Dynamo Light System and the components to consider

by michelle bontrager in

 head light placement for best illumination of the road ahead

head light placement for best illumination of the road ahead

We have received a lot of questions about dynamo lights since my most recent blog post regarding bike lights. I would like to outline the options to consider when choosing the components for a new generator light system.

A dynamo system includes:

  • Front hub which generates the power to the light system.
  • Rim: when we build a new front wheel we recommend a new rim.
  • Spokes.
  • Front light.
  • Rear light.

The first step is to decide which generator hub is best. We willingly offer recommendations based upon the bicycle frame style you ride, and your expectations. 

 shimano alfine dynamo hub

shimano alfine dynamo hub

which dynamo hub for your bicycle frame?

  • disc or rim brakes
  • type of fork
  • do you want to add a charger in order to charge your phone or device?

We have utilized Sanyo and Sturmey Archer dynamo hubs but the Shimano and Schmidt hubs are the brands that work the best for most of our customers.  

Shimano Alfine vs Schmidt SON hubs

Shimano Alfine hub

  1. efficiency at 15km/h:  53%
  2. energy required of rider while light is turned off:  2.2 watts
  3. weight of hub:  680 grams

Schmidt SON hub

  1. efficiency at 15 km/h: 64%
  2. energy required of rider while light is turned off: 1.5 watts
  3. weight of hub:  575 grams
 SON hubs are manufactured in  Germany

SON hubs are manufactured in Germany

Once the hub is chosen we will discuss other options for your new light system delving into the types of head lights and rear lights that are available.  A dynamo light system with a new wheel may cost about $250 to more than $800, depending on the components chosen.

  B&M  rear light mounted to rear rack

B&M rear light mounted to rear rack

When you consider not having to worry about;

  • recharging your bike lights,
  • batteries wearing down in the coldest of Winter mornings, or
  • having your lights physically falling off of your bicycle

a modern dynamo light system makes perfect sense. While it’s fun choosing the extra bike accessories like colorful bar wrap, bells, or baskets, for safety’s sake a dynamo light system is the first upgrade that any bicyclist should complete.

Xtracycle's Leap kit and Cargo Bikes

by michelle bontrager

 Xtracycle was on the forefront of the cargo bike evolution in the U.S. and are remain the most relevant

Xtracycle was on the forefront of the cargo bike evolution in the U.S. and are remain the most relevant

Some 14 years ago, as our retail business was growing and responsibilities were accumulating, we found ourselves becoming car dependent. Standard bike racks and panniers were not offering the cargo capacity that we needed.

In order to relieve our car dependency we researched cargo bicycle options and categorized them in the following manner;

  • Bike trailer: A bike trailer needs to be attached and then dismounted from the bike in order for it to fit into my bike storage area.  The additional trailer tires need to be maintained and fixed when they flat out.  Not the solution for everyday cycling but we eventually bought a Bike at Work trailer for extra large loads.
  • Front cargo: The long john style of bike proves to be the ever-popular option in Northern European cities where cyclists commute through dense city neighborhoods on flat terrain.  Soma Fabrication's Pick Up Artist is a practical take on this genre.
  • Trike: slow, unstable, impractical.
  • Long tail: stable, sporty, and durable. The most popular brands include; Kona's Ute, Yuba, Surly's Big Dummy, Bike Friday's Haul-a-Day, and XtraCycle.
 Xtracycle Long Tail kit on a mixte

Xtracycle Long Tail kit on a mixte

In 2003 Xtracycle's FreeRadical stood out as our best option. A long tail cargo kit that attaches to any bicycle you might own. We both installed FreeRadicals to our 8-speed city bikes.

 Xtracycle long tail on a Surly Long Haul Trucker

Xtracycle long tail on a Surly Long Haul Trucker

In the following years Ethan moved on to Surly’s Big Dummy, a complete long tail cargo bike that accepts Xtracycle accessories. I am still riding with my problem-free Free Radical.

 Surly Big Dummy enables you to tote your loved ones.

Surly Big Dummy enables you to tote your loved ones.


