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Can someone bring me up to speed on LED lights?

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Can someone bring me up to speed on LED lights?

Old 10-06-12, 06:39 PM
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Papa Tom
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Can someone bring me up to speed on LED lights?

Now that it's getting light a little later in the morning, I'm thinking about pulling my headlight out of the drawer and snapping it back on my handlebars. The light I've owned for about 14 years is a 10 watt NiteRider with a big, square battery pack that nearly burns my house down every time I go to charge it. Unfortunately, it hasn't been used much, so pretty much all I do is charge it and let the charge trickle down so the battery doesn't die altogether.

I'm afraid it won't last a full commute, so I'm thinking about replacing it with one of the new LED headlights I see everywhere. However, all the options I see now seem to be much lower wattage and much cheaper than the $120 I spent on this one all those years ago. Can somebody tell me what I need to look at and what I need to spend to get the kind of lighting power my Nite Rider provided in its prime?
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Old 10-06-12, 06:49 PM
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FWIW I use a Fenix flashlight. I've had this set up for about 2 years.. no problems whatsoever. I use rechargeable AA's and keep a charger at home and work. I use the LD20, but they've replaced it when the LD22. https://www.fenix-store.com/product_i...oducts_id=2883

and a Twofish lock block flashlight holder. https://www.twofish.biz/bike.html

It is plenty bright and has a nice strobe feature for those times when you really need to stand out.
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Old 10-06-12, 06:50 PM
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Look for lights rated in ANSI or OTF lumens. Look for regulated circuit, something that can use rechargeable packs or batteries (duh). Water resistant and with a decent mounting system.
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Old 10-06-12, 07:50 PM
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LEDs themselves are dirt cheap. Its the supporting elements that can be expensive - the driver, regulator and heatsink assemblies. So like everything else, LED lighting is available in different light outputs and build qualities. A lot of the stuff on the market has novelty value but has an unreliable build quality and poor quality batteries.

Which isn't to say that it might not be suitable for ocassional use. You'll really have to decide what your criteria is regarding run times, waterproofing and light output. Then check and see whats on the market that'll meet your requirements.

Lots of people on these forums have bought inexpensive lights, replaced them with the next better inexpensive light that came out ... and ended up with a drawer full of .. stuff! But they're OK with that!

Take your time - you've waited this long - a few more weeks to pick up a bit of info won't hurt.
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Old 10-06-12, 08:05 PM
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I've got an LED dyno headlight, a 4W LED is about equivalent to a 20W halogen in light output. There are ways to do it cheaply, but the off-the-shelf stuff nowadays is really good.
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Old 10-06-12, 08:06 PM
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I have a 350 lumen LED light that easily recharges via USB. Seems bright enough for me.
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Old 10-06-12, 08:14 PM
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This is the light I use, and couldn't be happier:

https://store.dinottelighting.com/din...ight-p174.aspx

Approximately 1000 lumens, with three power setting. A little pricey, but a great light.
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Old 10-06-12, 08:41 PM
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The amount of energy consumed by the light is measured in Watts, the light output is measured in lumens or foot candles. Ideally you want a low watt device with high lumen output and LEDs are perfect for this. I use a 3 watt 360 lumem light that operates on cheap AAA batteries and it works great. The light comes out of the mount dhgad I use it as my all purpose flashlight.
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Old 10-06-12, 10:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
Now that it's getting light a little later in the morning, I'm thinking about pulling my headlight out of the drawer and snapping it back on my handlebars. The light I've owned for about 14 years is a 10 watt NiteRider with a big, square battery pack that nearly burns my house down every time I go to charge it. Unfortunately, it hasn't been used much, so pretty much all I do is charge it and let the charge trickle down so the battery doesn't die altogether.

I'm afraid it won't last a full commute, so I'm thinking about replacing it with one of the new LED headlights I see everywhere. However, all the options I see now seem to be much lower wattage and much cheaper than the $120 I spent on this one all those years ago. Can somebody tell me what I need to look at and what I need to spend to get the kind of lighting power my Nite Rider provided in its prime?
I have the same old Niterider. Great light.

As I understand it, that lamp was outputting in the 200 lumens range. You'll be shocked by what the tech allows for today.

Small, self contained headlamps ( i.e. no batt pack, no wires) like the Light & Motion Urban 400 puts out twice the lumens, has 3 power settings, and weighs probably 1/10 of the Niterider 10w halogen for about the same money (in ansolute dollars). Value today is, in comparison, much better.

light temp is different, and while I prefer halogen for this reason, the benefits of LED far outweigh the cons.

