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  1. #1
    Senior Curmudgeon FarHorizon's Avatar
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    The best headlights under $100?

    Time marches on and technology improves.. Yesterday's $150-$200 headlights are (mostly) now in the under-$100 range. In addition, there are new ones popping up all the time.

    So at the beginning of 2015, who makes the best headlight for <$100?

    Notes: All prices below are, for consistency, via Amazon. I threw out any light with less than 1,200 lumens and any where the price exceeded $100 U.S. The contenders I see are (in order of light output):

    DClick Super Bright 7x Cree - 10,000 lumens (?!?) for $64.98
    Refun 2000 Cree T6 - 2,000 lumens for $14.99
    RioRand Cree 3-LED XML T6 - 1,800 lumens for $29.95
    SecurityLNG Waterproof LED - 1,800 lumens for $35.19
    Fenix BC30 - $1,800 lumens for $99.99
    OxyLED BL 15 - 1,500 lumens for $39.99
    Supernight Cree XML T6 - 1,200 lumens for $19.99
    Bright Eyes Rechargable - 1,200 lumens for $39.97
    Xeccon Spiker 1206 - 1,200 lumens for $74.95

    What brands have I missed, and of these, which (if any) are the best values for the money?

    And before @FBinNY jumps on me again, this is not a theoretical question - I'm in the market for a headlight! LOL

  2. #2
    Senior Member Garfield Cat's Avatar
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    It's the best gift card that you can get from anyone. When's your birthday?

  3. #3
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    Is the new headlight intended for road or off-road use?

  4. #4
    Senior Curmudgeon FarHorizon's Avatar
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    I'll be using mine on the road. The after dark rides I take can be DARK since much of the bike-path mileage and some of the road miles lack street lights.

  5. #5
    Ex-Post-RBR Marcus_Ti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FarHorizon View Post
    Time marches on and technology improves.. Yesterday's $150-$200 headlights are (mostly) now in the under-$100 range. In addition, there are new ones popping up all the time.

    So at the beginning of 2015, who makes the best headlight for <$100?

    Notes: All prices below are, for consistency, via Amazon. I threw out any light with less than 1,200 lumens and any where the price exceeded $100 U.S. The contenders I see are (in order of light output):
    Your problem...I would not trust any of those manufacturers to give a remotely accurate brightness readout. Quite honestly, I'm skeptical any of those lights do more than 500-700. One reviewer on Amazon took one of those lights apart and found the manufacturer lied about which LED elements they were using.

    Put it in perspective a police car hand-spotlight is around 800lumen from what I've read. 1000-1500 lumen is in the area of car headlights in terms of brightness You SEE, car lights are much more tightly regulated and manufacturers are kept more honest than bike parts where everyone lies and gets away with it. No way in hell in sub $100 battery powered bike light is brighter than a generator (well, alternator and 12V battery) powered car headlight.

    Quote Originally Posted by FarHorizon View Post
    I'll be using mine on the road. The after dark rides I take can be DARK since much of the bike-path mileage and some of the road miles lack street lights.
    Lighting for DARK is easy, aside from engineering the beam focus/throw. It is lighting for badly lit streets that is the problem, as lots of bike headlights get washed out quite easily by sodium street lights and the like.
    Last edited by Marcus_Ti; 01-29-15 at 08:00 AM.

  6. #6
    Senior Curmudgeon FarHorizon's Avatar
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    Well, Mountain Bike Review, http://mtbr.com, did a test of actual vs. claimed light output. Here it is:


  7. #7
    Señior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    My current favorite light is one of the spotty Magicshine clones from eBay, about $20, with a wide angle lens from Action LED Lights added to the front. Total cost < $30. I've got several lights and that's the one I like the best; it has a flat beam pattern which lights up the road excellently without glaring into people's eyes, and it uses an external battery pack so I can decide how much runtime I want by just using bigger packs.

    Total light output is probably about 600 lumens. Yeah, it said "1600 lumens" when I bought it.

    I also picked up one of the "5000 lumen" lights with two emitters. It works but it'd kind of junk in comparison. The beam pattern is like a bonfire, just all over the place, it only actually puts out maybe 900 lumens at most, and it kills the battery fast.
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

  8. #8
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    Speak of the devil and he shall appear.

    I probably wouldn't have posted since I don't do product comparisons. But here's some general advice that might help.

    Try to find review sights that have photos showing actual illumination, so you can make side to side comparisons. The listed outputs on many lights are often BS, especially those well above 1,000lm. Even if they're not, the beam pattern is as important as the rated output, so you really need photos to compare.

    I find that a decent light with about 1,000lm (legit) is very adequate for my commute. Perversely, I ind that I need brighter lights where there's more ambient light, than on dark unlit roads where the light I'm throwing seems brighter by contrast.

    Then consider battery life. You want double what you expect to need, since running batteries down to 25% or so regularly is hard on batteries and will kill them faster.