Bene.s of the Xtracycle Long Tail

  • Removable, my FreeRadical has been mounted to different bicycle frames.
  • A sporty option, rides as well as the bicycle it is mounted to.
  • Up to you but I need low gear options to accomplish hills.
  • Fits onto any bicycle from a 20” wheel size to 29ner.
  • Many accessories are available to purchase like the sidecar.

 Bike Friday's Haul-a-Day is a stable and sporty family option

Bike Friday's Haul-a-Day is a stable and sporty family option

Bike Friday of Oregon entered the cargo bike field with their Haul-a Day (HAD) in 2016. This complete cargo bike is the lightest and sportiest model that we have encountered. If you need to get your day rolling this is a cargo bike that will keep you on schedule.

Bene.s of the Haul-a-Day

  • a smidgen more compact so it fits on most trains and bus racks.
  • chromoly frame set is amazingly light weight.
  • the 20" wheel set is durable.
  • accelerates quickly.
  • adjusts to fit riders of all sizes from 4"6' to 6'4".

Bike Friday’s HAD is an excellent option for the household that needs a new cargo bike and does not have an extra bicycle to devote to Xtracycle’s long tail attachment.

The Leap and the Haul-a-Day come with: 

  • Cargo bags
  • Top decks
  • Baby seats can be purchased to attach to their top decks.

Since we first began our research several of the early cargo bike options are no longer available.   XtraCycle, on the other hand, has kept up with consumer demands. There is not one long tail cargo bike that can compare to the versatility of Xtracycle’s Leap kit.

Cargo bicycles are a fun way to transport yourself around town, they aren't complicated. Drop us a line or stop by the shop if you have questions about cargo bike options. We've tested out a lot of different bicycles in the last 14 years and can offer you an educated recommendation for your cycling needs.

Breezer Radar Bike Review

by michelle bontrager in

 Breezer's  Road and Dirt Adventure Rig  or simply the Radar

Breezer's Road and Dirt Adventure Rig or simply the Radar

A Bicycle for all occasions

A bicycle designed for multi-uses has my attention every time.  Why should bikes to be boxed into categories? They should be able to withstand all kinds of conditions and any seasonal whim. I have been known to take my 8-speed city bike out for a 25 mile ride, and why not? Lately my mixte with 650Bs has been in heavy rotation. From my morning mental health excursion up Look Out Mountain to that ride out to Boulder for lunch it simply suits me this month.

 the 25% flare out is wide and stable

the 25% flare out is wide and stable

I suppose this explains my affinity for Breeze's new multi-tool of a bike, The Road & Dirt Adventure Rig (The Radar).  Queen City has been a Breezer retailer for going on a decade primarily stocking their city trekking bikes. Their Uptown model is still the best riding city bike and with its complete city-centric accessory package (read dynamo light system) any city dweller can appreciate the usefulness of the Uptown. When I saw that Joe Breeze is designing adventure road bikes I had to go on a test ride. 

 nice price point- $890.00

nice price point- $890.00

 Chromoly tubing specially designed for this solid gravel bike

Chromoly tubing specially designed for this solid gravel bike

The Radar’s slack geometry is well designed for touring yet there’s a sportiness to its ride, just in case life’s adventure takes you down a gravel road.  You’ll want to take this bike out to complete your weekend errands then go off to explore those dirt trails just east of town. There’s no reason not to because this bike is designed for enjoyment. Although the Radar has a certain gravel bike aesthetic there is no need to put it in that box. It is simply a well-designed bike geared for all around bicycling whims.

The Breezer Radar in a nutshell

  • Double butted ChroMoly frame set designed by Joe Breeze
  • Dirt oriented, mildly knobby 700x37 tires although will accept even wider tires  
  • Easy maintenance with quick release skewers and eternal cable routing suddenly those technical adjustments are that much easier to address
  • 2x9 drive train is appropriate for the Rocky Mountains heck it’s appropriate for Denver’s Highlands neighborhood
  • Drop bars feature a 25% flare out for a stable ride anywhere
  • Accepts fenders, racks, and has mounts for multiple water bottles
  • Heel clearance for panniers

There are plenty more delights that the Radar offers for it’s not a one trick pony and the price point is pretty to boot.

