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Old 12-09-07, 01:22 AM   #1
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Lights: Seeing vs. being seen

Cross posting, as the Electronics forum is not as busy as this one...

After shopping around for a while, I'm unclear as to how lights are rated. Some are in lumens, some in candlepower, some in watts (a measuer of input, if I'm not mistaken). I'm looking for output that is less than a car headlight, but enough to see 15 feet in front of me without squinting. I currently have a CygoLite Rover, but do not like carrying the water bottle battery. I have a Cat Eye EL500 on order and will see how it does, but was wondering what the readers of this forum thought? Thanks for any advice.
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Old 12-09-07, 02:12 AM   #2
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HID to see and blinking LED to be seen.
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Old 12-09-07, 02:21 AM   #3
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HID? I currently have a less intense Cat Eye blinkie on the front, but like to see the road as well.
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Old 12-09-07, 02:50 AM   #4
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I've got Light and Motion HID, but there are others (Niterider, etc.).
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Old 12-09-07, 04:10 AM   #5
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I use a NiteRider Trail Rat or something like that, it's a halogen, to see. 3 PlanetBike Superflashes on the back to be seen, and misdirect aircraft.
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Old 12-09-07, 04:33 AM   #6
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Cygolite Triedenx and Fenix P3D CE on the bars, Fenix P3D Premium 100 on the helmet...strobing during the day to be seen, solid at night to see and to be seen. Rear 2x Dinotte taillight on 5x flash to be seen during the day...rear 2x Dinotte on 5x flash, 2x superflash on flash, 1x superflash on steady, 1x Viewpoint Flashpoint on blink to be seen.
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Old 12-09-07, 04:37 AM   #7
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What is your price range and in what temps do you ride?
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Old 12-09-07, 04:38 AM   #8
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Thanks for the input, all. I should have been more clear - I'm still not sure what HID means (excuse my ignorance), and my goal is to lose the battery pack. I want something that takes standard cells instead of a bottle-sized battery pack. I'm think two of the Cateye EL500's will work. It also appears that converting candlepower to lumen is difficult, so I'll have to see how the Cateye compares to my CygoLite and go from there.

Ziemas: All temps, currently chilly (down to 10 F) and the price range is sub-USD $100).
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Old 12-09-07, 04:46 AM   #9
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Toddorado: Try the Dinotte 200L if you're looking for something that takes standard cells. Works best with 4xAA NiMH batteries.

With the sub $100 USD price range, look at the Fenix lights. They are flashlights, not bike lights, so they tend to produce more of a tight round spot instead of a cycling inducive horizontal oval, but they're great for long range illumination.

Also in the sub $100 USD range, a MR16 halogen with a good battery may be a good idea, especially if overvolted (see electronics, lighting, and gadgets), just make sure you have an extra lamp handy
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Old 12-09-07, 04:54 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Toddorado View Post
I'm still not sure what HID means (excuse my ignorance), ...
HID = High-Intensity Discharge

Instead of a filament like a regular halogen bulb or a solid-state emitter like an LED, it uses a small arc of charged gas to generate light.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-in...discharge_lamp
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Old 12-09-07, 05:19 AM   #11
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Thanks for the input, all. I should have been more clear - I'm still not sure what HID means (excuse my ignorance), and my goal is to lose the battery pack. I want something that takes standard cells instead of a bottle-sized battery pack. I'm think two of the Cateye EL500's will work. It also appears that converting candlepower to lumen is difficult, so I'll have to see how the Cateye compares to my CygoLite and go from there.

Ziemas: All temps, currently chilly (down to 10 F) and the price range is sub-USD $100).
You are asking for a lot with such a low price range, but if I were you I'd look either at the Fenix LD2 (I use 2 and am quite satisfied with them). There are several ways to securely attach them to either your handlebars or helmet, although I have no idea of runtime in the cold as it's been very warm here as of late.

The only other option I knew of that has a self contained battery is the USE JoyStick MaXx, although it is well out of your price range at $250.
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Old 12-09-07, 09:20 AM   #12
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HID to see and blinking LED to be seen.
Exactly!
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Old 12-09-07, 10:07 AM   #13
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HID? I currently have a less intense Cat Eye blinkie on the front, but like to see the road as well.
Not HID (nor as expensive) and I doubt that I have trouble with seeing or being seen



If your lights are bright enough you don't need to worry about being seen...or seeing. Look here for details.
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Old 12-09-07, 10:12 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Toddorado View Post
...my goal is to lose the battery pack. I want something that takes standard cells instead of a bottle-sized battery pack...
This may be a hard thing to do if you're looking to have a light that has a fair amount of runtime while putting out a decent amount of light. Ohm's law says we can't have both!