    If your budget allows, consider two lights. A brighter one as the main light. And a lighter, less bright light with longer battery rating, as either a fill in light, or to be left off as a spare. Lights die for any number of reasons, and it's nice to have a Plan B.
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  9. #9
    Ex-Post-RBR Marcus_Ti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FarHorizon View Post
    Well, Mountain Bike Review, Mountain Bike Review ? The Best Mountain Bike Brands and Parts Online - Mtbr.com, did a test of actual vs. claimed light output. Here it is:
    And all the lights that went over 1K lumen are basically outside your pricerange (barring Amazon sale price as you note, which makes a few of them land in your price range)...also the good ones have an FL1 standard sticker on them. You can hit 1K lumen, which is insanely bright and annoyingly bright for an MUT that is actually pitch dark. Something that actually bright I'd worry would cause accidents due to completely blinding oncoming MUT traffic.

    Hell I have a NiteRider Lumina 750 I got (was sent it by mistake) and it is painfully bright.

  10. #10
    Senior Member loimpact's Avatar
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    Your answer...... Fenix BC30. ($99 @ Fenix)

    /thread

  11. #11
    Senior Curmudgeon FarHorizon's Avatar
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    My plan B is to have a helmet-mounted light as the spare. If the bar light dies, I've got the helmet light and vice versa. So what I'm hearing from youse guys is that having more than 1,200 rated lumens (probably 900 "real" lumens) is sufficient for road riding if (and only if) the pattern is right? The light I'm currently using throws a focused, round beam, but it isn't too bright.

    My commuting buddy uses three independent lights on the bars (a RAIL - Redundant Array of Inexpensive Lights). For the <$30 he has in the trio, he has pretty good lights and absolute redundancy. Of course, the down side is the weight, but I'd think that if he had a single retina-burner up there with its battery pack, he'd have about the same weight?

    Since I already have two or three cheap LED lights, that may be the most inexpensive way to go.

    I'll have to post a photo of said buddy's commuter bike - It's the most garish thing I've ever seen, but he says that he's NEVER been ignored by motorists... He has the three front lights, two tail lights with a blinky strip on his carrier box, battery powered Christmas lights that blink wrapped around all his frame tubes, and about eight spoke lights per wheel. To supplement driver awareness, he has a 120 dB air-can horn that he can use to get attention.

    Since I don't commute on my bike, I don't feel that I need that lighting coverage, but for those rare group rides that I do after dark, I'd like to have something more than the single light I'm now using. Doubling up on the bar lights may be the cheapest (and best) option. I'd gotten so involved in looking at brighter lights that I'd forgotten about the RAIL option.

  12. #12
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    I really like my Magic Shine Clone - with a diffusing lens. This light is awesome for less than $25 .......

    "Retirement is the best job I ever had!" Me, 2009


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  13. #13
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    The problem with these cheap Chinese lights is that they are an abomination on the road in terms of beam pattern and brightness. In a dark road with no traffic or off-road, obviously no one cares. These lights do have their place and application. But when you are sharing the road (or bike path) at night and the light blinds others from far away, it becomes a big deal in terms of safety. Notice this is why car lights are regulated and are forced to have low beams. There are good battery bicycle lights that have excellent beam pattern and running times designed for the road. Their rating is in lux (not lumens) which measures how much useful light (distant-wise) they provide on the road ahead of you. You need to look at European (or Japanese) lights since they have to conform to stricter road safety norms. Generally they are not that much more expensive (less than $125.) I suggest you look at Peter White Cycle's website for options or at some of the bike shops across the pond. Many offer free (or low cost) shipping to the U.S.

  14. #14
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    The $5 focusing/diffuser lens makes a huge difference. Turns it into a rectangular beam, which is very easy to aim correctly. It's almost magic!

    "Retirement is the best job I ever had!" Me, 2009


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  15. #15
    Señior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Pringle View Post
    The problem with these cheap Chinese lights is that they are an abomination on the road in terms of beam pattern and brightness.
    Exactly why I made the suggestion that I did. Get one with a shiny (not orange peel) reflector, so that the light is quite spotty, then put on a lens from Action LED Lights that spreads the beam out to the sides. The beam pattern is then really pretty good. I like it as well as the two full cutoff lights that I have owned (both of which meet German standards, and therefore IMO are nowhere near bright enough to actually commute by in my conditions). The brightest such light I've owned was 80 lux, and regardless of claims, it was NOT NEARLY bright enough for my commute. Not even close.
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

  16. #16
    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    The diffuser lens does work great on the Magicshine, especially if your ride takes you places where seeing more to the side is a benefit. It is for me when I ride the bike path when the skunks are out. I use that on the handle bars and 1 or 2 helmet lights to see when turning or to reduce the likelihood of people turning into me. I got a C8 flashlight from Mountain Electronics as a late Christmas present this year, and it looks like it's as bright as the Magicshine. I'll be able to test it when the pavement is drier/cleaner, but it looks like it outperforms the cheaper Ultrfire 501b flashlight I've been using on the helmet by a large margin. And it was $30.
    Last edited by no motor?; 01-29-15 at 05:06 PM.

