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  1. #1
    Fat Guy in a Little Coat Nickshu's Avatar
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    How many Lumens do I need?

    Outfitting my cyclocross bike to start commuting to work. AM commute is in the dark and a couple miles on pitch black untraveled roads (part is dirt). I am trying to choose a headlight setup. I am looking at a 400 lumen Niterider system....it's kind of expensive, but the 200 lumen version is cheaper. How much do I need???, I have no reference for what brightness is required. Thanks!
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  2. #2
    another retro grouch Mr IGH's Avatar
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    IMHO, I could never have too many lumens. Here's a nice 900 lumens LED headlight/battery/charger for less than $100 shipped:
    http://www.geomangear.com/index.php?...roducts_id=138
    IGH's, Dyno Hubs, LED lights and old frames

  3. #3
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    Around 10,000. Preferably aimed directly in the eyes of motorists and other cyclists. That way a few of the folks here will have something to complain about.

    Seriously, I like around 1200 but 400 is fine.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    Short answer to the question is: As many as you need and not a lumen less.
    BTW, have you checked this out yet?
    Quote Originally Posted by Cyril View Post
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  5. #5
    Senior Member dougmc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
    Here's a nice 900 lumens LED headlight/battery/charger for less than $100 shipped:
    http://www.geomangear.com/index.php?...roducts_id=138
    Here's the same light, $10 cheaper.

    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.25149

    Haven't tried it myself, but I'm considering it ...

    I've got the flashlight from them that's $40 with the same LED. It's rated at 900 lumens but it's really more like 400 lumens. (Which is pretty nice, I must say.) But in the case of the MagicShine, they're driving it with higher voltage so perhaps it does do 900 lumens ...

    Currently, I'm using this setup --

    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.12060 $34.05 light
    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.8274 $1.54 mount
    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.5790 $8.18 two batteries
    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.1251 $12.30 charger

    and find it perfectly adequate, especially when I pack a spare battery. But it's a little more fragile than a standard bicycle light, so I always have a backup light ready to go. The backup is usually much dimmer, but that's OK -- it doesn't get used much.

  6. #6
    don't try this at home. rm -rf's Avatar
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    Completely dark roads (and no cars) doesn't need much light. Your eyes adapt. It's the mixed dark and streetlight sections, and car headlights, that needs more light.

    Then, how fast will you go? I have a 200 lumen Dinotte with a fairly wide beam. I would want to cruise at about 15-17 mph or so with it, and some riding up to about 20 mph. If you know the roads from repeated riding, and they have few potholes or other problems, you could go somewhat faster. Wet roads reflect much less light, so if it could have potholes, you would need to go slower to see them in time.

    Another option is to add one of the various 2-AA flashlights, like the 180 lumen Fenix, that have a narrower beam. These are great as a helmet light, so you can point it off the road or far down the road. Sometimes, car headlights coming toward you over a small rise in the road can completely make the road in front of you disappear in the glare. Then a helmet light, pointed down in front of your tire, can keep you on the road.

    It does make my neck stiff from keeping my head pointed steady for the whole ride, though. Now, for urban riding, I usually just mount it on the handlebars, and point it far down the road. I can't do dark, winding roads or fast 90 degree turns this way, though.

    If you want to go fast, you really need to be able to see around bends and corners, and lookout for animals near the road, and make sure drivers see you before they pull out from a side street. So a helmet light is pretty necessary.

    Run times figure into all this, too. I get about 2 hours on high with the 2-AA flashlight, 3 hours with the Dinotte.
    Last edited by rm -rf; 08-20-09 at 09:22 PM.

  7. #7
    CRIKEY!!!!!!! Cyclaholic's Avatar
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    The formula is...

    Lideal = Lmelt -1

    where...
    Lideal : ideal number of lumens
    Lmelt : the number of lumens that will melt the road in front of you

  8. #8
    Cold Rain and Snow Hot Potato's Avatar
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    I have about 500 lumens out of a Niterider Tri-newt. It is good. More would be better.

