Dinotte XML-3 & XML-1 Mountain Bike Light Review…

7 02 2013

I’ve been using a Dinotte XML-3 [~1000 lumens] and a Dinotte XML-1 [~400 lumens] for over a year now although only in winter as our summers feature uber long periods of daylight in Canada. They are great mountain bike lights and Dinotte has great customer service. MTBR.com did a review of these lights as well as a comparison with 48 other mountain bike lights so I figured I’d point you at that rather than reinventing the wheel. Besides it’s not like I can afford to buy 50 high bike lights to test and review! ;)

Dinotte XML-3 on my Scandal...

Dinotte XML-3 on my Scandal…

XML-3 LEDs...

XML-3 LEDs…

One thing I must point out is these are high powered mountain bike lights for use on trails or out in the middle of nowhere. They shine their powerful beams indiscriminately onto the trail, road and into people’s eyes if they are headed towards you on a bike or in a car. They are so powerful they will literally blind oncoming traffic. Just like driving around town at night with your high beam lights in your car is not cool – using these as commuter lights anywhere with other traffic is not cool. I suspect we aren’t too far from seeing these sorts of lights regulated for road/MUP use since the cost to lumens is so low now anyone can afford a devastatingly bright light. In Germany it would be illegal to use these lights on your bike on the road and I agree that’s the correct approach.

Dinotte XML-1 mounted to my helmet...

Dinotte XML-1 mounted to my helmet…

Here is my summary of what I like about these lights:

  • reasonable cost for brightness and quality
  • symmetric beam works well for mountain bike trail use
  • Dinotte provides excellent customer service
  • these lights are repairable if needed unlike disposal Chinese lights
  • my oldest Dinottes are 6yrs old and going strong with no repairs
  • all lights made in the USA
  • one of the easiest and best mounting systems I’ve used
  • available in both AA battery and L-Ion battery versions
  • small profile so they don’t look goofy or take up a ton of room on your bars if you have the installed day and night
XML-3 with L-Ion battery pack...

XML-3 with L-Ion battery pack…

If Dinotte ever made a light with a vertical cut off optic like the Edelux I’d buy one for city use.





I heart my Dinotte lights!

3 12 2011

Helmet mounted Dinotte 200L...

I have been pretty harsh in my criticism of the Dinotte 200L lights I own. Mostly due to the symmetric optics which blind oncoming traffic/cyclists/pedestrians. I stand by those opinions and I still have to either apologize as I ride past someone on a dark MUP/side street or partially cover the top part of the light with my hand. I was unhappy enough I made a couple attempts to sell the two Dinotte lights that I have since I felt bad using them. I still wouldn’t recommend them for an urban cyclist.

However – I’m glad I didn’t sell them!

Handlebar mounted Dinotte 200L...

Why you might ask?

Well I’ve rediscovered the joys of nocturnal mountain biking. Back in Alberta dark winter nights were so cold that my desire to ride a mountain bike in the PM was very limited and only during the last couple winters did I have a bike [my Surly Pugsley] that was even capable of trail riding on snow. In spring/summer in Canada it’s light so late that it’s virtually impossible to night ride a mountain bike without staying out after midnight. I did one 24hr race in Canmore Alberta and I really enjoyed the night riding if not the actual racing.

A typical winter morning in Victoria...

Here in Victoria it’s dark by 4pm at the moment and the temperatures are quite mild so not only is nocturnal trail riding possible it’s almost mandatory on a weekday if I want to get any work done before I ride. I can’t explain why I didn’t mountain bike last winter. I guess I was just so well trained by 15yrs in Alberta that it didn’t occur to me. I’m glad that this winter I have been more sensible and realized that winter may actually be my preferred riding season here. The trails are empty, the temperatures are still comfortable in shorts and a long sleeve top and there always seems to be 2 or 3 dry riding days each week.

Scott and Aaron heading uphill as the sun sets...

It’s Aaron’s birthday today [Happy Birthday!] so Scott and I took him out recently for a He-Man style birthday night ride to celebrate. We armed ourselves with bike lights [I used both my Dinotte 200L's] and started the long climb up Partridge Hills as the sun was setting. Ironically everything that I complain about Dinotte lights for city riding makes them ideal for mountain biking at night. The symmetrical beam throws light up which is nice as the trail often dips sharply so you want to illuminate the next rise. That upper part of the beam that normally blinds on coming traffic lets you see low hanging branches and since there is nobody dumb enough to be out in the dark mountain biking in winter the bright beams are not anti-social like they are in the city. I figured that it was only fair to point out where my Dinottes rock so my reviews were balanced.

Dinottes are powerful, well made and rugged. If you mountain bike at night they are definitely worth a look. I should also note they are made the in the USA if that matters to you.

My lame attempt at a wheelie...

We had such a good time night riding we all concluded it was actually more fun than riding the same trails in the daylight. I’m not 100% sure why, but I suspect it is because all you can see is what your lights illuminate so you stay really focused on a few feet on trail and the ride seems so much more intense. As usual we got totally lost at Partridge Hills. At one point Scott asked me if we could ride a particularly fun bit of singletrack we can barely find in the daylight. I just laughed as we hit another random trail. There was zero chance we were finding anything in particular. We just bombed whatever was in front of us.

