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Budget LED light for commuting?

Old 09-05-06, 11:58 PM
  #1  
rigel
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Budget LED light for commuting?

Can someone please recommend an inexpensive, compact LED bike light?

My ride conditions are as follows
- dusk to early evening (the ride home)
- road commute on fairly well-lit streets with heavy to moderate traffic
- occasional not-so-well-lit portions (but usually low traffic)
- lots of potholes and generally bad road conditions in some sections

My requirements for the light
- LED
- 1 watt output or less (but if you can recommend a budget light with >1W that would be great!)
- if less than 1 watt, good brightness to power output ratio
- compact
- weather-proof (water-proof much better)
- AA or AAA batteries (can take rechargeable NiMH)
- inexpensive! (say $40 or less)

I need something not so much to see but to be seen. Although I need something bright enough to help me avoid the occasional pothole and road debris

I'm considering some Cateye models. For compactness (and it's waterproof to 50m!), the HL-EL410 is on top, but it may not be bright enough. The EL320 and EL520 have similar candlepower but the latter seems more compact. The EL530 has the highest output rating but looks bulky.

The Topeak lights look interesting, but I don't like the fact they use hard-to-find batteries. I'm leaning towards Cateye since they're easy to find locally. I'd appreciate inputs on any of these lights if anybody here has any experience with them.

I'd like to add that I've forgotten my high school physics, and so can't relate candlepower to lumens to watts and whatnot. I'd appreciate input on this too. Different light manufacturers seem to use these units loosely, so I can't compare across brands.
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Old 09-06-06, 12:20 AM
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Search is your friend, now that it works. For a recent discussion about LED lights, see this thread:

https://www.bikeforums.net/commuting/217019-good-light-setup.html

For lights in general (no recent posts) see the "Light selection guide" -sticky at the top of this Forum.

For DIY ideas (not specifically LED related) see the "Total Geekiness" -sticky, just above the light selection guide thread.

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Old 09-06-06, 01:18 AM
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If you could stretch it to $50, you might watch for any reviews of NiteRider's UltraFazer Max. It's a 1W LED headlight that they say is good for submersion to 50 meters. But it's a brand-new product for them, so who knows if it's any good or not.
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Old 09-06-06, 01:53 AM
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Originally Posted by mechBgon
If you could stretch it to $50, you might watch for any reviews of NiteRider's UltraFazer Max. It's a 1W LED headlight that they say is good for submersion to 50 meters. But it's a brand-new product for them, so who knows if it's any good or not.
Unless they have completly redesigned the UltraFazer series I'd stay away from them. I bought 2 UltraFazer 3.0 last year, one for my wife and one for me. While the light output was great for the size, both lights died in less than a year do to the electronics in the "head" of the light shifting forward, rendering the light dead. I used mine a lot. My wife used hers for maybe 50 hours.
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Old 09-06-06, 02:05 AM
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I have yet to find a cheap LED light that illuminates as good as similarly priced Halogen system. I have a 16w rechargable Cygo-Lite ($75), and it is worth every penny, especailly if you plan on commuting at night regularly. The new super bright rechargable LED lights cost alot more, but are very good lights.

Honestly, if you plan on riding at night alot, and possibly even in the rain or fog, I wouldn't suggest using a cheap LED light that uses AA batteries. I would suggest at minimum, a rechargable 10w halogen.

I really understand your desire to be seen more than to see. However, when you take up commuting as regular riding, you'll find many days when you will notonly want, but need illumination for being able to see, and not just be seen. I really think most of the lights that use AA batteries are generally lights for rec riders who on rare ocassion get caught in the early evening hours, and want a little extra light just to get home. After commuting for well over a year now, that's just my take on the whole thing.
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Old 09-06-06, 02:29 AM
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Thanks Juha, I did. And for some reason the search results returned empty

I'm looking for specific brand recommendations. I only a took a quick glance at the first sticky mentioned below, and from what I saw I think it's a bit too technical for me, has too much info for my needs, and not much mention of off-the-shelf LEDs. I'm also not the do-it-yourself kind, and would rather be out riding than tinkering with electronics. Thanks anyway.

Originally Posted by Juha
Search is your friend, now that it works. For a recent discussion about LED lights, see this thread:

https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?t=217019

For lights in general (no recent posts) see the "Light selection guide" -sticky at the top of this Forum.

For DIY ideas (not specifically LED related) see the "Total Geekiness" -sticky, just above the light selection guide thread.

