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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.
Or you could buy a saddle or bike lighting components to support this site :) See below for specific plans for new types of tests/measurements and lamps that I could review if there is enough interest.
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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).
I'm also interested in loans or donations from manufacturers, but note:
2013-3-3: I saw the webpage on the velogical rim dynamo long ago (I think mid 2012) but it didn't seem interesting to me because of the problems that all rim- and tyre dynamos have, so I just mention it here as a curiosity: http://www.velogical-engineering.com/rim-dynamo.
Older news from manufacturers and other sources can be found here.
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):
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 lightcurrent, 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 determines on the distance at which you measure. In a divergent beam, it increases if the distance tot he 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, in which measures bicycle headlamps at 10 m distance, and the brightest part of the beam is that lamp's lux rating.
Usually dynamos are claw pole generators which have an interesting characteristic: They are nearly current generators from a given speed (supplying ca. 0.5 to 0.6A). Power increases as your speed increases, thus voltage will also rise with speed, but not unlimited for resistive loads as U(voltage)=I(current) x R(resistance), so when the maximum current is reached, U will remain constant because R is constant. This means that if a electric device attached to such a dynamo 'uses' the maximum current, voltage will not rise (well, for a resistive load with fixed resistance, which incandescent headlamps/taillamps are, but LED headlamps/taillamps are not!). You can make use of this in more sophisticated electronics by keeping the current below the maximum. So by effectively increasing the resistance of the device attached to the generator, voltage will rise to get to 0.5A, which means you get a higher power output. But this is also the problem that causes taillamp bulbs in old incandescent lighting to burn out: The resistance of a taillamp is much higher than that of the headlamp, the power through it is far lower, so if the headlamp wears out (they usually last about 100 hours or so), then the full current will go through the taillamp, but the taillamp will only 'use' a high current at a high voltage, and so the voltage over the bulb increases a lot, causing current to rise to far more than the designated 0.1A, and then it quickly burns out. So in normal use, with a working headlamp- and taillamp bulb, any over voltage protection is not required and bulbs will not wear out no matter how fast you are riding... Well, of course dynamos are not perfect current sources and power through the bulb(s) will increase at higher speeds, but not hugely. Another issue is bad wiring, this can cause the same problem of a headlamp not making proper contact and thus the taillamp gettting regular spikes which quickly kill it. The reverse case can also happen: A taillamp dying or having a bad contact, causing the headlamp to get 0.5A instead of 0.4A but this is not significant enough to worry about. To combat such issues in the 1980s headlamps were provided with zener diodes. These are non-conductors until a given voltage is reached. If voltage rises above its rating, the diode will conduct, thus short-circuiting the hub. This does not fix the problem of bad wiring, so putting zener diodes into the taillamp would have made more sense. After that, in the 1990s various dynamos were equipped with zener diodes, and the problem of this solution for current day use is that you can't get more out of them, in case you want to. Some headlamps (triple LED systems) will not work properly with such a system in place... But it's not much of an issue, anyone who wants this now, will almost certainly get a dynamo hub.
Some dynamos have built in regulators such as the Lightspin and B&M's Dymotec. I'm not sure whether the regulators were also recitifiers, if so they are in the same class as the Sunup Eco, which rectifies and limits power output. The power limiters means you can't get more out of these than about 6V 3W for systems that would otherwise be able to extract and use more power, such USB power devices or headlamps with multiple LEDs that don't try to restrict themselves to the 2.4W limit in StVZO. Sidewall dynamos are practically dead, the Lightspin is not available any more, the Dymotec, well, who would buy this over a cheapo sidewall dynamo? So then we have the Sunup which is at the moment it seems the only viable non-claw pole generator. As the output is rectified and limited, you can't usefully drive multple LEDs with it as is, and the B&M brake taillamp doesn't work because of it. Not all headlamps work with it either, such as the Luxos U (not sure about the Luxos B).
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.
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:
See also: Vibrations caused by dynamo hubs
I like the Sunup rear-wheel generator but it should produce a bit more power at low speed. This will come in 2012 (apparantly delayed...). Further I would like to see more mounting options as I suggested to them (see my review of the Sunup DS)...
I would also like to see a generator that uses the brakedisc, e.g. with a special brakedisc with holes to mount neodymium magnets in, or perhaps just make a ring with magnets that attaches to the brakedisc. Then use a generator with a claw to extract power. This would be cool, but not new btw. The first Dutch bicycle computer, the IKU Cyclotronic from the 1980s used a magnet ring mounted on the front wheel both to count ticks for speed, and to generate power. It never needed a new battery... My dad bought one long ago, and I used it for years too (I still have it and it still works).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: Discussion of shadows, which are bigger when the lamp is mounted at 0.75 m, which gives you information on the surface too.
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...
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.
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).
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's a lot better now...), 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...
Tested: From July 2008 (used regularly since the test). Sunup compatible: Yes
This headlamp was the best dynamo headlamp from mid 2008 to fall 2010. It's still an excellent choice but there are other options that are about as good. The Edelux, since ca. end of 2009, has a different reflector which has a longer beam (good) but also a big hotspot (very bad!) so in my view it's not as good any more as the one I tested.
Tested: From 22 October 2010 (used regularly since the test) Sunup compatible: Yes
This headlamp is one of the best currently available dynamo lamps with cutoff. Strong light beam up to ca. 45m, so it has a throw similar to the Edelux, too much light near the front wheel (but you only really notice this when switching to another headlamp while riding), no automatic on/off, the original mounting bracket is not stiff enough, the later one is much better, the lamp lets light go upward to your eyes (can be fixed with some black tape or paint). Conclusion at the end of 2010: Due to the low price compared to the 2 main competitors (Edelux and E3-pro-StVZO) and as it's about as good as those 2, this lamp for me is the best value for money. End of 2012 this conclusion was still true after testing the Luxos B.
2013-9-28: My conclusion after testing the Luxx70plus and Luxos U: In beamshape the Saferide 60 is superior to the Luxos and Luxx70plus, it is far more comfortable to ride with, but the Luxos U and Luxx70plus have the advantage of a USB power output. If you don't need a USB power output then the Saferide 60 is the best value for money.
2013-9-28: I'm wondering after having tested new version of the Saferide 80 with neutral white LEDs, whether the dynamo lamps have also been changed with lower colour temperature LEDs. I suppose I should try a new Saferide 60...
Tested: From 17 Nov. 2010 (used regularly since the test) Sunup compatible: ?
The beam shape is nowhere near as good as that of the Edelux or Philips SLD, but it is relatively cheap and produces a strong, usable beam, so this a good choice if you're on a budget.
More details: Dynamo headlamp: Trelock LS 885
Tested: 17 Nov. - 6 Dec. 2010. Sunup compatible: Yes
Worst bicycle headlamp I've ever seen despite the fact that it gives a wider and brighter beam than halogen lamps. The beam is a weird trapezoidal shape with very sharp cutoff and very sharply defined corners. These give a feeling of being trapped in a tunnel of light. I suppose it's hard to imagine that if you haven't experienced it. The sharp corners and the fairly strong hotspot attract your attention which is bad. The daylight running lights are annoying because of their colour (blue with a bit of purple), and because they are not diffuse and point sources of light. The beam is very weak, especially if you aim it far (so that you have light up to ca. 40m), it is much weaker than the Edelux, Philips SLD and Trelock LS885.
Note: This review is of course only relevant for the Cyo R and RT (for the R, disregard the parts in the review about the daylight running lights) which is the near field version of the Cyo (= 40 lux Cyo), not the Cyo sport (= 60 lux Cyo). The Cyo 60 has the same beam shape as the Edelux and is almost as bright as the Edelux.