Scott doing a much better Pugsley wheelie...

I rode my Surly Pugsley. For an 8 speed rigid 29er mountain bike it did really well. I could have used a slightly lower gear, more powerful brakes and a set of more aggressive Nate fat tires, but all in all it impressed me by monster trucking over everything in its path. It’s not the fastest way to get around the trails, but it quite possibly is the most fun way!…=-)

Scott & Aaron illuminated by my Dinotte 200L's...

We had such a good time and days are so short at the moment I see a lot of night riding in my future. I see that Dinotte has much more powerful lights now compared to my 4yr old 200L’s. I may have to upgrade…=-)





I don’t hate Dinotte…

2 01 2011

Symetric beam bike lights from Magicshine and Dinotte...

Reading replies to my bike light blog posts and similar stuff I posted on bike forums I wanted to ensure my intentions were not misconstrued:

  • I love everything about Dinottes except the light beam. If/when they fix that I will be a happy customer again. If you give me a choice I’d rather support a North American company rather than one on another continent.  Unfortunately the light beam is most of what I am buying with a bike light so that’s an issue I can’t over look.
  • Planet Bike is a great company.  Their main headlights and taillights don’t perform well, but that’s something they could fix and I’ll happily buy their lights again.
  • I’m not telling you that your light setup is wrong.  Unless you live and ride where I do it’s impossible for me to know what biking in your neck of the woods is like so I can’t pass judgement on your lights.
  • I’m not suggesting you only use reflectors when you ride.
  • I’m not suggesting you take lights off your bike or use different lights.

What I am saying is:

  • symmetric beam bike lights and uber power taillights can be blinding to the point of being dangerous and they are certainly incredibly irritating to other people who encounter them – especially on dark roads and MUPs.
  • rapid blinking powerful bike lights are far worse than steady or slow blinking bike lights.
  • blinking bike lights that go on/off are far worse than a similar light that blinks low/high.
  • more and more powerful symmetric beam lights on your bike don’t make you safer and can actually cause problems for you and others.
  • Germany made symmetric beam bike lights and blinking bike lights illegal for road use for a reason.
  • reflective material can be very useful to make yourself visible and has benefits over using more lights to increase visibility.
  • look at your existing lights from both another cyclist’s and a driver’s point of view…get a friend to help you and bike/drive back and forth past your bike…follow your bike on a bike for 5mins on a MUP or dark street.
  • use your common sense and compassion for others to evaluate your lights and your visibility.
  • where you aim your lights matters a lot so if you have symmetric beam lights and can’t don’t want to replace them try different aiming points.  See what that does for you.

Bottom line I’ll consider my posts successful if a few people out there tried my suggestion of standing in front and behind of their bikes to check out what the lights are like for others.  I had no idea how bad it really was until I was forced to do this experiment by living in a town with loads of cyclists and an unlit MUP that I ride on 95% of my bike missions.

Ultimately the great thing about this topic is that every single one of us can test out our one situation fairly easily by putting ourselves at the opposite end of our bike lights from where we usually are in the saddle.  You don’t have to take my word for anything – just try it out and see what you think.





Your taillight is too bright…

30 12 2010

Photo: Cool Tools...

The US Military has developed weapons based on the concept that ultra bright lights can temporarily disable the target’s central nervous system incapacitating them.  It appears that a number of bike light companies are using a similar approach to tail light technology.

Let me say categorically if your belief is the more light you are pumping out the back of your bike the safer you are – you’re wrong.  Drivers drunk and/or distracted crash into police cruisers with their flashers going regularly enough that some researchers hypothesize that bright lights cause you to look at them and you steer where you are looking:

“The “moth-effect” is a myth in one sense and reality in another. The idea that drivers may steer off the road when they fixate flashing lights is likely correct, but they are not drawn to the lights like moths to a flame. Rather, they inadvertently steer rightward, which may or may not take them into collision with the roadside vehicle. Even normal, alert drivers in daylight conditions may steer in the direction of eye position during periods of intense fixation. The cause is likely error in judging heading under eccentric fixation when optic flow cues are minimal and when attentional focus prevents sensing of the need to correct the error. Although bright lights and fascination are not required, of course, it is impossible to rule out these factors in some accidents.”

~85% of car bike collisions are from cars turning or crossing the cyclist’s path while only 10% involve a car overtaking a bike and hitting it from the rear.  So you should be far more worried about cars coming the other way than from the rear.

I’m not suggesting you don’t use a rear light or that it should be feeble.  What I am saying is buying the brightest light possible and shinning it into the eyes of drivers and cyclists approaching from the rear is not smart and is not going to increase your safety.  It may even decrease your safety as you are impairing their vision and ability to operate their vehicle most profoundly as they are about to pass you – a time when you want people in cars to be at 100% performance.

