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Thread: Driving lights

  1. #1
    Senior Member xizangstan's Avatar
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    Driving lights

    Yeah, I know. There's another discussion group for electronics and such. Those threads are so populated with kids who are often not so practical, that I need the mature and subjective opinions found only with the 50+ crowd.

    What do you suggest for the best value and most effective in night time bicycle lighting?
    Who is John Galt?

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    Humvee of bikes =Worksman Nightshade's Avatar
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    Wooo...tough one to which yer gonna get responses that all over the map!

    All I can say is the more candle power the better.............
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    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    I don't know about Value in Lighting but effective---Yes.

    I bought my light in 2006 when I was offroading. Night time rides as we had to get the rides in and we started off Basic. Two Cateye lamps of 1 watt each and one was a spot and the other a flood. Could be seen in towns with street lights but we could not see well with them and they were no good for offroad. SO- I went for probably the best LED lamp availableat that time in a USE Exposure. Cost £300 and it light up the trail no end. Only problem was that our rides lasted 3 hours and at Max power we had less than 2 hours battery life. Had to use as much on low power so we could still have max power for the downhills or technical bits.

    Road riding and I now use that lamp but find it sufficient on low power. That gives about 3watts light and that is what I would suggest as just enough. You can never have too much light when night riding.

    Couple of my mates have 3w LED lamps and they are not bad. Cost around £50 ($75) and they have Rechargable L-Ion batteries. Looking around and the price of lamps is going down but 3W is the minimum I would suggest but just as important is the Lens. Some lamps have just a Spot light that will light up the road/Trail 100 yards in front of you but nothing close to the bike.

    But one lamp is not enough. They do break down or run out of battery power so a second lamp is always a good idea. Even better if that lamp is a helmet lamp. You can get them in varying power and some of the better ones are more powerfull than My USE. A helmet lamp will get noticed by other road users and is very handy for looking round corners- instead of just lighting up where the bars point--- and ideal for any hands free map reading or bike repairs you may have to make.

    But The main thing is that you can only ride within the capability of your lamp. If you have a 1w lamp then you cannot see as far ahead as a 3w so speed will be cut to suit. And a 3w does not compare to a 5w. And as for the latest megabuck street searchlights that are around------------
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    Senior Member ericm979's Avatar
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    I use a Magicshine 808 "900" lumen light for early morning riding. It's not really 900 lumens, more like 650, or so I am told. On high it's bright enough to descend a dark mountain road at 30-35 mph. Cost me about $90. It and lights like it are probably the best value but if I was going to do a lot of riding in pitch dark I'd have even more illumination. There's a new "1600" lumen model out now, that might do it.

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    Email for new group DnvrFox's Avatar
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    It would depend on where you ride and for what purposes.

    I ride early am - like this am - on our trail system in the dark at slow speeds. I have 2 bikes equipped with lights. One has two $10 53 LED lights that show the trail like with a flood light - just fine and show the deer and rabbits. But, I would in no way ride on the road. The other has two Cateyes - much more focused, but don't have a "flood" caracity - they were about $35. Again, I would not use these for riding in traffic, but they do OK on the trail.

    An important factor is to let others see you. The other morning, another rider approached with no lights - even though it was lightening a bit, I could not see him until he was quite close. I also have rear lights.
    Last edited by DnvrFox; 10-31-11 at 06:58 PM.
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    Senior Member trackhub's Avatar
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    Uh yes, you are going to get lots of responses to this. Anyway:

    If the budget is really strict, I'd suggest the Planet bike 1 Watt Blaze headlight and superflash tail light combo. Amazon sells it for $50.77. AA NiMh rechargeable batteries do work well in this headlight. The superflash mode is quite noticeable in urban high traffic situations. Before anyone mentions it, yes, I do know that Planet Bike's lights are manufactured by a Chinese outfit called Smart. But, the build quality is quite impressive.
    If you're a night time off-roader, you will want something stronger.

    As I've mentioned before, I dislike proprietary batteries, or "battery bags". Just a personal thing with me, your mileage may vary.
    "The People will believe what the Media tells them they believe". George Orwell.

