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Old 09-28-07, 02:18 PM   #1
GlowBoy
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Is it worthwhile for me to run a front blinky?

In addition to my homebrew system (3W Luxeon low beam and 35W high beam, both MR16 in Optronics housings, plus front amber and rear red LED side marker "running lights") providing steady light, I use self-contained blinkies in front and back to handle the blinking aspect.

For the front blinky, I've tried the Lightman amber strobe (underwhelming) and the Cateye EL-410. I want something brighter. Hopefully much brighter. I don't ride on shoulderless rural roads so additional rear conspicuity would be a waste. In the suburban to moderately urban environment where I ride, it is front conspicuity that matters. I just bought a PB (1W Luxeon) Super Spot, thinking it has a blink mode, but it doesn't. Am going to return it.

In the original version of this post I went on to propose several variations of front blinkies and ask which one would be most conspicuous, but the discussion quickly sidetracked into whether a front blinky would get noticed next to my bright headlight. I've moved my original question to this thread. The thread below is for discussion of whether my front blinky will get noticed next to my ~1200 lumen front headlight. I saw that it will, substantially. Others disagree. Let the discussion begin:

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Old 09-28-07, 02:40 PM   #2
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Why? In 27 years of riding at night, I've never seen the need for a blinking front light. Rear light...okay, with a steady red...but front blinky? If you lights are bright enough to see with and be seen, the blinky will be swamped by those lights. If your lights aren't that bright, you probably should be riding.

Put a light on your helmet and you'll get more attention than a blinker will ever get...or at least you can demand more attention
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Old 09-28-07, 03:08 PM   #3
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Why? In 27 years of riding at night, I've never seen the need for a blinking front light. Rear light...okay, with a steady red...but front blinky? If you lights are bright enough to see with and be seen, the blinky will be swamped by those lights. If your lights aren't that bright, you probably should be riding.

Put a light on your helmet and you'll get more attention than a blinker will ever get...or at least you can demand more attention
My rationale for a front blinker is that it also has a steady mode and can be used as an emergency headlight if my main headlights fail. (Which they sometimes do.) Also these flashing front lights like the Cateye EL410 are great to have around. I use them for "be seen" lights when riding right at sunrise, when it is light enough to see but i need to be seen. Saves having to mount up halogens on said occasions.
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Old 09-28-07, 04:48 PM   #4
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The point of this thread is NOT to discuss the validity of blinking front lights. [EDIT: now it is.] But since you asked, I will answer your question and hope that this side discussion then dies a quick death so we can address my actual question. If you wish to continue this discussion any further please open a separate thread for it. Anyway, here's my answer:

I believe the best system is a combination of steady and blinking lights. Steady lights are important at both ends so that motorists can get a fix on your position (and note that I have very bright steady lights at all 4 "corners" of the bike already) and in front so that you can see the road (also note that I have 3W Luxeon + 35W Halogen already in front, with the halogen about to be upgraded from 12V to 14.4V).

Blinking lights are helpful for conspicuity, even when used in addition to the 1200+ Lumen headlight I will be running. I have found that in an urban context with lots of lights coming from different directions, a bright blinking light adds substantially to conspicuity and helps me stand out from the other vehicles on the road. A blinking light, especially if it's not standard halogen white (i.e., either amber or bluish-white LED) can sometimes be better at catching people's peripheral vision. You noted the benefit of having one on your helmet, and as I already mentioned I have a PT Eos (blink mode) on my helmet. I'm just looking to add similar blinking brightness to my handlebars.

Back on topic, maybe I should just get the PT Eos Bike for the handlebars and be done with it? Doesn't sound like the Blaze or the EL320 will match it. Will still experiment with the Lightman in clear mode first.

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Old 09-28-07, 06:20 PM   #5
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I believe the best system is a combination of steady and blinking lights. Steady lights are important at both ends so that motorists can get a fix on your position (and note that I have very bright steady lights at all 4 "corners" of the bike already) and in front so that you can see the road (also note that I have 3W Luxeon + 35W Halogen already in front, with the halogen about to be upgraded from 12V to 14.4V).

