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  1. #1
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    Please help me choose between these lights

    I need to get a headlight now that it is dark in the early mornings. I don't want to spend a ton of money since I'm not sure how much I'll be riding, if at all, once the weather gets bad. So, I'm figuring I need it for Sept/Oct and next spring. This is my first year riding consistently and first time in darkness. I ride at 5:15-5:30 in the morning and today I waited til 5:45 since it seemed too dark and I only had a rear light. Some of the roads I ride have no street lights but if I absolutely have to I can stick to the roads that do have lights. If I get comfortable riding in the dark with a good light, I'd probably do it more often and wouldn't mind spending more next year if I need to. I picked up the Blackburn quadrant combo today but the distance is not very good it seems. I've read some good comments on the Planet Bike 5000x which is discontinued but Amazon still has right now. I'm also thinking of the Super spot or Sport spot. Planet bike website shows how each light shows up on the road but I'm not sure what would be best. The 5000 light is more yellow than the others but I don't know what difference that makes. TIA Michele

  2. #2
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chele519 View Post
    I need to get a headlight now that it is dark in the early mornings. I don't want to spend a ton of money since I'm not sure how much I'll be riding, if at all, once the weather gets bad. So, I'm figuring I need it for Sept/Oct and next spring. This is my first year riding consistently and first time in darkness. I ride at 5:15-5:30 in the morning and today I waited til 5:45 since it seemed too dark and I only had a rear light. Some of the roads I ride have no street lights but if I absolutely have to I can stick to the roads that do have lights. If I get comfortable riding in the dark with a good light, I'd probably do it more often and wouldn't mind spending more next year if I need to. I picked up the Blackburn quadrant combo today but the distance is not very good it seems. I've read some good comments on the Planet Bike 5000x which is discontinued but Amazon still has right now. I'm also thinking of the Super spot or Sport spot. Planet bike website shows how each light shows up on the road but I'm not sure what would be best. The 5000 light is more yellow than the others but I don't know what difference that makes. TIA Michele
    First a couple of bits of information. It only gets darker from here so be prepared. Here is a sunrise/sunset table for anywhere in the world. I've had one since the early 80's and I still use it daily during the winter.

    Second go here to see some more light comparisons. It doesn't cover every light made out there but it does cover the range of lights that are available.

    On to lights. Having ridden with something like the Super Spot, I can tell you that the lines will drive you crazy. You'll feel like you're riding with some kind of illuminated zebra Lots of stuff get hidden in those shadows. The Sport Spot puts out a wider beam that seems consistent from side to side but it looks like it can only be worn as a helmet light...not bad (I prefer helmet lights) but a little limiting.

    If you want to ride year around, don't skimp on lights. You'll eventually end up paying more for lights than if you'd just bit the bullet and bought something good to begin with. I'm not saying that you should go out and drop $300 on an HID but go a little more expensive and you'll get a better pay off. For example, the Niterider Trail Rat is a pretty good light for around $100 as is the Cygo Dual beam. Both are halogen. They don't have the run time of LED but they don't have the cost either. Nor do they have the output of HID but, again, they don't have the cost. They are a pretty good bang for the buck.

    You should have a back up light for any system (I run multiple, independent lights) since anything can go wrong. And, if you have a choice, go with a helmet light over a bar light. The helmet light lets you see into corners better and the motion of the light on your head gets attention.

    Good luck.
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the suggestions. I don't plan on riding thru the winter here. Even now I only need the light for 2 days a week so that's why I don't want to spend too much. I'll check out the Niterider. Nashbar has it on sale right now.

  4. #4
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    Any interest in making your own? If you do not mind having something that is not as pretty as a commercial light you can save some serious $$$. There are threads devoted to Do It Yourself (DIY) lights. White garments, reflective tape and safety vests help.
    This space open

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ken cummings View Post
    Any interest in making your own? If you do not mind having something that is not as pretty as a commercial light you can save some serious $$$. There are threads devoted to Do It Yourself (DIY) lights. White garments, reflective tape and safety vests help.
    I was reading a thread that describes that but it was old and I guess pictures must get deleted after a while. I'm not too concerned about being seen, I have a reflective vest, tape on the bike, and only wear a white shirt on my early morning rides and the new taillight is pretty bright. I don't know how hard it would be to make or how complicated to hook the light to the battery. I can hook up electrical outlets.

