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Old 10-09-07, 10:19 AM   #1
JoeOxfordCT
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Best Headlight Under $100 ?

Hi All,

I ride my mtb on the road in the mornings before work and now that we're losing daylight I'd like to pick up an inexpensive headlight that would allow me to ride safely while the sun is rising.....

I don't want to spend more than $100....preferably $40-70......what are my options ???

Thanks,

Joe
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Old 10-09-07, 10:56 AM   #2
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I was looking for an inexpensive headlight awhile back and I ended up with the Light and Motion Solo. Got it at REI for $99 and it was worth every penny. More than you want to spend, I know, but a decent light makes a world of difference (I made the decision to drop the cash after I almost ran over a nice little black cat with the white stripe on its back!).
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Old 10-09-07, 12:14 PM   #3
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Got it at REI for $99 and it was worth every penny.
That's a heck of a nice price...REI is sold out now.....can't seem to find it for less than $110 now....

How long have you had it and how are you using it ??

Thanks,

J.
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Old 10-09-07, 12:46 PM   #4
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This is a great idea for a thread.
Too often these headlight discussions get superwonky very quickly. I appreciate all the engineers who visit BF and can run the lumens analysis on various lights. But I don't even know what that sentence means, actually. Can't somebody just tell me what's durable, bright, compact, easily powered, etc.? Obviously, you're not going to get all that for $100.
I can tell you that the Blackburn I use is a bit big for my liking, but I think it makes me visible in the city.

And for about $25 or $30, it's great.
But it doesn't compare to JYosarrian's headlamp; if you need a light to see the road by, I'd choose his. Whatever it is.
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Old 10-09-07, 12:48 PM   #5
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That's a heck of a nice price...REI is sold out now.....can't seem to find it for less than $110 now....

How long have you had it and how are you using it ??

Thanks,

J.
There's the Niterider Trail Rat (a little more then $100) or the Niterider Headtrip or the Cygo Night-Rover or these from Battery Space. I'd suggest sticking with halogen at this price point. The run time isn't what you'd get from LED but neither is the price.
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Old 10-09-07, 12:53 PM   #6
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No question

this plus this

100 Lumens for 4 hour run time with two AA batteries, which is plenty of light on a partly-lit street at night (some street lamps). Great visibility on well lit streets using the dimmer options for runtime of 10hrs (wow).


Option to nearly double the light output to 175 lumens with a runtime of 2.4hours which is enough to ride about 10-12hph on a completely dark street. You won't find that kind of light for less than $170 anyplace else that I have found. I have run mine at max (175 Lumen) setting for 45 minutes two days in a row without a recharge or drop in light output.
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Old 10-09-07, 12:54 PM   #7
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You might also check out the Planet Bike Alias. Performance has it on sale for $99.99 right now, but you can probably find some coupon codes on the site here to get it even lower. I think I paid about $85 for mine, a year ago. It's sold as a "10W," but all of them I've seen actually came with 15W bulbs. Very thoughtfully designed. One nice feature not even mentioned in their ad copy is that they built it to give diffuse red glow from the bottom of the housing. It's not a substitute for a taillight, but it does make you hands, handlebars and part of your front wheel visible in the dark to drivers coming around from the rear.
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Old 10-09-07, 12:57 PM   #8
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Jeff: That fenix light is intriguing, but can you adjust its beam at all? It seems that it would cast a very narrow shaft of light.
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Old 10-09-07, 01:19 PM   #9
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Jeff: That fenix light is intriguing, but can you adjust its beam at all? It seems that it would cast a very narrow shaft of light.
It is just slightly more narrow than my Dinotte 5w, and just a tad brighter. I wouldn't call it narrow.

The beam width isn't adjustable

from my experience, a light does two things for you. It lets you be seen (which any cheap led will do) and it warns you of hazards in the road ahead in time to react. You need a powerful beam to be able to look ahead far enough. I like a beam that is a bit more focused because I ride mostly on city streets where there are a few streetlamps and some light pollution that allows some minimal visibility. A bright spot on the road in my path warns me when there is a pothole or bump in the road ahead, and if you have a light that is powerful enough you shine it a bit further ahead, which spreads the beam anyhow. I slow down if I'm on a completely unlit street, even if I'm running both the fenix and the dinotte at the same time.

