Help choose a budget light for daily commute on a bicycle

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ToyKeeper
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no motor wrote:
I’m surprised nobody has suggested riding with more than one light yet.

I tend to put a 1×18650 tube light on my handlebars (Convoy S3 or S7 or similar) and a headlamp on my head (ZL H51 or H52). And I frequently bring a XinTD C8 in my purse in case I need to see something far away. A zoomie headlamp can be fun sometimes too, but tends to give me tunnel vision so I see only the far-away objects and not what’s right in front of me.
noravanq
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Would the UltraFire WF-501B XM-L T6 work decently mounted on a helmet? I am thinking of using it with the Convoy S2 (once it gets here) mounted on the handlebars.

It’s currently available for $6.85 at tmart.

http://www.tmart.com/UltraFire-WF-501B-CREE-XM-L-T6-1000LM-5-Modes-LED-Flashlight-Electric-Torch_p150607.html

Thanks!

no motor
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I use an older version and it’s fine. It works great when drivers look at you and then continue to drive right at you, one flash of that and they usually decide to stop breaking the law.

noravanq
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Thanks. Someone suggested here that with these chinese products often the quality deteriorates with time. Would that apply here as well or is the 501B from Tmart still fine?

There is a review here http://budgetlightforum.com/node/3874 but that one was from DealExtreme and the review dates back to 2011.

Cowboysnavy
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What I’ve noticed from most of the drivers I’m the 501b’s is they have horrible pwm
I’d stick to a tube style light as they’re better balanced for a helmet like the s2
These are just my thoughts I’m sure others will have an opinion also

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noravanq wrote:
Would the UltraFire WF-501B XM-L T6 work decently mounted on a helmet? I am thinking of using it with the Convoy S2 (once it gets here) mounted on the handlebars.

I suppose you could do that… assuming you want flood on the handlebars and throw on your head. Though you could easily get something smaller and lighter for around the same price, without sacrificing on throw. I’d go for a tube light over a P60 (the WF-501b is a P60-style light), but even better would be a zoomie headlamp. Fasttech has a few which might be of interest:
http://www.fasttech.com/category/1602/headlamps
It’s very helpful to be able to aim headlamps up and down, which a helmet-mounted traditional light might not be able to do.

I got one of these a while back… It’s basically a head-mounted SK-68. It was fun when I wanted to see things far away while biking, but it was also a bit distracting and encouraged me not to look where I was going. And if I accidentally pointed my head at a nearby reflective street sign, I’d get briefly blinded… so try not to do that.
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004NK6Q7Y/
Since then, I’ve switched to a nicer headlamp, a ZL H51 (or, more recently, ZL H52).

Of course, if you want to see really far… you could mount a C8 on your helmet, like the popular XinTD C8. But it’s big enough to be awkward even on a helmet, and bright enough that it’d be illegal on the road in many places (it’s much more intense than car headlights).

For biking, I don’t always bother with two lights… a head-mounted light alone is often enough. I’ve been tempted to forego the handlebar light entirely and just strap a ZL SC600 to my head. Illumination Supply has a great deal on the ZL SC600 Mk II right now, considered by many to be the best EDC light on the market (and pretty well-suited for biking too).

noravanq
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Thanks for the comments.

I have noticed that the ZL lights get a lot of praise here, but their prices are quite out of range for me. The $50 for the S2, charger and pair of protected cells was already a stretch for me.

I saw the $6.85 deal at tmart posted in the deals thread, and thought if it’s a good option, I may get it and consider to be done with my bike lighting. Since the comments were mixed, I decided to look more into these before purchasing something.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004NK6Q7Y/ Lists three different lights. Which one did you mean? The 240LM for 8.99?

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Ok…back to square one…

Personally, I don’t feel that any lesser led than an XM-L provides enough light to be useful for biking.

On the road, I don’t care for headsets and one or two handle bar lights are enough. In the city, (One is usually enough around here), In dark country or off-road, one or two might still be ok, but a headlamp in combo is essential for off-road mountain biking after dark, and for that you will need a real solid headset mount to hold them on your head and aim well. It’s probably best to attach it to your helmet, but whatever works out best for you.

