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  1. #1
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    This year's experiment

    Years ago I gave up buying cheap stuff and trying to believe it was as good as the best on the market. Based on my own experience and that of my friends, it either broke, or didn't perform as advertised.

    Electronic items in particular have always been an issue for me simply because new releases are ridiculously expensive for what you get and support and parts seem to disappear long before I'm actually tired of the item.

    So after talking to some of the suppliers at this year's ExpoCycle about lighting systems and looking over this year's offerings, I really felt I was looking at the same situation all over again.

    Wrote to someone that seemed to be promoting a new product only to find out that on spite of all the apparent publicity - there wasn't actually a single item to ship. Not one. The guys at AyUp have about 500 units ready to go and I actually really like their system and service, but this was an opportunity to look at something entirely different.

    So wrote the guys at Vision X who put me in touch with Twisted Throttle who sent me a set of lights that originally caught my attention a few years back.

    Long story short - a pair of industrial grade 2x2 LEDs are already wired up and installed on a bike for testing. Power is sourced from a third party LiFePO4 paired battery pack that fits nicely in a water bottle and gives a projected run time of about 10 hours for the two lights.

    Mounting them was a PITA because I wanted something that could be swapped between bikes in less than 60 seconds and the provided mounts were intended to be permanently installed. So I junked their mounting hardware and came up with an alternative that does the job nicely.

    A series of interchangeable lenses varies the light throw from 10 degrees to 15 degrees to 35 degrees. Despite their small size, the light on the ground is whiter and gives better visibility than any car I've compared to in the street in a 3 hr period

    These people don't make a bicycle helmet mount but I'm pretty sure I can have something put together within a few days.

    Yeah - rather than trying to see how cheap I can get something, I do have a tendency to throw money at a project to achieve results. I also have a pretty good reputation for getting results.

    What I'm personally looking for out of this isn't one light that does everything, but rather a mix of components that can be used separately or together depending on the conditions and end use - on or off road. Which means it should be nice to oncoming traffic but be capable of serious coverage off-road which is really where my interest is.

    So far results aren't so outrageous that I expect to get stopped by the police, but impressive enough that I'm going to settle on and work with this set-up for at least the next few years. Weight? Like every other battery powered system out there - the battery weighs more than the light. From a practical point of view, I don't even know its there. What I'm personally more interested in is that these are specced for use on yachts so will handle any weather conditions - so I'll be checking that out by driving them in the winter.

    So far I'm out about $400 between the battery and a pair of lights and ahead by about 1,600 lumens. Probably closer to 2,400 lumens once I get a helmet mount together. But useful lumens. They seem to be able to be directed where they'll actually be useful to me, without being a nuisance to traffic.

    Have a camera mounted on the bike for still shots and video and will look into posting something in the next week or so.
    Last edited by Burton; 01-07-12 at 07:44 PM.

  2. #2
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Up-date

    To start off with let me state that this post isn’t intended to criticize or promote any manufacturer of bicycle headlights in particular. I’d like to simply point out that most light designs are simply not bicycle specific enough – and particularly not well suited to bicycling in the city.

    Safe driving at night relies not only on good vehicle lighting but is also dependent on reflective road signs, high visibility striping, streetlights, and the lights of other drivers on the road. An unlit, unmarked section of road greatly reduces visibility and calls for increased lighting or reduced speed or both. That’s true for cars, motorcycles, heavy vehicles and bicycles.

    The use of off-road lighting is illegal on public roads, and one of my issues is that too many lights marketed as bike lights fall into exactly that category, having no beam cut-off. On top of that, although on a bicycle adequate near lighting is critical and extreme headlight reach is a waste of lumens, there needs to be a reasonable balance.

    There’s actually a logic to automotive restrictions: a low beam cut-off avoids blinding on-coming traffic and low-beams typically have a reach of about 45 m (145ft). That covers the safety end of things since the braking distance of an automobile with a velocity of 60km/h is about 40 m. So within city limits where the speed limits are a max of 50km/h – that makes sense for motor vehicles.

    So what about bicycles? Since some riders will hit 50km/h (30mph), and it would typically take about 45 to 50 ft to stop at that speed, I’d personally like a light that would cover at least a 50ft range and still wouldn’t be offensive to oncoming traffic. But that’s easier said than done.

