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  1. #1
    Upgrading my engine DXchulo's Avatar
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    Best "see" headlight(s) for $300 or less

    I've been a commuter for a long time, but I've never needed anything more than "be seen" headlights on my commutes. I've kept my recreational dark riding to a minimum (maybe an hour in the dark at most), so I've never felt the need to buy a "see" headlight.

    My work schedule is changing soon and I'm going to have to do more of my recreational riding in the dark, so it's time to invest in a good headlight setup. I want quality stuff, but I can't really justify some of the $500+ lights out there. Any help would be appreciated on what you would recommend with about a $300 budget. Would you go for one light, or would you go for one on the bars and one on the helmet? I do like the idea of a helmet light because there are some twisty downhills around here where that could come in handy.

    Obviously safety is number one, but I'd say battery life is the next highest priority after that. I'm not too concerned about how convenient the mounting hardware is because I won't be commuting with it. Lighter is better, but weight isn't a high priority on my list. Nothing personal, but I'm not interested in a Dynohub at this time.
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  2. #2
    Cyclist storckm's Avatar
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    I really like generator lights. If you don't want to go with a generator hub, I'd recommend the Bausch und Müller Dymotec 6 sidewall generator. It runs about $50, and worth it: the roller is replaceable, and tension can be adjusted from very light to quite heavy enough to give traction in the rain or snow. I've used one for some years now, and won't be buying any other sidewall generators in the future--I've used about four other models. For the actual lights, I like the Lumotec Fly IQ plus, a quite bright LED with standlight for around $75. For a tail light, I'm not too choosy. Anything with a standlight is good enough, and it's easy enough to run two taillights, if you like. On my main commute bicycle, I have a fender mounted light from AXA and another on my rack (also AXA, I believe), both powered without any problems from the dymotec. So for well under $200, you can get together a quite good generator system. I have a B & M CYO IQ Plus (around $100) on one bicycle, and it's quite bright. With your budget, you could get the super duper $160 Luxos B (but not the $230 Luxos U), two taillights, the dymotec, and still be within your $300 budget.

  3. #3
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Go to http://www.action-led-lights.com/ and shop around there. The Magicshine 808 is similar to the $30 cheapies off ebay and at $80 gives you all the waterproofing and more rugged wiring. The $199 Magicshine is a heck of a nice upgrade from there.

    All the lights at Action-LED are good and are reasonable prices.


    If you want to try the inexpensive stuff first (this stuff works well for me but if I was starting over with the budget I have access to now, I'd probably go with one of the above).

    I really like the $30 "1600 lumen" bicycle lights off eBay, if you add in the wide angle lens also available for < $10 there. The two together are everything I want in a light as far as how well they light things up and how well they make me be seen. The runtime is pretty good at around 2.5 hours.

    The downside is the battery is not waterproof, so either you waterproof it with a plastic bag or add an extension cable and drop the battery in a waterproof pannier or something.
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

  4. #4
    Super Moderator no1mad's Avatar
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    OP, you stated battery life or run time is a top priority, but you failed to state the desired time. Your answer to that will help narrow down the field a bit.
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  5. #5
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    On- or off-road? Off-road, I hear, you want a hemispherical lighted area to see the tree limbs; on-road, you don't need so much coverage, and can save on the brightness and, therefore, get longer runtime.

  6. #6
    Upgrading my engine DXchulo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
    OP, you stated battery life or run time is a top priority, but you failed to state the desired time. Your answer to that will help narrow down the field a bit.
    The longer the better, obviously. I'd prefer 3 hours and up if possible. I know a lot depends on how often you're using the highest setting.
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  7. #7
    Upgrading my engine DXchulo's Avatar
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  8. #8
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    3 hours is kind of standard for most lights with a 4 cell 18650 pack. Maybe less but certainly over 2 hours, even for the $30 cheapies. I bought an 8 cell pack for $50 and get close to 6 hours on my Magicshine.
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

  9. #9
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    Go to http://www.action-led-lights.com/ and shop around there. The Magicshine 808 is similar to the $30 cheapies off ebay and at $80 gives you all the waterproofing and more rugged wiring. The $199 Magicshine is a heck of a nice upgrade from there.

    All the lights at Action-LED are good and are reasonable prices.


    If you want to try the inexpensive stuff first (this stuff works well for me but if I was starting over with the budget I have access to now, I'd probably go with one of the above).

    I really like the $30 "1600 lumen" bicycle lights off eBay, if you add in the wide angle lens also available for < $10 there. The two together are everything I want in a light as far as how well they light things up and how well they make me be seen. The runtime is pretty good at around 2.5 hours.