How do you know if you are doing something wrong?  Swap bikes with a friend and ride behind him at varying distances on a dark MUP or dark street.   Note how you felt as you were exposed to the light from the back of your bike.  Try the same thing, but this time in a car on a dark road and then a busier road with more lights.  Again note how visible your bike was and how the lights you are using felt from that perspective.

How to be safe without burning out other folk’s retinas:

  1. ride predictably…cars expect cyclists to be in certain places on the road and to behave in certain ways.  That’s where a driver is looking for you.  The more predictable you are the easier it is for you to be spotted and avoided.
  2. ride intelligently…every route is different and has different pros and cons.  Your most efficient safe commute in normal conditions may be dangerous when it’s foggy due to the many business lights/signs that could mask your bike’s lights.  It might be better to take a longer slower route on side streets that day and accept the delay it will cause.
  3. signal effectively…a black glove on a black jacket may not be an effective way to signal the fact you want to turn left.  Be aware of what you are wearing and what you look like to other road users.  When in doubt wait until the road is clear before turning or changing lanes.
  4. use a rearview mirror…if getting hit from behind concerns you than keep an eye on what’s to the rear.  If you see a car swerving like the operator is drunk just get off the road entirely until they are gone.
  5. wear reflective material…it’s effective and cheap.  Ankle bands and wrist bands are awesome for low cost visibility and turn signalling.  A reflective vest is an easy way to amp up your visibility to cars without needing batteries or causing vision issues.
  6. use two lower power lights vs. one ultra powerful light…LEDs have a small window of very bright light output.  As you move sideways or up/down away from this zone the light power fades.  Two light allows you to aim at different spots [20' away and 100' away or aimed slightly left and right] giving you more chance to be seen but not putting excessive light into any one area behind you.  Two lights also mean a light failure or low battery doesn’t turn you into a totally black Road Ninja.
  7. Set your lights to solid mode so they aren’t as dazzling.
  8. Be considerate.  If you do use a powerful rear light on rapid flash mode be ready and willing to change modes while riding if you see another cyclist or driver following you in a situation you know they’ve already spotted you.

Just like wearing a helmet doesn’t mean you’ll be safe on your bike – using the most powerful light you can get your hands on and assuming it will mean you are safe on the roads at night is a mistake.  By all means use a bright tail light [and wear a helmet], but make it part of a bigger plan for night time safety not your only line of defense.  And when you are holding that Dinotte tail light in your hands thinking how safe you’ll be when you turn it on and aim it into the eyes of over taking drivers consider for a moment that it’s a weapon and try approaching your bike from the rear on a dark street/MUP.  If you can’t see anything, but a huge red spot for 20-30seconds afterwards maybe consider that your light may actually impair your safety or someone else’s as that dazzled driver passes you at 55mph.

Planet Bike Blinky 7...

PS – if you have any older LED tail lights like this Blinky 7 from Planet Bike consider putting them back into service.  Instead of one uber bright LED that focuses all it’s light in one intense spot they use a bunch of bright, but lower power LEDs that push out light over a wider area.  When you consider a wider viewing angler they may even be more visible than their brighter siblings.  I’ll be using one of these on my rando rig along with a bunch of reflective material.  It will be more than bright enough [on solid mode] to be seen on the rural roads/highways typical of Canadian brevet routes, but not as deadly on the eyes of randonneurs that may be following me for several hours.





Dinotte 200L vs Ford F150 Part II

28 12 2010

Low beam on F150...Dual Dinotte 200Ls at 10m...

I was asked for more photos so here they are.  This one shows F150 on low beams at 10m. Camera is position as if passing in a car.

Same setup as above, but camera positioned as if passing bike...

In this shot I just moved 1m to right to simulate position of car passing the bike.

F150 on low beam...camera 20m away...

This is a shot with F150 on low beam from 20m away positioned as if passing the truck in a car.

Same shot as above 1m to right to simulate passing the bike...

F150 on low beams from 20m camera 1m further to right than shot above to simulate driver of car passing bike.

F150 on high beam at 10m...

F150 on high beam at 10m positioned as if passing truck.

F150 on high beam at 10m...

Camera moved 1m to right to simulate passing bike at 10m.

F150 on high beam at 20m...

F150 on high beam with camera at 20m positioned as if passing in another vehicle.

F150 on high beam at 20m...

F150 on high beam with camera at 20m, but positioned 1m  to right to simulate passing bike.

Two Dinotte 200L lights at 20m...truck lights off...





Dinottes & IXON IQ vs. Ford F150

28 12 2010

Dual Dinotte 200L lights mounted on Sharon's bike...

A member of the Bike Forums.net rando sub-forum wanted photographic proof that symetric bike lights where more blinding than a vehicle’s head lights so I took these photos this morning.

Dual Dinotte 200L lights & Ford F150 on low beam...

Dinottes are far more blinding than two full size pick truck head lights.  The truck is actually emitting far more light than the Dinottes, but this light is aimed down at the road so I can drive safely at 120kph on a pitch dark highway.  Aimed this way the light doesn’t bother oncoming traffic.

