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  1. #1
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    Lights for Trans Iowa

    Last year I learned a big lesson in lighting for all-night gravel riding. I finished, but only by the grace of other rider's lights.

    What's the going opinion on a light that will last all night, provide bright coverage, and not cost 600$.

    Thanks for the ideas or thread.

  2. #2
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    Difficult question!

    How long does your light need to burn in total?

    Does the race start at dawn or in the dark?
    Do you have to carry the light system the whole trip and can you get a fresh batterypack during the trip?,....

    How much light do you require?
    And is one light sufficient, or do you prefer a combination of helmet and bar light??

    I use a lupine piko 3 with smartcore battery on the helmet and a piko 6 on the bars. For most mountainbiketrips I have more than enough light with 7 watt or 560 lumens on the bar and 3,1 watt or 300 lumens on the helmet, that way I can ride over 5h30 min and I carry only half a kg of lights and batterys.

    For a gravelroad race I would consider taking only the piko 6, at 360 lumens its good for 9 hours riding for 300 gram and you have your taillight in one go!

    If you need more light you'll need a bigger battery or a spare one, but batteries are rather heavy! Keep in mind that lupine advertises with measured lumen, A lot of chinese ligths that claim 1000 lumens or more provide less at full power than the piko at 360 lumen!

  3. #3
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    Thanks. The Trans Iowa starts at 4 AM. So that's about 3 hours of lights on in the morning. Then it's all night. So that's another 10 + hours of use. No outside support is allowed...other than convenient stores. So spare batteries are either carried or purchased along the way. But you are so brain dead by 3 AM that battery swapping is hazardous and tedious.

    Though it's not singletrack, the variety of road conditions requires a pretty bright beam. The gravel roads of Iowa can bite bad if you're not paying attention or unable to see adequately.

    I would like to use just one light. I'm assuming a bar mount (but am open to the going thought on where to best use a bright light.)

    Thanks
    Last edited by jkcustom; 11-09-2012 at 04:47 PM.

  4. #4
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    You could try the new Cygolite Mitycross 800 Xtra. On its brightest setting it only runs for 4 hours but you don't need that for gravel roads. On its lowest setting (100 lumen) its rating for 32 hours.

    With its OSP though you can adjust the medium (500 lumen) to say 300 lumen and increase its time to around 11-12 hours. The complete package is lightweight as well.

    If you programmed it to only run at 200 lumen you may get away with one battery, but for your endevors I would recommend buying an extra battery so that you can run more light if you wanted. A spare is $60 and unfortunately it is half the capacity of the Xtra battery. The 800 Xtra can be had for about $210.

    I have the MityCross 350 and 480OSP and have found them to be very reliable with strong mounts. They work equally well on the bar or helment. I ride my cross bike with the 350 on multiuse trails and dirt roads and that is more than enough light for that type of terrain.

  5. #5
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    I just finished reading up on the event. What a killer event...over 300 miles with no support! ....sorry but F that.

    After reading the warnings on the website no way I would even think about something like that unless I was still in my twenties/thirties and had an elite fitness level.

    Do something like that and the equation you will deal with will be > ( Your butt and boys = ground beef ).

    Having enough light will be the least of your problems but if you did choose to go off the deep end I would think something like a Gloworm X2 run on it's minimal settings ( with Gloworm premium 6 cell battery ) should get you through most ( if not all ) of the event. Still I would also carry a spare 18650 type torch as back up and carry at least two extra cells. ( which is enough for another 6 hrs of light if run on medium )

    Good luck

  6. #6
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    AMOEBA !



    PM if you want more info

    ***

  7. #7
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    Definitely on the bars, you wouldn't want anything other than your helmet on your head for that long.

    As far as batteries, I wouldn't go with one big battery. Is this the only time you are going to be riding at night? If not, do you need that much juice on the majority of your rides? I would split it up into a 4 cell, and a 2 cell. Why carry the extra weight on all your other rides when you really only need it for the one event?

    My 2x Cree XP-G2 w/LFlex driver version sounds like it would be perfect. The XP-G2's mated up to the Ledil Regina reflectors give great throw with some real nice sidespill. I think this would be perfect for gravel goodness.


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  8. #8
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    Thanks for the tips so far. As far as the TI goes, I finished it last year. I am headed back this year to singlespeed it. Really, one of the hardest parts of the race is just staying awake. Anyway, good lighting dogged me this year and I am determined to come back better lit.

    I do other ultras, including the Arrowhead Ultra 135 (I have skied, cycled and run it) and will be headed back this Winter to try to finish high again in the run. That race is doubly tough on lights because of the extreme cold (many hours spent at -20 to -35 below F.)

