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Front light for unlit commute

freefall_junkiefreefall_junkie Posts: 123
edited November 2013 in Road buying advice
Looking for some advice on a front light for my 15 mile commute, about 10 miles of which is on unlit rural roads with plenty of potholes to dodge. Sorry if this has been asked before but I couln't find anything in recent threads. The last couple of winters I have been using an old Light and Motion Stella, not sure of the model at it isn't marked on the light, but I think it was the 300 lumen. It is barely bright enough and the battery is now not holding the charge for long. Some good options would appear to be:

- Cateye Volt 1200. Massive output for circa £130 online and battery life looks good.

- Leyzene Mega Drive - About £150, similar massive output.

- Exposure Strada 5 - About £250. Look like a quality item, but seems very expensive for what if offers compared to the other 2

Then again, lights seem to have come a long way in the last couple of years, and do I need something as bright as these? Maybe a much cheaper 600 lumen cateye nanoshot at £90 would suffice? Your experience and views most welcome!

Mark
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Posts

  • MichaelWMichaelW Posts: 2,164
    I would use 2 lighting systems, a dynamo hub with a B&M lamp such as the CYO on the fork crown and a battery lamp on the handlebar.
  • trek_dantrek_dan Posts: 1,366
    £18 Cree one off Ebay, best front light I've ever had. Why spend more?

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Cree-XML-XM-L ... 2ec3e8dc59
  • crakercraker Posts: 1,739
    £18? Jeez I paid 50+ for mine 3 years ago (still using it albeit I've replaced everything bar the internals). May as well get two. That battery casing doesn't look waterproof though.
  • alan_shermanalan_sherman Posts: 1,157
    15 miles each way? Get a dynamo hub wheel and decent LED light (Phillips/ B&M cyo / Edelux etc). You'll be forever charging batteries otherwise. I use a Cyo in unlit Richmond Park and it is great.

    Shimano hubbed front wheel is about a ton, the light about 70 quid. Never need pay green subsidies on the electricity ever again.

    e.g:
    http://www.spacycles.co.uk/products.php?plid=m2b0s170p0
  • Not entirely convinced by the dynamo idea - looks expensive and unnecessary for what I will be using it for. The Cateye Volt and Leyzene Mega look like they will have more than enough battery for a 1 hr each way commute. The Volt is pretty new I believe. Anyone here tried one?
  • jordan_217jordan_217 Posts: 2,580
    Gunnsie wrote:

    I got a Fluxient XML U2 from Torchy, via Amazon. It's a brilliant light. I've been using it on a 80 mile round trip commute and it's been faultless. I've yet to use a full charge when using the light on the middle setting, which is plenty bright enough for unlit, rural roads. The brightest setting is overkill and would be better suited to MTB/offroad duties. Which is handy as I ride my CX bike offroad, at night over Winter.

    A colleague got one of those £16 Cree lights from Amazon, on paper they appear to be the same spec as the Fluxient. The quality is nowhere near the same though. I wouldn't have one, despite the low price.
    “Training is like fighting with a gorilla. You don’t stop when you’re tired. You stop when the gorilla is tired.”
  • oxomanoxoman Posts: 11,194
    I use a cheap 1600 lumen cree thing of ebay lasted last winter no issues get 3 return journeys of 10 mile each way with no problems. For £18 what do we expect, when the battery goes i might get a decent battery or just buy a complete new light. Saved more than it cost in replacing batteries. Moon X500 is well worth looking at colleague at work uses one and plenty of light for him on a 5 mile partially lit commute. Torchyboy link worth looking at as well.
    Too many bikes according to Mrs O.
  • CndlCndl Posts: 1
    I've got the Cateye EL530, bright, long battery life and cheap at the moment.
    Great light for £19
  • unixnerdunixnerd Posts: 2,864
    I used to have a Cateye EL530, nicely made and I'm aware it's since been upgraded. But it's nothing like as bright as the 10-15 quid Cree XML-T6 or U6 torches you can get on ebay. If you shop around you can get a pair with mounts, batteries and charger for just over 50 quid. Brighter than a car headlight and with redundancy in case one fails. Look for the 501b model, not the zoom units.
    http://www.strathspey.co.uk - Quality Binoculars at a Sensible Price.
    Specialized Roubaix SL3 Expert 2012, Cannondale CAAD5,
    Marin Mount Vision (1997), Edinburgh Country tourer, 3 cats!
  • kajjalkajjal Posts: 3,380
    For a 15 mile commute in the dark you need reliable lights. The cheap Chinese lights vary greatly in quality even the same model from the same supplier. If you go that route make sure you buy at least two lights so you have a backup.

