by Brandon Bilyeu
- No batteries, no recharging, always light when moving
- 2 minute reserve capacity when stopped (blinking)
- Super adjustable and solid dynamo mounting
- Quick and easy install for the whole system
- Wide angle beam for good side visibility
- Dynamo mounting only suitable for metal frame members
Cost: Dynamo: $34 each, need one dynamo per light
Front-Light: $19 Basket Mount/$17 Head Tube Mount
Rear-Light: $19 Rack Mount/$17 Seat Post Mount
International Shipping: ~$17
How obtained: review sample from company
Available: online, bike shops
RBR Sponsor: no
Tested: 30+ hours
Reelight is a Danish company that specializes in bike lights that don’t require batteries, but instead use friction free eddy currents to generate the electricity needed to power the LED lights. They offer solid and flashing lights as well as different mounting locations including the hub, seat stays/post, fork, and head tube.
I’ve been testing their newest offering, the NOVA, which allows you to build your own system by combining dynamos and different lights. I went with a full front and rear lighting system that includes two dynamos, a white front light with head tube mount, and a red rear light with seat post mount. If you have a commuting or touring bike with a basket or rear racks there are mounting options for you too.
The NOVA is designed for constant light, but Reelight also has multiple products with flashing lights. The NOVA is one of two products in Reelight’s line that uses your aluminum rim (sorry no carbon or steel rims) to generate the electricity, where all their other lights require magnets mounted on your spokes.
Installation – Quick and Easy
The NOVA dynamo and lights come neatly packed in small boxes and wrapped with protective paper that doubles as the installation instruction sheet. The installation is described in both words and pictures that make it very clear what needs to be done.
The NOVA dynamos mount to the bike frame at the fork (front light) and seat stay (rear light) with a double loop of nylon coated stainless steel wire rope. The dynamo wire rope is long enough to fit up to a huge 2 inch (50mm) diameter frame member. I inserted the wire rope through a section of old inner tube for a little extra frame protection.
Dynamo installation involved wrapping the wire around the frame and into the receiving hook on the dynamo, and then tightening with the included tool (a hex wrench). Before final tightening I adjusted the location and angle of the dynamo to get within the recommended 0.08 inches (2mm) of the rim’s brake surface. This was easily accomplished with the ball joint in the dynamo mounting arm. Final tightening secures everything in place rock solid. Removal (theft) of the dynamo is impossible without the correct size hex wrench.
It’s important to note that the dynamos should only be mounted on metal frames as the small diameter wire and mechanical advantage of the tightening mechanism could crack a carbon tube. Also, due to the dynamo’s proximity to the rim it could be difficult to remove the wheel if you are running tires that are significantly wider than the rim and have a frame with tight tire clearance.
The head tube/seat post lights attach via silicone rings and a U bracket. Place the U bracket where you want it and strap it in place with the silicone ring. The light is then mounted with a screw and tightened by the same hex tool that was supplied with the dynamo. Then simply connect the lights to the dynamos with the included cables. The silicone rings don’t provide much theft protection for the lights, but the lights are quite useless without the dynamo and reasonably priced if you ever needed a replacement.
No More Wondering if You Have Enough Battery Charge
The biggest advantage of any dynamo powered light system is not having to worry about batteries. This means you can ride as long as you want without being limited to your battery run time. And not heading out the door only to realize you forgot to charge your lights. I personally always worry about my rear battery powered light dying during a ride and so find myself constantly looking back to make sure it’s still lit up. This is not an issue with the NOVA.
Dynamo power generation means the faster you ride the more power you generate and therefore light intensity is linked to your speed. The front and rear lights are rated for 60 and 30 lumens, respectively, at 18 MPH (30 KPH) and comply with Danish law that requires visibility at 300 meters (330 yards). Max output is 150 lumens for the front and 66 lumens for the rear. The lenses are designed for a wide viewing angle that approaches 180 degrees for good side visibility. This makes the NOVA a very good “been seen” light, but the non-focused front beam is not ideal for road illumination at faster speeds. For added safety both lights have built in reflectors.
Pulling up to a stop sign or red light means you are no longer generating electricity, but the NOVA lights don’t just shut off. They switch from constant light to a flashing mode and make use of a small reserve capacity that allows for 2 minutes of flashing light after a stop.
Don’t Worry About the Weather
The dynamos and lights are dust and water resistant (pending IP67 certification) and I thoroughly tested their robustness this winter. Snow, slush, sand, salt, rain, ice, freezing rain, you name it and I rode through it with the NOVA system and didn’t have a single issue. The housing and o-ring sealed cable connections had no trouble with water. The dynamo mounting is strong enough that even snow and ice buildup from the wheels and jarring winter potholes couldn’t dislodge them. Salt and sand has destroyed my drivetrain but the NOVA system looks as good as new (after a bath of course).
The Reelight NOVA is a set and forget “be seen” safety light system that works exactly as advertised and has performed flawlessly through testing in brutal winter conditions. These lights are perfect for commuters and recreational roadies, but not for your carbon racing steed. The only improvement I can think of is adding a feature that allows switching between constant and flashing light modes. If you prefer flashing, check out some of Reelights other product options.