Go Back  Bike Forums > Bike Forums > Electronics, Lighting, & Gadgets
Reload this Page >

Using a flashlight as a bike headlight?

Notices
Electronics, Lighting, & Gadgets HRM, GPS, MP3, HID. Whether it's got an acronym or not, here's where you'll find discussions on all sorts of tools, toys and gadgets.

Using a flashlight as a bike headlight?

Old 11-15-18, 04:02 PM
  #1  
bravotwozero
Member
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Oct 2018
Location: H-town
Posts: 31

Bikes: Raleigh cadent i8

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 14 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
Using a flashlight as a bike headlight?

So I understand you can simply secure a flashlight mount on the handlebar, and put a flashlight on there as your bike head light.

What are your guys thought on doing this as a lighting option? Pros/cons...?
bravotwozero is offline  
Old 11-15-18, 04:09 PM
  #2  
wingless
Senior Member
 
wingless's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2017
Location: Florida
Posts: 340

Bikes: 2011 Trek 1.2 + 2016 Trek 1.1 H2

Mentioned: 4 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 132 Post(s)
Liked 19 Times in 15 Posts
Low cost and effective.

A really nice guy that I talked with for a while used zip tied PVC pipe sections for fast install / removal of stuff like this, slide in / out.
wingless is offline  
Old 11-15-18, 10:54 PM
  #3  
Elvo
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: Orange County, CA
Posts: 4,433
Mentioned: 9 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 473 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 141 Times in 81 Posts
You will blind motorists and oncoming cyclists unless you have optics that can diffuse or redirect the beam to the ground
Elvo is offline  
Old 11-15-18, 11:14 PM
  #4  
Shimagnolo
Senior Member
 
Shimagnolo's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Zang's Spur, CO
Posts: 8,895
Mentioned: 8 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 2089 Post(s)
Liked 993 Times in 575 Posts
https://www.amazon.com/TwoFish-9-Loc.../dp/B001CJXB5E
Shimagnolo is offline  
Old 11-16-18, 02:00 AM
  #5  
KraneXL
 
KraneXL's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: La-la Land, CA
Posts: 3,623

Bikes: Cannondale Quick SL1 Bike - 2014

Mentioned: 32 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3405 Post(s)
Liked 235 Times in 180 Posts
I place it under the "better then nothing" category. It will meet minimum standards for being seen.
KraneXL is offline  
Old 11-16-18, 03:34 AM
  #6  
rseeker
Senior Member
 
rseeker's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2016
Location: Southeast US
Posts: 936
Mentioned: 9 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 317 Post(s)
Liked 146 Times in 102 Posts
You can use cloth tape on the handlebar to increase friction so the mount is more likely to hold still. A good-sized roll is $2 at the pharmacy/general store. You can magic-marker it black to match your bars or if it stands out too much.

One nice thing about bike-specific headlights is the beam pattern that spreads the light out to the sides and, on some, keeps the beam shining toward the ground and out of people's eyes. In my opinion the spread beam is really nice, you do want to see what's off to the sides.

I rode for a while (a short while) with a round flashlight beam and it was hard to make tight turns, like within the width of a neighborhood street, because I lost orientation information from the sides and it blew my balance. The bright light made everything else seem darker, practically invisible. It really cut me off from everything around me. I felt more connected to the world with lower levels of lighting, without the bright flashlight. There are diffuser lenses you attach to the flashlight to spread the light around, and I have a couple on order to try out, but I don't know how well they work yet.

Here's a cheap way to keep from blinding other people: How can I protect my Raynauds' hands from windchill?

Here's a guy who made a flashlight handlebar mount out of a soft drink bottle. I don't know though, that looks like a lot of work, and the TwoFish one looks more sturdy.

Last edited by rseeker; 11-16-18 at 03:34 PM.
rseeker is offline  
Old 11-16-18, 10:29 AM
  #7  
Tourist in MSN
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 7,128

Bikes: 1961 Ideor, 1994 Bridgestone MB-6, 2006 Airnimal Joey, 2009 Thorn Sherpa, 2013 Thorn Nomad, 2015 VO Pass Hunter, 2017 Lynskey Backroad, 2017 Raleigh Gran Prix, Perfekt 3 Speed -age unknown, 1980s Bianchi Mixte on a trainer. Others are now gone.