--J
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Old 09-06-06, 06:49 AM
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The EL500 or the new EL530 are probably your best bet. I don't think the EL410 is going to be bright enough and the others are not really water proof. I have the EL500 and it works pretty well as a low speed headlight and a a light to be seen. The black part of the light is the case to hold 4 AA batteries, the front is the lens. It is considerably bigger than the EL410 but is still a pretty compact light.
For saftey I would probably also add a EL410 which I would run in flashing mode. I'm currently running an EL200 for my flashing light but it is not proving very weather proof.
For batteries and charger I bought mine from batteryspace.com, much cheaper than Radio Shack or BestBuy
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Old 09-06-06, 07:06 AM
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There are a few on sale right now at www.nashbar.com

Get a rear blinkie while you're at it!
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Old 09-06-06, 08:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Ziemas
Unless they have completly redesigned the UltraFazer series I'd stay away from them.
They did completely redesign them. I don't know if the new design is better or not, but this is their first 1W model. Maybe I'll splurge and get one to try out sometime.
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Old 09-06-06, 08:31 AM
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If you ride a lot you find most bicycle light systems with batteries contained in the same housing will normally not last very long due to vibration. According to the design the light may twist about it's clamp on the handlebar requiring readjustment up or down according to the roughness of the road surface as well. Bulb filaments also take a hit on life do to excessive vibration. The batteries make the vibration worse and contribute to a rapid decrease in bulb filament life as well. Good bulbs not subject to vibration are only rated for 20 hours or less run time so taking spare bulbs is a requirement. LED bulbs are vibration resistant and have very long run times in excess of 20,000 hours with 100,000 hours common now. A cheap solution is to modify the bicycle light by replacing the original filament bulb with an upgrade LED bulb and remote mounting a battery pack. Here is a link to an LED bulb I purchased at Wal-Mart for about $9.
https://www.niteize.com/productdetail...f9b99e40d7c1ad

This bulb is brighter than a 1-watt LED flashlight I was able to compare it with.
I had previously purchased a BELL bicycle light from Wal-Mart, as it was particularly cheap in price. I ran it till the bulb burned out and stuck it in a drawer for storage. It was only good for two or so hours run time on 4 AA batteries and had all the problems noted above. After discovering the Nite Ize LED bulb at Wal-Mart I just had to try it out. The cheap BELL bike light immediately came to mind. I checked the polarity of the batteries when installed in the light at the bulb connection and found them to be reversed from normal flashlight use! Positive where the flange of the bulb would connect to the bulb socket and negative on the tip of the bulb. The bulb must connect to the batteries with negative on the flange and positive on the tip. I was going to mount a remote battery pack anyway so this did not dissuade me from this project. I drilled a small hole in the BELL light to allow passing Zip Cord lamp wire through the case. I soldered the ends of the wire to the circuit board in the light and put a knot in the wire so the soldered ends can't be accidentally pulled off the circuit board. I made the length of the wire long enough so the battery pack can be put in a blowout bag. The battery pack holds 2 D size batteries and was purchased from Radio Shack and cost less than $2. Getting the 4 AA batteries out of the cheap BELL bicycle light eliminated all the vibration problems and using two D batteries provides a run time of 75 hours according to the Nite Ize information. I have been using it about 2 hours a night for a month now and the two Alkaline batteries I have been using are just starting to get into the yellow zone of my battery checker. The only problem I have had was the with the battery pack. If I hit a really bad pothole and jarred the pack in the blowout bag very hard one or both batteries would jump out of the pack. As the batteries last so long I just use some tape around the batteries and pack to hold them in place.
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Old 09-06-06, 08:42 AM
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Good bulbs not subject to vibration are only rated for 20 hours or less run time so taking spare bulbs is a requirement.
I think you have your facts mixed up on that one. Having used lots of halogen lights over the years, I've lost a few bulbs, but I certainly haven't been going through them at the rate of one every 20 hours. MR-style bulbs are typically rated for 1000-2000 hours. Generator-powered halogens do tend to blow out sooner...
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Old 09-06-06, 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Patriot
I have yet to find a cheap LED light that illuminates as good as similarly priced Halogen system.
+1
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Old 09-06-06, 09:03 AM
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MEC sells the Planet Bike Super Spot for 26$ CAD. It's a 1w LED. I haven't used it myself. From what I've heard, the beam is a little wider than the Cateye EL500 or NiteHawk Emitter. I use the Emitter. It's a good "be-seen" light at low power when there's good lighting and does a decent job to see the road at high power in complete darkness, since the eyes ajust to the darkness and you don't need as much light to see. The problem is mixed lighting. It's overpowered by street lights and the eyes don't have time to ajust to the dark parts.

