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Cheap Front Lights - Warning

slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,494
edited September 2013 in Commuting general
In preparation for the winter commute I decided to supplement a Cateye Nanoshot + with one of the UltraFire T6 torches with handlebar mount. The order was placed and the goods arrived a couple of weeks later. Testing the unit it looked fine, produced a reasonable light and although it wasn't ideal it would be ok for the price.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B009 ... UTF8&psc=1

Forwardwind to this morning - it's foggy although the sun is burning it off quite quickly. Grab the bike and think - front light - so I put the Ultrafire on. The Cateye is around but I don't need the light to see by and the ride back will be in daylight too. Anyway the Ultrafire is bright enough - lets go...
Both back lights on as being visible from behind is my main concern but I didn't worry about the front light because I'm travelling on a wide country A road with few roads joining and it. 5 miles later the fog has closed in - well, it would, I've been climbing up and this is the high point ... so I think - front light on ... on it goes - can't see it, check with a hand in front - oh yes - that's on ... check again - it's off ... press the button & check - it's on ... now it's flashing ... and so on - for the rest of the 5 miles the torch merrily changed modes & turned itself on and off ... really handy! Thankfully I only needed it as a see-me light and it wasn't essential ...

Ok - obvious answer - it's probably water - but 5 miles in fog has caused it to malfunction?

Testing in the office and it seems ok now - I'll put some vaseline around the seals - but there is no way I can use it as a primary light - I can't trust it to reliably operate when I need it.

Posts

  • In my humble opinion (learn't the hard way), never go 'cheap' with lights. At some point your going to end up walking or worse. I invested in a Nite Rider light and keep a mini Lezyne with me as back up on winter commutes.
  • It sounds to me like you haven't tightened the battery end cap (the end with the switch) properly and causing poor contact thus causing it to change modes; check both ends are screwed tight.
  • Oh, also worth mentioning the batteries that come with these lights are usually the cause of many problems, they have terrible performance and cause many issues, put in decent batteries and you'll never have an issue (mines been fine for 2 winters, and ridden in many downpours)
  • mrtukmrtuk Posts: 75
    In my humble opinion (learn't the hard way), never go 'cheap' with lights. At some point your going to end up walking or worse. I invested in a Nite Rider light and keep a mini Lezyne with me as back up on winter commutes.

    I was looking at some cheap cree front lights for winter, but am concered about reliability. Anybody got a view of a decent, relatively cheap front light that does the 'pulse' thingy (i.e. light is on, but every other second or so pulses brighter). I think this kind would be a good choice as I mainly want it to be seen.
  • inkzinkz Posts: 123
    mrtuk wrote:
    In my humble opinion (learn't the hard way), never go 'cheap' with lights. At some point your going to end up walking or worse. I invested in a Nite Rider light and keep a mini Lezyne with me as back up on winter commutes.

    I was looking at some cheap cree front lights for winter, but am concered about reliability. Anybody got a view of a decent, relatively cheap front light that does the 'pulse' thingy (i.e. light is on, but every other second or so pulses brighter). I think this kind would be a good choice as I mainly want it to be seen.

    I run two/three lights, one blinker and one/two cree torches depending on what I'm doing. You get a backup light as well as being able to see pot holes on darker roads.
  • Unplanned mode switching is almost certainly due to the bike hitting bumps which causes the battery to momentarily break circuit with the torch. I had this with a Trustfire A8 and solved it by putting some pipe lagging foam around the contact on the cap so when I screwed the cap on the foam pushed the battery (the A8 uses the humongous 26650 cell) against the lens contact. Problem solved. My Hope 1 uses the same method to hold it's battery pack in place.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,494
    It sounds to me like you haven't tightened the battery end cap (the end with the switch) properly and causing poor contact thus causing it to change modes; check both ends are screwed tight.

    It's poor contact sure - but it's not due to lack of screwing ... I'm quite practised at that! :p
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,494
    Oh, also worth mentioning the batteries that come with these lights are usually the cause of many problems, they have terrible performance and cause many issues, put in decent batteries and you'll never have an issue (mines been fine for 2 winters, and ridden in many downpours)

    Hmm - might be ... source for a decent battery?
  • oxomanoxoman Posts: 8,333
    mrtuk
    In answer to your question is use a cree light see enclosed link and this is the second winter of use, had no issues with it. I use it mainly on the lower setting as it is plenty bright enough on dark lanes on this. I don't use the strobe mode as it is to fast and distracting to other users. I tend to have the beam about 10 feet in front of me and it doesn't affect other road users. I do use it during the daytime at various large roundabouts and dodgy junctions as well. I currently use it for 6 x 10 mile commutes with an overall ride time of around 4 hours which it does on 1 charge. I always fully discharge it if any life left in it and recharge for about 5 hours. For what i paid i cannot fault it, Saved me a fortune in decent battery's and gives a better light out. Moon X300 or 500 are a better quality product but dearer and not quite as bright but do have a usable flash function.
    Too many bikes according to Mrs O.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,494
    mrtuk wrote:
    In my humble opinion (learn't the hard way), never go 'cheap' with lights. At some point your going to end up walking or worse. I invested in a Nite Rider light and keep a mini Lezyne with me as back up on winter commutes.

