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  1. #1
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    Real worth of bike lights

    Ok, since the clone's are becoming better I thought I would pose this question to maybe shed more light (pardon the expression) on what the real value of these lights are.

    Here's the scenario.

    You drive 1 hour to a favorite singe track trail, a 2 hour ride. It's dark but you've done this before. You are riding alone. You have your helmet light and bar light. You connect everything and one of your lights just refuses to work no matter what you do. You didn't bring a torch or any other type of back up.

    Here's the question.

    Do you do the ride w/ 1 light if it's a:

    1. Quality small company. (Dinotte, Lupine, etc)
    2. Big box company. (Light and Motion, Niterider, etc)
    3. Chinese built w/ warranty. (Gloworm, Xeccon, etc)
    4. Cheap Chinese light no warranty. (Clone)

    Since I'm a motivated goal oriented person, I ride #1 for sure. I think I ride #2 as well as long as it's not a MiNewt. Probably go out on #3 but more likely a decision made when I am there. No way #4.

    Let's see what you all think as we all have different thresholds.

    MB

  2. #2
    Single Speed Junkie
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    With any piece of gear you must be able to trust that it will work when needed. For a night ride especially solo I would not have any equipment with me I felt could leave me in the dark. (No pun intended) I've had many homebrew lights, Light & Motion and now Lupine. Each had their high points for a lighting system considering they cover a good 12 year span of technology or better. With the new lights I'm really liking how much light I can get out of a smaller lighter package than before. At the end of the day though when I go to plug it in and use the light it must work.

  3. #3
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    I NEVER ride with one light. Even a well built light from a great company has bad units once in a while. And what happens if you crash on your noggin and toast your one and only light? Using two lights also makes buying some of the cheaper lights not as much of a gamble.

    FWIW, I still have one of the original Magicshine MJ-808's, but with a battery pack replaced thorugh warranty. I've since bought a couple other MS products so I can ride with two lights; bar and helmet.
    "Got everything you need?"

  4. #4
    psycho cyclo addict
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    I took the "you get what you pay for" approach and use one helmet light (CygoLiteTridenX 600 lumen). To ensure success and the best reliability, I:

    Read the friendly manual (RTFM)
    Thoroughly tested before going on 5+ hour rides in the woods, away from civilization
    Charge according to the manufacturer recommendations

    I have no concerns about it failing.
    【ツ】 eDub 【ツ】

  5. #5
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    I've been stuck in the woods twice due to light failures. Both times were on good quality lights. Once I ended up ripping the battery cord off the pack when it snagged a tree branch. That was a 7 mile walk in the dark. That was ten years or so ago - long enough for me to get slack and start riding without a backup flashlight. Earlier this year, I had a battery pack fail without warning (very old and unused for a couple of years), leaving me with a mile walk out of the woods in the dark. Payback for getting lazy...

    I don't think failure is limited to cheap hardware. Especially with mountain biking, stuff gets broken.

    That said, if I had just one light, I'd still ride. I don't get to ride as much as I'd like to as is, and it's good to scare yourself every now and then.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by TwoHeadsBrewing View Post
    I've since bought a couple other MS products so I can ride with two lights; bar and helmet.
    Same here, original recalled MagicShine with hundreds and hundreds of hours. This is my bar light. GeoMan went under before I could get my new battery, but it's still going strong. I ended up getting one of the newer "1000 lumen Chinese MS" clones early this year and it's been great as well. The new one is my helmet light.

    So I have $120 worth of two cheap lights and they have never had any issues. They throw out more light than my buddies who have 3-4 year old Niterider's and Light and Motion lights too - and they spent $300+ on one light.

    If I go out alone I have a torch in my hydration pack with two 18650's just in case. Never have had any light malfunctions or issues (knocks on wood).

    I would never ride with just one light, even if it cost me $10,000. We have two+ headlights on our cars for a reason.