    Anyway, I stuck a pair of 10W LEDs on a bike and let me state up front - these are OFF-ROAD lights. They’re marketed for use on motorcycles, yachts, ATVs, law enforcement vehicles, and heavy equipment. However the reflectors, lumen output and technology is similar to many lights marketed for bicycles. And since they're rated at around 750 lumens each - they're not nearly as potent as some of whats being pushed for bicycles.
    DSC02062a 600x800.JPG
    This particular installation was done for personal use based on MY usage of the bike, some peculiarities of some of the components, and some components I already had on hand. It wouldn’t necessarily be as practical for another bicycle set up differently. The fork design on this particular bike compresses on lock-out so the beam pattern will drop to an approximate ‘legal’ configuration when lock-out is selected and reverts to off-road mode when the lock-out is released.
    DSC02071a 600x800.JPG
    So I can live with this light configuration simply because the bike is primarily intended for trails. But it’s a waste of lumens if just for the city.

    Motor vehicle headlights need to meet DOT and SAE requirements both for build and installation. So I tried to approximate some of those beam aiming requirements to make the light output ‘street legal’ and avoid blinding on-coming traffic.

    The light output from these is pretty good. Under an overhead light in the parking lot the beam is still visible.
    Streetlight.jpg
    But I'm not going to waste a lot of time on beam shots - I'll post some links to sites where that's already been done. These have been around for awhile but although this link is about 3 years old the beam patterns are still representative.
    http://www.pirate4x4.com/forum/showthread.php?t=825971j

    So using a wall at a distance of 25 feet as a target, the light was aimed downwards till the upper beam edge was no more than 36in off the ground. At that point the light dumped over 50% of the lamp output within the first 30 ft. A real waste of lumens because any of these will easily reach out to over 150 ft if aimed as intended - for off-road use.Single Fork Mount.jpg

    Mounting twin lights dosn't change the overall reach much. The issue isn't lack of lumens. Twin Fork Mounts.jpg

    Forcing the light into a ‘legal’ configuration using a fork mount meant the beam centre was at a distance of 11 feet with a 35 degree lens, a distance of 17 feet using a 15 degree lens and a distance of 30 feet using a 10 degree lens. Using 10 degree spots on the forks gave an effective reach out to maybe 50 feet.
    one eighth sec ISO 800 A 600x800.JPG


    one eighth sec ISO 800 C 600x800.JPG
    I did manage to fabricate a helmet mount for these and using a helmet mount not only gave better reach – it of course enabled me to actively move the beam centre (for my benefit and that of on-coming traffic) and of course is why most riders prefer a helmet mount. If I had to choose – a helmet mount is the best choice for the city. The absolute best combination was using two elliptical (15/45) lenses on the forks which moved the beam center out to 17 feet, still gave coverage at 7 feet but give broader coverage out to 55 feet. Adding a Helmet mounted 10 deg spot will augment light from 35 to 60 ft and pick out signage a couple blocks away. But I still have a lot of wasted lumens.

    There's a lake out back and I'll be testing these more completely over the next month or so. Lake shot.jpg

    Shaped lenses and a more intelligent overall design means fewer lumens will do a better job. Currently the Phillips elliptical design and units like B&M imported from Germany are among the few lights that seem to do that – probably because government regulations there give them no choice. I’d like to see much better battery life and run times myself and still have good lighting. I know it’s possible because I can get over 8 hrs run time myself with this set-up using just one bottle cage. But I also intentionally left out a lot of ‘consumer features’ on this set-up that were of no interest to me.

    DOT approved LED head lights are currently being produced for automobiles, and they incorporate several separate LEDs and lenses so that the individual high and low beams have different focusing distances and intensities. That’s very different from a simple dimmer. But at the moment they’re automotive size and too big for my uses. Which is why I was particularly interested in the DesignShine model, because apparently the design combines all of those: shaped lenses, a variety of LEDs with different intensities and focusing cones, and selectable intensities. I’m hoping we’ll see more products like that in the future. Probably the only way that’ll happen is if enough people decide they’re not happy with the currently available designs.

    I also drive a car myself and really don't like the idea of possibly having to deal with something like this:DSC02070a 600x800.JPG

    There's 1,500W of light illuminating the BACKGROUND in this photo and I still had to stop down the camera to avoid having the headlights completely burn out the shot. Strongly focused lights with narrow beams put some intense light in a small area and can be a major problem in traffic if used without some discretion. In California, I believe these are already illegal for use as running lights on motorcycles.

