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  1. #1
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    Night Commuting Lights: One 800 lumen or Two 500 lumen lights?

    Hi All,
    The days are getting shorter and my 20km commute down an unlit MUP will be in full darkness in only a few weeks (where did summer go?!). Since this is my first year of full-time cycle commuting, I'm still in the gear-acquisition stage, so I have no lights sufficient for illuminating the path, just blinkies for see-me visibility. Accordingly, I've begun to research lights; I'm prepared to spend up to $150 CAD, managing battery charging cycles is not a big deal for me (bike and lights will both be at my desk and can charge all day, and can charge again in the garage overnight), and I'm not looking to get into a dynamo system, at least for this year.

    So: MEC has two options that might suit my requirements: the Cygo-Lite ExpiliOn 800 for $109, or the Cygo-Lite Metro 500 for $65 - which I could fit two of into my budget.

    I like the idea of having two lights that I can maybe aim a little differently, and that if I have a failure on either light I'm not totally without illumination; but will two 500 lumen lights be equivalent to or brighter than a single 800 lumen light? Math says yes, but I gather there's an awful lot of uncertainty around effective brightness with bike lights generally. Do folks have specific experiences with either of these lights? I appeal to the wisdom of the Commuting forum!

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    Do yourself a huge favor and go to Action LED, I'm sure they ship to Canada, and get a couple of MagicShines. Put one on your bars and one on your helmet. I might even, now that I have three MS's, get one of the MagicShine clones sold on Amazon the next time around, but I would avoid mainstream lights with lumen outputs in the hundreds. Automatically halve the lumen output of any light you see. That makes a Magicshine a 450 lumen light. It should be instructive that I now own three of the things. I sometimes run all three! Usually just two. The one on my helmet is first generation with the XML emitter. The two on the bars are 2nd generation with Cree emitters. The newer lights are as bright on their middle level setting as the older light is on its highest power level. A light advertised as 500 lumens will be 250 lumens actual and... personally... I've been there. Some people can work with that but I can't. I'd understand it if the 500 lumen lights were cheaper but in fact they are much more expensive than a MagicShine. Some people say that that is because MagicShines are not well made... ... I don't know... I've had my older MS for close to four years and the newer ones for two years. I'm still using the battery pack that came with the older light. It should have long ago been unable to hold a decent run time charge. FWIW.

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    A single one of either of your choices is likely all you need. Do yourself a favor and spend any spare cash on one or two spare batteries. The real problem with battery lights, particularly when it gets cold is running out of charge. Spares can help, either in batteries or even spare lights that aren't used together.

    After swapping batteries and making sure they stay charged, you may decide that dynamo lighting isn't so bad.

    BTW, for your $150 budget you could get a decent dynamo lighting set-up as well. dynamo wheel, light, and connecting wires.


    Also consider a tail light as well.

  4. #4
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    Not all lumens are created equal. If the light has a good beam pattern, 500 lumens is plenty bright for most conditions. I ride with a single 600 lumen light (NiteRider MiNewt 600) and most of the time I use it on the medium power setting.

    The key is to find a light that makes good use of the lumens it provides. That's hard to judge before you have it. The annual MTBR light shootout is a good resource, but they don't seem to have reviews of either of the lights you are considering. My guess is that either would be pretty good. Cygolite is a reputable light maker.

    Personally, I'd go with one or two of the Metro. If MEC has a decent return policy you could get one and then either return it or buy another, depending on what you think of it.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by jralbert View Post
    Hi All,
    The days are getting shorter and my 20km commute down an unlit MUP will be in full darkness in only a few weeks (where did summer go?!). Since this is my first year of full-time cycle commuting, I'm still in the gear-acquisition stage, so I have no lights sufficient for illuminating the path, just blinkies for see-me visibility. Accordingly, I've begun to research lights; I'm prepared to spend up to $150 CAD, managing battery charging cycles is not a big deal for me (bike and lights will both be at my desk and can charge all day, and can charge again in the garage overnight), and I'm not looking to get into a dynamo system, at least for this year.