Blinking lights are helpful for conspicuity, even when used in addition to the 1200+ Lumen headlight I will be running. I have found that in an urban context with lots of lights coming from different directions, a bright blinking light adds substantially to conspicuity and helps me stand out from the other vehicles on the road. A blinking light, especially if it's not standard halogen white (i.e., either amber or bluish-white LED) can sometimes be better at catching people's peripheral vision. You noted the benefit of having one on your helmet, and as I already mentioned I have a PT Eos (blink mode) on my helmet. I'm just looking to add similar blinking brightness to my handlebars.
Add a powerful steady light (not in blink mode) to your helmet and you'll get noticed far more than any blinking light...especially when you sweep it across someone's face.

Although you can do anything you like, I don't think that front blinking lights make you conspicuous. If your front lights are bright enough...and you are getting there...no one will see the blinking light anyway. When I come at someone with 89W throwing around 2500 lumens no one will notice a blinky light of any size short of a landing strip beacon If nothing else, people see my headlamps far sooner than they would ever see a blinky.
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Old 09-28-07, 06:46 PM   #6
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Blinking lights are helpful for conspicuity, even when used in addition to the 1200+ Lumen headlight I will be running.
If you have a 1200 lumen light facing forward no one from the front will be able to see any blinkies. They will be washed out totally.

Even a 500 lumen bike headlight will be much easier to see than a blinkie and can wash out a blinkie facing the same direction. It has a much wider angle of visibility. And you can see the light bouncing off other things as well.
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Old 09-28-07, 07:23 PM   #7
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Well, if a 1200 lumen light is washing out my blinkie ...

then the blinky ISN'T BRIGHT ENOUGH, is it?!

In any event, in the past I have found that even the EL410 or the Lightman adds substantially to the conspicuity factory. Remember that the EL410 or other blinky is aimed straight out in front of me, whereas the halogen is aimed down at the ground some distance in front of me. And the Lightman spreads its "beam" out in an extremely wide (perhaps too wide) pattern, but is still a substantial help from many angles. Even with the overspill of a nominally 25 degree halogen beam, either of these lights adds noticeably to conspicuity. But (like many on this forum) I want more.

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Add a powerful steady light (not in blink mode) to your helmet and you'll get noticed far more than any blinking light...especially when you sweep it across someone's face.
What would be the rationale for having the helmet light in steady mode? Beside the fact that I'd have to take the batteries out and recharge them midweek under this scheme, it seems to me that the steady light would be substantially less conspicuous, especially if you're trying to catch someone's peripheral vision.

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Old 09-28-07, 08:30 PM   #8
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Well, if a 1200 lumen light is washing out my blinkie ...

then the blinky ISN'T BRIGHT ENOUGH, is it?!

In any event, in the past I have found that even the EL410 or the Lightman adds substantially to the conspicuity factory. Remember that the EL410 or other blinky is aimed straight out in front of me, whereas the halogen is aimed down at the ground some distance in front of me. And the Lightman spreads its "beam" out in an extremely wide (perhaps too wide) pattern, but is still a substantial help from many angles. Even with the overspill of a nominally 25 degree halogen beam, either of these lights adds noticeably to conspicuity. But (like many on this forum) I want more.
What 2manybikes and I are trying to say is that there isn't a blinky...short of one that puts out as many or more lumens than the light you currently use...that is up to the task. Even aimed straight in front of you, people are going to see your headlights far sooner than they will see a blinking LED. A blinking LED faced front might get peoples attention if it were the only light you carried but people who do that are just trying to earn a Darwin Award

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What would be the rationale for having the helmet light in steady mode? Beside the fact that I'd have to take the batteries out and recharge them midweek under this scheme, it seems to me that the steady light would be substantially less conspicuous, especially if you're trying to catch someone's peripheral vision.
I'm talking about a lamp nearly as powerful as the 35W one you carry. I charge mine after each day's use. It's attached to a separate battery pack that I carry in my Camelbak. The first advantage to one is that your light goes where your eyes are looking. As you steer around corners, your head naturally looks into the corner and the light follows it. It illuminates areas that your bar mounted light will never touch. Secondly, a helmet mounted light can be turned in any direction your head can turn. You can illuminate things anywhere on the road you want. Third, a helmet mounted light moves around and catches people's attention far more then a blinking light. It illuminates signs (which are very reflective), it illuminates the road, it illuminates anything you are looking at. Fourth, a 20W halogen overvolted by 20% (12V to 14.4V) puts out over 700 lumens. If someone doesn't see you with that they are probably blind and/or aren't going to see you anyway. And, even then, as a last resort if they still can't see you, look them straight in the eye from even 50 feet and they'll see you. Or at least they'll see a big blue dot and they'll stop for that