Note 2: Someone in a German forum mentioned the tolerances in LEDs/electronics cause my view that the Cyo R/RT is so dim. Not true. It's related to the light output and the surface area over which the light is spread when you aim this lamp such that you get light to about 40m (and compared to the Cyo 60, the retro-reflector/diffuser must cause some losses, further the beam is fairly wide at the end of the beam, which is not useful unless the LED produces more light, i.e. the light gets spread too thinly and thus the intensity on the ground is too low). Variations in total lightoutput due to deviations in LEDs or the circuitry are inconsequential due to the logarithmic nature of human vision. If the LEDs were to produce 5% less at a given current, and the circuitry also 5% less current, then the total loss in lightoutput (lumen) would be less than 10% and the total loss in perceived brightness just a few percent, i.e. not really noticeable...
Tested: 22 Dec. 2010 - 24 Jan. 2011. Sunup compatible: Yes
Good strong light beam to about 25 m (weak at longer distances, therefore I do not recommend this lamp for those who like to ride fast at night), not too much light near the front wheel, very weak standlight, no automatic on/off, the multimount is good (the also available bar mount is poor), expensive. At the end of 2010 until late 2011 this was one the 3 top headlamps, approximately equal to the other 2 which were the Edelux and Philips SLD (each has their strengths and weaknesses, so there are large differences in various aspects between them!). Since late 2011, various much cheaper lamps (esp. H-diver, Saferide 40) are available which are at least as good as the E3-pro in beamshape, though not in housing, and the housing is really what you pay for with Supernova.
More details: Dynamo headlamp: Supernova E3-pro-StVZO
Tested: Spring 2010. Sunup compatible: Yes
This headlamp is an example of obsolete technology... Not actually suited to riding on unlit roads, and not at all suited to riding on parallel roads where you're being blinded by car headlamps. The picture on the left was made on a wet road 3, its beam barely gets captured by the camera, the difference with good LED lamps is just astounding. It is obvious that even on a dry and ice free road, you don't get good/enough light. You should compare the beamshot with those I made of this lamp after modification with a neutral white LED on a wet road 2, which gave an enormous improvement.
Tested: Since 10 Feb 2012 (used regularly since the test) Sunup compatible: ?
Although the beam shape is fairly pleasing, it's not good enough for unlit country lanes (not strong enough at distances of 30 - 45 m), and I have doubts about the durability (weak housing) and the quality control doesn't seem to be great either from the problems I had with the housing in 2 of 3 headlamps. This means unless you can't afford a better lamp, I would recommend a Trelock LS885, Cyo 60, Philips Saferide 60 (in increasing order of price and functionality). The Philips Saferide 40 is probably better than the LS885, but more about that in the future. Update Dec. 2012: I was told the composition of the plastic of the lamp's housing in early versions had some issues, and was changed...
More details: Dynamo headlamp: Herrmans H-diver
Tested: 60/75 lux version since 23 Aug. 2012, 75/95 lux version: Since 2 Jan. 2013. Sunup compatible: ?
60-75 lux version (lux values are with/without taillamp): I don't particularly like the beamshape, and for some reason despite the high lux claim the illumination at 40m seems pretty weak compared to Saferide 60/Edelux. I think this is because the lux rating is a short peak as opposed to maintained over some time. I mentioned such issues before, somewhere else on my website...
75-95 lux version (lux values are with/without taillamp): Mid-late November 2012 a new version of the H-one S arrived. I had already heard it was a big improvement though the reflector looks the same, the LED is different, bigger, more yellow. This headlamp is the first factory made dynamo bicycle headlamp with a neutral white LED (update 28-9-2013: The Saferide 80 with neutral white LEDs may have been available at that time already), and it kicks ass in the rain and is more pleasant than cool white under all circumstances.
More details: Dynamo headlamp: Herrmans H-one S
Tested: Since 9 Dec. 2012 (test not finished). Sunup compatible: ?
Excellent construction, but I'd like to see a beam of even width, not a pinched section that the U1 has. Regarding beam I would prefer the H-diver...
More details: Dynamo headlamp: Dosun U1
Tested: Luxos B: Since 19 Dec. 2012 (test in progress), Luxos U: Since ca. 15 June 2013. Sunup compatible: No (at least the U, not sure about the B)
Luxos B: The cutoff is very sharp, but then, the reflector is huge (the larger the reflector, the better you can make the cutoff). Bad point is the strong hotspot and those daytime lights are not what I would want to see (see my suggestions elsewhere for what the optimal daytime light should look like, namely more like a good taillamp), but at least those daylight LEDs give white light and not blue/purple as with the awful Cyo RT that I tested and you don't get the direct light from the LEDs, which gives the problem of far too high luminance. But they are still of variety 'visibility by being annoying' which I don't like. Especially at night these are very annoying (and yes, they light at night because they don't just serve as daytime lights). The beamshape is very wide. In the rain the near field's exposure gives a big problem as it is far too bright in that case due to the rest of the beam not showing much from the road due to wetness and the light colour (see also the review of the H-one S). The artefacts near the bike also become very distracting in that case.
Luxos U: For this lamp all that goes for the Luxos B is also valid here, the Luxos U just has some extras: The Luxos U has a handlebar mounted switch/USB output. It also has a high mode which is made possible using the internal battery and it has 'panoramic' light (more light near the bicycle) which I didn't really notice except at about 6 km/h which is useless, but it's useless anyway as the Luxos overexposes the near field quite close the bike already. The handlebar mounted switch has a bad 3.5mm connector and the electronics is way too sensitive to it getting even slightly damp resulting in the lamp only flashing on and off. The Luxos kept unimpressing me regarding beam shape and comparing it to the Philips LBL (even though that is battery powered) made clear how pathetic the Luxos' beam is in every aspect except sharpness of the cutoff compared to this lamp from 2009. The overexposure near the bike is unbelievably bad and the irregularity of the beam too. The Luxos looks good on B&M's beamshots, but those do not represent what you see in reality. This is in general a big problem. I will make new beamshots on a gray and wider road and a bit more behind the lamp, which should show the artefacts better, as you can see them in the still from the video I made. The USB power output works, also when the lamp is on, but in the latter case it doesn't always work properly as I found on a long trip. Still the USB output makes it worth buying, but if USB power output is not important get the Saferide 60, or if USB output is desirable but not important at night then the Luxx70 plus is an option.
Additions: 1. My Luxos U died end of October... 2. I forgot to add from a test long ago: The glare from the Luxos seemed OK only when just the main LED was lit. It was really bad with the DRL lamps lit, which do light up at night ('panorama' light)... 3. I got an email about the Luxos not working on the Sunup: Yes, it needs AC it seems and as B&M mentions. Many lamps work on DC but they are made for an AC dynamo, and I suppose a list of which lamps work on the Sunup, would be useful.
More details: Dynamo headlamps: B&M Luxos B & Luxos U
Tested: Since 17 March 2013 (test is in progress). Sunup compatible: ?
Summary to come.
More details: Dynamo headlamps: Axa pico 30
Tested: Since 19 April 2013 (test is in progress). Sunup compatible: ? If not via dynamo input, then connecting the Sunups output to the USB input if that can handle 6V?
Lamp with internal 3xAA batteries that can be charged via dynamo, USB. The lamp can also supply power to devices via an USB cable, either a separate USB output, or a combined dynamo input + USB output cable... This is quite cool. The light of the lamp is cool white, and the beam pattern is nothing special, comparable to many middle class lamps, and not as good as the Saferide 40 / H-diver, but the qualities of this lamp are in the total package with USB input and output. Test is still in progress.
More details: Dynamo headlamps: Sheng Li: Banklight LD-101
Tested: Since 4 Jul. 2013. Sunup compatible: ?
Useful beam, reach is about the same as most dynamo StVZO lamps, ca. 45 m. Beamshape is not as wide as the Luxos, but also has fewer sharp artefacts (which are the annoying/attention grabbing ones). It's a bit comparable to the Trelock LS885 which I recommended as a good budget choice, and this beamshape is better than the LS 885 but compared to the best lights clearly not as good in width. The price with USB output makes up for that.