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    tsl
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    It depends, of course, on the nature of your riding, your eyes, and what you consider to be "value".

    My night riding is commuting in the city. Night-blindness runs in my family and it's hit me pretty hard. And I don't have a problem with spending money so I can see. My glasses have $720 lenses.

    Last year I tried the 900 lumen MagicShine headlight. I was amazed and pleased. It's sufficient light for me to see at my cruising speed of 17-19. It's large enough and bright enough that drivers and peds treat me as traffic, not as "some guy on a bike". Some people balk at the triple-digit price. Compared to many "real" headlights, the MagicShine is a real bargain.

    I liked the MagicShine so well that this year I bought two more. If I put two on one bike, I can run them at medium and have a nice, broad flat field of view. (Younger riders seem to need only one light at medium.) But the idea was for each of the bikes I typically commute on to have its own MagicShine, and they do. When there's only one on a bike, I have to run it on high.
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    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    My wife uses a Nite Rider "Minewt" light for commuting. It is amazing. I think the cars flash their lights at her; wanting her to turn of the "high beams"

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    My wife and I use Light and Motion. This one. http://www.bikelights.com/vis360.html It offer great visibility to be seen by cars but needs some additional ambient light. So we use these if we are out and coming home at dusk or for winter riding in the mountains with low light and fog in the daytime. IMO, there is not enough light in total darkness although, we have used them once and it was marginal at slow speed. The other lights they have are much more powerful and provide the necessary brightness for night riding.
    "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Einstein

  10. #10
    Senior Member CACycling's Avatar
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    Bought one of these:
    http://www.dealextreme.com/p/ssc-p7-...-4-18650-50947
    and was so impressed I ordered another one.

    Planet Bike SuperFlash Turbo is a great rear light.

  11. #11
    Senior Member xizangstan's Avatar
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    I understand that we go off daylight saving time this coming weekend. So that means it will get darker one hour earlier for most of us. I'm thinking that there must be something that shows up road hazards like potholes, rocks, etc. that are sometimes a challenge to see in the daytime. I suppose a trick is having a bright light source set off from our eye level enough as to cast shadows. That would probably be handlebar mount lights?

    I've read over in the electronics forum that folks have had problems with MagicShine's battery packs. Surely, they should be fixing that problem by now. Night Rider? Blaze? Light & Motion? the others...?

    I'm thinking that you folks here in the 50+ forum are smart enough to recognize a good product. And considering the wealth of experience you all have, I'm sure someone here knows the #1 top product.

    I'm 64, turning 65 in a month. My night vision has always been great - as a licensed pilot making night time landings, I never had any real problem seeing in low light situations. But now that I'm officially in my mid-60's, I'm thinking maybe my night vision isn't what I remember it being. Which is another reason why I'm positive you guys here have the secret to safe and happy night time bicycle riding.
    Who is John Galt?

  12. #12
    Senior Member xizangstan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CACycling View Post
    Bought one of these:
    http://www.dealextreme.com/p/ssc-p7-...-4-18650-50947
    and was so impressed I ordered another one.

    Planet Bike SuperFlash Turbo is a great rear light.
    I see there's been a change in the battery connector cords and plugs, and they aren't interchangable. I'm fearful that the manufacturer (China?) will keep jacking parts around so as to not make the lights serviceable for repairs later. But the price is certainly attractive.
    Who is John Galt?

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    Squeaky Wheel woodway's Avatar
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    I have a Magicshine 900L. For the price, it's a very bright light. The quality is so-so, and if you do some web reading, you'll find stories of problems with this light. My wife uses the Magicshine 900L on her bike and it has worked fine for the last two years, with ocassional use. I also bought her a Magicshine taillight, which is also inexpensive and bright. The first one we received failed after a few weeks, and the good people at Geoman Gear promptly replaced it with a new one which has been working for about a year now.

    The original battery for the 900L was recalled by the US Distributor, Geoman Gear. The original battery was a piece of S*!t. the replacement battery I got from Geoman Gear looks like a well engineered and well built battery. The connectors on the new battery are compatible with my existing 900L light and taillight.