If you made me choose between my $60 fenix and my $170 dinotte I'd choose the fenix in a heartbeat.

Keep in mind that if you buy the fenix, you'll be spending about $20 more on 4 Nimh batteries (two in the light, two backup) and a charger, which brings this setup near your $100 limit. Most light setups include the battery/charger/mount.

On the subject of halogens. My first setup was a 12w halogen with a bottle battery (I spent about $120 on it 5 or so years ago, can't remember which brand). It takes a big battery powering a 10-12w hallogen to get near the light output of lights like the fenix, and runtime still stinks. I found myself leaving the light setup at home when I had a big bulky battery to carry, unless I was sure I'd need it. On several occasions I'd have to choose between riding in the dark or leaving someplace earlier than planned because of my light situation. The fenix fits in your pocket, it's only a bit larger than the two AAs that power it. That is a big plus when winter gets closer and you arent sure about your lighting needs, you just always have it with you
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Old 10-09-07, 01:19 PM   #10
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The CygoLite NiteRover costs about $70-80, puts out a lot of light and holds a charge for a long time. It has two lights, low beam and high, which you can run separately or together. I've had one for about 5 years with no problems. On low beam (which is enough light for commuting on my route), it holds enough charge to last me 4+ hours -- which amounts to a whole week of commuting for me. I only use my lights in the morning, and my commute is about 45 minutes each way.

Some of the LED lights might also be good options, but I personally haven't tried them. The various Fenix flashlights seem to get good reviews, and they sell and optional mount for handlebars or helmet. They have long run times but I don't know how their brightness compares with a halogen light such as the Cygo.
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Old 10-09-07, 01:50 PM   #11
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2 low-voltage outdoor spotlight fixtures w/ 20W halogen bulbs: $24 (Home Depot)
12-volt 6-amp motorcycle battery $35 (auto supply store)
in-line 12V fuse holder and box of assorted fuses $3 (auto supply)
1 55 W outdoor halogen spot bulb to substitute for one of the 20 watt bulbs
dual dc switch and miniature case $5 (Radio Shack)
spare 2-wire extension cord $free (garage)
misc zip ties and bungee cording $free (garage)
$70 total

Strap the battery to the back rack. Strap the lights to the handle bar. Run wiring from lights to switch box and then to battery. I run with 20W most of the time. When all 75W are running, it lights up the street like an airport runway. You can see signs five blocks away. Plus
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Old 10-09-07, 01:50 PM   #12
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No question

this plus this
That's the exact setup I'm using, and it fits my needs perfectly - be-seen visibility just before sunrise on a wooded street. My commute has enough light to see, the Fenix is more than enough to be seen for a long way. The light is very bright head on. It is also very bright after dark - enough that I plan to commute with it on the way home into November. The beam has a sharp cut-off, which some do not like. I may add a smaller Fenix light for the helmet if needed.

If money were no object, I'd get a DiNotte. The Fenix meets my current safety needs for ~$80+ less.
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Old 10-09-07, 02:04 PM   #13
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Great thread all.....as I'm in the same boat. I'm now in a place where it gets darker earlier than where I used to live and now I am commuting. I've been wondering about the possibility of having to get a better light. This is a great thread. I've looked at all listed so far and am liking the look of that L&M Solo.
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Old 10-09-07, 02:43 PM   #14
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2 low-voltage outdoor spotlight fixtures w/ 20W halogen bulbs: $24 (Home Depot)
12-volt 6-amp motorcycle battery $35 (auto supply store)
in-line 12V fuse holder and box of assorted fuses $3 (auto supply)
1 55 W outdoor halogen spot bulb to substitute for one of the 20 watt bulbs
dual dc switch and miniature case $5 (Radio Shack)
spare 2-wire extension cord $free (garage)
misc zip ties and bungee cording $free (garage)
$70 total

