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

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

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Contents

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


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News, planned updates

I.1 Latest updates

News, updates, and summaries of experiences:

The list of all updates can be found here.


1 Bicycle lighting: Introduction

See the analysis section where I've put all information on what is important and on the contrary what is problematic, in headlamps, taillamps and dynamos. That explains why I review in the way that I review.

2.v.b The best dynamo headlamps

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

Page with summaries of reviews of headlamps with cutoff

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

Direct to the summary of a specific headlamp with cutoff

All headlamps with USB power output:

All standard headlamps:


2.a Dynamo taillamps

See the analysis section where I've put all information on what is important and on the contrary what is problematic, in headlamps, taillamps and dynamos. That explains why I review in the way that I review.

2.a.b The best (dynamo) taillamps

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

2.a.b.1 Rack mounted:

To be added to the below list: Spanninga Elips, Spanninga Vivo. I'm not yet sure where on the list to place them. That will come after the reviews are done.

Or if you can still find one: The Philips Lumiring. It is still the best taillamp, I compared it directly with the Solo... (esp. better because of more lit-up area).

Spanninga makes the best rack mounted taillamp now, with Axa following closely. They are making much better optics than all other manufacturers...

2.a.b.2 Mounted on the fender:

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

2.a.b.3 Mounted on the seatpost/rear fork:

All taillamp reviews

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

All rear rack mounted taillamps:

All fender mounted taillamps:

All taillamps mounted on other positions, such as the seat post:


2.a.i All light beams/projections of taillamps together

Well, except that since 2014, I'm not making beamshots/wallshots of taillamps with visible annoying point sources. Such lamps are immediately given a rating 'not recommended' and I will waste no further time on them. See Cornershots, wallshots and visibility of taillamps.


3 Dynamos

There are a few fairly good alternatives to hub dynamos, in particular the Sunup Eco spoke mounted dynamo, and the rim dynamos by Velogical, but dynamo hubs are the most convenient and reliable.

The best dynamos

A summary is quite hard, as each dynamo has good and bad points, there are no perfect ones, not even close!

I've not tried the SON28-new but as it's similar to the SONdelux and because of reports/complaints I got of vibrations with that hub, I presume this will not be to my liking. Might be good if you have a stiff aluminium front fork or vibration absorbing carbon front fork, otherwise I would not try it...

My choice at the moment would be a PV-8/PD-8 or Shimano T780 or T8000 or Alfine...


Dynamo reviews

Dynamo reviews: Summary of all reviews


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


4 Headlamps without cutoff or those that are battery powered

The tests of battery powered lamps and of lamps without cutoff are 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, because lights with a cutoff are really required in urban areas and they are far better at actually lighting up the road and battery powered lights are annoying in never knowing how full or empty they are (status indicators are usually not that good, especially when it's cold...). With a dynamo you ride with an 'always full' battery...

4.1 Headlamps that have a cutoff, battery powered

Summary page: Headlamps with cutoff that run on batteries

Direct to the review pages:

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

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

4.2 Headlamps that have no cutoff

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

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

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

Tested: June 2010

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

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

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

Tested: 17-29 Nov 2010

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

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

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

Tested: 1-21 August 2010

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

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

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

Tested: From 10 January 2011.

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

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

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


Tested: From 17 April 2013.

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

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

4.2.6 Bidi 2015, for MTB use, no cutoff, for dynamo


Tested: From June 2015.

Puts out a lot of light, achieves throw similar to the best headlamps with cutoff (except IQ-X and LS905/906), and is unbeatably cheap at 90 euro including taillamp. Contact me if you want to buy one and I'll refer you to the maker...

More details: Bidi 2015, for MTB use, no cutoff, for dynamo: description and review

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

I only mention dynamo headlamps here, there are way too many battery powered MTB non-cutoff 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.