You could probably replace and upgrade the battery pack to L-ion, thereby saving weight and gaining run time, but that's beyond my techie know how.
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Old 10-07-12, 05:54 AM
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>>>>a 4W LED is about equivalent to a 20W halogen in light output<<<<

That's the answer I was looking for. Can anybody confirm this?

PS: Thanks for all the specific product recommendations, but I was mostly looking for guidance regarding what TYPE of lights to look at and how much I'd have to spend.
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Old 10-07-12, 08:02 AM
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Can't help you with the halogen to LED conversion, but I thought I'd point out that a) modernbike has a beam shot for virtually every (front) light they sell posted in their light selection guide and if you search youtube for 'mtbr light shootout 2012', you will find all kinds of light reviews.
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Old 10-07-12, 08:03 AM
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I had the NiteRider Trail Rat, a 10 watt halogen. The bike it was on was stolen. When I replaced it, a 200 lumen LED seemed to be about the same amount of light.

These days, I've been very happy with the MagicShine 900-lumen MJ-808 and 1000-lumen MJ-808E lights. I've had the oldest one for three years. It's going into its fourth winter.

At $70 and $80, they're much cheaper than my old NiteRider was. I find little difference between the light output of the two models. If saving $10 is important, get the MJ-808. If you think you'[ll be switching between high, medium and low-beam a lot, the MJ-808E has a better switching pattern.
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Old 10-07-12, 08:47 AM
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>>>I had the NiteRider Trail Rat, a 10 watt halogen. The bike it was on was stolen. When I replaced it, a 200 lumen LED seemed to be about the same amount of light.<<<<

According to chaadster, the 10w NiteRider puts out about 200 lumens, so that would make sense.

I should have pointed out that I purchased the NiteRider primarily for mountain biking at night, a fad that lasted about ten minutes. However, when I started taking early morning rides for a brief period about ten years ago, I found that I really liked having all that light in front of me. I haven't really used the NiteRider for several years, but I don't think I'd want to go out with anything LESS powerful now that I am commuting in the morning.
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Old 10-07-12, 08:59 AM
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Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
>>>>a 4W LED is about equivalent to a 20W halogen in light output<<<<

That's the answer I was looking for. Can anybody confirm this?

PS: Thanks for all the specific product recommendations, but I was mostly looking for guidance regarding what TYPE of lights to look at and how much I'd have to spend.
IMO saying 4W LED = 20W hologen is a little optimistic. The effectiveness of any light depends on the reflector as well as the light source. Realistically, a 10W LED can look as bright as a 55W auto headlight, but it'll have nowhere near the coverage. Flashlights and many bike lights provide a tight, circular beam pattern thats IMO, bright enough, but not wide enough. Most only cover between 10 & 25 degrees.

So if you want a wider beam pattern you'll need to look at shaped beams, which cover a wider area and therefore require more power. The minimum I'm happy with myself for the street is 20W and 1,800 lumens which comes from a pair of lights with a 15 degree vertical coverage and a 45 degree horizontal coverage. Off road I've gone as high as 80W and 5,600 lumens. Prices vary. I currently use only fully waterproof lights and figure about $100/10W of LED lighting. Batteries are extra.
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Old 10-07-12, 09:16 AM
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I was guessing the NR 10w halogen was around 200 lumens; I don't know for sure. My guess was based on the fact that most sources agree that low watt halogen efficiency is in the 20 lumens/watt range at the upper end; could be less. LED, on the other hand, is easily twice as efficient, and can pump out 40 lumens/watt on the low end and up to 90 lumens on the top end. Again, these are general ranges, but certainly LED is at least twice as efficient for the same wattage input.

It's hard to do apples to apples comparisons because so much is variable on the type of bulb, temperature, reflector, lens, cooling, etc. The Candlepower forums are a good place to take in some info if you really want to get into it, but given that you can score reliable, brand name 300 to 500 lumen LED headlamps for under $200, and can be assured that they're well brighter and more efficient than the old Niterider halogens, I'd just find the right combo of price, style, mount type, brand, and features that you want and go for it.
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Old 10-07-12, 09:18 AM
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Magic shine is awesome. Opt for the 1000 lumens one. You will NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.
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Old 10-07-12, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
>>>>a 4W LED is about equivalent to a 20W halogen in light output<<<<

That's the answer I was looking for. Can anybody confirm this?