  7. #7
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    I would still ride in all 4 scenarios. It's just darkness people, you're not gonna die

  8. #8
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    I'd still ride. Back in the ole days before LED's and HID's, we rode with one 10 watt incandescant with a lead acid battery that had no smart chargers. So you were rollin dice every time you rode, but that was part of the adventure. Yes, sometime I had to walk or putt along real slowly back to the trail head, but that's also part of overcoming phobias to the dark. Now I have more disposable income and quality lights so 2 lights for a planned night ride and one if I "might"get delayed after dark.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by fightnut View Post
    I would still ride in all 4 scenarios. It's just darkness people, you're not gonna die
    hope so. but below freezing, it's questionable, once you get lost.
    also , it's nice to see the glowing eyes, once you are on foot, on the slow side,...
    have turned a wheel in a brezel, and a shoulder. ain't riding with those.
    took 3 hours by foot, to get back. extra battery helps. was about 10F
    ---
    now
    carry at least a extra 2cell backup battery, + flashlight + flashlight batteries.
    I carry a complete helmet set, + extra battery. Since my buddy could have a light/batterie failure . Actually , last time my buddy , had brought his spare, and used it. Since he had a wire problem on his MS before.
    ---
    worst one, forgetting to charge,.... without indicator , it's really a crapshoot, especially without backup. yeah, did that too, got my shirt dirty,...
    ---
    some , even carry a spare rear derailleur, bolt and hanger.
    ...

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by edubfromktown View Post
    I took the "you get what you pay for" approach and use one helmet light (CygoLiteTridenX 600 lumen). To ensure success and the best reliability, I:

    Read the friendly manual (RTFM)
    Thoroughly tested before going on 5+ hour rides in the woods, away from civilization
    Charge according to the manufacturer recommendations

    I have no concerns about it failing.
    You will when you have your single light fail. Been there done that.

    J.

  11. #11
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    Most cases I would ride regardless of the light system. If weather or other conditions were sketchy, that's what would change my mind.

  12. #12
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    Tonight, my friend broke the mounting strap on his Light and Motion helmet light, so left it in the car. Toward the end of the ride, his battery went dead on his Cygolight bar light. He was going to follow me and my $40 Chinese bar light back to the trail head, but I loaned him my $10 Chinese XML flashlight and bar mount, so he would have his own light.

  13. #13
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    Petzl headlamp in my jersey for emergencies like this

  14. #14
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    Adding Exposure Lights to your list, my thought, right at the top under #1.

  15. #15
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    Interesting OP. It wouldn't matter to me where I bought the light from. If I'm using the lamp on a regular basis that means I trust it. There is always the possibility that you leave the house and forget that the battery on one or both lights did not charge or just leave something home that you meant to bring. If I got to the ride site and discovered one light was not working, I would make a decision based on what the issue was and the possibility of being stranded without light. Weather, terrain and ride time would be factors in the decision. If I'm absolutely sure the battery ( 4 cell ) on my remaining lamp is fully charged I'll likely continue with the ride.

    The most likely thing to happen in my case would be either forgetting the battery for my bar light or forgetting to charge it. If I was mid-ride and suddenly my battery pooped that would be a bad thing. I would still have a helmet light but that might only be powered by a single cell. Still, on medium it should last about two hours as long as it is not too drained.

    In my case though I almost always have a back up ( XML ) torch on the bars as well. It has the potential to run three hours on medium as well as long as the battery is freshly charged. And if that wasn't enough I always carry a small AA powered pocket torch ( XPE ) that can also run about 2 hrs on low, enough to get me out of the woods or change a flat. I also always carry at least one spare 18650 cell so I should be good.

