Both ends of my commute are now in darkness, so I’ve been able to give the Luxos IQ2 U I’ve had attached to the MetaBike a good shakedown. Billed as the last dynamo light you’ll ever need, if you’re looking to upgrade your lighting it’s well worth a look.
Apologies in advance for the dire photos. My phone throws up its hands when it comes to having dark and light things in the same image (plus I’m too lazy to actually set up decent shots…). You get the idea.
Just to get the name out of the way, ‘IQ2’ refers to an updated lens system, ‘Luxos’ is Busch and Muller’s top-end light family, and the ‘U’ bit means this version comes with a fancy remote switch – the B is the same light without the switch.
The IQ2 U is the top-of-the-range for B&M headlights, with the following selling points:
- Daytime running lights, dipped and full beam options
- Standlight (so the light doesn’t stop when you do) and ambient light sensors
- Remote switch for the handlebar, which also houses a USB socket
If you don’t read any further, all you really need to know is that I reckon the IQ2 U is the best dynamo headlight you can buy, providing you can mount it on the fork crown. It’s probably a bit bulky for handlebar use. It’s maybe a tad underpowered for flying downhill on pitch black country lanes, but I was perfectly happy up to about 45kph, and I’m a complete coward.
There was all sorts of information flying around when this was launched a few months back, mainly stemming from some dodgy translations from the German manual. The IQ2 U has four different modes, which will be very familiar if you have driven a vaguely modern car:
- Off. Ok, there are actually two modes here. If you don’t move for about five minutes the light will turn itself off and only restart when you start moving again. Call that the ‘soft off’. There’s also a ‘hard off’ which keeps the light off even if you’re moving – useful for wheeling through stations or if you want to push the maximum power to the USB charger. Hold the remote switch for two seconds to switch between ‘hard off’ and on.
- Daylight running. You know the bright white little LEDs that many new cars have on all the time for ‘being seen’ in daylight? That’s what this mode is. If the light is switched on and the IQ2 detects that it’s in daylight, you’re in this mode. Indicated by a glowing orange LED on the back of the light.
- Dipped beam. If the light is on and it’s gloomy or dark, you’re in this mode. Conventional, non-dazzling dipped beam steady headlight. Also shown by a glowing orange LED on the back of the light.
- Main beam. Marginally-brighter-than-dipped, steady headlight, toggled on and off by a tap of the remote switch. Whilst on main beam, the back of the light displays a steady blue LED, as does the switch. You can also use this to ‘flash’ traffic (you know, letting out buses and such) when in daylight running mode, but I’ve always found hand gestures more effective.
Note that there’s no way to force the light to run in either daylight running or dipped beam – you just turn it on and the ambient light sensor works it all out for you. I haven’t had any problems, and it ‘upgrades’ immediately if you go into a tunnel or under some dense trees. Just be aware there’s an awful lot of electronic trickery that might potentially go wrong.
The LEDs on the back of the light body are clever, in particular the green one which indicates that your rear light is drawing power (marked RL in the photo above). If that light goes off, you’ve either stopped moving (so the rear is running off its internal standlight power), turned your rear light off, or the rear has failed. This is incredibly reassuring if you ever feel nervous about your rear lighting. Both green and orange LEDs on the light body dim in darkness, so they don’t dazzle you. Clever.
The remote switch shown above contains the blue main beam indicator and an additional red LED to show when USB charging is available. Personally I found this useless – USB charging is almost always available if you’re moving above 15kph, regardless of whether you’ve got the dipped beam on as well. If you’ve spent a good chunk of time below that speed the charging might stop, but you’re hardly going to unplug whatever you’ve got plugged in – just leave it until you speed up again. I’d much rather have the green rear light indicator repeated on the switch as well.
I’m not going to show outdoors beam pictures, as I never find them particularly useful. Peter White has some good shots, if you’re desperate.
In terms of brightness of the light, I ran the entirety of LEL (so several nights in pitch dark) using only the dipped beam, and felt comfortable up to about 45kph. Beyond that I was on the limits of being able to spot potholes in time, but then I was also permanently knackered, so my reaction time probably wasn’t world class…
The beam itself is very usefully shaped, albeit not that smooth. There are definite panels of light that you can see on the road surface (and the photo below), primarily:
- A bright ‘letterbox’ covering the road surface from a little way in front of you off to the horizon.
- A slightly dimmer bit joining this letterbox to your front wheel, ideal for any last minute pot-hole dodges.