    If I am slow (15mph),depending on ambient light, low power is adequate. If I am fast (20mph), high power is just a tad under what I need in many situations. I have learned that when I ride fast, I must avoid the dark spots on the road because I won't have enough time/space to correct once I identify what it is. I am not sure if more lumens will fix this, since any handlebar mounted light will still throw shadows that you need to pay attention to. Perhaps I should illuminate from another angle, such as a helmet light, to improve this scenario.

    I prefer the Dinotte connectors to the Niterider Tri-newt. Dinotte has some awesome combos.
    Quietly elevating being dropped to an art form

  9. #9
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by DataJunkie View Post
    Around 10,000. Preferably aimed directly in the eyes of motorists and other cyclists. That way a few of the folks here will have something to complain about.

    Seriously, I like around 1200 but 400 is fine.
    The problem with eye searing, retina burning lights are not the complaints on this forum, but real world aggression from hostile victims. Very powerful lights physically hurt to look at; it feels like getting a spray of teargas. Powerful unshaped light cones also has the psychological effect that you feel that the light is purposefully aimed at your eyes and that the light is "tracking" you, even though the light is static and you are just crossing the beam.
    So shining powerful light cones into the eyes of pedestrians, cyclists and other oncoming traffic may result in aggression and even physical assault as a retaliation.

    The 900 lumens light referred to here and in another post:
    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.25149
    Has this interesting review: "Other Thoughts: This is the first bicycle light I have used that elicits complaints from people on the street. I light to grab the attention of cab drivers but the hostility of pedestrians is a bit too much."

    --
    Regards
    Last edited by interested; 08-20-09 at 10:33 PM. Reason: Spelling

  10. #10
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    The seriously portion would indicate that I was joking.

  11. #11
    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    Here's the same light, $10 cheaper.

    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.25149

    Something to consider: My first magicshine arrived DOA. I can count on geoman to take care of it. Dealxtreme... not so much.

    And for those that don't already know, the 900 lumen claim is total BS. My plan was to take comparison pictures against my Lupine Wilma, and check run times. Someone may have already beat me to it by now.

    It's a decent light for the money, for those that prefer something other than a flashlight clamped to the handlebar. The quality isn't super-impressive, but I think it's good enough. Only time will tell though.

    ------------

    To the original question... what you "need" depends on how much light you've ever ridden with. You'll have a hard time finding anyone who thinks their lights are too bright, regardless of what their setup is. I wouldn't want a friend of mine riding with less than 200.

  12. #12
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by DataJunkie View Post
    The seriously portion would indicate that I was joking.
    I didn't miss your exaggeration, but if a 900 lumens light causes aggression, so does a 1200 lumens light.

    The hostility problem is real enough and will rapidly become a much more common problem since extremely powerful LED lights becomes ever more cheap and therefore widespread.

    --
    Regards

  13. #13
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    Exaggeration <> joke

    Stop arguing with me or I will have to challenge you to a round of fisticuffs.
    *prays that interested is 5'4" and 100lbs*

  14. #14
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by interested View Post
    The problem with eye searing, retina burning lights are not the complaints on this forum, but real world aggression from hostile victims. Very powerful lights physically hurt to look at; it feels like getting a spray of teargas. Powerful unshaped light cones also has the psychological effect that you feel that the light is purposefully aimed at your eyes and that the light is "tracking" you, even though the light is static and you are just crossing the beam.
    So shining powerful light cones into the eyes of pedestrians, cyclists and other oncoming traffic may result in aggression and even physical assault as a retaliation.

    The 900 lumens light referred to here and in another post:
    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.25149
    Has this interesting review: "Other Thoughts: This is the first bicycle light I have used that elicits complaints from people on the street. I light to grab the attention of cab drivers but the hostility of pedestrians is a bit too much."

