Dual beam, TWIN- XM-L cycle light review
The Spark SB100 is Spark-light twin XM-L2 impressive entry in the world of high power cycle lights.
I am please to see that the Lumen figures given are perfectly achievable and not some of the over inflated figures you see on some lights.
The SB100 was supplied for the review by spark-light.com and 4 x PluzPower 3400mAh 18650 supplied for the review by "multicorepc" from UK ebay.
Initial overview and feel
As mentioned earlier, the SB100 is a big light, OD 63mm, length 63mm, and with a weight of 353gr for the head and the thickest spacer. The head as the shape of a cylinder with cooling fins on most of its surface, the optic is retained by a ring with some knuckling. The two switches and battery condition light are position on a flat section right on top of the light, the 180 mm battery lead come out from the centre of the rear section and has the plug which appear to have a grove for an O ring but none was present, the connection is tight and has a screw cap for safety . The quick release bracket is bolted to the light and use removable plastic spacers to cope with different handle bar sizes (3 sizes are supplied). Once fitted and the tension adjusted, this is rock solid. The reflector is where the light really differ from other cycle lights! This is made of 4 different reflective areas designed to reflect the light in different ways from the two LED. Something else worth noting is that one LED is facing up wards and the other downwards and both are shielded to stop direct light projection. It looks to me that manufacturer has been inspired by modern cars headlamp technology. The instruction are mentioning the orange switch for "near range illumination" (top LED ) and the green one for "far range illumination" bottom LED, Both switches have glow in the dark caps, nice touch. I instinctively thought of a deep beam for the orange and main beam for the green, but once field tested I found out that they were more to it and the beam was very specific. I will come back to it during the tests. The two LED on my review sample are the XM-L2 in cool white ( neutral white also available but you do loose a little lumens as they are quoted at 550 instead of 600)
The battery pack is made of two part: an outer bag 10x5.5x5.5cm with long velcro straps, so this should not be a problem attaching it to your frame or handle bar.
The cable is 230 mm and was ample to secured to either frame or bar.
Inside the bag is an aluminum battery pack in a shape of a small barrel. The bag and battery pack are only 154gr empty, once the screw on cap for battery pack was removed, a 4 x18650 battery cell cradle was found.
The removable cradle which is often a weak point in that type of battery pack, appear to be well made and sturdy but the high capacity batteries 69mm are very tight in it.
Older 2400 or 2600 batteries measuring about 67mm are easy to get in and out. The batteries are mounted in parallel keeping the voltage to 4.2v but giving you a variable amperage according to the batteries used.
Please note the four batteries will have to be identical, preferably from the same manufacturer and have the same amperage and voltage.
The four outer column are metal and close the circuit from the bottom to the top board, connectors and spring appear to be gold plated , a very well made cradle
No batteries are included in the kit which will add to the initial cost but on the plus side this will allow you to custom build your battery pack with quality batteries and with the amperage of your choice. On many lights the battery pack is the weak points as some manufacturer do not supply top quality batteries in them, this way you are in control of what goes into it!
A plug in battery pack charger is included with the SB100 but unfortunately was missing from the review sample send. So no real data apart from a photo, so quality and charging time unknown.
Batteries can be removed from the battery pack for charging into a dedicated 18650 cells charger if required. This method would be better for getting balanced cells but is not as convenient as plugging the supplied charger in! Another good point is that you can use the light with 1, 2, 3 or 4 x 18650 batteries of your choice. I have tried the SB100 into one, two batteries and four batteries configuration and this works fine, obviously,
the fewer batteries fitted, the shorter the run time will be.
Cycling with the SB100
Once the battery pack was connected to a fully charge pack, the battery indicator did cycle from RED, BLUE then GREEN within a few seconds. The two switches have a positive feel and the warning light is not too bright and is well recessed so that it does not interfere with your night vision. The quick release clamp need to have its nut fully unscrewed for the front to separate so that you can remove the light from the handle bar. The spacers are made of a hard plastic and are well designed with a small bridge holding the two parts together making this the best spacers I have used so far.