With the light that I throw, I seldom have problems with being conspicuous. Far from it. Most times I get to an intersection, people waiting on the side street will wait for a long time because they just don't know what's coming at them.
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Old 09-29-07, 04:24 PM   #9
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Actually, I would have to agree with the OP. I think that a blinkie and a steady front light in combination is a good thing because it does help to attract attention. And, yes, I think that the blinkie would have to output the same or more light as the steady in order to not be washed out.

Right now, I am hoping to find a bright blinkie that would be a complement and backup to my JetLites Starfire.
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Old 09-29-07, 04:56 PM   #10
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The only blinkie that will not get washed out would be a fenix light running in strobe mode.. If this is all you are going to use it for, I would buy an L1D, since it is small and uses 1-aa battery.. could also be used as a light in a pinch..

https://www.fenix-store.com/product_...28f43d1e4bd603

I would also consider getting a helmet light for more directional and being seen lighting..
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Old 09-29-07, 07:25 PM   #11
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The NiteRider MiNewt and MiNewt X2 have blinky modes. May not have enough lumens, though, to shine through your steady headlights. When I use them alone (in blinky mode) at dusk, dawn or in fog they seem pretty effective.

I should add that I plan on adding a helmet light this season for the reasons already implied or stated above: Namely, It can play the role of a blinky if you need to attract someone's attention and you can direct illumination exactly where you want to if the fixed headlights aren't pointing, or can't point, in the right direction.
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Old 09-30-07, 02:11 AM   #12
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How about some Whelen tir3 modules, or similar, wired into your homebrew system. They come in all sorts of colors. They're made for auxiliary emergency lighting for police car mirrors, tow truck bumpers, etc. etc.

Personally I use both of my Fenix P3D's (one bar mounted, one helmet mounted) in strobe during the day and on turbo at night. Just had a co-worker today tell me he saw me while he was parked on the side of the road when I was several streets back (at about 2:30 in the afternoon). Definitely not getting doored by him, heh. I also had a truck driver think I was trying to pull him over once. Obviously he doesn't know the only light drivers are required to pull over for in California is a forward facing red light (steady burn or flashing). I've found the helmet light on steady is enough to get everybody's attention at night, and I think a really bright flashing light facing forward would distract me at night.
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Old 09-30-07, 02:33 AM   #13
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Here you go, Slugger, 600 lumens and it flashes.

http://store.dinottelighting.com/sha...Count2=1029610



Or you can go with this one for slightly more money with 830 lumens.

http://gretnabikes.com/item.asp?PID=77
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Old 09-30-07, 06:26 AM   #14
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Smile

I don't think you want to use the Lupine in blinking mode as you and others around you might get nauseous. I can see the point of a flashing amber light in daylight or dusk. Running 1200 lumens steady with an equal amount of lumens blinking seems pretty extreme. I have yet to have a car not see me when I run one of my lights at 500 lumens out front, but maybe you ride in areas with more surrounding lights around so that one light might get lost easier in a sea of lights. If I chose I could run my two HID's and my Lupine Wilma which are probably not too far from 2000 lumens combined on the street, but where I live I wouldn't even think of it as it would freak the heck out of the drivers coming at me and likely do more harm than good. Especially since HID and LED put out a more blinding light color than a halogen does.

