Help choose a budget light for daily commute on a bicycle

Hi everyone,

I have been browsing these forums for quite some time, and finally decided to register, and ask directly for some help. I am trying to get new handlebar lights for my daily commute, and am having difficulties in deciding what to get. I have realised that I do not quite understand the differences. My commute is not very long, 30 minutes at most, and on regular city streets, portions of which are not very well lit.

Reading the forums here I get the impression that Cree XM-L U2 > XM-L T6 > XP-G R5 , XP-E Q5 , where > means better, newer, more efficient.

I have “narrowed” down my search to these, but would appreciate some help in deciding which one to buy (these are in the price range I can afford). I know this is too long a post, with way too many questions. I will greatly appreciate ANY help I can get to better understand flashlights, and the differences between these. Most of the discussions I see in these forums are for higher end ligths, but I cannot afford that stuff yet.


    Plastic Lens. Should I go for glass?
    Glass Lens, but 100m range. Should I go for 200m?
    900 lumens. Is that even possible? If yes, is that too much?
    Is this better then the previous ones?

Circuitry 2500mA. Does this mean more robust construction? One has mode memory, the other doesn’t. What does that mean?

None of the above have any reviews, even though some have been on DX for over half a year, so that worries me a bit.
All take 18650 batteries, so if I get one of these, I will have to invest in new batteries and a charger. Is it worth it (I feel the answer is going to be yes)? Is the UltraFire WF-139 the one to get?

3 hour runtime
only 60 minutes of runtime, but also takes AA

Runs on 3xAAA, runtime 4-6 hours. Is this considerably worse than the others because it runs on 3xAAA? How is it worse?

I wouldn’t choose any of those…

The Trustfire R5-A3 is a good EDC AA light but not nearly bright enough for use as a bike light. I think all the others are overpriced and crappy lights. You’ll want at least 500-600lm, that’s real world lumens not Chinese lumens.

For about the same price ($15) you could get a Convoy S2, or for about $5 more a Convoy M2 with better heat sinking, and both of them are much better quality than the DX lights.

Either a Convoy M2 or S2 are good bike lights, with Xml2 and running 6*7135, or 8*7135 you could run them on mid-power for good run-time.

Even on medium, both would be at least twice as bright as those DX lights.

xml2 5 mode c8 from kai domain will suit you perfectly.


On city streets you definitely don’t want a thrower. Throwy lights put out a narrow beam. If you look at every on road vehicle none of them use a throwy pattern except for high beams. Considering you’re not traveling as fast as say a motorcycle on unlit back roads, a pencil beam will only serve to reduce your peripheral visibility.

One other thing with multimode lights is PWM frequency. If you don’t know most cheap budget lights have fairly low PWM frequency. This can be pretty disorienting when moving fast because it causes a strobe-like slow motion effect because of the rapidly flashing light. It’s pretty distracting and best to avoid in the first place.

It’s a definite benefit to pick a light that is both floody and has no visible PWM. The Roche F12 from intl-outdoors fits the bill and is pretty inexpensive. And with a decent 18650 can even run on high for the whole commute but that can actually be too much light, there is such a thing. Surprisingly when bicycling in darker areas you want to rely on your night vision more. And blazing the path ahead of you especially with a narrow beam light only makes the night blindness worse.

XM-L and XP-G are LED chip models, with the XM-L being more efficient (more light per watt) and XP-G being throwier
XM-L2 and XP-G2 were released relatively recently and are a bit more efficient and a bit more expensive and harder to find

T6 and U2 are brightness bins for each model, U2>T6>T5 etc.

so maximum light per watt would be an XM-L2 U2

tint is colour of light, ranging from very yellow to white-blue

LEDs make more light if you put more power in them but it has diminishing returns, double the power may only make 70% more light (not a rule of thumb, you should look for BLF threads by Match where he measures lumens vs power)

I think the Convoy S2 from fasttech would do well for you, i would go with a 2100mAH version so more battery life, and use medium while riding and have the option for high if you need it

Brackets for holding the light on your bike is something i have no experience with so i can’t recommend anything.

You wold need some li ion batteries to power it (i would suggest getting some sanyo ur18650fm ) and a charger

Thanks a lot to everyone for the detailed informative answers and for the suggestions. I have a better understanding of the terminology now.

I decided to go with the Convoy S2 and the NiteCore i2 charger. I am still not sure about the battery. I found the sanyo ur18650fm on fasttech’s site but it’s charging extra $18.95 for shipping the batteries. That makes the 2-pack almost $30, which I am finding hard to justify. Any alternative suggestions?

I read in the battery section that banggood still ships free to the US.
Is this a good one to get?


thats a recent development, its bothering me too
i have no alternatives yet

Would the Panasonic NCR18650B Protected batteries, discussed here
be a good choice for this flashlight?

Is this much different from the one suggested by Bort?