  17. #17
    Senior Curmudgeon FarHorizon's Avatar
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    lux: a unit of illumination, equivalent to 0.0929 foot-candle and equal to the illumination produced by luminous flux of one lumen falling perpendicularly on a surface one meter square. Symbol: lx.

    lumen: the unit of luminous flux, equal to the luminous flux emitted in a unit solid angle by a point source of one candle intensity.

    Just so we understand terms...

    And regardless of beam pattern, I still think there's merit in my friend's RAIL system. The lights with high patterns he just points lower. The lights on the sides, he angles outward for peripheral view. With three cheap lights, he gets both the distance and the pattern that he wants. When the ride changes from trail to road, a few quick adjustments rearranges the pattern for the terrain. Cheap - simple - flexible - who could want more?

  18. #18
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Off your List.. I Own None of them. My last purchase in the Battery Headlight category is B&M IXON IQ, Busch & Müller: IXON IQ
    didn't spend Up to the latest Premium version , Its Higher LED out put is Brighter . but its selling for over your $100 cut off . the prior version is within your Benjamin.



    BTW off road Enduro MTB riders have different needs than someone that shares the road with other People ,
    so on the Street Overkill that dazzles the oncoming Driver is Bad Practice.
    Last edited by fietsbob; 01-29-15 at 12:29 PM.

  19. #19
    Senior Curmudgeon FarHorizon's Avatar
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    Hi @fletsbob - You, as usual, make a good point! Yes, lights that could be overkill for road riding are probably but marginally bright for dark trails. I've avoided off-road riding at night because I knew that my midget $10 special wasn't adequate. I also agree that a retina-searing spotlight is a VERY bad idea for riding in traffic.

    This argues yet again for my bud's "multiple cheap lights" strategy for commuting & road riding, the "RAIL (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Lights)." When he wants more light, he just flicks on the next light on the handlebars. If he gets off the road onto a dark trail, he can turn them all on for the duration. The helmet light to supplement the handlebar lights also seems a fine idea.

    So my original question concerning the best sub-hundred-dollar light is probably moot for road riders & commuters. Off roaders may need a single bright light, but even they could probably get by with an array of inexpensive ones.

    Cheers! FH

  20. #20
    Senior Member Spld cyclist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    Exactly why I made the suggestion that I did. Get one with a shiny (not orange peel) reflector, so that the light is quite spotty, then put on a lens from Action LED Lights that spreads the beam out to the sides. The beam pattern is then really pretty good. I like it as well as the two full cutoff lights that I have owned (both of which meet German standards, and therefore IMO are nowhere near bright enough to actually commute by in my conditions). The brightest such light I've owned was 80 lux, and regardless of claims, it was NOT NEARLY bright enough for my commute. Not even close.
    I guess I'm one of the rare few that doesn't like the Action LED diffuser at all. I find that the beams spreads out too much laterally, lighting parts of the road I don't need to see. At the same time, it reduces the length and brightness of the patch on the road directly in front of me, where I need to see. I much prefer my Chinese clone light without the diffuser, but it's far from ideal either way. I really wish it had an orange peel reflector.
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  21. #21
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Spld cyclist View Post
    I guess I'm one of the rare few that doesn't like the Action LED diffuser at all. I find that the beams spreads out too much laterally, lighting parts of the road I don't need to see. At the same time, it reduces the length and brightness of the patch on the road directly in front of me, where I need to see. I much prefer my Chinese clone light without the diffuser, but it's far from ideal either way. I really wish it had an orange peel reflector.
    That being the case for you - have you considered turning it 90 degrees, to make a rectangular beam which is long? You would still have the control of a more focused beam, and just direct it long and short, instead of wide.

    Worth a try?

    "Retirement is the best job I ever had!" Me, 2009


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  22. #22
    Senior Member Spld cyclist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wanderer View Post
    That being the case for you - have you considered turning it 90 degrees, to make a rectangular beam which is long? You would still have the control of a more focused beam, and just direct it long and short, instead of wide.

    Worth a try?
    I thought of that, but haven't tried it. I might when things thaw out some and I start using the bike that has that light installed.

    I will add that the light is adequate for my situation, which is nighttime urban commuting with a mixture of well-lit streets and dark ones. It's one of the single-LED Magicshine clones that sold for $17 when I picked it up. The light is also an incredible value. That said, I prefer my Serfas True 500+, even though it probably puts out somewhat less light than the clone light. The Serfas has a much more uniform light distribution. I picked up the clone and diffuser out of curiosity, and to have an affordable keep-at-home backup in case the Serfas breaks/dies (which I don't expect), gets lost, stolen, etc. I've used the clone for probably 15 commutes so far.
    Working to make bicycling better in Springfield, MA: https://www.facebook.com/BikeandWalkSpringfield

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