    So what about those 900 and 1,400 lumen bike lights? Not a criticism - just a concern.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by Burton; 01-15-12 at 06:26 PM. Reason: Link added

  3. #3
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Rationale behind the madness

    Actually this whole experiment had more to do with overall system flexibility and non-propitiatory power sources than anything else.


    Many of the other commercially available LED bicycle lighting systems operate off voltages below 12V. Anything from 5V to 7.5V depending on who makes it. That also locks you into their battery system and puts you at the mercy of product availability.


    And then there's charge time. The concept of 1.5 hrs runtime and 5 hrs charge time would just leave a bad taste in my mouth. I'd much prefer the 6 hr runtime/3 hr charge time I'm currently getting.


    And although the idea of one light that does everything might appeal to some people - it doesn't too me. Multiple lights give better depth perception and have the option of being split up and used across more than one bike simultaneously.


    Of course most people look immediately at weight and lumen output and look at run time last. Personally I'd rather have more run time than 1.5hrs or 2.5hrs and guess what? As soon as you start adding batteries to increase run time on something like a Lupine Betty or a Seca 1400, the weight jumps and the price starts to get even more ridiculous. For a single light anyway.


    So the lights I'm using will actually take anything from 9V to 60V as an input which means I can source an amazing range of high quality SLA, NiMh AA power packs, high energy Li Ion Polymer or LiFeO4 cells at a fraction of the cost (typically 25%) of the cost of lower capacity batteries for some of those other popular systems. And some of those I use for other purposes anyway. LiPoly batteries can range from $26 to $160 for the same capacity - the big difference is the discharge rate they'll handle. No point in paying a premium for a battery thas rated at 200A continuous discharge. I'll never need it and the battery won't last any longer.


    And since I personally have several bikes, this has worked out quite well. They'll plug directly into the output of the electric bike so no additional batteries required. And because the lights need a minimum of 9V to operate, it's also possible to use unprotected 3-cell high capacity Li Ion Polymer battery packs without over discharging the batteries.


    On a run-time per lumen and overall system cost I'm way ahead and total weight is dependent on how many lights I want to run at one time and the size of the battery pack(s) required to do that. These lights are actually mudular in design and can be clipped together to form a rigid light bar if that much light output is required. To arrive at an equivalent point for runtime at equivalent light outputs, I'd have to add several battery packs to a Seca or Lupine system. Those systems would be slightly lighter (slightly), but based on overall flexibility - I wouldn't swap for one.
    Last edited by Burton; 01-16-12 at 11:59 AM. Reason: Info added

  4. #4
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Helmet mount for Vision X LED lights

    Yeah, I know, this is a lot like Playboy magazines - people say they read the articles but without the pictures no-one would buy the magazines. So here's a few photos of the build just to demonstrate what a no-brainer this was.

    This Vision X units use (not included) a Trail Tech helmet mount and a proprietary adapter plate. I have several issues with the Trail Tech helmet mounting system anyway:
    (1) It can't be aimed
    (2) Its intended for full-face helmets as their HID lighting systems are targeted at off-road motorcyclists and downhill bicyclists.
    (3) It’s a quick release system that uses a plastic tab that'll break off in cold weather.
    (4) The 3M adhesive will also likely let go in cold weather too.

    So I junked it.

    Then after taking a few measurements, a Zefal MegaBelt Halogen headlamp that had seen a lot of use over the past 20 years was cannibalized. Even if still perfectly functional, it was probably obsolete years ago.
    DSC00068a 600x800.JPG

    Simply drilling out the metal rivets and adding a couple metal spacers was just about all that was necessary to let the Vision X unit drop in place.
    DSC00069a 600x800.JPG

    A small cut-out was also made under the light for additional clearance. The thru-bolt is standard issue on the rear of Rollerblade inline skates and needs no machining. A piece of foam to protect the helmet and keep everything in place and you're good to go.
    DSC00071a 600x800.JPG

    The straps I'm using are Velcro reclaimed from some Zefal anti-flat canisters but any Velcro straps will do the job. This whole conversion thing is literally a 15 minute operation.
    DSC00076a 600x800.JPG

    The result is solid, can be aimed, is about 10x brighter than the original Zefal halogen headlight, has about 3.25 hrs runtime on 2400mAh AA cells, and is slightly smaller in overall size.
    DSC00077a 600x800.JPG

    The runtime of the original Zefal MegaBelt halogen was only 2h 20min. Runtime using a Lipo battery depends on the battery capacity of course and can easily be 8 hours with a 6.6Ah 450g Lipo battery. Reasonably sized, plastic housed Lipo batteries are available in capacities up to 12.6Ah but the case actually weighs more than the battery so have to think about it. Cage Rockets weigh less and will already hold multiple 6.5Ah batteries.