    For riding about 5 miles at night on pitch Black Country lanes I use a lezyne super drive xl. It has a handy race mode which switches from low power in street lights to full power when needed at the press of a button. That is as well as going through the normal power settings if you prefer. Full power is 575 lumen which is bright enough to see pretty much anything unless you are travelling round very sharp corners or going around 20mph or faster.

    The main thing you need is reliability and a battery life well in excess of your journey time. For me 575 lumen or more is bright enough but don't be put off spending a bit more to get what you need as safety is more important than saving a few pounds.
  • Camcycle1974Camcycle1974 Posts: 1,356
    The fluxient u2 mini is not a cheap light. Very solid and well made. Excellent illumination on unlit roads. Not as cheap as the Chinese Ebay lights but much better quality.
  • Wouldn't discount the dynamo hub option just yet.

    Been running a hub dynamo and light for the past three years, initially on the commuter and now also on my road bike - it's a great fit and forget option without worrying about batteries or charging, especially useful if you want to extend your night riding (I've got a young family so riding time is limited).

    At rose bikes you can get a shimano DH-3N80 (the lightest shimano dynamo hub, it think) and the Busch and Muller for about £115 posted (it's much cheaper buying from Germany than the UK):

    http://www.rosebikes.co.uk/article/b--m ... aid:457434
    http://www.rosebikes.co.uk/article/atb- ... aid:581967
  • northpolenorthpole Posts: 1,499
    I've no hesitation in recommending a Hope Vision 2 or (better still) 4 with District rear light. They are built to last and have fantastic factory support if you ever need replacement parts (so I'm told - nothing has ever failed on mine). They aren't cheap but provide great illumination and make you visible front and rear to motorists.

    It may just be me, but I find with normal battery lights, especially the rear, I run them down until there is barely a candle's worth of light coming from them. No logic to it, but I repeatedly found myself doing this and ultimately putting myself in potential danger.

    Peter
  • I have recently bought the new lezyne deca drive, a bit smaller and cheaper then the mega drive but still puts out 800 lumens.
    Great light, worth considering.
  • dwanesdwanes Posts: 954
    I bought this and very happy with the quality. Very good burn times at the highest setting which is bright 900 lumen and has a good spread.

    http://www.bike-discount.de/shop/k993/a ... tml?mfid=8

    They are around £200 in the UK so a big saving to be had and delivery was fast. The handlebar mount can be found for less than 5 Euro.
  • Looking for some advice on a front light for my 15 mile commute, about 10 miles of which is on unlit rural roads with plenty of potholes to dodge. Sorry if this has been asked before but I couln't find anything in recent threads. The last couple of winters I have been using an old Light and Motion Stella, not sure of the model at it isn't marked on the light, but I think it was the 300 lumen. It is barely bright enough and the battery is now not holding the charge for long. Some good options would appear to be:

    - Cateye Volt 1200. Massive output for circa £130 online and battery life looks good.

    - Leyzene Mega Drive - About £150, similar massive output.

    - Exposure Strada 5 - About £250. Look like a quality item, but seems very expensive for what if offers compared to the other 2

    Then again, lights seem to have come a long way in the last couple of years, and do I need something as bright as these? Maybe a much cheaper 600 lumen cateye nanoshot at £90 would suffice? Your experience and views most welcome!

