~£70 shaped beam photon cannon
Dynamo driven dazzler defends against dim drivers
For me, the Lumotec IQ Cyo is the bike light that revolutionized night time riding.
Dynamo or battery driven, its winning combination of (relative) cheapness, light weight, reliability, and lumens on the road make this a real star.
45mph downhill on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, at 4am with 900km in your legs and 3 hours sleep in the last two days? You got it.
Working heavy traffic, blasting windscreens to help keep the rush-hour cretins at bay? No problem.
Navigating a treacherous canal towpath in the pitch black without dazzling oncoming riders? Priceless.
If you have any interest in riding unlit roads, you owe it to yourself to see a German headlight in action – if value for money and sensitivity to oncoming traffic feature anywhere in your list of priorities, they are almost embarrassingly better than the alternatives…
First off – this is a headlight, in the car sense, not a location beacon in the blinkie bike sense. Make no mistake, it is awesome in urban traffic, but if all you need is to spray photons through car windscreens you can get lights that will be just as effective for much less money.
If you have no ambition to ride outside of built-up areas at night – nothing wrong with that, of course – you simply aren’t in the target market (even if you have a dynamo – there are much cheaper dynamo lights!)
Second, the light stays on your bike unless you want to spend five minutes with a toolkit every time you lock it up. I’ve had no issues with this, hopefully because local thieves can’t be bothered to spend five minutes with a toolkit either (for a light that won’t work without a separate power supply!) but YMMV.
Third, as a consequence of the above, if you have more than one bike which you regularly ride in the pitch black, switching is probably too much hassle (buy two or look elsewhere)
Standlight vs dipped beam – roll over to see the light “in motion”
(Normally you would poke it down a bit!)
No dynamo? No cry!
The big draw of the IQ Cyo for me, as someone who didn’t own a dynamo, was that it can be driven by ordinary battery D/C as well as A/C from a generator. The spec calls for 7.5V, which I have variously provided with:
- Li-pol mountain biking headlight batteries (7.4V nominal)
- 6-cell NiMH radio control car batteries (7.2V nominal)
- 5x Lithium AA batteries (8.5V nominal)
Although I do now have a dynamo (X-FDD, reviewed elsewhere), the vast majority of my experience with the IQ Cyo has been with batteries, including all of the ~3,500km of Paris-Brest-Paris and qualifiers.
It still drives a tail-light when powered by batteries, although I would offer a simple caution that you can easily go off-reservation doing DC power trials, and presumably fry something.
Although I’ve run mine successfully at 10V, I did destroy the capacitor on a rear light by plugging it into a mains battery charger… caveat experimenter!
Blinded by the light!
I haven’t got a large amount of experience of ‘proper’ bike lights, as I only started commuting on unlit roads at the end of winter 2006/2007.
The IQ Cyo is the fourth headlight I’ve used, after:
- Smart 5/10W twin beam halogen (£n/a)
Big round beam, so half the light isn’t going onto the road – a revelation at the time though. Yellowy, and terrible battery life – I had to ride hard to make sure the battery lasted me the round trip, then recharge every night!
- Ay-Up LEDs (£150)
Funky twin power LED lights, very lightweight, much brighter than the above and over 6 hours runtime between charges. Again, big round beam blasting into space, but a cooler light, which is… cool!
- 900 lumen Hong Kong torch from eBay (£40)
I bought this as a second helmet light so that we both had bar+helmet beams for Glentress. It’s stupendously bright, but only runs for 1 hour (a few on low), and takes odd-sized Li-ion rechargeable cells. Sprays more light into space than a laser defence grid.
Of the above, I still have the latter two, although the light from the torch is so badly controlled that I keep it for trail centres only. The Ay-Ups see daily use on the wife’s commuter, as well as a ‘high beam’ / backup light on audaxes (mainly useful for tricking half-asleep randonneurs on PBP into moving to their side of the road because they thought a car or motorbike was coming!). We reduced the cost by buying three sets for just under £300 and splitting them.
If I could only pick one light though, it would be the IQ Cyo. It’s cheaper (even including a dynamo hub) than the Ay-Up, and much cheaper if you can use existing batteries. It’s also brighter on the road, despite using less power and giving out correspondingly fewer “headline” lumens.
Gratuitous Beam Shots
…are not to be found here.
Nobody online has managed to capture the difference between headlights in photo form meaningfully, in my opinion. I can’t see why I would be any different!
