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  1. #1
    Trail Cubist
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    Why choose a dedicated bike light over a torch?

    I'm curious to know what people think are the best reasons to...
    • use a torch over a dedicated bike light
    • use a dedicated bike light over a torch

    After doing a pile of research and reading (here and on Candlepower forums) I don't think the answer to this question is a slam-dunk.

    From what I can see, there are plenty of people using torches and liking them (and having no problems riding at night). Ditto for dedicated bike lights.

    Yes, I've heard lots of cases where a torch was built poorly and/or crapped-out on the user. But I've heard the same about some dedicated bike lights.

    Possibly the biggest difference I see is weight and compactness; ounce-for-ounce, it seems dedicated bike lights can sometimes be brighter with less weight than torches.

    But it also appears dedicated bike lights are almost always far more expensive than fairly high-powered torches. Because of this price difference, it's often possible to buy 2 or 3 torches for the price of one dedicated bike light...which would negate the brightness difference (if 2 or 3 torches are used at once) and even give the edge to torches because you have redundant backup.

    Opinions?

    Scott
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  2. #2
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    I'll bite on this question as I use both types of lights. To be fair you have to give the reliability edge to *dedicated bike lights ( *DBL ). For the most part they are also brighter and designed to run longer. Mode changes are usually easier as well. Torches on the other hand are a quick compact solution. They are lighter weight ( generally speaking ) and are easier to carry in your pack when not needed. While run times are shorter than DBL's, batteries are very easy to pack and switch out vs. DBL's. Quality is a big issue with torches. The workmanship and components used in the builds are sometimes less than desirable. Still, with all things considered if you have one that works well it can make for a very good bike light. Last but not least torches are the best bang for the buck going hands down. Personally when not using my good lights I use a good ( ie..reliable ) 5-mode P-7 torch on my bars and either an XPE or SST-50 torch on the helmet. Output is about 650-700 on the bars ( P-7 D-bin ) and about 300-500lm on the helmet. Not near as bright as my DBL's but the output is well aimed to put the light where I need it. If I carefully modulate the output of the torches I can get over two hours of light before needing to change batteries.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for biting Cat-man-do. And my question wasn't intended as a troll...it really seems both have their advantages as you point out.

    I'm getting the impression that if you're on a seriously tight budget, then torches are the way to go. As for build quality...my impression is that you can get some incredibly well-built torches (like SureFire)...but then of course you're gonna pay more...which starts to negate the low-cost advantage of a torch.

    almost seems like torches would be easier from a cable management perspective, as most DBL's require some sort of pigtail/cable run/separate battery setup...which seems like a bit of a pain to me. (I'd rather have a more compact, cable-less setup and just swap out AA batteries once during a ride...)

    Finding a good torch is definitely more of a chore than a good DBL...since there are what, less than 50 brands/models of DBL's on the market...and about 50,000 brands/models of torches? LOL

    Scott
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

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    problem with Surefire is that they are designed for the military that uses disposable CR123 batteries and won't change any time soon. Very pricey to run CR123 for our purpose.

    The biggest difference between a torch and DBL: Runtime is 2-4x longer with a DBL and the bike mount. I haven't seen a torch bike mount that won't vibrate and bounce around because the balance the torch head is weight bias to the front.

    Don't get me wrong, I love my torches for bike lights but has limits as well. The cheaper ones may only last one night riding season before all the bumping gets to the soldering and circuitry. Spend the 20-40 bucks more for a better torch that will last yrs of abuse. Combo of both is probably best. Light weight DBL for helmet and high power torches for the bars is a great combo.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by SWriverstone
    Possibly the biggest difference I see is weight and compactness; ounce-for-ounce, it seems dedicated bike lights can sometimes be brighter with less weight than torches.