    So, I will check out a couple of the mights mentioned above. When I think back, one really does need a light on your helmet to read cue cards and road signs. But the brunt of the power is probably best served on the bars.

    Thanks again for the advice. Always appreciated.

  9. #9
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    I would take 1 piko on the helmet, at low light levels helmet light is more efficient, the beam is rather wide and 55 grams is not too much on the helmet.
    helmetligth makes a ride less monotone, I try to see things on the side,... it allows mapchecks, looking at signs, looking in corners,....
    At 360 lumens, you should be fine, but test it upfront!

    For + 13 hours, I think I would start with two 5,6 Ah batterys, you 'll be able to go to full beam occasionally without the risk of falling without light for something like 540 grams!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by scar View Post
    Definitely on the bars, you wouldn't want anything other than your helmet on your head for that long.

    As far as batteries, I wouldn't go with one big battery. Is this the only time you are going to be riding at night? If not, do you need that much juice on the majority of your rides? I would split it up into a 4 cell, and a 2 cell. Why carry the extra weight on all your other rides when you really only need it for the one event?


    My 2x Cree XP-G2 w/LFlex driver version sounds like it would be perfect. The XP-G2's mated up to the Ledil Regina reflectors give great throw with some real nice sidespill. I think this would be perfect for gravel goodness.


    ***
    I can agree with all of that. I can't see doing something like this and only using a helmet light. Something that is this long in duration, your head/neck is going to get real tired. That means your head/and neck will drop just out of shear exhaustion. If you want to continue to see where you're going you need a bar lamp. Now if I was to use an additional light, helmet light in this case, a simple ( light-weight ) torch will work fine. Definitely needed for reading road signs.

    Good idea about a 4 cell and 2 cell battery. Make's sense to me.

    I have to admit I'm curious about this event and what it takes to complete it. I have lots of questions: What kind of bike works best? What size and type of tire? Are you allowed outside support ( drops ) via cell phone? I know this is off topic but I'm curious. Is there a blog to read that goes into more detail?

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cat-man-do View Post

    I have to admit I'm curious about this event and what it takes to complete it. I have lots of questions: What kind of bike works best? What size and type of tire? Are you allowed outside support ( drops ) via cell phone? I know this is off topic but I'm curious. Is there a blog to read that goes into more detail?
    This event surely sounds challenging Cat. Pictures of the terrain suggest the best bike to use would be Cyclocross types. A 29er maybe be ok. From what I see tyres should be good for a mix of packed gravel, bitumen and mud. The timing of next years event, April 27-28 may see wet muddy conditions in certain sections but hard to say from a desktop.
    Trans Iowa Blog Page &
    Past Trans-Iowa Events Blog

    Totally agree 2 lights are needed. Map reading and looking out for signs + landmarks and repairs to bike if any will require a helmet light. Go for the lightest helmet light you can. If it gets too heavy after a while, take it off the helmet and put it on the bars. With cold conditions down to low single digits in the night, a torch on the helmet may not be the best way to go. Better to keep the battery in the backpack or best inside your jacket. Body heat will help the battery/ies run at optimum conditions.

    Leonard
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  12. #12
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    I used a Fenix LD20 flashlight and a Portland Design Works Dreadnaught on my failed TI attempt last year, and I'll be using them again this year when I go back for a shot at redemption. I think the Fenix could honestly get the job done by itself, and I had the handlebar light more as a backup than anything else. The Fenix mounts nicely on a helmet using a Jannd frame-pump mount, and it's lightweight to the point of being almost unnoticeable. Battery life isn't that great but with a few pairs of Lithium Ultimates along you should be good to go!

    I'm not sure how frequently you make it down to MPLS, but you're welcome to borrow mine at some point if you want to check em out.

    Ben

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xeccon View Post
    This event surely sounds challenging Cat. Pictures of the terrain suggest the best bike to use would be Cyclocross types. A 29er maybe be ok. From what I see tyres should be good for a mix of packed gravel, bitumen and mud. The timing of next years event, April 27-28 may see wet muddy conditions in certain sections but hard to say from a desktop.
    Trans Iowa Blog Page &
    Past Trans-Iowa Events Blog

    Totally agree 2 lights are needed. Map reading and looking out for signs + landmarks and repairs to bike if any will require a helmet light. Go for the lightest helmet light you can. If it gets too heavy after a while, take it off the helmet and put it on the bars. With cold conditions down to low single digits in the night, a torch on the helmet may not be the best way to go. Better to keep the battery in the backpack or best inside your jacket. Body heat will help the battery/ies run at optimum conditions.