    So: MEC has two options that might suit my requirements: the Cygo-Lite ExpiliOn 800 for $109, or the Cygo-Lite Metro 500 for $65 - which I could fit two of into my budget.

    I like the idea of having two lights that I can maybe aim a little differently, and that if I have a failure on either light I'm not totally without illumination; but will two 500 lumen lights be equivalent to or brighter than a single 800 lumen light? Math says yes, but I gather there's an awful lot of uncertainty around effective brightness with bike lights generally. Do folks have specific experiences with either of these lights? I appeal to the wisdom of the Commuting forum!
    Two lights is always better than a single one. Stuff happens and any light can go on the fritz. If you are particularly unlucky, you can break 3 lights all at once but that's very rare. Having one fail do to any number of factors is far more common.

    That said, I wouldn't suggest either light above. You can find similar lights with similar run times and outputs on Fleabay or Amazon for a fraction of the price. Cree XML T6 lights are currently going for around $20. They are external batteries unlike the Cygo but for the price of a single Metro 500, you can get 3 lights...2 for the bars and one for your helmet. I've been using 3 for over a year now with zero issues.
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    Senior Member moochems's Avatar
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    I have a Cree led 1200 lumen magic shine "clone" (wannabe) from amazon. Paid about 25 dollars (US) for it shipped. I attached it to my helmet with some zip ties. I put the battery pack around part of my reflective vest. Not the most comfortable way to carry the battery, but I'm hesitant to put weight on my helmet, in case I crash.


    It works great. Plenty of light for my barely lit highway commute even on Saturday nights. I can shine it into the cabins of the cars and trucks that I want to be sure they saw me. Also I haven't had anyone roll down a window to tell me it is obnoxiously bright.

    I got caught in a very heavy rain with my light and it works fine. Very pleased with what I got, especially considering the price I paid.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by moochems View Post
    I have a Cree led 1200 lumen magic shine "clone" (wannabe) from amazon. Paid about 25 dollars (US) for it shipped. I attached it to my helmet with some zip ties. I put the battery pack around part of my reflective vest. Not the most comfortable way to carry the battery, but I'm hesitant to put weight on my helmet, in case I crash.


    It works great. Plenty of light for my barely lit highway commute even on Saturday nights. I can shine it into the cabins of the cars and trucks that I want to be sure they saw me. Also I haven't had anyone roll down a window to tell me it is obnoxiously bright.

    I got caught in a very heavy rain with my light and it works fine. Very pleased with what I got, especially considering the price I paid.
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  8. #8
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    The store I work in carries both of those. They're both bright enough and both are spots -not floods. Suggest you check the specs and think about your own commute. Maximum runtime on full brightness is given as 1.5 hours and recharge time is given as 5 hrs. It doesn't get any better - runtimes just get shorter as the battery ages.

    It is possible to mount two and angle them differently and that does give more effective coverage than a single brighter light. Keep on mind that the battery isn't user replacable so you're stuck with those recharge times. If you need more runtime on your commute these may not be the best choice unless you power them down to half power or less for at least part of the commute - entirely feasible if there's street lighting on the route or MUP.

    Don'r ride with those myself because I want more runtime than these will offer but suggest you stick with reputatable companies. Just for fun I have ordered some of the clones and lookalikes available on ebay and Amazon. I guess if someone's never actually seen or driven with a decent light - they might seem impressive. To say I was underwhelmed would be putting it mildly.

    Bike derailleurs all just shove a chain over too - but making a decision based solely on the number of speeds they're speced for would assume quality and performance is equal across the board and most cyclists know better. Lights really aren't much different.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Papa Tom's Avatar
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    Oyyyy...now I know why I gave up on buying lights. Too much information and none of it ever seems definitive.
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  10. #10
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    Hub dynamo and wired head/taillight , but for the folding bike , there I got a Planet Bike 1W superflash..

    thinking of a hub dynamo for that too the superflash dynamo version is 1w too..