The Super Spot at MEC: https://www.mec.ca/Products/product_d...=1157554420176
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Old 09-06-06, 11:26 AM
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I have a Planet Bike Super Spot and hate it. Despite the name "Spot" they spread the beam so much it's very dim.

Cateye has a few new lights that look promising. The EL510, 520, and 530, though I can only find the 510 anywhere (Nashbar has them). I'd really like to try the 520 and 530 though. I need a backup for my HID.

One thing to watch out for: I have a Cateye EL400, and while it's a fine little bitty light and an acceptable small limp home unit, the mount is horrible. It worked OK for a year or so, but now it's almost entirely useless. It only gets used now as a flashlight with an annoying blink mode.
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Old 09-06-06, 12:13 PM
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I've used several LED lights now (cateye EL200, EL400, and two Serfas headlights) and have been really impressed with the Blackburn Quadrant/Mars 3.0 combo pack my brother got for his new bike. The headlight is much brighter than any of our other LED headlights, and I really like that taillight (I have one on my helmet). It was $33 + tax for the combo locally and can be had online for less. It's not as compact as some of the others, but both lights use batteries than can be easily replaced with rechargables (AA for headlight and AAA for the taillight I believe).

If compact/waterproof is more important than brightness and you don't need a taillight I'd say the EL400 is a good buy.
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Old 09-06-06, 12:57 PM
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I have a version of the Nite Hawk emitter made for Performance that is a good LED for just a little more than the $50 limit (Performance sold them for $50). It runs off AA alkaline batteries but could be easily adapted to any 6 V battery pack. It's pretty bright for an LED but it suffers from some of the same issues for most LED in that the light is too focused in a narrow range and is too blue for my taste.

You could also build a good system by purchasing a halogen lamp from Nite Hawk and using RC car batteries to power it. Lamp is $30, batteries are $20 to $25 each pack and a charger is $20 to $80 depending on what it can do. For a 10W lamp and a 3300 mAh battery, you should be able to get around a 2 hours out of each pack. 20 W cuts the time in half but gives you a lot of light.
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Old 09-06-06, 08:39 PM
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Thanks for the input Patriot, all good stuff

Like I said, I won't be doing night commuting, just need to be seen on those occasional chances I stay late at work and have to ride home at dusk. I don't plan to ride in the rain (too dangerous), and we don't have fog

From my limited knowledge, LED lights are the future since they're very energy efficient and last very long. Which manufacturers make those "super bright rechargeable LED lights"?

I guess my main limitation is my budget since I'm S.I.1.K and already have too many other bills to pay So I'm always on the look out for the best bang for the buck...

Originally Posted by Patriot
I have yet to find a cheap LED light that illuminates as good as similarly priced Halogen system. I have a 16w rechargable Cygo-Lite ($75), and it is worth every penny, especailly if you plan on commuting at night regularly. The new super bright rechargable LED lights cost alot more, but are very good lights.

Honestly, if you plan on riding at night alot, and possibly even in the rain or fog, I wouldn't suggest using a cheap LED light that uses AA batteries. I would suggest at minimum, a rechargable 10w halogen.

I really understand your desire to be seen more than to see. However, when you take up commuting as regular riding, you'll find many days when you will notonly want, but need illumination for being able to see, and not just be seen. I really think most of the lights that use AA batteries are generally lights for rec riders who on rare ocassion get caught in the early evening hours, and want a little extra light just to get home. After commuting for well over a year now, that's just my take on the whole thing.
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Old 09-06-06, 08:51 PM
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Thanks CBBaron. Yeah, I'm having second thoughts about the EL400 series. They just might be too weak as a headlight. Thanks for the battery suggestions too. I've got a good charger and some batteries already, and can get more batteries from a local shop at fairly good prices.

Originally Posted by CBBaron
The EL500 or the new EL530 are probably your best bet. I don't think the EL410 is going to be bright enough and the others are not really water proof. I have the EL500 and it works pretty well as a low speed headlight and a a light to be seen. The black part of the light is the case to hold 4 AA batteries, the front is the lens. It is considerably bigger than the EL410 but is still a pretty compact light.
For saftey I would probably also add a EL410 which I would run in flashing mode. I'm currently running an EL200 for my flashing light but it is not proving very weather proof.
For batteries and charger I bought mine from batteryspace.com, much cheaper than Radio Shack or BestBuy
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Old 09-06-06, 08:55 PM
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For a good idea of how bright the el500 (530), el400 (410), and el200 blinkers are, go to my post here.
https://www.bikeforums.net/showpost.p...4&postcount=34

I have pics of all of em from about 30 ft away.
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Old 09-06-06, 08:55 PM
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We all do it at some point, but, lights are a REALLY bad place to get chintzy about the money. Just a little food for thought.
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Old 09-07-06, 08:19 AM
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The Cateye EL530 is the brightest LED Cateye sells...except for their Double and Triple Shot series of LED lights but these cost in excess of $250; but even the EL530 will cost over $40.

