Bicycle lighting, mostly powered via dynamo, and USB power from dynamo

Schmidt Edelux Philips LED bike light black B&M Line plus SP switchable dynamo PD-7 (HB015) Philips SLD beamshot Herrmans H-track handheld

-> Skip the contents to the list of latest updates.

Contents

2015-1-6: Because especially some (still very good) headlamps and taillamps are no longer made, I'm now putting links to reviews in brackets for any products that are no longer made (you may still be able to find them in some shops).


News, planned updates

Please read this: Future of this site/reviews, August 2013.
I need to make some decisions on how to proceed, so read this and perhaps give some feedback. I will start with a paypal donate button. If enough readers want this website to continue in the current way, with expanded reviews, perhaps the other options are not needed then.

Support this website,
http://swhs.home.xs4all.nl/fiets/ with € 5,-
Support this website,
http://swhs.home.xs4all.nl/fiets/ with € 10,-

There haven't been many donations so far, but each one, and each suggestion on how to continue this site in other ways, is appreciated. Instead of a donation, you could buy a saddle or bike lighting components to support this site :)
Further on I give a list of possible reviews, tests etc. that I want to do if there's enough interest.

I.1 Latest updates

The list of all updates can be found here.

I.2 (Notable) news from manufacturers and other sources

The list of all news can be found here.


I.3 What's in progress/what is not quite finished yet

I.4 What's to come:

I.5 Other bicycle lamps and dynamos?

I usually buy dynamo lamps with cutoff that seem really interesting to try out, and ditto for taillamps and dynamos. But I won't buy stuff that is expensive and that I will likely not end up using (so items that are only useful to be informative for others). Examples are the Dosun D1 and B&M Big bang, but also the Magicshine MJ808, even though it would be interesting to get hold of that again to make proper beamshots for comparison purposes. If you have an interesting lamp you can miss for a while send me an email! (probably only useful if you live fairly close to me, not too far from Leiden/Amsterdam in the Netherlands).

After the headlamp and taillamp section I've placed lists of which other headlamps and taillamps may or may not be of interest.

I'm also interested in loans or donations from manufacturers, but note:

Plans for this site

Plans.


1 Bicycle lighting: Introduction

These web pages are about 2 things: Dynamo based bicycle lighting (of which the headlamp has a cutoff), and seeing how that can and will improve. For the latter part I experiment with LED light colours, types, drivers, battery powered lamps and headlamps without cutoff. This also means experimenting with headlamps for mountainbiking, but it is not my intention to make an overview of lighting for nighttime mountain biking. I don't have enough headlamps to play with for that, and I would need to make a trip to suitable terrain for that which is not close to where I live. I do have a suggestion for a big improvement in MTB headlamps, as I told at the end of 2010 already on the page where I describe my experiences with the Lupine Betty, namely a cutoff beam with more light above the horizon. This would be much better as in particular the problem with symmetric beams is the overexposure of the near field, but also you don't need as much light going up as on the road/trail surface...

My original introduction of 2008: This is a test of bicycle lamps and related matters I came across, dealt with in a way it should be done, with subjects I've not come across in tests on the web and in particular bicycling magazines (e.g. the Dutch magazine 'Fiets'; I mention that magazine because on their web forum I suggested the methods in the list below as something they should use in tests/reviews; the lack of interest from them resulted in these webpages...). An example of something I didn't come across but that I find essential, is the vibration from the hub dynamo. Note that I only put stuff in this test that I bought or otherwise have regular access to. Other materials I judge on technical merit as best as possible.

Here's a list of essentials when examining bicycle lamps (I mentioned most of these points already on 2007.09.20 on the forum of the dutch bicycling magazine Fiets, i.e. http://forum.fiets.nl, in a discussion on lighting):

1.1 Terminology: lumen, lux, lamps

lumen = amount of light.
lux = amount of light per square metre.
(and candela = amount of light per steradian (solid angle))

Example: When lamp 1 has the same amount of lux as lamp 2, but lights up an area twice as large (assuming homogenous distribution of light, so each spot gets the same amount of light) then lamp 1 has an output twice that of lamp 2, i.e. the lumen number is twice as high.

N.B. I say in the above 'amount of light', but light is not static, so of course I should say something like light current, but the way I wrote it above is clearer and doesn't need a lot of explanation to see the difference between lumen and lux, which is what's most important.

So a lux rating depends on the distance at which you measure (and on how you project, onto a wall, or onto the ground). In a divergent beam, it increases if the distance to the measuring device is made smaller. When on these pages I mention the lux rating of a lamp, it will usually be with regard to the StVZO measurement setup, which measures bicycle headlamps' beam patterns projected onto a wall at 10 m distance, and the brightest part of the beam is that lamp's lux rating.