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Burton View Post
    The store I work in carries both of those. They're both bright enough and both are spots -not floods. Suggest you check the specs and think about your own commute. Maximum runtime on full brightness is given as 1.5 hours and recharge time is given as 5 hrs. It doesn't get any better - runtimes just get shorter as the battery ages.

    It is possible to mount two and angle them differently and that does give more effective coverage than a single brighter light. Keep on mind that the battery isn't user replacable so you're stuck with those recharge times. If you need more runtime on your commute these may not be the best choice unless you power them down to half power or less for at least part of the commute - entirely feasible if there's street lighting on the route or MUP.

    Don'r ride with those myself because I want more runtime than these will offer but suggest you stick with reputatable companies. Just for fun I have ordered some of the clones and lookalikes available on ebay and Amazon. I guess if someone's never actually seen or driven with a decent light - they might seem impressive. To say I was underwhelmed would be putting it mildly.

    Bike derailleurs all just shove a chain over too - but making a decision based solely on the number of speeds they're speced for would assume quality and performance is equal across the board and most cyclists know better. Lights really aren't much different.
    Thanks, Burton - that's really helpful. My commute's only about 45 minutes long, an hour if I'm really dogging it on the heavy rain bike, and there are segments of that ride that are on lit streets as well, so I think 1.5hrs of full-power lighting ought to be sufficient for my requirements. I liked the look of these lights particularly because it looks like the battery is removable and therefore at least replaceable - Cygolite does offer replacement batteries on their site. The fickle nature of lithium ion batteries is well known to me from the day job, but I can deal with the need to replace batteries every few years if the lamp itself is reliable and does the job.

    It's good to know that the temptation to buy some 2200 lumen monster from an unknown manufacturer on the pacific rim for sixty bucks is not well founded.

    My inclination at the moment is to buy just one of the 500s and see if I feel underlit, with the option to pick up either of the two above-mentioned lights as a supplementary illuminator depending on how dark things seem.

    Thanks for the advice!

  12. #12
    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    With the cost of dynamos being somewhat cheap here (20 for the dynamo and 100 for a hand-tensioned wheel) and a reasonable front headlight running 50 ... I'm thinking that battery powered lights are a false economy.

    Especially, when electricity is running roughly $0.50/kWh.

    Then again eating the calories to spin the dynamo ain't so cheap either
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    I have completely migrated to high-powered dynamo lights nowadays.


    But if I were to get battery lights again, I would stay away from brand name lights.

    $65 plus tax for the Cygolite Metro 500 would allow me to buy two cree xml magic shine lookalike clones with much longer runtime.

    Bike lights are still essentially glorified flashlight with bike mounts, after see MEC's selections of Light & Motion and Cygolite, all of them are exactly that, flashlights on bikes.

    At the end of the day, a proper dynamo setup is still the best choice (for me), no battery charging to worry about.


    Damn, $65 for a bike flashlight, what a waste of money.

  14. #14
    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrbubbles View Post
    I have completely migrated to high-powered dynamo lights nowadays.


    But if I were to get battery lights again, I would stay away from brand name lights.

    $65 plus tax for the Cygolite Metro 500 would allow me to buy two cree xml magic shine lookalike clones with much longer runtime.

    Bike lights are still essentially glorified flashlight with bike mounts, after see MEC's selections of Light & Motion and Cygolite, all of them are exactly that, flashlights on bikes.

    At the end of the day, a proper dynamo setup is still the best choice (for me), no battery charging to worry about.


    Damn, $65 for a bike flashlight, what a waste of money.
    After riding a bikes with dynamos that conform to Germany's StVZO rules for beam patterns, I think that these high-powered "flashlight" types that throw out light everywhere really pale in comparison. I don't want the light up the night, nor do I want to pay for it. I want a focused beam where it counts.
    Last edited by acidfast7; 08-14-13 at 01:53 AM.
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  15. #15
    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    here's a nicely done technical review for those interested

    http://swhs.home.xs4all.nl/fiets/tes...ng_voor_dynamo
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  16. #16
    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    also, if you're into battery-powered lights, this one looks like the best on the market:

    http://swhs.home.xs4all.nl/fiets/tes.../index_en.html
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    Quote Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post
    After riding a bikes with dynamos that conform to Germany's StVZO rules for beam patterns, I think that these high-powered "flashlight" types that throw out light everywhere really pale in comparison. I don't want the light up the night, nor do I want to pay for it. I want a focused beam where it counts.
    Dynamo setups are prohibitively expensive in North America. The wheel and light itself cost more than most people want to pay for department store bikes. The dynamo hub I have, Shimano Deore XT dynamo, is not available in Canada, you can't even order it. The distributors don't carry it, nor do they carry prebuilt front dynamo wheel or dynamo lights.

    Those flashlight types are brighter than StVZO lights, it's just that they throw the light everywhere and they don't have cutoffs, which makes them hazardous as per Germans and Dutch. I don't mind blinding drivers here because they suck. The cygolites and light & motion lights sold by the popular outdoor retailer MEC doesn't have cutoff either, they're just expensive flashlights with bike mounts. My $15 600 lumen (advertised as 900) Cree XML zoom flashlight can create a much brighter hotspot, and the runtime is longer as the cell I use is 26650 lithium ions.

  18. #18
    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrbubbles View Post
    I don't mind blinding drivers here because they suck.


    That's a crappy attitude. When a driver is blinded that could hit you.

    Continue as you wish, but don't wonder why cycling infrastructure is in the crapper on that side of the pond.
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    Quote Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post


    That's a crappy attitude. When a driver is blinded that could hit you.

    Continue as you wish, but don't wonder why cycling infrastructure is in the crapper on that side of the pond.
    Around here, most of the people, and I mean vast majority of cyclists, either have no lights, or those dinky two 5mm led blinkers. Drivers here also like to be on their phone, or do something else besides paying attention to the road. A while ago, a woman scraped 3 parked cars because she was texting. Blinding them at least gets there attention.

    Cycling infrastructure in North America sucks because a: most people don't bike here (have you been in any major NA cities?), and b: the cities were built around cars.

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    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrbubbles View Post

    Cycling infrastructure in North America sucks because a: most people don't bike here (have you been in any major NA cities?), and b: the cities were built around cars.


    Simply put, motorists vote. There are more drivers than cyclists. When a cyclist pisses off a motorist they're likely to vote against an infrastructure project involving cyclists.

    Continue blinding people, continue being denied infrastructure, a downward spiral, similar to the flushing of a toilet.
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    Quote Originally Posted by acidfast7 View Post


    Simply put, motorists vote. There are more drivers than cyclists. When a cyclist pisses off a motorist they're likely to vote against an infrastructure project involving cyclists.

    Continue blinding people, continue being denied infrastructure, a downward spiral, similar to the flushing of a toilet.

    Infrastucture changes here in my region aren't led by voters. They're led by special party interest. Our city council just approved a new bike lane along prime waterfront properties, motorists hate it because it's a major arterial route, cyclists see it as victory (yes it is) but the real underlying reason is the property value. A multi-use path (mup) or bike lanes increase property values of the rich folks because it decreases the amount of cars used along that route.

    I (and some people) like to be alive, so temporary blindness to drivers who might not see me is acceptable. This is North America we're talking about here, this isn't Germany or Netherlands, or whatever the hell you are.

  22. #22
    http://www.538.nl acidfast7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrbubbles View Post
    Infrastucture changes here in my region aren't led by voters. They're led by special party interest. Our city council just approved a new bike lane along prime waterfront properties, motorists hate it because it's a major arterial route, cyclists see it as victory (yes it is) but the real underlying reason is the property value. A multi-use path (mup) or bike lanes increase property values of the rich folks because it decreases the amount of cars used along that route.