    But it also appears dedicated bike lights are almost always far more expensive than fairly high-powered torches. Because of this price difference, it's often possible to buy 2 or 3 torches for the price of one dedicated bike light...which would negate the brightness difference (if 2 or 3 torches are used at once) and even give the edge to torches because you have redundant backup.
    My main reasons for using dedicated bike lights are:

    1. Convenience

    2 or 3 torches used at once: how convenient is that? And how about the combined beam pattern?
    Also think about charging, you need to charge the 18650 cells individually (I mean, you must take them out from the torch), and the runtime is short. So what you have then is you need N cells loaded in you torches, plus N more in your pocket to double the runtime, etc. You also need to make sure that these cells are all properly charged, and somehow organize them accordingly.
    I've done this for a short time (with a Dinotte 200L with AA rechargeables) and it was a nightmare. I would always forget which batteries were charged and which weren't, and since the light required 4 AAs to function, I always needed 4 + 4 to charge, so I would use the charger all the time, and would always forget which were already charged etc. It was really horrible, so I swore never to do that again.

    2. Customizability

    How much runtime do you need? I have 2-cell, 4-cell and 10-cell batteries for my lights, and use whichever is appropriate for the ride planned (I usually just use the 10-cell which comes in a bottle shape and can get me through two or three night rides in a row. Try that with a flashlight!).
    Also, I have yet to see a powerful flashlight with an acceptable weight (that is important when you want to use it as a helmet light): the Lupine Betty is ~125 gramms, and produces 1800 lumens. There are flashlights (mostly military grade) that produce similar output, but their runtime is short, and the weight is too much (for example Lupine's own flashlight produces 1200 lumens and weighs 270 gramms...).

    3. Quality (beam pattern)

    Usually what you get with a flashlight is
    a. a very tight beam which is excellent as a searchlight, but mostly unusable on the bike (IMHO)
    b. a boom-reflector beam, with a small hotspot and a large halo - not suitable for all applications.
    If you have a dedicated bike light you can have much more usable beam patterns (for example I just love the Exposure Diablo's pool of light), selected specifically for your needs.
    Speaking of which, the Exposure Diablo makes an excellent flaslight, without the weaknesses of torches (built-in battery, low weight, great beam pattern). It costs quite a bit more though than your usual DX torch. Still, I'm very happy with the price I paid, and I wouldn't want 4-5 DX torches instead of my only Diablo... ;-)

    I can totally accept and understand that some people do not want to pay too much for a bike light that they are going to use maybe twice a year. But you should also accept that there are folks who ride in the dark constantly (eg. 2-3x a _week_), and for whom convenience, quality and customizability is very much worth the extra cash.

  6. #6
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    Great post radirpok! Thanks. you make lots of great points.

    Regarding torch runtime vs. DBL...I think I've read that some decent torches out there will get 2hrs from a fully-charged set of AA's...which would be plenty for me. (I'm almost never going to be riding at night for more than 90 minutes, so I don't need 4-hour runtimes.) But I hear you about recharging the batteries.

    Seems to me like a really big factor in torches vs. DBL is subjective—specifically, how much light do YOU need on the trails YOU ride? I'm guessing this varies a lot (for example, depending on how well you know the trails you're riding at night). Obviously everyone enjoys more light...but I'd guess some people can safely get buy with considerably less light than others.

    I don't see why torch mounts would be any looser/shakier than DBL mounts. For example, if I mount a torch or two to my bars with cable ties and rubber and really crank the cable ties down, I guarantee those lights aren't going to budge! LOL (But I know...not a very elegant solution...)

    I like the comment about using a DBL on your helmet and a couple of good torches on your bars.

    I also like how much easier choosing a DBL is...just because the choices are much more limited (particularly within a given price range). For example, I'm liking the Gemini DBL, and $110-130 is very reasonable...whereas I could spend weeks researching torches...

    Scott
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  7. #7
    rmi
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    I wanted a reasonably priced bike light and didn't want to spend hours with research, DIY, and other junk (although I spent hours researching anyway).

    I am REALLY liking the Gemini light. It has performed well on my last two rides and no DBLs really can match it price-wise.

    Initial impressions:
    - nice construction and "package"....I like the case that everything came in, like the simplicity of the helmet/handlebar mounts, and like the velcro on the battery pack (easy to lash onto stem (for handlebar mount) or on belt (helmet mount)

    - seems like plenty of light for most of my riding. I have used it once on my head for some minor trail riding and once on my bars (in drizzling rain) on my street/fitness hardtail...I wanted a one light system for now, and I think the Titan will serve me well

    - I am glad I got the helmet mount (extra $).....you never realize until you trail ride at night how often your handlebars are NOT pointed forward.....A helmet mount seems invaluable for any kind of real trail riding, though I liked having the handlebar mount when I rode last night (but again, that was street riding just to spin the pedals and get exercise). I honestly may start mounting it on my head exclusively, though....When coming around any corner (be it street or dirt), it is sure is nice to have light where you are going, not where your bars are pointed.