Strap the battery to the back rack. Strap the lights to the handle bar. Run wiring from lights to switch box and then to battery. I run with 20W most of the time. When all 75W are running, it lights up the street like an airport runway. You can see signs five blocks away. Plus
I'd agree with everything but the fuse and the battery. Never needed a fuse on any of my bike lights and for $35 you can do better...and lighter...for the battery. SLAs aren't nearly rugged enough for the amp draw of halogen in cold weather. Better to go with NiMH in an RC car battery and wire two packs together in series. It'll give you a whole lot more light too.
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Old 10-09-07, 02:49 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by JoeOxfordCT View Post
Hi All,

I ride my mtb on the road in the mornings before work and now that we're losing daylight I'd like to pick up an inexpensive headlight that would allow me to ride safely while the sun is rising.....

I don't want to spend more than $100....preferably $40-70......what are my options ???

Thanks,

Joe
I would stay away from the blackburn quadrant, or any other be-seen light. The Quadrant is great for drawing attention to yourself, but useless for actually seeing the road at any speed greater than about 10mph. In the conditions we see here in CT, the back roads are dark enough, and the traffic just heavy enough, that unless you have a light that is bright enough to prevent you from losing your night vision when dealing with an oncoming car's headlights, you'll basically be blind.

So, for under $100, what can you get that is bright enough to see the road? There are basically two options. One is to get a halogen light(at minimum 15W), which will give you a lot of light. However, you will need a large battery(big enough to take up a bottle cage), with all the weight that entails. I'm not fond of the color of halogen light--IMHO, it makes the road look like sand. However, if you want a lot of light, cheap, and don't care about weight, it's the best choice.

The second option is to buy a fenix L2D flashlight, a bike mount, four NiMH batteries, and a charger. Compared to the halogen route, it will give off about the same amount of light as a 12w halogen or thereabouts. However, it has a tighter beam. This lets the flashlight throw more light downrange. The disadvantage is that the light is useless for seeing anything off-axis. The benefits of the Fenix route is that even with a backup pair of AAs, is FAR lighter than a halogen + battery, and will give over two hours of battery life on its highest setting.

Personally, and I know this is higher than your budget, I think it is better to buy two fenix lights rather than just one. The first reason is redundancy. If you fail to charge a battery, or something else goes wrong, you always have a second light to get home on. The second reason is that you have more flexibility in aiming the lights. You can aim one light close, and one far, so you can see the road imperfections right in front of you, and any nighttime critters farther away.

In any event, I would not cheap out on a light. You see a cheap light in the store, take it home, then you light them and gaze in astonishment at how "bright" it is, then you hit the road, find your favorite long descent, and realize that "Oh, carp, I'M BLIND!"
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Old 10-09-07, 02:55 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by vincentpaul View Post
2 low-voltage outdoor spotlight fixtures w/ 20W halogen bulbs: $24 (Home Depot)
12-volt 6-amp motorcycle battery $35 (auto supply store)
in-line 12V fuse holder and box of assorted fuses $3 (auto supply)
1 55 W outdoor halogen spot bulb to substitute for one of the 20 watt bulbs
dual dc switch and miniature case $5 (Radio Shack)
spare 2-wire extension cord $free (garage)
misc zip ties and bungee cording $free (garage)
$70 total

