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.



14 responses

2 01 2011

For my first comment (from France) in your fantastic blog (no kidding), I totally agree about qualities of B&M IQ front light (my best front light, and that for an acceptable price), but I don’t about some of your comments:
– blinking lights are not legal in Germany (and in other european countries), but that does not mean such lights are not efficient or usefull. In Europe, laws about cyclists are not usually created with cyclists wellness in mind. And several laws are quite old and do not take current road realities into account.
So being legal or not is not a proof of efficiency or not.
– I think that low blinking lights are totally useless; I prefer steady or fast blinking lights (either for front (always with a steady light) or for rear).
– I have no experience with 1W (or more) tail light. My main tail light on my commuter uses a 1/2W led (and 2 standard leds): I’ve never been blinded when I check it at a distance less than 1 meter, so I don’t imagine that a driver several meters away, with only slight chance to be in optimal direction for higher output level, could be really blinded, more than by lights from incoming cars.
– when it is not complete darkness, but visibility conditions are bad (fog, heavy rain, twilight…), standard leds are not very visible because of general luminosity; higher output leds are far more fitted to these special, but quite frequent, conditions.

2 01 2011

@Bonjour Blobby – we can agree to disagree about German bike light laws – having tried both legal and illegal lights their laws make a ton of sense to me as a cyclist, driver and pedestrian. As for heavy fog and other special circumstances certainly you cannot address every possible situation with one set of equipment in an optimal manner. I live in a coastal town that gets occasional fog – because it’s not frequent I do not tailor my equipment to these rare days. If I lived somewhere that had regular heavy fog I would use different lights on those days or even pick different cycling routes to reduce my risk.

Where do you live in France? How do you find the cycling in your area?

2 01 2011
Raymond Parker

I’m in 100% agreement with your assessment. I use aand recommend German-made lighting (Schmidt) for most of my night riding.

My biggest beef with the aforementioned video is the idea of running a flashing headlight–crazy idea–that does very little to reveal, and may obscure, road detritus and inconsistencies, not to mention the effect on brain wiring and how completely obnoxious the practice is on public MUPs.

Of course, the same goes for tail lights on and trails and during brevets.

2 01 2011

@Raymond – I can’t see with a blinking front light on a dark road – it drives me crazy. My GF was riding like that and I made her stop and set her lights to solid just so I didn’t have to deal with the flashing madness. Once I set them on solid she commented it was much easier to see. I think when people get stuck on one idea they sometimes can’t even comprehend there are other options out there.

2 01 2011
david J

I’m a little confused – The DiNotte Taillight has six modes – three steady modes – and three flash modes – two are slow – one is fast. How can you say the dinotte modes are no good when 5 out of six meet your requirement.

I ride with a dinotte taillight and cars get out of the way and some have stopped to thank me for being visible – are you suggesting lesser taillights actually work – I don’t think so.

In addition – I use a bright light — very bright HID – have for many years – though it might seem like you’re blinding drivers, you don’t because they are on the opposite side of the road – and if it somehow is in their angle, you turn it down.. Better to have all the light the other 99% of the time so you can see the road and see what’s above you –

The narrow beam lights are really limiting.

2 01 2011

David simply having a slow flash or steady mode does not in and of it make a taillight a good choice. The Dinottes are far too bright. If you think the Dinotte taillight and HID front lights are a good idea than we simply don’t see the issue the same way.

I just hope I don’t pass you or have to follow you for any distance on a dark road or MUP.

2 01 2011

While it’s possible to be too bright, I doubt that anything in production is. I agree with almost everything else, but for me it comes down to matters of headlight aim and application.

A gentle blink is great on a lit road, as it catches attention and spares the battery (if you’re not a dyno person), but it’s useless at best on an MUP.

When it comes to aim, some people think that the light works best when it throws just the least bit of light half a mile up the way, blinding everyone coming from the other direction. Nobody told them that, nor do they realize how much better a bright beam directly in front of them can be.

Combine a fast, daylight pulse and poor aim and you will piss off everyone.

But even on an MUP, my properly set up and relatively bright headlight (Supernova E3 Pro) just so happens to strike wheelchair users right in the eyes. Maybe you can’t win them all, but you can do a little better by switching it off and running the standlight.

3 01 2011

Just wanted to thank you for bringing this subject up. There are a lot of variables in the whole bike lighting issue but I do think that the manufacturers for the most part are not concerned about the impact to other road or trail users. Most bike lights don’t even mention proper aiming of the light.

I also agree that reflectors and reflective material are much more effective than many people think. On the rare instance when I’m in a car at night I surprised at how visible something as small as a pedal reflector can be.

3 01 2011

The only thing I would like to add to the conversation is this – if you are riding with others, turn off the flash and run your light on steady mode. Much easier on the eyeholes!

Oops – one more thing – I agree with Vik that some of the “older” rear light designs with multiple LED’s are a better choice than the all-powerful new single LED designs because the LED’s are not as bright and usually offer some side visibility too – where to newer designs only offer rearward visibility.

4 01 2011

I will have to agree with david J above – I have followed cyclists on a dark rainy night (while driving), and one of them had a Dinotte. Guess who showed up the best? After that experience I purchased my own, and the result has been completely positive. To each his own, but I will go with the idea of more and brighter. Oh, and I have also ridden my bike behind another cyclist with a Dinotte. You just don’t stare at the light – you look up and ahead.

4 01 2011
That light is spot on « 42 Bikes

[…] the campaign that Vik has been on recently this was good to […]

4 01 2011

Sadly, there is something missing from this discussion and those that inspired it. Contrary to what most people (including the gentleman from DiNotte) seem to imply, shining light into the sky *never* makes sense. You always want to have a sharp vertical cutoff above the horizontal. (Okay, possible exception for mountain bikers and those riding near airfields.)

Where there is room for legitimate debate is the question whether the brightest part of the beam should be aimed horizontally (at drivers) or slightly below (only at the road).

The idea that symmetric beams are most visible to drivers is simply a fallacy, because for every given lamp output, more light goes into motorist eyes if it is directed horizontally rather than into the sky.

6 01 2011

@Iyen – good point. The benefit to having the brightest part of the beam just below the vertical cut off is that this is the part of the beam that has to illuminate the road that is the furthest from the light. With the vertical cut off aimed correctly the bright part of the beam should not be in the eyes of a driver, cyclist or pedestrian. However, the spill light is quite bright and the beam on the road is quite noticeable so the overall visibility of these B&M lights is high.

9 01 2011

Slightly off-topic: I came up with a DIY solution for symmetric lights!

Instead of cutting off the upper half of the beam with an opaque material, I glued semicircular pieces of a plastic pocket Fresnel lens to my light to redirect the excess light downward and to the sides. So, I’ve managed to give my Planet Bike blaze a vertical cut-off without any wasted light!

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