Dual Dinotte 200L lights & Ford F150 lights on high beam...

Both sets of light are blinding and quite irritating.  Note that the Dinottes hold their own against a full size pick up truck with its lights on high beam.

B&M Ixon IQ & Ford F150 on low beam...

B&M Ixon IQ and F150 on low beam – both sets of lights are clearly visible to oncoming traffic, but neither are blinding and both sets of lights put the majority of their output where it’s actually useful – on the road.





B&M Ixon IQ Initial Review…

25 12 2010
B&M Ixon IQ for Sharon’s
X’mas present…

The focused B&M lights I ordered came in from Peter WhitCycles yesterday. I don’t have my dynohub wheels setup for the B&M IQ Cyo lights, but I figured I’d test out Sharon’s Christmas present – a B&M Ixon IQ. Happily the packaging is re-sealable so I can put it back inside so she can open it up again herself. The first thing you notice is the Ixon IQ is larger than a typical bike light I’m used to. This is because the focused optic is a larger module and it holds 4 rechargeable NiMH batteries inside it. The case is made from high quality plastic and is quite light weight. It comes with a universal bar mount that’s designed to work with oversized and standard diameter bars. I tried it on two standard diameter bars and it works well. The mount can be left on your bike and the light housing slides off with a QR button for safe keeping at a stop. The Ixon IQ has one button which offers two modes:

  1. high powered mode = 40 Lux [which I tested] for lighting up the road.
  2. lower power city mode = 10 Lux for visibility not so much for lighting the road.
  3. the button flashes green for high power and alternates red and green for city mode.
  4. the faster the flashing the lower the power remaining in your batteries.

Sharon's bike setup for the light test...

Naturally being Christmas Eve I decided to run another light test. I put the Ixon IQ on Sharon’s bike with a Planet Bike Blaze 1W [she normally uses two of these for her commute] as well as my two Dinotte 200L’s….one of which has a DIY vertical cut off hacked on to it. Just looking at the lights the B&M is a lot bigger. The Dinottes are smallest with the nicest casing, but there is a battery pack req’d for each as well as a power cord between the light engine and battery pack…which taken in total isn’t as lovely or neat a setup. The buttons on all these lights are easy to use and the Dinotte and Ixon IQ both provide some useful feedback on the battery level via the lit up button.

Video note: the video seems quite dark when uploaded to Youtube. The Planet Bike Blaze has a spot beam visible to the eye and the Ixon and Dinottes are actually quite bright.

Prior to running this test I aimed all the lights as I would to use them while riding. Then I setup a camera on a tripod in my yard at about cyclist/pedestrian/motorist’s head height. I’m 5’11″ so I went slightly lower than my own head to capture the viewpoint of the majority of folks out there. I then used the following test format:

  • with the bike next to the camera I turned on all the lights [in this order: Planet Bike, Ixon, hacked Dinotte and unhacked Dinotte] to see what the beam looked like from the rider’s perspective.
  • then I moved to the far side of the yard and operated the lights in the same order with the bike pointed at the camera to see what the lights looked like from a road/MUP user’s perspective.
  • then I turned the bike around to test what the different modes offered by the PDW Radbot 1000 looked like to a person behind Sharon’s bike.

Planet Bike Blaze 1W

  • weakest of all lights tested
  • tightest beam pattern
  • not a good light to light up a dark road due to low light output and narrow beam
  • easily visible in solid and flashing mode
  • very bright if you are looking right into centre of beam
  • very dazzling in flash mode if you are looking directly into beam
  • $29CDN at MEC

Conclusion: effective visibility only light, but should be aimed down to avoid blinding others and preferably used in solid on mode to avoid irritating others. If all you need is a be seen light and take care with how you aim it than for $20 it’s a decent value.

B&M Ixon IQ

  • light output similar to Dinotte, but better utilized down on road
  • vertical cut off much more effective than my Dinotte hack
  • very easy to see bike when approaching from front, but spill light that enters eyes not enough to blind or irritate
  • no flash mode [illegal in Germany]
  • City mode is useful in town where lots of ambient light to see by so bike light mainly for safety to be visible to others
  • light pattern ideal for city speeds [15-27kph] I would like to test at higher
    speeds
  • high quality feel to case, button, mount and optics
  • cost $110USD at Peter White Cycles

Conclusion: Very impressive light. Very functional and easy to use. For the money the best battery powered bike light I’m aware of.

Dinotte 200L

  • powerful light, but much of the light is wasted up in trees and other road/MUP user’s eyes
  • hacked Dinotte better for reduction of glare into oncoming user’s eyes, but not as effective as Ixon IQ
  • very easy to see bike in all modes
  • lights up road okay, but not as well as Ixon IQ
  • high quality case and easy to use button
  • easy to love everything about this light, but the beam pattern
  • very easy to blind/dazzle oncoming folks…fast flasher mode is worst forthis
  • cost $110USD from Dinotte

Conclusion: A well made high quality light, but performs poorly when compared to Ixon IQ. Given they cost the same amount I can’t recommend this light.