Mentioned: 34 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1820 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 258 Times in 218 Posts
I tried using a 2 AA cell Maglight held onto my bike with a P clip once. But only once. And that was half a decade ago.

There are so many good LED headlights at a good price out there now compared to years ago, there really is no reason to not use a bike light.
Tourist in MSN is offline  
Old 11-16-18, 11:58 AM
  #8  
noglider 
aka Tom Reingold
 
noglider's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: High Falls, NY, USA
Posts: 39,164

Bikes: 1962 Rudge Sports, 1971 Raleigh Super Course, 1971 Raleigh Pro Track, 1974 Raleigh International, 1975 Viscount Fixie, 1982 McLean, 1996 Lemond (Ti), 2002 Burley Zydeco tandem

Mentioned: 475 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 6500 Post(s)
Liked 1,042 Times in 692 Posts
I did it, and I was satisfied for a while. Some flashlights provide shocking amounts of light for very little money, but I decided output level was not the important thing for me. Most of those mounts aren't very quick, and I had to take the cell out to charge it, adding steps to the process. Aiming the light and keeping it aimed right is also tricky. A lot of the lights have hot spots in the beams, which is terrible for me. My eyes go to the hot spot rather than where I want to look. I can't help it. I found that paying the extra -- and it's a lot -- for a bike-specific light is worth it for me.

My main commuting bike has a hub dynamo wired to bolted-on lights. This is the most convenient, and the beam is shaped like a car headlight's. I like this best, but the cost is high, and it doesn't move from bike to bike. The dynamo hub is also heavy.

I have a Cygolite Streak which mounts with a bolt I can operate with my fingers. It's very intelligent.

I also have a Busch & Muller Ixon Core with a German-style shaped beam. Great light.

I just got this Xanes light, and it's pretty good, too, especially the $9 or $10 price. I haven't used it much yet, so I can't give it a long-term review.
__________________
Tom Reingold, tom@noglider.com
New York City and High Falls, NY
Blogs: The Experienced Cyclist; noglider's ride blog

“When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments.” — Elizabeth West, US author

Please email me rather than PM'ing me. Thanks.
noglider is offline  
Old 11-16-18, 12:45 PM
  #9  
fietsbob
Banned
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: NW,Oregon Coast
Posts: 43,598

Bikes: 8

Mentioned: 197 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 7607 Post(s)
Liked 1,284 Times in 801 Posts
Thumbs up Tried it.

two fish . biz for AA battery flashlights , can offer a secure, be seen quick mount light option.
fietsbob is offline  
Old 11-16-18, 12:59 PM
  #10  
1nterceptor
LET'S ROLL
 
1nterceptor's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: NEW YORK, NY - USA
Posts: 4,775

Bikes: 2014 BMC Gran Fondo, 2013 Brompton S6L-X

Mentioned: 18 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 305 Post(s)
Liked 36 Times in 26 Posts
you can also strap on your helmet; if you use one. Have mounted flashlights(torch to you Brits);
on my handle bars and helmet. This was a long time ago when bike specific lights weren't powerful
and as cheap as they are now.
But current bike specific lights are just as powerful and more convenient.
Specific mounts, no need to remove battery for charging, etc.
1nterceptor is offline  
Old 11-16-18, 01:23 PM
  #11  
PaulRivers
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2008
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Posts: 6,321
Mentioned: 12 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 465 Post(s)
Liked 11 Times in 10 Posts
Fenix sells a bike flashlight mount for around $15:
https://www.fenix-store.com/fenix-al...se-bike-mount/

Drawbacks are:
- Having to remove the batteries from the light and recharge them every time you ride with the light. Most bike lights you just plug into the charger. Not a big deal if you only ride 3 times/year in the dark but if you ride often it becomes annoying. I personally try to store my bike next to a charger so I can charge the lights without removing them from the bike at all so they're always charged and always with the bike.
- Sometimes the beam pattern that's good for a flashlight is bad for riding. It really depends though, and some bike lights have bad beam patterns as well.
- More work to attach and detach from the bike. Better bike lights you just slide on and off the mount.
PaulRivers is offline  
Old 11-18-18, 11:37 AM
  #12  
lkoyanagi
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Posts: 97

Bikes: Tern D7e

Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 23 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 5 Times in 3 Posts
Originally Posted by bravotwozero View Post
So I understand you can simply secure a flashlight mount on the handlebar, and put a flashlight on there as your bike head light.