Note that this lux value is not the value that you will see on the ground when cycling, because when cycling light is spread out over a much larger area on the ground. The lux ratings on the ground are therefore much lower. When looking at the entire beam pattern it's usually on average (lumen divided by surface of the beam) around or below 1 lux on the ground. For example, take the Philips Saferide 80, which has a light output of about 270 lumen, though part of that goes upwards in the artefacts. The surface the light is spread over is about 7 m (width) x 70 m (length) so the average lux value is only 270/490 = 0.55 lux at best, more if aiming the lamp closer. This is an average, and close to the bike the lux values are higher than far away and the beam strength drops off to the left and right, but still I would guess in the centre fairly close to the bike that it's a few lux at most.

Candela values and luminance are of use to determine in particular how well visible, but also how annoying a lamp is. This is because of the way the eye works, with a lens, and because in case of annoyance and visibility it's generally about light going directly from the lamp to the eye. What one needs to look at for direct view of a light emitting subject, is actually the light density in candela/square metre (light going into a specific direction, divided by the area of the emitting surface). This is explained further in the new section on luminosity and luminous intensity.

The terms headlamp and headlight have the same meaning but some people use headlamp also for a head-mounted lamp, which is confusing, so I will treat headlamp and headlight as exactly the same, and I will call a head-mounted lamp a head-mounted lamp :)

Taillamp and taillight again mean the same, and here there is no confusion possible with a head mounted taillamp. They are not not really used I think, and not needed, as for a head-mounted lamp the rationale is that you can aim where you need which can be useful in corners and in rough terrain. For taillamps this is pointless and people just ride with a fixed taillamp on the bike but perhaps there are some dual lamps (headlamp + taillamp in one) that are head-mounted?

1.1.1 Voltage, current, dynamo types and overvoltage protection

Dynamos: Voltage, current, dynamo types and overvoltage protection.

1.2 Bicycle lighting for dynamo, history

In the early 80s, halogen bicycle lamps were appearing. The were noticeably brighter, but in a city it really doesn't matter that much how much light you've got; By this I mean: More light is better, but poorly lit roads where you need a lamp to see the road (to avoid broken off branches etc.) are uncommon (in the Netherlands at least!). That was the case then as it is now, it was quite difficult then to find a bit of unlit road to compare a standard incandescent bulb to a new halogen one! In the city, the main advantage of plenty of light (plenty means much more than a halogen headlamp btw.) is comfort, it's easier on the eyes (e.g. car headlamps are less annoying as your eyes are accustomed to the amount of light from your own headlamp) and allows you to evade bad patches in the road.

Real progress was only made recently (ca. 2007), with high power LED lamps using in particular the Seoul P4 or Cree XR-E Q5. Examples of these are the Schmidt Edelux, Supernova E3, Busch & Müller IQ Fly (which was superseded since October 2008 by the IQ Cyo in the regular and near-field versions). On this webpage I started in 2008 with a describtion in particular the Schmidt Edelux that I had got since late July 2008, to give an impression of the amount of light such a headlamp gives, but more lamps and systems have been added in due course (esp. since summer 2010).

At that time, pictures of the Edelux in action were hard to make with the digital camera I used then, the Fuji 2600z, as it doesn't have a manual mode (ISO, F, shutter time). Nightshots in general with the 2600z are poor without flash... Since summer 2010 I've got a new camera and a setup for making beamshots of dynamo lamps. Still, the description even without beamshots gave a good idea of the properties of this lamp. I was going to add my experiences with the Supernova E3 (symmetrical + asymmetrical lens versions) in October 2008, but I never got the lamps I ordered and as of June 2009 I decided not to waste my time with them any more.

The IQ Fly was the first lamp with such a power LED that was approved for StVZO and was followed by the Schmidt Edelux. StVZO are the German traffic regulations, which contain various rules for lamps. In particular the amount of light that may go above to horizon is very limited and this is a good thing as you can read in my review of esp. the Magicshine MJ-808 which has a symmetric beam and which under some circumstances really blinds oncoming traffic. The IQ Fly suffers from a few problems, the first being that of extreme ugliness ;-) The second that its LED is not cooled properly in the plastic housing (and that reduces the light output as LEDs give more light when they are cooler). The Edelux suffers from neither of those problems... The IQ Fly (2007) and Schmidt Edelux (2008) gave huge jumps in light output that made all halogen headlamps obsolete and finally made it possible to cycle safely at a high speed (30 km/h and more) on unlit- or parallel roads.

2011-7-27: As I told those who in 2008 wanted to wait with buying an Edelux because of the LED lightput increases they expected, a jump in light output just couldn't be expected any more, and that turned out to be correct. The reason was simple: Huge jumps had already been made in the light output of 'white' LEDs and similar improvements couldn't be expected in short term because LEDs are already fairly efficient (getting to about 30% of the theoretical maximum) which eliminates large jumps. Another reason is that the eye doesn't work linearly (a lamp must produce much more light on the same area to appear to be noticeably brighter). This is why as of mid 2011 there still aren't dynamo lamps that are really better than the Edelux. A factor that has helped the Edelux stay on top is the limitations of StVZO, in particular the 2.4W at 15km/h requirement (6Veff via dynamo), and that newer LEDs such as the XP-G and XM-L have a larger illuminating area which makes it hard to bundle the light with a reflector or lens. In the future more light will primarily come from going around the limitations in StVZO, for example by gaming the system or by not adhering at all to the rules of power output. For more information on that see my StVZO analysis page.