Interested readers could try Peter White (his photo makes the IQ Cyo look much brighter than reality) or W.Scholten (this is an eDelux review, which produces a beam I can’t distinguish from my IQ Cyo). The image below is from that review and comes closest to any I’ve found at representing the experience of riding with the IQ Cyo:
If you are powering the light by dynamo, you’ll notice when you stop that it immediately dims down to a sustainable brightness and maintains that for a few minutes.
I’ve timed central Edinburgh’s traffic lights geekily and the longest I’ve ever had to wait is less than half of the time the standlight will stay lit up, and it is lit up brighter than the average “be seen” battery light for that time.
If you were stuck for ages at a temporary set of lights or similar, and you aren’t sheltered by a vehicle waiting directly behind, it’s an easy matter to lift up the bars and spin the front wheel while straddling the bike – a few seconds is quite enough for a minute on standby.
Death By A Thousand Versions
More than any other bike light in the history of human endeavour, the IQ Cyo has a lot of alternative versions. Broadly speaking, you can choose from two primary lenses, the ‘R’ (nearfield) and ‘not R’ (normal). The former takes light away from the road far ahead to focus it just in front of your wheel, in case you are in the habit of riding around very slowly while admiring your front hub.
I strongly, strongly advise against buying an ‘R’ / nearfield version of this light. From the diagram, you can see that the area in contention is just 9 feet, and this distance will be covered in 0.5 seconds – even if you’re plodding along just above 10mph!
At a more whizzy 20mph, you’re giving up seeing down the road to be able to track an obstacle for the final 0.25 seconds, by which time it would be impossible to avoid it anyway!
See also this highly critical review.
On left, the odd “nearfield” R version. On right, the recommended ‘normal’ version.
All of this is to ignore the fact that the ordinary IQ Cyo casts quite a lot of light on this part of the ground anyway – the much-quoted diagram above is rather misleading. It’s certainly enough to distinguish between the road and a pothole, for instance. It’s not a pool of inky darkness!
Either of these lens types can be combined with the optional ‘Senso’ feature. This is nice sounding in theory – the light turns on and off depending on the light levels – but in reality, it will only turn off in bright direct sunlight, so you’ll either select ‘on’ or ‘off’ modes and may as well save your cash and skip this extra.
There are also versions without an ‘N’ in the title – this means they have no switch and will be on all the time (if used with a hub dynamo), since they’re intended for use with a bottle dynamo that the rider flicks on and off manually. However, since the drag of an IQ Cyo is not noticable outside of a laboratory, what this really means is that you can eliminate the only moving part and one of the main possible failure modes, all while saving money…
Finally in the alphabet soup are the latest ‘T’ versions, which bizarrely add extra complexity and potential failure modes by fastening a set of mini LED “daytime running lights” under the main reflector, the idea being that you can imitate a car (the light decides when it’s light enough to use the main light).
With the IQ Cyo T, your bike can have the same naff DRL look as your car..?
However, unlike a car, which burns non-renewable fossil fuels to power 110W of headlights and so gets a significant saving from LED DRLs, there is no real advantage to separate DRLs on a bike light which, at worst, will cause you to be just slightly less obese in the very long term.
No, the main beam of the IQ Cyo makes a very effective DRL as it is, especially if you nudge the light a little to apply the dazzling force just below the cutoff to whoever is unfortunate enough to be in front of you… evil.
My recommendation therefore is whichever is cheapest out of the “IQ Cyo Plus” and “IQ Cyo N Plus” (although if one of the others is on deep sale, go for it, these are differences of degree only!)
Competitors in brief
There are three competitors to the IQ Cyo.
The Schmidt eDelux is a remanufactured Cyo with a much nicer case and a magnetic on-off switch. Better cooling offers the potential for slightly more brightness, but I have been unable to distinguish this in real life when riding with eDelux randonneurs. Costs £130, and you’re unlikely to ever find it on sale, unlike the IQ Cyo, which is usually available somewhere at well under RRP.
Supernova make three dynamo models of their light – symmetrical and asymmetrical, plus a triple LED symmetrical (in case you really want aircraft to see you). They do look very nice but come in at £150-200. I’m not aware of having ridden beside one of these, so they may be brighter (as you’d hope, for the price of two IQ Cyo’s and change!)
Philips make a dynamo light that has a reputation for noticeable extra brightness but awful reliability. They are priced competitively with the IQ Cyo so this is unfortunate – perhaps later batches will be better?