    Mark

    The Volt 1200 is a complete beast of a light and the Nano Shot is really powerful too. You should really be OK with a Volt 300 as well if you want to keep the money down.

    It's definitely worth having a look on road.cc's light comparison to see how your 3 listed about perform against each other: http://road.cc/content/news/97193-big-r ... -test-2013
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,498
    Kajjal wrote:
    For a 15 mile commute in the dark you need reliable lights. The cheap Chinese lights vary greatly in quality even the same model from the same supplier. If you go that route make sure you buy at least two lights so you have a backup.
    +1


    The Cateye Volt 1200 looks excellent - I have the Nanoshot plus bought last year for a winter commute - USB rechargable and lasted the expected time. It (along with some other top branded lights) has a low battery warning so it doesn't just turn off.
    I've also bought a cheap chinese jobbie - the Ultrafire torch - excellent little torch, but not proven reliable enough yet - no indication of battery state either - plus it's not USB rechargable so can't charge at work. It'll do as a backup /second light - useful for those days when its really dark and yucky and I just want more light... usually on the country lanes ..
  • Thanks for all the info so far everyone! The latest road cc test is very useful. Tending towards either a moon x power 780 or the cateye volt at the moment. The convenience of an all in one light unit and reliability are just as important to me as light performance, so I am not convinced by the cheap ebay offerings, although they do look amazing value. The Exposure Strada does indeed look very expensive for what it offers based on the road cc test.

    Mark
  • Moon x 500 for me. 18 mile commute with 16 unlit. More than enough although I need to charge it up at work for the return journey. Id still rather that than wires and batteries hanging from my bike.
  • pkripperpkripper Posts: 652
    Lumicycle every time for me - I run the 3xml and 3si head units concurrently through the high capacity battery and get about 14hrs out of the battery - charge it once a week.

    I.initially went down the cheap eBay route - the lights just arent comparable, and I really wasn't impressed by the build quality and battery sealing of mine.
  • RDWRDW Posts: 1,900
    Thanks for all the info so far everyone! The latest road cc test is very useful. Tending towards either a moon x power 780 or the cateye volt at the moment. The convenience of an all in one light unit and reliability are just as important to me as light performance, so I am not convinced by the cheap ebay offerings, although they do look amazing value. The Exposure Strada does indeed look very expensive for what it offers based on the road cc test.

    I have the Strada 4, which seems to have the same spec as this year's Strada 5. It's certainly expensive (mine was a bit under £200 at Shinybikes, where the 5 is currently £225), though it's about the best-constructed bit of cycling gear I have - if groupsets included lights, this would be Record or Dura-Ace. If I had to replace it, I might well go with another Strada. The spec is pretty well-balanced - very (but not insanely) bright, the handlebar remote switch lets you 'dip' the light to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic, the bracket is rock solid, it burns for 3 hours at 800 lumen, and the peripheral lighting is excellent. The Volt 1200 is certainly very attractive, though - you can see where the extra 400 lm goes in the road.cc test (except, oddly, in the right hand quarter - the tilt is probably a bit different to the Strada, where the default cleat mounting position angles the light a little to the right). It's also significantly cheaper, and gets extra marks for a user-replaceable battery (a factory job for the Strada). You only get 2 hours on max brightness with the Volt, though, so might have to charge again at work to be safe. Otherwise, both the Strada and the Volt 1200 have a 5 hour mode (which might well be around the same brightness - 480 lm ? - if there's a simple ratio between lumens and burn time). The Xpower looks good, too, though the field of illumination seems a fair bit narrower than the other two, and you only get 1.5 hours on high.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,498
    Most of the time I just go on 1/2 power with my nanoshot plus.
  • RDW wrote:
    Thanks for all the info so far everyone! The latest road cc test is very useful. Tending towards either a moon x power 780 or the cateye volt at the moment. The convenience of an all in one light unit and reliability are just as important to me as light performance, so I am not convinced by the cheap ebay offerings, although they do look amazing value. The Exposure Strada does indeed look very expensive for what it offers based on the road cc test.