1.3 The future of bicycle lighting: What do we need and what must be changed?

This section is the result of all experiences I had and the tests I did with dynamos and lamps. I would like to see the following:

I see faults and possibilities to improve designs in all products I encounter. A number of my ideas and wishes are are decribed above, though not in detail. I would also like to see a completely modular lighting system where the headlamp and taillamp contain no electronics...

I give some manufacturers suggestions for improvements as well. Whether they use those is yet to be seen, but some give positive response to them. But I really want to do more, and I'm thinking of designing a reflector for a headlamp (finally started this end of 2012). The first thing I want to do this for is to see how difficult it is, using my own computer programs. I'm also thinking about a new headlamp mount and some other things. At the moment all just for fun, and theory, but perhaps more will come from it.


2 Headlamps

2.1 Beam shape of headlamps & lamp mounting height in the fog

In some places mention is made that a beam with cutoff such as car headlamps have, and that all approved lamps for dynamos in Europe have, is better in fog as you will get blinded by a wall of light otherwise. I tested this in autumn 2009 in fairly heavy fog at night with a Schmidt Edelux and end of 2010 with a Lupine Betty 2011 and the results were clear: the output and beam shape of the lamp are not really an issue in the 'wall of light' phenomenon, the distance to your eyes of a reasonably bright light source is by far the biggest component. If that distance is about 60 cm you will not experience a wall of light. This means putting the headlamp on the handlebar is just about OK, slightly below would be my preference. See LED light colour, CRI and experiments.

2.2 LED light colour of a headlamp

Neutral white is superior to cool white and warm white under normal circumstances (dry and wet road), in fog warm white is best. Neutral white is the overall winner, and from my experiments ca. 4000K-4500K is optimal. See LED light colour, CRI and experiments.

2.3 Mounting height of a headlamp

Not considering fog, is having a lamp mounted low or high better? In early 2009 I already experimented with the Edelux comparing it at fork-crown height and at handlebar height. The results showed that for road use (not necessarily off-road), under normal conditions (no fog) it makes virtually no difference. Putting it higher should reflect back more light, but the difference is very small and I didn't really notice it (perhaps if I put them side by side I would). You can find recommendations for a lamp positioned low in various places, as this will give more shadows so you can actually see things (rocks, whatever) better. I'm not too sure it matters, it didn't really show in my tests... I have not experimented with a lamp positioned lower than fork-crown height (as is sometimes done on bicycles with a front rack).

So all in all, I recommend a lamp positioned at fork-crown height. Update (August 2010): After testing the Philips LED bike light, for more powerful headlamps handlebar height is a bit better as it lights up the road better, but to prevent problems in fog, perhaps mounting it just below the handlebar is the optimum height for such powerful lamps. I've yet to test the Philips LED bike light in the fog to see what happens.

2.4 Amount of light on the road from a circular beam

About 0.60x - 0.70x of the light gets onto the road, or more accurately on spots below the horizon (which can be positions beside the actual road, and to positions very far ahead where it's not of use). The exact factor depends on how wide the beam angle is, and how far away you aim the centre of the beam, on the road. This can fairly easily be calculated with school level mathematics:

Intersect a cone (the light beam from the lamp) with a horizontal plane going through the centre of the lamp's front glass and the horizon; integrate to the get the area below the line which is the intersection of one of the cone's circles and this horizontal plane. Divide this by the circle's surface and you have the fraction of light getting on the road (or rather below the horizon). Here's a picture to make it clearer:

In the calculations where I got 0.60 to 0.70, I assumed a beam angle of ca. 10-25 degrees (total angle), a distance from the lamp to where the centre of the beam hits the ground of ca. 20 metre to 40 metre, and a mounting height of the lamp of about 1.0 m (handlebar mounted). This assumes a homogeneous light beam (even distribution of light). Note that when a lamp has a bright hotspot that shines completely on the road surface, the amount of light getting onto the road will obviously be higher than that of a homogeneous light beam.

So, a fairly large amount of light is wasted (for road use) by circular beams. But not just that: while a symmetric beam may put about 0.60 - 0.70 of its light on the road (well, more accurately on spots below the horizon, and a lot beside the actual road), that doesn't mean it's as good as a lamp with cutoff that produces the same amount of light as that 0.60 - 0.70 of the symmetric lamp. This is very clear from my comparisons of the Magicshine MJ-808 and Ktronik's triple dynamo powered XP-G with an Edelux. The Edelux is much better due to its even beam and longer throw. It's also brighter on most parts of the road that the Edelux's beam covers. The Magicshine and Triple XP-G of course light up much more beside what the Edelux lights up (but mostly in places where you don't need the light). From comparing the Edelux, Magicshine, Triple XP-G and Philips LED bike light and comparing my pictures of the latter with more pictures on the IBC forums (mtb-news.de), I estimate that a symmetric lamp must have ca. 3 to 4 times the power of an asymmetric lamp with cutoff, to light up the road as well (as useful) as that lamp with cutoff.