Video note: this video is also darker one Youtube than actual light beam was to eye.

This video shows what it’s like to ride with the Ixon IQ on a dark MUP as well as some sections with additional ambient light. My speeds where between 15-20kph mainly because riding faster with one hand in the dark isn’t a great idea! Note that the people I pass are visible, but not blinded. With my Dinottes they would look away as I passed or cover their eyes and their tone when greeted would be somewhat irritated [I've been yelled at because my Dinottes were so harsh on other cyclist's and ped's eyes].

Video note: the brightness of the Ixon IQ’s beam pattern in this video is more representative of what it looks like to the naked eye.

I shot one last video to highlight how effective the Ixon IQ’s beam pattern was at putting light exactly where you need it, but not blinding people. Also note that there is more than enough spill light to see the bike. Riding through town I found the Ixon IQ did an okay job of illuminating street signs, but for a brevet I might want a second light [perhaps helmet mounted] that I could use specifically for this purpose.

Accurate representation of how bright Ixon IQ is – Photo:
Peter White Cycles…

The photo above shows how bright the Ixon IQ is to the naked eye. My video camera loses a lot of the brightness and when uploaded to Youtube it gets dimmer again.

Overall Impression of the Ixon IQ

Awesome. This light exceeded all my expectations. The thought and careful design that’s gone into the beam pattern is impressive. You get exactly the light you need where you need it and nowhere else. One reason I didn’t buy this type of European light earlier was that I assumed it had to cost a fortune, but at $110USD it’s the same price as a Dinotte 200L and out performs the Dinotte handily. Until I get a dynohub sorted for my rando bike I’ll have to “steal” this light from Sharon for my longer brevets…=-) Two of these lights would be a great rando setup that could be swapped to a commuter bike during the week. If you need a high quality battery bike light for street/MUP use I can’t recommend anything better. A few final points:

BTW – my original test videos are brighter and easier to see than once uploaded to Youtube. If you’d like a copy of the original videos click here. Videos are being uploaded as I post this so if you can’t download them quite yet give it an hour and try again.





Dinotte Glare Reduction Hack…

14 12 2010

 

Dinotte 200L-AA with DIY 1/3rd vertical cut off...

Bike lights that shine as much light up into the sky and other people’s eyes as they do on the road are a problem.  The glare they produce is painfully blinding and potentially dangerous for everyone since you are making it hard for oncoming drivers and cyclists to see where they are going right when they are close to you.  Germany mandates that bike lights don’t do this so they have some great lights with focused optics that take the wasted/blinding light and push it down in the beam pattern so it’s shining way down at the road the furthest away from the bike.  This is handy since it adds light where needed most and doesn’t bother other MUP/road users as much.

Unfortunately North American light manufacturers don’t offer these types of focused bike lights.  I assumed Dinotte didn’t offer such a light because of the expense and hassle involved, but I was shocked to find out when they posted on a related thread on BROL that they don’t think there is a problem.  They even go so far as to say the German style focused lights might be unsafe because they don’t pump light out in every direction.  My initial reaction was what planet do they live on?  I get blinded by symmetrical unfocused bike lights every night ride and I have to cover or change the aim on my Dinottes every night ride to avoid blinding people.  German laws are there to enhance safety and if anything the Germans are hyper-safety conscious when it comes to cycling.  Given that many randonneurs sing the praises of the focused European lights after using them at high speeds on a variety of roads all night when extremely tired you have to wonder how dangerous they could be?

 

Various bike light patterns...

 

Have a look in the image above at the symmetrical Dinotte 600L light pattern compared to the Scmidt Edelux pattern.  The difference is dramatic.  Peter White has an excellent set of photos showing what various lights he sells look like when shone down the road.  His images are also very instructive.

So the obvious solution is if you have $$$ to spend on a new bike light get one of the European style focused lights that Peter White sells.  What about the existing lights you have that are still working fine, but you are tired of blinding people with?  Well I faced exactly that problem with my 2 Dinotte 200L-AA lights.  They work fine and are worth about $300 so I don’t want to throw them out.  The discussion on BROL got me thinking and I tried a DIY vertical cut off using electrical tape.  This blocked the upper part of the light beam.

In this video I did the following:

  • pushed a bike away from camera with stock Dinotte 200L-AA aimed as I normally would and had Planet Bike Superflash on back aimed normally
  • pushed same config back towards camera
  • replaced stock Dinotte with same model light [same battery pack] that had a electrical tape vertical cut off covering 1/3 of the top of the lens
  • replaced Superflash with Radbot 1000 on rear
  • pushed bike away from and back towards camera

What I see in the video is:

  • stock Dinotte is very bright in the camera with a lot of light pumped into the lens causing glare [easy to spot]
  • Planet Bike Superflash is very bright [easy to spot]
  • with 1/3 vertical cut off is easy to spot, but much less light at the camera
  • is extremely bright

This simulates riding on a MUP…something that I do every ride in Victoria and given the lack of daylight much of this riding is at night. With this DIY cutoff I can ride the MUP and the streets without blinding anyone, but still getting all the light I need on the road to see and still enough light spilling upwards to be seen by. It’s not a great solution since I’m wasting a lot of the LED’s light, but given a focused optic isn’t an easy DIY hack this seems reasonable so I can use my Dinottes responsibly until they die.

