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Bell Dawn Patrol Review

Bell Dawn Patrol
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Price:  $15 List | $13.16 at Amazon
Pros:  Inexpensive.
Cons:  Very concentrated beam, low light output, worst mount of any bike light tested, no battery life indicator, AAA batteries are expensive over the long-term.
Manufacturer:   Bell
By Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief  ⋅  Nov 26, 2016
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34
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#15 of 18
  • Brightness - 40% 2
  • Beam Quality - 25% 1
  • Battery Life - 20% 8
  • Portability - 15% 5

The Skinny

Available for around $10, the Bell Dawn Patrol is one of the cheapest bike lights we've tested. Unfortunately, the light scores among the lowest in our tests — primarily because it has a dim, concentrated beam that is relatively ineffective at illuminating the street and at alerting traffic to your presence. If you're looking for a budget safety light for commuting, we recommend the Cygolite Metro 360 which is $20-30 more expensive but is drastically better.

Discontinued - November 2016
The Bell Dawn Patrol bike light has been discontinued and replaced with the Bell Lumina.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


Beam


This light scored a 1 out of 10, one of the lowest scores in our tests. Like a laser beam, the Dawn Patrol has a very concentrated beam pattern that sends light far into the distance, but not at all to the sides. Our field testing shows this design to be ineffective at alerting traffic to your presence and at illuminating the path in front of you. In other words, as cyclists we felt our safety was barely increased compared to riding without a bike light. Many other bike lights have wider and more even beam patterns, which we've found to be better for all types of biking. The Dawn Patrol's concentrated beam is its greatest drawback. See below how the Dawn Patrol lightly illuminated the center of the target while the Cygolite Metro 360 brightly illuminates the center and lightly illuminates the periphery.

Beam Distance Photos

Bell Dawn Patrol
Cygolite Metro 360

Brightness


Compared to other lights in the $10-20 range, the Dawn Patrol is reasonably bright if you measure its output in the center of the beam. Our tests show its maximum beam distance to be 38 meters, much better than some of the other cheap lights that only shined 2-10 meters. However, the concentrated beam reduces overall brightness because very little light reaches the places where our testers want it: down low in front of you and to the sides. We give the light a 1 here, the lowest possible score in this category. Compare that to the Metro 360 which shined 135 meters and is quite useful.

Beam Distance Photos

Bell Dawn Patrol
Cygolite Metro 360

Portability


This light is small and very light. Unfortunately, the light's mounting system requires a Phillips head screwdriver for installation and adjustment. This is the only light tested in our review that cannot be adjusted without tools — an unfortunate drawback if the mount loosens while riding. Further, unlike some lights, the mount does not swivel, so you can't change the light. We believe the Dawn Patrol has the hardest to use mount of all bike lights tested.

Battery Life


The light uses 3 AAA batteries and has an exceptionally long battery life — highlighted in the chart below, it lasted nearly 25 hours in our "coffin test." However, this result is deceiving because beam distance declines over time from 41m to 12m, dramatically reducing the light's power from pip-squeak to mere pinprick. Phrased differently, we don't believe the light is bright enough (due to its narrow beam) with a full battery, so the long battery life is trivial.


See a larger version of the above chart in our beam comparison tool.

Value


Although the light is highly affordable, we feel it is a very poor value because: (1) as described above, it is one of the lowest performing bike lights we've tested; and (2) we estimate that running the light for 80 hours with cost $8 in batteries. Lights with USB rechargeable batteries are much cheaper over the long-term and much more convenient.

Conclusion


While cheap, we can't recommend this light. We recommend spending another $20 and getting a bright light like our Cygolite Metro 360. Or, if you are just wanting a light to make you legal riding at night, and don't care about a weak beam, consider one of the super cheap lights like the Seattle Sports Blazer.


Chris McNamara