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  1. #1
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    Are bike light companies missing a larger market share?

    Some of the new small platform bike "helmet" lights I find most intriguing of many of the headlamps I've seen as of late.

    Many are pushing over 800-1200 lumens in various configurations, in very small units, with various battery options, some even with headband attachments.

    I really like the general design/size/power of the Lupine Piko, Gemini Duo, Gloworm X2 etc.

    However one thing I've noticed is that none of them offer what would seem to be easy to add features that might make their lights appeal to hikers and general outdoors people as well. Especially with headlamp prices increasing and users demanding more options, etc.

    For example none of them seem to offer anything even close to a low output, I'm talking say 1-10 lumens that would appeal to people wanting to use the lights close up, around camp, as an tent/area light, another would be a flashing/sos option. Third would be a small headband mounted battery option (lupine does do this with the Piko). Most seem to have a low output around 50-100 lumens. Perhaps it's just not possible to get lower output out of these platforms. Some even offer different options for a 2 LED setup with two different focus patterns. Add in user programibility and now you could have a spot and flood each over 450 lumens that could be used individually and combined as the user needed.

    It would just seem with more and more "general" use headlamps going over $100 and in many cases pushing $200, that these companies are right on the cusp of making a light that a person could truly use for close up work, around camp, hiking, and still have 900-1200 lumens for real power users, and the package size is small enough now that it's not much bigger than a tikka (aside for the battery). The other issue would be if these lights can run at full power for long without stepping down without the additional airflow cooling of being moving on the bike.

    Lupine seems the closest to offering something like this but the downside with lupine is price, it would cost way way over $500 to really set up a piko to be close to that and you still have a light that's too bright and wrong focus for close up work.

    Just seems like the bike light technology, power and size is getting their products to a point with a few "small" tweaks could be marketed to a much larger customer base.

  2. #2
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    Still for extended periods of time using very low outputs the battery packs and head units are bigger than required to have to use. I'd rather just have two lights, one for close up with no battery pack and another for power in that case. My X2 MTB light set at 50 lumens isn't very focused anyway so compared to a flashlight with the same lumens it seems less anyway.

    I'm still wondering why in the mountain bike space no body except Fenix is using neutral coloured LED's? They are slightly less lumens, 10% maybe, but the colouring and advantages of such is worth it.
    Last edited by snala; 01-23-2013 at 10:52 AM. Reason: spelling

  3. #3
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    Two lights make more sense.

    Bike lights converted to helmet lights are too heavy or too cumbersome for extended use. General outdoor head lights shouldn't have the battery located in the back of the head either, difficult for reading in a sleeping bag, for example.

    My favorite general use headlamp is the ultrafire h6, 20 lumens to 500 lumens.

    Manafont.com | $39 UltraFire UF-H6 CREE XM-L T6 700-Lumen 5-Mode LED Headlamp (18650)

  4. #4
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    Yeah I guess when it comes down to it specific use is very important.

    For example in extreme cold rechargeable batteries even lion are unacceptable unless they can be remotely located in a interior pocket, belt, or are at the rear of the headband under a hood etc. where they can be kept warmer (that's the only "good" reason to put a big battery at the rear of the head, it's obviously a bad idea for a reading in bed light) and in general I don't like it. It's one reason that I'd want a light that either has the option for a remote corded battery, or the option to take some time of lithium primary disposable. 18650 batteries are great, in a light that isn't used in very cold temps and if you have access to a charger/power on a daily basis.

    In reality I suppose two lights are ideal, or more than two. I do like to have a very wide flood for close up work, that runs from very low output and it's actually very hard to find them these days, the tikka x2 is actually a "lower" cost/size favorite of mine for the quick flip up diffuser lens. Most headlamps I see these days marketed for camping etc. simply have way too tight of a beam to be useful for close up work, but that very wide flood light is worthless for hiking or anything requiring throw.