4.3 To be seen headlamps

4.3.1 Raypal RPL-2261, to-be-seen lamp on Li-po battery

Tested from 2016-4-14: This is an interesting concept, a LED strip which even in the lowest brightness is already too bright, but still not as annoying as many taillamps with single red LED that don't have optics to distribute the light. It looks to be a phosphor layer not just on the LED but extended, and that glows at higher light intensity. But really you don't need this brightness, and I modified it to run at lower power which is still very bright on low and it will run this way for at least 17h. Between 17 and 19h the brightness dropped a lot but still bright enough to be vvery well visible, after ca. 19.5h the light is getting very dim and flickery, needs to be recharged. See more on the RPL 2261 review page.

4.4 Head-mounted lamps

4.4.1 Silva Trail elite

This is a head mounted lamp that puts out a lot of light, far more than most bicycle lamps with cutoff, about claimed lumen, which I think is real when comparing to various other lamps. When using it within the house or in the garden it lights up everything I would want to see at high brightness and the feeling I get is "Wow, what a huge amount of light!" (and amazing from such a small lamp!). But the output dims quickly if using it say in the garden or in the house to light up what one does at night, which is how I used it a lot... For the high output, airflow is needed or the lamp will dim because of the heat. The light is very evenly spread, light colour is cool white which could be improved if Silva used neutral white, in particular for night time running or cycling on non paved terrain (mountainbiking). But the light colour is not as bad as most bicycle lamps...

March 2016: I did a night ride to compare it especially with bike lamps with cutoff, in bends in the road. On the bike I could not see far with it, and here in NL normally it's barely usable because the non-cutoff light means you get almost blinded by all the retro-reflective traffic signs... I tested the Trail elite on a meandering bit of road, where the D6 and IQ-X completely fail to light up the road as you would need light close to you and wide to the left/right, and here the head mounted lamp that you can point with your head, ahead of actual turning, works well. I think this lamp is used a lot by runners at night, and for that I suppose it's useful (in the right areas). For cycling too, on meandering roads, you could use it, but not as the only lamp, as throw is not far enough. The beam is very wide and even, but no concentrated part of the beam means that throw is always going to be limited. I felt I could only see a fairly short distance with it, about 30m or so.

4.4.2 Sigma Mono HL (similar to Mono FL)

I thought the Sigma Mono FL would be a 'to be seen' lamp, but perhaps not. in any event it seems unavailable in NL and the HL has a bike mount and seems to be the same as the FL except for beam strength and the additional flashing mode. I don't like the inclusion of a stupid flash mode, but worst of all is the light colour which is a horrible bluish colour in the centre, and around that the light is more greenish. Yuck!!! Throw is not very much either, the beam is weak, I think I can properly see 10-15m or so with it in my garden, but I will test it a bit more for running and cycling. For use around/within the house the beam is too narrow. More experiences to follow.

I've used it at night for a 10km walk and the beam is pretty weak, perhaps where there are no lamps anywhere around nor traffic, you might be able to see 20m with it, but otherwise 10-15 m is about the maximum. The horrendous light colour is especially annoying and for oncoming traffic (other pedestrians or cyclists) the light distribution is almost as annoying as most beams without cutoff. Not quite, the distribution over a larger area works somewhat. In any event, I cannot recommend this for any purpose. Too bad, if it had use a larger distributing optic and/or was a to be seen only lamp with proper light distribution (lower cd/m^2) and used a different LED, then it would be useful option (to-be-seen) in a small package with USB charging. Not recommended.

Other light systems

Revolights

2016-4-10: After a few emails about the (non)legality of revolights in Germany, updated this section a bit, added references to similar products (apparently already there in 2007) and wrote down my ideas for non-moving large to-be-seen lights on the forks and fenders.

2015-8-17: A reader inquired about revolights (http://revolights.com), so here I give some comments:

I've seen something like it before, but those that I saw were meant for sideways visibility, and it was years ago. You could ('can' if still available) also program those that I saw, with patterns and text that the light would show when riding. It certainly looked cool, but is likely not legal in many countries!)

