We could not have picked a better night for the Bike Light Shoot-Out.
July 4, an evening traditionally filled with fireworks and fireflies, presented the perfect opportunity to test the firepower of two new LED lights made for the Schmidt dynohub.
The route: a 200-mile, point-to-point overnight jaunt from the state Capitol in Raleigh, NC to the Capitol grounds in downtown Richmond, Va.
The lights up for testing have been a source of ongoing debate on many listservs, including Randon.
• In one corner: the Supernova E3, a cylinder-shaped light in a sleek aluminum housing. The vital statistics: a 100,000-hour LED lifespan, full brightness at only 5 mph, and a built-in stand light for roadside visibility.
• In the other corner: the Schmidt Edelux. A true lightweight at 85 grams, the Edelux is shaped like a kettle drum and also housed in aluminum. It too has a standlight, powers up at low speeds and features a sensor setting that can automatically turn the light on at dusk.
The lights are within a few dollars of each other, although neither is cheap. Expect to plunk down $200 or more for either one.
Since the Edelux was not available until June of this year, I ordered a Supernova in the spring and put it to an early season test. The light threw a hot white pear-shaped pattern on the road, providing excellent light in front of the wheel and good visibility along the edge of the road. It also did an impressive job of lighting up street signs.
My initial impression: the Supernova's LED was a step up from the beloved Schmidt E6, which uses a yellow-hued halogen bulb.
But how would the Supernova stack up against Schmidt's Edelux? As luck would have it, riding buddy Branson Kimball got an Edelux just in time for our July 4 permanent. The head-to-head match-up was on.
We left downtown Raleigh at 6 p.m. and headed north through the rolling hills of several neighborhoods before popping out on Bike Route 1. We would follow the bike route for the majority of our journey.
Branson had been running his light ever since we'd departed. It was visible on the road even in the daylight. This did not bode well for the Supernova's chances—and my suspicion was correct.
About 40 miles up the road, conditions were finally dark enough to evaluate our lights side-by-side. The results: The Supernova was superior to the battery-operated LED lights of riding partners Jerry Phelps and Paul Pavlides. But the Supernova literally paled in comparison to Branson's Edelux. Time and time again, his light overwhelmed mine. In fact, it was so much brighter that I found myself relying on his beam – even when he was behind me in the pace line.
Some observations: the Edelux has a more yellowish hue than the Supernova and has a beam pattern reminiscent of the trapezoidal shape of the E6 but considerably wider.
Some randonneurs have complained about a dark spot that the Edelux leaves just in front of the bike. Branson also pointed out that weakness. In areas where potholes are plentiful, that might pose a drawback. Even so, in my opinion the Edelux's superior brightness more than makes up for that perceived flaw.
Meantime, the Supernova – or at least my model – is not without its own flaws. When the light is used upside down (and that's possible since the beam is symmetrical), water can leak into the housing. Supernova's engineers have assured owners that moisture will not damage the light's electronics. At last report they were working on a fix.
Okay, bottom line time. Both of these new LED lights mark a technological advance from the very fine E6 lights that randonneurs have been using for years. Both go a long way toward making night riding safer and more pleasurable. But for my money, the Edelux is the way to go. It's lighter, it's brighter – and it's watertight.