There are several key factors in bike lighting:
  • Small size and weight
  • High light output
  • Long runtime
  • Low price

You can't have everything on the list... you'll have to endure some pain in some areas to get what you want in the others. I gave up on small size and low weight to get bright and long runtimes at a decent price.
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Old 12-09-07, 10:33 AM   #15
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Here's a rundown on how lights are rated.
Lumens - total light output that's visible to the eye (our eyes are more sensitive to green, but headlights are typically white so that point is typically ignored)
Candlepower - how intense the light is at the brightest point of the beam
Watts - the amount of energy "consumed" by the light, regardless of whether the energy is converted to useful light, heat, or something else.

That being said, I agree it is really annoying how different light manufacturers rate their lights differently. For a given technology, more watts usually means a brighter beam at the cost of reduced run time.

LEDs are notorious for giving lots of light at one wattage, but giving only marginally more with greatly increased power. They are very voltage sensitive, making mods tricky. That being said, they probably stand out better versus cars due to their bluish tint for a given brightness. They tend to be highly directional, which is why the Cateye EL-500 can have 1000 candlepower. Its beam is tightly focused into a spot. The lower powered LEDs are much more efficient than halogen bulbs. in terms of light produced vs power consumed.

Halogens and other incandescent bulbs are readily scalable (it is often easy to swap a given bulb with another with more power at the cost of less runtime, or vice versa). Some halogen bulbs have built-in reflectors such as the MR-11 and MR-16, which are used in the cygolites. Halogens are more efficient at higher powers. A site that I find a useful reference is the British vendor reflectalite.com, which lists a bunch of the bulbs being made, their voltages, and powers. Nowadays getting a specific bulb is often difficult though. Halogens produce a yellowish white light like that seen with car headlamps. These bulbs fail catastrophically (they burn out without warning when they die).

HIDs are extremely efficient, and are the brightest lights around. They are very expensive ($400 US or more generally), and many will argue are too bright for street riding. I don't have personal experience with them, so I won't comment more on this topic.

You mention a light that has the batteries enclosed. I'd like to share again what I am using. I use a Sigma Sport Ellipsoid (no longer in production) with the stock 2.4 W halogen bulb replaced with a Maglite Magnum Star 5 cell bulb. It gives me around 80 or so lumens (plenty to be seen, and a reasonable to see light). With 2500 mAh NiMH rechargeables, I have a runtime around 90 min before the low voltage indicator lights up (in extreme cold, expect significantly reduced runtime though, however, you'd get a dimmer beam, not total failure). I am guessing that you could use a 6W or even 10 W halogen for that bulb for even more light if you wanted to. The funny looking quick-release clamp actually works surprisingly well, although one of them was worn out after a year of abuse. Nowadays the Ellipsoid has been replaced with the cubelight. In terms of cost, here's what I roughly paid. $10 for the light, $ 6 for the bulb, and $25 for the pack of 8 rechargeable batteries (no one sells packs of 5). I already had a charger, and the charger can also be used to charge all your other batteries around the house.

Beam patterns also can matter with what light you select. As I alluded to with the case of the Cateye, some beams are spot while others are flood. Different people have different preferences as to the beam pattern that suits them. A bad beam pattern throws light uselessly into the sky where it isn't needed. Light and Motion lights are known for their smooth beam patterns. Some people care about beam smoothness, while others don't mind a rough beam. There is basically no formal way the patterms are compared, so besides seeing the light itself there is no way to compare beam patterns.

Something I had mentioned a few months ago was the fact that terralux.biz has produced a halogen to LED conversion that may make even the cheapest halogen systems respectable "be seen" lights. Their Ministar1 given 50 lumens, and can be run off 2-6 cells. IIRC those sell for around $15 or so.

All in all, when it comes to lights, IMO it's usually more important to have one that works than to sweat the exact features of each one. If someone has a 50 lumen headlight, the person is probably better lit than 80% of the cyclists out there already. And most any light is enough to let others see you.
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Old 12-09-07, 03:00 PM   #16
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With all of the variations on the Cygolite Dual Cross, there are ample opportunities for getting one of the Li-ion versions on Ebay for perhaps a tad more than your 100 dollar range. I got one brand new for $125 and this thing is very bright! Not near as bright as the "Pro" version or the Tridenx.....but for commuting it is absolutely perfect.

I bought mine precisely for the reasons you mentioned. Small (and very light) battery that you can strap to your handlebars and get your bottle holder back....and lithium so you don't have to worry about the cold. Quick charging and smart charger. LED's lifespan is amazing, and the run times are excellent....even on high. And I don't even use high....the medium high is almost as bright. Tons of options for light output, including several flashing modes. Find a way to scrape together a few more dollars and get one of these, you won't regret it.
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Old 12-09-07, 04:16 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toddorado
I'm looking for output that is less than a car headlight, but enough to see 15 feet in front of me without squinting.
If you're relying on seeing 15 feet ahead by your bike light, I'm assuming that a least part of your ride is not on a street lit by overhead lamps?
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Old 12-09-07, 09:00 PM   #18
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If you're relying on seeing 15 feet ahead by your bike light, I'm assuming that a least part of your ride is not on a street lit by overhead lamps?
There is a good three mile stretch without adequate lighting. One night when I had remembered to charge my CygoLite, I noticed a few giant blocks of rock near a construction site that would have certainly thrown me had I hit them. I rode through the same stretch the next night (albeit carefully) with only a Cateye triple LED, and thought to myself, "This would be bad if I wasn't thinking enough to look for uncommon hazards" (which I usually do). The Cygo is barely enough, but it lets me know where the trouble is.