    I also agree about the neutral color temp, and my recent lights have been leaning that way, but sadly the reality is 95% of people will always go with more lumens, even if the high color temp makes glare worse and colors harder to distinguish and increases eye strain when used for longer periods of time. Personally I have no use for 3600 lumen lights (I know I'm going to get flamed for that one), for my eyes there's a point of diminishing returns where the increased lumens on the trail simply make my eyes adjust to brighter illuminated areas while compromising night vision and trail spill light and in reality I'm not increasing the amount of area my eyes can actually "see". I'd much rather see 900 lumen lights with 4 hours of run time than 3600 lumen lights with 1 hour of run time, because my night rides are always 3-4 hours. Which is the biggest advantage I personally see to the higher power more efficient lights, you can run them longer at lower levels.

    It's like a sports car, you could build a 300 hp sports car with a smaller lighter engine, better weight ratio that would turn faster lap times, but 99% of people are still going to buy the 400 hp version simply because it's more and more must be "better".

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToddM View Post
    ....However one thing I've noticed is that none of them offer what would seem to be easy to add features that might make their lights appeal to hikers and general outdoors people as well. Especially with headlamp prices increasing and users demanding more options, etc.

    For example none of them seem to offer anything even close to a low output, I'm talking say 1-10 lumens that would appeal to people wanting to use the lights close up, around camp, as an tent/area light, another would be a flashing/sos option. Third would be a small headband mounted battery option (lupine does do this with the Piko). Most seem to have a low output around 50-100 lumens. Perhaps it's just not possible to get lower output out of these platforms. Some even offer different options for a 2 LED setup with two different focus patterns. Add in user programibility and now you could have a spot and flood each over 450 lumens that could be used individually and combined as the user needed.

    It would just seem with more and more "general" use headlamps going over $100 and in many cases pushing $200, that these companies are right on the cusp of making a light that a person could truly use for close up work, around camp, hiking, and still have 900-1200 lumens for real power users, and the package size is small enough now that it's not much bigger than a tikka (aside for the battery). The other issue would be if these lights can run at full power for long without stepping down without the additional airflow cooling of being moving on the bike.

    Lupine seems the closest to offering something like this but the downside with lupine is price, it would cost way way over $500 to really set up a piko to be close to that and you still have a light that's too bright and wrong focus for close up work.

    Just seems like the bike light technology, power and size is getting their products to a point with a few "small" tweaks could be marketed to a much larger customer base.
    Just remember the more features you try to add to a system the more money the manufacturer is going to want. Few people expect a high powered bike light to be used while camping or hiking. Some bike lights can be used with head-straps for hiking and such but like you said the lowest outputs are rarely under 100 lumen.

    Personally if I want a head mounted light for camping I'm going to buy something specifically designed for that purpose. Likely it will be very light and have a very comfortable strap, run off of triple A's, have memory and have an adjustable output ( as you mentioned ) on the low side of 100 lumen. It should also tilt, have a nice medium type beam pattern and be completely self-contained in the front lamp. Plenty of those around all you have to do is go to any camping/Outdoor website and there are hundreds to choose from. If I'm camping/hiking and I need more output to see something farther away I'll pull out a high-powered torch and give it a look-see.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToddM View Post
    I also agree about the neutral color temp, and my recent lights have been leaning that way, but sadly the reality is 95% of people will always go with more lumens, even if the high color temp makes glare worse and colors harder to distinguish and increases eye strain when used for longer periods of time. Personally I have no use for 3600 lumen lights (I know I'm going to get flamed for that one), for my eyes there's a point of diminishing returns where the increased lumens on the trail simply make my eyes adjust to brighter illuminated areas while compromising night vision and trail spill light and in reality I'm not increasing the amount of area my eyes can actually "see".
    +1. So true about the lumens overkill making the the transitional space harder to distinguish. More potential when the light projects on the ground closer than expected for burn out spots too, ouch!
    Personally I'd rather use two sources of 900-1200L i.e head and bars than 1 almighty 2400L+ for offroad anyway.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by snala View Post
    Still for extended periods of time using very low outputs the battery packs and head units are bigger than required to have to use. I'd rather just have two lights, one for close up with no battery pack and another for power in that case. My X2 MTB light set at 50 lumens isn't very focused anyway so compared to a flashlight with the same lumens it seems less anyway.