    I (and some people) like to be alive, so temporary blindness to drivers who might not see me is acceptable. This is North America we're talking about here, this isn't Germany or Netherlands, or whatever the hell you are.
    Nice attitude. Glad that I left NA with people like you around!
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  23. #23
    Senior Member G1nko's Avatar
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    OP: while you originally asked about one light vs. two, and, if you weed through the rapidly devolving conversation, you got some pretty good links and advice. I'm biased toward dynamo lighting, but I use both. I have an Expilion 500 I use on my non-dynamo bikes. It's a good light. I also use a Luxos B on my main commuter; it's a much better light in terms of lighting the road surface so I can see what's in front of me.

    I'm surprised Peter White Cycles hasn't come up in this thread. I've linked to his lighting page. He reviews and screen shots all the lights he sells. You didn't ask about dynamo lighting, but you should consider it. It's not "prohibitively expensive" as has been implied here. You need to make a basic decision whether you want to be recharging batteries all the time or just have lighting on demand (oh no, that's not a biased statement).

    Personally, I don't want to deal with batteries; they're a PITA. I got a Sanyo hub ($50) and spokes ($45) from Peter and re-laced my wheel myself. I picked up a B&M Luxos B from Harris ($160). Total outlay: $255 + shipping. Not, in my opinion, prohibitively expensive, however, YMMV. For that outlay, I have the peace-of-mind to know my light is always on; it's not going to die half-way to my destination; and I don't have to pull the light off all the time and remember to recharge it. In other words: set it and forget it. For me, that was worth the $$.

    As far as extra calories required to spin the dynamo are concerned, I'm just commuting. It takes me 30 minutes to ride the 8 miles to work on my non dynamo-equipped bike. On the other hand, it takes me a full half-hour to ride to work on my dynamo-equipped bike. So yeah, after about 30 seconds of riding, you really can't tell the difference. As far as the "dynamos increase drag" argument goes, ask yourself, what are you trying to acheive? Am I trying to get to work safely? Or am I trying to train for the TDF?

    Good luck.
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    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jralbert View Post
    Thanks, Burton - that's really helpful. My commute's only about 45 minutes long, an hour if I'm really dogging it on the heavy rain bike, and there are segments of that ride that are on lit streets as well, so I think 1.5hrs of full-power lighting ought to be sufficient for my requirements. I liked the look of these lights particularly because it looks like the battery is removable and therefore at least replaceable - Cygolite does offer replacement batteries on their site. The fickle nature of lithium ion batteries is well known to me from the day job, but I can deal with the need to replace batteries every few years if the lamp itself is reliable and does the job.

    It's good to know that the temptation to buy some 2200 lumen monster from an unknown manufacturer on the pacific rim for sixty bucks is not well founded.

    My inclination at the moment is to buy just one of the 500s and see if I feel underlit, with the option to pick up either of the two above-mentioned lights as a supplementary illuminator depending on how dark things seem.

    Thanks for the advice!
    You're welcome. I'll have to write in and ask about the replacement of those batteries. You're correct in that the 2013 model claims to have replacable batterues but - I can't find any spare batteries listed or specified on the Cygolite website.

    Not only is the specs on the bargin stuff outright exaggerated - the LEDs are overdriven, the heat sinking is inadequate and the wiring so flimsy on external battery models you're guaranteed it'll fail there with regular use. Some people may be happy with them - I wasn't. A decent light will get warm but not so hot you can burn yourself just holding it after a few minutes.

  25. #25
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mrbubbles View Post
    Infrastucture changes here in my region aren't led by voters. They're led by special party interest. Our city council just approved a new bike lane along prime waterfront properties, motorists hate it because it's a major arterial route, cyclists see it as victory (yes it is) but the real underlying reason is the property value. A multi-use path (mup) or bike lanes increase property values of the rich folks because it decreases the amount of cars used along that route.

    I (and some people) like to be alive, so temporary blindness to drivers who might not see me is acceptable. This is North America we're talking about here, this isn't Germany or Netherlands, or whatever the hell you are.
    I live in Montreal. I'm guessing you've never been there. It has one of the most bike friendly infrastructures in the world. Course - even that doesn't help if everyone driving a car or bike shows the same lack of consideration you seem to. Lots of people are idiots regardless of what they ride - doesn't mean you have to be one too.

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