SINEWAVE CYCLES BEACON DYNAMO FRONT LIGHT & CHARGER
139g (including wiring and USB/DC cable) 58x42x42 Black (as tested) $350 (£379.99 at SJS Cycles, UK importers)
Sinewave Cycle’s Beacon Dynamo Front Light and Charger is, as you’d expect, a combined front light and charger running off a hub dynamo. Sinewave have been producing charging devices – often popular with long distance tourers – for several years. So, you’d expect this to be a top bit of gear, and it is not cheap, either. Having said that, there are cyclists who can’t do without this kind of thing – and having put it through its paces, I could on the verge of becoming one of them.
Pros: Great all-round hub dynamo light and charger, quality build, smart electronics.
Cons: Sizeable investment, supply your own mounting, no remote.
Black anodised as ours was, your colour and finish choices are extensive, extending to “Match Custom.” Mind, you need to chat to Sinewave or your dealer about lead in times. I’m content with black, and the clean, without being overly shiny, anodised finish fits nicely with aging Supergalaxy. One day it’ll get another paint job to match the smartness of the Sinewave Beacon.
750 lumens should be sufficient light for most situations. Even so, output is not so strong as to make the symmetrical, oval beam pattern a liability. In the “cool white” category, the manufacturers claim that it is at the warmer end of that spectrum, causing less glare and being easier on the eye. Sinewave describe it as ideal; for off-road riding. Road riders are unlikely to be disappointed, but it may be best to check the rules of the road in the places you intend to ride: it may not meet them without careful adjustment.
Sinewave aim to optimize power at low-to-medium speeds, reaching 200 lumens at just 5 MPH, 500 lumens at 8 MPH, 650 lumens at 10 MPH, and 750 lumens at 13 MPH.
Needless to say, there’s a ‘standlight.’ However, you can add power at low speeds, or when stopped, from an off the shelf power pack. The Beacon’s technological wizardry balances the use of the power produced. The same is true when running the light and using the charger at the same time.
On that topic, Sinewave recommend charging during the day. You’ll not get full light output when the charger is in use, although, in my experience, you’ll still get sufficient for a moderate speed – depending on circumstances – and you’ll still be easily visible.
The lever type switch has three positions. Up for full on light, middle for no light (charger only) and down for simultaneous light and charger. You can charge with the switch up, but it is not recommended.
First look at the unit made me wonder about waterproofing. Sinewave say that you have nothing to fear; there are several seals, connectors are gold-plated, and electronics potted in epoxy resin. That should be suitable for all weathers, but I can think of a few fettlers who will be making boots and hoods out of old inner tubes.
A bare ended, thirty-six inches long wire can be connected to any dynamo hub with the relevant clip-on connector. There’s no reason why it should not be compatible with Schmidt SL type dynamo fork connectors, if that is part of your plan – but that is best done at the frame building stage.
You can add a taillight, but take care. Controlled by the front unit, not all are compatible, or may need some adaptation. However, most are fine. Even better, Sinewave address the issues on their website.
Finally, there’s a USB to DC cable in the box, too. This allows you to connect a power pack, should you wish. You need to sort out your own mount (again, the Beacon is compatible with most, and mounting options ae addressed on the website). Don’t forget your own cable for charging your device.
Instructions for set-up and use are on the Sinewave website. There’s a three-year warranty. Sinewave offer a range of accessories – including a handy right-angled USB cable. The unit itself is solid state.
The Beacon was attached, to a surprisingly successful, home wheel-build. A Shutter Precision SV8 hub dynamo, in a Ryde Sputnik touring rim, with plain gauge spokes. All this as part of an attempt to prepare my old Supergalaxy for a return to longer Audax type rides as the family grows up.
Initially I went for a fork-crown mounting using a basic Busch and Muller bracket. This was fine, although access to the switch was hampered both by position and the presence of centre-pull brakes. Purchasing a JTek crown mount with a spacer helped, but also required the purchase of a 70mm bolt to take the bracket, spacer, mudguard, through a chunky old touring fork crown.
I also tried a Busch and Muller Universal bar mount, which took the Beacon perfectly. Whilst German lights (often dominant in the dynamo market) are ideal for fork crown mountings, this is often as much to do with lens and reflector designs complying with strict German laws, as it is with convenience or necessity in laxer jurisdictions. Indeed, I found the bar mount perfect for the Sinewave Beacon’s symmetrical beam pattern, whilst allowing easy access to the switch when surfaces got a bit more adventurous.
Mounting on the steering stem was also an option. There’s real flexibility in the mounting options – but you have to buy your own.
Switch and cabling 3.5/5
With limited cause for frequent switching between modes on the fly, the lever switch is perfectly adequate. Indeed, it’s easily operable with gloved fingers. In addition, switching is clear and obvious, which it isn’t always with button types.
More important for access to the switch is the mounting position. Fork crown mounting is inaccessible on the fly – for most of us; steering stem mounting found me getting tangled up in control cables; bar mounting made things easy. None would be a deal-breaker, given that you have only three modes and I would tend to set this and stick to it for long periods.
