Bike Light Review: Dinotte 600L headlight and taillight
One of the things I really like about the web is doing research and finding products and companies that are doing a good job. Negative reviews "exposing" bad stuff can help you avoid making a mistake, but the positive reviews are the most helpful because they give you confidence that you've found a decent option. It's with this spirit in mind that I share with you my experience with the Dinottee 600L headlight and taillight.
I first was drawn to the Dinotte line of lights by reviews of their taillight -- which was described as the brightest available.
EXTREMELY bright. There is no way a car won't see you.
This tail light is far and away the brightest, most attention-getting example I have seen. The instructions even caution you to mount it to prevent aiming it directly at the drivers behind you! After years of wondering if the cars coming up behind me actually notice my tail light, I now have confidence they do. What a great feeling!
This tail light is unbelieveably bright!
People have told me that at several hundred yards it still looks "like a star or constellation"
You won't be disappointed with the brightness and there is no reason I can think of why you would need a brighter taillight, although Dinotte does make a ~600 lumen taillight.
The biggest downside to this light is cost, but I'm of the belief that if cyclists want to be treated as vehicles, they should make an effort to be visible at night. For a commuter, think of it as insurance. These lights will probably come down in price over the next few years as LED technology improves. The Dinnote package is one of the first lights that performs like a bike light should.
The second potential downside is mounting options. I have a rack on the back of my bike and my bag blocks the normal seapost mount that Dinotte includes in their package.
I did a little bit of research and built myself a saddle mount for my light. It's based on a Minoura SBH-300 water bottle cage holder that mas been sawed off below the first screw hole. A 1 inch thick PVC pipe (less than $.50) is screwed into the top water bottle mounts, creating a very solid mounting platform. This design will not work if your seat isn't very high above your bag. (For a rack option, see further below)
The 600L headlight is also very bright. The first night I got it, I charged it up, used it for 10-15 minutes as recommended, charged it again, used it for 1 hour, and then charged it fully.
I was experimenting with the blink mode as I was riding and watching the speed limit signs 200 meters ahead flash in the distance. My father happend to be walking through town and thought he saw police flashers coming from around the bend in the road. I now only use flash mode when it is dusk; otherwise I think I'm beyond the point of visibility and becoming more of a distraction.
The big advantance of the 600L over HID and halogen systems is the battery life -- 3.5 hours on high and 7 hours on medium with the lithium ion batteries. Bulb life is also a big advantage-- LED bulbs typically last thousands of hours and are less vulnerable to breakage. Medium brightness is plenty bright for typical road riding, but the battery time is long enough that I'm able to use the high beam for my commute to work (19 miles each way). One time after an extra long day, I forgot to charge my batteries and I still made it through the second day (I used flash mode a lot because it was slightly after dawn and just before dusk).
One of the questions I had when ordering the headlight was whether the beam pattern would be wide enough to take a steap downhill S-turn that is part of my route. I considered the wide lens option, but their excellent support guy, Rob, counseled against it for the road. I took that S-turn at 25 mph one night during a new moon and I was impressed. I have no need for the wide lens, although it is option for mountain bike riders.
Batteries: I chose the 4 cell lithium ion batteries. They are quite small, and I'd go with the 4 cell option unless you're mounting the light and battery both to your helmet, rather than the bike. (Helmet mounting is an option I haven't tried). I debated going with rechargable AA batteries, but I'm glad I chose the lithium ion. The run time is much longer and you can run both lights off of a single battery or use two batteries. If you carry your connector cord and one of your batteries runs out, you could run both lights off the second battery. One thing you might also consider is buying a second charger -- that way you can run both lights on their own battery and charge both overnight with their own charger. It only takes 4 hours to charge, but it's nice not to have to remember to switch batteries later in the evening. You'll notice that the batteries mount to the tob tube or seat tube with velcro straps. It's very convenient to recharge them -- just detach the cord from the light, unvelcro the battery from the tube and connect to the charger. You'll notice the cord doesn't unplug from the light very easily, but that's a good thing. My mom's earlier light tended to loose its connection periodically as she rode.
I was so impressed with my lights that I got together with my brother and dad to get my mom a new set. We had to devise an alternate rack mount for her because she has a rack-mounted bag and her seat isn't as high as mine. Fortunately we were able to mount another trusty PCV pipe on the back of her Trek 520 rack. It's just a 4 or 5 inch long piece of PVC pipe with a slit cut in it. My brother packed it full of rubber strips from an old bike tire. We drilled holes in it and secured it to the rack with an old shoe lace. It's not going to win any design awards, but with the help of the animated knots website, we were able to tie some sort of knot to keep it in place.
I'm the type of person who likes to open the box and start using my new purchase right away. I had scanned the directions (available online before you buy), but I hadn't fully read them. It took me about 3 minutes to realize that my superficial reading was inadequate to correctly cycle between the light modes and to turn the light on and off. I went back inside and read the directions again. Ahah! To turn it on, click the left button twice!
When you first receive your light, you may find yourself seeking out the darkest country roads and alleys in your town. The night after I recieved my mom's light, I was running it through it's initial charging process, when I thought I saw a black cat cross the road in front of me in the distance. I'm not superstitious, so even though the "cat" was on the right hand shoulder, I was about to continue on. But as I got closer, I realized that the "cat" was actually a skunk!
With a lesser light, I might not have detected the difference until it was too late. I slowed down dramatically, rode on the other side of the road, and continued on my way. There's more than cars and branches to look out for at night!
Alternatives: I don't know of anything comporable to the tail light. I have a Cateye LT1000 that I'm thinking of mounting as a backup, but it doesn't compare in brightness. For the headlight, the NightRider TriNewt is a bright LED (500 lumens) that lasts a long time. If the Dinotte were unavailable, I would consider it, but the Dinotte is brighter (at least by spec: 600 lumens), the same price, and the lithium ion batteries can be swapped or shared with the tail light. For a cheaper headlight, I'd consider the 200 L. I haven't tried it, but its probably pretty bright as well.
2007/11/04 # Permalink