    - for the first time, I felt like cars could see me at night. My wife and I both have those little Knog Frogs on our handelbars and red blinkers on the back. With that Titan blazing, I felt like I was finally given some respect on the road at night!

    - mountain biking is expensive! The gear acquisition doesn't just stop with a bike and helmet! Knowing that, I try to spend as little as possible while enjoying the sport

    Hope you make a decision soon and enjoy some night riding!

    Ryan

    Quote Originally Posted by SWriverstone
    I also like how much easier choosing a DBL is...just because the choices are much more limited (particularly within a given price range). For example, I'm liking the Gemini DBL, and $110-130 is very reasonable...whereas I could spend weeks researching torches...

    Scott

  8. #8
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    2hrs on a AA? Sounds like less then 200 lumens. With one light like that you're going to out ride the beam in no time and will be even worse on tighter switch backs.

    Minimum I'd recommend if you want ONE torch is anything with a P7. The P7 is the same LED used on magicshine, Gemini, and Jetlight A51. DIfference between a torch on one of those lights is that you'll be changing the battery every 45-55mins on the flashlight oppose to 3-4hr run time w/ a battery pack. And changing batteries that often kinda sucks after a while. But then again you can drill some holes into the torch body and wire it to a battery pack that uses that 18650 batteries you got. Holders are $10-15 from battery space

  9. #9
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    I want to quickly revisit a couple issues brought up by others. First, Convenience: I can't think of any light system being more convenient than torches. Torches are simple. Self-contained. They either work fine or they're pieces of crap. Never had any issues with mounting on the bars. The mount I use works almost like my Dinotte 600L mount only with a torch clamp on the top. No shaking issues at all. Helmet mounting is another issue. For some, mounting a torch to their helmet simply isn't going to work. However if you can mount a torch to helmet it is best to use a lighter torch so weight is not an issue. The torches that use P-60 type drop-ins work well in this application plus you have a good range of emitters to chose from...ie...XPE, XPG, MCE, P-7, SST-50, and lastly the new XM-L. The XP series provide for decent throw. The P-7, SST-50 and MC-E will be more brighter but more flood. Still waiting on the XM-L but expect it to be like the SST-50 only a bit brighter. Right now my favorites are the SST-50 and XP-E R4 drop-ins for helmet duties. Also I should mention I only recommend for MTB'ing torches that use 18650 Li-ion cells as they provide the best run times. Really though, changing batteries out is not that big a problem unless you insist on running the lights on full power the whole time. For the type of riding I do, this is not necessary.

    Unfortunately there is a learning curve with torches, which ones are best, which ones are crap, always the question. If your willing to be patient and willing to test a handful of models, I think you'll find a combo that will work for you. Lastly, even if you don't use a torch MTB'ing they are still torches, great for everyday use.

  10. #10
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    I went on a ride the other night with a Magicshine 1400 on the bars and a NR MiNewtUSB (110L) on my helmet. My first ride ever with the MS. I also put a SF-15 P7 in my pack that I wanted to try on parts of the ride, using a simple bar mount (both from DX).

    The ride had a lot of variation to it -- a 2-mile slog up a moderate but at times rocky fire road; a white-knuckle drop down a steep rockfall; a few miles of tight, twisty single track with alternating steep chutes and climbs; and 1/2 mile on paved bike lane back to the cars.

    The main thing that will probably sell me on using the MS on my bars from now on is the convenience of switching between the 2 XPG mode on the slow climbs and mellow sections, and the P7 + 2XPG mode on the faster and sketchy downhill stuff. With that combination, seeing the trail features and all available lines was never an issue (bike-handling skills was another matter...). Add to that the fact that the 1400 has a tethered clicky switch that I can place right next to my thumb on the bars, so I don't have to take my hand off the grips to change modes. That's a pretty compelling combination of versatility and convenience. Of course, those are model-specific advantages over other DBLs, not just torches.