    The downside is the battery is not waterproof, so either you waterproof it with a plastic bag or add an extension cable and drop the battery in a waterproof pannier or something.
    Because of Colorado's wacky weather this year, I've had ample opportunity to test the waterproofness of the $30 cheapies. They've stood up to several drenchings without issue. The cells are encased in shrink wrap and that is enough to stand up to water of almost biblical proportions in my experience.

    Let me preface the next bit by saying that I have no problem spending money on boutique components for my bike. My bikes usually drip from the drool of the paid mechanics at my local coop when they look at the components. That said, it is hard to find a reason to spend more money on lights than the $30 cheapies off Fleabay. The damned things are as bright as the more expensive lights, have similar run times, are very well made, and are rugged as all get out. Paying 5 to 10 times as much really doesn't get you anything more. And, at $30 a pop, you can afford to buy 1 to 10 of them depending on your needs without breaking the bank. And when next year's model with a better emitter comes out, you don't feel too bad about leaving the old stuff behind.
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  10. #10
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    You don't need to go to Ebay. Cree XML "clone" lights can be found all day on Amazon for less than $25 complete with head mount, battery and charger. These things are probably 700 lumens. They're also Prime eligible. Replacement 4X18650 batteries are a whopping $12 (also Prime eligible) and last almost three hours on high. Bigger batteries are around $20. All of this stuff may or may not be reliable after a year or two, but at this price who cares?

    I seriously don't understand how they can possibly sell this package for that price and make any money. I almost feel bad about it. Regardless, look no further.
    Last edited by Hiro11; 09-18-13 at 08:20 AM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    Go to http://www.action-led-lights.com/ and shop around there...All the lights at Action-LED are good and are reasonable prices.
    Just throwing my 2 cents in here. I've had two of the Magicshine 808 lights for about 3 years now and they are fantastic. They are crazy bright at the high setting and reasonable at the medium or even low setting depending on your activity. I easily get between 2 and 3 hours at the highest setting, and the whole setup is pretty lightweight. I typically use them when I mountain bike at night with one on the bars and one on the helmet (I have one of the 2200mAh batteries that I strap the battery to my helmet). When using two lights like this, I will usually run them both at the medium setting and get plenty of light to bomb around technical singletrack. I have also used them when road riding and hiking. A light, battery, charger, and bar attachment strap is about $80. You could get two lights with batteries, chargers, and the helmet mount for under $200. If you wanted to get the lighter battery and mount it to your helmet, that would run you an additional $23.

  12. #12
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    Because of Colorado's wacky weather this year, I've had ample opportunity to test the waterproofness of the $30 cheapies. They've stood up to several drenchings without issue. The cells are encased in shrink wrap and that is enough to stand up to water of almost biblical proportions in my experience.
    I have a $30 ebay cheapie, and the battery died after the first time it got in the rain. I peeled back the plastic and it had clearly gotten wet and there was corrosion all over. I cleaned it up and it started working again, so I designed and printed this pack which is keeping it dry now:

    http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:60776

    I think just wrapping a plastic bag around the pack and setting it up so that the opening of the bag is facing down and the wire coming out there would be just fine too. But if you have a 3d printer you just want to print stuff all the time.
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

  13. #13
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    3 hours is kind of standard for most lights with a 4 cell 18650 pack. Maybe less but certainly over 2 hours, even for the $30 cheapies. I bought an 8 cell pack for $50 and get close to 6 hours on my Magicshine.
    8 Cell 18650 Pack

    http://www.lightmalls.com/waterproof...with-magic-bag
    Last edited by 10 Wheels; 09-22-13 at 10:35 AM.
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  14. #14
    Upgrading my engine DXchulo's Avatar
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    Any opinions on the Light & Motion Seca 1400? Looks like a good price at BTD: http://www.biketiresdirect.com/produ...400-race-light


    EDIT: The price went back up, so it's not such a great price anymore.
    Last edited by DXchulo; 09-21-13 at 03:23 PM.
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  15. #15
    Carpe Velo Yo Spiff's Avatar
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    I've settled on the Cygolite Pace/Expilion models. (Pace is the version they offer through Performance/Nashbar, but is pretty much the same thing). I originally bought a 200 lumen model and upgraded later on to the 400. The 400 lights up a dark trail nicely. Run time for me is usually 2-2 1/2 hours if I run it at 300 and just bump it to the full 400 as needed. I carry a spare battery with me, which I have only needed once in a great while. They can often be found on sale for under $100 and buying an extra battery will only add $30 to the cost. They also offer a very nice helmet mount for this series.