    --
    Regards
    I run far more than any LED light can put out and have never had anyone make any other comment than something along the lines of "Wow!". An automobile light is around 1500 lumens. My lights are in that range and I use 3 of them. It's not an issue. Part of that is being smart with how you use the lights, like aiming them so that they hit the ground in a reasonable spot and not intentionally trying to blind people unless they fail to notice the train coming at them. It's rarity but it happens
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  15. #15
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nickshu View Post
    Outfitting my cyclocross bike to start commuting to work. AM commute is in the dark and a couple miles on pitch black untraveled roads (part is dirt). I am trying to choose a headlight setup. I am looking at a 400 lumen Niterider system....it's kind of expensive, but the 200 lumen version is cheaper. How much do I need???, I have no reference for what brightness is required. Thanks!
    I'd say that just about any commercial system is too expensive for what you get now. 400 lumens isn't hard nor expensive to get with several lights (the Magic Shine and Deal Extreme P7 flashlights come to mind). Nor is it that expensive to make your own (based around the ancient technology of halogen lamps) that do far better than just about anything on the road. They may not be the lightest but they are still the brightest
    Stuart Black
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  16. #16
    Senior Member dynodonn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nickshu View Post
    Outfitting my cyclocross bike to start commuting to work. AM commute is in the dark and a couple miles on pitch black untraveled roads (part is dirt). I am trying to choose a headlight setup. I am looking at a 400 lumen Niterider system....it's kind of expensive, but the 200 lumen version is cheaper. How much do I need???, I have no reference for what brightness is required. Thanks!
    After lighting up last winter's commute with my Nightrider Enduro, I won't go back to anything less in brightness. The Enduro's lumen rating is between 400 and 500 lumen, and I have plans to upgrade to a 600 lumen led light which can be dimmed whereas the Enduro cannot, a useful feature especially after overhearing several peds and cyclists grumbling on being blinded by my light.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    I run far more than any LED light can put out and have never had anyone make any other comment than something along the lines of "Wow!". An automobile light is around 1500 lumens. My lights are in that range and I use 3 of them. It's not an issue. Part of that is being smart with how you use the lights, like aiming them so that they hit the ground in a reasonable spot and not intentionally trying to blind people unless they fail to notice the train coming at them. It's rarity but it happens
    If you aren't blinding people, then there aren't any problems and therefore no aggression towards you. But if you happen to blind people, intentionally or not with such a setup don't believe that the victims thinks nice thoughts about you and your light setup; they most likely curse you to a very hot place even if they don't yell at you or try to punch you or run you over in a fit of road rage.


    --
    Regards

  18. #18
    Senior Member Pig_Chaser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cyclaholic View Post
    The formula is...

    Lideal = Lmelt -1

    where...
    Lideal : ideal number of lumens
    Lmelt : the number of lumens that will melt the road in front of you
    hmmm, I always thought the formula was:

    Lideal = Lcurrent + 100

    Where
    Lideal = Ideal number of lumens
    Lcurrent = number of lumens you have.

  19. #19
    Senior Member GeoMan's Avatar
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    I ride with the Lupine Betty 7 (bar mounted at 1,500 lumens) and a Lupine Tesla 4 (helmet mounted at 700 lumens). I've ridden with them all including Dinotte's, NiteRiders, etc. Lupine gets mentioned most often for their prices. But, once you own one, you know what it is all about. Lupines are turn-key, beautiful, and expensive. That being said, there are now many great options in all price categories from all the top brands.

    IMHO, more "available" lumens = better

    The Betty 7 is bright but it has a neat handlebar mounted lighted switch that allows you to cycle various power settings easily - on the fly. When you ride up to a group, simply punch the switch with your thumb and lower to 10% power and everybody's happy. I'd have to say the lighthead switch on the Tesla is far less convenient than the Betty's remote but it works just fine. I just always hate removing my hand from the bar to adjust something on a rough trail.

    Remember, LED lights are usually programmable or can be dimmed to lower power settings. Of course, this increases run-times accordingly. You may never feel you need 1,500 lumens but it's there when you want extra light. I find myself adjusting the output depending on where I am in the "pack" (I can cause a pretty serious shadow for the rider in front of me even with his/her 400 or 200 lumen light on). I'm most often at full-power.

