Saturday, 20 July 2013

Review: Dosun U1 Dynamo Headlight

At the start of the winter, the lovely folks at IDC gave me a Dosun U1 Dynamo headlight to put to the test as I battled to work through whatever weather the winter chose to throw at me during the dark morning and evening commutes that winter brings.

I'm an enthusiastic advocate of dynamo lights, but not all lights are equal, by a long way, and there are some terrible products out there too. Several years ago I was unhappy with what was available buy and so I made my own lights (which got nicknamed the Deanamo by my friends), I have happily used a light from K-Lite and have now settled on the Exposure Revo, both of which are head and shoulders above anything else I have ever come across, so I was a little apprehensive going back to "just" a normal light.

The light has been put through the grinder almost every day for the last 9 months now, through a rainy UK autumn, a sub-zero Bavarian winter, daily shopping & commuting, long distance trips on road and on forest tricks, the odd MTB excursion and more recently late night trips back from late finishing summer BBQs across town (more recently on beer fueled, 1 hour "short cuts" through the woods and across fields at the edge of town). The conclusion is that this is not being taken off the bike any time soon!

Dosun U1 firmly in place on the trusty old town bike ready for 24/7, all year round use

A little about the light:

  • Out of the box, it feels a quality product in your hands, a lightweight bracket, a sturdy metal housing with a thick robust looking gasket to keep the weather on, and ribbing to take the heat away from the LED.
  • The main beam is shaped to be StVZO compliant, this also means that 100% of the light goes forward and down, so the 50lux goes a very long way as none of the light is wasted. The shaped beam pattern is legal in Germany (convenient, as I just moved there!) and puts the light where you want it about town and out of town on unlit trails and roads.
  • The light has a great "be seen" standlight when you come to a halt, to allow safe waiting at and pulling away from junctions and also great for putting the bike away in an unlit shed, hallway or garage.
  • There's a waterproof switch on the back so you can save a little energy and turn the light off in the day
  • There's a second cable connection to power a rear light too (which I choose to do), but as with every other similar light out there, you'll need a rear light with its own standlight as this is power to the rear only when the bike is moving
The waterproof switch cover is a nice touch and is easily operated with eve the thickest of winter gloves on

The light that this bike replaced was the very well respected B&M IQ Fly Plus. This light shares similar features (StVZO shaped beam, standlight, rear light, switch and an output of 40lux), so I had a good point of reference, rather than start from an Revo and simply conclude that it wasn't as bright. I have to say, to my great surprise, the Dosun U1 did more than hold its own. I preferred the beam from the Dosun, whether it was slightly brighter or a little better shaped was hard to say, and the comment is very subjective, but if I had to make a choice between these two lights, with it's nicer beam, metal body and switch with a waterproof cover (two features missing from the more expensive B&M IQ with a plastic body and open sliding switch) I would spend my money on the Dosun. A secondary bonus, I also found the standlight a little brighter and longer burning, so again, more points for the Dosun U1.

My final test was to try the light off road. The failure of even the best available dynamo lights many years ago had forced me to develop my own. How would the Dosun fair? On the way to the trails the light was more than capable of illuminating farm and forest tracks and even bridleways. However, the feature that enables the light to punch above its weight, the shaped beam, was also its achilles heel. As soon as I headed onto narrow, twisty, more technical trails, particularly in the woods, the light struggled. The low cut off meant I could not see overhanging branches without an additional head torch, and the narrower beam than a dedicated MTB light forced me to slow down around tight corners as I could not see around them until my bars were pointing out if the corner. Finally, the town standlight was just not quite bright enough if I slowed to below a walking pace for a tricky bit or just to correct an error, the light would dim too much forcing me to slow down further. So, a great light for commuting and European or US trekking on gravel forest tracks, but not a MTB tool. But then, this light was never designed for that.

So, in summary, I found the Dosun U1 a great town/commuting/trekking light, with a nice beam pattern and a worthy replacement for similar lights I have tried in the past. It's taken 9 months of abuse and still looks as good as new. With the added robustness of that great waterproof switch and a metal body, I'd not hesitate to recommend this light for all of the above uses, it does exactly what it was designed to do, a real fit and forget part you'll be able to count on being there whenever you need it. Thanks Dosun and IDC!

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