Monday, 5 December 2011

Top quality bicycle lights for roads and cycle-paths

Lights for bicycles come in several different types. These days, there are a lot of lights produced for mountain biking which are extremely bright, but which are antisocial or even dangerous when used on the road or cycle-path. The problem is that of round lenses and round light patterns. These spread the light equally in all directions, which is fine if you're riding in a 24 hour mountain biking race and want to see what is beside and above a trail as well as a short distance in front of yourself, but it's not good for use at higher speed or with other road users coming in the opposite direction.

Three different Philips headlights side by side.
The left-most is the 80 lux battery light, the
middle is the 60 lux dynamo light and the right
is the 40 lux dynamo light.
For some years, the most effective bicycle lights available were those from the German company Busch & Müller. B&M were one of the first companies to produce bicycle lights with optics which cut off the beam at the top so that powerful LEDs could be used without blinding oncoming cyclists. There are also other benefits of this design. The beam is graduated in strength so that there is more light further away but under the cut-off and less close by. This means that the ground appears to be relatively evenly lit.

Lights like this are very clever. Because there is less light wasted too high or too far to the side, and all of the light is going in a useful direction, battery life is better than it would be for a light with a round lens which tries to compensate for its waste by producing more light.

I have B&M headlights on two of my bikes and they were absolutely a revelation when I first saw them. With my 50 lux B&M IQ Speed I found I could ride at 40 km/h in darkness and see perfectly well where I was going. I'd never had that experience with older bicycle lights. I enthusiastically recommended the B&M lights for some years. However, B&M's technology has now been leapfrogged quite comprehensively by Philips - an old company with an excellent new product line

80 lux battery light
The Philips "Safe Ride" line-up currently includes four front lights and two rear lights. All the front lights use a curved mirror to direct the light to the front, but not to above so that they avoid dazzling other road users. The body of this lamp is of cast aluminium. It's very sturdy.

The biggest and brightest light is the 80 lux battery lamp. This uses two high power LEDs and runs from rechargeable batteries provided with the light. This light mounts on your handlebars. It's a competitor with my IQ Speed, but provides nearly twice the light at little more than half of the cost of the IQ Speed + battery package.

60 lux dynamo light
The second largest and second brightest Philips headlight is the 60 lux dynamo light. This looks almost exactly like a scaled down version of the 80 lux light, again with an aluminium housing and two LEDs pointing downwards towards a curved mirror which directs the light to the front.

The light stores enough energy to remain glowing for four minutes after you stop, or until you switch it off. The switch on the top also can be used to switch power to a rear dynamo light.

A reflector is built into the mounting bracket for this light so that no separate front reflector need be fitted to your bike. The bracket fits to the top of the fork crown.

Side by side, the 80 lux and 60 lux lamps produce a very similar beam, with the bigger lamp providing a bit more light over a slightly larger area.

40 lux dynamo light
The 40 lux headlamp is smaller again. The baby of the range, it uses a single LED, this time pointing upwards toward a curved mirror. There is space on the front of this light to also include a reflector, so no separate reflector is provided.

While this somewhat less light than its bigger brothers, it is still very impressive. It easily beats the performance of old style halogen lights as well as the 10 lux requirements of the strict German StVZO standard.

The 40 lux dynamo light again includes a four minute stand-light. It also includes a light sensor instead of a switch so that it switches on automatically when light levels are dim. There is a switched output on the light to operate a rear lamp. This is convenient for fit and forget usage with a hub dynamo, but does not preclude usage with a bottle dynamo. The much lower price of the 40 lux light is reflected in a plastic body in place of aluminium.

Side by side, I found that the most obvious difference between the 40 lux and 60 lux lamps is in the width of the beam - the lower cost lamp with one LED gives a narrower view.

Philips Lumiring rear light
The Philips LumiRing rear lights also use a novel design. Available for either battery or dynamo operation (with stand-light) they again use clever optical design to solve a problem.

Many high power LED rear bicycle lamps are very unpleasant to ride behind because the light comes from one small point. This also makes it difficult to judge how far away a bicycle is. The Philips solution is to light up a large race-track shaped area around the central reflector. There is a lot of light from the four high power LEDs, but it doesn't blind those who ride behind.

Professionally packaged
All these lights are good value at their price. We are happy to recommend them and to stock them in the webshop. These are great lights especially for those who will cycle away from areas with street lighting or who like to cycle fast and want to be able to see the road surface well when riding at night.

However, we also of course stock lower cost options. Even very low cost front and rear LED dynamo lights combined with our lowest cost dynamo provide effective and reliable lighting for usage in town with street lighting, or for riding at lower speeds in unlit areas.

For dynamo operation, any combination of the dynamo front lights and either dynamo or battery rear lights that we sell can be used together, and they can be used with any standard 6 V 3 W dynamo including hub or side-wall dynamos.

40 lux battery light
January 19 update
The Philips 40 lux light now has a battery powered counterpart. Another superb light from Philips, offering what was an undreamt of amount of light just a few years ago, but at a bargain price.

Also, don't miss our article about selecting and installing dynamo lights.

