch of slots in the front of the design so
that if there was a bike vs Wombat experience which lead to damage then
it should be possible to zip-tie the light to something in an
emergency.

MTB/Snow version
——————————
The
beam of the MTB/Snow version is basically a solid 180 degree wall of
light. It is completely even in its spread from one side to the other,
and only gets a lot brighter in the middle at higher speeds. An issue
with Endurance riding at night is when a centre-weighted beam pattern
causes disturbance with your eyes when you have to look away from the
centre of the trail. An even spread of light is much easier on the brain
when everything is running on auto-pilot. Kerry maintains that in
single-track, the wider beam pattern means that there is less need for a
supplementary helmet light to “fill-in” the spaces when you are
typically trying to see what is coming around the corner. In my
experience this is true, the light was illuminating well up the sides of
the trail when I was single-tracking.

It
can be difficult to compare one light with another. You need to make
sure that both lights are pointing in the way that maximises their
potential. I was using my Exposure Revo as a standard that I knew and
was familiar with as a benchmark. It has a completely different beam
pattern with a much more centre-weighted bias. By comparison, the K-Lite
MTB/Snow version looked weaker in the middle. But this is to be
expected. The Revo did not have the spread of the K-Lite out wide. You
cant have it both ways. The K-Lite MTB is designed for off-roading with emphasis on a wide consistent beam. The
Exposure Revo is a more generalist light with a foot in both camps.

Road/Gravel version
——————————

The
road gravel version just blew me away out of the box. I installed the
Revo and K-Lite side by side and did runs up around my block. I could
toggle from one light to another and the difference was very noticeable. The
Road/Gravel K-Lite was more like a helmet light with its more grunty centre-weighted beam pattern.
Bright, but still quite wide. Obviously not as wide as the MTB/Snow version, but
still way wider and substantially brighter than my Revo. It was so much
brighter than the Revo that I was a bit gutted to be honest. The K-Lite
wasn’t mine, and I wished it was.

A couple of weekends later
Matt and I left late and did a 170 km gravel loop so we could see how
the K-Lite stood up, without competition from the light pollution that
you get from riding in urban areas. This time he was using the Road/Gravel version that I picked up when I was in Melbourne a week earlier. We finished the ride at midnight so probably
half the ride was in total darkness, on quiet unlit country roads, or rugged coastline. I took a spare head-lamp as there
are always sections of sand, scree and stream crossings that require
walking on the Turakirae Heads part of the ride.

K-lite peeking out under the Aeroe front bag.

On the flat
sealed road sections of the ride, the difference between the Revo and
the K-lite seemed less than I had observed previously. I soon realised this was because the K-Lite was partly obscured by the prototype
Aeroe front bag that Matt was running. Even though the bag was hanging
over the top of the lights, it still had a massive throw and reached a
long way down the road. On our first decent climb in full darkness the Revo and
the K-Lite seemed to be poking out a similar amount of illumination at very low speeds, but the K-Lite just reached so much further when we got rolling at any kind of speed.

In another more recent night ride we did, when the Aeroe bag was obscuring even more of the light, due to running the bag in the vertical position, the K-Lite was still blasting a long way down the road.

Kerry really seems to have both sides of the market covered with these lights. The MTBing bikepacker who does crazy all nighters like the Tourdivide and Race to the Rock, and the ever increasing members of the #gravgrav crowd.

Here is a bit more info with pix about the lights from the official launch a month or so back http://www.bikepacking.com/news/klite-bikepacker-ultra/ with Kerry’s video below.

Anyone in NZ wanting to try the K-Lites should get in touch with the NZ rep Chris Hodder from Pure Sports. Details here.

Disclaimer. These two sets of lights were lent to me on a trial basis so that a friend could evaluate them. He eventually bought a set.



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