Autonomous Motion

Dinotte Bike Lights

Ultra-bright lighting for cyclists

I’m of the belief that if cyclists want to be treated as vehicles, they should make every effort to be visible at night. I chose Dinotte because their LED tail lights alone are, by far, brighter than any others I’ve tried. Although they actually sell a 600L* tail light (that’s 600 lumens!), the 140L tail light, which I use in combination with a 600L headlight, is bright enough for my purposes. My 19-mile commute is on rural roads that are dark in the fall and winter. More dangerous than dark is dawn and dusk. People can see you if they are looking for you, but a lot of drivers on my route are in a hurry as they rush to and from work, so they cut across the country roads looking for a shortcut, talking on their phones, eating breakfast, etc.

Now that I have my lights, I run them on flash mode when it is dusk — the bicycle equivalent of daytime running lights. I notice cars pass at a greater distance than bikes with standard blinkers. I have also found I get comments from people. One person actually thought there were police flashers coming from around the bend in the road! The instructions even caution you to mount the tail light to prevent aiming it directly up at the drivers behind you. After years of wondering if the cars coming up behind me actually notice my tail light (and me), I now have confidence they do. With the blinking headlight, I can see speed limit signs 200 meters ahead flashing in the distance.

The big advantage of the 600L over HID and halogen systems is the battery life — 3.5 hours on high and 7 hours on medium with the rechargeable lithium ion batteries. Since I have two battery packs — one for the front and one for the rear — I feel good that should I have any problems in transit, I can always string a cord and tap into the other. Bulb life of an LED is also a big advantage to these lights, obviously. One of the questions I had when ordering the headlight was whether the beam pattern would be wide enough to take a steep downhill S-turn that is part of my route. I considered the wide lens option, but the company’s excellent support counseled against it for road use. When I first took that S-turn at 25 mph one night during a new moon, I was impressed. Unless you’re a mountain bike rider, the wide lens isn’t too necessary.

The biggest downside to these lights is the cost. Cheaper lights are certainly adequate, depending on your situation and usage. I admit these are an awful lot of money, but people spend much more money on cars with power doors, locks, and windows. Add in cruise control and keyless entry. These are all conveniences. By comparison, a reliable and powerful bike light set is very practical. I think of it as insurance. In a few years, these lights will likely come down in price substantially as LED technology improves. If you can wait, you’ll be able to save money. I simply didn’t want to wait for the market to mature. My lights prevent accidents and they provide a degree of independence, allowing me to bike places I wouldn’t otherwise be able to go.

-- Tim Langeman 09/11/08

(*Since this review originally posted in 2008, the 600L model has been replaced by the 800. According to DiNotte, this is "due to the progress in LED technology." -- SL — editors)

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