PS: Thanks for all the specific product recommendations, but I was mostly looking for guidance regarding what TYPE of lights to look at and how much I'd have to spend.
The halogen bulb yield about 15 to 25 lumens per watt. Modern day LED like the Cree XML will produce 100 lumens per watt if driven at the 1000 lumens range. It is even more efficient when driven at a lower power. There are many articles discussing the difference if you Google "Lumens per Watts". Three article mahy help you confirm this is The Wikipedia Luminous efficacy, Wikipedia Bicycle lights, and the PDF data sheet for the XML data sheet.

Lights were mostly rated in watts before the LED came along. When the LED came along, things became all about lumens. Nowadays, just about every light manufactor and sellers will list their product brightness with a lumens value. Beware that there are many false rating where they rate their lights way much higher than the actual value. This pratice is very common in the listing off Ebay. They will list a Cree XML light at 1600 lumens when in fact the XML can produce around 1000 lumens at the LED. The larger manufactor like Nitrider, Cygolite, Dinotte, Lupine are more honest in their ratings. Smaller manufactor like Gemini, Gloworm will rate their lights as what the OTF (out the front) of the light will produce, and finally the Clone producer like the one you find on Ebay will list it way higher and sometime even with a ridiculous value.

Most led lights now are using the Cree XML, some still uses the XPG with multiple led and some still uses the older and less efficient P7. That being said, there are many ways the reflector of the light can alter the way of how the beam shape from a XML. Lights with smooth reflector usually will produce a spot beam pattern while OP (orange peel) reflector will yield a more flood pattern or even both like the beam pattern from a Magicshine 808E XML. Do your research if you are not sure of the light you are looking for. There are plenty of Lights Review for the existing lights being sold. I have done several myself. Each light I done have their own pro and cons depending on what the user are seeking.
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Old 10-07-12, 09:38 AM
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Wide or narrow beam patterns? A wider beam isn't as bright as the same LED light concentrated in a narrow beam. The newer high power lights are bright enough to allow a wider beam coverage.

200 + 180 lumen lights
I had a 200 lumen bar mounted light with a fairly wide beam. It was very good up to about 14-15 mph, but didn't project far enough ahead when I was riding faster. So I added a 180 lumen AA flashlight. It had a much narrower beam, so it was brighter when aimed farther down the road. But it had a slightly annoying sharp edge cutoff around the beam.

This 380 lumen combo worked OK for a few years. I could get about 1.5-2 hours on high with fresh AA rechargeables.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I got a Dinotte XML-3 this summer. Dinotte says it's 1000 lumens, but mtbr thinks it's more like 1200 lumens.

It has very long run times: 2.5 hours on high, 5 hours medium (50% power), 10 hours low (25% power). The battery pack is pretty large and weighs approx 9 oz, 250 grams. (the light itself is only 110 grams)
The light has a very sturdy rubber strap that's very fast to mount on the handlebars, and the battery has a long velcro strap.
The light has a lot of heat sink, and the LEDs are conservatively driven, so the light should be very reliable. (The cheaper magicshine types tend to over-drive the LEDs to get more light)

It has a very bright, very wide beam, that gradually fades off at the edges.

That's a problem if I'm riding on a dark country road with the beam on high. It's actually too bright close to the bike, so I have to tilt it up a ways to project most of the light farther down the road. Then it's also lighting up the trees above, and shining directly at oncoming cars--but I haven't been flashed with the car's high beams yet.

So I tend to run it at medium (about 500-600 lumens) on dark roads if the road is reasonably easy, without sharp curves or potholes.

In the city, the 1000 lumens is really great. I tilt it downwards to make a bright pool of light about 15-40 feet in front of the bike. It competes very well with all the car headlights, and the edges of the beam light up past the edge of the road, and the wide coverage helps a lot when turning onto side streets.

On group rides, the low beam, tilted down, is just right to light up the space right in front of my bike, and not have the rider in front riding into a dark shadow from my light. Low is 1/4 power, about 275-300 lumens.

It also has a very good blinking pattern, with a continuous 300 lumen light that flashes at 1000 lumens a few times a second. (and two other blinking patterns to choose)

Comparing bright center beams with my 180 lumen flashlight:
The dinotte on medium (500-600 lumens) is about the same brightness as my 180 lumen flashlight. But, at 30 feet away, the bright center of the flashlight is maybe 5 feet wide, with dim coverage out to 20 feet wide. The Dinotte bright beam is at least 15 feet wide, gradually fading out to at least a 45 degree angle on each side. (I can even see a little shadow of my brake levers with the light mounted on the bar)
With the Dinotte on high, I can barely see the small center spot of the flashlight when both are aimed at the same place.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
MTBR shootout
See the mtbr backyard beam shots to compare brightness and coverage: flashlights and Medium price and Higher price


the $90 Magicshine is actually about 500-600 lumens (not the claimed 1000) It has a fairly narrow beam that covers the lane ahead pretty well. A lot of the local group riders have this light, and most have been trouble free.




