For long distance and/or remote touring a dynamo light and USB power setup really comes into its own, adding extra autonomy to your escape pod. Imagine a light that never needs batteries and a phone that never runs out of charge.
Supernova is a German company that offers a large range of dynamo and battery lighting systems, along with dynamos and USB charging systems that take their power from a dynamo and output through a standard USB port, enabling you to charge devices and batteries on the go. The Supernova E3 Triple 2 dynamo headlight light features in many bikepacker blogs and racers kit lists as a benchmark light. With so much good press about the light and company, I decided to dive in and order some for the shop to try out.
The light arrived well packed in a smart-looking tin embossed with the Supernova logo, giving the impression of a high quality and well presented product. An encouraging start!
In the tin is the light, wiring and a fork mount bracket. The light and bracket are made from neatly CNC’d aluminium and are very well finished.
Inside the light are 3 Cree XM-L2 LEDs, supplying 640 lumens of light (Supernova’s measurement). The light can output up to a peak of 800 lumens. There is a secondary output cable for running a dynamo tail-light (review for that coming soon!), and there is a stand-light, so that when you stop moving/generating you have 5 minutes of ‘be seen’ light which is also enough for very close work, such as looking at a map for instance. The light also features circuitry that will keep the LEDs outputting a usable light for a short time when your speed suddenly drops, such as negotiating a tight corner or obstacle., Very useful! The hidden stuff is top notch too – UV and heat resistant internal seals keep the gunk and weather outside where it should be.
The E3 Triple 2 is primarily a designed for racing and bikepacking, according to Supernova (it’s not road legal in Germany). It has a very broad light output that is closer to a floodlight than a focused beam, and so doesn’t give the ‘tunnel’ effect of some of the powerful battery-powered lights. This means it’s great for illuminating branches and hazards above you and off to the side.
If you are used to a sharper more obvious ‘beam’ the floodlight style light may seem a little soft at first, but the output is immense and ample for hacking down fast trails at night. It’s not so suitable in traffic due to its large output (you’ll dazzle oncoming traffic), so riding with the light dipped downwards is the way to go when on the road. I initially felt a little underwhelmed by the light running it in the evening in the woods, but then turned it off and realised that my sensation of it being dusk (i.e. still some ambient light all around me) was actually the massive output of the light-giving the impression that it wasn’t yet night!
At slower speeds any dynamo light will become less bright, but the Supernova keeps outputting a very usable light right down to crawl pace on steep climbs. At super slow speeds you may see a pulse effect (i.e. when you are out of the saddle because that’s the only way (!), your cadence will become ‘bumpy’ as you push the cranks through their stroke, and this corresponds to a pulse in the light output).
Pair the E3 Triple 2 with a performance dynamo hub such as the Shutter Precision PD-8 or PD-8X, or Supernova’s own hub and you’ll have a solid performing lighting system that will give you plenty of output for adventuring at any time of day and in any terrain. If you are mainly on road however, you may want to go for a more traffic friendly light such as the Supernova E3 Pro 2, for example, which has a capped beam so you won’t singe the retinas of oncoming drivers/riders.
The light served me well on last years Kiwi Brevet, and the high output is certainly a morale booster when you’re still pushing pedals well into the night, and gives plenty enough light for fast riding off-road. You might want to add a small head-mounted light (or headtorch) as a ‘fill-in’ and point-able light for slow speeds. Black Diamond’s Revolt USB rechargeable lights serve well for this purpose as you can easily mount one to your helmet and even charge it from your hub if you add a USB power output such as the Supernova Plug or Sinewave Reactor.