Kim Phu

Replacing a Bicycle Dynamo and Other Dutch Secrets

bicycles, design concierge, DIY, tutorial


Every week I find myself buying a replacement part for something the Dutch don’t feel necessary to put installation instructions on. You can search the box and the backside of the packaging all you like, butif you weren’t born with the know how then you are really shit out of luck. I even tried to find some instructions on Google, but because the Netherlands still uses “archaic” technologies (meaning cheap, affordable, and simple), I often only found overly-complicated tutorials for specialty hobbyists. I just wanted to fix the light on Zach’s bicycle before the politie arrested him on the Kloveniersburgwal since they’ve been handing out tickets every night this week!

Dynamo Installation

    Materials Needed:

  • Bicycle Dynamo – Bought at Hema for about €5, this piece of equipment generates electricity by rolling against either the front OR back wheel tire.
  • Headlight – Bought at Hema, this lamp happen to come with wire already attached
  • Socket Wrench
  • A wrench or nose pliers
  • Allen wrenches (only if you want to take your bicycle apart to thread the wire through the frame)

Note: Our Dutch bikes come with stands for the dynamo and the headlight pre-installed. Check to see if your bike has each stand and where they are positioned before making your purchases. Buy extra accessories like wire or electrical tape if needed.

Common sense is the name of the game on this project. It’s actually extremely easy to install this system, it’s all about keeping the area free from wires and being careful to mount everything in the correct position.

Your dynamo will in one way or another have a mechanism in it that makes it possible for it to be in two positions: 1) Away from the wheel, and 2) Touching the wheel. Before you mount the dynamo, push it into the “touching the wheel” position (the more inward position). Then, place the dynamo on the stand so that the rotating part of the dynamo physically touches the rubber part wheel (this is easier with a second person holding the dynamo in position). Screw it in gently, and test how close the dynamo is riding on the tire. If it’s not making too horrible of a sound, then screw it tight. When you push the dynamo into it “out” position, it should no longer touch the wheel and therefore, your light (which will be installed second) will not turn on.

The Light

There a ton of different kinds of lights out there, but here in Amsterdam, we tend to go with the product least likely to look shiny and pretty to a crack addict. You can either feed the wire of the light through the frame of your bike (which means taking apart your bicycle), or just carefully wind it down the outside of the frame and secure it with twisty ties. I recommend the latter if you are parking your bike outside as the elements and people tend to destroy the exposed wire, meaning you have to rethread the entire system every single time it breaks.

Connect the wire to the dynamo by having the raw part of it make contact with metal part of the dynamo. Most of the time, there will be a sliphole you can put it in and then tape shut. Use electrical tape if possible. Twisty tie, and you are done.

And there you have it. Eventually I’ll be fixing the rear light whose wire is threaded through the frame as well as the bell. But for now, just the one bicycle light working is enough to dodge a traffic ticket.

January 23rd, 2009