What are your guys thought on doing this as a lighting option? Pros/cons...?
Last night a security guard in my Safeway parking lot shined his flashlight at my face as I sat in the car waiting for my wife. It actually caused pain in my good eye from mabout 50-60 feet away. I was a guard and used a high lumen light, too, for pitch black surroundings. This was in a lighted parking lot.

Watch how powerful your flashlight or bike light is in the high setting. Adequate is good. High lumens are bad, depending. Be considerate of victims when using the high setting like high beams on a car. Thats why you see very low lumen lights in Target and other stores. High lumens are to light things, not people's faces.

Distance of the light depends on lumens and size and depth of the refector. So, a low lumen flashlight with a big diameter deep refector can out distance one with high lumens and small reflector. Always look for distance ratings on the package, if power and distance are your forte. Look for battery saving technology.

Last edited by lkoyanagi; 11-18-18 at 11:46 AM.
lkoyanagi is offline  
Old 11-18-18, 12:49 PM
  #13  
KraneXL
 
KraneXL's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: La-la Land, CA
Posts: 3,623

Bikes: Cannondale Quick SL1 Bike - 2014

Mentioned: 32 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3405 Post(s)
Liked 235 Times in 180 Posts
Originally Posted by PaulRivers View Post
Fenix sells a bike flashlight mount for around $15:
https://www.fenix-store.com/fenix-al...se-bike-mount/

Drawbacks are:
- Having to remove the batteries from the light and recharge them every time you ride with the light. Most bike lights you just plug into the charger. Not a big deal if you only ride 3 times/year in the dark but if you ride often it becomes annoying. I personally try to store my bike next to a charger so I can charge the lights without removing them from the bike at all so they're always charged and always with the bike.
- Sometimes the beam pattern that's good for a flashlight is bad for riding. It really depends though, and some bike lights have bad beam patterns as well.
- More work to attach and detach from the bike. Better bike lights you just slide on and off the mount.
True in most cases since flashlights are spot lights with a narrow (hot spot) beam. They also don't offer the high, medium, low or flash modes or tilt/angle flexibility of a bona fide bike light.
KraneXL is offline  
Old 11-18-18, 03:13 PM
  #14  
Tourist in MSN
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Madison, WI
Posts: 7,128

Bikes: 1961 Ideor, 1994 Bridgestone MB-6, 2006 Airnimal Joey, 2009 Thorn Sherpa, 2013 Thorn Nomad, 2015 VO Pass Hunter, 2017 Lynskey Backroad, 2017 Raleigh Gran Prix, Perfekt 3 Speed -age unknown, 1980s Bianchi Mixte on a trainer. Others are now gone.

Mentioned: 34 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1820 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 258 Times in 218 Posts
I mentioned above that years ago I once tried a 2 AA Maglight on my bike. Some flashlights like my Maglight had an adjustment for beam width. That might be a good thing to have if you are that opposed to getting a bike light.
Tourist in MSN is offline  
Old 12-02-18, 09:54 PM
  #15  
dorkypants
Senior Member
 
dorkypants's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 511
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 33 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 11 Times in 8 Posts
I did that back when I was a poor student watching my pennies. The road shocks/vibrations are hell on a flashlight's contact points, so eventually either the switch or the battery contacts (or both) will fail, plus the beam pattern sucks. Sure you may be able to get around both sets of problems by using a fancier flashlight, but at that point you're probably spending as much or more for it than for a decent bike headlight.

Last edited by dorkypants; 12-02-18 at 09:56 PM. Reason: fix grammatical error
dorkypants is offline  
Old 12-03-18, 01:58 AM
  #16  
canklecat
Me duelen las nalgas
 
canklecat's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Texas
Posts: 11,701

Bikes: Centurion Ironman, Trek 5900, Univega Via Carisma, Globe Carmel

Mentioned: 184 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3716 Post(s)
Liked 1,323 Times in 870 Posts
Flashlights are false economy.