Fastech has several headsets in the $15-$20 range that look like they could work out. AA or lithium driven and one with a reflector.

I can see all of them being useful in different situations. I’d lean toward the reflector one. The reflector will have more throw, the zoom might have more flood, some guys might like AA, but until one has their hands on them and runs some comparisons at night it’s guesswork… 10 minutes on the road and in the dark and you’ll know what works and what doesn’t.

The xp-g and xr-e types that I have tried are not adequate as to useful light output for road use, but as long as it has an xm-l and lithium power it has potential.

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If i were to buy a bike light i would try this one, it would attach to an ML-102 easily, and its not at all expensive

http://www.fasttech.com/products/0/10004789/1370300-polar-cree-xm-l-u2-3...

The Journal of Alternative Facts

"It is critical that there is a credible academic source for the growing and important discipline of Alternative Facts. This field of study will just keep winning, and we knew that all the best people would want to be on board. There is a real risk in the world today that people might be getting their information about science from actual scientists."

 

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Bort wrote:
If i were to buy a bike light i would try this one, it would attach to an ML-102 easily, and its not at all expensive http://www.fasttech.com/products/0/10004789/1370300-polar-cree-xm-l-u2-3...

I was thinking of USB powered lights plugged into USB power banks, but many of those power banks wouldn't output enough current. Plus there would be lose of capacity burned up in boosting voltage to 5.0v. I abandoned the thought. 

-Garry

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garrybunk wrote:

Bort wrote:
If i were to buy a bike light i would try this one, it would attach to an ML-102 easily, and its not at all expensive http://www.fasttech.com/products/0/10004789/1370300-polar-cree-xm-l-u2-3...

I was thinking of USB powered lights plugged into USB power banks, but many of those power banks wouldn’t output enough current. Plus there would be lose of capacity burned up in boosting voltage to 5.0v. I abandoned the thought. 

-Garry


Good point, they won’t output 3A to fully drive the LED
That LED says 1.7A and also says 10W (which would need 3A), so i’m assuming the actual draw is 1.7A, but you are also correct that we don’t know the inefficiencies in the setup
If i had $16 i would try it, i already have the ML-102 for charging

The Journal of Alternative Facts

"It is critical that there is a credible academic source for the growing and important discipline of Alternative Facts. This field of study will just keep winning, and we knew that all the best people would want to be on board. There is a real risk in the world today that people might be getting their information about science from actual scientists."

 

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noravanq wrote:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004NK6Q7Y/ Lists three different lights. Which one did you mean? The 240LM for 8.99?

Oh, sorry. That listing only had one item when I bought it. I got a 3xAAA one.

It was cheap, and I wouldn’t trust it on bumpy roads (its angle mechanism is weak), but it was a fun way to see far away. Also very effective for making sure cars see you, since if you aim it at a car it’ll appear brighter than a car’s high beams.

Top Cat wrote:
I’d lean toward the reflector one. The reflector will have more throw, the zoom might have more flood, …

I don’t see much point using a zoomie headlamp in its wide setting while biking… it wouldn’t throw very far at all in that mode. I was thinking more of using it zoomed in to a narrow beam, which would have great throw but no spill at all. A reflector-based light, OTOH, would give you both spot and spill — less throw than a zoomie, but you’d get some nice context around the hotspot.

The best type I’ve used is a reflector-based headlamp (ZL H51), but it was a bit pricey. A spot+spill beam is nice because the spill illuminates things up close while the spot lights things up at a distance. A zoomie, OTOH, can work near or far, but not both at the same time.

noravanq
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This might be a stupid question, but I’ll ask it anyway. Don’t all lights have reflectors, regardless of whether they have a zooming mechanism or not?

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Nope. Some lights (especially aspherics) specifically avoid reflecting any light, and coat everything inside (except the emitter) with matte black paint. This helps avoid weird rings around the beam while zoomed to a tight spot.