Both beams are quite distinctive with what they refer as the "near range illumination - orange switch" giving you an arc shape band of light by your front wheel and a hot spot/rectangle further away and the "far range illumination - green switch" giving you the more common triangular beam pattern. The two LEDs running on high does give you a very good level of light. As with all cycling lights the maximum useable light will be achieved by correct adjustment of the light angle to suit the speed or terrain you are cycling on. The SB100 has been tested with two AW 2600 mAh batteries during a 1.5h MTB forest ride and with four new PluzPower 3400mAh supplied for the review by "multicorepc" from UK ebay. The two LEDs do provide a very distinctive beam working well if running together. If you look at the drawing above, you can distinctively see the beams shape . The first two beams near to the bike are the "near distance" illumination (orange switch), you can visualize the dark area seen on some of my photos, the "far distance" beam activated by the green switch is the more conventional light beam that we are used to. The auto step down function do work well and on my field tests did activate to achieve good run times. This is certainly a good safety feature and will give you extended runtime but for some, this will be nuisance as you will only be able to get your max lumens for a set time.
The reflector is a combination of smooth, fluted and orange peel areas, you can also see the direction of the two LEDs, pointing up/down and the silver shield right in front
With dual feature reflector provides dual beam pattern
Maximum output up to 1200lm
Reliable and solid bike clamp with cushions for different size of handle bar
IPX 8 waterproof
Runtime over 26hours
Without battery :500g
Green battery capacity over 75%
Blue battery capacity within 40%~75%
Red battery capacity within 15%~40%
Red flash battery capacity below 15%
4*18650 battery pack
Compatible spare part with SX5 headlamp
Single click to turn the headlamp on & off.
Hold on button to go through Minimum, Medium 1&Medium 2, Max modes. When desire mode is reached, release to stop brightness ramping and current mode is memorized.
At any mode, quick double click on button to trigger the Super mode. Double click again to return to the previous mode.
SB100-CW Cree XML2 cool white
SB100-NW Cree XML2 neutral white
Output (with one led on)
P/N High Med Low
SB100-CW 600lm 350lm 120lm
SB100-NW 550lm 320lm 110lm
Home test and runtime test.
Measurement were taken out of my home made integration sphere, PLEASE NOTE, these are LUX and not LUMENS,
As you can see, the runtime versus output is pretty steady apart for the two automatic step-downs.
I did a quick measurement during my home test: at 75mn when the SB100 stepped down from 600 lux to 410, (both LED from high to medium level), I increased the " far distance" one to high again without the light stepping down, this did increase the output to 506 lux. No idea for the moment on how long I would have been able to maintain this output for.
Also to be fair, these results where also achieved thank the PLuzPower 18650 batteries
which have the Panasonic NCR18650B 3400mAh Cells Inside.
This is a new brand here in the UK and I am looking forward to carry more run test on a single 18650 flashlight powered by the PluzPower 3400 mAh.
PluzPower 3400 mAh battery specifications from the seller:
Battery Type: Protected 18650 Li-ion
Cell Inside: Panasonic NCR18650B 3400mAh (GENUINE)
Nominal Voltage 3.6V / 3.7V
Fully Charge voltage: 4.2V +/-0.05
Discharged Voltage: 2.5V (Recommended 2.75V)
PCB Trip Current: 11.5A (Maximum Sudden Discharge Current)
PCB Trip Current: 7A (Approx. Max. Continuous Discharge Current)
Recommended Maximum Continuous Discharge Current 2C 6.8A
Protection Built in Li-ion Rechargeable Battery
Size: 18.80±0.1mm x 69.05±0.1 (Our Measurements)Weight: 48g (Our Measurements)
Outdoor beam shots
Photos of different SB100 settings
Photos taken with Canon Powershot SX110 IS, 100ASA, f2.8 -2"
On a field track
from left to right: near distance/Orange on high. you can see the darker area between the two light spots in the "near distance/orange" settings
far distance/green, low, medium and high
Both beams on high
To give you an idea of the size of the SB100, this has been placed near two other common cycling lights, a Solarstorm X2 and a Bikeray Ray III
Cycling with the SB100
Apart from a little road use, so far I am on my fourth ride in Friston forest with the SB100 and the light is really growing on me.