Strap the battery to the back rack. Strap the lights to the handle bar. Run wiring from lights to switch box and then to battery. I run with 20W most of the time. When all 75W are running, it lights up the street like an airport runway. You can see signs five blocks away. Plus
Pictures? I'd love to see what that set up looks like.
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Old 10-09-07, 02:55 PM   #17
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Hadn't thought of the cold being an issue, as I'm riding in Portland, OR where the seasons are basically Wet and Dry. The daily temps are usually between 30's-60's from October through June here. Doesnt' seem to have effected the battery any. And, it may be a bright setup, but its certainly not the lightest! I like the cheap and easy availability of 12-volt accessories too. I bought a 2' LED brake strip and a set of "ground effect" LED tubing the other day for $20 total. Looking forward to getting them installed, particularly the ground effect lighting. May have to rig up that 12-volt blender that I saw in a marine store the other day.....
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Old 10-09-07, 03:24 PM   #18
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This is a great idea for a thread.
Too often these headlight discussions get superwonky very quickly. I appreciate all the engineers who visit BF and can run the lumens analysis on various lights. But I don't even know what that sentence means, actually. Can't somebody just tell me what's durable, bright, compact, easily powered, etc.? Obviously, you're not going to get all that for $100.
I can tell you that the Blackburn I use is a bit big for my liking, but I think it makes me visible in the city.

And for about $25 or $30, it's great.
But it doesn't compare to JYosarrian's headlamp; if you need a light to see the road by, I'd choose his. Whatever it is.
Lumens measure the amount of light given off by a lamp. Pretty simple really. A 100 watt incandescent bulb gives off 1700 lumens. That's in all directions. You can get more useful light by focusing that light with a mirror...which is what all bike light do. The smaller the lumen output of the lamp, the dimmer the light hitting the road. For example, a 2 D-cell Maglite puts out close to 100 lumens. It's an okay light but not the best. A low voltage 10W halogen lamp puts out about the same as the Maglite. I'd estimate that the light you showed puts out in that range, perhaps a little less. But your lamp puts out that amount of light using 3 LEDs. While equivalent to the absolute light output, three lamps putting out 33 lumens each don't necessarily put out the same light as a single bulb putting out 100 lumens...especially in certain atmospheric conditions.

For a good comparison of lamps go here.

Your lamp is there. Look at the Niterider Minewtt (around 150 lumen), the Road Rat (about the same), the Light and Motion Solo (around 300 lumen) and the HIDs (around 500+ lumen). Keeps those pictures in mind when someone talks about lumens.
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Old 10-09-07, 03:31 PM   #19
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Hadn't thought of the cold being an issue, as I'm riding in Portland, OR where the seasons are basically Wet and Dry. The daily temps are usually between 30's-60's from October through June here. Doesnt' seem to have effected the battery any. And, it may be a bright setup, but its certainly not the lightest! I like the cheap and easy availability of 12-volt accessories too. I bought a 2' LED brake strip and a set of "ground effect" LED tubing the other day for $20 total. Looking forward to getting them installed, particularly the ground effect lighting. May have to rig up that 12-volt blender that I saw in a marine store the other day.....
SLA's ability to produce electricity at sustained levels and high current draws drops pretty quickly with temperature. They are also rather delicate when it comes to charging and they won't take too deep a discharge. I killed one by drawing down to brown bulbs one time only. Nickel chemistries are much more robust.

Try overvolting your halogens if you really want something spectacular. Go to a 14.4V battery and your lamps will put out nearly twice as much light. You go from 'Wow. That's bright.' to "MY EYES! I'm blind!"
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Old 10-09-07, 06:02 PM   #20
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Here's some pictures. I originally intended to just zip tie everything down for the test run, but everything works and I've never gotten around to "finishing" it. Recognize the "front flasher" and backup light mounted to the handlebar stem?
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Old 10-09-07, 06:24 PM   #21
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Just go to NiteHawk and get the bike light part to make your own system.