As to being able to see traffic signs etc., you don't need a circular beam for that, lamps such as the Edelux give plenty of spill light to light up traffic signs when aimed below the horizon.

2.5 Lamp height: Putting a lamp meant for 0.75 m (fork crown height) at 1.05 m (handlebar height), and the reverse

The following pictures show, asuming the illuminated surface by the lamp is a rectangle, what happens to the beam shape of a light beam of a lamp that gets mounted at a height of 1.05 m instead of 0.75 m:

As φ1 = φ2, h1/d1 = h2/d2 = tan(φ), so d2=h2 x d1/h1, i.e. 1.4xd1. The same goes for the width of the beam, so for the surface: s2 = w2 x d2 = (h2/h1)2 x w1 x d1, so the beam is now spread over a surface that has 1.42 = 1.96 x larger area. This means the beam is only half as bright...

Now also consider what happens when rotating that lamp at 1.05 m down, such that the cutoff line is at the same position where it was at 0.75 m, and take into account that the beam doesn't start directly underneath the lamp:

To be added:
1. Discussion of shadows: Shadows are bigger (more clear for lower 'obstacles', longer) at a lower mounting height, so when the lamp is mounted at 0.75 m you get more information on the surface of the road and objects lying on the road from the shadows which are longer than when the lamp is mounted at 1.05 m.
2. Angle of reflection: I mentioned this elsewhere and I've done calculations and made some pictures, but I have not integrated it in this section yet.

What's clear from the above, that the reverse situation (putting a lamp meant for handlebar height, i.e. ca. 1.05m at 0.75m and rotating such that the cutoff is in the same position on the road) has some effects which can be very much undesireable:

After testing with the Philips LBL at 0.75 m I preferred it mounted at the original height of 1.05m...

2.6 Recumbents with lamp mounted at ca. 0.35m

In this case mounting a lamp meant for 0.75 m but especially 1.05 m will give a significant overexposure of the near field. I'm not sure how bad it really is. It might be better to find a way to mount the lamp higher, and in case of a enclosed trike, outside the body. As I don't ride recumbents/trikes, I cannot say much about this.

2.7 What do you need in a headlamp?

I am aware that 60 lux or more headlamps with a wide beam are not needed in most situations, but the problem is that bicycle lighting is not good enough for most situations. There are 2 cases:

So for bicycles we need either a 'being seen' low lux headlamp of which there are plenty to choose from, or a 100 lux headlamp like the LBL with a wide beam and ca. 270 lumen or more, which makes it possible to properly see everywhere. The latter does not (yet) exist in commercial dynamo lamps.

So what we need in new developments is strong headlamps that allow you to see everywhere, which means 100 lux dynamo headlamps with a beam similar to the Philips LBL, not yet-another 40 lux headlamp... I am aware that 40 lux headlamps were unheard of until the arrival of the IQ Fly, but lets be honest, before that all bicycle lighting was not adequate at all for just about any situation where you actually need to see the road! Therefore I would like to see headlamps that are good enough for all situations, as it is now technically possible! My LBL-dynamo has shown this...

2011-10-24: I got the following idea long ago when I was blinded once again by a headlamp that was not very powerful at all. It gives an argument for the use of 100 lux headlamps for use within a city, for a reason you wouldn't expect: A disadvantage of bicycle headlamps with a maximal intensity of 10-40 lux is that cyclists often set their angle badly such that opposing traffic gets the maximum of the lightintensity of that beam into their eyes. If the light beam had been stronger, they would more quickly set the angle correctly because with beams of 10-40 lux you don't see the cutoff height very well when using it within a city...

2013-6-13: just before my recent trip at the end of April, the following happened, which reminded me of how much an issue the problem of incorrect aiming is:

I was cycling at night, saw a light a long way away, and thought: WTF is that!? A Xenon car headlamp? Why has he got his high beam on? Or is it perhaps the low beam, but the car is on an incline? Why do I see only one headlamp? Is the other obscured (e.g. by a tree)?

The lamp was many hundreds of metres away, it seemed to be non-moving, when I got closer it turned out to be a cyclist! A short time before he passed me, I could see almost nothing of the road or anything else, I was almost blinded... (this road is about 4-5 metres wide, will check the exact width). I told him that he had pointed his headlamp too high. He turned around, asked what I said, and we got talking. He just bought a new bike with a Rohloff hub and an Edelux. So no Xenon headlamp, but an Edelux pointed too high...

It was really badly blinding, I'd not done tests to see how blinding headlamps are for a long time, and it was good to be reminded of how badly blinding they can be...

If you think other lower lux headlamps don't have such problems, well, let's take the Pico (which is a problematic headlamp as from the beamshape it's hard to say whether it's aimed too high): It hasn't got such a high lux value, but luminance is also an issue, so it could be just as bad... I will do such tests in a month or 2 if I get round to it (life seems to get in the way the past year and a half, not enough time and inclination to do all tests that I want to do).