2014 update
Unfortunately, Philips stopped making their bicycle lights so we can no longer supply them (except for a very few remaining items). We now recommend the B&M Cyo and AXA Luxx 70 with USB output as excellent dynamo front lights and the B&M Secula and Toplight range as a particularly good dynamo rear lights.

See our full range of bicycle lights.

15 comments:

  1. Another style of rear light that's become popular recently is a horizontal line of red LEDs... I want one of those, it makes you look like Cyclops from the X-Men. Or maybe a backwards KITT.

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  2. Hi do you have any idea how well they perform on the older dynamos ? My Sturmey archer only provides 1.8 watts.

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  3. Nick, you'd have to try it to know for sure, but I think the light should work quite well.

    If you don't use a rear dynamo light then there is 1.8 W instead of the usual 2.4 W available for the front light. That's 75% of the usual power level. You could perhaps expect 45 lux instead of 60 lux.

    A couple of months ago I wired up a 60 lux Philips dynamo for 6 V DC operation from a battery in a velomobile. Because the rider wanted to be able to operate it in a dimmer mode and extend battery life when riding in town, I provided a switched 10 ohm series resistor to provide the dim mode. That was enough to reduce consumption to about a quarter of the usual level. The light is still quite bright, but I'd expect yours to be much brighter because you'd have a larger amount of power from your dynamo.

    This works better than with an incandescent bulb because LEDs remain the same colour with lower energy. On the other hand, incandescent bulbs shift towards red when you run them cooler than they are designed for, so not only do you get less light, but also more of it falls outside the useful range that you can see by.

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  4. Nick you need to find out the wattage rating on the Phillips lights. I run several bikes with the old Sturmey Archer dynohub. On one I use the B&M Lumotec IQ Cyo in conjunction with a B&M 4DLite fender mount tail light. The dyno hub has no problem powering up those two lights. The Cyo is 1 watt I am guessing that the 4D is a 1/2 watt. LED's are great match for the old hubs, they produce much more usable light than the original incandescent and halogen require too much power to be usable.

    Good luck!

    Aaron

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  5. I'm very happy with the 60 lux dynamo version that I've been using for the last couple of weeks. It has replaced a Lumotec oval and the amount of light is like an order of magnitude more with the Philips. The only strange thing is that the switch does not operate the connectors for the rear light. Does the dynamo version of the Philips rear light have a separate on/off switch?

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  6. Anonymous: I've just taken a 60 lux Philips dynamo lamp from stock and tested it. The switch on the headlight does definitely operate the rear light as well. I can only assume that you've wired the light up incorrectly. The wires with space connectors are the switched output for the rear light. The other two wires run to your dynamo. Wired in this way, the switch works as intended to operate both lights.

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  7. Hi David -- Thanks for testing this. I'll check the wiring this evening, but I'm pretty sure it's connected correctly.

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  8. Hello David. I reversed the polarity at the dynohub and at the connections to the rear light and the switch now operates both the front and rear lights. Thanks a lot for your help. If you're ever in the Maarssen area to check out the new cycle bridge over the A2 motorway you're invited for a beer or a cup of tea. /Erik

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  9. Hi Erik, thanks for the feedback. You must have had a path through the frame which paralleled the switch. That's something well worth noting as a potential problem.

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  10. You're welcome. This is a bit strange. The light is on a koga which is completely double wired. It seems that the switch is not on the main feeds from the dynamo before it splits to internal and rear but maybe behind some circuity that protects the light from wrong polarity. Somehow this seems to result in 6v (or probably -6v) in off mode on the rear connections if you have + and - swapped. Anyways, problem solved. /Erik

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  11. I have nothing but praise for the 60 lux Philips dynamo light. I have fitted it to my DL-1 and it has made riding at night a complete joy, a real benefit in winter. I have the 60 lux Cyo on my Brompton (due to space constraints) and whilst it is a very good light, it doesn't throw its light over the same sort of area as the Philips.

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  12. David, having extensive experience with these lights, which would you say is the better choice out of the 60 lux Cyo and the 40 lux Saferide, ignoring the price differences?

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  13. Help needed by non-electric tech guy. I have a Biologic dynamo producing 6V/2.4W running a front light. I want to add a dynamo tail light off of the existing Biologic Dynamo.

    Question: Are there LED lights I can use to replace the front light and install for tail lights? My limited knowledge suggests using lower wattage LED lights should work fine but I do not have the technological competence to know what to do.

    My objective is to be seen as opposed to illuminating the road ahead as I only ride in daylight on urban trails or on well lighted bicycle lanes on local city avenues. I am an old guy, so if it is that dark out, I will drive may car!

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  14. Hi Al, a 2.4 W dynamo is only rated to power a front light and not a rear light at the same time. In practice you may find that it does power both at once, though both front and rear lights may well have a slightly reduced brightness. This depends upon the exact characteristics of the dynamo and each of the lights. Please read our comprehensive guide to dynamo lighting which explains further.

    Any of our front dynamo lights will work with your dynamo. Given that you ride only at daytime you might be most interested in lights with specially designed daylight lighting. For example the Lumotec IQ Fly T as these are designed specifically to increase your visibility in the daytime.

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