    I bike commute to/from work 5 day/week, year round, so bright, dependable, long-lasting lights are important to me. Therefore I run a Dinotte headlight, Dinotte taillight, and in the summer months a Dinotte daytime running light. Dinotte lights are very high quality but also very expensive. VERY expensive, especially compared to the Magicshine lights. But reliability and longevity are paramount to me, so I am willing to spend the extra cash. All my Dinotte lights are three years old and after almost daily use, they are going strong with ZERO problems.

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    Currently, I'm running a MagicShine 900 on the bar and a Cygolite Expilion 250 on the helmet. This system provides plenty of light for MUPs or roads.

    The 250 on the helmet allows me to illuminate a corner just before I enter it, and it allows me to get the attention of motorists at intersections if need be.

    I've experimented with LED flashlights. They are a PITA to mount, don't stay aimed, and don't provide the light that my current system provides.

    I'm starting the third season on my MagicShine and my second season on the 250.

  15. #15
    SE Wis dedhed's Avatar
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    I run a Magicshine 900 and a PB superflash + some cheap PB 3 led blinky in back. I've had the Magicshine for 1+ year and went through the whole recall thing. It didn't stop me from buying another. I feel both the MS and Superflash are pretty much a good value for the money. I buy the PB stuff when REI puts it on sale and buy a couple at a time.
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    What are you going to use it for? (Besides riding at night, I mean!)

    For occasional use, I think the Cygolite line has some of the best values. Bright lights, decent optics, reasonable cost, solid mounts, good runtime. I run an older Rover II on one bike (still running), and bought one of their integrated lights, an Expelion 250, for my daughter this fall. She likes hers, too.

    For longer rides, or regular commuting, it's hard to beat a dynamo hub and LED light. They're pricy; figure on $200-600 for a complete set. I got a decent outfit for about $300 when velo-orange had a Shimano DH-3N72 wheel available. The main benefit is that it's always there and ready to roll. No batteries to charge or discharge.

    My IQ Cyo lights up the road quite well. It seems pretty waterproof, as I got caught toward the end of last summer in the worst downpour I've ever ridden through. The hub and light worked fine, although one of my battery-powered blinkies gave up the ghost. That was a ride I would not have had a light on if I'd ridden the other bike. The battery and light were still off because I was going to be home well before dusk, except that I took shelter until the worst of the lightning had passed, and so I ended up riding home in the dark.

  17. #17
    tsl
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    Quote Originally Posted by xizangstan View Post
    I've read over in the electronics forum that folks have had problems with MagicShine's battery packs. Surely, they should be fixing that problem by now.
    Yes.

    Last year GeoManGear.com recalled all the MagicShine batteries they sold, about 20,000 of them, because three (yes, 3) caught fire. You may recall Dell and Sony Vaio laptops having similar troubles with lithium-ion batteries, only they had dozens of them catch fire, right in people's laps.

    GeoManGear, a little three-person company, recalled the whole lot, while other MagicShine dealers did not. They commissioned a redesigned battery and have been replacing them for free to their customers. Without the deep pockets of a Dell or a Sony, it's taking them time because they're financing this out of their own cash flow, which naturally fell when they temporarily stopped selling MagicShines.

    New batteries are shipping with new lights, and the rest of the recalled batteries should be shipped soon, being replaced first-come, first-served based on when the recalled battery was returned.

    I have two lights with the new batteries. They seem to be well made, dispense with the battery bag, and come with a new charger. I'm also playing the 3:20K odds and have continued using the old batteries I got last year.
    Last edited by tsl; 11-01-11 at 08:53 AM.
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  18. #18
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    There's a lot of different perspectives on it so here's a minority one. Most of my night riding is commuting, and most of that is not on the streets in traffic, so it's more important to see where I'm going than to be seen. I'm using an "Ultrafire" LED flashlight from Deal Extreme (ships from Shanghai). The light, batteries and charger were about $35 and it's nominally 500 lumen. In reality it's likely about half that and throws a non-adjustable narrower beam than would a headlight. That's fine for lighting up the road but not so good for motorist visibility.

    Since my cycling philosophy is to not spend on it that's just about the best value I could find for adequate lighting.