    I have the Strada 4, which seems to have the same spec as this year's Strada 5. It's certainly expensive (mine was a bit under £200 at Shinybikes, where the 5 is currently £225), though it's about the best-constructed bit of cycling gear I have - if groupsets included lights, this would be Record or Dura-Ace. If I had to replace it, I might well go with another Strada. The spec is pretty well-balanced - very (but not insanely) bright, the handlebar remote switch lets you 'dip' the light to avoid dazzling oncoming traffic, the bracket is rock solid, it burns for 3 hours at 800 lumen, and the peripheral lighting is excellent. The Volt 1200 is certainly very attractive, though - you can see where the extra 400 lm goes in the road.cc test (except, oddly, in the right hand quarter - the tilt is probably a bit different to the Strada, where the default cleat mounting position angles the light a little to the right). It's also significantly cheaper, and gets extra marks for a user-replaceable battery (a factory job for the Strada). You only get 2 hours on max brightness with the Volt, though, so might have to charge again at work to be safe. Otherwise, both the Strada and the Volt 1200 have a 5 hour mode (which might well be around the same brightness - 480 lm ? - if there's a simple ratio between lumens and burn time). The Xpower looks good, too, though the field of illumination seems a fair bit narrower than the other two, and you only get 1.5 hours on high.

    The 5 hour mode on the 1200 is more than sufficient for unlit road use, as you said it is about 500lm. The Road.cc test looks like the 1200 might be pointed off to the left a bit which could explain the dark spot on the right. What I don't get with the Strada are the disco lights in your face, do they stay on the whole time you're riding?? It looks pretty damn heavy as well. The spread of light is nice on it but it certainly doesn't look worth an extra £100 :shock:
  • RDWRDW Posts: 1,900
    The Strada is 228g according to the spec, 14g heavier than the Volt (I guess most of the weight of these things is the battery). The lights on the back do stay on, but (at least on the Mk4) aren't at all distracting. Not sure what happened in the road.cc photo, but I guess having a light source that close to the lens has overexposed the indicator lights (and given them a weird colour shift, unless they're different in the Mk5!). Incidentally, the Exposure outlet store is currently flogging off the 2010 Strada for £100 - 'only' 480 lumen (for 3 hours on high), but might be worth considering:

    http://www.use1.com/exposure-lights/out ... a-mk1-2010
  • doug5_10doug5_10 Posts: 465
    supercyril wrote:
    Moon x 500 for me. 18 mile commute with 16 unlit. More than enough although I need to charge it up at work for the return journey. Id still rather that than wires and batteries hanging from my bike.

    I've been using the xp 500 for a couple of weeks now, managed to get new off ebay for £60. Great light so far, lowest power setting is more than adequate for urban riding, full power is great for the unlit section on my commute. It may perhaps be borderline if I was properly bombing along a road I didn't know so well, could maybe do with one of the slightly more powerful models. Burntime is fine for commuting with a recharge at each end, but at 3 hours on high power, could be a bit short for a decent length, fully unlit, night ride.
    Edinburgh Revolution Curve
    http://app.strava.com/athletes/1920048
  • DrLexDrLex Posts: 2,142
    MichaelW wrote:
    I would use 2 lighting systems, a dynamo hub with a B&M lamp such as the CYO on the fork crown and a battery lamp on the handlebar.

    Worth repeating; such convenience! £150 would buy a basic wheel (Shimano hub & Mavic A319 rim), 60 lux front light (with shaped beam) & decent rear from one of the German websites; a set of battery-powered lights can then be a back-up - on-one have Smart knock-offs for a few quid.
    Location: ciderspace
  • Anyone got any experience with the Sigma lights? Looks to have a proper lense so friendly to other road uses. 500 ish lumens but more usable light maybe. 5hrs burn time. USB rechargeable.

    http://www.bike-discount.de/shop/a84112 ... 3godrBEAoA
  • Thought I would post an update on this. I have now had a chance to try both the Cateye Volt and the Exposure Strada.