    I was looking at some cheap cree front lights for winter, but am concered about reliability. Anybody got a view of a decent, relatively cheap front light that does the 'pulse' thingy (i.e. light is on, but every other second or so pulses brighter). I think this kind would be a good choice as I mainly want it to be seen.

    My recommendation for that is the Cateye Nanoshot+ Ok it's not "cheap" at £90 - but it's reliable and ultimately that's what you need. I have one. The Cree I've got is a secondary light ...
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,494
    Unplanned mode switching is almost certainly due to the bike hitting bumps which causes the battery to momentarily break circuit with the torch. I had this with a Trustfire A8 and solved it by putting some pipe lagging foam around the contact on the cap so when I screwed the cap on the foam pushed the battery (the A8 uses the humongous 26650 cell) against the lens contact. Problem solved. My Hope 1 uses the same method to hold it's battery pack in place.

    Hmm .. unlikely on our smooth tarmac roads .... er .... oh ... yer .. it is quite bumpy !! :D

    Had a look and the battery could rattle a little in the tube housing - so I've wrapped a layer of paper around it and re-inserted. The contacts are well sprung and seem to make a good solid contact - I'm not quite sure how pipe lagging would work - any chance of a picture?
  • menthelmenthel Posts: 2,484
    I had similar with a torch like that. First time I used it was on the dunwich dynamo, it didn't make it out of Epping. I think it was a combination of bumpy roads and a bit of water from the mist we ended up with. Bought a hope vision instead!
    RIP commute...
    Sometimes seen bimbling around on a purple Fratello Disc or black and red Aprire Vincenza.
  • I've had a similar problem with those Ultrafire/Trustfire torches from eBay. Look great value, but I've had two which just seem to go through each setting in succession before switching off briefly before back on again.

    Gave up, threw them in the bin - the last thing I want on a dark commute is erratic lights and the strobe setting was particularly disturbing when it came on briefly.
    Never be tempted to race against a Barclays Cycle Hire bike. If you do, there are only two outcomes. Of these, by far the better is that you now have the scalp of a Boris Bike.
  • I have a couple of similar ebay lights, both used through rain and snow for 18 months and still going strong.

    I noticed a bit of moisture getting in after a particularly heavy downpour so unscrewed everything that would unscrew and put it back together with plumbers PTFE tape wrapped around the threads and any other weak points. It's waterproof to the extent it can survive dunking in a puddle now and no signs of water ingress so far.

    The quality of them isn't the best but at £12 a pair, I can get through a few of them before they become more expensive than a basic cateye.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,494
    Hmm - hadn't thought of PTFE ... I'll see how it goes with the paper wrap - it could be the vibration ...
  • I bought a 1200Lumen Cree light from Amazon last year for about £25. It's super bright, far better than any other light I've ever used. I can easily see using the lowest setting and get 12hrs battery use like that. (3hrs on brighest setting). Never had any problems with it and use it in all weather.
    There's warp speed - then there's Storck Speed
  • My Ultrafire C8 torch taken apart:

    20130923_090745.jpg

    The bit that can cause some issues is the springy bit in the button section:

    20130923_090302.jpg

    Above photo: Check the gold colour springy bit is nice and springy and doesn't get stuck in the "down" position.... That's what pushes against the battery to keep it in position.... I've never had issues with batteries moving inside the unit when going over bumpy surfaces.


    The batteries I use:
    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/300958158756

    and charger:
    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/390525215466

    £35, may seem expensive initially, but these batteries in my C8 torch each last for 3hours on max power beam, whereas the Ultrafire batteries that came with the torch lasted a maximum of 45minutes; some difference!
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,494
    I got these ones:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B007 ... UTF8&psc=1
    so not expensive ...
    Charger came with the torch ...

    45 mins is enough for my ride home - especially as it's a backup light and I can carry the spare ..

    I checked the contacts - they're all clean and definitely dry now. I might just try it on this evening although I don't need it on ...

    Reason I put "Cheap Lights Warning" in the subject is to act as a heads up for those who go and blindly buy one of these and the first time they try is in the dark when they need the light to find it isn't working properly. I will get it to work - it might just take a while to figure what's going wrong with it. Meanwhile, an expensive dedicated bike light is just fit and forget ...
  • Yep, ultrafire batteries are rubbish, those are the same as the ones I got with the torch.... Good enough if you ride < 1hour, a bit dodgy if you're riding longer than that.