I cannot recommend any LED lights from what I've seen while driving in a car or riding my bike, because these things put out very little light to actually see with, and the "be seen" quality of the light is weird because they put a bluish hue and look dim from a distance.

For about $50 you can get a Cygolite Explorer with 12 watts of halogen power that will blow away any LED even if the Explorer is on the low beam! I know my Cygolite Metro does. The rechargeable batteries on these lights will last about 4 to 5 hours on low. So for about $10 more you will get a far better, brighter light that will be more noticable, and you can see the road way better thus you'll be safer. Also for about another $20 you can get the Cygolite NiMh Xtra that puts out 16 watts and will run up to 6 hours on low beam.

Also consider adding a front clear or amber flasher. The smaller diameter len's found on bike lights do not attract as much attention as the larger car and motorcycle headlights no matter how bright your light is. Front flashers will attract the attention of motorist to you and their cheap.
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Old 09-07-06, 09:26 PM
  #22  
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Thanks froze.

Originally Posted by froze
The Cateye EL530 is the brightest LED Cateye sells...except for their Double and Triple Shot series of LED lights but these cost in excess of $250; but even the EL530 will cost over $40.

I cannot recommend any LED lights from what I've seen while driving in a car or riding my bike, because these things put out very little light to actually see with, and the "be seen" quality of the light is weird because they put a bluish hue and look dim from a distance.

For about $50 you can get a Cygolite Explorer with 12 watts of halogen power that will blow away any LED even if the Explorer is on the low beam! I know my Cygolite Metro does. The rechargeable batteries on these lights will last about 4 to 5 hours on low. So for about $10 more you will get a far better, brighter light that will be more noticable, and you can see the road way better thus you'll be safer. Also for about another $20 you can get the Cygolite NiMh Xtra that puts out 16 watts and will run up to 6 hours on low beam.

Also consider adding a front clear or amber flasher. The smaller diameter len's found on bike lights do not attract as much attention as the larger car and motorcycle headlights no matter how bright your light is. Front flashers will attract the attention of motorist to you and their cheap.
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Old 09-08-06, 08:58 AM
  #23  
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I've been very pleased with the Princeton Tec EOS bike light I have. It's bright enough that it cuts through all but the deepest shadows. I get about 10 hours of use or so from a set of batteries. Starting on high and then switching to flashing when it gets light enough for me to see without the light. If you shop around you can find it for around $30 or so.

I tried the Cateye EL-500 and find EOS to be brighter. I've used it for a over a year and it's holding up well.
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Old 09-08-06, 09:37 AM
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Originally Posted by n4zou
Bulb filaments also take a hit on life do to excessive vibration. The batteries make the vibration worse and contribute to a rapid decrease in bulb filament life as well. Good bulbs not subject to vibration are only rated for 20 hours or less run time so taking spare bulbs is a requirement.
That's weird. I ran a 20W halogen for a whole winter, overvolted to 14.4v, over really quite rough road (washboarded and potholed gravel). I've switched to an HID now, but the halogen still comes out once in a while, and it's still on the original bulb. Good thing I've never had to switch it because I didn't have an MR16 socket and just soldered the wires right to the bulb.

At a guess that bulb has about 20 weeks @ 45 minutes a day, 5 days a week = 75 hours on it.

This was the cheapest, 3 for $6 pack of lights I could find at the home improvement store. I think they were Sylvanias, so not horrible. I'm sure you could find lots worse on the asian import market.

Why would putting the batteries in the same enclosure make the vibration worse? I'd think it would make it better. Adding more mass to something subject to vibration will reduce the instantaneous accelleration (shock) of the unit. At an extreme, bolting a 50 pound weight to the light should almost entirely eliminate vibration (but it'll play hell with your frame and wheels unless you have suspension).
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Old 09-09-06, 08:02 AM
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G. Bucci
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Don't budget when it comes to lights. Your route is well lit but what happens when the street lamps burn out and don't get replaced? As the days get shorter you may find yourself riding in the dark both to and from work.
Halogen lights are expensive ($150can.) but they are a one time purchase. They'll last at least five years where as a $40 clipon can easily get lost and replacing them can exceed the $150.
The halogen lights literally make you look like a vehicle on the road and you will find that cars will give you more breathing room when approaching intersections.
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