Sunday, May 5, 2019

Introducing Shirley Too & Her New Dynamo

Sometimes the best things come in cardboard boxes. And sometimes a delay in opening those cardboard boxes makes the contents even more appreciated.

There was a long wait to get my hands
on the contents of this cardboard box.

What's inside, what's inside, what's inside, you ask? Be patient, my friend! First, some backstory...

I acquired Shirley, my trusty Surly Long Haul Trucker, in 2011. Over the years, Shirley and I had been on a couple handfuls of fantastic adventures. Some of the widest smiles that had crossed my face had been shared with Shirley. Alas, after seven years of adventuring, Shirley had grown tired and was seeking a more low-key life. I knew exactly how she felt; after all, I had made a similar transition myself a number of years ago.

So Shirley could properly retire, I acquired a new touring bike in late December 2018. A die-hard fan of Surly Truckers, I replaced my Surly Long Haul Trucker with a Surly Disc Trucker. I christened my new Surly Trucker "Shirley Too."

After thousands of miles of riding together, Shirley and I had dialed-in on a comfortable ride. And so aside from the disc brakes, I wanted Shirley Too to be exactly like her older sister. I ported over my Terry saddle from Shirley to Shirley Too, and I ported over my Tubus Rack, too. The porting of my Jones bars was a bit more involved, as Shirley Too has ten speeds instead of Shirley's nine. As I needed to acquire new shifters, I decided to experiment with Microshift Thumb Shifters on the new bike instead of the trigger shifters I used on the old bike. The one thing I could not transfer over, much to my dismay, was the dynamo hub. Shirley's dynamo, which was sized for a wheel without disc brakes, would not fit Shirley Too's wheel.

Purchasing the Schmidt Dynamo and Busch and Muller light system for Shirley was a big deal for me seven years ago. The whole system was pricey -- roughly half the cost of the bike. After much deliberation, I finally bit the bullet. I am so glad I did; having instant lights that don't require batteries or a USB charge has been awesome. And, unlike my friends, who are constantly worried about their easy-to-remove lights being stolen, I have been entirely comfortable locking up my bike to a rack, confident that my lights will still be there when I return. Though the investment was expensive, I convinced myself that this was a one-time, life-long investment, as the dynamo system could be easily moved to any bike(s) I might acquire in the future. Alas, I failed to contemplate that a change to a bike with disc brakes would require a different dynamo hub.

Having acquired Shirley Too, I found myself deliberating the same dynamo debate. A dynamo alone was going to cost $315. That didn't include the rim, spokes, and labor to build the dynamo into a wheel. And although I could have repurposed Shirley's front and rear lights, light technology sure has evolved over the years. I was looking into dropping at least $650 into a new dynamo lighting system for Shirley Too. That's a lot of money for lights. Then again, as I Am Carfree!, my bike is my main means of getting around, and having a good light system makes nighttime driving all that much better.

After bouncing the purchase of another dynamo system around my mind for a few days, the thought materialized that perhaps I could buy the hub and lights from overseas. After all, Schmidt and Busch & Müller are German companies. Perhaps ordering these items from Germany, cutting out multiple layers of middlepersons, would be worthwhile. I had ordered bike parts from overseas before (see On the Bike & Off the Grid), and doing so had made good financial sense.

I fired up my laptop and summoned Google. High in the search ranks for German companies selling bike parts was Starbike. I poked around the site. Starbike had everything I was looking for -- the dynamo, the front and rear lights, a rim, wheel building service, and overseas shipping -- all at reasonable prices. Sweet!

Before placing my order, I emailed Starbike's customer service and requested that they bless the dynamo, AlexRims rim (this rim comes stock on Surly Truckers and I've been happy with it for the last seven years), and spokes in my cart. After all, Starbike would be using these components to build my wheel. Starbike quickly replied and informed me that the rim I had requested was out-of-stock. Starbike recommended instead that I have my dynamo built into a DT Swiss 545 rim; Starbike assured me that the wheel would be even stronger with this rim. I saw no fault with the suggestion, and so I altered the rim and spoke selections in my cart, and I placed my order. It was December 24.