    Ultrafire, in fact any battery ending in "fire" are recycled from old laptop batteries, they rip out the cells then put new shrink-wrap around them and sell them, that's why they are so cheap.... Take even your standard off the shelf Hi-Capacity Duracell AA rechargeable; an 8 pack of them costs nearly £20, so a couple of decent 18650 cells are going to cost a lot more than that to produce.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Duracell-rechar ... 2FZV60B69X


    RE: Your light, take it apart like mine in the above photo and check the rubber O-Rings are correctly placed.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,494
    Longest its taken me to do the 10 mile run is 1hr - in the snow ... so it'll do for now ... :)
  • OuijaOuija Posts: 1,386
    The mode changeing problem with those cree lights is pretty common (had it happen on all my 502's and my A8). As mentioned it's caused by the battery rattling about inside the tube causing a momentary break in the circuit and momentary breaks are interpreted as an instruction to change modes (because that's how tapping the tail cap button sends commands to the driver also). Tape up the battery so it can't slide back and forth in the tube and also make sure the lock ring that the springy part of the tail cap sits on is tightened up too (the thing with the two small indentations next to the spring) as if this works it's way loose you'll get momentary breaks in power (and the subsequent mode changes that causes). Done this on all my torches and haven't had any of them change modes in years.

    Not everyone knows this though, which is why those torches have a reputation for being unreliable. If you do know, then they are solid lights, especially with good batteries.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,494
    Ta

    I ran it all the way home on full power - well a bit further than just home donut had 40 mins and a lot of dodgy road to go wrong - did't skip a beat - bet the drivers coming towards me thought I was nuts though - sunlight and lights on!!
    So - not concluded yet - will have to try in the damp again - but vibration seems to have been resolved by a slip of paper.
  • supersonicsupersonic Posts: 82,708 Lives Here
    Also worth noting that different torches output different amounts. A torch driver running it a full whack will drain even the best batteries in under an hour.
  • chris_basschris_bass Posts: 4,913
    slowbike wrote:
    Unplanned mode switching is almost certainly due to the bike hitting bumps which causes the battery to momentarily break circuit with the torch. I had this with a Trustfire A8 and solved it by putting some pipe lagging foam around the contact on the cap so when I screwed the cap on the foam pushed the battery (the A8 uses the humongous 26650 cell) against the lens contact. Problem solved. My Hope 1 uses the same method to hold it's battery pack in place.

    Hmm .. unlikely on our smooth tarmac roads .... er .... oh ... yer .. it is quite bumpy !! :D

    Had a look and the battery could rattle a little in the tube housing - so I've wrapped a layer of paper around it and re-inserted. The contacts are well sprung and seem to make a good solid contact - I'm not quite sure how pipe lagging would work - any chance of a picture?

    mine used to do this and it was due to the battery rattling inside the torch and breaking the circuit as mentioned, I just wrapped some electrical tape around the battery so it was a tighter fit inside the torch, works great now and entering it's 3rd winter :-)
    www.conjunctivitis.com - a site for sore eyes
  • OuijaOuija Posts: 1,386
    It's worth mentioning that the problem isn't so much caused by the battery bouncing up and down as being able to slide back and forth, occasionally pushing back against the spring in the tailcap so that the front of the battery breaks contact with the back of the driver in the head of the torch. This can be made even worse if your using a rubber bar mount that allows the torch to rock backward and forwards when going over bumps.

    Putting tape around the battery so that it braces itself against the inside of the tube and doesn't want to slide about helps (if you can turn the torch on end and the battery just slides out then you need to add more tape until you need to give the torch a good shake to get it out). Likewise, use a good solid mount (anything made of soft rubber or utilizing velcro straps is just going to allow the torch to rock back and forth too much).
  • I use an UltraFire 502b torch too and have had no problems with it. That said I had another brand torch before it and it was a disaster.

    In the UltraFire torch range there is still a fair quality variance I think and you'll get lots of different types of clicker. The torch I had problems with had a solid spring contact like the one shown. The UltraFire clicker I have has a coil spring.

    Batteries are important. UltraFire ones are said to be bad and almost always fake. Get some SeniBor ones or other good brands. Also with 18650 batteries unless you know what you're doing always make sure you use protected cells. This prevents the cell itself from discharging too much or charging too much. It's common for cells to become damaged after being discharged too low.

    I've used mine all last winter and have just put the light back on this week for the commute (1 hour each way) to make sure it still works OK before I really need it. Been using the torch recently as a torch (not on the bike) and used it all week on low for the commute and it's still going. Good performance from the battery is say.

    Lastly, electrical tape! Absolutely helps. You don't need much, just enough for there to be a little resistance when you push the battery in.

    Here's some good information on batteries http://www.torchythebatteryboy.com/p/18650-batteries-chargers.html
  • unixnerdunixnerd Posts: 2,864
    I like the Cree T6s but have had three issues with mine:

    1) Glass lens rattled in one, solved with a wee bit of rubber
    2) A little flicker in one, solved by a drop of solder in the end cap
    3) One is a bit brighter than the other, annoying but not the end of the world.

    For the money I like them.
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