More information: Soon: Dynamo headlamp: Axa luxx 70 plus
B&M Lumotex Eyc N (50 lux). With new IQ2 reflector. It seems not to be available with auto on/off, if you want that you need to buy the version with DRL. I'll pass. Update 2013-11-16: The beamshot looks bad in that it has a big overexposed spot near the bike. See the 2nd link below, so testing this lamp would be a waste of time.
I only got a battery powered one for testing. Perhaps I will buy a Saferide 40 dynamo and give that a proper review, but such lamps are as all lamps with low lux rating, not great in various situations we have in NL. Addition 2013-9-22: For Germany I would say you need even better lamps than in NL. So my recent experiences confirm that we need to-be-seen headlamps (perhaps similar to taillamps) and very strong to-see headlamps.
Busch en Müller IQ Cyo: (not the Nahfeld/near-field version, and also not the 'T' version which is has daylight lights that only do 1 thing: annoy oncoming traffic): This has been available since early October 2008 and is an improvement on the IQ Fly. It has the same beam shape as an Edelux, but produces a little less light and is a lot uglier. The Cyo and recent Edelux'es have a hotspot in the middle which attracts your attention which is bad. The Cyo has an auto on/off but I don't know how good that is (in the Edelux it is useless as the light almost always goes on). It has no near-field light so all in all this lamp seems inferior to me on just about all points, including construction, to a Philips Saferide LED dynamo (unless you think the automatic on/off is very important).
Supernova lamps from 2011 and later: I'm just not interested, they keep listing lamps with bogus lightoutput (*), and the low lux rating means these lamps are unsuitable to people who need a strong beam when getting blinded on cycle paths parallel to roads for cars, or low lying cycle paths. Since late 2011 a lot of headlamps have been introduced with fairly good illumination that is strong up to about 30m, in particular the Herrmans H-diver and the Philips Saferide 40 which are as least as good with respect to the beam (but not in sturdiness). What you're really paying for with Supernova is the desire to have a 'Rolex' :) Note that since end of 2010 this is actually also true for the Schmidt Edelux, because of the introduction of the Saferide 60 and thus since that time the Edelux could no longer be recommended as 'expensive, but if you want the best. that's the one to get'...
(*) Oh, on 2013-9-22 I checked their site because of something written on a German forum and see that they are listing values that could be real now, amazing :) Although, the output of the Airstream-StVZO (claim: 205 lumen) is the same as the dynamo lamp E3 pro 2, seems a little unlikely, wouldn't surprise me if the dynamo lamp's output is actually lower... And with the output of the E3-triple (supposedly 640 lm) is not mentioned at which speed it's achieved, I'm sure the power output in this lamp is not speed limited as with the StVZO lamps, so not mentioning speed means what? Can you guess? (Answer: This is possibly the output at a high speed you won't normally achieve, say 40km/h).
They write: "Die neue E3 Triple2 ist mit ihren drei gut gekühlten CREE Hoch- leistungs LEDs der mit Abstand hellste Dynamoscheinwerfer der Welt". This is not true. My triple XM-L running on the special dynamo driver gets 800+ lumen at below 30 km/h and is thus brighter. I would wager the Exposure Revo Mk1 is brighter as well.
Union 4265/4268: I got a few suggestions to test this as a very cheap reasonably high lux lamp (35 lux). Experiences described on a German forum show that these seem to have a very narrow beam shape. 35 lux doesn't say much except about the maximal intensity. How the light is spread out can be very different for the same lux value of course. Good cheap headlamps aren't available as far as I know. For me the Saferide 40 despite its 40 lux is pretty good in beam shape, somewhat nicer than the H-diver, and both have a wide beam which you really need if you ride on unlit roads... This is about the cheapest headlamp that I consider to be fairly good. With low lux rating lamps there is always an issue of aiming too high without being aware of it, and the Philips and H-diver seem to be least problematical in this respect due to the wide even beam. The experiences with the Dosun U1 show again how problematical low lux ratings are (well, more than 10 lux but less than 60-80): They are/will be often pointed too high. I'm not sure if this will be an issue with the Union, but I suspect so.
Inoled (Extreme): I got some questions about why I had not reviewed it. Well, the Inoled Extreme is not StVZO compliant but it has a cutoff. A low lux rating of 35 (manufacturer specification) means throw will be limited to about 35-40 m with low intensity at that distance (similar to the QL-269 and the E3-pro-StVZO). I also read in postings from ca. 2008 that overvoltage protection is not built in. I see 'inoguard' as an accesory on Inoled's website, so that hasn't changed. It is also apparently not as waterproof as it should be. But the price is ca. €109,- so I'm doubtful this lamp is worth it compared to the others I tested.
Axa Nano 50 plus: Has an USB output but most important is the beam shape and this is not very good as has been shown in German magazines and in German language forums. What I saw warrants no test from me, as the beam shape is such that you tend to aim too high, more so than with the Trelock LS 885. This is bad, and that people don't aim their headlamps correctly is beginning to be a real problem, blinding many other cyclists. Addition 2013-9-22: Since the Luxx70plus this lamp is even less interesting as that supercedes it for about the same price.
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).
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. 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)...
To be done:
I already wrote in January 2011 before seriously starting my taillamp reviews that I think most taillamps are very poor, with a big annoyance being the too large intensity in candela, so not diffusely spread out light over a reasonable surface area. It is very annoying when riding behind someone with such a taillamp and I was encountering more and more bicycles with such annoying (bad!) taillamps.
This experience made me question: Do the makers of taillamps actually test their own products? Do they think it's pleasant riding behind such an annoying taillamp? It's similar to pumps that are sold with bogus specifications, of pressures that you are supposed to be able to achieve.
These makers should read the following:
An example of a very poor taillamp is Supernova's taillamp. It has 3 bare 5 mm LEDs which are very annoying and make estimating distance extremely hard as these are 3 point sources of light that are very close together. It also has no retro-reflector which is important for safety in case of a electrical failure. These guys just don't understand taillamps at all.
An example of a good taillamp is B&M's Toplight line plus: Not annoying, very well visible. Update: The Philips Lumiring is even better...
Most other LED based taillamps are poor because of having a too bright point source.
Incandescent bulb based taillamps don't give much light but seem to put it where it's needed most (sideways test yet to be done though), even though they don't have a large illuminated area.
See also this theoretical section: taillamp considerations on what's good, bad and necessary.
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!
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.
Summary: Except for the Secula, The LED based fender mounted taillamps I tested so far are bad, and those I didn't test yet but that I have seen pictures of, I know are bad because of no proper optics. The only other good fender mounted taillamp that I've tested is the Spanninga SP 15 (incandescent, original version).
Tested: From 17 Jan. 2011
This lamp is not in production any more. Very little light with a 0.3 W bulb (those were used as well), with 0.6W it's not bad at all, better than the Basta Ray. I was not impressed at first from indoor testing, but after the long distance visibility test it was clear that the classic taillamps with incandescent bulbs SP 15 and Basta Ray, are still quite good, better than most LED taillamps, and can thus be recommended. They are also the most pleasant of all taillamps I tested for following traffic... This old version of the SP 15 gives a view of what 1980s rear lamps were like and shows that LED taillamps started off as much worse than the incandescent taillamps they were supposed to replace or improve upon. A newer version of this taillamp is still available, but they messed around with it without changing its name... See further on. It's still usable for modern bicycles but I would recommend the Line plus or Lumiring instead.
Tested: From 6 Feb. 2013
When I started my taillamp reviews in 2011 I already thought the current version might be different from the one I have, as I had seen a product image which shows a difference in the red housing. I finally bought one just to satisfy my curiosity in 2013. It turns out that not just the housing is different, the reflector too. It's not surprising then that it has a different German approval number (K 30 019). Spanninga should have renamed this lamp as its beam pattern is quite different from the original version. When did this version get approved? Visibility at medium range (up to ca. 35m) is comparable to the old version, but the light colour is a diluted red, far too white. This is bad. For this reason alone I already don't recommend this lamp.