The Starbike website cautioned that the wheel build would take some time:
Caution: Currently our wheel-building queue is very long and hence there might occur major delays. We are not able to claim a exact delivery date.
I wasn't too concerned about the time frame. I was leaving in mid-January to head to Guatemala for three months, and so there was no urgency in receiving the shipment.

Surprisingly, the box arrived from Germany on January 22. That's an impressive delivery time -- that's less than one month (over the holidays, not to mention!) for a bike wheel to be custom built and shipped overseas. The only "problem" was that delivery arrived the day after I left for Guatemala; I would have to wait three (more) months to install my new dynamo system!

When I returned home from my trip to Central America, I was finally able to open the cardboard box from Starbike. This is what I found inside:

This was inside the cardboard box!

  • A Schmidt SON 28 Dynamo Hub, beautifully built into a DT Swiss 545 rim
      Schmidt makes rock-solid dynamo hubs. They are reliable and have very little drag.
  • A Busch & Müller Lumotec IQ-X LED front light
      At 100 Lux, this is the brightest dynamo-powered light on the market. It has a standlight (which provides light for several minutes after stopping), daytime running lights, automatic switching between daytime and nighttime modes, and a great distribution of light rays.
  • A Busch & Müller Toplight Line Plus BrakeTex rear light
      This fancy rear light senses when the bike slows and makes the taillight flicker to draw attention to the rear light. So cool!

I installed the wheel and lights onto Shirley Too as quickly as I could and took her for a spin. Thanks to her new dazzling dynamo, her frontside shined brightly white, and her backside shined brightly red. Voilà, perfect! Just what I wanted!

Meet Shirley Too.

Meet Shirley Too's new Schmidt Dynamo hub...

...and her new Busch & Müller 100 Lux Lumotec IQ-X LED front light...

...and her new Busch & Müller Toplight Line Plus Brake rear light.
Sexy, if I may say!

What made the whole deal even more perfect was that the entire dynamo system cost me less than $410 USD from Starbike. This included overseas shipping as well as a credit for value-added tax (VAT). That's right, not only did I not pay sales tax, but the already low price (which bakes in VAT) was further reduced by backing out the VAT, as is done for customers who don't reside in Europe. (Note: There were no custom duties owed on the delivery.)

Here's the cost breakdown of what I paid at Starbike versus what I would have paid at Peter White Cycles, the primary importer of Schmidt and Busch & Müller products in the United States. Note that the Peter Write price does not include the rim, the spokes, the labor for the wheel build, shipping, and any applicable taxes.


Peter White Starbike*
Schmidt SON 28 Dynamo Hub, Disc 6 Hole, 36-Spoke Holes, Black 315.00 271.70
Busch & Müller Lumotec IQ-X LED Front Light, 100 Lux, Black 160.00 87.42
Busch & Müller Toplight Line Plus BrakeTec Rear Light, 50mm 59.00 29.44
DT Swiss 545D Disc Rim, 26'/559 36-Holes, Black, 23.76
DT Swiss Competition Spokes, J-Bend Silver, 2.0/1.8, 260mm (36 + 2 spares) 25.92
Wheel Building Service 33.99
Shipping 19.89
Less 5 Euro Coupon -5.68
Less 19% VAT -77.67
 > $534.00
    * Euros converted to USD

Amazing! The entire dynamo system, including the wheel and shipping, cost less from Starbike than just the wheel and lights alone from Peter White Cycles. What a great deal! I would highly recommend Starbike. They have great prices, great selection, great customer service, and inexpensive shipping. Ordering from Starbike made me feel much better about acquiring my second one-time, life-long dynamo system.

I waited months -- four to be exact -- to take Shirley Too for her first spin with her new dynamo system. It was definitely worth the wait. My love for adventuring with Shirley will live on with Shirley Too.

May Shirley enjoy relaxing rides with her new owner. Shirley Too, rocking her new dynamo light system, and I are soon off for another summer of biking! Cheers!

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