The first one was done with only two AW 2600 mAh flat top batteries, the ride lasted about 1.5 hours and when I got home the battery light was still on blue. For the other rides, I used my new 3400mAh PluzPower batteries, they are the conventional batteries shape and despite being the same length 69mm were a lot easier to remove from the cradle. As mentioned earlier, the Spark battery charger was missing from my review sample and the battery were charged two at a time by the XTAR VP1 charger that I purchased from ebay. I already had a Nitecore I4 charger but wanted something else to monitor the battery voltage while charging as I wanted to be sure that my battery pack was balanced. I was very impressed with the CPF review of the VP1 and the charger is as good as it reads! This was purchased from the same UK ebay seller that supply me the Pluzpower 18650 FOC for the review. Both rides were about 2 hours and the battery warning light after the ride was showing green on both occasions. I found that you could cycle with the two LED on low setting on the wide forest fire-roads, but all the downhill trail did require both to be on the high settings to have a good level of illumination. I did not like cycling with only the "near distant" beam on as this left me with a dark area in between the split beams (see photos), the "far distance" beam was good with a nice spread and a long enough reach. The two combined together does really give you a very uniform wide and far reaching lit area. What I found by using the SB100 is that the two switches, give you to much control on its lighting modes resulting in to many clicking and having to think on which switch to operate! For me the light would have been more user friendly by having just one switch operating both LED for low medium and high as the beam is at its best when both LED are on!
I do understand that in some counties the use of flashing light on roads is forbidden, but a flashing mode should have been included as an hidden mode as this is used by many cyclists worldwide.
The access to the low, medium and high modes by ramping (ie keeping the switch depress) is not again an ideal way of changing light levels for cyclists as
this involves having one of your hands of your handlebars grips for to long, a standard push switch would have been much better.
Please note, the For/Against is always down to the reviewer personal preferences and for some, my FOR could be AGAINST and vice versa
For: excellent beam, when both LED on,
replaceable and upgradeable batteries,
battery pack offering good protection against damage,
possibility of running the SB100 on 1,2,3 or 4 batteries,
step-down safety system,
screw cap on lead plug,
glow in the dark switches.
good quality build and strong battery cradle
no flashing mode,
step down coming in effect a little early, no over ride
heavy and large for the light output 1200 lumens and can not be mounted on a helmet,
running on 4.2v instead of the more common 8.4v (at time of review), so can not interchange battery pack with some other lights.
two separate ramping switches operating LED independently
(charger unknown as not supplied with my sample)
The SB100 from Spark is a high quality cycle light at an affordable price. (around $150)
Its innovative reflector do make a broad and uniform far reaching light beam which is ideal for an handle bar light.
This is a good choice for road use where low or medium will be most often used giving you very long ride times
when couple up with high capacity batteries like the 18650 3400mAh PluzPower batteries.
The dual beam is also excellent for MTB , what is less appealing is the sudden step down which drop your output from around a 1000 lumens
to about 700 lumens after about 75mn.
For many MTB riders this could be half way through their ride!.
I am unsure if the Spark SB100 is available from UK sellers YET but they can be obtained direct from China as the light do not contain any batteries, so it is not subject to current Airmail restrictions.
(Mine arrived within 10 days)
3400 mAh batteries are a good choice for the battery pack and are available from UK sellers at good prices and I am sure will be also available in your country of residence.
The SB100 was kindly supplied by Spark-lighting.com for review and the 4x PluzPower 3400mAh 18650 batteries by Multicorepc from Ebay UK to power the light for the review.
The SB100 can be found on the manufacturer website: SPARK
the PluzPower 3500mAh batteries:
multicorepc on eBay
My full review with a lot more photos and run time test result can be found : SPARK SB100-CW Twin XM-L - Twin beam Bike light review
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