I was leaving work the other night/morning (snowed that night), and this extremely bright, what I thought was a motorcycle headlight-light approached me and I had to blink my brights at him. It was a bicycle.

I want one of those, but I doubt I'm going to get it in a size that runs AA cells...
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Old 12-09-07, 09:35 PM   #19
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I don't think the Cateye EL-500 is the OP's solution. The EL-500 has already been upstaged by the EL-510, and that still isn't bright enough. And as a down side to a LED, those Cateye's don't flash.

The new Niterider Minewt X2 is a really nice light.
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Old 12-09-07, 11:27 PM   #20
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Some 20 odd years ago BICYCLING (in the old Frank Berto days) lines up icons for all existing commercial lights and put a black bar to the right of each light. The bar length matched how far in front of the light the light intensity had dropped to some given level. Many bars were not much more then the width of a single letter. The AA and AAA alkaline battery kinds of lights use back then. Some good lights went 1 to 4 inches across the first page. Two light bars went all the way across the page and well onto the next page. These were a couple of almost DIY PAR36 based lights from Bicycle Lighting Systems in Fallbrook, VA. Nowadays some of the HID and better halogen systems will do the same. I truly want that study done again instead of the magazine that should not be named just plugging the latest snazzy LED or HID system.
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Old 12-10-07, 12:31 AM   #21
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The new Niterider Minewt X2 is a really nice light.
I've had the older version of the Minewt for about a year now and I love it. Battery pack is tiny, straps right onto my stem, and I barely notice it. It charges quick and its definitely bright enough to see the road in front of you.
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Old 12-10-07, 05:40 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Toddorado View Post
I was leaving work the other night/morning (snowed that night), and this extremely bright, what I thought was a motorcycle headlight-light approached me and I had to blink my brights at him. It was a bicycle.

I want one of those, but I doubt I'm going to get it in a size that runs AA cells...
that was likely HID or an uber-LED. they are pricey, $300+.

to see & be seen, my fave is a Fenix flashlight with a "fishblock" mount. they run on AA's and you can use lo mode to be seen, hi to see. Cheap, indestructable, simple... and o yeah, you can use it like a flashlight!!

cheers
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Old 12-10-07, 07:49 AM   #23
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I don't think the Cateye EL-500 is the OP's solution. The EL-500 has already been upstaged by the EL-510, and that still isn't bright enough. And as a down side to a LED, those Cateye's don't flash.

The new Niterider Minewt X2 is a really nice light.
...and the 510 by the 530. And even the 530 isn't comfortable as a sole source of light (trust me).

Right now I have a Dinotte 200L and the Cateye 530, and the combination is pretty good for running at 15mph at least, and will set you back about $175-$200 total.

If I had spare cash in my cycling fund, what I'd really like is a halogen for the bars (I looked at the Light & Motion Solo Logic) and an LED for the helmet (like the Dinotte). Advantage of the halogen is the big wide beam and more light for your money. Advantage of the LED is the greater reliability, more intense spot beam, and it weighs less for something you're mounting on your head. The two of them can be had for under $300.

It all depends on your budget, but I wouldn't try to ride in unlit conditions with less than a single Dinotte, around $140 or so.
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Old 12-10-07, 08:19 AM   #24
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Some 20 odd years ago BICYCLING (in the old Frank Berto days) .... I truly want that study done again instead of the magazine that should not be named just plugging the latest snazzy LED or HID system.
I remember those days. Frank Berto was great. The magazine was much better too (although to be fair, I didn't know as much). Bicycling started out as a newsletter and developed on influence of its merits. It wouldn't even take ads from automobile manafactures. I think it started to turn after Berto left. (That was a long time ago)
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Old 12-10-07, 09:09 AM   #25
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I ran a halogen for my first year. Works fine. I went to HID because I already had the system built for halogen, and for a bit over $100 I swapped in the HID head from TrailTech (purchased from BatterySpace). The difference is pretty big. Halogen is "good enough" but with an HID on the bike, cars wait for you thinking you're another car with a burned out headlight or something. This can actually get irritating; having a car wait 45 seconds as you grind up a hill makes me nervous as to what they're going to do when they see that I'm "just a bike". I'm thinking of mounting a cutoff to cut down the blinding aspect of the HID above the horizon.
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