Friday, March 14, 2008

Dinotte 200L-AA 4 Month Review

I've had my two Dinotte 200L-AA lights a bit over 4 months now so I thought I'd provide my impressions so far. I have used them quite a lot in an errand running/commuter role in the city during this time so that is what I'll discuss. I haven't done any all night rando-ish rides so I'll post about how they perform for that type of ride at a later date.

The construction and functionality of these lights is first rate. They mount easily on any bike and can be removed or swapped to another bike in seconds. This is a huge advantage when you have a diverse fleet of bikes and don't want to buy dedicated lights for each one. Part of the reason I moved away from a hub generator is having lots of different wheel/brake combos in my fleet. Another advantage to the Dinotte form factor is they are so small and unobtrusive I leave them on my bikes at all times. They don't interfere with the fold on my Tikit and they blend in well enough that the causal passerby doesn't notice them and is less likely to make off with them.

Riding in the urban environment you need lights bright enough to compete with car headlights to be noticed. The Dinotte 200L does well in this department. Running two of them is almost overkill, but it is fun to watch people do double takes when they realize it is a bicycle not a motorcycle coming towards them. I like the different power level and flashing options that are available to fine tune the amount of light I am putting out. I normally run the lights on strobe mode [5 fast flashes with a pause and repeat]. One thing that is nice about the mounting system [just a large industrial o-ring] is you can rotate the lights down when you encounter pedestrians on the pathway so you don't blind them.

I can't really speak to runtime as I haven't been out for hours at a time so far. However, I have left the same batteries in the light for over a week and done many shorter night trips in very cold [-10 deg C and colder] temps without having to replace/recharge the batteries. One problem I have had is that occasionally the lights would switch off - turns out one of the batteries would come out of the holder slightly. This is easily fixed on the fly if you can reach the battery pack. On a recumbent - especially on a fast downhill - this could be a bigger problem. For rando use I'll place a rubber band around the battery pack to keep everything nicely in place. Being able to use standard rechargeable AA batteries is great as they are easy to come by and are useful in other devices you have at home.

What don't I like?/Suggestions for improvement:
  • batteries can come out of place in holder turning light off. Easily fixed with tape or a rubber band, but annoying at first when you aren't expecting it to happen.
  • lack of a bike specific optical lens means a lot of light is wasted up and to the sides that could be focussed down the road. This also means you are putting light into oncoming motorists' eyes which may not be appreciated.
  • mounting system allows for lots of adjustment up and down, but no rotation side to side to fine tune where you light is aimed.
  • lack of remote switch means you can't change light settings while riding a bent if your light is at the end of the boom where it will do the most good. It would be awesome to have a handlebar mounted switch and be able to put these lights on high for a fast downhill and them back to a lower power setting for the flats.
  • you have to choose between AAs or proprietary Li-Ion batteries. It would be awesome to be able to use whichever battery makes the most sense for a given ride without having to buy two different light engines.
Overall I'm quite pleased with these lights. If they were lost or stolen I'd buy two more from Dinotte Lighting. I do hope that a focused optic is made for these lights as it would take their performance to the next level. Also a remote switch option would be of great benefit to recumbent riders.

11 comments:

runawayscreaming said...

I haven't done any all night rando-ish rides

I've done some all night rando rides with the Dinotte and it works very well. I've had success using the Dinotte for rando-ish touring at night too.

I had the Dinotte in the correct location above the wheel on a Terracycle mount but in the winter (in the torrential rain here on the wet coast) it was getting getting coated with light-blocking sand flying off the tire (and coating the whole bike and rider). I installed a piece of PVC pipe crossways on my handlebars (with zap straps) and I put the Dinotte on the end of the plumbing (like a bird on a sticking-out perch). That also allows me to reach it with my left hand so I can operate the switch. It's not very elegant but it works (and yes I know I have the light on the wrong side of the bike).

A remote switch on the Dinotte would raise the power consumption a little bit and perhaps make it a little less waterproof. However, as per your suggestion I think there is enough demand for a remote switch that Dinotte may offer one (hopefully with heavy gauge wire to reduce resistance).

I use rechargeable nickel metal hydride and disposable lithium AA batteries for the Dinotte. I use the Li disposables as back-ups for rando rides and touring emergencies. I only use the low power setting on the Dinotte (it's bright enough and really saves the batteries) and I get about 5 hours of life on the rechargeables and 8 hours on the lithiums.

I really like the Dinotte AA battery set up because it allows you to use any type of AA battery. My battery holder came with a little Velcro strap that keeps the batteries from jiggling out.

