best dynamo lights

How To Choose The Best Dynamo Lights For Bicycle Touring and Bikepacking

Dynamo hubs are becoming more and more common on bikes used for bicycle touring and bikepacking. This can be attributed to advancements in LED technology and the fact that we all have USB powered devices that we like to charge along the way.

This resource will be focusing on the best dynamo lights available. But the best dynamo light for you, may not be the best dynamo light for somebody else. This is because different lights offer different beam shapes, outputs, brightnesses and USB charging capabilities.

Let’s take a look at how to choose the best dynamo lights for your style of riding.

Lumens and Lux

Best Dynamo Lights
A diagram showing how two lights with different beam shapes result in different lux values. Diagram: DecoHo

The amount of light provided at the light source can be measured in lumens. This is really just a useful unit of measurement when comparing the output of different LED globes. In comparison, the light brightness at a predetermined distance from the light is called lux. German regulation measures the lux on a white wall at a 10-metre distance.

Two lights with the same lumens at the LED globe can, therefore, have vastly different lux depending on the beam shape. A high lumen light can have a low lux if it has a wide beam, and a low lumen light can have a high lux if it has a narrow beam. The fact that different lights distribute their light in different ways makes it really hard to make brightness comparisons between models.

Beam Shape of the Best Dynamo Lights

best dynamo lights
Comparing the beam shape of the Schmidt Edelux II (L) with the pre-2013 model (R). Diagram: Schmidt Nabendynamo

Beam shape, not brightness, is arguably the most important feature of a dynamo light. Lights can have huge lumen outputs, but if they can’t send the light to where you need to actually see, how useful are they? By pairing a suitable reflector with an appropriately bright LED, you can get extremely effective lights for cycling with a fraction of the lumens.

The best way to compare beam shapes is to set up a camera and a light rig.

Here are some websites which compare dynamo lights:
BaslerBikesPeterWhiteCycles and Busch & Muller.

On-Road vs. Off-Road

best dynamo lights
Comparing the beam shapes of symmetric (off-road) and asymmetric (on-road) lens dynamo lights. Diagram: Schmidt

Dynamo lights can generally be categorised into on-road and off-road based purely on the way they distribute light.

Off-road lights are almost always symmetrical which means that they can be mounted upside down and will still offer the same light beam. Think of them as a handheld torch. They are symmetrical because it’s useful to see things above your line of sight, such as low-hanging branches.

On-road lights are asymmetrical and therefore focus light towards the shape of the road. The light normally starts 50cm in front of your wheel and gets wider and longer the further it projects. Like a car headlight, the light’s reflector reduces the brightness of the light at eye level for oncoming vehicles and pedestrians. High-quality reflectors can also layer light so that the light that hits closest is not as bright as the light that has to travel furthest.

Mounting Your Dynamo Lights Too Low

Best Dynamo Lights
PeterWhiteCycles capture the shadows and uneven brightness associated with a low-mounted dynamo light.

Dynamo light beam shapes are optimised from the height of your front wheel, the light ideally located near the fork crown. Mounting your light low (off a rack or the fork leg) will make foreground objects brighter and will create shadows from rocks/leaves/potholes. With a bright foreground, it’s also harder to see in the distance because of the way your pupils are contracted under high luminescence.

Of course, it isn’t always useful to mount your dynamo light from your crown. Instead, you can try mounting your light high off a front rack with a tray, from a tri-bar or directly from your handlebar.

Dynamo Lights With USB Charging

Sinewave Cycles Beacon
The Sinewave Cycles Beacon offers USB charging from the back of the light.

There’s a handful of lights that incorporate a switch which directs power from the light to charge your USB devices. This creates a nice integrated and cost-effective light/charging system with less cabling. That said, it can be said that chargers built into lights are often less efficient than separate dynamo charging devices because they are not optimised for that purpose.

The Sinewave Cycles Beacon has a ‘Charging Priority Mode’ which allows you to run the light on a low setting, and direct the rest of the power towards charging. As most people charge their devices during the day and run their lights at night, this feature will only be valuable to those who prefer to run day-lights or those who need charging capability at night.

Other Dynamo Light Features

Supernova E3 Pro
Supernova showing their range of colours at Eurobike. Image: Franz Herkendell

High/Low/Wide Settings
Some lights have variable brightness settings on offer. These light adjustments can be useful to optimise under different light conditions such as urban and country.

Light Sensors
Sensors are installed in some lights to automatically switch between day and night modes. They are designed with a delay between modes in order to prevent car headlights from changing the brightness of your light.

Some lights are available in a more compact size without the on/off switch. Seeing as though high-quality dynamo hubs have such a low drag, is it even necessary to switch your lights off these days?

