Posted by Jonathan "J.R" Reed on December 2nd, 2009 at 11:30 am
(Photo © J. Maus)
[You can meet Brian Engelen from Light On! (and Fun Reflector) this Saturday at BikeCraft V. He’ll be one of nearly 50 local vendors selling their bike-oriented arts, crafts, and other products. Don’t miss it!
I have owned the Light On! DynoLight dynamo powered headlight since the summer and now that the days are shorter, I can finally spend some time testing it out and making comparisons and judgments.
Light On! is owned by Brian Engelen. An engineer by day, Engelen produces and assembles his lights at his home-based machine shop.
You’ve likely seen Brian’s other product offering, Fun Reflector stickers at your local bike shop. While reflective stickers are a supplemental, inexpensive way to help you be seen by car drivers while walking or bicycling, a 6 volt, 3 watt headlight like the Light On! actually illuminates the path ahead of you and is a near necessity for year-round city riding or long-distance touring.
Light On! Lights are available in a dynamo powered version driven by a special front hub (sold separately) or by a sidewall dynamo that you can use with nearly any wheel. Also available from Mr. Engelen, if you prefer, is a lightweight, super-bright, rechargeable battery powered headlight which is suitable for 24 hour racing. (The dynamo version now has an accompanying 3 LED taillight option which I did not test, but which Jonathan noticed at a recent bike show.)
I was excited to spec this two-bulb LED light on my entry in the 77 mile Oregon Manifest Constructor’s Race in early October but the way the race unfolded, the lighting requirement was not put to the test. (Drat!) So, I installed my dynamo powered headlight on two different commuter bikes, one with a Shimano dynamo hub and one with a Schmidt dynamo hub. I compared the Light On! to the two existing headlights for these bikes; a 1 watt Planet Bike Blaze LED for dynamo hubs and a Busch and Muller D-Lumotec Oval N Plus.
Each of these lights has a standlight which stays lit for a few minutes after you stop pedaling so you can be seen while stopped.
The LightOn! installation was relatively simple and required adjusting the cable length and crimping/soldering the connecting spades or using the Shimano specific connector in the case of the Shimano hub. The small aluminum light housing feels industrial strength despite it’s minimal weight and tiny three way switch. The plastic housing on the Planet Bike and Lumotec feel cheap in comparison. Attachment to the bike can occur on the handlebar or sideways on the fork or front carrier in my case. The Light On! switch allows for single or double lamp illumination. I found the low setting sufficient for being seen in most traffic conditions and for lighting my way on suburban streets. The high setting makes more sense at higher speeds or in well lit areas where you have to compete with many light sources to be noticed by other travelers. The Light On!’s output is a very bright, cool blue beam with a wide beam pattern. The falloff is gradual so the contrast between lighted and unlighted portions of one’s field of view are not dramatic, a desirable and major difference between the Light On! and the Planet Bike.
The Lumotec also has a long and wide beam pattern but gives off a warmer light and has slightly better visibility when viewed from the side. Both Lumotec and Light On! flicker at low speed but the Lumotec throws a solid, slightly dimmer beam a couple miles per hour sooner than the Light On!. I have used the Lumotec for three years and the only problem I experienced was a short circuit from a worn wire insulation where the wire exits the lamp housing.
At more than twice the retail price of my other generator lights, the Light On! (US$195.00) seemed extravagant at first. However, its quality construction, very strong light output, compact form and waterproof housing make it an easy choice. If you need further rationalization, consider that it is manufactured in Beaverton, it trumps the claim, “I didn’t see you” and the extra miles you put in by confidently riding more at night will pay off in good health and saved transit fees.