Sunday, March 29, 2009

Planet Bike Dynamo Light - Part 2

I know what you're thinking. Finally, the follow-up to my first article about the Planet Bike Dynamo light! Well, I try to be thorough and really try to put a product through the paces before I post about it.

Just a quickie recap. The Blaze Dynamo is the dynamo powered version of the very popular Blaze 1W light by Planet Bike. They share a nearly identical form factor. For all practical purposes, it is almost the same light with these two exceptions 1) the Blaze Dynamo runs on a dynamo (duh) 2) the Blaze Dynamo only has two settings, a high steady light and a strobe setting. The original battery powered version had three settings 1)high beam 2) low-ish beam 3) strobe. I'm assuming that the thinking is that since there is no need to worry about batteries, you'll just run it on high...which just makes sense.

So, if the Blaze 1W is great, shouldn't the Blaze Dynamo be great +1? Well, yes and no and it depends on your expectations.

Let me explain.

Blaze Dynamo as City Light
If your expectations are that this will be a Blaze 1W that you don't have to bother with batteries, then you'll be perfectly happy. The Blaze 1W, I feel, is one of the best in-city bike commuting lights there are for the price. The dynamo version is just as great without the need to worry for batteries. The strobe mode gives you plenty of fire-power to BE SEEN. I've even taken to leaving the strobe mode ON during the DAY as sort of a daytime running light.

The high beam is pretty bright, though to be honest, a bit narrow and focused for my taste. It will work just fine in the city with ambient light, allowing you to anticipate pot-holes and other road irregularities.

If you judge it within those parameters, then you'll be pleased. It fulfills its promise in delivering the same quality of light as the Blaze 1W without the need to worry about batteries.

Blaze Dynamo as High End Touring/Rando Light
There are A LOT of new LED-based dynamo lights out there. When I was shopping around for one a few years ago, the only decent looking one was an Inoled 10+ that I bought from Peter White. Now there is quite a few to choose from. Just check out Peter's page on "lighting systems" for pete's sake.

You've got the Edelux, the Supernova E3, B&M Fly, IQ Cyo, InoLed Extreme, etc., No doubt in a few months, we'll see the introduction of the Suprem-elux, SuperDuperNova E10, InoLed get the picture.

The Blaze Dynamo is not in the same class as these lights, but nor was its designed to compete with them. I say this because if you're looking to find a cheap Edelux in the Blaze Dynamo, you ain't gonna find it there.

That said, I have taken the Blaze Dynamo on tour and have ridden with it at night in some areas where there wasn't a whole lot of light. The light was pretty bright, maybe a little less bright than my InoLed 10. However, the issue isn't really brightness as it is beam spread with this light. If you could take the same amount of light and just make the coverage broader, the light would be exponentially better. Because it is so narrow, I had a tendency to be a little more cautious when riding with it if there wasn't sufficient ambient light.

Design Issues

The problem with using the same exact form factor as the battery version is that it looks too much like a removable battery powered light. The thinking is that if it looks like something you can swipe, people are going to try to swipe it. It's a point I can understand, so I went a little out of my way to make it seem like a more permanent light. I more or less field stripped the handlebar mount and made the light into a bolt on light on my front rack.

I think it works. It isn't as readily identifiable as a removable light, I think. However, I do agree with many readers that future iterations should have a more stubby, permanent looking form factor.

OR, if they are going to keep the same form factor, there should be some sort of in-line release mechanism for the cable. A few readers suggested splicing an inline connector like the ones pictured below. I think this would be a good design change, if PB decides to still produce it with the QR handlebar bracket.

Conclusion - The Pros and Cons

The Pros
-Affordable (if you've got a dynamo wheel already). A good LED dynamo light from reputable company that will not kill your wallet. What you pay up front you save on in batteries.
-If you liked the battery version, you'll also like the dynamo version.
-Good light for city and commuting. Very eye-catching strobe mode (something you can now leave on during the day as sort of a day-time running light!)

The Cons
-Looks like a "steal-able" light, might tempt someone to rip yer cables out.
-The light has QR bracket but there is no in-line QR for the cable!
-Bright light but narrow beam, not the best for riding with no ambient light.

Recommend with some caveats.
As an in-city Commuter light - B+
As a touring light for use on roads with no ambient light - C


Celos said...

Russ, do you know if you can use the PB dynamo as a secondary light to supplement a B&M or Supernova? I was thinking it might be a great secondary in the city simply for the pop-pop-POP pattern for which the PBs are famous.

RussRoca said...

Celos....good question...I'll ask around..

Charlotte said...

I'm very impressed with the mounting work. I'm hunting for a more retro LED dynamo, with the same thoughts (I don't want it to look like something you can unclip from my bike).

Good work here!