That these lamps are also "to see" is doubtful though it depends on what you need to see and how far ahead. In Germany they are definitely not legal... (no StVZO approval number = not legal, and in fact these lights would not get an approval according to StVZO/TA because the headlamp is not cutoff and then there are other beam pattern and minimal lux requirements; for the taillamp there is also a beam pattern requirement that it may not abide by (esp. straight to the rear) because of the positioning of the lamps on the rim).
Extra lights (besides the main headlamp and taillamp) are also not legal in many countries and whether the multiple separate lights can be considered one headlamp is an interesting issue in interpretation :))

Perhaps it would be interesting to try it out, I will think about it.

2016-4-10: Searched a little to find some pics and videos of those earlier products that I mentioned, and they and newer versions are still available. They are as I said more meant for sideways lighting for fun, but still, the concept is really the same and the revolights provide a subset of the patterns/colours that can be made with such systems. Here are some examples on youtube:
Monkey lights? (20 Sep 2007) Night riding with Glenn named "Glenn and his Monkey Lights" on http://davidschloss.com/revolights-review/, so perhaps this was the original?
No idea what type/brand (16 Oct 2011): bike spoke led lights with 40 patterns
Monkey light (17 Oct 2011): Night riding with the Mini Monkey Light

2016-4-10: Btw, as to light ideas, something which is not mounted on the wheels would be better in all aspects except to make out the front shape of the front wheel and rear shape of the rear wheel. LED strips with diffusers mounted on the front and rear forks would do at least as well for front/rear visibility and LED strips (again with diffuser; 2016-4-15: I will check how well they work without diffuser using the RPL 2261 as an example) could be mounted on the fenders to show the shape of the wheel (or rather of the fender, so less than half the top of the front wheel, and perhaps a little more than half of the rear wheel; would require lot of LEDs for a smooth appearance but the indication of the shape is really enough).

Magnic light

I got a set of 3 (2 front and 1 red for the rear) from a friend to review, with mounts for road bike and a few brackets that I could use for the cantilever/v-brake/hydraulic brake mounts, and I used just 1 as more is not needed for testing.

I first tested them ca. 12 July 2017. So here are the main points:

Conclusion: There are far better options to give proper light... If the dynamo part of the magnic light can be made more powerful then it would be a nice option as a dynamo, but as a dynamo only, it should not be attached to a headlamp or taillamp.

I feel that it's time we all (riders and manufacturers) should stop playing with pathetic to-be-seen lights and solutions that are not solutions but distractions and delays to real solutions. We need more power (Olaf Schultz measured the Magnic lights and the low power output from that makes clear that this is not a good solution for proper 'to see' lights), proper beamshapes, better mounting.


5 Passive lighting: Reflection

5.1 Reflection stripes on tyres

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

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

Note that the regulators making these rules aren't stupid (or I should say: Not always stupid ;-) See my page on StVZO where I show some of the stupidities in StVZO!). Some people complain about such requirements, say that they are useless, but side reflection does help to see cyclists on intersections where motorists otherwise might go faster thinking no one is there. Many headlamps and taillamps 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.


USB power from dynamo

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

I haven't reviewd any, but here is an article that could be of use, with a list of power converters from dynamo to USB and other power supplies such as solar cells:


6 Overview of beamshots, movies, camera settings etc.

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

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


6.2 Pictures of light beams from the lamps I tested

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

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

6.3 Videos of bicycle lamps in action

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


7 Various technical issues

See light colour, experiments in fog, annoyances, lighting regulations, speed loss from using a dynamo, etc.


8 Other sources of information that might be useful

Forums are a problem in that the people there (moderators and forum abusers) want you to conform to their reality... I therefore generally don't visit forums much. I only recommend these:


9 Note about interpretation, objectivity

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

See for more about this, Criticism.

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

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Bicycle parts: lighting |