    I could side-mount two of these lights on the same helmet but that’s overkill for the city and before considering that I'll be testing multiple fork and bar mounted combinations with cut-off lenses and spots to see what gives the most effective light distribution for off-road and on-road use anyway.


    The mounts used to fork-mount or bar-mount the lights for testing are Manfrotto 386B Nano Clamps. Weight is 3.8 oz (110g), payload is up to 8.8 lbs (4kg) so multiple lights can be mounted using only one clamp.
    DSC00064a 600x800.jpg

    Threaded mounts are 1/4-20in and 3/8in female sockets. That's combined with a 3/8in to 1/4-20in converter, a plastic plug, stainless bolt and rubber washer to give a solid mount and keep as much water out as possible. This'll do for testing but I'll probably come up with something more suitable once other details are worked out. Fork clamps for motorcycle steering dampers are a good bet.
    DSC00067a 600x800.JPG

    The weathers been funny and it’s hard to say how safe the lake is at this point but might have some shots of the power packs and fork and bar mounts up later in the week, even if I can't get some beam shots done on the lake.
    Last edited by Burton; 02-06-12 at 01:40 PM.

  5. #5
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    Post Interesting Post

    I'm not really sure why no one has commented on this post. You hit on some really good points. Particularly those concerning DOT and SAE requirements and the design of the lights themselves to give you useful lumens at the appropriate angle so you don't blind drivers on the road.
    You seem to have done your homework on this and have identified critical problems concerning bike lights in general. Maybe you should work out the logistics and patent your ideas or something.
    Anyway, great post.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Falchoon's Avatar
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    I think it's great that Burton has the time and money to come up with another good front light setup I must say I'm a big believer in not needing to re-invent the wheel or don't fix what aint broke. I use AYUPs on my bikes and think they are great (possibly better than Burton's lights) for the following reasons.

    Cost. The basic AYUP kit is nearly 1/2 price of Burton's setup. $250

    Equipment. You apear to get more equipment and features for your $ with AYUP. You get handlebar, helmet and headmount for the light, a mains charger as well as a car charger, an extension lead for the battery in case you want to put it in your jersey pocket or mount it somewhere else on the bike and also red caps for the lights in casr you want to use them as rear ones. The battery, though it is a dedicated one for AYUP and not AA or similar generic one, has a high and low beam function, flashing or steady and the latest 2012 batteries have "fuel gauge" built in that lets you know when they are getting low on charge. The standard battery is a (conservative) 3 hour one with a 6 hour one a $22 option.

    Compact designand ease of portability. It's a 20 second job to transfer the lights between bikes. The lights are small and light for those road racer weight weenies and still allow mounting of other accessories such as bike computers or bells on the handlebars and stem.

    Warranty.To some folks warranty is important. A bit tricky for non-Australian residents as I'm guessing most of you are as you will need to send them back to Oz if there is a problem, which I doubt you will have - I've had mine for about 4 years and they are working as well as the day I purchased them. No different to buying parts and accessories from UK retailers as a lot of us do.

    An advantage Burton's lights may have over the AYUPs is they could be brighter, probably more impoprtant to a MTBer than a commuter or roadie.

    Disclaimer: I have no connection to AYUP except being a happy customer. And, not dissing Burton's lights, just making what is meant to be an objective comparison.
    If at first you don't succeed, then skydiving definitely isn't for you.

  7. #7
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Falchoon View Post
    I think it's great that Burton has the time and money to come up with another good front light setup I must say I'm a big believer in not needing to re-invent the wheel or don't fix what aint broke. I use AYUPs on my bikes and think they are great (possibly better than Burton's lights) for the following reasons.

    Cost. The basic AYUP kit is nearly 1/2 price of Burton's setup. $250

    Equipment. You apear to get more equipment and features for your $ with AYUP. You get handlebar, helmet and headmount for the light, a mains charger as well as a car charger, an extension lead for the battery in case you want to put it in your jersey pocket or mount it somewhere else on the bike and also red caps for the lights in casr you want to use them as rear ones. The battery, though it is a dedicated one for AYUP and not AA or similar generic one, has a high and low beam function, flashing or steady and the latest 2012 batteries have "fuel gauge" built in that lets you know when they are getting low on charge. The standard battery is a (conservative) 3 hour one with a 6 hour one a $22 option.