Tested: From Feb. 2012
I only tested the battery version as I replaced it on someone's bike with a dynamo taillamp: It lights up very weakly, it has no real optic that distributes the light from the LED in a proper way. Visibility is therefore poor and it annoys following traffic. I wouldn't buy this lamp. Whether the dynamo version is brighter doesn't really matter as visibility will be poor at long distance with such point sources and because of the annoyance it gives others at shorter distance.
Tested: From 4 Apr. 2012
Small, light, looks nice and puts out a lot of light, but it is yet another taillamp with blinding point source. Spanninga should be using real optics (such as in the Lineo) and not this rubbish that they use in most of their taillamps. So I don't recommend this lamp.
Tested: From 6 Feb. 2013
Yet another blinding taillamp. Doesn't look as nice on a bike as loose in my opinion. The connectors are crappy clamp connectors. I don't recommend it, and I'm still searching for a good fender mounted LED taillamp...
As a friend of mine commented: The Axa Go is a no go :) He was only referring to the looks which already killed his interest :))
Tested: From 4 Jul. 2013.
Finally available since July 2013, and as I expected this is the first good LED based taillamp for mounting on the fender.
Summary: Most LED based taillamps that I tested are bad. The only good ones so far are: Philips Lumiring, B&M Line plus, and I think the Spanninga Lineo is the third, just need to do a few more checks in my taillamp comparison test to finalise my view on the Lineo.
Tested: From 17 Jan. 2011
This lamp is not in production any more. I was not impressed at first after making beamshot images, but after the long distance visibility test it was clear that the classic taillamps with incandescent bulbs SP 15 and Basta Ray, despite giving apparently far less light than LED taillamps, are still quite good, better than most LED taillamps, and can thus be recommended. They are also the most pleasant of all taillamps I tested for following traffic... The Ray is less visible than the SP15 though (from some angles from the side).
Tested: From 17 Jan. 2011
Small emitting surface, almost a point source, giving only a reasonable visibility, and causes annoyance to following cyclists, therefore not recommended.
Tested: From 2008
This lamp gives a bright dot of light in the middle from the light coming almost directly from the LED, it's very annoying for people riding behind you. Visibility is no more than reasonable as just a small dot (almost a point source) is lit up. The H-track, line plus, flat S plus are all much better straight on and at 45°. A poor rear lamp because of the small emitting area which also causes the annoyance to other road users, therefore not recommended.
Tested: From 17 Jan. 2011
Wide light with a bright dot in the middle from the LED as some of its light goes straight on. The latter is almost a point source and quite annoying for people riding behind you. Better than the Flat plus, but long distance visibility is suprisingly poor and it's a poor rear lamp already because of its annoyance to other road users, therefore not recommended.
Tested: From 17 Jan. 2011
Wide light, whether that's through an actual surface or bars doesn't seem too interesting to me (but tests yet to be done on the precise difference). What is noticeable is that the Toplight line plus is not annoying, no sparkling effects in your eyes at a short distance from the lamp, in contrast to the Toplight flat plus and the Toplight flat S plus. Sideways visibility ok, but could be better. Some people have problems with the standlight not working after a while, but I have no idea how common this defect is. In any event, this is my favourite of the B&M rear lamps. Recommended.
Tested: From 4 May 2011
Ring of light similar in style to B&M's Toplight line plus. Nicer than the Toplight flat plus for traffic following you, but not as good as the Toplight flat S plus. Sideways visibility is good. The direct light from the LED is far too intense (coming from a near point source) which is very annoying to following traffic (esp. cyclists at short distance) and spoils this lamp which would otherwise be very good. Not recommended.
Tested: From 1 June 2011
Stripe of lines of light similar in style to B&M's Toplight line plus. Nicer than the Toplight flat plus for traffic following you but not that much, the direct light from the LED is pretty annoying for cyclists following you up to a large distance. Also slightly better than Herrmans' H-track in that respect but not as good as the flat S plus and definitely not as good as the Toplight line plus. Sideways visibility is poor. Not recommended.
Tested: From 1 June 2011
The whole reflector lights up which is good (a large illuminated surface is better than a bright point source), but the LED shines also directly towards following traffic at a ridiculous intensity, not diffusely spread over a larger area, which is goddamn annoying for anyone following you (this is a problem because on narrow cycle paths you can be stuck behind someone for a while). Sideways visibility is poor. All in all not recommended.
I experimented by making the direct light from the LED more diffuse and make it a bit less bright and that made this lamp pretty good. More to be added including pictures of these experiments.
Tested: From 13 Sep. 2011
This is another bad LED taillamp which lets the light of one of its LEDs go out directly in a cone which is very annoying to following traffic and makes estimating distance impossible. Not recommended.
Tested: From 28 Nov. 2011
My favourite taillamp: Very well visible while not being too bright. Compared to the Toplight Line plus: side visibility is better, medium to short distance visibility is better because of the larger illuminating area and very long distance visibility (>100 m) is comparable. On the wallshot the light output does not look impressive, but it puts the light where it's needed, better than any other taillamp I tested so far. So the light it puts out is used very efficiently... Recommended.
Tested: From 5 Nov. 2011
Single LED as a point source, the LEDs output is diffused but not spread out over a larger re-emitting area. So it stays a point source and gets too bright at close range for following traffic. Distance estimation is also impossible because of the point source.
Tested: From 5 Jan. 2012
The lamp has a single LED. The light is not made diffuse and a large part of the light shines as a point source as I already expected a while back when looking a bit closer at the picture on Axa's website. The illumination of the entire lamp that Axa names as a feature, is very weak, far dimmer than the Plateo. The point source is too bright at short distance and makes estimating distance impossible. The connectors are crappy clamp connectors, Axa needs to improve on this (and on the optics)!
Tested: From 24 Feb. 2012
B&M Line brake plus with brake function. This does not use an accelerometer as I thought it might, but dynamo pulses (not a new idea btw.). A brakelamp seems to me rather pointless on a bicycle, see here. As the brakelight functionality is activated depending on the speed of the pulses from the dynamo, this function doesn't work on a DC dynamo such as the Sunup Eco...
Summary to come
Tested: From 24 Feb. 2012
I bought the battery version as my supplier still didn't have the dynamo version in stock in Feb. 2012, but that shouldn't matter to determine whether it's a good taillamp. At medium range (up to ca. 35 m) it's not so bad, but nowhere near as good as the Lumiring or Lightring. I'm not going to do a long distance test, as there's no real point and there's nothing in this lamp (designwise, size, weight) that appeals to me. This taillamp is not as bad as most LED taillamps with a point source, but also not as good as the Lumiring, Line plus and Lineo. Conclusion: Not interesting.
Tested: From 11 Jan. 2013
First impressions: Though Spanninga looks to focus more on fashion than function, this lamp seems pretty good in visibility while not having annoying point sources of light. Sideways visibility doesn't look very good though, though not really worse than others except the Philips Lumiring which is probably the best one in this respect. The beam has a fair amount of almost-collimated light, this could be the best visible taillamp available... But for places like the Netherlands, with fairly orderly traffic and not so much light pollution, the intensity seems too high, like the brakelamps on a car. The 2 separate sections left/right that light up could actually be useful for other traffic to estimate their distance to you... After an outdoor test it's clear that that doesn't work because of the too high intensity of the light... but the lamp is very well visible. More to come after a the next group test (cycling from more than 100 m to the Lineo and other taillamps).
Long ago I used a Specialized Flashback on a cross/hybrid bike. I used a self-made mount from aluminium and glass-fibre as I didn't like the included mount which had a clamp that didn't properly tighten the lamp on the seatpost. This works well if the lamp is far enough from your legs so you won't hit it while pedalling, and you must take care not to obstruct the taillamp if you transport stuff on the rear rack. Mounting a taillamp behind/underneath the saddle would be better.
Tested: From 23 Jan. 2013
I'm disappointed in these (dynamo and battery versions). The design and size don't appeal to me for a seatpost mounted lamp and the optics is not as impressive technically as the Lumiring, though it does give very good visibility. But that comes with a high power consumption and a lack of standlight for the dynamo version confirm these lamps are technically nothing special. Still, visibility is very good.