See further:

2.v Reviews of headlamps with cutoff for dynamo

Note that all headlamps, and taillamps work equally well on a sidewall dynamo as on a dynamo hub. Even the K-tronik triple XP-G can be used with a standard dynamo.

What is apparent from my reviews, is how few good headlamps with cutoff for dynamo there are (this was written in 2011, it was a lot better when writing this in 2013, and now in 2015, it has not become better, for example because Philips quit...), and that even the best ones have fairly large weaknesses. We need more competition, and better headlamps! The LBL+special dynamo driver shows what's possible...

2.v.b The best dynamo headlamps

Of the still produced headlamps, the best ones, taking into account their abilities (USB or not), beamshape, cost, are:

All reviews of headlamps with cutoff

Overview with summaries of reviews of headlamps with cutoff for dynamo, and a list of possibly interesting not yet tested lamps.

Direct to the review of a headlamp:

2.v.ii Experimental dynamo LED driver

See Using a new dynamo LED driver, where I describe the future of dynamo lighting :-) E.g. running a Philips LBL on dynamo at 0.90A (yes!) and running a triple XM-L on dynamo at 0.90A (yes! 800 lumen for real).


2.a Dynamo taillamps

For the setup on the wallshots/corner shots, see Camera settings, camera height, lamp height, and roads used to make beamshots. But, the test procedure for taillamps is still in its infancy (this was written in 2011-2012). I'm still figuring out what's needed for a proper review. This really means, I'm doing all kinds of tests and making pictures under all kinds of circumstances. The fact that the test procedure is not yet fixed is also the reason that the criticism of some taillamps changed during the tests (in particular of the taillamps with incandescent bulb)...

2015-3-3: The issues have been clear for a long time, and there is just 1 addition to be done which I alluded to in 2013 already : A wallshot at various distances to see if there is a spot on the wall that stays the same shape and thus an indication of long distance visibility. But in the mean time, from my tests it seems that it's not that important, just about any current taillamp (not regarding single 5mm LED taillamps such as 'Frogs') can be seen at very long distances, 300m or more is no problem. So then it seems the biggest issue is visibility combined with distance estimation. For this an as large an illuminating surface as possible is needed...

To be done in the taillamp reviews:

Important points for taillamps

taillamp considerations on what's good, bad and necessary.

Long distance taillamp test

Goal 1: To see how well visible they are at various distances.

Goal 2: Determine the difference between line taillamps and taillamps with large illuminated surface w.r.t. visibility and ability to estimate distance. I tested this by comparing the Line plus and Plateo xds (with obscured point source).

Goal 3: To see how well you can estimate distance.

The results are interesting (see here) and show that an almost-collimated beam is needed for long range visibility, and for good close range visibility you need a large illuminated surface, and no bright point source!

Power draw of dynamo taillamps

see here

Reviews of StVZO approved taillamps for dynamo

Although my interest is in dynamo taillamps, in some cases I tested a battery version in case I couldn't get hold of the dynamo version. After that I've tested some more battery taillamps because they seem interesting and are not available in dynamo versions... Also battery powered taillamps are of interest when you want to run only the headlamp from dynamo.

2.a.b The best (dynamo) taillamps

Of the still produced taillamps, the best ones, taking into account their abilities, beamshape/visibility, cost, are:

Rack mounted:

Or if you can still find one: The Philips Lumiring...

Spanninga make the best rack mounted taillamps now (B&M is only better if you want a brake-taillamp), and I will compare the Lumiring with the Solo soon...

Mounted on the fender:

Indeed, there is no choice, the rest is rubbish... Well, the Spanninga O is available in a fender mounted version, but that's for batteries, and I wouldn't want a lamp with such a heavy going (and not all that reliable) switch on the fender.

Mounted on the seatpost/rear fork:

All taillamp reviews

Taillamp reviews: Overview page with summaries of all reviews of taillamps, and listing others that may or may not be of interest.

Direct to the reviews:

2.a.i All light beams/projections of taillamps together, except that since 2014, I'm not making beamshots/wallshots of taillamps with visible annoying point sources. Such lamps are immediately given a rating 'not recommended' and I will waste no further time on them.

See Cornershots, wallshots and visibility of taillamps.

2.a.ii Other dynamo tailamps that could be of interest, or not


3 Dynamos

The developments I read about in cycling magazines in the 90s, were about tiny improvements in regular sidewall dynamos. Union for example had a trio of light weight dynamos (late 90s?), not much was said about hub dynamos... I bought one of those Union dynamos, which was really poor. It wasn't the Turbo (which has an aluminium housing), which I wanted to buy but couldn't obtain despite my attempts to order it from various stores, but a cheaper all-black plastic version. After a short while, the bearings were shot and it jammed. Another one I got under warranty to replace the defective one, had the same problem. The poor efficiency was clear from how hot it got during a short (say 30 minute) night ride... I see you can still buy it from some places: union 6509, from sjscycles. Don't buy it! Another bad experience was with a Sanyo dynamo that I tried in the late 1990s: It had a rubber wheel, and could be used on either the tyre or the rim, but in the wet or when there was snow it was worse than useless slipping on both rim and tyre...

