There’s a constant struggle going on to develop a bike light with enough illumination power to rival Blackpool, a run time long enough for the longest of nocturnal enduros, and all in a package sufficiently small and light that it won’t weigh you down. Usually, there’s a trade-off of some sort, but increasingly, as improving LED technology couples together with new lighter, higher capacity batteries, it’s a tough call for the cyclist looking to choose a new light. There are some really great ones out there now.
The Supernova E3 Triple is a bit different from the now standard rechargeable battery powered superbright LED unit. For starters it’s ideally driven by a hub dynamo (not supplied). The use of the hub dynamo is supposed to mean significantly less drag than the more traditional style of dynamo, and in use, this was the case. Although there was still a definite difference in power transmission, it was not sufficient to be in any way irritating.
Aside from the drag issue, a major problem with dynamo driven lights has always been when the bike is at a standstill, the light can go out, leaving the cyclist effectively invisible. Not so the E3 Triple. The way the lighting is arranged (more on this later) means that a standing light of lower brightness is illuminated even when at a stop. The manufacturer claims that this light stays on for some 12 minutes , but in my experience it was nearer 4. That said, it did provide a decent level of illumination that would keep you safe at junctions.
The lighting technology of the E3 Triple is a clever one. The lower level of lighting kicks in straight away, even at slow speeds and while stationary, as mentioned before, but a higher level (the other 2 of the 3 LEDs) only kicks in at speeds of above 8mph. On full beam it really is bright, car-dazzlingly so, with a good broad beam spread meaning no dead spots and the ability to see well into the distance and across the carriageway. The illumination is also steady, with no fluctuation in brightness. Even the lower level of light is sufficient to see a good distance, and be seen.
It’s possible to upgrade the LEDs as brighter ones are brought out further down the line. Simply send over to the German manufacturer. This will currently set you back about £60 or so.
So, it sounds like the perfect light? Never have to replace or recharge batteries, always ready, lightweight, green and effective. What’s the catch? Well, the implementation of what is undeniably a great concept is a bit sketchy. It’s quite tricky to fit, for starters, but to a certain degree that’s expected from a dynamo set-up. The main problem is the wiring. The lead runs directly from the light unit to the dynamo, where it ‘crimps’ into a connector in a semi-permanent fitting. There is no connector at either end, meaning that to remove the light requires removing the cable, which is ideally zip-tied to the fork to avoid snagging, and un-crimping the dynamo, or removing the wheel. Removing the wheel, for example to fix a puncture, requires the same. It begs the question, why bother with the quick release in the first place anyway? An enterprising thief could easily snip the wires and run off with what would effectively be a useless light to them, but an incredibly annoying inconvenience to you!
The alternative to the bar mount option (£245) (which comes in 2 different sizes 31.8mm or 25.4mm) is the Multimount (£235), which is more secure, given that the light fastens on with an Allen bolt, and attaches to the fork crown. But this option isn’t suitable for use with caliper brakes, although a Busch and Muller bracket could be used. The other wiring issue is that of the taillight option. If you choose to go for the taillight to go with the set-up, as presumably most people would, then there’s no real problem, apart from shorter run time to the lower power light when stationary. But, if for some reason you choose not to run a taillight as well, then you’re left with loose wires dangling unused from the light body.
All in all, it’s an amazing lighting set-up, with impressive performance, but with a few niggles that need to be ironed out before it fulfills its full potential.
A really effective lighting set up that does just what it's supposed to. Sadly let down by the less than ideal nature of the cabling set-up, and the pointless quick release.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Supernova E3 dynamo light
Size tested: n/a
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Recommended by Supernova for:
24 hour MTB Races
Ideal for any kind of regular after dark riding, either on or off road.
You'd want a headtorch for any suspected hike-a-bike sections in 24 hour MTB races.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Clever electronics means the light runs a low power single LED option when slow and stationary, while the other 2 LEDs kick in at speeds of over 8mph to give full power illumination.
Standing light last about 4 minutes when stationary.
Light unit itself reasonably well built, from aluminium, but cabling set-up not so well considered.
Manufacturer's 5 year warranty.
No wavering of light, powerful and steady illumination, good breadth of beam and good penetration.
Decent duration of standing light too.
With the system permanently attached, and the type of cabling set-up there's going to be a definite longevity issue, especially with the rigours of off-road use.
No worries about battery life issues.
Very lightweight light unit. Dynamo hub obviously adds additional weight and drag.
The price isn't low to start with and you still need to buy the dynamo hub and wheel as well, but ultimately this should last sufficiently to be a reasonable value option.
No batteries to replace, and environmentally more friendly too.
Not really feasible to swap between bikes.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Performed very well. Exceptionally bright and steady.
Standing light did not last quite as long as suggested but sufficient for stopping at junctions.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Standing light, and automatic increase to brighter full beam at about 8mph.
Beam breadth and brightness was excellent.
No battery worries.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Cabling set-up is ill-considered, making it difficult to perform necessary repairs etc with ease, and meaning the light unit is virtually impossible to remove for rest stops, yet still has a quick release (on the handlebar mount option)
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Would prefer to wait for a future 'tweaked' version.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Not really in its current form.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
A great technological development for sustainable bike lighting but the excellent light itself is let down by poor cabling implementation.
About the tester
Age: 37 Height: 1.65m Weight: 67kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, general fitness riding, mtb,