- A bigger and again dimmer shield shape around that (see below)
- Dimmer ‘wedges’ running from the central letterbox round to each side, for ‘being seen’ from the side, spotting junctions and reading signposts.
- Another bit that runs off the top of the letterbox above the horizon to light up street signs and give advance notice of badgers, etc.
The standlight is the same, but dimmer. Perfectly adequate for being stationary.
Main beam is also the same, but very slightly brighter. I’ve only been testing this recently (I needed to order a longer cable to bring the remote switch onto the recumbent handlebars), but so far I’m pretty disappointed. It would be useful if this option threw more light towards the upper corners, but it just seems to be exactly the same beam shape, just a smidgen more powerful. Call it the difference between 100% and 105% – generally the only indication you’re in full beam is the blue indicator rather than any increased visibility. I have found handy for boosting the much dimmer standlight though, so if I’m feeling slightly exposed whilst stationary at the front of a queue of traffic at a junction, I’ll flick on to main beam just to make sure I stand out from the headlights of cars behind.
Final point on light: as long as you’ve been trundling along at a reasonable pace beforehand, the IQ2’s internal battery can keep the dipped light going at full brightness for about 15-20 minutes of crawling uphill before you drop into the duller direct power routine. Even then, I could get by at 8kph with the power provided by a SON delux generator in a 622mm wheel.
Another final point: because the lens on the IQ2 is huge, side visibility is superb. Even from directly behind the light I can see two very narrow strips of illumination, so anyone coming at you from the side has no excuse for not spotting you.
Along with the fancy light, this is the other big selling point. The remote switch has a covered USB socket which you can use to power various gizmos. A handlebar mounted GPS is the obvious choice – my EDGE 705 ran off it for five days continuously without too many issues. There was a lot of early concern about waterproofing or this arrangement, as the USB standard doesn’t allow for properly waterproof connections. Provided you ensure that the remote cable runs up into the light body rather than down (to prevent water running along it and into the casing) and keep the remote switch itself sheltered under the handlebars, you can charge in the rain. If I was using it for a long distance event, I’d probably cover the connections with tape just to be on the safe side.
[Edit, April 2014: the new Luxos IQ2 model has a permanently connected wire, which removes the risk of water ingress, but also prevents you using a cable extension if you’ve got a longer-than-normal-bike length from mount to handlebar. I wrote an update here]
You can run the headlights as well as charging.
Construction, mounting and other points
This is a big, bulbous, heavy light. Mounts are available for handlebars, but it’s really meant to be at fork crown height where it’s protected a bit more from being knocked around. Recumbent boom light tabs are ideal. The standard wire mount is a little pathetic, but just about does the job. Mine requires a tiny twist once a week to straighten it up again, as the entire thing pivots around the mounting point. If you’re not worried about driving a screw into your bottom bracket axle, you could probably tighten it up enough to avoid this.
The light body itself is a shiny plastic. Nothing to write home about.
You’ll need a T25 spanner to adjust the angle of the light (you can see the screw head in the sideways visibility photo two up). This makes it slightly more difficult to pinch.
If you want to be able to reach the remote whilst on a recumbent, you’ll need the 1m extension cable – part number 479KKLIN/KLIN. Starbike currently have it in stock – you want the ‘phonejack/jack plug’ option.
Comparisons and closing points.
I’ve had long-term use of two other modern high-end lighting systems – an Exposure Strada battery-powered light and a Supernova E3 dynamo job, so I’ll compare against those.
- Works better for me as a commuting light, with much better side visibility and the highly useful daytime running mode. The Strada has an effective daytime pulse mode; the E3 is either on or off…
- Meets the German lighting standards and has a (tiny) front reflector, so is therefore one of the few headlights that meets UK legal standards, if that bothers you. The E3 does as well, the Strada doesn’t (to the best of my knowledge).
- Puts slightly less light on the ground than the E3 and Strada.
- Is less sexy than either the E3 and Strada – no machined metal bodies here.
- Works with all dynamo rear lights – a huge plus. Supernova state their lights can only be used with their own-brand rear light, which is a tiny blinding LED thing with no reflector. Size beats brightness when it comes to rear lights, in my opinion.
- Is a damn sight cheaper than the Strada providing you’re already set up with a dynamo, and of comparable price to the E3.
- Has built-in USB charging. The others would require extra cables and kit.
The Luxos does the job for me.