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Lights have a high failure rate; or just bad luck?

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Lights have a high failure rate; or just bad luck?

Old 11-15-21, 10:49 PM
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Russ Roth
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Lights have a high failure rate; or just bad luck?

Prior to this year I didn't do a lot of night riding, but things have changed and I'm finding it fun as is the rest of the family, which means we've been adding lights.

So far, I've had one niterider fall off its mount after 3 rides and is gone to who knows where.
Bought a Light and Motion 2000 lumen light, wouldn't turn on from the beginning. It wouldn't charge with the cord it came with but would with one of the two cords I already had, not the other though. Didn't matter how many times I held down both buttons or for how long, it wasn't turning on. Holding down the buttons while it was charging did get the 3 green flashes that indicated it was unlocked, still wouldn't turn on. It went back.
Last night my Cygolite Metro 1100 randomly decided to stop working. Push the button and doesn't turn on, hold the button and it just starts flashing but stops the moment the button is released. Bought it in May of this year, so far 2 mtb rides and about 6 rides with the local youth track team my kids train with. Not a single scratch on the light.
This was on top of the mount for my 15 year old sigma light failing, I improved a repair that will probably hold long term though I doubt the let can ever be removed from the mount again. 1st gen LiIon battery that still goes strong and still seems to put out 500 Lumen.

Currently have a replacement Cygolite on the way. I've also ordered 2 Leznye 1300xxl lights since they're on sale and I haven't heard bad things about them.
Seems like a bad run of luck with 2 randomly not working and 2 with mount issues.
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Old 11-16-21, 01:35 AM
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Were those lights discounted from the original price? I'm a little wary of deep discounts on lights even from reputable companies. Often they're new/old stock. If the batteries haven't been at least partially charged since leaving the factory the batteries might be shot right out of the package.

I bought a couple of new/old stock head and tail lights from Light & Motion (Urban 500) and Cygolite (SL50). Both seemed to fail sooner than expected, after about a year of regular use. They were on blowout sale at REI, and barely had any charge out of the package when purchased.

In contrast, I bought relatively new L&M Rando 500 (same as the Urban 500, but with the option to charge while running, although only on low power and only with the supplied USB cord), Cygolite 150, NiteRider Lumina Dual 1800 and Lumina Micro 750, Blackburn 2'Fer and others -- all within the first year of being manufactured, and all have performed satisfactorily, as expected. Heck, the Blackburn 2'Fer is going on 6 years of regular use now. It, the Rando 500 and Lumina Micro 750 have lost some runtime per charge, down to about 75% of the original runtime, but not bad for 3 years or so of regular use.

So I'm a little wary of deep discounts for major brand lights now if they're older models, especially if they've been discontinued or replaced by slightly different models.

Of the bunch, the Cygolite 150 and (expensive) NiteRider Lumina Dual 1800 have been very satisfactory. That particular NiteRider has spoiled me to the point that I dislike riding with any single LED lights now. So if I do run a single LED light, I'll carry two or three and run at least two simultaneously on either side of the stem on the handlebar, or on the head tube on my steel bikes with narrower tubes. The broader beam really helps in my area where there's always a danger of deer and other critters darting across my path.

I'd also consider the Outbound brand lights, which get good reviews from users. About the same price as the NiteRider Lumina Dual 1800, and apparently with better lenses and beam shape.
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Old 11-16-21, 07:53 AM
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I have had one light failure in the past decade, my month long bike tour in Iceland was wet, lots of rain days. I had an XLC taillight and the circuitry corroded, quit working. But bike touring I always have two taillights, use AAA powered taillights. So, the XLC failure meant I had one still working.

Currently for non-dyno powered taillights use Planet Bike Superflash and also have Planet Bike Superflash 65. Both are AAA powered. Also have a discontinued model of a Planet Bike taillight that is over a decade old as spare. I use low discharge rechargeable NiMH AAA batteries, Eneloops or Ikea Ladda.

On two bikes I have Spaninga Pixeo taillights attached to the fenders, both are dynopower, work great. And have a B&M Secula Plus dynopower tailight with a seatstay mount (zip tie) on another bike.