Dynamo hubs were in existence long before that time. Sturmey Archer had one already in 1936. Sturmey even made an interesting 3 speed rear wheel with included dynamo. Why oh why were sidewall generators (always slipping in the rain, mud, snow) still being used so much until recently? I did read that the Sturmey hubs couldn't supply more than 1.8W, and had some problems with their seals, but wouldn't such a hub always be better than a sidewall dynamo?

A potential issue with dynamo hubs is feeling vibrations in the handlebar, see Vibrations and other issues with dynamo hubs for more about the vibration issue.

Experiences with dynamos

The following reviews are of all the dynamos I tried from ca. 2007 on. In general I would advise against any sidewall dynamo because of the problem of slipping in the rain, this despite possible vibration issues in the handlebar that you may get with a dynamo hub. If you really want a sidewall generator, the Axa HR is a good one with big wheel that doesn't slip quickly (I used it for half a year or so).

Contrary to bicycle headlamps and taillamps, good dynamos are available fairly cheaply. Even Shimano's low end hub dynamos last for years on Dutch bikes which see lots of rain and snow (but the higher end Shimano hubs have better seals and last longer...). The hub dynamos shown here are in some sense therefore all luxury products, and the most expensive ones have little advantage over the cheapest ones... That includes efficiency, because a hub with lower efficiency is not really noticeable, the loss in power is dwarfed by common effects such as resistance from headwind/tailwind/sidewind and the changes in that are far bigger than any resistance from a dynamo that you switch on/off.


The best dynamos


Dynamo reviews

Dynamo reviews: Summary of all reviews

Power output test with various dynamos

See the dynamo comparison page for power output test results with the special dynamo driver. Results with a resistor as per StVZO to follow.

Dynamo issues, vibrations and more

Other issues: Theory (vibrations and more)


3.2 Other dynamos that could be of interest, or not...

3.3 Other measurements/information on dynamos

http://fahrradzukunft.de/14/neue-nabendynamos-im-test/ has a review of dynamos. There are a few issues with it. Not the measurements, but the way the article is written and how the dynamos are compared. See Tests/reviews by others of bicycle dynamos.


4 Headlamps without cutoff or those that are battery powered

A long time ago I used a battery powered headlamp + taillamp and with the headlamp I found it very annoying that the lamp couldn't go for more than 45 minutes on high after a while (battery capacity having decreased fairly quickly, this was a Specialized preview 2.5 with 4 x AA NiCads), that I always needed to check if the batteries were charged enough for the ride I wanted to do or routinely charge after each ride, and I regularly had problems esp. on long rides (45 minutes or more) with batteries that were nearly empty halfway. This meant I had to switch to low mode which was not enough to properly see the road and in some case I had no light at all on large sections of these long rides.

This was very annoying and I eventually just mounted a dynamo. I used a few types, all of which sometimes gave problems in rain or snow, esp. a Sanyo with rubber roller wheel that I bought was completely useless and I settled on an old 1980s one from my dad... Even with the occasional problem in the wet or snow, they were much less irritating than using a battery powered lamp. I like the comfort of the dynamo setup which is essentially having an always full battery.

My emphasis is on riding on-road (commuting, and daily use such as getting groceries), not off-road (mountainbike) so I need an asymmetric beam pattern in a lamp.

The tests of battery powered lamps and of lamps without cutoff are therefore for me of interest to see what's possible with bicycle lighting, and not to see which one I would want to use on a daily basis.

4.1 Headlamps that have a cutoff, battery powered

Summary page: Headlamps with cutoff that run on batteries

Direct to the review pages:

4.1.i Other battery powered headlamps with cutoff that could be of interest, or not

The following are all battery powered headlamps with cutoff that might be competion to the Philips LBL/Saferide 80.

4.2 Headlamps that have no cutoff

Some people use headlamps with symmetric beam such as the Magicshine to give proper light on the road, but there is no good reason for doing so: There are good lamps for on-road use, i.e. of high quality and having a good light output with which one can safely cycle on unlit roads at speeds of 30 km/h and more, lamps for dynamo (esp. the Edelux, although more light would be more comfortable, in particular on parallel roads) and lamps that are battery powered (esp. the Philips LBL/Saferide 80, and before that the B&M Ixon IQ which is similar to a Cyo but battery powered).

The following tests therefore were only of interest to me to see how well a symmetric beam lights up the road, and to study the differences between a symmetric beam and one with cutoff.

4.2.1 Magicshine MJ-808 P7 LED lamp 10 W (maximum 550 lumen, battery powered, no cutoff) vs. Edelux (ca. 180 lumen at 30 km/h)

Tested: June 2010

MTB lamp, not suitable on public roads, doing so is dangerous and antisocial (at least in countries where car drivers aren't trying to kill cyclists, as some seem to want to do from what I read about the US and the UK; btw. I believe that a major influence on changing attitudes of people is children: Letting children ride to school on a bicycle, as is common practice in the Netherlands, would definitely help, not only in the attitude these children will have later in life, but this will undoubtedly have an immediate effect on what car drivers feel they can do...). Not better than an Edelux for on-road use.