Tested: Since 8 Oct. 2013
This lamp is not available as a dynamo taillamp. It could be a good dynamo lamp! I like how it looks and the optics look quite good as well, no blinding of trailing cyclists, the light is distributed very well over a larger area which is the ring around the LEDs but the LEDs light up a bit in the middle too (and not as a point source!). The light at close range can be annoying to some (I asked someone else to judge it too), so better distribution over a bigger surface is still what we need. There is a section of light in the beam that is nearly collimated so it will give good long distance visibility. The rubber cap on micro-USB port is a bit hard to get off but even more difficult to get back in, but I suppose that means it will be waterproof there :) The mounting method is by rubber band which Sigma thinks is cool for bike computers and lamps, but which in reality sucks harder than a black hole. The on-off switch is not as good as on the Lightring, in particular because of key-bounce (result: light going off immediately after pressing on, or not going off when it's on) and you need to press it too hard.
The included batteries are of the low self discharge type, charged and ready to use when you buy the lamp.
Verdict: Fairly good, in optics it trails the Philips lamps, total package with rechargeable batteries is nicer.
Tested: Since 8 Oct. 2013
This version of the Secula is also for dynamo and differs only in the mount for on the seatpost. Pictures to follow.
See Cornershots, wallshots and visibility of taillamps.
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?
Dynamo hubs work in all weather conditions and are just about maintenance free, but they have a disadvantage that can be annoying: Vibrations in the handlebar. This depends on the dynamohub but also on the bike it is used in... Vibrations that a dynamo gives are always tested with the Edelux as a headlamp. Note that the electronics of the lamp influences the vibrations... See for example my page on experiments with LEDs where I wrote about the Frankenlamp with and without smoothing capacitor which gave a large difference in vibrations.
The vibration strength depends on your bike, and this is one of the problems in recommending a hub. If the bike (well, fork) doesn't have a resonance frequency in the region where the hubs produce vibrations, then there's no problem. If you want a dynamo, then my suggestion is not for a sidewall but always a dynamohub, and especially SP hubs which I've used since 2011. They are my favourite dynamo hubs, with comparatively the least amount of vibrations. I don't care so much about efficiency because in reality the losses from that make very little difference to your speed, see the section near the end of this web page with calculations for some examples. Unless you ride in races where every second counts, it's a non-issue. I never felt I was slowed down by dynamos, neither sidewall nor roller dynamos, despite their poor efficiency... The calculations make clear that it's indeed not an issue for anyone who can pedal with reasonable power. So the precise efficiencies don't matter to me so much, but a huge difference could make an impact in how you feel the vibrations, because if the losses are larger, the forces are larger... This is of course a comment directed at the SRAM i-light which I haven't tested yet, and which has 36 poles (good!) but far lower efficiency which could offset this and thus it might not be better or even worse than the other hubs...
Countering feeling the vibrations is possible somewhat, with soft grips. And if the headset is too loose, the vibrations will be felt stronger. So check your headset... In some cases which seem unlikely to me in being a long term issue without noticing it in another way first, you can feel strong vibrations when the quick release is too loose. I experienced this too, but in all cases and in all bikes this happened, the hub starts to rotate then... At some point the cable will be pulled taut so it stops rotating. But when you look at your bike you will notice this, so in general, also because the notches on hubs are not exact matches for those on the frames, this is not a long term issue, but something that pops up. You then think "What's going on?" and then find the cable is taut, fix that and secure the quick release again.
The advantages of a dynamo are such that I don't want to go to battery powered again despite vibration issues. It's too much hassle for me to keep track of whether the battery is full (enough) and taking it off/putting on etc. See for more on this issue in the section on battery powered headlamps.
If you want to be sure whether vibrations will be an issue for you in your bike, and in your riding conditions, see if you can find someone with a bike with dynamo hub, say from Shimano, and ride with that front wheel, using non-knobby tyres! If you feel anything, then you know you must choose a hub with less strong vibrations. In the reviews of the SP PD-8/PV-8 and SD-8/SV-8 dynamo hubs I made a list of vibration strength, so you can then use that to see which hubs may be suitable. If you try a Schmidt hub and feel nothing, then you can select any hub you want.
On roads with poor quality asphalt or even gravel and off-road, you will not notice the vibrations, they are masked then by the vibrations from the road. This is the curse of Dutch roads perhaps ;-) The roads here are usually very good, even bike paths, which means the vibrations can be felt, noticed, because they are regular. Note that psychology plays a part here: road noise/bumps are not annoying because they are irregular in jolt strength and how often they occur, and also in the following way: Knowing that the dynamo hub causes the vibrations that I feel on good roads, makes me want to get another hub with less strong vibrations, because that's something I have control of, whereas I can't fix the roads :)
See Vibrations and other issues with dynamo hubs for more about the vibration issue.
See the dynamo comparison page for power output test results with the special dynamo driver. Results with a resistor as per StVZO to follow.
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. 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 change from headwind/tailwind/sidewind.
Tested: From April 2007 to end of 2007 (when it was worn out).
Very poor generator, will perhaps last one winter.
More details: Union 8601 roller dynamo (bottom bracket dynamo)
Tested: Autumn 2008
Too much vibration in the handlebar, even noticeable with lights off (on asphalt, you won't notice vibrations on poor roads such as tile paths, gravel, and very much worn unmaintened asphalt). Fairly expensive (ca. € 170,- to 220,- depending on colour and rim- or disc brake version).
More details: Schmidt SON 28 hub dynamo
Tested: From October 2008 to October 2010 (more than 15,000 km, of which at least 5000 km with lights on).
Looks nice, cup and cone bearings. Less vibration in the handlebar than the SON 28. After 2 years having been used in all weather conditions (mostly bad as is usual in the Netherlands :) ) on a bike I use all year round, and that's usually outside, it still runs as if new.
More details: Shimano DH-3N80 hub dynamo
Tested: From August 2010
Looks nice, sealed cartridge bearings. Vibration in the handlebar at lower speeds than the Shimano DH-3N80 (19-25 km/h instead of ca. 22-28 km/h), for me makes this hub nicer to use.
More details: Sanyo NH-H27 hub dynamo
Tested: From 8 June 2011 (in progress)
This is the nicest dynamo hub I've tested yet, because it has nearly no vibrations in the handlebar (using the Edelux headlamp as always). More tests with other headlamps etc. to come to see what happens then (with other dynamo hubs, the Edelux is the worst which is why it's the headlamp I always use to test for vibrations). It's also nice that this hub doesn't have earth on the axle and it looks nice :)
More details: SP switchable hub dynamo PD-7 (=HB015) (this includes information about vibrations from dynamo hubs and how SP considered this in their designs)
Tested: From 12 August 2011 (in progress)
PD-8/PV-8 (3W version): The smallest, lightest and most efficient 3W dynamo hub. It looks nice and has no earth on the axle which is good. The vibrations in the handlebar are a bit stronger than with the PD-7 (HB015), which means the PD-7 (HB015) remains my favourite dynamo hub.
More details: SP: Small hubdynamo: PD-8 and SD-8
Tested: Test sample received on 4 May 2011, tests delayed due to circumstances, started late July 2011.
Doesn't make noise, works only on cassette rear hubs for use with rim brakes, no vibrations, a very nice alternative to a dynamo hub. It's a bit heavy and headlamps give about the same brightness as with a dynamo hub only from ca. 22-25 km/h. The main disadvantage is the low power at low speeds of ca. 5-10 km/h.
More details: Sunup ds generator
By the way, a new version with more power and USB output (8 W total), the Maxidyn, will probably be available in Autumn 2013. See www.taipeicycle.com.tw.