Headlights that are attached to my bikes, all are dyno powered. I have a couple Luxos U lights, they have worked great but have a bad reputation for water ingress so I am quite careful with those, if it starts to rain a plastic bag goes over them. And have a couple B&M IQ-XS lights. The B&M headlights are poorly sealed on the bottom and rear, so care must be used to mount where there is no tire spray, I think these lights are best used with fenders.

I described my dynopowered lighting system on one of my bikes at this link:
Wiring up a dyno powered lighting system with USB charger

Touring on my S&S coupled bike, I no longer bring a headlight that is mounted on the bike. But in case I encounter a tunnel or need to ride at night, I have one that runs on a USB cable that I can plug into my powerbank, attaches to handlebar with an elastic. I mostly carry it as a just-in-case light. It was $5 on Ebay, shipped from Asia, but I just looked on Ebay for a link to it, I no longer see that light sold. That light is in the photo below, but it has only been used a few times and it has not gotten wet yet, so reliability is as of yet unknown.

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Old 11-16-21, 08:30 AM
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Start of season problems hit everything -- why do you think it takes twice as long to get a bike serviced at your LBS in early spring than early winter? Batteries that have been getting weak just don't work after sitting for months.

As far as I can tell, the average life of a blinking taillight in normal circumstances is about 2-3 winters' of commuting. Didn't have one fail last winter? Might be because I was WFH all winter, they may last through this winter too.
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Old 11-16-21, 08:38 AM
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the more stuff we have the more maintenance repairs failures we have to deal with. got a new light last Fall. 1st ride out it kept turning off while I was riding. it was my only light on at the time. couldn't figure out why. after a cpl times of that I started using it on a lower power setting. that seemed to do the trick. but then I tried the higher power setting & it worked better longer. thought it might over heating or the battery wasn't a good mate ... eventually no other rides it did not quit on high power w/ the same battery ... go figure. this year I've mated it w/ a smaller battery & have had no issues at full power ... go figure ...
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Old 11-16-21, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
the more stuff we have the more maintenance repairs failures we have to deal with. got a new light last Fall. 1st ride out it kept turning off while I was riding. it was my only light on at the time. couldn't figure out why. after a cpl times of that I started using it on a lower power setting. that seemed to do the trick. but then I tried the higher power setting & it worked better longer. thought it might over heating or the battery wasn't a good mate ... eventually no other rides it did not quit on high power w/ the same battery ... go figure. this year I've mated it w/ a smaller battery & have had no issues at full power ... go figure ...
batteries... so many ways to get into trouble!

some of the stuff I get from China comes with really awful batteries. These are usually ordinary disposable batteries, such as AA's or little 357 or 2032 watch batteries. It's just one more way to save money at the expense of quality. Not sure if this practice might extend into the bike light business, but changing batteries (if possible) is worth trying.

Back in the days of NiCad batteries, there was also a need to run the battery through a few charge/discharge cycles to get it up to full capacity. I doubt that modern lithium batteries have this issue, but maybe give it a try.

Steve in Peoria
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Old 11-17-21, 07:01 PM
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Well the problems continue. Bought a brand new cygolite 1100, arrived with the power button unlocked and has the same issue as the defective one, pressing the power button for more than a second causes the light to flash but it doesn't actually turn on and the flashing stops as soon as the button is released.
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Old 11-18-21, 12:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Russ Roth View Post
Well the problems continue. Bought a brand new cygolite 1100, arrived with the power button unlocked and has the same issue as the defective one, pressing the power button for more than a second causes the light to flash but it doesn't actually turn on and the flashing stops as soon as the button is released.
Check with Cygolite for operating instructions. Some bike lights have complex button press instructions.

And it's possible there's some oxidation on the contacts for the light, if the light sat around for weeks, months or longer at sea, in non-air conditioned storage or shipping container (currently the Long Beach port has a huge backlog). Maybe repeatedly pressing the controls might slightly clean up an oxidized contact.

When I got my first Light & Motion light I thought it was defective because it appeared to be fully charged but when I pressed the button it flashed red and the headlight didn't turn on. I didn't realize at the time L&M Urban type lights have a lockout -- press and hold 4 seconds to lock and unlock the power button.