More details: Magicshine MJ-808 P7 LED lamp 10W: description and review + comparison with Edelux

4.2.2 Lupine Betty 2011 (7 x XP-G R5), for MTB use, no cutoff

Tested: 17-29 Nov 2010

MTB lamp using 7 x XP-G cool white LEDs producing ca. 1850 lumen (claimed by manufacturer, but likely real). Illumination of the road surface is better than the Philips LED bike light by virtue of the enormous amount of light, but it's not a spectacular improvement and this only works when aiming the lamp far, otherwise the close-field is illuminated far too brightly.

More details: Lupine Betty 2011 (7 x XP-G R5), for MTB use, no cutoff: description and review

4.2.3 Ktronik triple XP-G (cool white) MTB lamp, dynamo powered, no cutoff

Tested: 1-21 August 2010

MTB lamp using 3 x XP-G cool white LEDs, this gives a lot of light powered by a standard dynamo, but for on-road use it's not suitable because of the beam that shines into the face of oncoming traffic (esp. cyclists will have problems with this, drivers in cars less so because they have powerful headlamps). Not actually better than an Edelux for on-road use. Especially disappointing is the short throw of about 40 m. For MTB use the Ktronik lamps are the best dynamo lamps you can buy.

More details: Dynamo headlamp: Ktronik triple XP-G (cool white) lamp: description and review

4.2.4 Supernova E3 triple (version from summer 2009, supposedly 550 lumen), 3 LEDs, for MTB use, no cutoff, for dynamo

Tested: From 10 January 2011.

MTB lamp using 3 x (XR-E or P4?) cool white LEDs that according to Supernova produces 550 lumen. In reality it probably produces about 270 lumen and that's an optimistic estimate. It is not very bright, esp. compared to the Ktronik triple XP-G. A regular headlamp with cutoff gives much more useful light for use on public roads and for MTB use the lamp seems to me far too dim. The 2010 version is undoubtedly better, but not much better considering the light measurements of Olaf Schultz (max. ca. 345 lumen at 40 km/h).

More details: Supernova E3 triple (version from summer 2009, supposedly 550 lumen), 3 LEDs, for MTB use, no cutoff, for dynamo: description and review

4.2.5 Bidi triple LED 2013, 3 LEDs, for MTB use, no cutoff, for dynamo


Tested: From 17 April 2013.

This is my test of a prototype of a custom made MTB lamp using 3 x LEDs. A good amount of light, but throw doesn't get to where the best dynamo lamps with cutoff get, as expected, because that's very hard to do. It lights up the road and what's beside it very well as you can see in the beam shot. This light has been designed with a lot of care and is as good as any other you can buy. The switch and dynamo cable are the best I've seen on any dynamo lamp showing how much the designer looks at details. A brighter version will come soon. Price could be around €70,-. If you're interested in this lamp at such price, let me know, and I will let the designer know.

More details: Bidi triple 2013, 3 LEDs, for MTB use, no cutoff, for dynamo: description and review

4.3 Other headlamps without cutoff that could be of interest, or not...

I only mention dynamo headlamps here, there are way too many battery powered MTB headlamps for me to mention, let alone review/test, especially as it's an area that's only of interest to me in a limited way.


5 Passive lighting: Reflection

5.1 Reflection stripes on tyres

In the 1980s here in the Netherlands circular reflection on tyres, rims or somewhere mounted on the spokes became mandatory. I didn't like the aluminium spoke mounted reflectors (I think 3 were used to form a circular reflector similar to the reflecting stripe on the tyres) on my bike, but tyres soon became available with reflection and when you needed a new tyre, you simply got one of those.

Some rims were made with reflection stripes, I've seen stainless steel rims with them for example. They seem to last from my experiences, at least 15 years for a city bike that is kept mostly in a shed when you're at home, just like the reflection on the spoke reflectors. In any event, tyre reflection is the direction developments have gone and once the reflective layer gets loose from the tyre, the tyre is usally quite worn anyway.

Note that the regulators making these rules aren't stupid (or I should say: Not always stupid ;-) See my page on StVZO where I show some of the stupidities in StVZO!). Some people complain about such requirements, say that they are useless, but side reflection does help to see cyclists on intersections where motorists otherwise might go faster thinking no one is there. Many headlamps and taillamp don't put out much light to sides, which is why this reflection helps. It also helps from behind to see that a cyclist ahead is starting to make a turn. For this, reflection on the tyre is also better than on the rim or mounted on the spokes, as the tyres are wider, thus reflective surfaces in case of rim-reflection or spoke mounted reflection will be partly hidden.

5.2 Reflectors on pedals

The up-down movement of the reflectors on the pedals is very noticeable while not being too distracting nor annoying, and makes it very clear there's a cyclist ahead. This works at long range with a car's high beam or at at least ca. 50 m with a car's low beam (depending on the beam). With a good bicycle headlamp such as the Edelux you will also notice the pedal reflectors from a large distance.