    Leonard
    Yep, on a ride like the Trans Iowa keeping the battery warm would be important. Inside the jacket would be the way to go. Would be a PITA to do that for the bar light but on something this long you do what you have to do. If it were me I would also consider running Li-Po batteries because they are flatter and would be more comfortable next to your body. The added plus of running Li-Po would mean you might be able to get a quick charge at one of the local gas stations while getting some grub. Li-Po have the ability to handle a higher current for quick charging. Bring a small charger along just in case.

    The other way to go might be to consider a dynamo set-up for the bars. Then run a battery powered helmet light as back up and perhaps a bar torch for when you have to walk.

    @ Boney; Wow...you did the TI with just those two lights? Hey, I tip my hat to you. Even with both of those going that isn't a whole lot of light. I guess you chose that set-up so you could run AA's (?)...am I correct? Were you able to buy the Ultimate Lithiums on the road or did you bring all you needed with you?

    Damn, after watching the videos some of those people flated like 4 times...ever tried changing a flat when you are utterly exhausted? ...that would not be easy.

  14. #14
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    I know my opinion is somewhat biased, but the Gemini Duo may be efficiency champ. Turn if down to 700 lumens and you get 7 hours on a 4 cell battery or 420 lumens and you get 12.5 hours. Carry an extra 2 cell and you've probably got plenty. If you want to be sure team it up with a 6 cell.
    I've done some long night rides and think if your just going to have just one light, having it on the helmet is best. Being able to look around and see your surroundings or some wild life really help keep your mind entertained. Only 63g up top
    Jim Harger
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  15. #15
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    Cat man, not all people are nightblind

    This is the 9'th edition, first edition was 9 years ago I supose!
    Yes, HID existed, but i have the slight impression the participants of the first editions were not using that kind of alien technology
    AA battery or dynamo powered halogenbulb would have been the way to go back than I guess?

    I mostly ride trails with something like a combined 1000 lumens, but I know plenty of people who are mountainbiking with less than 360 lumen, on dirtroads 360lumen is certainly enough for me, certainly on the helmet, on the road 140 lumen does the trick, but 360 is more comfy!

    For me the piko 6 would still be the way to go, 55 gram is fine on the helmet, that's the weight of the feniks without batteries! with the 5,6 Ah battery included it's 300 gram, I would place the battery on the sadlepost as a rearlight unless there are arctic conditons!

    If you are a weight weenie, a single 5,6 Ah battery could do the trick if you are willing to toggle throug the powersettings: there are a lot of powersettings: at 360 lumen the battery will last only 9 h, at 300 lumen (eco modus) 10 h 40 minutes, at 140 lumen it works 24 h, at 120 lumen 36 hours, (at 50 lumen 90 hours).

    A push on the button of the battery and you see/ here how much capacity you have left, so you can calculate the optimum setting and secure you have power enough left to finish.

    I however would take a spare battery, at least a 2,5 Ah, that way you can ride at 360 lumens well over 13,5 hours for only 425 gram, so no need for calculations or riding with extreme low light, but also no spare to play around!

    With two 5,6 Ah batteries you can ride 18 hours at 360 lumen, so you can go to 900 lumen occasionally in difficult situations or just to look at landmarks to drive away boredom... And the whole light system would weigh 540 gram.

    About helmet or handlebar: A few years back long rides with only my good old switchback 2 (well over 100 gram on a 10 cm leverarm) on the helmet became painfull for the nek after a few hours.
    The weight of the helmet was one thing, but the bundle was so narrow that I needed to turn my head the whole time.
    With the piko its now 55 gram, close to the helmet, and a wide bundle, so i completely forget the light is there, 4 hours of mountainbiking and it's still as if there is nothing on the helmet!

    The piko also works fine on the handlebar, the halo is wide: 160/170, but it's just the halo, it has no throw, so for fast sharp cornering it's not enough, and you miss a lot off landmarks
    2 lights is nice on offroadtrips, but on stuff like the TI, i think it's overkill,and only in severe fog or when i know the place I would place on the handlebar!

  16. #16
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    about the gemini duo:
    For me the numbers don't match!
    A: gemini has the best battery on the market, outperforming all existing li-ion batteries, this would be strange.
    B:The gemini doesn't really provide the claimed amount of lumen
    C: the gemini doesn't reach the promised runtime

    Outer that, the helmet mount puts the light rather far from the helmet, the inertia of the weigt is wat counts in most cases, not the actual weight!

