Overview of the light
The first impression of the light is how basic the whole setup is. A light engine, a battery case and neoprene holder, 2 O-rings and velcro straps is all the whole package consists of. There isn’t any fancy packaging or even instruction manual! But the whole system is so simple and foolproof, there is little need for it. Instruction manuals are downloadable via the Dinotte’s website if the need ever arises. The second impression of the light is how light the whole system is. At only 205grams including 4AA batteries, it is even lighter than a cateye EL510 yet approximately 6times brighter. (with correspondingly shorter runtimes, of course)
The light engine unit has a DC/DC regulator which ensures the brightness remains constant throughout the batteries runtime. This feature allows the Dinotte unit to utilize all types of AA batteries (alkaline/ rechargeable/ lithium). Adventure racers will appreciate this as it allows them to swap any form of AA batteries quickly in the middle of a race. Tested with a set of Sanyo 2700mah rechargeables, it achieved 2hours on high mode and 3hours 30mins on low mode. For riders who require longer runtimes, Dinotte also produces an Ultra 5 with lithium battery for 6hours of runtime in high mode.
Although the simple O-ring mounting system seems rather flimsy, it has no problems while in use. The reason is that the light engine is so light, it will not move in use yet can easily move out of the way in the event of a crash. The batteries are mounted under the stem via a neoprene softcase and 2 velcro straps. There is also an optional helmet mount to adapt the light for helmet use.
The light engine has only 1 button, and it is turned on by 2 clicks of the button and continuously holding the button for 3 seconds will turn it off. This safety feature prevents it from being accidentally turned on or off in offroad situations. Pressing the button will cycle the light in high/low beams (newer models also have a blinking mode when pressed continuously for 5 seconds). The system runs on a luxeon K2 5watt LED, and it has an output of 120lumens. However, when in use its not easy to differentiate between the high and low beams as the output isn’t that much dimmer in low mode. This is a characteristic of the Luxeon LED as it isn’t as efficient in the highbeam mode. It casts a wide flood beam out to about 20meters ahead of the rider.
Although not a fair comparison, the light pattern shone against the wall at 5meters show how much brighter it is against a Cateye EL510 (My personal led bike light).The beam has a slight greenish tint and a slight ‘donut’ in the centre of the beam when aimed at a white wall, but its hardly noticeable on the trail.
As luxeon K2s tend to generate alot of heat at full power, heat dissipation was an initial concern for use on carbon bars. But the metal casing never got too hot for skin contact in the duration of the test, and the rubber grip in the groove for the handlebar acts as a heat insulator too. One small apparent problem of the O-ring mounting method is a lack of left/ right adjustment. The user will have to try to keep the light as close to the centre of the handlebars as possible. The problem is excerbated when using bars with very pronounced backsweep angles. Another complaint is the use of relatively fragile 9volt battery connectors. Not only is it easy to accidentally rip the connector off should the power cable get tangled in a crash, the connector and the pack doesn’t offer much water resistance.
The Dinotte light is an extremely innovative light in many ways. It has a very simple yet reliable mounting system, it allows the user to choose from a wide range of AA battery types and it uses regulation circuitry for the brightest luxeon LED currently available. Though it is still some way off the light outputs of the HID systems, it is extremely reliable and has no bulb to break in a crash. The only gripes would be that Dinotte could do something about the optics in order to improve the beam pattern, and perhaps use a stronger and more water resistant battery pack/ connector interface.
Powerful LEDs are starting to make headway into the serious offroading light market in the past 2years, and Dinotte has come out with a very lightweight and economical to run version in this 5watt version. With the introduction of more energy efficient Cree LEDs and even more powerful 15watt LEDs from OSRAM, we can expect LED lights to match HID outputs with far lesser weight and longer runtimes.