One-Year Review: Shimano DH-3N80 Dynohub

Eventually, no matter how diligent you are about charging your lights or batteries, you’ll experience every after-dark rider’s nightmare–a dead light.  And when that happens one too many times, you’ll start looking for a more reliable alternative.  For me, that alternative turned out to be Shimano’s DH-3N80 dynohub.

For several years, the gold standard in dynohubs has been the German-made SON (aka, Schmidt’s Original Nabendynamo).  Its low drag and light weight made it the choice of randonneurs and gear heads worldwide.  The cost, however, put it out of the reach of many riders.  Shimano’s introduction of their 3N7X and 3N80 units made quality dynohubs affordable for the average or thrifty rider.

Last fall I had Universal Cycles build up a wheel using a 3N80 dynohub and Velocity Dyad rim.  With the exception of the hub, this wheel was identical to my normal front wheel.  This was done purposely to allow for quick swapping of wheels without having to readjust the front brake.  The new wheel would power a 40-LUX Lumotec IQ Cyo R headlight. gravel bike shimano dynahub DH-3N80

When the new wheel arrived, I gave it a quick spin, and was immediately freaked out by the “notchy” feel of the hub. Once I learned that this was entirely normal, I installed the wheel and connected the wiring (an absurdly simple process).  A flick of the Lumotec’s switch confirmed that everything was working correctly.

In the first few months of use, I would swap out the dynohub-equipped wheel with my original wheel.  I could detect the minor weight difference when the wheels were off the bike, but once mounted, I honestly didn’t notice the difference (I used the same tire/tube on both rims, BTW).  In fact, the only difference that I did notice was a very slight vibration that would occur at certain speeds when the light was switched on.

As the title of this post indicates, I’ve been using the dynohub for the past year.  And during that time, the hub has performed flawlessly for thousands of miles.  It’s withstood rain, snow, and even off-road use (loaded with front panniers) without so much as a hiccup.  I turn a switch, and my light comes on, each and every time.  All without charging or swapping batteries.

18 thoughts on “One-Year Review: Shimano DH-3N80 Dynohub

  1. Rider

    I’ve got an Alfine dynohub, roughly 1 year old (I don’t know how it compares to the 3N80).

    It has worked wonderfully well.

    It sure is nice to have lights — headlight and taillight on my rig — everytime, all the time.

    I”m the only dynohub rider I know, and that surprises me. Work great.

    Anyone who commutes regularly in the dark should consider building up a dynohub. You won’t regret it.

  2. Paul Whallon

    Great info. I just bought a Novara Safari and have been thinking of installing a dyno-hub.

    Now I know I will.



  3. Singlespeed Gravl'greinder

    Just found your site. Nice subjects.

    This review cements it for me. My next wheelset will include a dynohub of some sort and lighting to match. Tired of sweating out battery life on multiple day (and subsequent nights) riding.

    Hear my inner rando roar!

  4. Pingback: Dyn-O-Mite |

  5. Daniel

    I am considering this hub over the SON28 , primarily because of affordability. You are now 2+ years into the hub. Are you still happy with the hub? How many miles have you put on the hub before maintenance?

    1. gravelbike Post author

      I sold the bike this past spring, so I’m no longer using that hub. It was going strong when I sold the bike, and I recently purchased another Shimano dynohub. Although the new hub hasn’t been ridden much, I don’t anticipate any issues. Finding a dynamo-powered headlight that’s on par with the Philips SafeRide battery light has been the biggest challenge.

      1. Daniel

        That you have another Shimano dyanamo hub is a recommendation.

        Lights are an interesting issue. I may stop by Peter White’s shop to see them in action. I have a good idea of the light from a 600 lumen Nite Rider but can’t relate that to 25 or 40 or whatever lux, which seems to be the units for European generator lights.

        1. gravelbike Post author

          I’m really curious about the B&M Luxos headlight. It’s supposed to be on par with the Philips SafeRide (but with a better/stronger bracket).

      2. Ticker

        Read your article on the Phillips light all looked fine until I saw the price. Can’t see how they can justify $200+ for a battery headlight, I’d want something built for NASA for that price! 🙂

      3. Andrew Norris

        If you’ve still got it, it’s been about 3 years now with the new Shimano hub. I’d like to know, did it prove reliable?

  6. Dean

    Did you find that the hub was powerful enough to light up completely dark sections of your routes? I see one of these hubs on sale currently and also need new wheels building – seems like a good opportunity! My commute is through countryside with absolutely zero street lighting and tree cover, so I can’t see my hand in front of my face. I need a light that I can see by, not just be seen with.

    I appreciate that the choice of light would be the most important factor, but if the hub isn’t up to it, it’s not worth it for me.

    1. gravelbike Post author

      It’s not that the hub isn’t powerful enough, it’s that many of the headlights are designed to conform to the German StVZO standards. Lights that satisfy those criteria have very sharp cut-offs, which aren’t appropriate for all conditions (such as technical off-road riding). Make no mistake, the latest dyno-powered lights are very good, but they often have beam patterns that are quite different than the more common battery-powered headlights. Peter White’s website has many excellent photos which showcase the various dyno lights’ beam patterns.

      1. Daniel

        When riding off road, I add a small battery powered light that I picked up for free on a bike-to-work day a couple of years ago. This supplements a last generation Busch and Mueller IQ CYO powered by the same Shimano hub reviewed here. That combination is great for anything less than a rock garden or bare root covered trail. In those cases I add a helmet mounted Light and Motion Urban 350 or an old Nite Rider MiNewt 600, either at low power.

        1. gravelbike Post author

          For dedicated off-road riding I typically mount a wide/flood light on the bars, a narrow/spot on the helmet, and keep some sort of backup in my CamelBak. My commute has paved and unpaved sections, so I can usually get by with a single headlight in the 650-1200 lumen range.

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