    Compact designand ease of portability. It's a 20 second job to transfer the lights between bikes. The lights are small and light for those road racer weight weenies and still allow mounting of other accessories such as bike computers or bells on the handlebars and stem.

    Warranty.To some folks warranty is important. A bit tricky for non-Australian residents as I'm guessing most of you are as you will need to send them back to Oz if there is a problem, which I doubt you will have - I've had mine for about 4 years and they are working as well as the day I purchased them. No different to buying parts and accessories from UK retailers as a lot of us do.

    An advantage Burton's lights may have over the AYUPs is they could be brighter, probably more impoprtant to a MTBer than a commuter or roadie.

    Disclaimer: I have no connection to AYUP except being a happy customer. And, not dissing Burton's lights, just making what is meant to be an objective comparison.

    Actually I've mentioned a few times in these forums that I kinda like Ayup lights and think they're perfect for most cyclists.

    This set-up is being looked at for a number of other reasons that make it interesting for other applications. The lights I've mentioned will plug directly into the 12V system of the e-bike I'm using, which will eliminate the need and cost of additional batteries as well as have a minimal current draw. (Velec Electric Bicycles) The light is self regulating and will accept anything from 9VDC to 45VDC. The build is also rugged enough to permanently mount on an e-bike and stand up to the higher stress levels that cone with the higher average speed associated with e-bikes. A couple years back Velec dropped their lighting system because of too many broken light mounts and warranty issues. The housing on these has a limited lifetime warranty and a dust and waterproof rating. The individual units retail for about $120.00 each, and could be retrofitted to any of those bikes or possibly installed as OEM equipment. I'll be in touch with the gentleman who owns and operates Velec with the results if they're positive. He's nearby.


    I'll also be installing a number of these on a XC bike for off-road use. Normally if riding in a group everyone has some benefit of the combined light from other riders which is why I think Ayups are usually more than adequate. Riding solo off-road is always considered a little risky and not recommended - at night even less so. So even one of these helmet mounted and a couple fork mounted is probably overkill, but with cut-off lenses will probably be good day-time running lights anyway. At that point we're probably looking at about $400 for three lights and batteries, a continuous runtime of about 4 hours and a 2,200 lumen output.


    But these are also suitable for off-road motorcycles as well so if I put everything on the same machine and tie it into the electrical system, I expect to end up with about a 6A draw and 5,700 lumens output with a variety of lenses to distribute the light. Off-road racing vehicles with 12,000 to 20,000 lumens isn't unheard of and these units will actually stand up to continuous use without overheating.


    For bicycle use I've decided that RC Lipo batteries are the best bet and can be sourced without backorder issues. Low drain batteries are ideal which are also cheapest and 11.1V units (3S1P) are protected against over discharging simply because the LED shuts down at 9V. Have also 'built' a battery pack using 10x rechargeable AAs just to show that its not complicated and certainly not that expensive.


    So actually the point of this post was to demonstrate that even the average guy could put something together for about $150 (one light/ one battery)that would outperform and outlast most of whats currently being pushed on the Internet from China and still buy something made in the USA. One of the guys that owns an established local bike shop has been following my progress closely and has decided he wants to do the same thing for his own personal use. Considering he could buy anything else at wholesale - thats probably an indication that this has worked out pretty well.

    I also have ties with a number of shops and since these units and batteries can be sourced in quantity, and warranty issues handled locally, we may decide to offer kits.
    Last edited by Burton; 02-08-12 at 02:45 PM.

  8. #8
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by epic.legacy View Post
    I'm not really sure why no one has commented on this post. You hit on some really good points. Particularly those concerning DOT and SAE requirements and the design of the lights themselves to give you useful lumens at the appropriate angle so you don't blind drivers on the road.
    You seem to have done your homework on this and have identified critical problems concerning bike lights in general. Maybe you should work out the logistics and patent your ideas or something.
    Anyway, great post.
    Appreciate the input! The objective of this post was actually to encourage other cyclists to stop settling for what manufactureres want to sell them. These forums are ocassionally researched by retailers and if its clear there's an interest in longer run tines and better light dispersion they'll produce what there's a market for.