    Of course all of this is speculative. If this was a planned epic on unfamiliar terrain ( 4hr plus ride ) and I discovered something wrong before I left there is a good chance I would cancel the ride. Better safe than sorry because you could always get lost. If halfway into my ride the battery pooped I should likely be fine although I might not enjoy the ride as much because I would be conserving battery power as much as possible.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by bikerider2 View Post
    I'd still ride. Back in the ole days before LED's and HID's, we rode with one 10 watt incandescant with a lead acid battery that had no smart chargers. So you were rollin dice every time you rode, but that was part of the adventure. Yes, sometime I had to walk or putt along real slowly back to the trail head, but that's also part of overcoming phobias to the dark. Now I have more disposable income and quality lights so 2 lights for a planned night ride and one if I "might"get delayed after dark.
    Agreed. Modern lights are sooo much better than what i had 10-15 years ago. I definitely rode home in the dark or with a really dim light a few times with those incandescents and lead acids. Just ride.

  17. #17
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    I'd ride 1 2 3 and probably 4 depending on my personal history with the light.

    Sent from my cm_tenderloin using Tapatalk 2

  18. #18
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    I would ride in all conditions but then again I always got a Surefire with me for that oh sh*t moment.

  19. #19
    just a Newbie
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    First choice is: none of the above. I would rather have a custom made knowing the quality and craftmenship of the light.

    Second choice is number 2. I would think that there have been so many X amount of light sold to the generald public consumer that most of the pesky bugs should have been weeded out.

    Third choice is number 4. Yes they do fail but cheap enough that I can afford to buy several and tested them enough to know which one is the most less likely to fail.

    I know there will be some who hates me for saying this, but I go against the norm here. My last choice is number one if the selection means high price tag. I would rather spend that on a custom build. I'm too cheap to splurge a lot on a light unless it is has enough whoa and wow!!!

  20. #20
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    As someone else said, the value of a light is based on the trust it has earned by way of positive reviews, testing by experts, and personal experience.

    These questions seem awfully familiar to those posed by motorcycle riders advocating the use of high priced helmets even though testing shows that they offer no more protection than budget helmets.

    Yes, a cheap chinese light can get you in trouble if you blindly buy it without doing any research or using any sense. If you're the type to buy blindly with the purchase price earning your trust, then at least have someone point you towards a company with a flawless reputation and then buy their most expensive light.

    As for me, if my lighting requirements were all that tough, I'd get a light custom made. That would be #1. But my lighting requirements aren't all that. I can carry an extra light. I can wait for reviews. I can try my lights out on less risky rides until I gain trust in it. That allows me to buy budget lights. Of course some discretion must be used in regards to vendors as some shady vendors, like too many new ebayers, offer slightly different lights without letting the customer know....like clones by different manufacturers with different internal designs.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by leaftye View Post
    ....That allows me to buy budget lights. Of course some discretion must be used in regards to vendors as some shady vendors, like too many new ebayers, offer slightly different lights without letting the customer know....like clones by different manufacturers with different internal designs.
    Yep, no argument there. Just ordered my first e-bay lamp. I just thought I'd take a stab at rolling the dice.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by leaftye View Post
    As someone else said, the value of a light is based on the trust it has earned by way of positive reviews, testing by experts, and personal experience.

    These questions seem awfully familiar to those posed by motorcycle riders advocating the use of high priced helmets even though testing shows that they offer no more protection than budget helmets.

    Yes, a cheap chinese light can get you in trouble if you blindly buy it without doing any research or using any sense. If you're the type to buy blindly with the purchase price earning your trust, then at least have someone point you towards a company with a flawless reputation and then buy their most expensive light.

    As for me, if my lighting requirements were all that tough, I'd get a light custom made. That would be #1. But my lighting requirements aren't all that. I can carry an extra light. I can wait for reviews. I can try my lights out on less risky rides until I gain trust in it. That allows me to buy budget lights. Of course some discretion must be used in regards to vendors as some shady vendors, like too many new ebayers, offer slightly different lights without letting the customer know....like clones by different manufacturers with different internal designs.
    Good points.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by qdave View Post
    Tonight, my friend broke the mounting strap on his Light and Motion helmet light, so left it in the car. Toward the end of the ride, his battery went dead on his Cygolight bar light. He was going to follow me and my $40 Chinese bar light back to the trail head, but I loaned him my $10 Chinese XML flashlight and bar mount, so he would have his own light.

