You may remember, dear reader, that back in March 2016 I mentioned I’d taken ownership of the new Busch and Muller dynamo headlight – the IQ-X. After ten months of the worst Scotland can throw at it, let’s see how I got on.
(Bit of testing context: my other good lights are a dynamo Busch and Muller IQ2U and a battery-powered Exposure Strada Mk2, and I’ve previously owned a Supernova E3 pro. My dynamo is a SON delux in a 622mm wheel, which produces a bit less power – and drag – at lower speeds than a standard pairing.)
The B&M IQ-X headlight
As we discussed last time, the B&M light lineup is now forked at the top. The Luxos IQ2U (they’re really not great at names) that I reviewed here remains at the top of the range despite a slightly lower output thanks to its cache battery, remote switch, USB charging and general electric fanciness. The IQ-X (this light) feels more like a direct challenge to Schmidt’s Edelux lights – something to go for if you’re only interested in the light output rather than any bells and whistles.
Two bonus points before we get started – as the light meets German road regulations it’s one of the few options that meets the letter of the UK lighting regulations (very few UK lights bother getting the kitemark, which technically means they don’t count as far as the Road Traffic Act is concerned). That little optional reflector will also tick another Act box.
And before I forget – £110.
The light output
Yup, it’s very bright. B&M claim 100 lux, which in useful terms means you can comfortably trundle along at 30kph in pitch darkness (in the dry – nothing soaks up bike light illumination like wet tarmac). However, the useful beam is very narrow. More on that later.
There are three gills on each side (within the dotted rubber bit in the photo below) which leak light horizontally to give some side illumination. It’s better than nothing, but nowhere near as impressive as the wraparound lenses on some other B&M lights. On the plus side, if you’re on a recumbent you’ll get very little foot flash.
When it’s not dark, the main beam dims down and a pair of daytime running LEDs in the brow of the light illuminate for more power-efficient being-seen-ness. The ambient light sensor controlling this works as you’d hope; instantly powering up the main beam when it gets gloomy (say, you pass under some heavy tree cover), but not switching back to daytime running until a good few seconds of higher illumination have passed. This is much better than the IQ2, which regularly ends up toggling between modes if you’re stopped next to a car with a bright indicator flashing.
The light is powered on and off by a switch on the back, surrounded by a blue-glowing flexible ring. That ring is brighter when the light is in daytime mode, and dimmer when under normal beam. Note that the switch is a toggle with no set positions (it doesn’t stay depressed when on, for example), and only works when there’s some power in the light. As there’s no cache battery, this often means you can’t turn the light on without spinning the dynamo wheel to feed it some power. Not a light for cargo bikes…
Finally, the standlight is a very weak. It lasts for long enough, but the output is pants.
Construction and the mount
B&M make a lot of the anodised aluminium housing for the light, but it feels a little cheap in the hand. It scratches easily (the gash below is where I caught it on the bottom of the garage door).
There’s no cache battery inside (the standlight is powered by a capacitor), so it’s lightweight.
Rather than a standard B&M metal loop (compare and contrast below), the IQ-X mount is a more complex hard-plastic and metal thing, with freely rotating joints at either end of a short strut. Whilst this allows a lovely range of positions, it’s challenging to get the joints tight enough to prevent the light position moving if it’s knocked. I’d have liked to see some ratcheting to really lock the position.
On the plus side, you can remove the strut and merge the two joints into one. On most bikes, I reckon that’s your best bet, as it makes a very solid unit.
Inputs and outputs
The IQ-X has a fixed cable (presumably to improve waterproofing) to connect to the generator (the cable is stripped at the non-light end for you to wire-up your generator connector of choice). This is 60cm long, which is fine for most uprights, but is going to be on the short side for recumbents – you’ll need to add in some connectors and another piece of wire. I’d prefer spades directly on the light, but it’s not a major thing.
Output to the rear light is by a pair of spades on the back of the light.
Three good things
The moving light output really is impressive
There’s no arguing that B&M have managed to squeeze a huge amount of photons from this little light. So long as you’re moving above 5kph, you’ll be impressed. It’s noticeably brighter straight ahead than the IQ2.
It’s a compact, single-purpose unit
Whilst I liked the extra features on the IQ2, they definitely reduced the reliability – it took three versions of the light before B&M sorted the water ingress faults.
The IQ-X just does light, and wraps that up in a small package that would suit any bike. If illumination is all you want, then that’s a good thing. The light weight also helps with stability on the mount – it bobs up and down a little less that the IQ2.
I’ve had no waterproofing or reliability problems
and am therefore pleased to award the coveted Waterproof In Scotland badge to the IQ-X.
Three bad things
The beam is too narrow
In focussing all the output from the LED directly ahead to hit that magical 100 lux figure, B&M have made something akin to a laser… If it’s outside a narrow degree arc from the front, it’s going to be near invisible.
Two examples. Take a standard lane-in-each-direction road, in complete darkness. If you’re cycling in the centre of the left-hand lane with the IQ-X, you may not see a road joining on your right as almost no light will reach the opposite verge. Or, take a winding single-lane road. As you lean the bike to take a right-hand bend, the right side of the beam dips too, and you cycle into complete darkness.
I’ve often praised the way German light manufacturers make the best use of every photon by focussing the output into useful areas. With the IQ-X, B&M have gone too far.
The switch doesn’t work if you’re not moving
Bit of idiocy this – because the switch appears to be electrical rather than mechanical, if the light has no power then you can’t use the switch. Most of the time this isn’t a problem – just leave the light on the entire time. When you stop, the capacitor will run down and shut eventually off the light. Come back to the bike, and the light kicks in as soon as power starts feeding in from the dynamo.
However, if the light is switched off (say you’re in a station where they take a dim view of bright white lights on platforms, or someone helpfully turns your light off in the parking racks at work) and then the capacitor runs down, you can’t turn it back on again without spinning the wheel to feed the light some juice.
This is an inconvenience on an upright, but on a recumbent it’s a pain, and on a cargobike might be impossible without help (particularly on front-loaders, where you can’t reach the light when moving).
The standlight isn’t good enough
A bit more picky when compared to the issues above, but the lack of oomph to the standlight would make me nervous if I was sat in a junction waiting to turn across traffic. All dynamo lights without a cache battery are going to suffer from similar problems, but with the IQ-X it’s particularly bad.
I’d supplement with a battery light if I was doing a lot of urban riding in the dark. Or buy the IQ2, which has that cache battery to keep the light bright when stationary.
Would I buy it again?
Not in any way because it’s a bad light, but because if I was just after a very bright dynamo headlight I’d buy the Edelux 2. That uses B&M optics and is as bright, but also bundles in some legendary Schmidt reliability and comes with a proper switch. It’s £20 more, but I reckon you get your money’s worth.
If I was instead after something that really shows off what a dynamo can do or I wanted a commuting light, I’d stick with the IQ2 I reviewed previously. That’s £25 more, but you get better side visibility (both to see with and be seen by), a much more powerful standlight, and the occassionally useful remote switch with USB charger.