Tuesday, September 4, 2012

LED Headlight Comparison

On a hazy afternoon, both lights are visible well, but you can see the difference.
Later in the evening both are incredibly bright and visible, looking
a lot like a motorcycle headlight.

We've been riding a lot in the past weeks and we'll try to tell you about it soon. 

This is just a quick post to compare a cheaper LED headlight with a pricier one, so you can see the difference. I just redid one of the kids' bikes and used the relatively inexpensive Busch and Müller Lumotec Lyt N Plus (about $45, with on/off switch and standlight), since it seemed like overkill to use the more expensive lamp we use on our cargo bike, the Lumotec IQ Cyo N Plus (about $95, the model with a brighter more focused beam, not the wide angle one), switch and standlight). 

We really think a good bright set of generator lights is vital for riding safely in the city, even more so for kids than for adults, but we already told you that in another post.

To cut to the chase, both of these lights are brighter than anything else you commonly see on a bike, though the Cyo is noticeably brighter than the Lyt and the bright spot is a lot wider so it's better for riding on dark paths — you can see better — or in the daytime. The Lyt makes up for it in price, it's really bright at night, and it's much easier to see from the side and rear, so it's as good in traffic for being seen. I guess the take home message is that the cheaper lamps are still pretty darn good.

By the way, some newer models  include daytime LEDs that turn off at night. We haven't seen them yet.

We have used several other models of LED generator headlights in the past, and all of them are bright, none brighter than the Lyt and none as bright as the Cyo. I think the Busch and Müller brand is generally most reliably good, though we have had some luck in the past with Spanninga and Axa. Haven't personally tried Supernova but we've seen them often and they are bright, though expensive.

Here's the new LYT installation on the kid's bike:

The Lyt is little, plastic, with a bump on the front of the lens. It casts a beam pattern a lot like a car headlight, with the top of the brightest area cut off so it won't blind oncoming traffic. There's a switch on the back, and you can see the light really well from the sides, maybe about 270 degrees around. It has an integrated reflector in the front.

As usual, we are using an old tire driven dynamo, here a Panasonic, though Union and Soubitez are also good quality and easy to find. The Panasonic cost about $5 from the used bike store. I also installed a Seculite Plus rear LED lamp (about $25, though there are some as cheap as $17 I've seen) with standlight on the back of the seatpost, with the cable running zip-tied to the rear brake cable. The big cargo bike with the Cyo has a hub dynamo and also has a rack-mounted rear LED lamp, all of which doesn't matter much to how well it lights things up.

Both the Cyo and Lyt lamps install easily, using pretty much the same bent wire connector to the front brake bolt hole. I put the fender clamp over it to play the part of a washer. The Lyt requires a double wire cable, bringing the power and ground to the lamp, since it does not ground to the frame. It doesn't seem to matter which one is which. The two connectors go on the right side of the lamp, leaving the left side for the rear light connectors. 

The Cyo has a double wire sticking out of it (we have the hub dynamo version) which amounts to the same thing. Both come with all the wire and connectors most people will need. Since old dynamos don't have a specific ground connector you attach the ground side to the dynamo's metal housing or mount — I prefer to stick bare wire between the two parts of the mount at the joint that's used to adjust the angle. The other wire, for power, goes to the usual connector on the bottom of the generator. The back lamp connects directly to the front light so you can turn them both off with the front switch, or you can connect it to the generator if you prefer (for generator in the rear installations maybe).

There's a lot more about generator lights on this post and this one, including links to the websites of other people.

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