    I was looking at the Trail Rat but I guess there are a couple different versions and there are some bad reviews but it doesn't specify which one. The pictures in the link from the thread above look pretty good but I see a different one on sale. The review is for the 2.0 and Nashbar has the Select.

  6. #6
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chele519 View Post
    I was reading a thread that describes that but it was old and I guess pictures must get deleted after a while. I'm not too concerned about being seen, I have a reflective vest, tape on the bike, and only wear a white shirt on my early morning rides and the new taillight is pretty bright. I don't know how hard it would be to make or how complicated to hook the light to the battery. I can hook up electrical outlets.

    I was looking at the Trail Rat but I guess there are a couple different versions and there are some bad reviews but it doesn't specify which one. The pictures in the link from the thread above look pretty good but I see a different one on sale. The review is for the 2.0 and Nashbar has the Select.
    As long as you keep the lights simple...battery, switch, wires, light...they aren't hard to build at all. My favorite batteries are RC car batteries. Powerful, compact, rugged and relatively cheap. You can wire them in series to make higher voltages. They are also a little higher voltage than the most commercial light system use. This makes the light output from the bulb greater but does reduce the lifetime of the bulb slightly.

    I'm curious as to what the complaints about the TrailRat was. They are simple lights and not much can go wrong with them.
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

  7. #7
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    I think the complaint about the trailrat was the battery - that if you left it charging overnight
    you could overcharge the battery and fry it (this was an earlier version, I don't know if it applies
    to the ones they make now).

    Some user out there figured out a great way to prevent that - set a timer you'd use for setting
    lights on and off for when you leave on vacation and just set it to the time needed to charge the
    battery and plug it in and no worries. I think it was a 4 hour charge then have it shut off and
    no worries.

    Personally, I went for an HID setup. I'd been using gradually brighter and brighter LED setups
    but when I saw what HID could do and that I could get one for just under $200 I sprang for
    it. I figured that with the amount of $ I've spent on head and taillights over the years that
    easily goes over the $200 I spent for the HID.

    I just got back from up north and was down on the dock at the cabin looking at stars and used
    the HID as a light so I could see back to the cabin without falling down a cliff or something....
    there was no moon and it was pitch dark...

    I pointed it down the shore all the way to the end of the little promontory we were on and
    was able to spotlight foliage and could see that it was green from at least 3/4ths of a mile
    away. Almost too bright.

  8. #8
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aliensporebomb View Post
    I think the complaint about the trailrat was the battery - that if you left it charging overnight
    you could overcharge the battery and fry it (this was an earlier version, I don't know if it applies
    to the ones they make now).

    Some user out there figured out a great way to prevent that - set a timer you'd use for setting
    lights on and off for when you leave on vacation and just set it to the time needed to charge the
    battery and plug it in and no worries. I think it was a 4 hour charge then have it shut off and
    no worries.

    Personally, I went for an HID setup. I'd been using gradually brighter and brighter LED setups
    but when I saw what HID could do and that I could get one for just under $200 I sprang for
    it. I figured that with the amount of $ I've spent on head and taillights over the years that
    easily goes over the $200 I spent for the HID.

    I just got back from up north and was down on the dock at the cabin looking at stars and used
    the HID as a light so I could see back to the cabin without falling down a cliff or something....
    there was no moon and it was pitch dark...

    I pointed it down the shore all the way to the end of the little promontory we were on and
    was able to spotlight foliage and could see that it was green from at least 3/4ths of a mile
    away. Almost too bright.
    Ah, the ol' "I did something stupid so the light must be bad" complaint

    I've stuck with halogen mostly for cost concerns. I know that I could get more output and run time from HID but the cost really puts me off. Even at $200, that's pretty expensive. I like having at least two sources (one bar and one helmet) so I'd be looking at more like $400 I've had enough wires, batteries, mounts, connectors, etc fail that I just don't trust one lamp. If I were doing all night things, I'd consider it but the halogens that I've built have a 2 hour run time which is enough to get me to work and back with a little to spare.
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

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    I was rereading reviews again before making my decision and yes, I think some of them were about the battery. I don't see that as such a big deal. How hard is it to forget to unplug it unless you charge it in the basement out of sight somewhere?

    I remember reading something that said it really wasn't that bright for the money but the reason I hesitated is I saw the Trail Rat Select and the 2.0 but could not find much about the Select which was at Nashbar. I read so many reviews of so many different lights, I was getting overwhelmed. I ended up ordering the Cygolite Rover extra from REI. That doesn't have the smart charger either but I'll plug it in when I get home from work at 4:30 to have ready for the next morning at 5.

