Sunday, November 13, 2011

Bicycle Lights

If your shopping for a headlight for your bike it can be a bit overwhelming. So I thought I would share my recent shopping and research into bicycle lighting. Its a little better than it used to be since most of the industry seems to have settled on lumens as the best way to describe a light's strength. Whats a lumen and what is the difference between lux, lumen and watts? 

Lumen - measures luminous flux, the quantity of light emitted by a light source.

Lux - measures the amount of luminous flux spread in a square meter by a light source. Sunlight on an average day ranges from 32,000 to 100,000 lux.  Moonlight = 1 lux. 

Watts - The amount of power consumed by a light source.

LEDs (light emitting diodes) are pretty much the industry standard, which simplifies things when shopping for a light. There are different types of LEDs, Cree, and Nichia to name a few. 

There are 3 types of power sources;

Dynomo hubs which generate power when the wheel is rotating. 

Rechargable lithium ion batteries.

Disposable Batteries such as AA, AAA etc. Of course you can get these in a rechargable type as well.

When selecting a headlight you should consider where you will be riding. Dark roads, well lit roads, or trails. Some lights are only meant to increase your visibility to traffic, these are usually less than $50 dollars. This is a bit obvious but I'll say it anyway, In my experience traveling on well lit roads you only need a to be seen light, as even some of the brightest lights get washed out and add nothing to your ability to see. For trail riding you should get as much light as you can afford, obviously trails are unlit and strewn with rocks, branches, and holes.

If you ride at night in a variety of lighting conditions getting a light that falls in the middle of the extremes described above is the best bet. Since I fall into the later of the categories I will focus on mid-range lights that will suit a variety of conditions. The price range for lights ranges from double digits all the way to $950. My budget cuts off at about $150 so that's where I've concentrated this overview.
Cygolite Expilion 350-Lumen USB Rechargeable Headlight

Cygolite Expillion 350 - an all in one light offering 7 light modes, Run time - 2  hrs. @ 350 lumens. USB or AC rechargeable. Handle bar mount only.
List price $109.95
Cygolite offers other Expillion lights ranging from 400 to 170 lumens.

Cygolite Expillion 350 75' beam test from mtbr's 2012 light shoot out

Gemini Titan - 900 lumens, 4 light modes, light and battery pack mount on the helmet or handle bars. Run time - 4 hours on high. 
List price $99.99


Lezyne Super Drive - 450 lumen, All in one light. 4 light modes.
Run times - 1.5 hrs @ 450 lumens, 2 hrs @ 300 lumens, 4 hrs @ 150 lumens and 5 hrs on flash mode. Handle bar mount only. USB rechargeable.
List Price $110
Lezyne also makes 2 other models at 300 and 150 lumens.

 Lezyne Super Drive 75' light test from mtbr's 2012 light shoot out  

Lezyne Super Drive beam test from bike

Magicshine MJ-816 - 1400 lumens, Handle bar mount with O ring, separate battery pack and switch. Run times on highest setting vary between 2-3 hrs.
List Price $120 
One note about this light, the battery pack was recently recalled by GeoMan

Magicshine MJ-816 front light
Magicshine MJ-816 beam test from bike

Niterider MiNewt 600 Cordless - 600 lumens, Run times - 1.5 hrs @ 600 lumens, 3 hrs @ 400 lumens, 4.5 hrs @ 275 lumens. 
5.5 hour USB rechargeable. Handle bar and helmet mounts.
List Price $150

Niterider MiNewt 600 Cordless 75' beam test from mtbr 2012 light shoot out

Niterider MiNewt 600 Cordless beam test from bike

Niterider  MiNewt 600 Cordless 100' trail beam test from mtbr

Serfas True 500 - All in one design, Run time 1.75 hrs @ 500 lumens, USB or AC rechargeable, Handle bar and helmet mounts.
List Price $150 
Serfas also offers the True light series in 250 and 150 lumens

Serfas TSL 500 75' beam test from mtbr 2012 light shoot out

Serfas TSL 500, 100' trail beam test from mtbr 

Some of the information I've included in this overview was obtained from the following links which you may also find helpful.

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