There’s plenty of cable length to reach the hub dynamo. I prefer to wrap excess length round the fork, rather than tailor it to fit: flexibility and portability.
As claimed, 500 lumens output is reached at pretty low speeds, very much around the 7 or 8 mph. OK, I can’t scientifically measure that, but there seems no reason to doubt it, or the other lumen/speed claims. After an initial flicker or two, a clear, white, but warmish light illuminates the way ahead. Many people recommend pairing a dynamo light with a blinkie/auxiliary light. Not a bad idea, but probably less necessary with the Sinewave than with lamps that are slower to respond.
750 lumens at twelve to thirteen mph may not be heroic cycling, but is a real plus for those hauling heavy loads, cycling in hilly country, or who just can’t be too fussed about their PBs. This is in the same max output speed territory as the K-Lite Backpacker Ultra although the latter offers a whacking 1300 lumen as opposed to the Beacon’s 750. Ported across bikes – to a SON hub – took things to the max at slightly lower speeds.
The symmetric beam needs a bit of care when hitting the road. Whilst 750 lumens are hardly likely to melt the eye-balls of oncoming motorists – pedestrians or fellow cyclists, too – thinking about the angle of the light can be helpful. Having had one car just come to a complete stop some fifty metres away, during a steady excursion down some country lanes, I adjusted the lamps angle and had no further complaints. Needless to say, the Beacon does not meet German traffic regulations. On the other hand, you can easily hang it upside down from your bars with no ill-effect.
The bar-mount became my preference.
I could maintain a very confident 17-20mph plus along unlit country lanes – things slowed a bit when the power was knocked down, but speedsters would probably be the only ones to bother too much – and, apart from winter trainer duties, are less likely to go down the hub dynamo route. Likewise, along unlit towpath at speeds in the mid/upper-teens. Mind you, real gravel or MTB enthusiasts will probably add a helmet mounted light. Mortals, such as I, will enjoy slower hi-jinks with the Beacon alone lighting the way.
In urban contexts, especially major junctions, there’s no significant visibility from the side. OK, even in neon Heaven, top whack will get you noticed, but pairing with something like my old favourite, Knog’s Mr Chips, or a flashing mode, may well be the preferred option in combination with the lower setting. Not that I have had any real issues when hitting the city lights.
You’d expect a slight dip on steeper climbs, but that could reflect dynamo hub performance as much as the quality of the light. I’ve had no issues regarding seeing or being seen when climbing.
The electronics allow the unit to adjust the power to the light when using the charger. Best to follow recommendations here. Charging on full whack (switch up) sometimes caused initially alarming flash from the beam when slowing or accelerating rapidly. As Sinewave say, flick the switch down and you’ll get less lumens, but charge will be more rapid.
Powered by a power bank, you’ll certainly get enough light for pitching a tent and cooking your dinner, for example, as well as a well-known on-line mapping system on an iPhone.
The speediest charge comes with the light off. Quitting all apps on a phone helped, too. A very moderate small shopping trip of some five miles added around 20% charge at an average of 14 mph. A three-hour ride averaging 12mph took my phone from zero to 99%. It has also kept the Mio 210 GPS going.
At night, or with apps running, you’d expect things to be a good deal slower – and they are. On the other hand, there was plenty enough juice to be seen, light the way at a moderate speed, and keep the GPS alive.
Some folk might like to have two USB slots.
Sinewave’s long experience bodes well to start with. However, there are units with similar quality build that offer food for thought. In some cases, the Beacon’s performance is rivalled or overtaken. Having said that it has definite pluses.
K-Lite’s Bikepacker Ultra comes in around the same price, depending on what options you go for. Whilst, max output is reached at similar speeds, the Beacon seems to spring into life slightly quicker and, in my opinion, reaches max a little quicker. Bear in mind that the Bikepacker goes up to 1300lumens! The Bikepacker offers a ‘dip’ option, too. For me, the extra lumens are neither here or there for Audax, touring, or shorter, speedier bursts. What’s your speed ambition? Exposure’s Revo edge’s the Sinewave at 800lumens, but does not have a charging function.
Gear like this require significant up-front investment, but the Bikepacker Ultra – as we reviewed it – can be bought bit by bit.
On the other hand, the Beacon is pretty much an all-rounder par excellence, whereas the Bikepacker means making a choice between MTB/gravel and gravel/road options.
In the long run, the Sinewave is a really good light and the price reflects this. I expect to be using it for many years to come.
Be aware that, given your geographical location, you may need to pay customs duties.
The Sinewave Beacon is the real deal for general riding at night; likewise, for charging or running devices. Its sophisticated electronics take over and leave you free to enjoy the ride. Often, dual purpose equates to better performance in one sphere than another. That is very much not the case here. Charger or light or both, it works all round. Ideal for cyclists in hilly areas, carting hefty loads, or chopping and changing between disciplines, or have a physical impairment.