September 27, 2008

REVIEW? Busch + Muller Lumotec IQ Fly headlamp

October's edition of the run for R-12 is also coming up next week, and I'm pretty excited about riding it with this new LED headlight attached:  I went ahead and invested in a Busch+Muller Lumotec IQ Fly headlamp from Peter White Cycles in New Hampshire.  I've been doing business with these fine folks since 2002 when I first invested in the Schmidt SON generator hub.  Excellent service, excellent products; check them out on the web at
Let's not mess about here.  In only two years time, LED emitters have evolved very quickly - it's almost like watching the computer industry, to the point that as soon as you purchase something it's almost obsolete by the time you unwrap it.  So, it really doesn't matter what you buy these days - it's going to be EPIC in comparison to anything you're using that was purchased more than a year ago.  I can almost guarantee that.  In this case, let's compare it to my favorite battery light of the last decade:  the Dinotte 140L (or, 5W Endurance Series headlight) -- this is a first-generation Dinotte, fantastically engineered, perfectly manufactured, and a joy to use.  Lithium-Ion powered by a seperate 7.2V pack and about the size of a film cannister, this headlight performs flawlessly, and recently got me through a very VERY dark 200K in the southern part of the county on absolutely unlit country roads with no moon.  I never had a reason to worry, and never had to squint into the distance.  Nice!  So, what's the problem, then? 
Well, battery lights are finite - power-wise.  There is no getting around the fact that while run time on low-power is about 13 hours, and about seven on high power, and while I've run this thing long enough to stretch both limits and have YET to see the low-battery indicator come on - it's still going to run out.  Yes, you can carry spares, etc., but for the long-distance rider like myself, on a multi-day event like a 600K, or an all-night 200K, or anything similiar - well, I already have to carry food, extra clothing - carrying an extra battery along is do-able, but a small hassle.  Plus, mentally, I have enough to worry about with the distance itself - having the mental thorn of battery life sometimes can be a drag.  For commutes?  Perfection.  No issues.  But, you still have something to plug in at the end of the day.  

Did I use the word Epic?  Yes, I believe I did.  While there is a little headroom above and beyond the Lumotec IQ Fly, I can't personally see why anyone would be unhappy with this model.  There is the Schmidt EDelux, The Inoled Extreme, the new one from Solidlights, the Supernova E3 - and certainly by the time I finish writing this there will be others - but all of these cost upwards of $200, and more in some cases.  They provide more light, and are arguably better built than the Busch+Muller product.  Again, from my perspective, I can't see where there would be any complaints about the Lumotec.  Let's get to the performance:  Epic, you say?  Let's get back to the Dinotte....a great light.  The Lumotec IQ Fly's beam is wider and brighter.  Yes.  Now, is it more powerful?  NO....not from a wattage perspective.  But, I've had this discussion with people before on the generator lights.  You are only going to get 6V and 3W from a generator hub - and the headlight has to be designed around that limitation -- this is where B+M really come into their own:  Optics.  Even though the Lumotec draws a little less than HALF the wattage as the Dinotte, the beam is shaped and focused precisely where you want it.  It's all on the road.  Plus, the beam is wider and longer - so I can see farther down the road.  And I never have to recharge it.  I can ride for days and days, and the light is always there.  
Apples to oranges, perhaps -- the battery light vs. the generator light - the discussion could go on for days.  Ideally, on a really long ride, what I'll probably do is mount the Dinotte on my helmet for even more light.  The generator hub is heavier than a battery pack, and you have to have it built into a wheel.  The initial investment is higher, yes, but I'd argue that you get a lot of that back in replacement battery packs, electricity costs (okay, okay, negligible) and "hassle" of having to have an electrical outlet at the end of every ride.  There are pros and cons --- but from my experience, the con's list is a lot shorter on the generator light side of things.  

While this isn't much of a review, sure, I can tell you that for a while I was concerned that the generator hub and headlight business might actually be coming to a close with so much technological advancement with regards to battery development and LEDs.  LEDs like DC current - you simply can't pull and push on them, electrically, like you can with a halogen filament.  They're harder to focus since the light point-source isn't quite s precise as a halogen bulb.  Schmidt came out with the venerable E6 halogen light, and it was FAN-tastic.  But, that's about it for advancement -- there isn't much else that can be squeezed out of halogen technology since there is nothing they can do about the power coming from the hub.  Early generator LED efforts that I tested were not much to write home about, finicky, and the beams were weak and unfocused.  I really, honestly, thought that the end was near for generator lights --- but today that fear is gone, completely.  The technolgical advancements that B+M have made between the first generation DLumotec Oval headlamp that I once owned and this 2nd generation Lumotec IQ Fly are SO great, its amazing so little time has passed.  In four years, they have solved all the problems of the first model, and the LED industry has accellerated so quickly that as soon as I made my purchase, B+M has already annouced the 3rd generation of LED generator lights is being released next month.  


Okay... the very first generator light I had was the Lumotec round halogen with "up-to" 17 lux on the road - average, about 15 lux.  The Shimano generator headlights, for comparison, put out about 10-12 lux.  The Schmidt E6 puts 17 lux on the road, but the beam is much tighter and brighter than the Lumotec round.  The first gen DLuomtec Oval put about 16 lux on the road, but it was very diffuse.  The Dinotte (keeping in mind MY Dinotte is the first gen model, *NOT* the latest 200L model) puts roughly the same on the road, but it's spread out into a bigger beam than the E6.  B+Ms suppsed last halogen effort, the Lumotec Fly, puts an impressive 20 lux on the road - but apparently the Schmidt E6 is still better.   

The Lumotec IQ Fly puts 40 lux on the road.  FORTY.  

The last update I read on B+M's site about the third generation light?  It uses the same reflector as the IQ Fly, but the latest LED emitter technology and puts 60 lux on the road.  That's the same as the Schmidt EDelux and Supernova!  So, needless to say, companies like Supernova and Schmidt that make up-scale models of these lights will have to work fast to keep up and justify their higher costs.  To be fair - those cost are justified by superior construction, excellent heat-sinks and very solid designs.  But, you can see that emitter technology is advancing faster than some of these manufacturers can release models!  It's a great time to be a cyclist and a gadget freak!

The verdict -- whether or not you use battery lights or a generator, it's an exciting time.  If your current headlight is a little old, you might consider the amazing visibility and safety these new lights provide.  If you commute a lot, and as these fall days get shorter, a generator light will pay for itself after only a few years.  It's a good investment, and it's a very GREEN choice compared to batteries.  Even I was on the fence last year about getting the bearings replaced (after 6 years of hard use!) on my Schmidt hub because of the advanced state of headlight technology in the battery light sector, but I'm here to tell you now that generator lights are here to stay and will give any battery light a serious run for the money.  Consider it -- all of the details are on Peter White's website, so take a look -- he's not paying me anything to say that, I don't get a discount from him or anything like that;  simply put he's THE premier source and importer for B+M, Schmidt, and he's an absolute master wheel-builder.  You want your generator hub built by this man, trust me.  The customer service is excellent and his webpage is informative, honest, straight-talk, no B.S.  

That's my horribly biased review!  Not so much focused on one model of light like the title indicates, but the state of generator headlights in general.  

Alive and well, and bright as you like!  


Chris said...

WE need to do a night ride together so I can compare your new light with my 2.5 year old Lumotec...might be time for an upgrade. This shimano hub is crazy - over 17,000 miles and still no problems yet with it and there are NO parts to replace!?!

Asifur Rahman said...

nice post