    I'm thinking about making something for next spring. How hard would it be to learn how to solder over the winter? I've seen a lot of posts mentioning that so I assume that is how you connect everything?

  10. #10
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chele519 View Post
    I was rereading reviews again before making my decision and yes, I think some of them were about the battery. I don't see that as such a big deal. How hard is it to forget to unplug it unless you charge it in the basement out of sight somewhere?

    I remember reading something that said it really wasn't that bright for the money but the reason I hesitated is I saw the Trail Rat Select and the 2.0 but could not find much about the Select which was at Nashbar. I read so many reviews of so many different lights, I was getting overwhelmed. I ended up ordering the Cygolite Rover extra from REI. That doesn't have the smart charger either but I'll plug it in when I get home from work at 4:30 to have ready for the next morning at 5.

    I'm thinking about making something for next spring. How hard would it be to learn how to solder over the winter? I've seen a lot of posts mentioning that so I assume that is how you connect everything?
    I use smart chargers for all of my batteries so that I don't have to think about unplugging them. I use Maha C777+ which aren't cheap but they do a very good job and they have analytical features that come in handy.

    The nice thing about the Niterider, and the Cygo, for that matter, is that the bulb can be easily changed to a brighter one. Halogen bulbs are cheap at BatterySpace...about 3 bucks. The TrailRat will handle a 15 or 20W bulb. Overvolting the bulb gives you about 50% better light output at a slight reduction of life. Not a bad trade off.

    Yes, I solder connectors together but you can also use crimp RC car connectors. They work but soldering just makes them more rugged. I also use connectors with low resistance called Dean Ultra connectors. They are futzier to make but are very rugged once you've made the connection.

    I'd suggest looking for a Niterider Sport 50. It was designed to be used with D cell alkaline batteries but the lamp and bracket are the same as the TrailRat. Ditch the bulb, keep the wiring, ditch the battery pack and pick up some RC batteries at BatterySpace or All Battery. You can make a pretty good system for around $100 and a damned fine one for $200. I'd go with 2 lamps minimum.
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post

    The nice thing about the Niterider, and the Cygo, for that matter, is that the bulb can be easily changed to a brighter one. Halogen bulbs are cheap at BatterySpace...about 3 bucks. The TrailRat will handle a 15 or 20W bulb. Overvolting the bulb gives you about 50% better light output at a slight reduction of life. Not a bad trade off.

    The Cygo I ordered has the 6w flood and 10w spot. You're saying I can change out these bulbs? I like the idea of the dual beam so even if I made my own, I'd probably want to stick with that, assuming I like it. It will be here Thursday. What could I safely change the bulb out to? 10w flood and 15w spot? I wanted to go with the Explorer because of the higher wattage but it's discontinued. I'd rather buy bulbs more often and have better light output but is bulb life the only thing you lose? Is there a safety issue like overloading a fuse?

    Yes, I solder connectors together but you can also use crimp RC car connectors. They work but soldering just makes them more rugged. I also use connectors with low resistance called Dean Ultra connectors. They are futzier to make but are very rugged once you've made the connection.

    One of the guys I work with said i could learn how to solder in 5 mins and if it didn't work, he'd probably do it for me.

    I'd suggest looking for a Niterider Sport 50. It was designed to be used with D cell alkaline batteries but the lamp and bracket are the same as the TrailRat. Ditch the bulb, keep the wiring, ditch the battery pack and pick up some RC batteries at BatterySpace or All Battery. You can make a pretty good system for around $100 and a damned fine one for $200. I'd go with 2 lamps minimum.
    I'd rather not buy stuff just to throw it away if I don't need to. Is the "geekiness thread" the best one for making your own? Since I haven't even tried the Cygo yet, I really am not sure what I need but I can always get the helmet mount for that and make my own for a bar mount. I think I'll be fine to get thru this fall but it would be fun to do over the winter.

  12. #12
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chele519 View Post
    I'd rather not buy stuff just to throw it away if I don't need to. Is the "geekiness thread" the best one for making your own? Since I haven't even tried the Cygo yet, I really am not sure what I need but I can always get the helmet mount for that and make my own for a bar mount. I think I'll be fine to get thru this fall but it would be fun to do over the winter.
    The battery pack on the Sport 50 is just a plastic box that you put D-cells in. You could get NiMH D-cells and still use it (it'd have a huge run time) but it's nothing special. The bulb in the light is a 7 W bulb which is pretty low power. A 15W is much better...and cheap.