http://www.nite-hawk.com/store/custo...me.php?cat=266

I got the Nite Hawk Nomad (19.99 from NashBar). Changed out the 4 D cell batteries for a 6V 4.5amp battery from HomeDepot (16.99). And then changed out the bulb (5 watt) for a 10 watt. Then went to Nite Hawk web site and order a $29.99 Raptor Light Pod (6v 20 watt) and a $18.00 Raptor Handlebar Base. So what I ended up with is a 10/20 watt (30Watt total) two head lamp system for $84.97.
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Old 10-09-07, 06:43 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john bono View Post
I would stay away from the blackburn quadrant, or any other be-seen light. The Quadrant is great for drawing attention to yourself, but useless for actually seeing the road at any speed greater than about 10mph.
Absolutely true. In the rare stretches where there isn't street lighting, the Quadrant is about as useful an illumination device as a cellphone.
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The second option is to buy a fenix L2D flashlight, a bike mount, four NiMH batteries, and a charger. Compared to the halogen route, it will give off about the same amount of light as a 12w halogen or thereabouts. However, it has a tighter beam.
I like everything about this except for one thing: Because of its tight beam, is it visible to other traffic?
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Old 10-09-07, 07:22 PM   #23
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Fenix L2D with the new Rebel LED (the same light previously suggested) with the lock block light holder thingie.
This light is unreal. I ran it tonight in very mixed lightying conditions (dusk, busy streets, semi-highway, rural backroads w and w/o streetlights) with my dinotte 200L 4AA (which I highly recomend!). I ran the 200L on low (100 lumens) and the Fenix I toggled between low and "turbo" to conserve energy. I also had a 3rd Fenix L2D with the original CREE LED which i was using too, but with the dinotte and the Fenix Rebel, the less powerful fenix was almost useless even on turbo.

The nice thing about the Fenix is to toggle between low (good to be seen by) and turbo (good to cruise at 15 mph or more on dark roads) all you do is twist the bezel a quater turn. I have the lock block strapped to the bezel/head of the Fenix light so to toggle between the 2 brightnesses, all i do is twist the back of the light and voila! low to turbo, turbo to low in half a second. A nice feature.

(with the dinotte on low and the fenix on turbo, i feel comfortable on dark roads descending at 30 mph, uing the turbo judiciously i will get 5.5-6 hours out of this lighting set up with 6 AA lithium disposables and a total system weight of way under a pound).

The Fenix is so light that you can mount it on your helmet if you get another one for your bars and barely notice it. Great for getting drivers' attention.

The lock block alows for multiple mounting options and is in my opinion as good as most "nornal" light mounting brackets but much easier to use and harder to brake.

This is the only choice I'd make at under 100 bucks.

Go to batteryspace.com to order nice rechargeable AA's and a nice recharger for around 20 beans.

-Leo
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Old 10-09-07, 08:10 PM   #24
john bono
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Originally Posted by Bklyn View Post
Absolutely true. In the rare stretches where there isn't street lighting, the Quadrant is about as useful an illumination device as a cellphone.
It isn't that bad, though it sure as hell isn't good. If there are no cars coming in the other direction, your night vision plus a quadrant will be good for about 8 - 10 mph, and that's about it. The problem is when you are on a dark road, and run into oncoming traffic. The headlights make a hash of your night vision, and even with a quadrant, you are functionally blind for about 1-2 minutes after they pass. That's why a be-seen light like a quadrant is no good. You need a bright light so you can see the road while dealing with headlights.

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Originally Posted by Bklyn View Post
I like everything about this except for one thing: Because of its tight beam, is it visible to other traffic?
For oncoming traffic, definitely. From the side, not so much. However, CT isn't Brooklyn. Streetlights can be few and far between, there are far less side streets where off-axis visibility is necessary, and there are many fairly steep descents where a bright light is damn important. It is not fun to spend an 45 minutes climbing a long incline, only to have to nail the brakes so you don't outrun your light on the downslope.
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Old 10-09-07, 09:26 PM   #25
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I like everything about this [fenix L2d] except for one thing: Because of its tight beam, is it visible to other traffic?

I haven't really looked at myself coming, but I'm pretty sure it is very visible

there are about three miles of road in an older neighborhood between my house and my girlfriend's house. the trees are thick and there is only one street lamp per block. It is a really really dark street.

When going down that street using the Fenix light, it really lights up reflective road signs and reflectors on parked cars at the side of the road for at least a block or more ahead of me.

If those signs and reflectors are sending my light back to me that intensely, I'm pretty sure my light is visible at the side of the road ahead, and to cars entering the road. The bright spot on the road is bright, but there is enough light getting out to the side to be very visible to oncoming cars and cars entering traffic from side streets.
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