My Dinotte XML-3 has much wider coverage, with a gradual fade out of the center beam.




My old 180 lumen flashlight is probably similar to this:

Last edited by rm -rf; 10-08-12 at 09:32 AM.
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Old 10-07-12, 09:44 AM
  #19  
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OK, let me ask those of you who own old Nite Riders like I do.

If the light is not used for a long period of time (I'd say stretches of 5-7 years) but the battery pack is charged 3-4 times a year and left to discharge on its own, do you think I can still get enough of a charge into it to light my way for a half-hour or so? I can probably just take a chance and see how well the batteries have held up. Perhaps I don't even need to buy a new light. Duuuuhhhhh....
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Old 10-07-12, 09:55 AM
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I am also interested in this subject.

I've recently taken up cycling for the exercise, and have found that my riding "sweet spot" is late at night. I currently ride between 15 and 30 miles per night when I am home. I have been using 2 PB Superflash Blinkies on the back, an "1800" lumen Cree LED (Chinese, from Amazon) on the bar and a "1200" lumen Cree LED on my helmet. Both Crees are the smooth reflector type. These lights have about 500 miles worth of use so far.

Overall, the cheapo LED lights are doing OK. No real issues other than having to charge the batteries. They will light up a reflective sign 3/4 mile away, and provide more than ample light for my riding style. I've never run one dead, but I have not gone over 2 hours with them on yet. Many of the roads I ride on have no street lights at all, so I use both the helmet and bar lights on their highest settings when traversing these roads. I was a little concerned about them overheating when on high, but neither of them get warmer than an incandescent flashlight. On better lit roads, or where there are lots of cars, I use both on their lowest setting, and try to keep the angle of the bar light low, to avoid blinding drivers.

As others have probably said, the advertised lumen ratings are probably, marketing BS. The "1200" lumen light on my helmet is noticeably brighter than the "1800" lumen light on my bar.

I am researching dynohubs and lights, and will definitely go this route in the near future, but these Chinese lights are not bad for the $$$$.
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Old 10-07-12, 10:06 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
OK, let me ask those of you who own old Nite Riders like I do.

If the light is not used for a long period of time (I'd say stretches of 5-7 years) but the battery pack is charged 3-4 times a year and left to discharge on its own, do you think I can still get enough of a charge into it to light my way for a half-hour or so? I can probably just take a chance and see how well the batteries have held up. Perhaps I don't even need to buy a new light. Duuuuhhhhh....
Mine is just as old, although I use it a bit more, like maybe 3 times per year. It's usually discharged, but when I charge it up overnight, I can get about 45mins of good, bright light, and another 15min of dimming light.

For such infrequent use, you may consider just adding a supplemental, $20, 200+ lumen flashlight style headlamp alongside the NR, to give you some backup insurance for those last few miles home.
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Old 10-07-12, 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by Papa Tom View Post
OK, let me ask those of you who own old Nite Riders like I do.

If the light is not used for a long period of time (I'd say stretches of 5-7 years) but the battery pack is charged 3-4 times a year and left to discharge on its own, do you think I can still get enough of a charge into it to light my way for a half-hour or so? I can probably just take a chance and see how well the batteries have held up. Perhaps I don't even need to buy a new light. Duuuuhhhhh....
Depends on the battery build. I have some rechargables that have lasted 13 years and still have 70% capacity and others that never made 3 years.

You're actually in the best position to answer your own question: charge the batteries up, hook the light up and ... measure the run time!
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Old 10-07-12, 10:11 AM
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>>>you may consider just adding a supplemental, $20, 200+ lumen flashlight style headlamp alongside the NR, to give you some backup insurance for those last few miles home.<<<<

The dark part of my ride will be in the morning, starting in a few weeks. It's a short commute that I extend by stopping for breakfast, so by the time I get to work, it will be light out. Bottom line: I'll need about 15-20 minutes of decent light. I think I'm going to give it a try tonight and see if I can get a few more trips out of my NiteRider. Then, I wonder if I can replace the battery pack, or if they've made that obsolete the way they do with phone chargers!
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Old 10-07-12, 10:13 AM
  #24  
chefisaac
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Originally Posted by rm -rf View Post
Wide or narrow beam patterns? A wider beam isn't as bright as the same LED light concentrated in a narrow beam. The newer high power lights are bright enough to allow a wider beam coverage.