For example, here are a couple SK-68s which didn’t prevent reflections well enough, so they have rainbow rings around the hotspots:

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Oh, and here’s what it looks like if you use an aspheric lens and a reflector (orange peel reflector):
A bit weird, no?

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ToyKeeper wrote:
Oh, and here’s what it looks like if you use an aspheric lens and a reflector (orange peel reflector):
A bit weird, no?

i like that, a bit of free spill from otherwise wasted lumens, and the pattern is fun too
which reflector and light is that?

The Journal of Alternative Facts

"It is critical that there is a credible academic source for the growing and important discipline of Alternative Facts. This field of study will just keep winning, and we knew that all the best people would want to be on board. There is a real risk in the world today that people might be getting their information about science from actual scientists."

 

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Bort wrote:
i like that, a bit of free spill from otherwise wasted lumens, and the pattern is fun too
which reflector and light is that?

It’s a Convoy S3 with XP-G2 (sold that way from Intl-Outdoor), and I took the aspheric from an Ultrafire 838. It was just kludged together for a quick test:
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ToyKeeper wrote:
Bort wrote:
i like that, a bit of free spill from otherwise wasted lumens, and the pattern is fun too
which reflector and light is that?

It’s a Convoy S3 with XP-G2 (sold that way from Intl-Outdoor), and I took the aspheric from an Ultrafire 838. It was just kludged together for a quick test:

i wonder if that aspheric is available on its own

The Journal of Alternative Facts

"It is critical that there is a credible academic source for the growing and important discipline of Alternative Facts. This field of study will just keep winning, and we knew that all the best people would want to be on board. There is a real risk in the world today that people might be getting their information about science from actual scientists."

 

noravanq
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Thanks a lot for the clarifications. It makes sense now. The reflector+zoom combo does look strange.

noravanq
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So excited. They are here!

I was expecting the flashlight today as tracking was showing the in Pittsburgh already, but magically the batteries were delivered today as well, even though they were still showing up in the Kuala Lumpur airport. 24 days for the Convoy S2 and nitecore I2 charger from fasttech and 23 days for the protectec 3400 mah panasonics from wallbuys.

S2 looks and feels great. My DMM showed 3.6 volts for the cell. It’s currently sitting in the charger. Can’t wait to use the light for my ride home from work today.

Thanks to everyone for all the suggestions.

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I’d love to hear your thoughts after you’ve tried using it. Smile

I’m pretty happy with my 2100mA T6-3C S7 for biking (same reflector as S2, IIRC), though the stainless steel body doesn’t dump heat very well. It can only maintain “low” in stagnant air or “medium” while I’m biking, with “high” reserved only for short bursts. It looks nice, but aluminum would be a lot better at shedding heat.

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That’s a good combo you got there!

Mooooooo

noravanq
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I have used the light for three days now on short commutes, about 10-12minutes each. I have been running it on high and two days ago when it was -8C the light didn’t even get slightly warm. Today the temp was 13C and the head got slightly warm at the end. I have the 2.1A, AMC7135*6 version.

I find it great at slow to medium speeds and a bit lacking at 18+mph. At higher speeds I look further ahead on the road, and if I tilt the light up a bit to illuminate further ahead, I feel like it I could use a bit more throw.

One small thing I didn’t like is that the end of the spring at the head is not bent inwards, so when I tried to screw it on while the battery was in the light, there was some resistance and it scratched the nipple a bit. The tip of the spring at the tail is bent inwards, so it rotates smoothly against the battery.

Overall very happy with the light.

I may try some kind of a thrower on my helmet and see how I like it. One thing I worry about though, is what that will do to the drivers when I term my head back to check on cars behind.

noravanq
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I have tried searching but haven’t been able to find an answer. What does the low voltage warning look like on Convoy S2 (from FastTech)? Does it give a warning or does it turn off the light? What is the voltage when this happens?

Bort
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noravanq wrote:
I have tried searching but haven’t been able to find an answer. What does the low voltage warning look like on Convoy S2 (from FastTech)? Does it give a warning or does it turn off the light? What is the voltage when this happens?