    I've never regretted having more lumens.
    Last edited by GeoMan; 08-21-09 at 06:05 AM.
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  20. #20
    Senior Member tarwheel's Avatar
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    That Magicshine LED looks like an incredible deal. I would be interested in hearing some reviews as to their quality, durability and light beam.

    However, in answer to your question, I think the need for high lumens is vastly overrated. I have used a Fenix L2D LED flashlight commuting for more than 2 years. It provides 180 lumens max, but I generally use it on the second-highest setting with about 100 lumens. That is plenty enough light for my purposes commuting on suburban streets. I would rather have the longer run time with 100 lumens (4-5 hours) than at 180 lumens (1.5 hours). Also, if you are riding on dark roads, you actually need a less bright light than if riding in brighter conditions, street lights, etc. On a very dark road, my light works much better than when it is brighter outside.

  21. #21
    Señior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    I just ordered the Magicshine from GeoMan, and expect it today. Previously I rode with a 20W halogen, upgraded to a TrailTech HID (which lasted 3 years then the voltage regulator (which I built myself) died). I rode last winter with a Dinotte 200L which is still fine. It's a nice light, but 4 miles of my route is gravel road which can be quite washboarded and there can be groups of potholes which if you don't see them at least 50 feet before you get to them (when riding at speed down hills) can be dangerous. I decided 200L isn't quite enough for that situation.

    Honestly, if it was pavement, 200L would be plenty for me. When I'm on pavement, even in the pitch black countryside, I actually run on 50% power almost all the time.

    But assuming that the MagicShine light is good (most people who have gotten it say it's crazy bright and a decent light for the money), if doing it over I'd go for the MagicShine now - it's cheaper, brighter, and has a longer run time.

    FWIW, I order from DealExtreme all the time - but in this case I ordered from GeoMan. They've been working with the manufacturer to increase the quality and features of this light, so we owe them some thanks there. And for the extra $10, you get a US contact, and you get the light in 2 days. DX shipping usually takes 3 weeks for me, and there's nobody at the other end that is going to help you very much. This is one case where I think it's foolish to save the $10.

    The MagicShine light can probably be compared most closely with the Lupine Tesla 4. They both have a LiIon battery, the same LED and similar run time. The Tesla is a better light; better build quality, probably a better driver so a little more light even though it has the same LED, a custom reflector, etc. Still, $90 versus $500 for two lights that are so close to one another, it's hard to beat the MagicShine.
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

  22. #22
    Senior Member
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    I wanted to add my simple answer too! Get at least the 200 lumen set up. I have a Light and Motion Stella 200 and cruising up to about 15 mph I feel confident in.
    But I also believe the more lumens the better!! So get what you can based on your budget. When you get more money you can move the old light to your helmet. That's what I did.

  23. #23
    Senior Member thdave's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by allroy71 View Post
    I wanted to add my simple answer too! Get at least the 200 lumen set up. I have a Light and Motion Stella 200 and cruising up to about 15 mph I feel confident in.
    But I also believe the more lumens the better!! So get what you can based on your budget. When you get more money you can move the old light to your helmet. That's what I did.
    The speed you travel is central to this. I agree with this post--I'm usually at 15 mph and I have a 180 lumen light, which I feel is adequate. If you're going 12 mph, I think 100 is probably fine. But if you're travelling at 18 mph or more, 200 lumens might not be enough.
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  24. #24
    Beer is delicious! Quickbeam's Avatar
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    It depends on how much lumenade you're trying to make.
    Rebellion without purpose is worse than conformity.

  25. #25
    Senior Member dan42's Avatar
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    What is the run time on the Magicshine? I am currently using an old cree dealextreme light but
    I have switched jobs and ride in an actual city now( I was riding in an extremely rural area) and
    need more light to see the crappy roads.

    Thanks

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