Cygolite Hotshots have so many options some folks never use anything other than the brightest, most annoying strobe mode even in group rides. I use three modes a lot (disco in daytime, slow pulse at night, steady in group rides), but it takes cycling through the entire carousel of choices, and sometimes pressing the second button to change brightness in steady mode, or flashing intervals in all other modes.

And some lights require more finger pressure than others. The L&M lights have the stiffest button presses. The Cygolite Hotrod has the best tactile feel and soft pressure. Some of my cheaper lights have mushy buttons and tend to skip modes when cycling through the carousel of options.
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Old 11-26-21, 04:59 AM
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Old 11-26-21, 08:20 AM
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Dang, you guys have really bad luck!

I’ve got lights that are so old, I don’t even remember when I bought them.

I’ve had one failure recently, of a years old Lezyne Zecto taillamp, from whenever those came out. I did open it up a few months ago and effect a repair which worked for awhile, but it's on the fritz again. I think it was something with the charge port, but don’t recall.

Most often I just replace lights for kicks n’ giggles, to check out the latest n’ greatest. Reliability problems haven’t been an issue since the early ‘90s, back when the Planet Bike Superflash came out. Those were a step up back in the day, but would conk out. Before that, it was the big C-cell CatEye taillights which would succumb to late ‘80ss, harsh Michigan winters.
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Old 11-27-21, 02:41 AM
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there is a lot more to lights nowadays, integrated circuits for charging Lithium Ion batteries, logic chips for cycling through the different lumen settings, transistors for regulating current, LED's that require heatsinking in order to prevent self destruction,

i wish somebody would make a light with a battery, a switch, and a LED. one setting that lasts about 8 hours,

no electronics but the switch. charge the battery with a typical battery charger. this would eliminate electronic failures as well as the troublesome USB port. Certain diving light are built like this, but finding the right beam pattern can be problematic and they require a handlebar mount, but they are super waterproof and very dependable.
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Old 11-27-21, 07:21 AM
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Originally Posted by cjenrick View Post
Certain diving light are built like this, but finding the right beam pattern can be problematic and they require a handlebar mount, but they are super waterproof and very dependable.
night diving = very fun
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Old 11-27-21, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
night diving = very fun
Also, night diving = too terrifying to even consider
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Old 11-27-21, 03:08 PM
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The only problem I've ever had (knock on wood) with my lights has been the mounts failing. The lights themselves keep right on working despite flying down into ditches, ravines, etc. I got home one night and noticed that I didn't have a tail light any longer. Headed right around and found it still blinking on the side of the road. Luckily there wasn't much traffic that night.
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Old 11-27-21, 08:18 PM
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Well black friday presale resulted in me getting a pair of Moon Meteor Shower pro lights and the light I had turned out to be a result of my 6yo screwing with the light which cygolight helped me to fix. The moons claim 1750 lumens for 2.5hrs so that should be sufficient and bright for most my night rides, I'll test them out this Fri if the weather permits.
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Old 11-27-21, 10:12 PM
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night diving is an experience. turn out your light at 40 feet and experience a darkness like no other.

fish are asleep. you can swim up and touch them, they will scurry off 10 feet and fall asleep again.

catfish are awake, busy sweeping the floor. only night diving i did was by myself which is also a spooky experience.

be aware that not all dive lights are suitable for cycling as they rely on the water for heat sinking. but a dive light used on low should be no problem, especially in a cool climate.
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Old 11-27-21, 10:16 PM
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Originally Posted by cjenrick View Post
night diving is an experience. turn out your light at 40 feet and experience a darkness like no other.

fish are asleep. you can swim up and touch them, they will scurry off 10 feet and fall asleep again.

catfish are awake, busy sweeping the floor. only night diving i did was by myself which is also a spooky experience.

