Ultra-bright and ultra-durable LED bicycle lights

led-mintduo1.jpgAs the last glimpses of autumn sunshine begin to fade into the long dark nights of winter, those athletic Gadget Master readers who avidly insist on cycling to work everyday are presented with a potentially dangerous problem.

When using a vehicle as fundamentally fragile as a bicycle it is incredibly important to both be seen and be able to see when travelling home at 6pm on a dark windy night sometime in late November.

Although bike lights are by no means a new invention and have been used successfully for years, the rapid evolution in LED design means increasingly more powerful and more durable lights can be manufactured.

Enter three bike light hobbyists from Australia who have taken particular advantage of this recent surge in LED design to create their own ultra-bright and ultra-durable light, dubbed the Min-T.

The use of three high power Seoul SSC P4 LEDs, which are rated 240lm at one amp, gives an output brightness of 720lm per light. This rating easily ranks in amongst that of most HID (high intensity discharge) headlights and can boast a bulb life of over 50,000 hours, absolutely staggering when considering a good HID lamp will give you around 200 hours at the same brightness.

One clear disadvantage of having this much power packed into such a small casing is that the heat dissipated will be considerable. The designers have taken this into consideration and explain the design on their website, www.cncdelite.com

“The ‘one piece’ CNC design is the KEY to efficient thermal regulation. As the LEDs are attached to the same piece of metal as the outside housing, you have a DIRECT thermal path for the heat to dissipate.”

There has always been one great foreseeable downside with LED lights and that is that they are quite expensive, however you could expect to see prices drop further as the advances in the technology continue.

This homemade example is not that cheap and can only be described for the real biking enthusiast, one who still insists on cycling home in -4, nevertheless it is still a great achievement. It shows, to everyone who is interested, the power and advantages of LED technology and how well and, dare I say it, simply it can be implemented into everyday objects.

If you want to get your hands on this custom made bike light, with new digital controller coming soon, you’ll have to send off to Australia, however judging by the beamshots (see an example below) on the website it’ll be well worth the wait!

Tom Wilson

beam3.jpg

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17 Comments

  1. November 11, 2010 08:58

    > I’d second the idea of low-down-mounted lights.
    Cheers, Peter. I think we can consider the motion passed! How best to encourage what seems best practice, tho?

  2. Peter F Vaughan
    November 10, 2010 18:41

    I’d second the idea of low-down-mounted lights. My older bike has a boss on the offside front fork, to take a lamp bracket. I much prefer it to handlebar or headset mount!
    Also, granted that small optics will not be able to prevent some light emission in the upward direction, the idea of a peak or shield to cut off this light should be encouraged!

  3. November 10, 2010 13:49

    Thanks Charles. I think you are indeed right about a fashion cycle, as others have also pointed out. Very good point about the potholes – if I was a cyclist that would be a primary concern. It’s kind of seeing where you are going (!) from the wheel’s perspective!

  4. November 10, 2010 13:46

    Good point, Mr Fuzion. I guess the people who do not think about peaks or downlighting are just not thinking about glare at all. Maybe it is just because it is _others_ who suffer it, not the perpetrator. And of course, the more powerful the LED lights become the more significant such glare can become

  5. November 10, 2010 13:43

    Cheers Bob. The consensus seems to be this is a sensible development – there’s a reason why we had these things in the past. I would agree with you about the engine, too – funnily enough as I am typing this at Electronica I’ve just been watching Pedelec hybrid-powered bikes. Power assisted cycling, rather than motorcycling, as it were.

  6. Charles Carr
    November 10, 2010 12:32

    Fork-mounted lights? Not just bike wheels going full-circle, it seems bike lighting fashion does too! When I started road-biking nearly 50 years ago, most of the better road bikes had a front-light mounting down on the offside fork. As well as not causing glare, it meant that any lumps and bumps in the road surface were easily picked out by the beam.

  7. Clive Foster
    November 10, 2010 11:41

    Bob
    Fork and spindle mount brackets for the old style “pull off to take with you” battery lamps used to be very common in the UK. In my cycling youth I had a brace of brackets low down on the forks to take a pair of additional lamps to supplement the dynamo driven light up on the steering stem. This would have been around 1965 to 1970 ish (before I figured that an engine went very well with two wheels, a million or so miles later that opinion still seems good).
    Clive

  8. Mr Fuzion
    November 10, 2010 11:31

    Just like putting a peaked cap onto your head gives some shade to your eyes..
    A peaked ‘reflector’ could be fitted to the lamp housing to direct the light downwards and into a more useful profile…
    This should stop other road users (and pedestrians for that matter) from being dazzled (or temporarily blinded) by the LED lamps.
    In fact isn’t this how the ‘old’ style cycle lamps used to be…!