  24. #24
    little mad riding hood
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    Quote Originally Posted by eastspur View Post
    Petzl headlamp in my jersey for emergencies like this
    I do this too, and have done a number of local trail rides (not ultra tech stuff) using my Stella 150 commuter light on a helmet mount and my ancient Dinotte first-gen AA LED on the bars.

    Naturally I prefer my husband's HID NightRider when I have the chance to use it, but it's 6+ years old and is showing signs of developing battery degradation, so I don't actually trust it anymore - the Stella is a lot more reliable. I've been considering getting a Seca mainly because I have access to a team deal and would like to do more night riding with my brand new Niner that just got built today :]

    ...of course I've also done things like 18 hour enduros in the 90s, where the "best" lights I could come up with were my 10w Vistalights. So for purposes of this forum I can probably be considered insane, or at least an unreliable source experientially.

    - edited to add: I have done the "navigate home by smell / bike ninja cruise / hike of shame" many, many, many times due to unreliable lighting systems on both MTB and commuters. I always carry a holdout now (hiking headlamp at the least), and if I'm trail riding at night, I never go somewhere where weather, exposure, backcountry, trail conditions or wildlife will put me at risk if my lights fail. To me that's just common sense, but I'm also an old lady, not a 22 year old gonzo techy stud - ymmv.

  25. #25
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    DIY option?

    Been riding with my own DIY light builds for more than 5 years now. Always use a single light on the bars. Current light is an 8x XPG. At least 300 night rides and only one mishap when the cable came loose on a downhill and everything went black. I've tried Dinotte, Light & motion, Lupine, Exposure, and a few others and experienced trouble with all except Lupine.

    Build your own, know what goes inside and you'll be a lot safer than trusting you life to a Chinese QA department.

    Just my take on night riding. Now I'll go back to the DIY Forum.

  26. #26
    little mad riding hood
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    Quote Originally Posted by il2mb View Post
    DIY option?

    Been riding with my own DIY light builds for more than 5 years now. Always use a single light on the bars. Current light is an 8x XPG. At least 300 night rides and only one mishap when the cable came loose on a downhill and everything went black. I've tried Dinotte, Light & motion, Lupine, Exposure, and a few others and experienced trouble with all except Lupine.

    Build your own, know what goes inside and you'll be a lot safer than trusting you life to a Chinese QA department.

    Just my take on night riding. Now I'll go back to the DIY Forum.
    I guess my response to that is "I'm not an electrical engineer." I have no desire to set our garage or my Camelbak on fire dinking around with crap I have zero understanding of. I'll pay a little extra to let the experts be experts.

    My husband is a pretty talented MechE and agrees 100% with my opinion on this.

  27. #27
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    DIY is better if you know what you're doing, but you can still do very well to take apart an off the shelf light, figuring out how it works, and making slight modifications.

    Many chinese lights are designed sufficiently, and the components are made well enough, but assembled poorly. Taking apart a light can easily fix that. It also allows other easy fixes to be made, like putting an insulator over the star, lubing the threads and installing thicker o-rings.

    It also uncovers poorly designed lights, like those with floating pills. Lights that may not feel like it gets hot while testing at home, but you'll know you shouldn't rely on them on long rides.

    If you have sufficient electrical skills, I believe the biggest benefit would come in building your own battery pack with high quality high capacity cells.

  28. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by leaftye View Post
    DIY is better if you know what you're doing, but you can still do very well to take apart an off the shelf light, figuring out how it works, and making slight modifications.
    So true! I got the confidence to start building my own lights from tearing into two of my NR halogen lights that had problems. After seeing how simple (and cheesy) they were, I knew I could do as well or better.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by lonefrontranger View Post
    I guess my response to that is "I'm not an electrical engineer." I have no desire to set our garage or my Camelbak on fire dinking around with crap I have zero understanding of. I'll pay a little extra to let the experts be experts.

