However, contemporary headlight offerings that match a modern classical build are limited. The best, and most popular option is the Edelux by Schmidt. I have one on my 1970s Holdsworth Super Mistral and it is a great looking and performing light. Its polished aluminum finish certainly agrees with the modern classicist's backlash against anodizing of any kind (here, the other major boutique player, Supernova, falls short). The light is diminutive (85g!) and the hemispherical design is certainly better than anything else out there, vaguely reminiscent of the Soubitez 'golf ball'. Still, in my opinion, it looks a bit out of place on a vintage or modern classical build.
Other contemporary offerings in the vintage vein include the Lumotec Retro and the recently introduced Classic from Busch & Müller. The Classic is chromed and has a nice retro-looking selector switch, but on the whole I think it's one ugly duck. The Retro is a little better looking than its younger sibling. I used to have one and it is just a Lumotec halogen lamp with a chromed plastic shell to retro-fy it.
After that your options are limited to a handful of cheap chromed bullet lamps from Taiwan or you can hunt down a vintage French headlamp, something I used to do with more enthusiasm before increased demand drove up Ebay prices.
I'm forever experimenting with upgrading vintage bike lights with modern LEDs and optics, but these efforts have led to me to conclude that the best option for a modern build would be a completely new lamp designed from scratch. Something bright, elegant and weatherproof.
So, I designed one, hereby christened the Nº58A.
This design references the elegant teardrop shape of the classic French lamp makers like Radios, Luxor, Soubitez and JOS, which were made of spun aluminum. The lamp housing, bezel and bracket will be CNC machined and, of course, it will have a modern LED with standlight.
|Nº58A cross section|
Good thermal management is crucial to LED performance, so the LED is mounted on a large copper heat sink that transmits heat away from the LED through the lamp housing. My design is for a dynamo powered lamp to begin with but the Cree XM-L can be driven up to 3A, so a battery powered version (with an external battery pack, unfortunately) is an option down the road. The heat sink is very likely up to the task. The reflector is, out of necessity, an off-the-shelf model designed for use with Cree XP LEDs. The beam is tightly focused but with enough spill to provide good off axis visibility in traffic. I haven't done a detailed analysis of the beam shape but it reminds me of my Supernova's beam: round and symmetrical. A reflector that produces an asymmetrical cutoff beam like that of the popular B&M IQ reflector is not available in the format I need.
The headlight is on the larger size, about 58mm (2.3in) at its largest diameter and 77mm (3in) long, though still smaller than classic French teardrop lamps such as the Radios Nº18 and the Luxor 65. It's also quite hefty; based on volume and material density calculations, around 228g or 8oz. Almost certainly too heavy for fender mounting (at least without a second set of stays), but fine for mounting on a front rack or fork crown. The weight is due to a combination of thicker walls than traditional spun aluminium and the dense copper heat sink. One advantage of the thicker CNC fabrication is that it shouldn't dent like old spun housings.
A friend of mine kindly put together a few photorealistic views in polished aluminium:
Noticeably absent from my drawings is a switch. Finding a place for a power switch has been the most challenging design issue. Vintage French lamps were almost universally bottle dynamo powered, precluding the need for a switch. There isn't a compact enough selector switch available to mimic the switch of the old Sturmey Archer headlights. I contemplated something similar to the clever magnetic reed switch used on the Edelux, but that design requires custom plastic parts. In the end, I decided to go for a short actuator toggle switch with a splash proof boot. You can see its placement in the following renderings:
At the moment, I'm finalizing a quote with a prototype maker. With a prototype in hand I'll be able to spend the spring and summer riding with it, running it in the shower, hitting it with a hammer, striking it with lightning, etc, etc. Then, if there's enough demand, I might consider doing a small production run. I'll post updates about the project here. If you're interested, please comment below or send me an email (address at bottom of page). I've even reserved a name for this putative enterprise: Bici Lux.