    In North America we're also dealing with an aging population and night vision is an issue for older people, as is pupil reaction time. There have already been hundreds of complaints logged about glare issues related with automotive day-time running lights and the governmebt is reviewing thise guidelines. Probably better if we can learn from that.
    Last edited by Burton; 02-08-12 at 02:36 PM.

  9. #9
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    LEDs on motorcycles

    A few links for amusement value to demonstrate how far bicycle lights are lagging (IMO) behind automotive LED applications. J B Speaker is already manufacturing and marketing DOT approved LED lamps for automotive use in trucks, cars and motorcycles. The Denali lights I've resourced for bicycles are manufactured by Vision X and equivalents have been used by NASA and law enforcement agencies for years already.

    BMW R1200 GSA Wild Crazy Denali Lighting

    Customized at GATEWAY BMW. The BMW R1200GSA, the most incredible bike on the planet, now with a lighting upgrade. Who needs the sun when you have a baja light kit like GATEWAY BMW set this bike up with.
    http://m.youtube.com/#/profile?user=loveandgasoline66


    Denali LED Lighting on Suzuki DR650SE
    ByTwistedThrottleComDec 22, 2009
    http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=Aa2XIc3WB5U

    LED Headlight
    BysaratherrienFeb 26, 2011

    L-A Harley-Davidson
    839 Main Street
    Lewiston, ME 04240
    207.786.2822 /
    http://www.l-aharley.com

    http://m.youtube.com/#/watch?v=-gQ7tjo8LPE

  10. #10
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Mr Falchoon, since you expressed such an interest in a comparison, I thought I'd explain exactly why, after looking at the Ayup lights, I decided instead to take this route.


    I'm not sure where that "The basic AYUP kit is nearly 1/2 price of Burton's setup. $250" comes from. A basic Ayup kit containing ONE dual light that can be EITHER bar mounted OR helmet mounted is $250AUD. Standard output is 400 lumens combined, or high output available on request. (560 lumens). But that affects all battery run-times and I want both high output AND long run-times.


    A single Vision X unit (rated at 900 lumens but probably closer to 750 lumens each) that can be EITHER bar mounted OR helmet mounted is $120USD and a battery and charger was another $80USD. Mounting brackets were included with the lights and I chose not to use them.


    You do appear to get more equipment and features for your $ with AYUP. The usefulness of some of that was debatable. You do get handlebar, helmet and head mounts for the Ayup light, but I wouldn't use them anyway. A mains charger is available for any battery and mine was included. Otherwise it was $20. A car charger is of no interest to me and an extension lead for the battery in case you want to put it in your jersey pocket or mount it somewhere else on the bike also came with my kit and I don't use it.


    The red caps for the Ayup lights in case you want to use them as rear ones are a good idea, but then you have no front lights, or you need to buy the dual twin-lamp kit for $420AUD for two units. I have dual Cateye 80,000 candlepower rear lights installed already. They were $25 each and have a run-time of 60 hours continuous use or 120 in flashing mode on AAA batteries.


    The Ayup battery is a 7.4V twin cell Lipo and not AA or similar generic type and would have no practical use for any other applications. It does have a high and low function, but thats not the same as a high and low beam. I'd like the beam pattern redirected and a beam cut-off incorporated for city use.


    Flashing modes aren't needed on cars or motorcycles because the output is high enough and run-time isn't an issue and thats also where I'd like to end up. I managed to get 4 hours out of a single 450g Lipo battery running two lamps continuously (rated at 900 lumens but probably closer to 750 lumens each) and can fit two of those on a Cage Rocket so can't see battery monitoring to be an issue. In any case a spare is smaller than an iPhone.


    Yup! Compact design and easily transferrable. It's a 20 second job to transfer the lights I'm using between bikes as well. The lights are small and suitable for either of my road bikes and fork mounting is an option that leaves the bars completely free. But a single helmet mount would probably be plenty in the city anyway.


    The Ayup lights are slightly lighter, but the batteries are the heaviest part of both systems in either case. I'm willing to trade a little weight for additional performance and flexibility.


    Warranty on these units limited lifetime on the housing and 10 years on the internals. There are dealers in both Canada and the USA to handle issues.


    These lights are seriously brighter than the Ayups, definitely more important to a MTBer but perhaps of some interest to a commuter or roadie as well. Thats probably better considered a feature rather than am 'advantage'.