Battery Assist
The Sinewave Cycles Beacon can use a battery pack to boost the light brightness and reduce flicker at low cycling speeds, which is pretty cool. Something a little different is the Light and Motion Rando 500, which is technically a battery-powered light, but while in operation it will accept a trickle charge from your dynamo hub.

The Best Dynamo Lights

best dynamo lights

Note: If you make a dynamo light purchase through the Amazon links, a small cut goes to supporting CyclingAbout. It’s no cost to you and the money goes a long way to creating more great resources!

Asymmetric On-Road Lights:
B&M IQ-X (100 lux) – Brightest lux available, near-perfect beam shape. (Amazon US $168)
Schmidt Edelux II (95 lux) – Very high lux at low speed, near-perfect beam shape, upside-down lens available (US $176)
Supernova E3 Pro II (205lm) – Extremely well made, 100% waterproof, ultra-wide beam. (Amazon US $183)
B&M Luxos U (70 lux) – USB charging, handlebar-mounted switch, great beam shape (Amazon US $178)
AXA Luxx70 Plus (70 lux) – USB charging, amazing value for money.
B&M IQ Fly Premium T Senso Plus (60 lux) – Best daylight LEDs (14 in total), inbuilt sensor, great beam shape (Amazon US $89)
B&M Eyc T (50 lux) – Great value for money, great beam shape, inbuilt light sensor (Amazon US $73)

Symmetric Off-Road Lights:
Supernova E3 Triple II (640lm)
– Extremely well made, 100% waterproof, good value light. (Amazon US $225)
Exposure Revo (800lm)
– Extremely well made, ultra-bright. (Amazon US $253 with a dynamo hub)
kLite Bikepacker ULTRA (1300lm) – Very compact, ultra-bright, custom light/charge systems, built to order. (US $325)
Sinewave Cycles Beacon (750lm) – USB charging, light assist with battery, very high output at low speed. (US $350)

  1. Great and very interesting article !
    I have two question you write Supernova E3 Pro II at 370 lm and on the supernova website it’s 205 lm ; I am a bit lost with all those data …
    The second question is about the double connection between a light and an usb converter. Is that possible to make the both working at the same time ? under which technical requirements ? (for the kLite Bikepacker Pro there is a switch) I already have a Son Dynamo and I have trouble to pick my light set.

    PS: sorry for my English I am French 😉

  2. I would add a comment on the benefits of a low-mounted front light, and the related downside of a helmet-mounted front light. A low-mounted front light will cast shadows giving the rider more detailed information about the terrain immediately ahead. Holes and ridges cast shadows and may be more easily detected with a low-mounted light than with a higher-mounted light. The higher-mounted light’s downward illumination can in-fill the shadows with light, making the relief and detail much harder for the rider to see. This is probably a bigger issue on the trail than on the road. I would not rely on a helmet-mounted light to see the trail ahead; under the handlebars should be about right provided this does not make the lamp’s illumination immediately ahead of the bike blindingly bright.

  3. Hi Sebastien. I’ve made a mistake E3 Pro II lumens. I was quoting the lumen rating of what looks to be a discontinued product with a different lens. 205lm is correct.

    You can splice together the dynamo wires from a USB charger AND light to power both at the same time. But that said, you need to be going pretty fast (30km/h+) to get good use out of both. With a light like the Supernova E3 Pro II you can switch the light off entirely, so that 100% of the power will go towards charging. Most USB chargers don’t have a switch, but they will draw almost zero power with nothing plugged in. This means that putting a switch in the system isn’t all that necessary.

  4. I am happy with my Edelux II, just don’t buy it from Peter White Cycles, find a reputable dealer and you will be happy with its performance.

  5. Mr. White is old, set in his ways, and very difficult to work with. At 1st I thought there was a cognitive problem with him. I finally realized he is just a disagreeable human being that can’t admit he is wrong. He didn’t build to my specifications, and he used old and scratched components. It was a months-long continuous hassle when and if, he was ever there. After buying a multiple thousand dollar bike with only the best components he shipped a box or parts and overcharged my credit card without my approval. Once I finally got the bike, corrected the pricing (overcharged twice), and finally received all the missing parts, I put him in my rearview mirror. All I can do is give my opinion and not use his services. At the time he was the only U.S. distributor for Tout Terrain Bicycles. Being 1/2 way around the world it was easy for the Roemer Bobbsey Twins (TT Owners) to blow off the situation when I contacted them Multiple times. I think they just didn’t want to deal with Peter White either.

  6. I used the B&M Luxos U on a tour and found that it failed due to water ingress. Adequate water proofing is really IMHO.

  7. The waterproofing of electronics is, of course, paramount for bicycle travel. But keep in mind that even the good stuff can fail. I’ve met ample people with the same light who’ve been cycling the world for years…

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