The difference is noticeable and I’ll be modifying both my Dinottes in this way to reduce the blinding effect on other cyclists.

The downside is that you lose a bunch of light power from the LED by simply blocking it. The Euro lights like the Edelux take this light from the upper part of the lens and push it down below the cut off. This not only avoids blinding on coming riders/drivers, but it makes the top part of the beam below the cut off much brighter – ideal since this is the part that must light up the portion of the road the furthest away from the bike. This evens out the light beam so you get equal illumination far away as you do close up.

 

Unmodified Dinottes...

Are your lights a problem?  Trade bikes with a friend on a dark street and see how your bike looks to others. You can also jump in your car and have a friend ride your bike as you drive past them. If you have no problem when passing your bike on the MUP or street than you don’t have anything to worry about.  You can repeat the experiment on a street with cars and other light sources.  If you don’t enjoy the experience of passing your own bike then it’s a problem you need to deal with.

Can’t you just aim a symmetrical light down so it doesn’t shine in the eyes of oncoming folks’ eyes?  No. The reason is that the light beam from a symmetrical light is brightest in the center and fades to the edges.  If you pointed it down to avoid blinding others the part of the beam you would have left to illuminate the farthest part of the road from you would also be the weakest part of the beam.  This would result in a ton of glare off the road close up and very little light far away.  It would be hard on your eyes and you would have to ride slow to not out run your light’s area of illumination.

The solution I propose in this post is not ideal since it wastes the light that is being blocked by the tape, but it does allow you to shine what remains of the bright part of the symmetrical light beam where you need it further down the road and it reduces the blinding effect considerably.  The fact it’s free is a bonus.  For now it will have to do.

It’s not surprising that a Dinotte light would be illegal for road use on your bike in Germany.  The cops would pull you over and give you a ticket for being dangerous and a nuisance to others.
Just like they would in Canada/USA if you decided to drive around with your car’s highbeams on because they are safer for you.

Since Dinotte doesn’t care about this important issue I’m sad to say I won’t be able to buy any more of their products nor can I recommend them to other cyclists.  If you want a good battery powered or dynohub headlight look at the European options sold by Peter White.  They don’t cost anymore than a Dinotte, but they offer improved performance and safety.

 

 

 





CETMA Light Upgrade

16 10 2010

Thorn Accessory Bar...

My bikes are, for the most part, all weather day/night machines.  Mounting a taillight to my CETMA cargo bike was no problem. I used one of the Radbot lights I reviewed a few weeks ago.  a front light was a bit more hassle.  Putting a light on the bar didn’t work very well as the cargo box and passenger [if I had one] got in the way.  So I mounted a Thorn Accessory Bar I had in my spares bin above the front wheel.

Wheel's eye view...

This worked great.  There is room for two Dinotte 200L-AA lights or just about any other bike headlight that attaches to a handle bar.  The mount is very secure and doesn’t get in the way when I don’t need to use it.  You can of course achieve the same effect with an old stem and a cut down section of handlebar.

Ladies can't resist a well lit cargo bike...

Dual Dinotte LED lights provide a ton of light up front. I added a some battery powered glowstix for some bling.  The CETMA was a total chick magnet…=-)

CETMA lighting in full effect...





900 Lumen LED Bike Light

28 05 2010

Power in Motion 900 Lumen LED bike light...

Ken at Power in Motion gave me this 900 lumen LED bike light to try out.  Naturally I said yes!  My reference lights are a pair of Dinotte 200L-AA that are rated at 200 lumens each and run on 4 AA rechargeable batteries.  I’ve always thought the 200L’s were very bright so I was interested to see what 900 lumens was like.

Light engine, battery and charger in box...

This light kit consists of a LED light engine, proprietary rechargeable battery and AC charger.  The box the light comes in is easy to open with a flip top and magnetic latch.  That’s nice because typically I recycle product boxes because they aren’t very easy to open/close for day to day use.  I’d actually keep this box to store the light when not in use and reuse is better than recycling by a long shot.

Business end of light engine...

The light engine features a SSCP7 LED and simple reflector.  Note that the optics are not focused so you get a cone of light that extends from the light engine.

Heat-sink and control button...

The light engine case is waterproof and features a integral heat-sink to keep the light cool.  There is a single control button on the back that cycles between high power steady, low power steady, flashing high power and off.

Battery pack...

I have no specs on the proprietary battery pack other than a stated runtime of 3hrs on high steady.  I tested this and managed 3hrs 10mins with my unit.  Low steady should run for a lot longer and in flashing mode I imagine it will be a week or more of night riding before you would have to think about charging.  It took me 4hrs to charge the battery from empty to full with the included AC charger.

I should note it looks like the light engine may draw a small amount of current when off [same as the Dinotte] so I’d recommend you unplug the battery pack if you aren’t using it so you don’t drain the battery unnecessarily.

