The Evolution of My Bike Lights

When I got back into biking, it wasn’t long after that I became aware that some sort of lighting was in order.  Given my job and how often I would ride in the evenings, it wasn’t unusual to find myself pushing it to get home as the sun was setting.  It’s also a sad reality that as I get older, my eyes need more light to see clearly as the day fades.

The purchase of the Trucker prompted me to pick up a Cygolite as I was gathering various components for the build.  It was a fancy twin beam model with a wire running to a large battery pack that fit into a bottle cage.  More than one person mistook it for one of those compressed air horns.  The beam was adequate for evenings, but not very effective once things got dark.  There was no spill light, so it resulted in a tunnel effect especially when rounding corners.  This was also older technology, so the heavy battery and incandescent bulbs wouldn’t hold a strong charge.05-16-07-004.jpg

Not too long after this, LED technology started heating up, and Busch and Muller caught my attention with the Ixon IQ.  I was curious about dyno setups, but the prices were scary.  Peter White shipped me an Ixon that, compared to the Cygolite clearly had a much better beam, was lightweight, self-contained to the handlebar mount, and had a battery indicator. ixon-003

On the down side, the beam was very defined, again creating that tunnel effect, and I was constantly worried about whether there was enough juice to get me through the ride without going dead.  I didn’t always remember to hook it up to the charger after a ride.  Given how battery technology was improving during this same period, I most likely could have upgraded the AA cells to something stronger.  I also encountered a not so strange problem of the light’s electro-magnetic field interfering with the Planet Bike wireless computer I was using.  The light had to be at least six inches away from the ‘puter, which wasn’t practical.  The problem was solved by switching to a wired computer, which I liked better anyway.

The Ixon is a good commuter light, but it wasn’t necessarily great for longer night rides.  After I picked up a dyno wheel, I also purchased a Ride and Charge, which allows charging the Ixon off of the hub.  I still have it in the parts bin.

Through the wonder of Ebay, I picked up a used dyno wheel with a Shimano 3n72 hub at what was a very good price.  It’s turned out to be a very dependable wheel, quiet, with virtually no resistance.  It also came with a Shimano dyno light, which has got to be the worst light ever made.  It’s been in my parts box from day one.

Not long after getting the wheel and putting it on the Trucker, I came across someone selling a used B&M IQ Fly for a good price, so I jumped on that.  The Fly has the same optics as the Ixon, so I was pretty happy with the results and being able to just flick on the light whenever and not worry about battery life.  I particulary liked how easy it was to adjust the beam level while riding since the fitting could pivot.  Having a complete dyno setup relieved my anxiety about longer night rides, and it didn’t take long for me to be hooked.dscn3582

Since I no longer had a need for the Ixon, I sold it to a friend.

A year or so later, B&M announced the Cyo.  Better optics, 60 lux, impressive beam.  By this time Peter White had my credit card number on file, and it was just too easy to call up.  The Cyo lived up to all of the hype, and I still have it today, only on the X bike.  The main advantage of the Cyo over the Fly, in my opinion, is the throw of the beam.  That extra length allowed riding faster at night and not out-running the beam.  I’d still have to say there is a bit of a tunnel effect, but there is enough spill light to make things comfortable.  I think as an overall light, it is a great value.LHT Fall 09 002

So I’m happy with my dyno setup and really happy with the Trucker, but I still look wistfully at the X bike every time I go out into the garage.  After several incarnations, I finally get it setup as a fast tourer that is fun to ride…but not at night.  Low and behold, someone is selling a Supernova Airstream at a great price, and I snap it up.

So now I’m back into the world of battery lights.  What a difference over the old Cygolite from years back.  Small, self-contained, bomb-proof, and a wickedly bright, tightly defined beam and great battery life.  Most impressive.002

The brightness of the beam, combined with the defined cutoff with limited spill light, though; actually became a drawback.  While a lot of randoneurs like the Supernova beam, I found the tunnel effect very pronounced.  The light lasted one winter, I sold it for more than I paid for it, and took the plunge again to a brighter light and another dyno setup.

Now having a few overnight and multi-day tours under my belt, I was lusting over some of the dyno/charging units on the market that could top off my phone and the GPS unit that I had purchased.  B&M again manages to wow me with their latest release, the Luxos U.  Even brighter beam, but also with a USB charging port with a cache battery.  Everything I wanted, in one unit.  I ended up pre-ordering one.DSCN1597

At the same time (I don’t know where I was getting the money from), I decided to keep the Cyo, transfer it to the X bike, and go with a second dyno wheel.  A pre-built Sanyo H27 setup fit the bill, which went on the Trucker with the Luxos, and the Fly/3n72 went on the X bike, and that’s where we are today.027

The Luxos is a phenomenal light.  It has several LEDs built into it, and the beam changes from near field to far field depending on the power coming off of the dyno.  Ride slow = light up close.  Ride fast = brighter distance beam.  Add the high beam feature and the flawless USB charging, and you have a winner.  You pay for it, but these are really great lights.

The Sanyo hub is also good, although I sense just a hair more vibration at speed.  It probably has to do with the bearings, but it’s not something I worry about.

I really can’t see any more upgrades, but my history is proving that to be a pretty silly statement.  I’m a hopeless gearhead, and love the latest gadgets.  Who knows what might show up one of these days?


4 responses to “The Evolution of My Bike Lights

  1. Sold it for more than you paid for it, did you? I resemble that remark!
    As your buyer, I do love the Supernova. It is a quantum leap in quality above the $20-$40 lights had been flirting with. It was worth the investment to figure that out.

    • ha! I wondered about that. If it’s any consolation, I think the shipping costs were enough to even it out, but I have to say that it was one of the better deals I got off of Ebay.
      It truly is a good/great beam, and the fact that you can charge it off of USB is even more tempting, but I just had problems with my eyes going from a very bright swath of light to the darkness outside of the beam.
      If I were commuting through city streets and parking the bike where I’d need to take the light off for security, the Airstream wins hands down. And it’s a great flashlight for camping too.

  2. As your other light clearing house, I’d like to provide an update. The Cygolite’s battery stopped taking a charge last winter. The manufacturer no longer offers replacements. It has since gone to live with the Great Lightbulb in the sky. The IQ Fly is still my main light and I’m very pleased with it.

    • yup. they were all good lights at some point, but I’m just a sucker for the next brighter one that comes along. Dave from Bikesncoffee ended up with the Ixon, but I think it met its end last year due to a combination of gravity and pavement.

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