D Cambon
Vancouver, British Columbia
Pleased with this product

Steeker said...

so I guess it will be cheaper to get these lights than a SON Hub

Anonymous said...

Hi Vik

Good review, I will be interested in finding out what battery life you get. I agree with you about the remote switch. I got one of these lights when they were on sale from Dinotte last fall. I wired up a battery pack that lets me run 12 AA's. Lots of power however in checking around I don't think on high there will be enough power there to do a 1200 without worrying about and organizing battery changes. The randon list gets these teasers about the new E6 dyno driven LED light that is supposed to be available this year. It sounds truly incredible, so I delayed as long as possible and then ordered a 406 SON hub wheel for the Fujin. With that investment I have decided I am "all in" for making the Fujin a rando bike (just wonder what it's like to ride when not on a trainer)!

Really appreciate all the links you have here, it lead me to redaing about Jill Homer in Alaska on her Iditarod ride.

Dean

Jim said...

Vik:

Have you run them on the Fujin? Any problems with "foot flash" in a handlebar mount?? I'm considering getting a double pack, with one on my helmet and the other on the front of the bike. Not sure if a Terracycle mount is worth it...

Great review - thanks for posting!

Vik said...

I haven't used them on my Fujin, but you'll definitely get lots of "foot flash" if you mount them on the bars. I'll mount them off the front either using the TC mount or just some doweling attached to the light tab on my Fujin.

runawayscreaming said...

I don’t have a Fujin but to mount the lights I would get a piece of 1” carbon fiber or PVC tubing about 18” long with a mounting T on one end. Zap strap the tube to the underside of the boom so the T is well out in front of the pedal (and shoe) circle. That would put the light at about the perfect height and well out of the foot reflection zone. The batteries could be mounted on the boom tube or the derailer post.

Steve Fuller said...

I have one of the 200L's myself, albeit their Lithium version. I was wondering if anyone had hooked one of these up to a SON hub at all? Thinking of ways to extend the runtime if I put these on the LHT I'm looking to order

Vik said...

The Dinotte light engines can't run off the power from a SON without some electronic circuitry between them. It would be easier and likely just as cheap to buy a light meant for the SON like an IQ Fly.

Vik said...

Steve - here is the sort of circuitry you'll need to run a DC LED light from a SON dynamo.

http://tinyurl.com/2yv9r9

I'm not 100% sure this particular design is what you'd want, but it will give you some idea what is entailed.

runawayscreaming said...

Here's a way to mount the lights:

http://www.bacchettabikes.com/forum2/photo.asp?photoid=378&asortType=6&apage=1

It's a light mount John Schlitter is selling to raise money for his RAAM effort:

From BROL:

You can support John by buying one of this light mounts called the "OAB" or One Armed Bandit.

What John posted on the Bacchetta Forum (with some editing)

In a effort to raise some funds for RAAM 2008 I have my builder making One Arm Bandits light mounts.

Front Derailer Mount OAB: The OAB mounts onto the front derailer shifter tube which works great for many kinds of recumbent designs. If you have a front derailer mount, this light holder should work.

Bacchetta with belly bosses: The OABII is design to fit on the newer generation of Bacchetta SWB bikes that have a pair of bosses on the belly right behind the bottom bracket.

Photos at:

http://www.bacchettabikes.com/forum2/albumphoto.asp?albumid=69&asortType=6&apage=1


OAB: One Armed Bandit Headlight Mount $65.00

OABII: Bacchetta specific $55.00 (Mounts on bosses)

Ship date: Approximately April 7. Cost includes postage within the continental U.S.

Questions e-mail john AT bacchettabikes DOT com

Payment Instructions:

List quanity and item description.
Make checks payable to: John Schlitter

Mailing address:

John Schlitter
c/o Bacchetta Bikes
4705 95th
Saint Petersburg FL 33708

Anonymous said...

I have a lot of (very good) history with the Dinotte stuff (see http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/page/?page_id=52080). Now if I can only get a commission from all the people who (sometimes literally) stop me about them.

I find the focus on the new 200L non-wide-beam-option excellent--is this what you have? I agree that a remote switch would be nice though on the downside it would made for one more gizmo and one more thing to put on and off (I use my bike for everything so I don't leave my $600+ worth of Dinotte on it.)

As far as battery life, I find the factory specs spot on in using the 600L and 200L (though the 600L seems to flag low battery prematurely). And seems that way with the taillight as well though my use does not tax them as much (honestly, how many recurring night rides are over 3 hours).

If the above web page doesn't tell anyone enough, feel free to post in that page's guestbook to reach me.