    I didn't get to try the SF-15 on the ride, but it puts down one hella bright beam. I paired it with the MS in P7 mode and rode around the parking lot and may have vaporized a bunny in the process. Anyway, the SF-15 will always be in my pack as a backup, or on someone else's bars as a loaner.

    The helmet light is another matter. As faithful as the MiNewt has been, I'm probably going to replace it with a P-60 type torch. Right now I have one with a MCE and will swap out the stock reflector for a smooth one. The MCE High output is probably overkill for a helmet light, so I can run it on Med and get decent run time. And I'm definitely going to keep an eye on the XML front.

  11. #11
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    It's a bit like hardtail or full-suspension. You can get by with just one, but better to have choices and pick the right tool for the job. I have a couple dedicated (battery pack) lights and several torches. I've used virtually every combination -- solo pack; solo torch, pack+torch, torch+torch, pack+pack.

    Most real night rides (not just dusk) end up being pack light on the bars (MS 1400) and torch on the helmet (one of the psuedo 900 lumen models).

  12. #12
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    I started night riding with really crappy 10-20 5mm LED torches that 'looked' bright but could barely shine anything more than 10meters ahead of me. Then I moved on to 2 fenixs L2Ds on the handlebar and one on the helmet. Over time I've dumped the fenixs for a dedicated triple cree bike light with lithium battery setup, and only in the last year I've replaced my helmet mounted fenix with a magicshine.

    Good as flashlights are, a proper bike light offers better heatsinking, runtime, beam pattern (I prefer a wall-of-light flood for handlebar mount, fenixs uses reflectors which have a very bright spot with dim flood). I think flashlights still make decent helmet mount lights as they do not need cables, but you got to remember changing the batteries every 2hours before it suddenly runs out.

  13. #13
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    One aspect nobody has mentioned about bike lights vs torches is safety features that most bike lights have that torches usually do not.

    Safety features:

    1 ... thermal regulation of LED output. A decent bike light has some way of dimming the LED if it is getting hot enuff to destroy itself.

    The new MagicShine method of just switching to low when the light gets too hot is, in my opinion, pretty lame, but better than nothing.

    The LED drivers I design use a gradual dimming of the light, the hotter the LED gets, the dimmer it gets, but this happens pretty gradually and is hard to notice. Eventually the LED temperature stabilizes. Once you start moving again, air convection cools the light and the LED gets brighter again.

    I am unaware of any flashlights that have a "dim when hot" feature. When holding a flashlight in your hand, you have a chance to notice it is getting too warm. When it is strapped to your handlebars, you won't know it got too hot till it flares blue and stops working. Most cheap Chinese (DX and KD) torches have pretty awful thermal pathways from the LED to the outside of the light. If it feels too hot to hold (about 50 degree C) odds are the LED is 30 degrees C or more hotter. This will shorten the lifetime of your LED.

    2 ... remembering light level after power interruption. Even the best battery holders and cable systems will sometimes have intermittent connection issues.

    Most multi-mode flashlights change modes by a slight push of the on/off button. Effectively an intermittent disconnect of the battery. Flashlights drivers detect this and switch to the next mode. Hitting bumps has caused some of my flashlights (I always ride with one as a backup, usually on medium or low to avoid overheating) to switch modes. If your flashlight goes from high to medium, that's probably not life threatening. But when it suddenly switches to a strobe mode in the middle of a steep descent, you will swear off multi-mode flashlights.

    My LED drivers do a quick blink when power is interrupted, but then return to the last mode the light was in. The blink is not enuff to leave you in the dark, but enuff to let you know you need to check your cabling or battery connection.

    3 ... battery level indicator.

    I have never heard of a flashlight that gives you an indication of when the battery is low. Some of the direct drive or PWM drive ones will get noticeably dimmer, but then the battery protection circuit kicks in and everything goes black. If you are very disciplined, always charge batteries before a ride, and time how long you have been riding, you'll know when it's time to stop and change batteries.

    Most bikelights have some means to indicate to the user the battery is getting low.

