A cycling media colleague suggested I check out DING, a local bike product. It’s not a bell, as the name may suggest, rather an Australian designed bike light moving to the Kickstarter crowdfunding platform to become a reality. DING is the brainchild of Englishmen Des Burns and Jason Briggs. Des is calls Australia home and has extensive experience in the automotive industry, specifically with LED lighting design and manufacture, so the pathway to bike lighting was well lit.
The famous ‘thinker’ Edward de Bono coined the term ‘lateral thinking’ to describe approaches to solve problems which are not vertical. Rather than using an analytical approach to achieve a logical solution, ‘out of the box’ thinking can open up completely new ideas, and the DING light fits this mould; it takes a new approach to bike lighting and rider safety.
CAD rendering of the DING bike light
DING differentiates itself by providing a deliberately downward angled light, illuminating the space around the cyclist to provide a bigger visual footprint for other road users. I put Des under the spotlight and challenged him explain the solutions the DING bike light provides.
Christopher Jones: With the downward beam, what is the actual ‘problem’ being solved?
Des Burns: The downward beam optical design provides a bar of light across the front of the bike. This bar of light does a couple of key things; it is easy for motorist to see and provides a mental acknowledgement to give more room to the rider. We completed road tests with and without the DING with both male and female riders. Our results showed that the downward beam certainly provided more road respect from motorist, with less encroaching on the bike lane resulting in [the motorist] giving more space.
The downward beam expedites a driver’s responsiveness of the presence of a cyclist; the downward beam also shows the susceptibility of a cyclist. Making drivers more conscious of cyclists’ potential movements, as well as priming their own likely evasive/protective reactions in relation to cyclists, is a key benefit of the DING bike light.
We then decide to actually to conduct a motorist feedback study. We carried out a couple of feedback studies from motorists over a 4 month period; the feedback from the motorist that did take part showed that 94% of our test motorist thought the DING bike light made them more aware of the cyclist, it made them also provide the rider with more room. The motorist could judge the riders speed and direction better than traditional bike lights. A key feedback comment was it is so different to what they usually see on the road and it made them more aware of the rider. It was also recorded that, for larger vehicles like trucks and buses where the driver sits up higher, they could distinguish the DING rider very clearly in comparison to traditional bike lights. In slow moving traffic, motorist were also less likely to encroach on the riders space and the required safe zone of one 1.5 metres
A recurring feedback statement was most of the motorists liked the fact the front wheel reflectors, which are standard safety gear on all bikes, shine bright due to the downward beam.
Another key feature is the improvement of light adaption times for the rider. The human eye takes time to switch from light to dark conditions; when you have more light around you the light adaption conditions are improved. With DING having this wide spread of even ground light, it provides the rider with better mesopic vision and thus will cause less fatigue on the eyes when riding at night. In fact, when we switch back to a traditional light during the trials it was so noticeable how much better the DING light was to ride with, you really miss the extra floor flood light.
The DING has an additional downward beam projecting to the sides.
Christopher Jones: How does the downward light compare with other accessories which increase rider visibility, such as hi-vis clothing or laser lights?
All riders should wear some sort of high visibility gear, I do. However, from our survey of riders in Adelaide CBD about 95% do not, which is a big shame. High visibility gear is not doubt great but it still does not provide a visual mark out point like the downward beam on the DING does, to say to the motorist this is my space. Laser lights are new to market and I must say I am all in favour of any new technology that makes riders more visible.
We did buy one to review against DING. The laser projects a bike symbol about 5 metres in front which is easy for the rider to see but not so for the motorist due to the small light surface area used for the symbol. The unit also has a LED Front light and, with a motorist passing the rider at speed, it was hard to pick up the image due to the forward glare of the front light. It was also difficult to see the laser image during heavy rain conditions . I found it hard to refrain from staring at the image in front of me as any slight moving of the handlebars joggled the laser image. This makes me think a laser is more of a distraction than a high visibility device for rider safety.
Christopher Jones: The DING website quotes “2/3 of bike accident are caused by cars turning”. Is this statistic for night-time riding? Are you suggesting that the lights would eliminate 2/3 of collisions?
Des Burns: No, that was for all conditions, day and night. This demonstrated that some drivers, when distracted, would be blind to the rider completely. At night, the mind distraction is even worse. The DING light will help you to be seen in wet weather conditions as the volume of the light is greater then any other light on the market.