    Copies like the gloworm or the gemini?? I would go for the original, In Europe lupine is also sold though lokal dealers, they givesome discount, and try selling a gloworm or a gemini in a few years time and whatever profit you initialy made is lost!

    By the way, I am not connected to lupine, I am just a happy customer that made his homework a few weeks back deciding the piko was most interesting for me, but the situation in your neighbourhood might be different, i never bothered to look up the prices in the US, and lokal manufacturers might give interesting deals!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nothing's impossible View Post
    Cat man, not all people are nightblind

    This is the 9'th edition, first edition was 9 years ago I supose!
    Yes, HID existed, but i have the slight impression the participants of the first editions were not using that kind of alien technology
    AA battery or dynamo powered halogenbulb would have been the way to go back than I guess?

    I mostly ride trails with something like a combined 1000 lumens, but I know plenty of people who are mountainbiking with less than 360 lumen, on dirtroads 360lumen is certainly enough for me, certainly on the helmet, on the road 140 lumen does the trick, but 360 is more comfy!...
    I wasn't implying that maximum lighting was required. Since this is the ninth edition I'll have to admit this is the first I've heard of the Trans Iowa. Sorry but it's been about 10 yrs or so since I've last had a subscription to ( or read ) a mountain bike magazine.

    Yeah, I suppose nine years ago the people doing the TI had their work cut out for them. God knows what they used back then. I remember back in the day I had a plastic bar mounted bike light that ran off of AA's. It didn't throw off much light but it was better than nothing. I suppose that's the kind of stuff they used back then.

    Today however you can certainly expect to use much more light because the LED lamps are much more brighter and more efficient. Still it would be a good idea on a ride like this to keep the output to a minimum if just to guarantee that you don't run out of battery juice.

    In my case I would probably use my Gloworm X2 on the bars coupled with the best battery I could find. The X2's lowest setting ( ~150 lumen ) is more than enough light for a slow ( ~10mph ) grind along remote gravel roads and should run about 11-12 hrs at that level. I've rode on that setting before and it is quite usable. I figure after 100 miles you aren't going to be breaking any land speed records anyway. Matter of fact the set-up that Boney was using would work fine once you get used to the lower light level. Once you start using the low levels of light you find that your eyes adapt. Every once in while I still practice using low light because I find it interesting to see just how little light I can actually get by with.

    Speaking of such, right now I have some nice torches that have low settings that are quite usable. Still on a ride like the TI it would be nice to have at least one light along that runs off of AA's, just in case.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cat-man-do View Post
    .

    @ Boney; Wow...you did the TI with just those two lights? Hey, I tip my hat to you. Even with both of those going that isn't a whole lot of light. I guess you chose that set-up so you could run AA's (?)...am I correct? Were you able to buy the Ultimate Lithiums on the road or did you bring all you needed with you?
    Last year was my first TI attempt and I didn't finish, but my DNF didn't have anything to do with my lights. You're right that its not much light, but I personally find it adequate for gravel use. Seeing as the Fenix is pretty much the go to light for racers participating in true multi-day efforts like the Tour Divide or Colorado Trail Race, I think it's safe to say that it'll get the job done for TI. The lithium AAs aren't available everywhere, so in the past I've sometimes started out with them and then just switched to regular AAs later on.

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    Cat, the 10 mph, that will be during the climbs

    If you have a 340 mile race and a 34 hour time limit in which you need to cycle, rest a bit, do the shopping, eat, and don't want to finish last, you'll need to ride quite a bit faster on the flat parts and a lot faster when it goes down!

    The fenix has a rather bleu and narrow beam if i remember well, That way you need to move your head constantly instead of only your eyes, that's a big diiference, and probably a reason tto get neck complaints!

    If you want to go for a torch, pick one with XML emitter and a wide optic!

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boney View Post
    Last year was my first TI attempt and I didn't finish, but my DNF didn't have anything to do with my lights. You're right that its not much light, but I personally find it adequate for gravel use. Seeing as the Fenix is pretty much the go to light for racers participating in true multi-day efforts like the Tour Divide or Colorado Trail Race, I think it's safe to say that it'll get the job done for TI. The lithium AAs aren't available everywhere, so in the past I've sometimes started out with them and then just switched to regular AAs later on.
    Hi Boney, Kudos to you. Looking at the videos I would be a DNS, let alone DNF. I am curious about the gravel:bitumen:mud: other (including singletrack type of trails, if any) ratio. What was the temperature like in the nights?

