Urban Velo

Planet Bike Blaze Dynamo

pbblaze2The Planet Bike Blaze Dynamo is, as the name would imply, the dynamo-powered version of the previously reviewed Blaze headlight. For the uninitiated, a dynamo hub is a front hub which uses the magic of magnets to generate a couple of watts of electricity; the hub has a little socket with a male plug which you press the wire from the light into, and the socket snaps onto the hub. Dynamo hubs are heavy, and they produce drag, but if you’re looking to provide lots of steady light for hours and hours without worrying about your battery flaking on you, they can’t be beat.

pbblaze1The Blaze Dynamo produces lots of light. I have the 1/2 watt battery-powered Blaze, and while I always thought it was excessive for most semi-lighted city situations, it’s got nothing on its wired brother. The Blaze Dynamo throws a big, medium width beam that lights the road up for half a block, as will most dynamo LED lights. It has a more focused beam than my usual light, the Busch & Muller Lumotec Fly N-Plus, which throws its light more to the sides. What makes the Blaze unique in the world of dynamo lights, though, is that it has also has a SuperFlash mode for times when your own visibility is more important than seeing the road (which I find to be the case in most urban situations). I always thought my battery Blaze did this well, but it pales in comparison to the Blaze Dynamo, which easily gets a reflection from street signs 4 city blocks away. It’s hard to imagine that a car would miss you. And it has a power reserve, so it will keep going for a few minutes when you’re stopped at a light or trying to fix a flat in the dark.

My one grumble is not with the light but with the mounting system. It uses the same quick-cam system that other Planet Bike lights use—a rubber strap with a screw and bolt which is activated much like a wheel’s quick release, which makes it easy to transfer the mount between bikes. The light itself slides and snaps into a slot on top of the mount, which makes it easy to pop your light in a pocket when locking up and keeps your light dry and un-stolen. Or at least it does on a battery-powered light; the wire on a dynamo light would have to be unwound from your fork to remove it. Which, sure, you could do, but it’s enough of a chore to discourage all but the most anal-retentive of riders. Similarly, while it’s possible that someone could have several bikes with dynamo hubs and want to swap the light between them, those users are probably a tiny minority. And the cam, while making mount removal easy, also makes it tricky to get the strap tight enough so that the light won’t get jostled and rotate down (not fun when you hit a pothole on a downhill and suddenly can’t see much but your tire). If you do prefer to mount the light on your bars, this is one of the only dynamo lights that I’ve seen which will let you do so without major hacks. Most dynamo lights are mounted lower (to a front rack or fork mount), which both frees up space on your bars and keeps the light closer to the road. There’s no way to set it up as such out of the box, but by unscrewing the cam you can remove the strap, and with a longer bolt you can attach it to a fork mount or eyelet on a front rack.

This light is definitely a bit of a niche product within an already niche category, but if you’re someone who needs both lots of reliable light and the extreme visibility of a flash, the Blaze Dynamo is just your thing. Planet Bike lists the MSRP as $70, in line with other Dynamo-powered lights.

Review by Dan Goldberg, Urban Velo riding buddy and sometimes tech consultant.

12 Comments

  1. Chris GNovember 17, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Magnets are not magic. Basic electromagnetism has been well understood for more than a century.

  2. MuraliNovember 17, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Cut him some metaphorical slack. He knows that anyone can look up Maxwell’s equations and do the math on electromagnetism.

  3. Eric StobinNovember 17, 2009 at 11:58 am

    i’m considering going to a front shimano dynamo hub on another bike and would like to know if the Shimano light is better than this one above?

    i currently ride a Breezer Uptown 8 with a dynamo hub and Bauch & Mueller Lighting system and it seems to work just fine.

    i just wonder what other lights are out there that may be brighter than the one on my Breezer??

    thanks in advance for your help; who knows more information about this?

  4. EdNovember 17, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    Eric,

    The Shimano I’m thinking of is a halogen light. It is plenty bright, but you need to replace bulbs periodically.

  5. d*powNovember 17, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Stobin,

    I’ve used both and I found the Planet Bike light to have a bit more focused beam, plus it has the flash mode which is sweet (eye catching) for right around dusk or dawn. As Ed mentions, yes periodically you’ll have to replace the bulb in theh Shimano light. Not a big deal.
    The Supernova stuff is also very cool, and pricey. But you get what you pay for.
    Light On! (http://lightonlights.com/) makes their lights right here in Oregon and they have a dynamo lite, it is pretty slick.

  6. RaiynNovember 17, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Everyone whines about how this light isn’t easily removable instead of just adding the parts needed. All you need to do is splice one of these into the wire at a convenient point and your problem is solved. It’s not like it’s rocket science or something.

  7. Ghost RiderNovember 17, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Wait…magnets AREN’T magic? I suppose you’ll tell me there’s no Santa Claus, either.

  8. Joe PeraltaNovember 18, 2009 at 7:55 am

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/harris/index.html

    eric, I was hunting a dynamo system a few days ago, and found excellent reources through the link above.

  9. dmgNovember 18, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Raiyn – nice link; that’s a good idea. Planet Bike would be smart to incorporate something like that into the design (assuming that they’re expecting people to mount the light to the bars)… and maybe including a bolt for rack mounting also, just to cover the bases.

  10. Phil RNovember 18, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Great to see a dynamo light review!
    I’ve been using dynamo lights on my urban velos for years, both with a bottle/sidewall generator and hub generators. While they are slightly heavier and do add a little resistance you’ll never notice it on your non-racer commuter or other around town bike. So I’d offer that while they’re great for “lots of steady light for hours and hours without worrying about your battery flaking on you” they’re perfectly awesome for lights that you just never have to think about except to turn them on (and depending on the model, you don’t even have to think of that). The extra weight and drag affect your mind far more than your pedal stroke.

    There’s a lot to be said for speeding under your own power down an otherwise pitch black road that’s now lit up like daylight thanks exclusively to your booty power. Even with a full and complete understanding of electromagnetism it feels like magic every time.

    The mounting does seem like a bummer for this product. The design basically begs you to take it in with you wherever you go lest it be mistaken for an easy to steal battery light. A bolted on and wired light is still (for now) much less interesting to thieves than a clip-on battery light. No safety feature is better than the one you can completely forget about until you need it… bolted on generator powered lights are just that.

    Eric: which B&M light is on your Breezer? They make some of the best dynamo lights but like everyone else they make some more entry level ones too. I’ve had great luck with their older halogen lights and love their LED line… even the lower end ones are impressively bright. Always spring for the “plus” version with standlight… totally worth the few extra $$ and the regular reminders that you “left your lights on”.

  11. borgbikeFebruary 14, 2010 at 2:07 pm

    http://tinygogo.blogspot.com/2010/01/plant-bike-dyno-light.html

    Above is my fix for the quick disconnect issue with this light.

    I second d*pow’s recommendation of the Light On! I’ve seen it in use and would say it is the best product out there.

  12. AlexJuly 28, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    To the folks wondering about the Shimano halogen light that comes with their hub, I have one and it is pretty mediocre. It isn’t very bright, it has a tiny LED that does little besides shining in your eyes, and unlike LED lights it is dimmer the slower you ride, and doesn’t have a standlight feature. The Shimano hub is great, but the light is pretty junky and I’m about to replace it.

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