Entries tagged with “Bicycle lights”.


Way back in January I bought myself a new set of cycle lights for commuting in the dark, namely the Dinotte 400L Road Rider’s experience. It was a wee bit more than I really wanted to pay, due to the weakness of the Pound against the Dollar, but I am really pleased with the lights. Whilst I have commented on these lights a few times in this blog, I just realised that haven’t posted a photo of them in action, until now…

Dinotte 400L Road Rider's Experience

Note that the front wheel has turned towards the wall, so you are not seeing the full throw of the light. I find that I use the rear light (tail light) the most, as it bright enough to make a difference in day light. Used in flashing mode, I am reliably informed that it can be seen for over a mile (1.6Km) in full sunlight. Everyone I know who has seen it in action has commented on it. Also, I know at least one person who has been so impressed he also bought the same light set. They are without doubt the brightest cycle lights I have ever owned and well worth buying.

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I was talking to a friend at work today about rear cycle lights and we decided to take a couple of photos as a comparison, of I thought I would post them here just in case anyone should be interested. First the DiNotte 140L v a Smart 1/2 W LED 3 Function light (which is said to be visible from up to 800 metres, according to the sales blurb).
Rear light comparison 1
And one with the Cateye TL-LD600 turned on, as you can see from the flare these photos were taken on a bright sunny day.
Rear light comparison 2

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With the days steadily shortening I decided that it was about time I got some new lights for my bike. Over the last few years I have been attaching more and more lights to my bike, mostly of the flashing LED variety, come to think of it most are made by Cateye. Among others I have a HL-EL410, a HL-EL220, a couple of old halogens which the model number has rubbed of (but they look a bit like the HL-EL220), a TL-LD270, TL-LD600 and a TL-LD120. How do Cateye come up with such exciting names? However I have noticed that despite having all these lights showing back and front (oh and a hi-viz jacket), drivers seem to have some difficulty in spotting that I am on the road at all. Ok so there are some that drivers think I shouldn’t be there at all, but these are really just a few sad individuals with below average IQs.

So I started to think that maybe these lights just aren’t bright enough. After all, until recently, most of my cycling (in the dark) has been in urban environments which are street lit. Some parts of my commuting used to take me along an unlit cycle path and I had noticed that, even when I switched all my front flashing lights to steady beam, there was only just enough light to ride by if I wasn’t going too fast. Looking around I also noticed that other well-lit cyclists didn’t always stand out in heavy traffic when there were a lot of other brighter lights about. I finally came to the conclusion that the lights I had, while perfectly adequate for use in light traffic and on minor roads, simply aren’t bright enough for heavy duty commuting in rush hour traffic.

Having recently (well not that recently) moved to a longer semi rural commute, I decided that this was a good excuse to get a decent set of lights. I have started with the rear light, as there is one obvious choice if you want to have a seriously bright rear light; the DiNotte 140L. Ok, the 400L is brighter still, but I don’t have that much money to spend [edit a year later I had changed my mind]. And if I did I am not sure I would want to leave it permanently mounted on my bike just in case some light fingered type decided to “borrow” it. There are two basic battery choices with these lights, the AA Pro Series, which uses ordinary AA rechargeable batteries (or even disposables in emergencies) or the Li Endurance Series, which uses proprietary Lithium-ion rechargeable batteries. After a wee bit of umming and aahhing I decided to buy the AA version as it was the cheaper option and replacement batteries are easier to come by.

First impressions: well I have had it for a few weeks now, but haven’t used it in the dark yet. In day light it certainly is bright. I did have a few problems with the light not lasting very long and then not wanting to turn off. At first I thought the light unit was faulty, but after a browse around the DiNotte web site I realised that it was a battery problem (or more likely that I need a better charger, as my rechargeable batteries don’t seem to last very long). With freshly charged batteries (especially if I have used the charger at work) the light is very effective, even in daylight drivers give me noticeably more room. I particularly noticed this the other morning. On my commute, the batteries died about 2/3 of the way there and I could tell when it happened, as the drivers started to pass far closer to me. So with winter coming, I am making sure I have two sets of fully charged batteries with me, as having a light this bright really does make it safer on the roads. Now all I have to do is to decide which lights to buy for the front. In the meantime, Shine on you crazy DiNotte ruby!!

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At this time of year when (at least here in the northern hemisphere) the clocks go back, the cycle commuter’s mind turns to lights. Usually, just after fumbling around in the bottom of the pannier whilst standing in a darkened bike shed, the realisation slowly creeps across your mind that your lights are still in the cupboard at home. Sometimes you do get lucky and find that you have remembered to bring them with you after all. However, the sense of relief is often short-lived as, when you turn on the lights, you find that the batteries are flat.

For this reason, some years ago, I decided to leave a pair of cheap lights permanently mounted on my bike. They look so tacky that no self-respecting bike thief has yet removed them. These are low powered LED flashy type things which are just enough to keep you street legal and get you home, if there is plenty of street lighting so that you can see where you are going.

Back when I was growing up, battery powered cycle lights were big clunky things, with a light output of little more than that of a candle in a jam jar. I however was the proud owner of a dynamo which I used to power the front light alone, although it was designed to power both front and rear lights. The consequence of this was that the single front light was far brighter than that of any of my friends, but bulb life was rather short. As the dynamo was of the tyre driven bottle type, which works by rubbing on the front tyre, it wasn’t just the bulbs that were short lived. Another consequence of using the dynamo was that it felt like you were cycling with the brakes on. Not that this was a problem when cycling with friends, having the brightest light meant that they tended to follow rather than race ahead on the unlit rural roads around where we lived. On nights when the moon was full, I would often ride without the dynamo running. On the rare occasions when there was a car coming I would just lean forward and just flick the dynamo on, ah those were the days.

Now I do understand that you can get hub dynamos these days. There are advantages to using these systems, such as there are no batteries to go flat and, as the lights are permanently mounted, you can’t accidentally leave them at home. But somehow they never appealed to me. This is partly due to the prospect of having to lug them around and take the drag hit all through the summer when, here in Scotland, they won’t get much use. Also, having a lot of expensive lighting attached to the bike all of the time might increase the risk of theft or vandalism.

What does appeal to me is the new LED technology, take for instance Lupine’s new Betty 12. It has seven High Power new generation LEDs with a range of power settings from 0.25W to 22W. The 0.25W setting is as bright as the brightest current conventional cycle light, but with a burn time of 336 hours (that is 2 weeks non-stop!). On the 22W setting the burn time drops to 6 hours, but the light output increases to 1400 Lumen (and no that isn’t a typo). Now to put that into context, the old Lupine Edison 10 headlamp had a 900 Lumen output, which is equivalent to a 65W HP halogen bulb (i.e. a bright car headlamp). Obviously this sort of cutting edge technology doesn’t come cheap, the Betty 12 has a list price of €990 (about £690). Now some people might consider £690 to be a tad expensive for a front light (even if you can use it as head torch for night skiing, as the Lupine web site suggests), it is more aimed at 24 hour race enthusiasts and people with deep pockets, than the everyday commuter (although Lupine try to suggest otherwise).

Oddly, Lupine only do front lights, so in my search for a more affordable front light and a matching rear light I turn to DiNotte. Ok, so the front lights only knock out between 200 and 600 Lumen (depending on model), but that still beats a candle in a jam jar and even most of the lights you will find in you local bike shop. However, what makes DiNotte special is not their front lights, no it’s the 140 Lumen rear lights. They really make a difference. DiNotte tail light (85K) So if there is anyone reading this who would like to know what I really would like this Christmas, well this combo would do nicely… or if you really feeling generous one of these!

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