Beam patterns and mounting/retention are inferior to purpose made bike headlights.

Every group ride I've been on where one or more riders used flashlights and makeshift rubber band mounts, someone's light fell off and endangered other riders. Every ride. No exceptions. I usually ride at the back to encourage stragglers and keep track of folks who voluntarily drop off partway through rides. Every group ride I've retrieved flashlights that popped off or inadequately secured tailights. Every damned ride.

Those rubber bands and aftermarket stretchy mounts will break. I've used them for various accessories and they all eventually break. Recently one of two I used to mount a video camera to my helmet broke. That's why I double and triple up on retention with those things. At a minimum, two rubber bands and a zip tie backup. I'll often use velcro or other mounts as backups too.

Those makeshift mounts are such hazards I'd ban them from group rides if I was ride leader. Either that or require backup retention using zip ties.

If you do go with a flashlight and makeshift rubber band mount -- I don't care how fancy the mount is -- do yourself a favor and use a zip tie as a backup retention.

Or just get a proper headlight. They aren't that expensive. In particular Serfas discontinued lights tend to be heavily discounted and are often outstanding values.

Even purpose made headlight mounts can break. My first Serfas mount broke after two years -- Serfas replaced it free. My Light & Motion Urban 500 headlight strap just developed a crack tonight. So I've backed it up with a zip tie until I can replace the strap.

Last edited by canklecat; 12-03-18 at 02:06 AM.
canklecat is offline  
Old 12-03-18, 12:49 PM
  #17  
no motor?
Unlisted member
 
no motor?'s Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: Chicagoland
Posts: 6,190

Bikes: Specialized Hardrock

Mentioned: 29 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1257 Post(s)
Liked 294 Times in 208 Posts
I must be doing it wrong. I've used a variety of different flashlights secured with the 2 fish products for over 10 years and haven't lost one yet. I've also used the wrist straps as a backup instead of zipties, and I think that worked once to keep me from losing a light.

And the removable batteries may take more effort to recharge, but they're a lot easier to change midride than the USB powered batteries in the dedicated bike lights. I'd rather carry around some spare batteries than a spare light when I go for longer rides.
no motor? is offline  
Old 12-03-18, 01:55 PM
  #18  
tcs
Palmer
 
tcs's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Parts Unknown
Posts: 6,220

Bikes: 1980 Mike Melton, 1982 Stumpjumper, 1982 Santana, 1984 Alex Moulton AM, 2008 BikeFriday tikit T-11, 2010 Dawes Briercliffe, 2017 Dahon Curl i5, 2019 Surly ½DT14

Mentioned: 24 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 696 Post(s)
Liked 181 Times in 125 Posts
A flashlight-for-headlamp is my preferred set-up for cycletouring, since I don't plan to ride at night but want to be able to make myself visible in bad weather, the common AA batteries frees me from dealing with recharging, and I'll want a flashlight anyway for camping. For commuting/errands/club rides, I use a purpose-designed bicycle headlamp.
tcs is offline  
Old 12-03-18, 02:19 PM
  #19  
Spoonrobot 
Senior Member
 
Spoonrobot's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 3,206
Mentioned: 63 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 1168 Post(s)
Liked 112 Times in 79 Posts
I do about ~175 hours of night riding a year and use flashlights as headlights purely because I can find good, honest data on the run-time and beam pattern. Bike lights do not have a robust hobby base so I was either left to trust the manufacturers run-time rating or buy lights to test myself. Instead I looked at flashlight forums until I found a light that used the batteries I wanted, had a beam spread and throw I wanted and the run-time I preferred. That was in 2013 and the lights I bought (Olight S15 now discontinued) have worked great in all conditions including several hundred miles of gravel for five years now. Guy I ride with has replaced his $70 bike light several times as the battery isn't serviceable and there's always a new model. I replaced my Eneloop AAs after three years for $12.

For mounts I bought a bag of twofish lockblocks when they were on clearance thinking they'd last a year or so before replacement. To date I've only had one fail where the rubber block just broke down at the strap cutout. Could have fixed with zipties but just replaced.

