12 June, 2008

Nice Light

We just received our latest shipment from Spanninga/JOS. As you may know, Spanninga is a Dutch bike lighting company that now owns the famous French JOS brand. JOS was the choice for the finest European constructeur bikes for decades and vintage JOS lights now often sell for hundreds of dollars. I'm happy to see that they are returning, in a very small way, to their retro roots.

In this shipment were the long awaited Retroled lights. These are a fairly bright one-LED battery powered light, but in a very cool teardrop shaped case. They run a reputed 600 hours on two AA batteries. Not bad for $18.

The Retroled comes without a mounting bracket, but a VO Light Bracket (as I've used on my bike in the photo), a Down Low model 2 mount, or the new Spanninga fork mount will work. I'm thinking of putting two of these on my next city bike, one on each side of the porteur rack, but inside the outer rails!

We also received a new complete and more economical Spanninga dynamo lighting kit that includes a halagon light, fender mounted taillight, Vesta dynamo, and all the required mounts and wiring.

Finally we received a simple, but desperately needed, inexpensive dynamo bracket that can be used with Spanninga, B&M, and other brands of generators. It also can be used to mount many types of lights.

These items will be available to bike shops and (full time) frame builders at wholesale prices through VO Imports.


Anonymous said...

Duel lights on a porteur rack are tres chic.

Anonymous said...

do we know if the retroled lights put out enough light to ride by? i agree that dual lights under the porteur would be quite wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Does the Spanninga taillight use an LED or an incandescent bulb?

Anonymous said...

What's the difference between the Spanninga "Safe Set" and this cheaper kit?

Chris Kulczycki said...

The light seems bright enough to ride by. Of course we just got them this morning so I've not tried it yet, but it looks pretty darn bright in daylight.

The taillight is an incandescent.

The new light kit includes a basic plastic fender mounted taillight and less expensive headlight. The headlight seems to be just as bright, though not as artfully shaped. The taillight is good, but the one in the more expensive kit is super. The dynamo is the same.

Interestingly, Spanninga was discontinuing this less expensive set. I hope we convinced them that they might be very popular in America. After all, what other inexpensive, but high quality, dynamo kit is available on this side of the pond? It's not like Europe, where you can buy dynamo kits in supermarkets.

Adam said...

Chris -- can you post a photo of the light bracket where it attaches to the light? Every photo of the light bracket is taken from the outside, with the body of the light obscuring the connection. Could you, say, remove the front wheel and take a photo of one from the inside? Is the bracket bent to clear the body of the light, or does it use a long bolt and spacers?

Chris Kulczycki said...

Adam, The bracket is S-shaped to clear the light. Check the store in a few days, I've been meaning to take a new photo since the upper mount is now a hole rather than a slot as on the previous version.

lamplightsg said...

I must have the Retroled for my Univega. I've been wishing someone would make something like this for a while now!

James said...

Have you tried that lamp bracket? Some work better than others, most don't work very well. I tried an identical bracket and the metal used was so soft that the "grub" screw pulled the braket out instead of grabbing onto the Raleigh seat stay. It was no match for the Midlands 2030.

Does anyone still make a bb generator? I rather like the idea of a bb generator and a rear triangle mounted kickstand as a lighting solution for an inexpensive city bike.

Anonymous said...


Yes, Union makes a bottom bracket generator set with head and tail lamps. It sells for some $70+. I have it on my commuter bike and I like it very much. Even thought it's an old-style, supposedly inefficient dynamo, I hardly feel any drag and it is not noisy. I bought it from Harris Cyclery.

jimmythefly said...

Hey Chris, a few questions:

Is the Retroled housing plastic or metal? What/where is the switch? Flashing mode? Approximate dimensions? Do you have to use French-thread AAs with it? I'm going to order one or two regardless, of course!

2whls3spds said...

Ordered my "Nice Light" Chris might want to consider renaming Velo-Orange Chris's Candy Store! LOL


keithwwalker said...

Here is a better photo of the Spanninga unit:

It illustrates one of the problems with LED units, is that they don't play well with deep dish reflectors. This is due to the fact that LED's throw most of their light to the front by design, not all around like an incandescent bulb. That is why most modern LED units are small and ugly.

Spanninga turned this into an advantage by using that empty space in the housing for batteries.

fyi, I have the B+M retro dyno light (thanks Chris!). I managed to find a variable voltage LED that includes a built in lens to throw the light into a 120 degree cone. It works well enough with the deep dish reflector, to keep it in.

There are some differences with with running an LED with a dyno hub. I will list some, and you can decide whether it is an advantage or disadvantage.

Whereas a regular halogen bulb needs some speed to get to a good brightness, the LED bulb gets to full brightness at a half walking pace, probably 1/4 mph.

The pulses from the dyno have an immediate strobe effect. This is because LED's have an instant on/off characteristic due to the solid state circuitry.

Incandescents smooth out these pulses as the filament heats up and cools. At about 3-5 mph, the dyno pulses in the incandescent lights blend together for a nice solid beam.

In an LED dyno combination, the pulses never go away. This is good for city traffic for visibility, not so good for long distance night time randonneuring.

Reliability, I have gone through 2 halogen bulbs in the last year and half. The LED I have seems to have a current limiting circuitry/resistors, I am hoping for better reliability, time will tell.

Current consumption: The LED is a 1 watt unit. So with a typical 3.0 dyno hub, you could upgrade to two front lights and still have enough juice for a tail light (but this should be an LED also, so that it doesn't blow out).

Another advantage is that the standlight seems to get it's capacitor charged very quickly.

Lastly, I want to talk a little bit about light quality.

Halogens push out about 35 lumens. That is about the best you can get. LED's usually push out less (though my LED is rated at 35 lumen). LED's light though, is even whiter than a halogen (which is very white to begin with, except at low speeds).

I may eventually modify my B+M retro light unit to include a capacitor on the main beam (or splice into the existing standlight capacitor). I believe that will eliminate the 'pulsing' effect.

That will give the best of both worlds, dyno lighting with LED's.

keithwwalker said...

Let's try that photo link again:

Anonymous said...

Re: RetroLED lights. How does the brightness/beam pattern compare to the Cateye EL530, or to be more fair the old CatEye EL300 that had five LEDs and was the first inexpensive LED light I could see some of the road with (especially dark rural twisty things).

jimmythefly said...

Thanks, Keith!

lamplightsg said...

I just received my RetroLED today. I have to say, it is definitely not a bright light at all. The Cateye EL530 is several times brighter. I doubt this light could be used to see at night at all, though it would be plenty for others to see you (which is all I need it for at the moment). But it's cheap and looks absolutely fantastic! If push comes to shove, it's affordable enough that one could try to retro-fit the guts from a brighter light into this one, and there appears to be plenty of room inside to do so. It would be great for someone who wants to build his own light yet wants a classy-looking housing.

Anonymous said...

ReRe:RetroLED! Thanks for the review Jimmy! Is it on/off or is there a blinking mode?

lamplightsg said...

There's no blinking mode, just on or off. After turning on the light in complete darkness, I have to admit it does appear to be brighter than I first thought. I still haven't actually gotten to ride it at night, so hopefully I'll get to test it over the weekend.

2whls3spds said...

Got my retroled and have it mounted on my Redline R530 city bike. I had to "manufacture" my own front bracket. Made it out of a piece of aluminum strap, twisted and bent 90 degrees.

The light is what I would consider a low power light, it is great for riding where you need a bit of extra light, like suburban streets. It is more of a marker than headlight, however it looks very nice and gives the bike a very classic look...and meets the letter of the law.

Anonymous said...

The shape of this RETROLED is good.
Do not these stocks remain?