Anyway, I hear the Dinottes make some great lights and have some nice amber ones, but I don't know if they would show up well when paired with 1200 lumens of steady light. I would think one of the Dinotte Triple Ambers would show up though. You must ride in some wild environment to need that kind of light. Maybe you could have someone ride your bike with all the lights going and you could then observe it and see how a driver would see you. It might give you a different perspective at least. Good luck.
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Old 09-30-07, 08:24 AM   #15
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I think GlowBoy is just trying to live up to his moniker.
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Old 09-30-07, 04:51 PM   #16
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Here you go, Slugger, 600 lumens and it flashes.
I think he's looking for a blinky, not something that induces seizures.
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Old 09-30-07, 09:23 PM   #17
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AFAIK, the brightest commercially available yellow front light that flashes is the Dinotte amber light. I purchased one as my daylight "be seen" light during a tour of Yellowstone. Works best in overcast/rainy conditions. I leave it on my commuter/early morning trainer all the time.

My front lights are a bar mounted Jet HID and a Dinotte 5L on the helmet. I expect to change the Helmet Dinotte for a 20w halogen in the near future.

While I agree with cycocommute in principal about the flashing light getting washed out, I believe that in flashing mode the Dinotte puts out more light than otherwise. I'm a great believer in the "the more the merrier".... at least as far as lights go.

I purchased the Dinotte amber light for use in poor visibility conditions as opposed to night time use. If I ran as much light as Bekologist does, I doubt that I would use the Dinotte.

I hope this is helpful in thinking about your issue.
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Old 09-30-07, 11:09 PM   #18
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I think he's looking for a blinky, not something that induces seizures.
Well he did say that it needs to be seen while he is using his 1200 lumen setup........

FWIW, I think the idea of a blinky while using a 1200 lumen setup is simply ridiculous.

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Old 10-01-07, 08:54 AM   #19
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Well did say that it needs to be seen while he is using his 1200 lumen setup........

FWIW, I think the idea of a blinky while using a 1200 lumen setup is simply ridiculous.


To say the same thing in different words......A typicall LED blinker will be invisible. Or, if the blinker is 500 lumens and blinking, it will be worse than riding with a strobe light, it will be terrible in the dark.

Lots of riders that say this is a good idea have no idea how bright a powerfull headlight can be or what it looks like from in front of the bike.
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Old 10-01-07, 09:04 AM   #20
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To say the same thing in different words......A typicall LED blinker will be invisible. Or, if the blinker is 500 lumens and blinking, it will be worse than riding with a strobe light, it will be terrible in the dark.

Lots of riders that say this is a good idea have no idea how bright a powerfull headlight can be or what it looks like from in front of the bike.
You da Man! Besides who wants to spend $300 on a blinky? Put the photons on the road...they'll do more good.
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Old 10-01-07, 05:43 PM   #21
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Have you ever driven toward your bike with its 35W halogen on? I have...well, toward my bike that is. It's blinding...and I only have a 25W (~720 lumens). It totally destroys my night vision and I can't see past it. I'm pretty sure cars think it's a motorcycle, and I have NO problem being seen and given right of way (even when I don't deserve it!).

I do agree that a blinkie will probably still be somewhat visible, especially a higher-powered one like the Dinotte. However, LED blinking lights are a dead give-away that you're a bike. Now, would you rather be identified as a bike and accorded the respect that drivers give bikes (ie, not much)? Or would you rather be assumed to be a motorcycle and given respect according to that status (however misconstrued)?

I pick motorcycle
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Old 10-01-07, 06:41 PM   #22
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Well he did say that it needs to be seen while he is using his 1200 lumen setup........

FWIW, I think the idea of a blinky while using a 1200 lumen setup is simply ridiculous.

You'll get no argument from me there. When I got my Princeton Tec SB3, stopped at the side of the road, leaned the bike up against the wall, walked 30 yards in front of the bike, and turned around and looked at the light. At a measly 250 lumens, at 30 yards, that light was blinding. There is no point in making something like that blink. With my two Fenix L2Ds and the SB3, the only people who can't see those lights probably shouldn't be driving at night anyway.
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Old 10-03-07, 02:13 PM   #23
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One thing I didn't mention in the OP was that I mostly don't end up riding in darkness on my morning commute, and I'm looking for conspicuity in (overcast) daylight . I don't always run the high beam in the morning, so regardless of how you feel about the "wash-out" issue I think the quest for a bright blinky is still a valid one.