So I like 'em and think they're a good option.
Spoonrobot is offline  
Old 12-03-18, 03:48 PM
  #20  
noisebeam
Arizona Dessert
 
noisebeam's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: AZ
Posts: 14,884

Bikes: Cannondale SuperSix, Lemond Poprad. Retired: Jamis Sputnik, Centurion LeMans Fixed, Diamond Back ascent ex

Mentioned: 65 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 4338 Post(s)
Liked 925 Times in 530 Posts
I have been using a Fexix LD10 and LD20 flashlight for perhaps a decade. Mounted on bike with a twofish linked above.
It works for seeing the road in total darkness even on winding hilly roads when racing friends.
I put in a fresh charged NiMH A or 2xAA before ever ride and if the ride is over 3hrs I carry a 2nd set of batteries.
I can aim it level to slightly down for use on road or tilted down more for rare use on MUP.
Flash mode during the day.
noisebeam is offline  
Old 12-03-18, 08:33 PM
  #21  
canklecat
Me duelen las nalgas
 
canklecat's Avatar
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: Texas
Posts: 11,701

Bikes: Centurion Ironman, Trek 5900, Univega Via Carisma, Globe Carmel

Mentioned: 184 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3716 Post(s)
Liked 1,323 Times in 870 Posts
The last group ride I was on a week ago I noticed a regular from our group with a new bike and a flashlight in a TwoFish lockblock. Usually I'd consider those better than the rubber band straps. Nope. Her light popped off on a moderately rough road.

Reminds me, next group ride I plan to ask cyclists using those things to please use backup retention -- a zip tie or something.

I don't disagree with the reasons for preferring a flashlight, despite issues about beam patterns -- that can be fixed with a decent hood, even a homemade hood like I use on my L&M Urban.

My only concern is with the farm rigged methods for mounting flashlights.
canklecat is offline  
Old 12-03-18, 08:48 PM
  #22  
Daniel4
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Toronto
Posts: 2,436

Bikes: Sekini 1979 ten speed racer

Mentioned: 15 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 921 Post(s)
Liked 146 Times in 103 Posts
Any bicycle headlamp or tail light that is fastened to the bar mount with a clip can fall off. I had to back track in car traffic to retrieve batteries when I hit a pothole.

Now they are secured with additional elastic bands that have their own hooks.

As for flashlights, mount them on your helmet. Your body makes for an excellent shock absorber and the beam will point to wherever you're head is turned (instead of where your handlebar is turned).
Daniel4 is offline  
Old 12-03-18, 09:12 PM
  #23  
reishi
Junior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2017
Posts: 15
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 6 Post(s)
Likes: 0
Liked 0 Times in 0 Posts
I second the two fish lock blocks . Solid reliable design. Never had a light fall out or any part of the clamp slip or move at all on the bars even when wet. Quick removal. Commuted to work with them for a year and continue to use them. The rechargeable AW liion cells I've been using in my now vintage incandescent surefire flashlights since 2008 are beginning to not hold a charge. The lights worked OK .. I upgraded one with a brighter LED lumensfactory drop in lamp module but I'm looking into a purpose made bike light for my next setup.
reishi is offline  
Old 12-04-18, 04:40 AM
  #24  
MikeyMK
Cycleway town
 
MikeyMK's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Milton Keynes, England
Posts: 1,402

Bikes: 2.6kw GT LTS e-tandem, 250w Voodoo, 250w solar recumbent trike, 3-speed shopper, Merlin ol/skl mtb, 80cc Ellswick

Mentioned: 7 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 568 Post(s)
Liked 164 Times in 115 Posts
You can buy proper torch mounts for less than the price of a loaf of bread, on ebay here.

MikeyMK is offline  
Old 12-04-18, 05:11 AM
  #25  
KraneXL
 
KraneXL's Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: La-la Land, CA
Posts: 3,623

Bikes: Cannondale Quick SL1 Bike - 2014

Mentioned: 32 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 3405 Post(s)
Liked 235 Times in 180 Posts
Sure you could use a flashlight on bicycles. After all, you could hang a lantern from your handlebars, if you wanted to.

Personally, I'd consider them something to be used on an ah hoc basis due to their design limitations. But as long as I can see you coming that's up to you.
KraneXL is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell My Personal Information -

Copyright © 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.