    As for the Geekiness thread, I haven't been able to access it lately. I just tried and it came up...go figure There's lots of information there but there are also 62 pages of it and 1655 posts to sort through. That's a whole lot of hay and a little bit of needles Use the search function, you'll find something.
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

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    Thanks for the help. What wattage do you think the Cygo could safely go up to? 10 and 15 instead of the 6 and 10? Or just try both at 10w?

    There is a battery store about 1/2 hr from me. I think it's called Batteries Plus. I'll have to go in and take a look next time I'm up that way.

  14. #14
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chele519 View Post
    Thanks for the help. What wattage do you think the Cygo could safely go up to? 10 and 15 instead of the 6 and 10? Or just try both at 10w?

    There is a battery store about 1/2 hr from me. I think it's called Batteries Plus. I'll have to go in and take a look next time I'm up that way.
    I'm not sure what they use for the cases on the Cygo. I'd try a 10 and a 15 and keep an eye on it. As long as you are moving, the case cools quickly. I wouldn't leave it on for 15 minutes or more without airflow however.
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

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    Cygolite use to make a 6 D battery powered unit called the Metro that had 12 or 13 watts (can't remember which) but their web site no longer lists it so it's probably out of production, but you might still find it on Amazon or E-Bay. This light used 2 beams instead of one like the Sport 50. The first beam was a 6 (6.5?) watt flood while the other was a 6 (6.5?) watt spot and could run up to 6 hours on low. One of the posters here had one but can't remember who that was either. Regardless this light could also be upgraded to the next brighter bulbs that Cygo carries, but more wattage means less battery life.

    I have the Cygo NiMh Xtra dual beam light that has 16 watts and uses a recharge system. I opted for this light because it had more power plus it can still run for up to 6 hours on low.

    I prefer dual beam lights over single beam lights because if a bulb burns out on a ride with a single beam light your suddenly riding in the dark, with a dual beam you simply switch on the other beam and continue to ride in safety.

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    Quote Originally Posted by freako View Post
    Cygolite use to make a 6 D battery powered unit called the Metro that had 12 or 13 watts (can't remember which) but their web site no longer lists it so it's probably out of production, but you might still find it on Amazon or E-Bay. This light used 2 beams instead of one like the Sport 50. The first beam was a 6 (6.5?) watt flood while the other was a 6 (6.5?) watt spot and could run up to 6 hours on low. One of the posters here had one but can't remember who that was either. Regardless this light could also be upgraded to the next brighter bulbs that Cygo carries, but more wattage means less battery life.

    I have the Cygo NiMh Xtra dual beam light that has 16 watts and uses a recharge system. I opted for this light because it had more power plus it can still run for up to 6 hours on low.

    I prefer dual beam lights over single beam lights because if a bulb burns out on a ride with a single beam light your suddenly riding in the dark, with a dual beam you simply switch on the other beam and continue to ride in safety.
    This was the one I got. It just came last night and I got a chance to try it out this morning. I have to say I'm a little disappointed. From the reviews I read, I thought it would be brighter. The sky was starting to get light though so maybe that was why it didn't show up that well. When I turned it off, I didn't even notice any difference on the ground. But I also had the Blackburn Quadrant on and I could see that flashing at stop signs even in daylight. Only downside to that is on strobe it screws up my computer. Made the mph and overall miles increase a lot. I like the dual beams because of the spot and the flood. I'm going to research making my own with 2 20 watt bulbs and I'll keep this for a helmet light. I like the comment I read somewhere on here about the helmet light helping to keep cars from pulling out since you can look right at them.

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    My Cygolite is only 16 watts but it's more then bright enough for my needs. I've never seen the 12 or 13 watt job from Cygolite so can't comment on that brightness level. But the 6 D battery thing of the Metro would still be brighter then the Sport 50 that Cycocommute mentioned, so if your looking for that kind of battery capability I would get the Cygolite Metro over the Sport 50. That was basically my intention of my earlier comments. I would not put a 20 watt bulb in any light that came with only a 6 watt light because it could melt the housing or internal housing components; safely you could go to maybe 10 watts in that kind of situation.

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