    An advantage of these lights (to me) over the Ayup lights is that they are modular in design and can be linked together to create a high-powered lightbar that can be used on motorcycles as well as bicycles, and there a 12V system is a big plus as is lots more lumens. And weight would be a complete non-issue.
    photo.jpg
    Last edited by Burton; 02-12-12 at 11:23 AM.

  11. #11
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    So the 'experiment' was a success!

    OK So I finally managed to get some shots on the lake in spite of -17C temperatures. Some control or reference photos were also shot just to give some relative comparisons.

    I have a couple Blackburn Voyager 2.0 Front Light's mounted, which some people have stated are junk, but I personally find just fine in the city and for day-time running. And just to show how far things have progressed, I also hooked up one of those Petzl MegaBelt 10W halogen headlights from 20 years back too.

    In case anyone is interested, those photos were all handheld at ISO 100, f4 and 1sec which were the settings the guys at the MTBR forums decided were appropriate for high power beam shots. Normally they use a 4 sec exposure for commuter lights but I used a uniform time just to give a realistic relative reference. And the coverage is fairly representative of whats in front of you. Real life does have less contrast extremes.
    The distance to the wall is 35 feet. The sets of lights were mounted on the same bicycle, except for the headlamp of course.

    This is the Petzl which puts out about 35 lumens, is zoomable, and is pretty dismal at either setting.
    DSC02092Zefal 600x800.JPGDSC02091Zefal 600x800.JPG

    This is the Blackburn Voyager 2.0 Front Light (two of them). A very narrow beam that lights up stop signs two blocks away but doesn't give great lighting immediately in front of the bike. The Blackburn specs claim 30 lumens and I'm thinking thats a typo cause this is way more than that. A Knog Skink Strobe claims 100 lumens and the Blackburn blows that away so I'm thinking probably 300 lumens.
    DSC02090Blackburn 600x800.JPG

    The pairs of high powered LED lights weren't aimed directly at the wall - they were aimed slightly downwards so that the area in front of the bicycle would be illuminated and the light would not be in the eyes of oncoming traffic.

    The high powered LEDs are all made by the same company, use exactly the same P7 Seoul LED, are rated for the same 0.75A power draw, the same 900 lumen output, and were connected to the same power supply and aimed squarely. The difference is entirely the design of the lens assembly.

    This one uses a standard 35 degree cone shaped beam identical to what's found in most flashlights and bicycle lights.
    DSC02088a 600x800.JPG


    The light beam is narrow, and driving on rough roads would still be difficult because it would be hard to access the best route to pick. It has good 'reach, but poor 'spread'. I really don't need to see stop signs four blocks away, but would like to see whats coming up. Also, if aimed upwards to disperse a little more light, the beam will hit oncoming traffic - same as a high beam.


    And this other one uses a compound 15/45 degree spread to distribute the light horizontally where its most useful while restricting it vertically to keep it out of the eyes of oncoming traffic.
    DSC02086a 600x800.JPG

    Not only is a broader area illuminated more completely with the 15/45, it would be very feasible to drive safely with LESS light. Therefore a single light could be used instead of a pair to give better run-times and still provide excellent lighting. And this one is actually easy on the eyes while still being very visible!

    Manufacturers can manipulate apparent headlight brightness by using smaller cones. It lets them project the same output into a smaller area producing a brighter light or longer run-times or both. Both 10 and 15 degree cones are even more common (and more useless) than 25 or 30 degree cones. Many beam shots are taken in a manner that demonstrates how far the beam will reach - not how well/poorly the beam illuminates the first 30 to 40 feet in front of the cyclist - which is really the most practical thing for a cyclist.

    Personally I HATE tunnel-vision and conical light distribution might be better than nothing, but its not the best aid to safe driving. I need, not only to see where I'm going, but where I might have to go to avoid an obstacle, and also want to see a skunk or raccoon BEFORE it crosses my path!

    'Pencil' beams make sense for automotive driving lights where they supplement the reach of high beams at high speeds. Effective near-reach lighting is more appropriate for cyclists based at their driving speeds and the need to avoid what some cars can simply drive over.

    So IMO most bicycle lights don't do the job half as well as they could if the engineering emphasis was put on useful light distribution. Which is pretty much why I decided to scrape together something more practical for my own use.

    OK So here are some shots out on the lake where there are no range restrictions and no supplemental light sources.