Tested: 3 March 2012
I already mentioned the Acxing Go go shine dynamo long ago on my Sunup DS review page. For various reasons I decided to test one. Running it made me think of other sidewall dynamos and the problems I had with those: Noise from running on the tyre, this is annoying. Then if there is a slight unevenness in the tyre or if the wheel has a slight sideways deviation in some place, then the dynamo will slip in that place. I haven't run it in the wet yet. Even if it doesn't slip then hub dynamos are so much nicer to use, I wouldn't want to go back to using a sidewall dynamo, despite possible vibrations in the handlebar. More to come.
More details: Acxing: Go go shine dynamo
I used this dynamo for about a year and half, leaving it outside (so lots of rain) all the time (for testing) and its seals are not as good obviously as those of the DH-3N80. I needed to overhaul the bearings after this time whereas the 3N80 has seen as least as much rain and is still perfect... This dynamo in other respects is typical for all mid to high end Shimano dynamos. The higher end dynamos have better seals but if you put your bikes inside when you get home, then any Shimano hub (yes, the cheapest ones too, though some of the cheapest ones have lower efficiency, but this is something you will not really notice in use) will do well and will last many years.
Tested: To come, ca. Nov. 2013
More details: SP PD-8x
Tested: Very good report from Martin Dupont, dynamo has been in use for several years.
Noise from the gearing which could become annoying, efficiency is almost as good as the best dynamo hubs. Auto on/off is impossible with a mechanical on/off switch unless you simply leave the clutch engaged but that negates the advantages of the clutch and gives gearing noise all the time. Laying a long cable to the handlebar for switch on/off operation gives clutter and added weight (still low compared to most dynamo hubs).
More details: Renak Enparlite
Shimano DH-1N70 dynamo front hub 6V 1.5W: From what I read (ca. 2 years ago I think, so 2011?) the intention was to lower production cost (less copper in the coils, smaller housing) so it could get used in any bicycle. However I see it offered at large discount (so it may be discontinued?) but with RRP being about $120 in the USA. If so that is not a price at which that aim can be achieved! Also you likely need a headlamp using less power as I'm guessing otherwise your light may not come on for a long time or until you cycle at 10 km/h or more. This expectation arises from my test of the SD-8 which is almost a 2.4W dynamo and the difference with a 3W dynamo is clear to see as you can read in my review. Note that taillamps are not a problem as long as you take a low power one such as the Lumiring or Line plus. Compared to SP's PV-8 the Shimano 1.5 W dynamo is heavier... All in all it doesn't seem interesting to me.
Update 2013-9-18: I saw a reference to a DHS-701 dynamo from Shimano, also 1.5W and it seems to be StVZO approved for use with LED headlamps...
2013-7-5: SP's upcoming PD-8X dynamo hub is for the new market of 15mm axles, but it's supplied with an adapter for standard fork ends. For this hub SP has redesigned the dynamo part resulting in a claimed increase in efficiency of 7% over the PD-8/PV-8. This is an incredible achievement if true... I talked to a friend of mine yesterday who was at SP and they showed the difference in action, but note that though such an increase in efficiency is technically a big deal, in actual use it won't be. You just won't notice the small losses of just about any dynamo hub (see the calculations at the end of this page to show that half a Watt won't slow you noticeably down, wind has much more effect...) Well, except in that the more loss, the more power you must provide and this results in stronger jolts. So the efficiency increase could mean that a 26 pole hub (if it is 26 pole, not sure yet) is equivalent to a 28 pole hub in jolt strength.
The velogical rim dynamo is a curiosity. It doesn't seem too interesting to me because of possible problems in the rain, because the rubber needs to be replaced relatively quickly, and because the price is quite high at ca. € 150,-. I read about it I think mid 2012, and seems to become available summer 2013. Power output is lower than other dynamos so it doesn't comply with StVZO's 3W power output requirement at 15 km/h. My experiences with a rim-running Sanyo were not positive (1990s) in the rain, but perhaps it would be suitable as a backup solution for those who don't ride at nights often, and I presume noise won't be an issue contrary to a dynamo that runs on the tyres.
A new version of Sunup's rear wheel generator with more power output and USB output, the Maxidyn, could come if there's enough interest... See www.taipeicycle.com.tw. What are your thoughts? Please indicate your interest to them...
SRAM i-light D7: 36 pole dynamo hub. Because this has 36 poles, it could be vibration free on just about all bikes. Main bad point seems to be the efficiency (with light off too IIRC), and that will negate somewhat or perhaps completely, the advantage of more poles (see the differences of SD-8 and Sanyo NH-H27 with hubs that provide more power such as the PD-8 and Shimano DH-3N80, i.e. significant difference in power draw significanly influences vibrations). Test possibly to follow in 2013, if I have the time and inclination.
Sturmey Archer: Dynamo hub with drum brake. I have one in a wheel for a new bike, test to follow of at least the power output.
Schmidt SONdelux: Not of interest, see the end of this section for the reason and for the final bit of explanation about what Schmidt did with the SON-20R The impression Schmidt created was that this was previously named the SON20R. This dynamo hub has 26 poles just like the SON28, but supplies less power. The consequence of that should be less vibrations than with the SON28 (just like the SP SD-8 is vibration free for me, unlike the SP PD-8) but I later heard from 2 people who have issues vibrations with the SONdelux in small wheeled bikes. 1st report is in use in a Moulton APB, which has front suspension which makes the fork heavier and should make vibrations a bit less noticeable, but the vibrations can be noticed by the rattle of the front fender... The 2nd report was from someone else using it in another Moulton. So I thought a comparison against the SP SD-8 would be in order. I didn't get round to that before it became clear that the SONdelux is a neither-nor product. Let me first say this:
The consequence of less power output is less loss, also with lights off, but that less power is supplied could be a disadvantage with the use of multiple LEDs and/or systems that extract power from the dynamo hub for USB devices, GPS systems, etc. See my experiences with the SP SD-8, and this section about vibrations and other issues with dynamo hubs for more on the lower power output of 2.4W hubs in a 622mm rim.
The SONdelux is fairly expensive (ca. € 190,- to 240,- depending on colour and rim- or disc brake version).
Now we come to an interesting section. In 2011 when I looked at Schmidt's website for their claims on efficiency on the SONdelux (to compare with SP) I read this:
Der SONdelux ist der erste Nabendynamo, dessen Generator speziell für moderne LED-Scheinwerfer (wie Edelux und B&M Cyo) ausgelegt ist.
Translated (note: auslegen für = to design for (in capacity/ability)): The SONdelux is the first hub dynamo, whose generator is specially designed for modern LED lamps (such as the Edelux and B&M Cyo).
At the time in 2011 my response was: This is nothing more than a lie. They never designed the SONdelux for LED lamps, it's a 20 inch generator, which gives enough light with current LED lamps at low speeds so that it's now used in 622mm wheels for which it has a special StVZO approval in combination with the Edelux (and not in combination with any other headlamp!) since end of 2009. Note that the rename of the SON20R to SONdelux came after the approval, and that a rename does not make it a dynamo that's specially designed for LED lighting! It's just unbelievable that Schmidt dares to claim the SONdelux was specially designed for LED lamps!
This response was based on what Schmidt themselves wrote on their website, as you can read further on. End of 2012 some things got clear when I contacted Fahrradzukunft about their latest article on dynamos. The updates 2-5 I placed here after that. I had put update 1 here earlier already as I had seen some comments that the SONdelux has a higher power output than the SON20R:
Update 1 Perhaps I have to be more nuanced about this, as the SONdelux, at least current versions, put out more power it seems than the SON20R. But anyway, if that was so since the start, then I still feel you can't talk of generator that was designed for LED lighting, it was just slightly altered at best.