    My LED drivers give the user a warning flash 15 to 30 minutes before their battery will cut out. Enuff time to swap batteries, head back to the trailhead, or dig out that backup flashlight you brought along I don't have a fuel gauge built into my drivers, no pretty LED that changes colors to show you how much power is left, because my drivers are designed for use with NiMh as well as Li-Ion batteries. Since NiMh batteries tend to have a pretty flat discharge curve, you can only detect when the battery is near the end of it's charge. Besides the pretty color changing LED doesn't do you much good if your light is mounted on your helmet.

    Conclusion:

    You are making the decision to have a less safe light source when you ride with a flashlight. If you have tested your flashlight a bit, have more than one, and understand how to adjust your riding to make up for the features your light lacks, that can be a reasonable decision to make. Especially if money is tight.

    Just be aware you are deciding to give up some features that make a bikelight safer and more convenient.

    Some recommendations:

    Always use protected Li-Ion batteries. Protected cells have a small printed circuit board built in that keeps you from overcharging the cell or discharging it to too low a voltage level. Good protection boards also provide some form of overcurrent protection. I would suggest buying cells of good quality form a well known source. I like all-battery.com and batteryspace.com, but if you live outside the states you may need to look for a supplier closer to home. And yes I do own some cells I bought from DX. Most have been pretty good, but a few have failed for no apparent reason.

    Buy a good charger. If you can find one that is UL or CE rated, get that. Please be aware that the CE marking on stuff you get from DX and KD is probably bogus (for the mind numbing details, see this post of mine: Very bad news on the light front (DX Bike light ) on one of the original MagicShine teardown threads: http://forums.mtbr.com/lights-diy-do-yourself/very-bad-news-light-front-dx-bike-light-527707-post5794242.html).

    A good charger will have two independent channels (usually indicated by a status LED for each cell). The cheap ones, which claim to take 2 batteries, just wire the cells in parallel when charging them. This can be dangerous if the cells are not protected, or one has a failed protection board. You could wind up dumping a lot of current from a nearly full cell into an empty one.

    Even with a good name brand charger and batteries, never leave them unattended while charging. Or do what I do and charge them in a metal bucket if you're not around to smell smoke. Even good batteries do sometimes burst into flames while charging. This is getting to be less of an issue as quality control improves, at least at manufacturers who make good batteries.

    Don't use multi-mode lights, or make sure at least one of the flashlights you have on your handlebars is a single mode light (on and off).

    Always use at least 2 flashlights. 3 is better, 2 on the handlebars, one on the helmet. You can usually get away with a multi-mode light on your helmet because it will be more cushioned (if you are riding correctly) than one on the handlebars.

    Dim your flashlights when stopped or climbing long steep hills. This improves runtime, and helps prevent the LED from overheating.

    If you add up all the costs of flashlights (3 lights, batteries, spare batteries, charger, battery case to carry the spares in while they are in your backpack, etc.) you will be tempted to just buy one of the inexpensive Chinese bikelights and ride with only that.

    Don't.

    In my experience these inexpensive lights tend to be underdesigned (like using a 1/4 watt resistor where you should use a 1/2 watt one). They will last for a few seasons and then will fail. So you will need a flashlight to bring along as a backup. Heck, I recommend taking a flashlight along if you buy one of my lights, and I know they are pretty decent quality lights.

    Sorry to bring up all these SafetyBoy issues, but you should consider them. It only takes one long 5 mile walk back to the trailhead in total darkness to convince you to spend money on better lights, or turn to making your own like I do.


    Mark
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by mhahn@hvc.rr.com
    One aspect nobody has mentioned about bike lights vs torches is safety features that most bike lights have that torches usually do not....

    Safety features:

    1 ... thermal regulation of LED output. A decent bike light has some way of dimming the LED if it is getting hot enuff to destroy itself.....