    I just had a look at Performance, and they have the Pace 750 on sale now for $110, plus an addtional 20% discount, which brings it down to the same $89 I paid for my 400 lumen model. http://www.performancebike.com/bikes...400158__400158
    Last edited by Yo Spiff; 09-20-13 at 12:30 PM.
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  16. #16
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Like the 2nd post.. you run up against the limited capacity of Batteries ,

    like a bucket full of water with a hole in the bottom.

    more watts = a bigger hole.. bucket is limited in size.. so run time shortens.

    hub, wont slip in the rain, or bottle dynamo, that will, offers the electricity to be made as you need it .


    one watt LED light may not be the Best , but an example the Planet Bike (US brand) imports
    a version with a 2 AA battery, and also makes the same light
    with a wire to connect it to the front hub dynamo with a plug into the hub ,
    and a plug inline , to remove the light, and put it in your pocket when you lock up the bike..

    [I, FWIW, just got a Shimano-Brompton Dynamo wheel for $100,
    & B&M LED head and taillights to run off it, for another $ 80.

    or thereabouts .

    still have the battery light clip on the handlebars, that is a tight spot superflash, and a blinkie se , up higher .. on the bike.

    so both come in at under the $300 ..

  17. #17
    Upgrading my engine DXchulo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yo Spiff View Post
    I've settled on the Cygolite Pace/Expilion models. (Pace is the version they offer through Performance/Nashbar, but is pretty much the same thing). I originally bought a 200 lumen model and upgraded later on to the 400. The 400 lights up a dark trail nicely. Run time for me is usually 2-2 1/2 hours if I run it at 300 and just bump it to the full 400 as needed. I carry a spare battery with me, which I have only needed once in a great while. They can often be found on sale for under $100 and buying an extra battery will only add $30 to the cost. They also offer a very nice helmet mount for this series.

    I just had a look at Performance, and they have the Pace 750 on sale now for $110, plus an addtional 20% discount, which brings it down to the same $89 I paid for my 400 lumen model. http://www.performancebike.com/bikes...400158__400158
    Thanks for the link. I'm going to add that light to the list of candidates.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member dougmc's Avatar
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    Nice, but it's pretty easy to do with a sandwich bag and some tape too. Do it right, and your battery won't get wet even if fully submerged for a few seconds.

  19. #19
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dougmc View Post
    Nice, but it's pretty easy to do with a sandwich bag and some tape too. Do it right, and your battery won't get wet even if fully submerged for a few seconds.
    If in the market for a new battery anyway, I'd just as soon go with something like that. It's a very good price for an 8 cell pack anyway.
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by DXchulo View Post
    Any opinions on the Light & Motion Seca 1400? Looks like a good price at BTD: http://www.biketiresdirect.com/produ...400-race-light


    EDIT: The price went back up, so it's not such a great price anymore.
    I've got a L&M Taz 800. Very bright light, good flood beam pattern. Run time at full power is 2 hrs though.

    In general, most battery lights are 2-3 hrs run time. Lights that use external batteries can get much longer run time.

    As for the dyno lights, the run time is infinite, but the lights <600 lumens so there's a lot less light. A Seca 1400 run at half-power would be brighter and provide closer to the 4 hrs of run time. Dyno lights are best when you want 6+ hrs between chargings.

    Given your situation, I would go with a light with an external pack and then get a second battery pack. The Cygolite 750 linked above is just over an hour at full power.

    If at all possible, find independent tests of lights. A fair number of manufacturers quote the maximum lumens from the LED, then run the LED at reduced power, or don't account for any optics losses. The Magicshines are the worst offender since they usually put out about half the claimed lumens.
    Last edited by gsa103; 09-22-13 at 10:04 AM.

  21. #21
    Upgrading my engine DXchulo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gsa103 View Post
    If at all possible, find independent tests of lights. A fair number of manufacturers quote the maximum lumens from the LED, then run the LED at reduced power, or don't account for any optics losses. The Magicshines are the worst offender since they usually put out about half the claimed lumens.
    MTBR has the best one I've seen so far: http://reviews.mtbr.com/2013-bike-lights-shootout/2

    I just wish they put more emphasis on battery life. The photos they have are very helpful.
    centuryperweek.blogspot.com

  22. #22
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    I don't have one, but this looks good. Uses 18650 batteries or 123 primaries. http://www.amazon.com/Fenix-BT20-Bik...nix+bike+light

  24. #24
    Senior Member CrankyFranky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
    Will the standard MS chager charge 'em? I love my 2 MS 808s and tail blinkys.

  25. #25
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CrankyFranky View Post
    Will the standard MS chager charge 'em? I love my 2 MS 808s and tail blinkys.
    It should work with it Ok.
    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
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