The plug is waterproof and easy to use.  Both the plug and the wiring look solid and should be robust enough for long term use.  Ken mentioned that this light can be connected to one of his e-bike kits so you can run it from the main e-bike battery. That would be a convenient option for a electric bike commuter.

The battery come with a nylon case that can easily be attached to your bike via a velcro strap.

My test light on the left and my Dinotte 200L on the right...

The test light engine mounts in a similar fashion to the Dinotte 200L using a rubber o-ring.  This is a very versatile mounting method that has lasted several years of regular use.  This means the light can be swapped from bike to bike in seconds without tools and the beam can be aimed up and down on the fly.  Of course this type of mount means the light can be stolen easily so you’d be advised to take it with you when locking the bike.  You get a large and a small o-ring with the light kit so you should be set for just about any diameter bar.

On the whole I really like these o-ring mounts.  The convenience of use outweighs the security issue for me.

Top view...

The test light is attractive and looks well made.  As you can see from the photos it’s quite a bit bigger than the Dinotte 200L, but at 4.5 times the rated lumens maybe that’s a necessary thing – the Dinotte 800 lumen light is much bigger as well.  The Dinotte case is a work of art to be sure, however, it comes at a cost.  The 900 lumen LED tested here sells for $145 CDN at Power in Motion compared to $229 USD for a 200L – LI proprietary [lithium battery version] or $351 USD for a Dinotte 800 lumen light.

Rear view...

The 900 lumen test light is controlled from the rear via a single button that is illuminated to show it has power and switches to red to indicate a low battery.  The button is not as easy to use as the Dinotte button because it doesn’t protrude from the case as much, but I was able to change settings with a gloved hand no problem.

The light engine and battery weigh 340 grams [12oz] – light enough I didn’t notice them on my bikes.

Dinotte 200L...

Here are two pictures to try and compare the 900 lumen test light and the Dinotte 200L.  This is not an ideal test as my camera adjusts settings differently between pictures, but it was the best I could muster on short notice.  In real life the difference is even more dramatic.  I have no way to measure the brightness of these lights to verify the stated lumens, but I can tell you the 900 lumen light is much brighter than the Dinotte 200L and illuminates a much wider area.  This means you’ll see more of the road both close and far than you would with the Dinotte 200L.  For higher speed night riding I often use two Dinotte 200L’s one aimed low and close to illuminate the near section of road and one aimed higher to illuminated the road further away.  With the test light only one light would be necessary to achieve the same result.

900 lumen test light...

Keep in mind I’ve only been testing this light for a couple weeks so I can’t speak to the long term durability of the unit although the construction leads me to believe it will be robust.  I am thinking about buying one to test over the next year, but I have a some existing lights that meet my needs and other bike spending priorities…not to mention living so far north it’s already light until 10pm+… so I haven’t made a decision yet.  This light is definitely a great value which is making me think it’s worth owning.

In summary:

  • the test light is well made
  • the price is excellent
  • the light is exceptionally bright
  • the battery provides 3hrs on high steady
  • the mounting system works well

If you are interested in one of these 900 lumen lights contact Ken through his Power in Motion website or call the store at 403.233.8841. Power in Motion ships to Canada and the US.

Now this is where I would typically rant about the need for focused optics in bike lights like they have in Europe.  However, nobody selling bike lights in North America seems to care so I’ll spare you the diatribe!…=-) I will say this – be responsible with your high powered bike lights.  Consider other MUP/road users and don’t blind people with poorly aimed lights.

10 min shower test...

Update:

Adrian [a blog reader] mentioned he has some waterproofing issues with his battery pack in a similar LED light.   So the investigative reviewer in me wanted to try out my test light in the wet.  So I placed it on a shelf in the shower and hit it with a full force water barrage for 10 mins.  I occasionally picked up the light engine and ran it through the various modes to ensure it was working fine.  The light worked great and exhibited no problems from being wet or sitting in a puddle of water.





Dinotte Battery Pack DIY

22 03 2010

Topeak Battery Case

I rec’d this handy tip from Jim B:

“Hi Vik,

I was experiencing unreliable DiNotte battery connections like you were. For my trunk light, a rubber-band cut from an innertube and holding down the connector to the battery holder terminals solved the problem.

For the front lights, I found that the 4-cell battery holder fits just right into a Topeak cell-phone case. The stretchy sleeve on the side holds the light’s power cord. I have not experienced a single accidental disconnect since adopting these cases several months ago. The battery removal from the case is easier than with the DiNotte-supplied floppy bag. Also the whole battery and case can be quickly separated from the mounting hardware if need be (like theft prevention).

Take care,
Jim”





Dinotte 200L-AA 2 Year Update

8 03 2010

Dinotte 200L-AA on my Tikit

It’s been over 2 years since I got two of these Dinotte 200L-AA LED bike lights so I thought I’d provide an update on how they are working.  Just so I don’t have to repeat myself see my 4 month review for more details about these lights.