Unfortunaly, many pedal types only come with bolt-on reflectors which don't have a long lifespan (because they are prone to getting knocks as they are exposed on the pedal's cage). You should install them anway... They work well because they are positioned at a low height part of the pedal cycle which means low beams and strong bicycle lights with cutoff will reflect off of them. That's why I prefer to use pedals with reflectors where possible.

The Shimano PD-T780 is an exception. This is Shimano's latest normal+SPD pedal with internal reflectors. This makes it my preferred normal+SPD pedal (it works nicely with standard shoes and with SPD shoes, and is not all that heavy).


USB power from dynamo

Apart from headlamps with built in USB (Luxos U, Luxx 70plus, nano 50 plus) there are other USB power devices, but you'd have to switch these with a headlamp if you also ride at night.

Here is an article with a list of power converters from dynamo to USB and other power supplies such as solar cells that could be of use on cycling trips:


6 Overview of beamshots, movies, camera settings etc.

6.1 Camera settings, camera height, lamp height, and roads used to make beamshots

Camera settings, camera height, lamp height, and roads used to make beamshots

6.2 Pictures of light beams from the lamps I tested

Pictures of light beams from headlamps. All (well, most) pictures of light beams from headlamps on one page. I need to update this page and really make it autogenerated as some pictures can only be found on the review pages of the E3-pro-StVZO and QL-269.

Pictures of light beams from taillamps. All pictures of light beams from taillamps on one page.

6.3 Videos of bicycle lamps in action

The videos on the page Videos of bicycle lamps in action are made with a relatively cheap camera the Samsung EX1 which has a bright F1.8 lens and a bigger sensor than compact cameras which makes the results it gives pretty good.


7 Various technical issues

7.1 Light colour in bicycle headlamps (cool white vs. neutral white and warm white), experiments in fog, etc.

colour, at night, illuminated by a cool white LED light colour, at night, illuminated by a neutral white LED light

The colour usually chosen for LED bicycle lamps is cool white because that is the type of colour LED makers can produce most light output with, i.e. this is a 'bigger is better' choice, but it's more complicated than that. Neutral or warm white give better colour rendition for those colours that one sees at the edge of the paved road, and for mountain biking this means obviously a better colour rendition on the entire 'trail'. Ive been testing both with torches and LEDs mounted in a bicycle lamp. Also various experiments in fog to see how far a lamp should be from your eyes and which LED colour is better in those circumstances.

For the complete story with experiments and pictures which will give you a view of the differences of these colours and of the advantages of neutral white compared to cool white, see LED light colour, CRI and experiments.

7.2 Annoyances caused by various types of lamps

See this page for various issues of lighting such as daytime lamps, correct adjustment of the light beam, etc.

7.3 Analysis of regulations for bicycle-, pedelec- and e-bike lighting

7.4 Calculations: Speed loss from battery vs dynamo, dynamo vs. no dynamo

Speed loss from battery vs dynamo, dynamo vs. no dynamo

8 References

Manufacturers:

Various websites with more information on dynamos and how much power you can extract from them (incl. circuits to use multiple LEDs):

Internet forums:

And then this:


9 Note about interpretation, objectivity

If you want to critize something I wrote, feel free to send an email but I'm only interested in proper arguments, not things like "your reviews are biased because they don't agree at all with other reviews". That has nothing to do with being biased, because most other reviews are poorly done, so no wonder my conclusions differ... (2013: There is beginning to come more criticism on various websites and forums about point light sources and cool white LEDs and other matters that I've been writing about for a long time, but I don't know whether that has finally improved this year in magazines)

See for more about this, Criticism.

Further note that my views are biased in some sense, namely the situation in the Netherlands and neighbouring countries, Belgium and Germany. There are large differences in behaviour in motorists in esp. UK, USA, Australia and other countries with fewer cyclists, where cyclists are seen as occupying 'their roads'. The situation in a country influences a little bit what is acceptable as a lighting system, for example whether flashing is acceptable or not. With lots of cyclists, I would say it's not acceptable, and besides that it takes away the ability to estimate distance (and visibile indications that a cyclist may turn left/right!). A way to differentiate bike-car would be useful for large speed differences. But what besides flashing? Perhaps I should add a section on different attitudes in different countries? But even when looking at different attitudes, the design principles for good lamps remain as I described...


Support this site by buying lighting/leatther saddle...

Everything I tested is available fairly quickly from any bikeshop in the EU these days, the Sunup dynamo is an exception. For the USA or other parts of the world it's quite different, availability can be from spotty to not at all, so you may have to rely on ordering from another country. I started selling bicycle stuff too a year or more after first publishing my review pages, and I sell what I like, so not the other way around (as some people implied with saying I might not be objective, i.e. that would be writing a review to sell something. This makes no sense, if I were to do that I would not be so critical and sell everything that I can sell, but the whole point of my reviews and the whole philosophy behind my sales pages is exactly that I do not want that, as you can get that anywhere else, and I'm not interested in doing it 'the bad way' ;-))

So if you want to support my site, buy from me...

To email me go to the email page
Bicycle parts: lighting |