  9. July 20, 2010 14:51

    Thanks for your post Bob. Please let us know the details of your final rig, and any build details.
    ‘Alice’ on Electro-ramblings, for one, would be very interested to hear!
    > For serious light, my opinion is that anything less than three watts of light is not enough. I am considering a three-watt LED lamp with a flood beam pattern and a five-watt LED lamp with a spot beam pattern when I need to see further, and turn the latter on only when the three-watt lamp is not enough.

  10. Bob
    July 17, 2010 20:13

    Hello all, I am a beginning bicylist who has been doing a lot of reading about LED lamps and systems.
    I have seen from the mediocre to the grand when it comes to LED bicycle lights. The cheap, dim lamps offered on some bicycle lights are not worth the bother. We need real light when the sun goes down, to see as well as being seen.
    But what do we do when we need to see further down the path and in doing so we put the dazzle in other peoples’ eyes? Pickup trucks and SUVs have that problem because they are higher up from the ground than cars and the angle of the lights needs to be dropped down to avoid glare, resulting in decreased distance of illumination. Car headlights are lower in height because cars are lower in height, so they can be aimed further out without that dazzle problem.
    The handlebar-mounted bicycle lights are also higher from the ground than car headlights, so how about fork-mounted lights? I have not seen anything like this on the market or from do-it-yourselfers. This could be fabricated. Is anyone willing to step up to the plate?
    For serious light, my opinion is that anything less than three watts of light is not enough. I am considering a three-watt LED lamp with a flood beam pattern and a five-watt LED lamp with a spot beam pattern when I need to see further, and turn the latter on only when the three-watt lamp is not enough. I have seen these two 12-volt lamps on the Internet with an MR-16 GX5.3 base and reflector/collimater–the same style and shape as the halogen puck lights used for under kitchen cabinets.
    For power I am considering using a 12 volt, 8AH sealed lead acid battery, placed where one of the water bottles could go. A smaller battery could be used. An NIMH battery pack is a lot more expensive and would need a special charger, but for this battery a one-amp floating battery charger would work well and be hassle-free. Best wishes in your projects.
    Bob.

  11. October 29, 2009 10:05

    HI all,
    Just been talking to a German mate, they have the laws concerning beam cutoff, turns out, that people in germany just tilt them up a bit to hit drives eyes… I guess for them its all about begin seen as well as seeing the road…
    BTW, we now have a smaller & lighter version out…
    http://cncdelite/klite5sm.jpg
    Check us out
    http://cncdelite.com
    battery or dynamo driven…

  12. 'Alice'
    February 20, 2009 11:26

    As a cyclist, driver and part-time bike light maker; can I third the comment about dazzle?
    Achieving the sharp beam ‘cut-off’ required between dazzling light above the horizontal and useful light below is probably impossible with the 1mm die and 20mm collimators typically used in bike lights.
    It doesn’t matter how the optics are designed, it is governed by laws of nature.
    I am guessing here because I don’t understand the physics, but through experience I suspect an optical system of 40 or even 50mm in diameter would be required with 1mm die.
    LEDs designed for car headlights (certain Osram Ostars) have four or five 1mm die in a horizontal row specifically to give the following, large, optics a chance to achieve a legal cut-off.
    The increased use of the four die (in a 2×2 square) Cree MC-E led in bike lights with small collimators is only going to make matters worse.
    ‘Alice’

  13. Chris
    February 20, 2009 10:54

    I second the comment about dazzle from bright bike lights, both as a cyclist AND a car driver. There needs to be some serious work done to define the beam pattern from these lights just as motorbike headlights, so that they CAN be sensibly aligned. The existing simple cone of light would have to be set too low to prevent dazzle to be of best use to the cyclist behind it.

  14. Ian Cooper
    November 13, 2008 09:29

    Yes I have LED cycle lamps and they are brighter and much more reliable then the old filament types. However there is a new problem on the cycle path, other cyclists with super bright lamps occasionally dazzle me! It’s worse than car headlamps for at least these have been fitted by the maker with the correct alignment of 3.5 deg down and to the nearside. Cyclist forget that the same lighting regulations apply to bicycles and seem to point them deliberately straight ahead.

  15. November 13, 2008 09:10

    I got fed up with spending fortunes on replacement batteries but thought that the price of decent LED lamps was outrageous (I’ve tried cheap ones and they are useless, my colour blind friend can’t tell whether I’m coming or going).
    So, I bought a cheap, “own brand”, filament lamp from the supermarket and converted it. A cluster of four HB white LED’s in place of the bulb and a tiny boost converter fitted neatly into the casing after a bit of judicious filing. Hey presto a bright white lamp that just goes on and on. Not as bright as the Min-T perhaps, but then I don’t need it in London.
    I’m now looking at fitting in a battery charger so that I can convert to rechargeables.

  16. Jeff Cousins
    November 11, 2008 11:33

    Why do commercial (Halfords) LED bike lights only have 3 settings: bright, flashing, and dim, and you have to remove the batteries to actually turn them off?
    I know several people have the same problem.

  17. teddy hedenquist
    November 09, 2008 16:54

    COOL!!!

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