At the end of the day, bike lights are critical to rider safety. The DING bike light provides a great forward light with the addition of a downward light source in small package. The DING is positioned at a price point below current traditional lights at the same performance level which just point forwards.
We are not charging any extra for our additional lighting innovation as the laser light systems do, we just want to make a safer bike light available for all bike riders at a fair price.
A new idea is born… on a beer mat
Christopher Jones: The light patterns projected on the road appear forward and to the sides, can you discuss the rationale for two separate light areas as opposed to ‘connecting’ (or overlapping) the downward facing beam with the front beam?
Des Burns: We wanted the forward beam to stand up on its own merits without the innovation of the downward beam; DING is a great light just with the two forward optics alone. Too many bikes lights in market offer pencil spot beam designs. The reason I believe for this is, one, you can get more distance by collimating the lower lumen output diode into a focus spot when using a tight parabola which in turn will give you a better lux reading for distance. Secondly, you can use less powerful LED diodes, which are cheaper, giving lower cost overall to the driver electronics and you get better battery run time figures.
Some better bike lights do provide a combination of spot beam with a territory spill of additional fill light, these are much better than just the pencil spot beams.
A better solution, we believe, is to produce a faceted optic and lens design that pushes light forward evenly in all areas with a small addition of focused spot to light up further away targets, just like car headlights.
The question of overlapping is very valid. The prototype optics we have used are not to full design intent. We plan to include a second optic on the top of the front lens to push that light back down the ground to improve the two beam overlap and reduce forward glare. Our photometric ray tracing has shown it will work. The CNC machined prototype lenses we made are not advanced enough to show this just yet.
The DING light has a holster and an original mounting system
Christopher Jones: You have chosen to mount the light below the handlebars, why did you make this decision?
Des Burns: At one stage, our handlebar clamp design allowed either top or bottom of bar mounting of the light. We dropped the top mount option for a couple of reasons; the downward beam projection is better when the light is mounted under the handlebar. The market is full of top bar mounted lights, but there is a shortage of good below handle bar mounted lights. Road bike riders would prefer to mount a light underside or even under the central stem. The new DING mount has been designed to mount directly under a road bike stem.
Inside the holster, this shows the lense for the downward beam
Christopher Jones: The holster strap / fasting mechanism is original, and appears to be secure. Can you discuss the reason for creating this mounting solution with a holster, rather than copying an existing mount or integrating a mount directly onto the light.
Des Burns: We initially had a larger holster design with a selection of C-bar clamp rings to attach the light and received very positive feedback on the light design from bike shops and the industry. The only criticism that we did get back was for our mount design, so went away and redesigned the mount completely. When reviewing the new mount design, we were tempted to attach the mount to the light body. However, we thought our quick holster was a good idea. I personally like to get to my bike and just snap it into the holster; it is quick and easy, especially when it is dark. It is more costly, as there are more parts, but when we are funded and create other light design ideas, we will be able to use the holster clamp in the future.
Colours prototype DING lights
Christopher Jones: Bicycles Networks Australia recommends that cyclists point their high-powered lights down to avoid blinding oncoming vehicles or cyclists. What options do cyclists have to use their DING courteously on the roads?
Des Burns: The light is easy to position so as not to provide forward glare and dazzle motorists. In addition, our forward optics include facets to cut off top half stray light and push that down towards the ground. Plus with our beam having a more filled light pattern, we do not get road glare bounce back like you do with a focused spot beam bike light when you focus it more downwards.
Christopher Jones: Where does the name DING come from? My first thoughts were that it was a Chinese brand or suggested a bicycle bell.
Des Burns: It is a long story; as I was developing the light I also had issues with room for stuff on my handle bar and thought “why not have a light and a traditional bell combination?” The Swiss army knife of bike lights, so to speak. I went down this track for nearly 6 months. The two beams were in the concept ideas from the beginning and the bell inclusion idea was just a secondary idea.
Michael, Kushari, Des and Kyra are the DING team in Australia
Want to know more ?
DING is on Kickstarter and are halfway to their fundraising goal of $80,000, which will get the light into production.
There are also more details and data on the main website: dinglights.com.au
Photos provided by DING and used with permission