What I like:

  • lights are in perfect condition and have given me no troubles.
  • construction is robust and wiring seems quite tough.
  • I have used them on pretty much all my bikes at one time or the other.
  • I really like how versatile the mounting system is while being so simple.
  • they are more than bright enough for use in the city to be seen by.
  • one is enough to see by on dark pathway at slow to moderate speeds.
  • at higher speeds you need two aimed at different spots in front of you for good visibility up close and down the road.
  • buttons are easy to use with gloves on.
  • lights are waterproof.
  • colour of button lets you know when batteries are getting low.
  • I’ve gone through two sets of rechargeable batteries.
  • I’m really glad I got the AA version so I’m not stuck with proprietary batteries.
  • run time is good for commuting and errand use.
  • for brevets or longer night rides you’ll be carrying several sets of batteries.
  • you can pre-load batteries into spare cradles for super fast battery swaps.
  • helmet mount is versatile.
  • excellent customer service.

Top view...

What I don’t like:

  • optics aren’t focused so a lot of light is going up away from road into the trees and driver’s eyes.
  • I have to cover lights with my hand when passing pedestrians or other bikers as there is so much light aimed up into their eyes that would be more useful on the road.
  • batteries tend to vibrate loose so I end up taping them into their cradle which makes replacing batteries a bit of a pain.
  • you have to remember to detach the power cord from the batteries when not using them as the light seems to drain the batteries after a couple days plugged in even if they aren’t being used.
  • helmet mount works well, but with the short power cord and battery pack on helmet it’s a lot of weight which isn’t fun for too long.
  • short power cord and cold temps = short battery life.  If you ride in winter get the longer power cord and insulate your batteries.

Helmet mounted...

The future:

  • I’ll keep using these lights as they have proven to be reliable, rugged and effective.
  • If they fail I bet it will be damage to the power cord from excessive bending and I bet Dinotte will fix that for a modest repair fee.
  • I’ll probably be posting a 5yr update about these lights!
  • I hope Dinotte incorporates some focused optics in their lights.  When they do I’ll buy a couple new ones and probably be even happier!

Dinotte 200L-AA website.





Dynohub vs. Battery

16 05 2009
Solidlights 1203D works with a dynohub

Solidlights 1203D works with a dynohub

I’ve owned the Solidlights 1203D LED dynohub headlight for a couple years now.  I bought it for riding brevets and it worked well for that.  However, since I was riding brevets on a recumbent and hate swapping stuff between bikes before a ride [too lazy] I didn’t use it much for casual use around town on my upright bikes.  Instead I used the battery powered Dinotte 200L-AA LED lights shown below.

My Dinotte lights work well enough and are so easy to swap between bikes [o-ring for mounting the light & velcro strap for batteries] that I don’t mind moving them around a bit.  On fresh batteries they last long enough that running time is not an issue for my in-town night riding.  One problem I have had many times is grabbing my bike and heading out only to find the batteries are dead or very low.  This happens because I don’t use the lights everyday and the Dinotte light draws some minimal amount of power even when off.  I have learned to unplug the power cable from the battery pack, but I don’t always remember to do this and it adds an extra step to getting ready to ride that is a bit of a pain.  I used the Dinottes last year as my main headlight and probably had a 75% success ratio for having enough power to meet my night riding needs.  That means that 1 out of 4 times I rode without a head light or it died mid-ride….=-(

This year my main urban night time bike has been my Bike Friday NWT.  Since my night rides usually end at someone’s house I don’t need the foldability of my Tikit and my NWT is equipped with the Solidlights 1203D dynohub powered headlight.  I can grab my NWT any time and know that my headlight will turn on automatically as soon as I start riding [I use it as a daytime running light as well] and between my two Planet Bike Superflash taillights one will always be flashing.  I didn’t realize how much hassle the battery lights were until I had the dynohub equipped NWT to compare to.

Of course there are downsides to the dynohub light:

  • requires a dynohub front wheel
  • requires longer wiring than a battery light
  • more expensive [at least initially, but there are no batteries to buy/replace]
  • more hassle to swap between bikes
  • there is some extra drag from the dynohub

However, if you do a lot of night riding – particularly always on the same bike – the advantages of having as much lighting as you will need without thinking about it is well worth the disadvantages in my opinion.  If you only night ride occasionally and are always on a different bike it doesn’t make so much sense.

Since I have a fleet of bikes my strategy is to have one or two bikes dedicated to all weather day/night riding.  These bikes will have a dynohub & headlight so I will always have a bike ready to ride when I need it.  If I really want to ride one of my other bikes at night I’ll use a battery powered headlight and hopefully have some fully charged batteries available.

At the moment my only dynohub equipped bike is my Bike Friday NWT, but I have another dynohub wheel using a Shimano hub and a 26″ Velocity rim. I’ll most likely use it on my Thorn Nomad, but I’m pondering getting a second Solidlights headlight [the new XB2] so I won’t have to deal with swapping lights and I can use all my existing Solidlights cables & accessories.

Dinotte 200L-AA battery powered LED lights

Dinotte 200L-AA battery powered LED lights