    The Petzl just disappears even in a one second exposure. You can just barely see it if you look really, really, really closely.
    DSC02094Zefal 600x800.JPG


    The pair of Blackburns makes out better but I wouldn't want to drive off-road with it.
    DSC02095Blackburn 600x800.JPG

    A pair of spots is a lot better, but still doesn't quite do it for me.
    DSC02097TT 600x800.JPG

    A combination of reach and spread provided by 3,000 lumens of light directed by paired lenses gives a coverage I can drive at any speed with.
    DSC02098VXTT 600x800.JPG

    One thing to keep in mind is that these are winter conditions when reflectivity is at a maximum. Spring, summer and fall conditions need a lot more light, on-road and off-road. Asphalt and wet ground both really suck up lumens.
    This isn't a $9.99 solution and may not be to everyone's liking, but compared to some of the $900 solutions out there - it looks great to me!
    Last edited by Burton; 02-13-12 at 10:20 AM. Reason: photos added

  12. #12
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Power sources

    AA battery 'build'.

    There are so many per-manufactured boxes out there I can't see why anyone would 'need' to build their own battery pack from scratch. So I didn't either.

    I searched for an existing b0x that would take 10xAA cells and simply soldered a couple leads to it and loaded it with rechargeable AA's.
    DSC00061a 600x800.JPG

    DSC00063a 600x800.jpg

    Compared to Lipo batteries, rechargeable AA's are less suitable for high draw applications, but this pack will happily supply two 10W LEDs for a couple hours. Considering I already had three smart chargers in-house and lots of AA cells - this wasn't something that took a lot of thought. This particular one was a specialty box normally used to power radios and was $20.

    Lipo batteries

    These are ideal for high current applications and probably the lightest batteries currently on the market. Cells rated at 11.1V using 3 individual cells give the best performance for these lights and the least cell balancing issues. Hobby stores carry them for RC use. Their lifespan is usually less than 1,000 complete cycles. I started off with the Vision X battery, dissected and analyzed it, and decided I could get more for my money elsewhere. They're nice batteries, but Vision X don't actually make batteries. Like most lighting companies, they just buy and resell from battery manufacturers, and the volume isn't usually high enough to make the prices reasonable. So I was sble to buy some RC batteries with more capacity and built in protection for about half the price.

    LiFeO4 cells

    BatterySpace carries these and they'll give the highest number of charge cycles of any battery currently on the market. I do have some issues with some of the shipping charges and shipping policies that BatterySpace uses. They charge more and use UPS to levy fees that no-one else does. No-one 'needs' to use UPS to ship Lipo batteries within a country.
    Last edited by Burton; 02-18-12 at 08:03 PM.

  13. #13
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Threads updated

    OK So I've updated a couple of these with additional photos to make things more interesting. I'm thinking that's probably as far as I'll be going. The camera I currently have will only capture video at 30 frames per second which doesn't work well when mounted on a bike.

    What I am curious about is how much or how little light different people need. I'm guessing 'how much' is probably dependent on traffic, road conditions and available lighting where different people drive.
    Is light or visibility your biggest issue?
    Last edited by Burton; 02-12-12 at 12:33 PM.

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    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    So after driving with a couple different configurations, the only real change to the strategy is going to be that rather than swapping lights back and forth, I'll be permanently installing an array on the e-bike and plugging it directly into the electrical system, and keeping a seperate array on the mtb that might get shared with the hybrid. I can light up the road clearly for 80 feet in front of the bike on low beam and the rear lights paint the road red for 25 feet behind me.

    The feedback has all been positive from pedestrians and cyclists - everyone wants one - they just don't want to pay for it!
    Last edited by Burton; 05-22-12 at 07:28 PM.

  15. #15
    Motorcycle RoadRacer cehowardGS's Avatar
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    That looks like a serious setup there. The two front burners along with the helmet, you will be able to see big time. Not only that, you will be seen big time too..

    I might have missed it, is cost of that setup up there, in the middle, or low.. Most likely middle to high..

    Again, great setup...
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  16. #16
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cehowardGS View Post
    That looks like a serious setup there. The two front burners along with the helmet, you will be able to see big time. Not only that, you will be seen big time too..

    I might have missed it, is cost of that setup up there, in the middle, or low.. Most likely middle to high..

    Again, great setup...
    Hi my friend - check your e-mail when you have a chance and you'll find a few iPhone shots that give a pretty good idea how effective it is in real life!

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