    I'm still wondering why in the mountain bike space no body except Fenix is using neutral coloured LED's? They are slightly less lumens, 10% maybe, but the colouring and advantages of such is worth it.
    Eventually it will happen. I'd like to see a two-up or three-up XM-L lamp ( Something like the Gloworm X2 ) in a neutral tint. I think people would be surprised at how well they would work. Once again though, optics are important in how the light is distributed.

    I own a neutral white XM-L 3-mode mini-torch that I bought last year. Shining it around the house it didn't look near as bright as the other torches I own ( at first glance ) but when I took in out into the woods I was amazed at what I could see. When I set it at mid-level my first thought was, "Well not much light there", but then I suddenly realized, "Wait a minute...damn I can see far"! The reason it's so deceptive is because there is no glare. Once your eyes are used to this fact you can see quite well. The flip side of the coin is that when the terrain is wet or muddy the cooler bins seem to work better, my take on it.

  8. #8
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    With regards to a super low output mode (e.g. 10 lumen), that question has sort of been answered, at least as far as it pertains to the Gloworm X2.

    The more functions a light is capable of, the larger and/or more complex the PCB to run it will need to be. Many light companies are using off-the-shelf components to build their lights, so they're limited by the choices available from a small number of very large manufacturers. Developing electronics from scratch involves significant R&D time and money, which drives up the cost of the end product.

    The market for $200 LED lights is limited. Companies like Lupine Gloworm, Dinotte, Gemini etc. make lights geared toward a small niche of professional and/or serious performance-oriented cyclists. People who buy a Piko or an X2 are more likely to want it for its maximum light output as a trail light than they are to want it fas a low-power close range head lamp. The market for lower end general purpose head lamps is already saturated by large established companies such as Petzl, so it doesn't make sense for the high end companies to try to compete.

    The issue of colour temperature, I suspect, is governed by many of the same economies of scale I mentioned in the second paragraph. That is, the bike light companies are limited to buying what LED manufacturers CREE and 1 or 2 others are making. The larger the production run of LEDs, the lower the cost to manufacture them. Earlier generation LED's tended to be toward the cooler end of the colour spectrum only within the past 2-3 years have big box begun offering "warm white" christmas lights and residential LED bulbs (pure white is still very uncommon). LED's are still a fairly new technology that has yet to fully mature.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fuzzy Dunlop View Post
    The issue of colour temperature, I suspect, is governed by many of the same economies of scale I mentioned in the second paragraph. That is, the bike light companies are limited to buying what LED manufacturers CREE and 1 or 2 others are making. The larger the production run of LEDs, the lower the cost to manufacture them. Earlier generation LED's tended to be toward the cooler end of the colour spectrum only within the past 2-3 years have big box begun offering "warm white" christmas lights and residential LED bulbs (pure white is still very uncommon). LED's are still a fairly new technology that has yet to fully mature.
    Agreed but they are getting more prevalent in the mainstream. I use a Fenix PD32UE as my bar light at the the moment which was supposed to be a limited edition. That torch (flashlight) pretty much sold out it's initial run worldwide and they are on their second run now due to demand. Uses a XML T6 and it's fantastic. Very nice neutral colour, true ANSI rated 9,40,140,400 lumens and a restricted time 740 lumen burst mode too out of 1x18650. I use it on the 400L setting and it lasts over 2.5 hours. Has a reflector set for flood rather than throw so is great as a MTB light as is just a huge round wall of light without a hot spot. The trail detail is much better than a standard CW LED in my opinion.

    Cats comment is an interesting one about LED colour and wet ground conditions too. Has not been wet over here for a while now, summer, so yes will see what happens there when the tracks start changing condition closer to winter.

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