    ...Most multi-mode flashlights change modes by a slight push of the on/off button. Effectively an intermittent disconnect of the battery. Flashlights drivers detect this and switch to the next mode. Hitting bumps has caused some of my flashlights (I always ride with one as a backup, usually on medium or low to avoid overheating) to switch modes. If your flashlight goes from high to medium, that's probably not life threatening. But when it suddenly switches to a strobe mode in the middle of a steep descent, you will swear off multi-mode flashlights....
    Mhahn, Yes thermal regulation can be an issue. As long as you know going in that torches have no thermal regulation circuit ( the cheap ones that is ) you should be fine. Just turn the torch off when resting or switch to a lower mode and your good, no real big issue as I see it. The other issue of intermittent mode change is also true. Once again sometimes this is an easy fix. Sometimes parts loosen and need to be tightened, not hard to do. In my experience the drop-in type torches are more prone to this and as such I only use that type helmet mounted where there are no sudden jolts. I have three multi-mode torches with the emitter mounted on a standard "pill". I've never had an intermittent mode change when using these bar mounted. However, that doesn't mean it can't happen. If you have a torch that cannot handle the jolts of MTB'ing that doesn't mean you can't fix it or buy one for another $30 that will work just fine. Once again, with torches you need to be patient till you find the set-up that works. Remember, it wasn't too long ago that people were buying replacement HID bulbs for their DBL's and that was not cheap need I say. Torches have their limitations but are cheap and easy to replace. DBL's are not. Concluding, if you know a little about LED's and the limitations of torches they can work fine as a bike light if you can't afford a DBL.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cat-man-do
    Concluding, if you know a little about LED's and the limitations of torches they can work fine as a bike light if you can't afford a DBL.
    Pardon me, but if someone cannot afford a $100 bike light they shouldn't be riding in the dark!

    The funny thing is, I've seen many times the owners of carbon full-suspension bikes commenting on how they could get the cheapest flashlight from DX... I'm sorry, but for me that is like buying a $40k car and then saving a few bucks by putting on the cheapest used tires. Does it make sense?

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by radirpok
    Pardon me, but if someone cannot afford a $100 bike light they shouldn't be riding in the dark!

    The funny thing is, I've seen many times the owners of carbon full-suspension bikes commenting on how they could get the cheapest flashlight from DX... I'm sorry, but for me that is like buying a $40k car and then saving a few bucks by putting on the cheapest used tires. Does it make sense?
    ....nor does it make sense to buy $800 worth of lights when you own a $700 bike... Then again, really none of my business. To each their own.
    Personally I find if difficult to believe anyone with a $3000 to $5000 bike would opt for torches unless they just wanted to travel light. Once again, to each their own. Then again, I have $900 worth of dedicated bike lights and I STILL use torches...go figure. Believe me, if they were total s**t I wouldn't waste my time or money. Just remember, five years ago most of us were still riding with halogens and were pleased as peaches. The batteries had shorter run times and the bulbs and batteries generally only lasted a couple seasons. Need I say, the output from the current LED torches blow that old halogen stuff away ( not to mention weigh a whole lot less... )

  17. #17
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    Cat-man-do,

    Do any expensive torches have thermal regulation? I haven't heard of any, but will admit to not looking very hard. And most folks looking at using LED torches aren't going to look at expensive ones anyway.

    Unfortunately there is a learning curve with torches, which ones are best, which ones are crap, always the question. If your willing to be patient and willing to test a handful of models, I think you'll find a combo that will work for you.
    So how many torches does one need to buy to be sure to get a decent setup? At some point you cross the pricepoint where you could just buy one of my lights, or some of the other ones that were developed by folks on the DIY forum: http://forums.mtbr.com/forumdisplay.php?f=124.

    Don't get me wrong, I own a bunch of cheap torches from DX and KD. Most are crap (in one way or another). Nearly all of them have required tweaking to get working properly. Of the dozen plus I've bought I have 4 that are pretty bright and I kind of trust to work well.

    One of the biggest problems I have with buying torches from KD and DX is the quality is never the same from order to order. I bought a TR-801 from DX in 2008 that, after a bit of tweaking, still works great. Friends have bought a couple since then and they have been junk.

    I agree with you that it seems silly to spend $800 on lights for a $700 bicycle, but sometimes you need something more rugged than a torch bungeed to your handlebars. Some of the folks I nite ride with launch themselves off ledges I decline to ride over in daylight. If you tried to talk them into using flashlights they'd laugh at you.

    But if you need lights for a short commute, or the occasional mellow ride thru the woods, or as an introduction to nite riding, a flashlight (or better 3) can work fine. And as you point out they are still useful as flashlights.

    Mark
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  18. #18
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    some of the high end military grade lights have thermal regulation. I know NovaTac and Surefire does. These lights are built around CR123 batteries. I bought a $80 Jetbeam after buying a DX P7, tore them apart and world of difference inside, soldering, driver board, switch.
    I'm on the 3rd night season with my Jeatbeam and is as reliable as day one.