3V it switches to low and flashes once per second

The Journal of Alternative Facts

"It is critical that there is a credible academic source for the growing and important discipline of Alternative Facts. This field of study will just keep winning, and we knew that all the best people would want to be on board. There is a real risk in the world today that people might be getting their information about science from actual scientists."

 

noravanq
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Bort wrote:
noravanq wrote:
I have tried searching but haven’t been able to find an answer. What does the low voltage warning look like on Convoy S2 (from FastTech)? Does it give a warning or does it turn off the light? What is the voltage when this happens?

3V it switches to low and flashes once per second

Thanks!
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Glad you like it. I can see it not having enough throw for you at higher speeds. I wonder if you should increase throw slightly to get a "best of both worlds" kind of light or if you want to keep the S2 on the bars and add a thrower to it (either bars or helmet mounted). I'd suggest the Convoy M1 for more throw, though many will recommend the Convoy C8 (I don't own either). Remember the larger the reflector diameter the more throw with less spill you'll get.

If you're ever coming over east I could show you a few lights to give you an idea. I also have a bike trail right down the road from my house capable of 20+ MPH speeds (though it's pretty unusable until Spring now). I have a KD C8 which will have about same output at the Convoy. I also have OP and SMO reflectors. Also have a C8 with an XP-G to show off difference from XM-L to XP-G. My intended bike light is sitting on my bench waiting to get modded (SkyEye F13 with NW XM-L2 on copper with Dr. Jones programmable driver). 

-Garry

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Fine tuning…

My S2 is bright; it lights up a block on high. I’m running at 2100ma and an OP reflector, but if your S2 came with an OP reflector, changing to a smooth reflector will help the throw and that might be enough.

The M2 would be the next step up with better throw and more spill than an M1 running solo…running two lights is the Cadillac way.

I like the M2. It’s the largest light I can EDC but any thrower in combination will get the job done.

If running with a single M1 or M2 you will want an OP reflector.

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noravanq wrote:
I have been running it on high … I have the 2.1A, AMC7135*6 version.

I find it great at slow to medium speeds and a bit lacking at 18+mph. At higher speeds I look further ahead on the road, and if I tilt the light up a bit to illuminate further ahead, I feel like it I could use a bit more throw.

I may try some kind of a thrower on my helmet and see how I like it.


Interesting. I find that the medium setting is fine (~30% of 2.1A, IIRC) even when I’m going downhill at 30mph, and I almost never use the high setting. Most bikers around here still have oldschool lights made of several 5mm LEDs with a combined output of maybe 30 lm… so my ~225 lm medium mode looks blinding in comparison.

In any case, a head-mounted C8 would almost certainly give you enough throw. My main concerns there would be whether the beam would be wide enough to be useful, and if it might be intense enough to make your pupils contract further. Avoid aiming it directly at cars and you should be fine, because the spill isn’t intense.

I take my XinTD C8 biking with me, but I don’t normally leave it on… I just pull it out when I want to see something far away. A Convoy S2 XM-L at 2.1A should get somewhere around 4 kcd of lux, and the XinTD C8 gets more like 30 kcd or 35 kcd. Plus I hear I can get that up to 125 kcd with some mods, and I’m tempted to do so. When I’ve compared these against car headlights aimed at a wall, it looks like cars typically get around 3 kcd to 15 kcd. My car is toward the low end of that range, so most of my Li-Ion lights (even fairly floody ones) put out a brighter beam than my car. I’d like to get a lux meter though, so I can get some real numbers.

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For quick reference (if I remember correctly), here are a few common lights in order of least to most lux/throw and overall size (at the same total lumens and power level):

Convoy S2, S3, M2, M1, C8.

The S2 and S3 may be swapped sometimes though; people have reported getting different results with those, or even different results within a single model.

I’m also assuming that lights like the HD2010 are too big (and too throwy) for biking, and a Jacob A60 would probably throw a beam too narrow to be useful. However if narrow is okay, you could mount a cheap SK-68 (or a similar cheap aspheric headlamp) on your head if you just want to see farther in one small area.

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