Update 2: Someone working in the field of bicycle dynamos told me that this behaviour of fairly high power at higher speeds was typical of the tradeoffs in dynamos (using less coils), however, I assume this is only for resistive loads, with which dynamos are tested for StVZO, as with the SD-8 this is not the case when I measured with the special dynamo driver... Note that LED headlamps and that driver are NOT resistive loads and with the special dynamo driver using an SD-8 I could not get anywhere near the PD-8's power output. So if this is correct (I never got round to measurements using a 12 Ohm resistor, though I wanted to as I wrote on my dynamo measurement page..., so I'm just mentioning this all to keep everyone informed of what I was told) this means that in reviews other than mine, more tests must be done to show what power output is possible (I already do that of course). And actually, this is already taken into account though not very accurately, by watching the power output at low speeds. From the info from this dynamo designer, the SONdelux was indeed no different from the SON20R in output. Anyway, that's the information I have, my own measurements to come when I have time.
Update 3 (2012-12-27): I wrote to Fahrradzukunft about their test, or rather, the writeup by Oehler. I will dedicate a special page to this issue, in German and in English, and move the SONdelux stuff to there soon. Oehler (from Schmidt) wanted me to apologize for saying that I said that it's a lie that the SONdelux is specially designed for LED lighting, because the SONdelux apparantly is not the same as the SON-20R. I declined. Let's go back to what happened: People had been using the SON-20R (meant for small wheels) in standard sized wheels to give minimal drag and this works for e.g. road bikes. Also, someone I know had suggested to Schmidt to make a dynamo specially for LED lighting. Schmidt probably thought then that they should (try to) get the SON-20R (standard or modified) approved for use with the Edelux. Then this happened: Schmidt themselves, on their website nabendynamo.de wrote that the SON-20R in combination with the Edelux was StVZO approved and they thanked the approving authorities for allowing this technical progress to be used (on the road)... They then renamed the SON-20R to SONdelux. You will find the same 'fact' that the SONdelux is a renamed SON-20R mentioned on lots of websites, even those of distributors of Schmidt products... So the cause of thinking "It's a lie that it was designed for LED lighting" is what Schmidt themselves wrote. I'm not going to apologize for their mistake! (or perhaps it was even disinformation, see below). Then we come to the fact that the SON-20R is no longer made. What are you to do then for a small wheeled bike? Use a SONdelux? This makes clear why people using the SONdelux in small wheels have issues with vibrations! In small wheels it provides a lot more power than the SON-20R at moderate speeds, which gets mostly wasted in power limiters in the headlamps, unless you are using a USB application. So, it seems to me that Schmidt made it look like the SON-20R was StVZO approved which was then named 'SONdelux' as people want a very light running hub. But if you look at power production, the SONdelux gets above the SON28-new at higher speeds and as I said this power will mostly be wasted with a small wheeled bike. In a small wheeled bike this higher speed range is where you will quickly come as the wheel rotates faster for the same bike speed. So why did Schmidt stop making the SON-20R? I think this is answered by the 'disinformation' of the name changing. They imply the SONdelux is just as good for small wheeled bikes as the SON-20R with this rename and the StVZO approval for the SONdelux can be used as advertising for people using it in bigger wheels whereas using the SON-20R in a standard wheel could make people think "Is it ok to do this?". So by removing the SON-20R from the lineup they need to keep 1 less model in production. Whatever the reasons, assuming the power curves as measured by Schultz are correct, and I don't doubt them, then the conclusion is clear: The SONdelux is a pointless product, as it's not optimal for small wheeled bikes (wasted power, though this could be of use when using USB power), and for standard size wheels (559mm or 622mm rims) it provides less power than the SON28-new at speeds less than 30 km/h, so it doesn't provide much power at the average speed people ride at (i.e. ca.15-25 km/h) which means less light but more crucially means less power for USB applications, and finally for those who want the least power used on lights (esp. road bikes, riding at fairly high speeds), the SONdelux uses more power than the SON-20R would.
Update 4 (2012-12-28): I haven't found my own saved webpages on my PC yet (from Schmidt's website, esp. the pages of the SON20R and SONdelux), but Schmidt's statement of the SONdelux approval says exactly what I wrote above: http://www.nabendynamo.de/news/2008-2011.html and go to 1.1.2010:
SONdelux jetzt mit StVZO-Zulassung
Endlich ist es amtlich: Schmidts kleiner Nabendynamo SONdelux (früher SON 20 R) passt hervorragend zum LED-Scheinwerfer Edelux. Darum hat das Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt im Dezember dieser Kombination den amtlichen Segen gegeben, für alle Laufradgrößen von 16" bis 28". Wir bedanken uns für die Legalisierung des technischen Fortschritts!
Linkhinweis Zur SONdelux Produktseite.
(Btw., I already quoted this on my StVZO page long ago, to point to the fact that special StVZO approvals are possible)
So it says: "Schmidt's small dynamo hub SONdelux (previously SON 20 R) goes magnificently together with the LED headlamp Edelux". If they wanted to say the SONdelux was based on the SON-20R (so with some essential changes), they would have said "basiert auf" or "eine Weiterentwicklung von". This way of stating it, along with the removal of the SON-20R from the product line-up (logical if the SONdelux is just a new name for the same dynamo, not logical otherwise), I think confirms my view that Schmidt wanted to cash in on the desire for people to have the lightest running dynamo hub, for which road bike users had been using the SON-20R, and to use the StVZO approval as marketing, by making it look as if the SONdelux was a SON-20R with approval.
Update 5 (2012-12-29): Summary: What Schmidt wrote with the approval notice of the SONdelux contradicts that the SONdelux was specially designed for LED lighting. Either it was 'previously the SON20R', or it is quite different and was 'specially designed for LED lighting'.
SON28-new: End of August 2011: Schmidt introduced a new hub dynamo, it looks like the SONdelux but really 3W according to the StVZO measurement method. This is quite a different dynamo than the SON28 but Schmidt thinks it a good idea to also call this dynamo the SON28 and they then rename the old version the 'SON28 klassik'. That's a lot fun (not): when someone mentions the SON28 you will allways need to ask if he really means the (new) SON28 or the old version. Great! (not) That's why I'm going to be contrary and call the new hub dynamo the SON28-new, and the SON28 means the old version for me. Update 2012-12-27: Amusingly almost everyone seems to do the same thing as I have done, calling it the SON28-new... Even Schmidt do it on their website in various places.
Supernova dynamo hubs (2011 and later): These are of no interest to me. The plugs show the SP sign, so these are SP hubs in a new shell. Why not buy the original? I read somewhere the Supernova hubs are supposed to have better seals. Whether they are really better I don't know, but I doubt any claims made by Supernova because of their behaviour and false claims about other matters such as light output of their lamps.
Biologic dynamo hubs: These are SP hubs in slightly different shells.
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. First of all as the article is written by Oehler, and some people have suggested to me that it is biased towards Schmidt. At first I didn't think Oehler would do that, after all, it's about measurements or not? But actually, there are some issues:
Conclusion: There is indeed a bias towards Schmidt, even though the measurements are from someone unrelated to Schmidt. It's the writeup that gives the bias. I don't doubt that the measurements are all correctly done, though I would like to make my own setup to verify all this, it would also help test a few more issues that I would like to know more about, such as how much power is used to power a certain LED headlamp etc. Alas, at the moment I cannot do this, I'd first need to build a similar setup to the one Olaf Schultz has made.
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 thefore 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.
Tested: 1-21 August 2010, and may times after that. In Sept. 2013 I tested a new version with neutral white LEDs.
Best bike lamp I've ever seen (for on-road use), at a relatively moderate 270 lumen with its superb beam pattern and even illumination of the road surface it blows the Magicshine MJ-808, Edelux and Ktronik's dynamo powered triple XP-G away (and that's true for any other bike lamp I've tested so far except the Betty, up to Sept. 2013). It lights up the full width of the road (at least 7 metre) and throw is about 70 m. Bad points: Some versions have a timer to swtich to low mode to make sure you can get home with light, which is set rather short, so the runtime on high is just over an hour. Further, on bad roads the lamp slightly rattles on the mount.
2013-9-27: The new version with what appear to be neutral white LEDs, was made at least since week 41 of 2012, so perhaps this was the first bicycle headlamp with neutral white LEDs? The electronics is also much improved, and the status LEDs too. This is (still) the best bicycle headlamp you can buy...