    My husband is a pretty talented MechE and agrees 100% with my opinion on this.
    I'm an electrical engineer and think you are both pretty smart to not do DIY.

    J.

  30. #30
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    bringing this back to life because i had an ironic experience tonight. Ive been contemplating getting a small q5 torch that runs on cr123's as a backup to always keep around in case a light dies or i happen to be out later than expected and didnt bring one. Last night i pulled the trigger on one
    Today was kinda crappy and around 5 i head out in the rain for a couple hours. Since i didnt plan on staying out much past dark, i didnt take any of my magicshines, didnt take my geminis, i grabbed the crappy 40 dollar xm-l ebay light i got a while back and only tried a couple times. Ended up being out a little later than normal since i found some fresh new trails to explore. As i got back on the road and headed the 5 miles or so to home, i had almost made it the whole way when the whole light conked out. No warning, no low battery, nothing. Luckily i was 3 blocks away. If it was an hour before and i was in the woods it would suck. I look forward to having a little 3" 2-300 lumen torch and mount tucked away for such emergencies in the future, no matter what lights im riding

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by manbeer View Post
    .....Today was kinda crappy and around 5 i head out in the rain for a couple hours. Since i didnt plan on staying out much past dark, i didnt take any of my magicshines, didnt take my geminis, i grabbed the crappy 40 dollar xm-l ebay light i got a while back and only tried a couple times. Ended up being out a little later than normal since i found some fresh new trails to explore. As i got back on the road and headed the 5 miles or so to home, i had almost made it the whole way when the whole light conked out. No warning, no low battery, nothing. Luckily i was 3 blocks away. If it was an hour before and i was in the woods it would suck. I look forward to having a little 3" 2-300 lumen torch and mount tucked away for such emergencies in the future, no matter what lights im riding
    The mistake you made was that you took the lamp that was not the "tried and true" and then used it as your soul source of light. Every lamp or torch you buy needs to be tested for reliability and run time. To do that you take it out with other "proven" lights so if it fails you have a back up.

    Always carry a back-up. I highly recommend a small AA powered torch and using the *low-self discharge version AA cells. These torches are still quite small and the AA
    ( *LSD ) cells have decent capacity and hold their charge well. I've used small torches before that used the CR-123 type batteries. The smaller cells generally speaking have a much lower capacity and as such will have much shorter run times ( which leads to unexpected depletion ). If the torch you bought is outputting 200 lumen and using one rechargeable ( 800mAh ) CR-123 cell expect maybe 20 minutes run time tops. On the other hand an XP-E or G torch set up for 110 lumen using an 2000mAh AA cell will run much longer. Back up torches need to use lower output levels so that in a pinch you have enough run time to get you out of the woods.

    You now have had your first wake up call. Learn from it. If you start a ride late in the day make sure you have a reliable light source and a trusted back-up. This is no different than going for a ride and not being prepared to change a flat because you didn't have a spare tube or pump.

  32. #32
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    If I was in the OP shoes, I'd carry a backup to the backup. Its a far drive just to ride your bike. I'd have a bight bar mount, helmet mount and a backup on the bars just in case, something self inclosed like a Nightrider minewt 600 or a slim lezyne like this Lezyne Power Drive LED Headlight from BikeBling.com

  33. #33
    I like turtles
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    I have clocked hundreds of hours night riding and never carry a flashlight. I always ride with two lights and haven't had an issue. Current setup is MS 808s..they work great. I wouldn't ride with a single light however regardless of make.
    Geologist by trade...bicycle mechanic (former) by the grace of God!

    2012 Specialized Stumpy EVO 29 HT

  34. #34
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    This reminds me of my first night ever back in 97. I was using the Niterider Sport (5 watt bulb run on 5 D cells.) An hour into the ride, my batteries were spent, but I tried to keep up with the group and ran into a tree at full speed. I survived, but the next week I upgraded my light and started carrying a backup. It's amazing how far lights have some since then.

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