be aware that not all dive lights are suitable for cycling as they rely on the water for heat sinking. but a dive light used on low should be no problem, especially in a cool climate.
Probably like turning the lights off while spelunking, nothing for the eyes to adapt to, its just black.
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Old 11-28-21, 07:30 AM
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a buddy & I would dive at night after work for several years. we had a favorite spot. it was a protected cove avrg depth 30 feet within the cove. we always stayed in the cove. the sides of the cove had cliffs with homes w/ lights. we always knew where we were. some fun highlights included schools of squid, my buddy turning off his light & gesturing for me to do the same. once both lights were out he started swirling his hands making tiny bioluminescent critters light up in swirling masses. then I did the same. & there we were, the 2 of us, no lights, swirling our hands & feet in darkness disturbing the glowing critters. it was pretty unique. we also dove at night during storms. it was difficult to talk to each other at the surface & even see ea. other due to the swells between us, but once we descended it was all calm. another fun highlight was tank sharing. he had a larger tank & rather than us quitting when I ran out of air he wanted to buddy breath on his tank (he had a 2 regulator "octopus") to a certain point then I would go on my own tank so we would both run out at the same time. everything was fine until I had to go back on my own tank. I kept reaching for my regulator but repeatedly couldn't find it. at about the point I almost gave up & surfaced I found it, cleared the regulator & started breathing. while we always had the rule of staying together on one occasion I don't remember why, while I was at the surface he descended, indicating for me to wait for him. this is over 25 yrs ago so my memory on the point is weak. but I do remember his light, glow stick & strobe (we each wore night strobes) disappeared into the darkness. or maybe on that dive we didn't have the strobes? regardless I lost sight of him. I didn't go after him but after a few seconds he re-emerged from the darkness as he rose toward me again. this was before cell phones so I would stop at a phone booth, confirm to Wife where we were & that we would be under water soon. then as soon as we could, hit the same phone booth to let her know we were out & headed home. I'd say our dives were approx. between the hours of 7-9pm. we must have made 20+ night dives over 1 or 2 summers, mixed in w/ other daytime dives. I dove w/ a camera & flashes & also attached a light so I could see enough to focus with. unfortunately we lost touch when he also got married to a woman who dove. I guess one could say she stole my dive buddy. haha no worries, it's all good

I sometimes think those dives contribute to my joy riding at night & even in storms, all covered up except for lights & cameras. cycling like that, has many similarities to night diving. but probably a lot safer!

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Old 11-28-21, 09:19 AM
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I have had three hotshots fail, all the same way. Now, I just use the circa 2007 introduced Planet Bike now and keep a spare in my bag. The Planet bike is susceptible to moisture but it is easy to remedy I had a front light go out in the middle of the night on a 600k descending Rt 100 in Vermont. Talk about terror.

Edit: The most reliable lights I had were Ed Kearney lights from the late 70's or maybe early 80's Nicad battery to a tractor bulb and a highway sized yellow light in the rear. Just two switches. Replaceable bulbs for higher wattage or different patterns. I used them to commute and also early randonneuring adventures.

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Old 11-28-21, 10:00 AM
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Our Planet Bike lights have been working a long time - I can't even remember how long ago I bought them. They've been rained on, fallen off the bikes a few times, been subjected to temperature extremes, and all sorts of other abuse. No problems so far.
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Old 12-03-21, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by cjenrick View Post
there is a lot more to lights nowadays, integrated circuits for charging Lithium Ion batteries, logic chips for cycling through the different lumen settings, transistors for regulating current, LED's that require heatsinking in order to prevent self destruction,

i wish somebody would make a light with a battery, a switch, and a LED. one setting that lasts about 8 hours,

no electronics but the switch. charge the battery with a typical battery charger. this would eliminate electronic failures as well as the troublesome USB port. Certain diving light are built like this, but finding the right beam pattern can be problematic and they require a handlebar mount, but they are super waterproof and very dependable.
For a while, I would use generic flashlights with handlebar mounts. I used the kind that use a single Lithium Ion 18650 cell. Some of these produce huge amounts of light. They have round beams, but some people don't mind that. One problem for me was that charging involved, removing the light from the mount, opening the flashlight, and putting the battery in a charger. Those are too many steps for a frequent operation. But it has what you're asking for. There is only an on-off switch. Well, the switch does change modes, but does that count?
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