The commuting randonnuer has the opportunity to try out new gear on those daily jaunts, and there’s no better way to put lights through the wringer than nightly rides through rain, cold and potholes. Like the rest of you, I’ve got a box full of lights and accessories that I used on brevets. For the last 12 years, however, I’ve relied on Niterider 15 watt halogen lights. They’re bright enough to cut through overhead lighting and the NiCad bottle batteries have lasted about three years before losing their 2+ hour capacity.
It’s pretty clear that LED technology has pulled even with halogen in brightness and is far superior in runtimes. For PBP last year I ran three LED lights: the Cateye EL-530 full time, a B&M Ixon for occasional supplemental light, and a Cateye EL-410 mini-light on my helmet for downhills. All but the EL-530 made it through three 5-hour night rides without a battery change, using lithium disposable batteries.
The big news for 2008 is that rechargeable LED lights are ready for prime time. I’ve never felt confident using rechargeables on long brevets until now. I’ve come to this conclusion after testing two of the three hot new rechargeable lights this winter: the Dinotte 200L lithium-ion and the Niterider Minewt X2 lithium-ion. The third contestant out there, which I have not examined, is the Light & Motion Stella 180L.
There are extensive test shots and beam patterns at Lactic Acid Threshold. These guys dig bike lights and write good reviews.
The Winner in my little test? The DiNotte 200L: quite bright, no hot spot, run times of 8 hours on high and longer on medium and low settings, with the larger 4-cell sealed battery. The charger is light enough to carry on the bike; LED lights don’t need a wall brick, it appears. With two batteries, the DiNotte would make it through a 1200K as a supplemental light to an always-on Ixon or the new Ixon IQ with lithiums.
Runner up? The Niterider Minewt X2. It has a hot spot but is still plenty wide and bright for road use. It rivals the Dinotte in brightness, falling just short. Battery run times are rated at 3.5 hours on high and seven hours low, which is only a tad dimmer than the high. The rub against the Minewt is that the switch is on the battery, and spare batteries are more expensive than the Dinotte. A two-battery Dinotte package runs $270. The same setup, with half the run time, will cost the same or more from Niterider. The Niterider can be swiveled, but the Dinotte cannot.
If you can stomach the high prices, these lights offer a great advance in randonneuring lighting.