October, only a few weeks left until we fiddle around with the clocks so that suddenly everyone finds themselves riding home in complete darkness where before it was still reasonably light. As has become traditional at this time of year, I am writing a post about bicycle lighting. Hopefully each year this obligatory post will become more useful as my own experience with this equipment increases.
My first dynamo lamp. Purchased shortly after the DL-1, I was mostly attracted to this lamp because unlike most of the battery lamps I had seen, it actually went well with the aesthetic of the bike. Entirely sufficient for urban riding, and fairly adequate for slower riding on unlit paths, it was much better than any battery lamps I had used at this time. The automatic on/off via light sensor was a pleasing feature, which I discovered also controlled a rear light connected through the front lamp (later discovered to be a standard feature for lamps with sensors). The sensor also helped to mitigate the main limitation of this lamp; the halogen bulb. Unlike LEDs the lifespan of this type of light source is something which needs to be considered, so it is important not to just run the light all the time. This lamp was eventually retired in favour of the Philips SafeRide.
The P-type Brompton came with the basic Lumotec lamp, which is the same as the Retro but without the chrome-esque shell, stand-light or automatic on/off via light sensor. Very basic but adequate for urban use, although I’d recommend a battery companion to substitute for the stand-light.
My first rear dynamo light, added to the DL-1 a few months after the Lumotec Retro discussed above. The light output from this model is a single point source which is not diffused as well as on other models I have tried since, but otherwise it performs its job perfectly well and is still in service on the DL-1.
Originally bought for the Yuba Mundo, coupled with a Basil Nordlicht bottle dynamo, this lamp was later moved to the Brompton for use with a hub dynamo. Being designed for a bottle dynamo, this lamp lacked the automatic on/off via light sensor of the Lumotec Retro, but made up for it with a ver noticeable boost in light output, combined with a much more useful beam shape. Sadly, the rigours of small, high-pressure wheels proved a bit too much for this lamp and the stand-light feature was lost, despite my initial success in restoring it. I have seen the current version of this lamp used on larger bikes with great success, so don’t let this experience put you off, just don’t pair it with a Brompton or similar small-wheeled bike. The Lyt is currently back on the Yuba Mundo, where it is paired with my old battery LED lamp to compensate for the lack of stand-light.
Branded by Brompton but made by Spanninga, this light is similar to the D-Toplight plus, except the design diffuses the output of the single LED more effectively producing better side visibility and generally being less irritating for following traffic. As was the case with the Lyt, the stand-light feature of this light failed, but unlike the Lyt, my attempt to fix it is still holding up nicely. Whilst sold as a Brompton accessory, this light can easily be coupled with any bike with a 50mm spaced rack mount. This light is now been put to work on Ms C’s Brompton.
Put simply, the best lamp I have ever used. The Saferide lacks some of the useful features of its nearest competitors, such as automatic on/off via light sensor or daylight running lights, but it makes up for this with its superior illumination. The beam is wider than the B&M Cyo, providing a similar level of illumination over a wider area which is particularly useful for turning. This lamp puts out a broken ‘halo’ which is wider than the beam and allows hazards such as foliage to be spotted ahead, although others have reported this ‘halo’ as an irritation. I took it out for a spin with a friend who has an Edelux, and the Saferide is easily its equal. The only major downside to this lamp is that it uses a non-standard bracket, meaning it can’t be paired with a Brompton without some sort of modification/bodging.
The Cyo is not quite as good as the Philips Saferide, but it is a pretty close second. The ‘T’ version comes with daylight running lights and automatic on/off via light sensor. It also uses a standard mount which allowed me to use it on the Brompton. The daylight running lights are designed to increase daytime visibility for the benefit of other traffic, although as I am the one on the bike I have no idea how much of a benefit this actually provides. Come nightfall, the daylight running LEDs are dimmed and the main beam is turned up to full. The resulting beam is great, but a bit narrower than the Saferide, putting it at a disadvantage for cornering. For a Brompton I would recommend. For other bikes, consider the Saferide first.
B&M Toplight Flat Plus (Rear: LED)
I got this at the same time as the Cyo, but didn’t actually get around to writing about it. This particular light is cheap and cheerful, using a single LED without the same efforts being made to diffuse the light as with the D-Toplight or the Spanninga Brompton lights. As a result, side visibility is poorer. This light is currently fitted to the Yuba Mundo, along with the permanent rack-mount battery light which originally came with the DL-1 which can be switched on to provide a bit more light at the back should it be needed. There are definitely better lights available from other manufacturers at around this price point.
The Line Plus diffuses the light from two LEDs into a line which is supposed to make estimating your distance more easy for following traffic. I’m not sure how much effect it has in practice, but the light is certainly very bright and seems to be more diffuse than in the other lights I’ve used. This particular version of the Line Plus has Braketec; a signal processor detects the change in AC frequency when you slow down rapidly and increases the intensity of the light for a few seconds. I am unsure as to how useful this feature is in practice, but I think it is a pretty neat idea. This is the best of the rear lights I have tried, and I would recommend either the standard Line Plus or the Braketec version depending on whether or not the idea of a bicycle brake light appeals to you.
As always, the development of dynamo lights continues its onward march. Presumably in response to the Philips Saferide, B&M will be releasing a new front lamp at the end of 2012, the Luxos. I have no first hand experience of this lamp, but it certainly looks impressive on paper; 70 lux output as standard with the option of a handlebar-mounted push button which can be used to briefly illuminate the stand-light to full intensity when stopped, operate a 90 lux floodlight when in motion during darkness and to switch to flashing mode under daylight running. There is also the option of USB charging, which would be a welcome alternative to current homebrew options or prohibitively expensive add-ons such as the E-werk. The beam shots provided by B&M look promising, but I am still looking forward to seeing some unbiased reviews.
Of course there are plenty of other dynamo lighting options out there which I have not yet tried myself, but I hope that this post if of some use to those currently looking into trying dynamo lighting this winter, or upgrading from the set-up currently used.