From what I read in the battery section of the forum, I think I should go for protected cells.

I don’t see any way to differentiate between all the batteries. How do you tell which ones are good and which ones are fakes?

Thanks for the help.

As far as lighting up my path, I really enjoyed an XML zoom light in combination with a Wide Angle Lens. You have an adjustable rectangle of light in front of you without having to blind everyone else. It cuts maybe 10% off of the light output, but it was probably as good as a purpose built cycling light but at a fraction of the price. Specifically, I had this lens cut to fit over the front of this light. That is until I dropped it and broke the light. I just taped it on with some thin strips of clear tape. With the 5 mode light, I could still use strobe during the day for visibility too.
For a handlebar mount, I just bought a cheap light from Amazon that included a mount. Then, attach the mount to my bars and hang the light beneath so gravity works in your favor to keep the light level.
Good luck.

Edit: I had been meaning to post this somewhere so others could benefit. Here are some beamshots of what I described above. The pics are actually from a ZB006 since my other zoomie broke.
Full Zoom
Full Zoom with Wide Angle Lens
~75% Zoom.
~75% Zoom with Wide Angle Lens. (about what I use while riding after dark)
0% Zoom for reference.

I have used a cheap velcro mount from ebay and it worked well for me.

This one isn’t cheap, but the quality is high.

On many occasions I may end up using whatever light that I happen to have in my pocket, possibly because I am out later than I expected. Whatever it is, it’s a lot better than no light.

If I have my S2 on me, that’s great, but I have a few others I can use as well. This works surprisingly well with any and all of them, and is good to keep one in with the tire patches.

It’s good to have a few of these handy as well; for emergencies and/or to give some strobe action.

If you are shopping at BangGood, they have similar items:



And you might put one of these in your cart too… even as a backup it will be better than what you are used to using.

Also, Sanyo batteries are excellent, and you don’t need a protected battery. I haven’t actually bought a battery since I tore apart my first dead laptop pack…they keep going…and going…but I’m tempted to try a couple of these.

I’d order them separately so as not to have the entire order rejected.

This is exactly what I am using for the light currently on my bike. It’s holding it very well. The light originally came with a bike mount which broke at some point and sent the light flying on to the asphalt. I switched to the simple mount you linked to, and it’s holding very well.

I have a couple of other lights, but recently realised that none of them are good. I will use these as emergency backups.

I am just waiting now to get some advice on a decently priced quality 18650 cell before I go ahead and order the S2.

As far as the batteries RMM has his new website
That’s were I’d buy from

Thanks for the suggestion. I will place my orders now. Convoy S2, NiteCore i2, Panasonic Protected NCR18650

The only thing you need to know about the S2 is that it heats up fast and hot, on a bicycle you will have no problem because all the moving air will keep it very well ventilated but when using it handheld it will get too hot to hold on high in about 10 minutes, the risk is not to the light (you could put it in boiling water without harming it) but to your hand, so if your using it off the bike and feel it too hot to hold then turn it down or off for a few minutes to cool down. Fortunately i rarely ever need it for more then a few minutes at a time on high (i have left it on all night every night on low for several weeks, recharging it every day of course without any problems)

(boiling water is very bad for the battery so don’t test that idea unless you remove the battery first)

I have biked with the S2, M1 and M2 on the handlebars, as well as a variety of other models. Most of the terrain is non-urban with no street lighting, so one XM-L2 T4 for near, and one XM-L2 T5 for far is what I prefer. Both driven at 3A on a copper Nocticgon PCPCB and heat is never a problem for this use profile. I find that I like to have two lights on the handlbars, one pointing at the closer foreground and one at the furthese distance it will throw. When I get back to the outskirts of town and encounter traffic, I either shut off the T5 light or angle it sharply to the ground right in front of me, and turn the T4 to low mode. I’ve eventually settled on the M1 as being the best host for my purposes, like it better than the M2 both for the reflector and for heat dissipation, and as mentioned above, the Panasonic NCR18650B is about the best battery choice so it’s my ‘go-to’ cell for most of my activities.

what do you use for holding the light on the bike?

I’ve tried every bracket Fasttech sells, including the ‘bandages’. They all more or less work. None are perfect, but they are cheap. What determines how well or not well I find depends on your handlebar geometry. I recall that on my full suspension bike one type worked better than on my hard tail bike. I also always have a headlamp on for when I look off to the side, and for many rides I also have a Spark SD6 on flood clipped below the top tube so it is facing down, allowing me to see at a glance what is going on with the front derailleur, chain ring, and bottom bracket.

Most mountain bikers seem to prefer the TwoFish style of bracket, I think on the hardtail I tended to prefer the one that swivels and replace them more often as they are not really well built (it’s easier to rotate the light out of the way when yo encounter oncoming traffic or other bikes). I’d go look and try to see what brackets are on them, but since the last snow storm the bikes are buried under other junk in the bowels of the garage.