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I think GlowBoy is just trying to live up to his moniker.
Exactly! It is a never ending quest. 800 lumens out of the high beam (Philips 35W x 24deg at 12V) is nice, but on rainy nights I could definitely use more. Can't wait for the 14.4V upgrade to 1440 lumens. Meanwhile, back to the original question and what seems to be nearly a consensus answer:

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I don't think that front blinking lights make you conspicuous. If your front lights are bright enough...and you are getting there...no one will see the blinking light anyway.
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A typicall LED blinker will be invisible.
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Originally Posted by Ziemas View Post
FWIW, I think the idea of a blinky while using a 1200 lumen setup is simply ridiculous.
Fair enough. After such a strong response I was even starting to doubt myself on this one.

So no better way to find out than to actually try it. This morning I parked the bike with the 800lum high beam on, and the wimpy little EL410 on in blink mode. High beam aimed down a bit towards the pavement, blinky aimed straight ahead, both as they would be in normal use. Checked it out from 100' away, a block away and two blocks away. What do you think I saw, guys?!

Well, you are all partly right, in the sense that the blinky is not clearly distinguishable as a separate light at anything over 50-100' away. However, it still adds a lot to my conspicuity profile, even at a distance. It makes the high beam very noticeably and visibly appear to pulse -- even at a quick glance, and even out of the peripheral visioin. It's attention getting, and distinguishes my vehicle clearly and quickly as a bicycle that may not be moving at the same speed or in the same pattern as other traffic. This is exactly what I'm hoping to achieve, and a brighter blinky would help me achieve it even better, as I originally suspected.

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Originally Posted by Sir Bikesalot View Post
I do agree that a blinkie will probably still be somewhat visible, especially a higher-powered one like the Dinotte. However, LED blinking lights are a dead give-away that you're a bike. Now, would you rather be identified as a bike and accorded the respect that drivers give bikes (ie, not much)?
I pick bike! People are very respectful towards bicyclists around here. [And yes, I realize this is not true in "normal" America. Every day of my life I count my blessings that I don't live there, believe you me.]

And thanks for acknowledging the obvious: that a blinky will help distinguish me from the other traffic.

The key is to have people realize you're there, even in complex traffic situations where you may not always be visible because of the other cars in between. People may not always have clear lines of sight to me, and I want potential conflict partners to notice me even if I'm not in their field of vision constantly. Think of one of the most common bike-car conflicts: I want oncoming traffic that might be turning left to notice well in advance that there is a bicycle on the right side of the road, even if they only see me intermittently in between the cars that are passing me, and not to make a sudden left turn -- directly into me -- right after they think it's "clear".

For me, when riding in traffic conspicuity is not an issue of whether people can see me -- any idiot legally able to drive can see a bike with a simple blinky and no headlight. It's about being noticed further in advance. It's about being noticed amongst all the other enormous amounts of light pollution -- much of it constantly moving and changing -- on the road. And I'm still (more so than ever) convinced that a reasonably bright blinky (30-100lum) can help achieve that, even in addition to a very bright steady light. Thanks for the discussion, and for prompting me to prove things out.

Last edited by GlowBoy; 10-03-07 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 10-03-07, 02:38 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by john bono View Post
At a measly 250 lumens, at 30 yards, that light was blinding. There is no point in making something like that blink.
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Originally Posted by john bono View Post
I think he's looking for a blinky, not something that induces seizures.
Exactly. Especially now that I've demonstrated that even a little blinky (what is the EL410? 10 lumens? 15?) can make me more noticeable, I want to make it clear I'm not looking for overkill. 250 lumens or more would be way too much light to be aiming up into traffic -- even in steady mode, let alone blinking. Even the 80 lumen headlamp (PT Apex) that I mostly use for mountain biking is pushing about as much as drivers will tolerate. I just want a blinky that is brighter than the EL410, but certainly no brighter than a 3W Luxeon.

That, and price, are why I'm not looking at the amber Dinotte right now, at least not for nighttime use. Although it would be nice for the morning commute. Hmmm... Anyway, mtngoat that you very much for the review.
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Old 10-03-07, 03:07 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by JeffB502 View Post
Oooh, just looked that up. Now that is what I'm talking about! Probably more visible than the Lightman with similar current draw, and I could hook it into my 12V system (I have enough batteries to change already). And at $50 it's in my price range.
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