200 + 180 lumen lights
I had a 200 lumen bar mounted light with a fairly wide beam. It was very good up to about 14-15 mph, but didn't project far enough ahead when I was riding faster. So I added a 180 lumen AA flashlight. It had a much narrower beam, so it was brighter when aimed farther down the road. But it had a slightly annoying sharp edge cutoff around the beam.

This 380 lumen combo worked OK for a few years. I could get about 1.5-2 hours on high with fresh AA rechargeables.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I got a Dinotte XML-3 this summer. Dinotte says it's 1000 lumens, but mtbr thinks it's more like 1200 lumens.

It has very long run times: 2.5 hours on high, 5 hours medium, 10 hours low. The battery pack is pretty large and weighs approx 9 oz, 250 grams. (the light itself is only 110 grams)
It has a very sturdy rubber strap that's very fast to mount on the bike.
The light has a lot of heat sink, and the LEDs are conservatively driven, so the light should be very reliable. (The cheaper magicshine types tend to over-drive the LEDs to get more light)

It has a very bright, very wide beam, that gradually fades off at the edges.

That's a problem if I'm riding on a dark country road with the beam on high. It's actually too bright close to the bike, so I have to tilt it up a ways to project most of the light farther down the road. Then it's also lighting up the trees above, and shining directly at oncoming cars--but I haven't been flashed with the car's high beams yet.

So I tend to run it at medium (about 500-600 lumens) on dark roads if the road is reasonably easy, without sharp curves or potholes.

In the city, the 1000 lumens is really great. I tilt it downwards to make a bright pool of light about 15-40 feet in front of the bike. It competes very well with all the car headlights, and the edges of the beam light up past the edge of the road, and the wide coverage helps a lot when turning onto side streets.

On group rides, the low beam, tilted down, is just right to light up the space right in front of my bike, and not have the rider in front riding into a dark shadow from my light. Low is 1/4 power, about 275-300 lumens.

It also has a very good blinking pattern, with a continuous 300 lumen light that flashes at 1000 lumens a few times a second. (and two other blinking patterns to choose)

Comparing bright center beams with my 180 lumen flashlight:
The dinotte on medium (500-600 lumens) is about the same brightness as my 180 lumen flashlight. But, at 30 feet away, the bright center of the flashlight is maybe 5 feet wide, with dim coverage out to 20 feet wide. The Dinotte bright beam is at least 15 feet wide, gradually fading out to at least a 45 degree angle on each side. (I can even see a little shadow of my brake levers with the light mounted on the bar)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
MTBR shootout
See the mtbr backyard beam shots to compare brightness and coverage: flashlights and Medium price and Higher price


the $90 Magicshine is actually about 500-600 lumens (not the claimed 1000) It has a fairly narrow beam that covers the lane ahead pretty well. A lot of the local group riders have this light, and most have been trouble free.




My Dinotte XML-3 has much wider coverage, with a gradual fade out of the center beam.




My old 180 lumen flashlight is probably similar to this:

This was very helpful! I always thought my Magicshine was 1000 lumens. Dammit!

Where did you get the Dinotte XML-3 at?
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Old 10-07-12, 10:25 AM
  #25  
rm -rf
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This was very helpful! I always thought my Magicshine was 1000 lumens. Dammit!
When the magicshines came out, they were much brighter than any light that my local riders were using. They work great, but they are cheaply constructed--but rarely seem to break.
My Dinotte is definitely brighter. (for now--there's a lot of bright, cheap Chinese led lights out there)

Where did you get the Dinotte XML-3 at?
direct from dinottelighting.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Older lights, probably most of the non-LED lights, would dim as the voltage dropped while the battery discharged.

"Most" newer LED lights have a voltage regulator built in, so the light stays the same brightness until the voltage drops below a minimum. My Dinotte stays bright, then flashes 5 times to warn me, then switches to medium, then to low automatically. And the blue indicator light blinks.

Most LED taillights will fade as the voltage drops.

It's not a good idea to completely discharge the lithium batteries--it shortens their life.

Last edited by rm -rf; 10-07-12 at 06:20 PM.
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