Tested: 29 June 2011 - 4 Dec. 2011
Interesting in that it uses a Cree MC-E running at about 5W which should give a similar amount of light to the Philips LBL, but the reflector isn't able to put enough light at the top of the beam, which means little throw. For fast nighttime riders some 2.4W dynamo lamps such as the Edelux or Philips SLD are in fact better. For those who ride at a more leisurely pace at night (say 20 km/h) this lamp is suited very well. I would then only use the low beam, which gives a very wide, very even and very bright beam which lights up the road up to about 40m. I don't like the fact that the cutoff is different for low and high modes, as this means the lamp will blind oncoming traffic in high mode once it's been setup properly in low-mode. The rules in StVZO should be changed to take a changing cutoff into account.
More details: Q-lite QL-269
Tested: 28 Nov. 2011 - sometime early 2012
Even beam, but the plug doesn't seem sturdy enough, which gave me problems. A stronger lightbeam is desirable in many cases, so I'm not going to a buy a replacement to do further tests.
More details: Philips Saferide 40 battery
Tested: Feb. + Nov. 2012
Pedelecs are classed in 2 categories: The first is 25 km/h electric bicycles with pedal assist, the second is fast-pedelecs which can go up to 45 km/h, only allowed in some countries. This lamp is a souped up version of the Saferide 60. It was originally meant for OEMs only, but became available for loose sale in 2012 (from ca. March 2012...)
I had trouble with this headlamp as the first came without instructions, before testing the second I asked for the instructions but they can be interpreted in different ways (due to the drawings in the manual but also the input/output voltage specs printed on the lamp). These instruction really need to be changed! I have used the 2nd one on dynamo, which is possible directly, but that gives a very weak beam (far weaker than a Saferide 40 or Cyo), and when I tried it with a battery it died. New instructions were found by a reader of my website, but it was too late for me...
I'm not going to test any more samples of this lamp, what you can expect from the beam can be seen on my Saferide 60 modification/dissection page.
More details: Philips Saferide 80 pedelec
The following are all battery powered headlamps with cutoff that might be competion to the Philips LBL.
Philips Saferide e-bike (battery powered with cutoff) The e-bike headlamp needs to adhere to different rules than StVZO, namely ECE R113. E-bikes are electric bicycles that go without needing to pedal, and can go 40 km/h (I think). They are not allowed in all countries. The e-bike version has a smaller lamphead than the LBL (shorter as there are no internal batteries, but also less wide), uses Altilon LEDs and I'm curious how good the beam is. Early 2012 it was to be OEM only, but there was a possibility of making it available for sale on the aftermarket.
2013-4-17: I was supposed to get one for testing early 2012, but I still don't have a testlamp and it seems it's not going to be on sale loose. I'm not sure what Philips is going to do with it or if there will be further developments... 2013-6-27: I haven't heard anything about this lamp any more, so I'm going to leave it at this.
2012 Aug/Sept: Philips: Active ride, for MTB+road. Philips' website. I'm not sure about reviewing this. The beamshape from reports I've seen is far inferior to the Saferide 80, and the claimed lux rating is also a lot lower at 50 lux which means the reach has to be a lot less. The lamp can switch to a non-cutoff MTB beam which makes it a product that could be interesting for those who ride both in the city and on unlit country roads with little oncoming traffic.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
Exposure Revo Mk1. I was interested in seeing how much light it gives, but I had no reply to emails from them, so I'm not going to bother.
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 mounted 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.
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).
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:
Camera settings, camera height, lamp height, and roads used to make beamshots
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.
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.
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.
See this page for various issues of lighting such as daytime lamps, correct adjustment of the light beam, etc.
Power = k1 * v + k2 * v3 (when there's no wind)
where v = the speed, k1 and k2 are constants depending on tyres, bicycle shape, position of the cyclist, etc.
The constants k1 and k2 come from rolling resistance and the air resistance respectively. Assuming a rolling resistance of 30 Watt at 30 km/h, we can easily calculate the required power to pedal at another speed, or calculate the new speed when given a certain power. I will apply this to show how much influence the efficiency of a dynamo has, on cycling speed. Here I assume the use of 3 Watt lighting, so no use of e.g. 3 high power LEDs in series powered by the dynamo (which is possible)...
1. Take someone who rides at a brisk pace (as I usually do): Suppose I ride at 30 km/h, position a bit bent forward. This takes about 200 Watt (Note: This is on a standard bike with ca. 37mm tyres, fenders, racks etc. Not a road bike and especially not a time trial bike! Only then is it possible to go 30 km/h with about 120W. That is a figure I read in some test about bicycle lighting but which is irrelevant in case of lighting!).
Now suppose I switch on a regular dynamo with low efficiency that uses about 18 Watt at that speed. What will be the new speed given I've no more than 200 Watt to give? This can be solved with a 3rd degree equation (also assuming the dynamo drag is linear with speed), but I will approximate so you can get a feel for these things:
We are left with 182 W, the rolling resistance (+dynamo drag!) becomes just a little smaller (because the speed won't change much), so I will leave it constant. This means 182-30 Watt = 152 Watt is left to spend on air resistance instead of 170 W. Speed is linear with the 3rd degree root of the power available to overcome the air resistance, so v2/v1 = (152/170)^(1/3) = 0.963. This means the new speed is 30 * 0.963 km/h = 28.9 km/h (this is an approximation, with decreased rolling resistance you would get to about 29.0 km/h, which doesn't differ much, as was clear from the start).
Now use a hub dynamo with high efficiency, which takes up 8 W instead of 18 W (all at 30 km/h). New speed (same approximation) is then ca. 29.5 km/h. This differs just by 0.6 km/h from the regular dynamo... A tiny breeze will have more influence!
Finally, a switched off lamp on a bike with SON 28 dynamo hub, which takes 1.5 W at 30 km/h. New speed compared to a bike with standard front hub (assuming this has nearly zero resistance) is (168.5/170)^(1/3) * 30.00 km/h = 29.90 km/h. So, you lose at most 0.10 km/h by using the dynamo hub.
2. Now we take someone who rides slowly: Suppose I ride at 20 km/h without a dynamo (+standard 3 W lamp), then the required power is approximately: 20 W + (20/30)^3 * 170 = 70 Watt. N.B. This is the power for the same somewhat bent-forward position, but people who cycle slowly at about 20 km/h usually sit up fairly straight. I estimate that a total power of around 100 W is a more accurate amount in that case, which means the influence on speed by the hub dynamo is a little less than calculated here.
To cycle with dynamo on, only 58 W is left over (dynamo takes 12 W to power the 3W lamp at this speed), which gives a new speed of ca. 18.3 km/h
Now take a hub dynamo with high efficiency (5 W at 20 km/h). The new speed then becomes ca. 19.3 km/h. The difference is just 1.0 km/h compared to a regular dynamo...
Finally, a switched off lamp on a bike with SON 28 dynamo hub, which takes 1.0 W at 20 km/h. New speed compared to a bike with standard front hub (assuming that has nearly zero resistance) is (49/50)^(1/3) * 20.00 km/h = 19.87 km/h. So, you lose at most 0.13 km/h by using the dynamo hub.
As you can see, the faster you ride, the less the influence of the dynamo. The question is: Is a high efficiency dynamo of interest more to those who ride slowly or those who ride quickly? (answer: Those who ride quickly, as those who ride slowly don't ride slowly because it's hard to cycle faster but because they just ride at a slow pace; The fast riders want every bit of speed, but in my view it's not worth a lot of money as the speed gain is minimal at speeds of say 30 km/h).
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' ;-))
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 about point light sources and cool white LEDs and other matters that I've been writing about for a long time, on various websites and forums, but I don't know whether that has finally improved this year in magazines)
See for more about this, Interpretation, objectivity, and comparison with other reviews.
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...
List of changes on the bicycle lighting section of this website
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Last modified: Sat Oct 26 07:52:11 CEST 2013