    By happy coincidence a friend had just bought a Volt and he kindly lent it to me to try one evening last week. The good things first: the plastic mount looks cheap but actually works very well with a nice positive click when you put the light in the quick release, the light itself feels reasonably well made, it looks fairly sleek mounted on the bike, and there is no question it is extremely bright with a very wide, powerful beam. However, there are a couple of things about it I think I would find pretty irritating in long term use. First, the on/off button which also switches brightness level or between constant and flashing modes is tiny, and I found it impossible to use in winter gloves – even stationary, let alone when moving on the bike. Seems to me this is a bit of a design flaw. The light is so bright it really needs to be dimmed to avoid blinding drivers coming the other way. 7 miles of my commute is on a single track moorland road with passing places, and I’d be concerned about the potential for being hit if the oncoming driver is blinded. The only way round this would be to angle the light well down, which slightly defeats the point of all those extra lumens. The other significant negative is that the only way of knowing the remaining battery charge is a light in the button which comes on at 20% remaining – before that, no indication at all. Overall I was not blown away by the Cateye Volt. Lots of lumens for the money, but some major drawbacks in usability.

    So, I bought an Exposure Strada Mk5 (£220 online). Now, this was a bit of a leap as you will see from my previous posts I was very sceptical about whether it could justify the price. Initial impressions are that it can, and then some. The moment you take the thing out the box it is clear the build quality is on another level. The aluminium mounting is rock solid and the light is brilliant to use. The high beam is perfect for unlit roads - not as bright as the Volt, but still more than bright enough. The fact that you can have it angled to light up the road well ahead and dip it easily at a touch of the remote button without taking your hands off the bars is a huge advantage. Similarly a quick click and hold on the remote when you get to an urban area switches it to a great constant/flashing mode. I have the remote mounted under the bar just where it is easy to get at but doesn’t get in the way in normal riding (see below). There are a series of 5 LEDs on the back of the light which indicate 100/80/60/40/20% charge remaining – just what you need to avoid ever being stranded in the dark. Battery life so far seems excellent with lots in reserve for my commute, even when using the full 800 lumen mode much of the time. Minus points? It is a bit too easy to turn the light right off when switching from constant to flashing modes (hold the button to change to flashing, a fraction longer turns it off), although this has got better with familiarity. Also slightly concerned about how well the remote button will withstand wet conditions. Still to try it in heavy rain, but at least I have the reassurance of Exposure’s reputation for good after sales service should anything go wrong. Overall a great light – expensive, but so far (admittedly after just a few days of use) I’d say definitely worth it.


    IMG00090-20131108-0748.jpg
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,498
    Excellent - glad you're happy ...

    Quick comment on the Cateye (which is 3/4 of the price of the Exposure)..

    Bracket is the same across many of their lights - and you can by additional ones, quite handy if you have more than one light and/or bike like I have. (you can probably get spare for the Exposure too) It's a robust mount that I haven't had fail yet.
    Battery status - the Nanoshot and Plus have a green LED on the back that turns to orange when the battery level gets low - I've had that happen many times whilst riding - even going to red - it's not run out and I know I can get >30mins of 1/2 power once it turns orange (not tried beyond that)
    Switch - the Nanoshot and plus were a button about the size of my thumb - I'd be disappointed if they've changed it for the Volt - it is a one button does all - a remote would be nice, but that's the price you pay for a cheaper light.

    Finally - I really would urge you to have a second backup light available - it can be a cheapie "get me home" one - lights fail for all sorts of reasons - if you're reliant on just one then sods law says it'll fail.

    Thanks for the review though.
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