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! ūüėČ

Dinotte XML-3 on my Scandal...

Dinotte XML-3 on my Scandal…

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 White¬†Cycles 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
  • 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.