Up for world class adventures? It may new bike time!

Overhaul of classic road bike

by michelle bontrager in

Stella French Road Bike Project

We have had a number of rewarding bike projects come through our doors in this month ranging from custom light systems to building new custom bikes.  It's heartening to see so many of our neighbors out bike riding and commuting despite the short days of the season.

Here is a photo montage of an overhaul we just completed for a neighbor. He is the original owner of this classic French race bike.

 Newbaum's cotton bar tape

Newbaum's cotton bar tape

All of the Stella's bike components were removed from the frame, dis-assembled, cleaned, lubricated, and re-installed piece by piece. Our neighbor can comfortably take his road bike out knowing that all of the components have been properly tuned and torqued.

 original Campy friction shifters work just fine.

original Campy friction shifters work just fine.

 very compact gear ratio

very compact gear ratio

A traditional 10-speed with a very narrow range was the norm all those decades ago. It does offer a simpler and low maintenance option compared to modern drive trains.

all campy components in-tact
Stella French Road Bike

The original Campy components are in good working order. The only components that needed to be refreshed were;

  • cables & housing
  • bar tape
  • brake pads
  • tubular tires.

How to Choose a Bike

by michelle bontrager in

The joys of Purchasing a new Bicycle

When new-bike shoppers drop in to check out our inventory I often ask “do you currently own a bike?”  I need to know your pain before I can offer any recommendations.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of fixing what you own.  Ethan, the Queen City mechanic/owner, has an uncanny ability to keep bicycles rideable well past their due date.  As our conversation progresses it may become apparent that indeed a new bicycle is in order and I can describe the options that our shop offers. Typical talking points are:

  • What kind of riding do you want to complete, over what kind of terrain?
  • How many miles do you plan to accomplish on each ride?
  • What are your concerns regarding maintenance and safety?
store front

Choosing a Bike Shop in the Front Range

Finding a shop that is convenient to your home or work is important but even more significant is finding a shop that is able to listen to your needs. Bike shop owners and employees are enthusiastic about cycling yet cycling can be defined in many different ways. Cycling for some people may be about competition and speed, for others it’s about socializing, and for others it’s just about getting to work. Find a shop that talks your language.  

Brook's Saddles

Ask questions

There is nothing that a bike shop employee likes to talk about more than bicycling; this is why we’re here. We genuinely want everyone we meet to enjoy the sport as much as we do, expect enthusiasm. If you have questions ask, we will probably have an opinion to share.  I honestly believe that a new bicycle purchase aids many ills.  If a new bicycle will indeed benefit your lifestyle you might be curious about prices. Generally expect:

  • Low end bicycles cost 0-$450
  • Mid-range bicycles cost $450-1000
  • High-end bicycles cost over $1000
  • Custom builds cost over $1900

Wow, this brief guide on how to purchase a bicycle has morphed into the question on how to choose a bike shop. Ultimately the bicycle shop you choose to patronize will be the shop you will depend upon for;

  • Solid bike assembly. Ethan assembles all of the bicycles that we sell, let me clarify, he meticulously assembles all of the bicycles on our sales floor.
  • Proper bike fit. Fit is personal and it may evolve as your fitness level changes.
  • Appropriate accessories. We specialize in urban commuting and bicycle touring.

Mechanically Ethan works on all bicycles. Inventory-wise we sell city-appropriate bikes which fit the neighborhood in which we live and work in.

Individual, Custom, or Bespoke Bicycles

We also build custom bikes utilizing steel frame sets. Shopping for a new custom bike is much of the same process as shopping for a new bike except we are going to get a little more personal with you. For a custom build I will measure you (or your frame set) in order to determine which bicycle fits your body type and then there will be a few conversations about your expectations. These conversations will provide us with the basis for offering good component recommendations.  Here is a Soma Fabrications's Double Cross bike that we recently built for a neighbor.

 Soma stem, Tange headset, NITTO handle bars

Soma stem, Tange headset, NITTO handle bars

We left room at the top tube so our neighbor can ride his new bicycle for a few weeks before determining how low he wants to place his handlebars. He may like this height or he may choose to lower the handlebars.  A custom fitted bicycle is a process.