    You are right, the seemingly endless straight gravel grind won't require much light. Probably just need to look out for potholes only. Anywhere in the vicinity of 250 lumens should be sufficient. You'd probably only need more light when you come to a, landmark, juncture or going up those muddy climbs. I noticed what participants was given instruction guide rather than maps, is that correct?

    All the best in next years event. Hats off to you giving it another go.

    Leonard
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    Yes, it seems quite an adventure!!

  22. #22
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    In keeping with the spirit of all this I decided to do some run time tests using a couple lights I own that I thought might work well on an endurance type event such as the TI.

    For the test I chose my Gloworm X2 ( V1 ) set on the lowest mode of the "Adventure Program". ( ~150 lumen ? ) To make things easier I hooked up a two cell MagicShine battery ( 2200mAh? ). The other light is just my single 18650 cell Yezi Z1X 3-mode XM-L torch set on it lowest setting and using a single Panasonic 3100mAh cell.

    As it stands right now both lights are still going which absolutely just blows me away because it's been almost 8hrs! The Yezi torch is supposed to draw about 125ma on it's lowest setting. Not sure how much lumen that equals to but I would estimate about 125 lumen. Just looking at the output from each light I know that either one would work very well on a pitch black back road of Iowa. Another 20 mins and it will be eight hours since I started. Sorry but I have to stop because I have to go to bed!
    I'll note the time and finish the test tomorrow. Damn! 8 hrs on one cell! This goes beyond my expectations to say the least. Not to mention that I'm quite impressed that the two cell MagicShine battery is still going. I'll let you all know how it all turns out when I get up. Good night folks, time for the CAtman to hit the hay. .....

  23. #23
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    The 140 lumen of thepiko, that won't do the trick for me for a descent on gravel on an all nighter!

    I realised we are forgetting an important detail!

    Mountainbikelights loose half of the light into the air, for mountainbikelights this is a nice feature, it means you'll see branches and you'll be able to follow the terrain on a pumptrack, but on the road it is just waisted!

    In germany bikers are not suposed to blind others, so the optics are adapted, This is why a low lumen roadlights is so brigtht!

    I placed a small reflective hood on the piko to test this a few weeks ago, and you immediately notice the difference on the road! but instead of the hood you could also have a look at: headlight beams from Peter White Cycles

    On the helmet the led lenser might also be fine, you can focus the beam if you need to find something far away, and for normal riding you cans pread the beam!

  24. #24
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    Continued from my last post:

    Update: It's been 10 hrs now and both lights are still going strong. Folks it seems I have grossly under estimated how long a battery will last when on a low level of light. To check if the intensity of the outputs have dropped I momentarily switched batteries on both lights. To my surprise I see no difference in output. The test continues. I will update when when the batteries finally belly-up.

    @ Nothings impossible: Just keep in mind that the people doing a race like this are riding in groups and seeing very little vehicle traffic once they get out to the boonies. While watching the videos I noticed that many of people were just coasting down the hills. I figure that's because they are so wasted that you take a break whenever you can. Also keep in mind that while going down a hill you can chose to look farther ahead if you have a good helmet thrower. Then again I would think that at some point you would be so tired that you really wouldn't care. Once you hit "Zombie mode" nothing matters except resting when you have to rest, eating when you have to eat, peeing when you have to pee, everything else is just whatever.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cat-man-do View Post
    Continued from my last post:

    Update: It's been 10 hrs now and both lights are still going strong. Folks it seems I have grossly under estimated how long a battery will last when on a low level of light. To check if the intensity of the outputs have dropped I momentarily switched batteries on both lights. To my surprise I see no difference in output. The test continues. I will update when when the batteries finally belly-up.

    ]
    From this last post:

    So now the conclusion: I was able to get 13hrs and 50 minutes out of the two cell MagicShine battery using the lowest setting on the Gloworm X2 ( V1). That is absolutely awesome! If I was to use my 5200mAh 4-cells batteries likely I'm going to get over 29 hrs. riding on the lowest level. Sweet!

    On a side note I noticed that the X2 never did go through a strobe warning like I was told it was suppose to do. That's an issue I might have to take up with Gloworm.

    As for the Yezi Z1X with the Panasonic cell; I decided to end the test at 14hrs. No sense in overly discharging the cell. I'm happy with 14hrs!
    In retrospect, I'm not really sure what the output is on the Yezi low mode. While doing the test I compared it to another torch I have that is suppose to be 110 lumen and that torch looked a little brighter than the Yezi. To be fair I'll have to call the Yezi low mode somewhere around < 100 lumen. Perhaps that is why the battery seemed to last so long.

    Now that all that is done I really want to know how long the batteries will last on the next level up. To be continued....

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