  19. #19
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    I think you need something like 200 lumens, give or take. That gets you in the same order of magnitude as a car head light. Then you have to decide how to power it. Options include throw-away batteries (probably not the best option), rechargeable (with separate battery pack or in a self-contained package) and dynamo powered (a charging system that stays with the bike).

    I have two lights I ride with at night; one is a Bush & Mueller dynamo-powered light (on my commuter bike). This is a fairly expensive and inflexible option since I have a SON dynohub built into my front wheel of that bike.

    The other is a CygoLite Rover II which I can switch out between my other bikes. It has a battery back that sits in a water bottle cage (which I'm not crazy about) and a light unit that clamps onto the handlebars. There were versions of the Rover that have battery packs that simply velcro to the frame which would be my preference.

    I think some of the more recent offerings are self-contained light and battery units that can be charged off a USB port. I would look into that if I were in the market for a new light.
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    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  20. #20
    What??? Only 2 wheels? jimmuller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
    one is a Bush & Mueller dynamo-powered light (on my commuter bike).
    I use a B&M headlight and taillight with a bottle generator. That lets me disengage the generator when I don't need it. Yeah I know, it has mechanical drag that a hub dynamo wouldn't have, but that has never bothered me because I typically use it for less than 20 miles and I could easily run it longer if I don't need to go fast. The beauty of a hub dynamo or generator is that you never have to worry about batteries running down. For example, I can run it while commuting on overcast days and not feel like I'm burning off battery life. It is probably not much heavier, if even as heavy, as good batteries and spares would be.
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    I have been happy using a MiNewt 350 for several months on my morning commute. It has the USB charger, and several brightness settings. I'll run it on low to not "blind" joggers if there are good street lights. When the trail is dark, I turn it on high and can see everything I need to see (potholes, deer, ninjas, etc.). I recommend you also have a second light with you for emergencies (although I've never needed one, it provides peace of mind).

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    I used to ride quite a bit at predawn.

    There are 2 issues with lighting. The first is being seen by motorists and even pedestrians. The other is illumination of the road and its various hazards. If is sufficient street lighting on your route, you can easily get by with a system that merely alerts drivers of your existance. A front blinkie and 2 rear blinkies will generally show where you are. Oddly enough, if you ride in areas with a considerable amount of illuminated signage, you will need a bunch more lighting. It is easy for a rider to get lost in the dazzle. In a dark area, even modest lights make you stick out like a well beacon. If you need illumination, that comes at a higher price and is dependant on how fast you ride. If you ride over 20 mph, it is pretty easy to "out run" your head light. Even if you have a high powered light for illumination, I would strongly recommend having a blinkie on the front. A blinkie tends to attract notice of drivers more than a steady light.

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    I commute 11.3 miles each way..about 4,000 miles each year =/-, for the last 6 years. I leave at 6:10am and head home at 6:00pm.....so this time of year I am in the dark both ways....I use a Dinotte 140L for my taillight and Dinotte's 800 lumen headlight and am very pleased with them....This is the third year for the headlight and the 6th year for the tailight. I will be switching to Dinotte's 1200 lumen headlight this season....they may be expensive but the reliability and high level of brightness is worth it to me.

  24. #24
    Senior Member xizangstan's Avatar
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    Yeah, I suppose that price doesn't mean much when you're looking at your own life and safety that's at stake in traffic or out on dark pavement on a trail. I just don't like throwing money away needlessly. And wasting good money is what we do when we buy inferior junk.

    Some of you guys have been really putting your lights to the test for lots of hours for several years. Your advice bears heavy, and I'm appreciative. You've really narrowed it down for me.
    Who is John Galt?

  25. #25
    Senior Member xizangstan's Avatar
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    I would think a light with a battery pack that goes into a bottle cage would be handier than one that straps to the frame. Is it because you want to keep your bottle cages open for water bottles, or is there another reason you like the strap-on batteries?

    Some of you are mentioning MagicShine, from a place called GeoMan. Okay, I looked them up:
    http://www.geomangear.com/index.php?...u8gfj1g5h7ka81

    So what's the feedback on this?
    Who is John Galt?

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