This Cycle Cross bike sports a Chromoly steel fork, Schmidt's SON Edelux headlight

 Brook's Saddle in Antique Brown

Brook's Saddle in Antique Brown

  Carradice Saddlebag , NITTO rear rack, B&M tail light

Carradice Saddlebag, NITTO rear rack, B&M tail light

At Queen City Cycle we are open year round for sales and service. Stop by to chat about your city cycling experiences or just to see what’s new. 303-561-3025.

Shop Hours:

  • Monday: 10-6
  • Wednesday-Saturday: 10-6
  • Sunday: 11-4 
    • closed Tuesdays
Soma Double Cross

Double Cross Build

features a dynamo light system, Japanese components, and hand built wheel set.

  • Lugged fork
  • Bespoke wheel set, Velocity Aileron rims and Shimano hubs
  • Shimano drivetrain and disc brake set
  • Shimano Alfine dynamo hub
  • NITTO rear rack
  • Carradice Saddlebag with quick release hardware
  • King Cage
  • Front light, Schmidt's Edelux
  • Rear light, B+M Toplight Brake Plus*

*for extensive information about dynamo light systems check out Peter White Cycles.


funky sites that entertain me now:

  • bikey face gets it! Cycling in the city? follow her art: http://bikeyface.com/
  • Silly fun, imagining myself cycling with one of these guys: http://www.ilovebicycling.com/celebrity-cyclists-who-love-cycling/
  • OMG I am in awe of this young woman's journey through Africa: http://somafab.blogspot.com/




Bike Lights and Dynamo Hubs

by michelle bontrager in

Our early morning commutes commence before sunrise and our evening trips home are completed in darkness. It’s time to light up!

Bike Lights to Consider

  • Battery operated lights, the most economical
  • Re-chargeable battery lights, less hassle than regular batteries
  • Magnet operated lights, even less hassle, no batteries
  • Dynamo hub driven light systems, the brightest, long sting, and most convenient

With so many bike light options are available, we’ll happily outline the benefits different lights have and even offer recommendations for you based on: 

  • your budget
  • the type of bike you ride
  • the distance you typically travel
  • the type of streets you traverse

Here is a light system we just wired for a Denverite who commutes on a Surly Straggler.

Front Dynamo Hub

SON hub

  • This little dynamo will power your lights even at low speeds
  • Available for rim or disc brakes
  • Guaranteed for 5 years of riding
  • USB charging options are available
 Luxos U designed for dark streets or long trails.

Luxos U designed for dark streets or long trails.

Head Light

Luxos U

  • B&M's Luxos U is the choice for every techy, gadget-loving cyclist out there. It features:
  • Fantastic beam pattern which has become a favorite for nighttime travelers
  • Built-in sensor automatically adjusts the beam to riding conditions
  • A push button on the handlebars to control the headlight such as a beam boost
  • Integrated cache battery that supplies voltage to a USB charging station
  • And more!
 Toplight Line Plus BrakeTec, light pulses as the cyclist brakes

Toplight Line Plus BrakeTec, light pulses as the cyclist brakes

Rear Light


  • Standlight, light remains lit for minutes after you stop pedaling
  • Brake light, the light flutters as you apply the brakes alerting traffic to your intentions
 Check out  Peter White Cycle's  webpage for detailed comparisons of the different German lights and hubs that are available.

Check out Peter White Cycle's webpage for detailed comparisons of the different German lights and hubs that are available.

You may decide to wait on a dynamo light system for your bike. I just invested in my hub-generated light system 4 years ago when my daily commute increased to a 20-mile per day trip. I instantly regretted that I hadn’t made the jump years earlier.  My German dynamo system grants me instant respect on the streets. I recently rode home on a dark and stormy night, while stopped with traffic at a red light a car passenger next to me rolled down her window and yelled out “Hey you.” I hesitantly looked over not knowing what to expect and she continued “Great Lights!”

  • dynamo light system cost $250 to over $800 depending on the components chosen
  • battery light system cost $40-120
  • magnetic light systems cost $70-90.

Don’t let the change of season get you down, light up your bike and go for a ride.