  19. #19
    mtbr member
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    Quote Originally Posted by jsigone
    some of the high end military grade lights have thermal regulation. I know NovaTac and Surefire does. These lights are built around CR123 batteries. I bought a $80 Jetbeam after buying a DX P7, tore them apart and world of difference inside, soldering, driver board, switch.
    I'm on the 3rd night season with my Jeatbeam and is as reliable as day one.
    Interesting....I suppose the military would want something better than a Chinese made flashlight..

    I can't remember where I saw them but I do remember seeing some high end SST-50 and SST-90 torches that were using thermal regulation. These things were monsters though, holding three and four 18650's and designed basically for emergency/police search function ( $300+ range ). I'm sure you could probably buy a lighter custom set-up with better regulation and heat sinking but once again you would pay a premium.

    So how many torches does one need to buy to be sure to get a decent setup?

    Don't get me wrong, I own a bunch of cheap torches from DX and KD. Most are crap (in one way or another). Nearly all of them have required tweaking to get working properly. Of the dozen plus I've bought I have 4 that are pretty bright and I kind of trust to work well.

    One of the biggest problems I have with buying torches from KD and DX is the quality is never the same from order to order. I bought a TR-801 from DX in 2008 that, after a bit of tweaking, still works great. Friends have bought a couple since then and they have been junk.
    Unfortunately, when buying the KD and D/X stuff it's usually the luck of the draw. Sometimes you will end up getting something that is not working right. Sometimes it can be fixed, other times it can't. Of the 8 or so torches I own I've only had major problems with one although it now works at a slightly diminished level. Usually the reason I buy torches is because there are newer brighter emitters that are released and so you upgrade. To tell the truth it's a cheap thrill to get something in the mail that cost you so very little and can do so much. So far I've been lucky, I've only had problems with drop-in's ( which are usually in the $13 range ). You are right though, quality can vary from order to order. Chinese torches are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get.... At least with torches buying new batteries is never an expensive problem, not true with sealed battery packs.

    As a DIY'er I think you understand there is a learning curve for DIY as well. There is also an initial and necessary outlay of cash needed for items needed for making the build as well as the electrical components themselves. Some of that stuff you will need to order. Then you have to wait and then build when the stuff comes. Mistakes will be made and you learn from them. It makes for a great hobby but even DIY'ers screw something up on occasion and need to replace stuff. Once again, new emitters come out and a new build starts...All great fun I'm sure.

    With torches it's basically the same. When I was a kid I always liked flashlights ( as well as bikes ) I guess some things never change. Right now I have a nice collection of cheap torches that will undoubtedly grow with each new release. Hopefully I will become more proficient at diagnosing and fixing the problems as they occur. Since I work at night and have to be outside at times having an array of flashlights to choose from is a nice thing. Anyway, in my case torches serve me five fold. At home, at work, on the bike ( and as loaners ) and for camping. Need I say a good P-7 torch can be converted to a camp light real easy. ( I now no longer need a Coleman lantern. )

    Not to knock DBL's or DIY stuff but when's the last time you went on a ride, took all your good lights with you and then ended up finishing the ride not needing any lights at all? I don't know about anyone else but I've done that a lot because it's better to have light and not need it then to need light and not have it. However carrying all the weight of a complete ( bar/helmet ) system is sometimes over-kill. This is where having good torches come in. If you're only going to be riding in the dark for less than 2hrs, a good P-7 torch on the bars and smaller torch on the helmet is the simple low-weight/low volume way to go. Carry an extra cell in case you get a flat or need more run time and you should be good. If you end up not needing the torches you can console yourself that you didn't lug around the weight of two DBL's and their battery packs.

    I love my DBL's but the torches I own serve me well, including on a bike.

  20. #20
    Trail Cubist
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    Regarding cost of DBL's...I don't think $100-300 is too much to spend for a good DBL...on the other hand [@radirpok]...at any given moment, on any given day, I'm contemplating the purchase of LOTS of peripherals/accessories/parts/etc for about 4 different sports or hobbies! So if the ONLY thing I was buying this winter was a bike light, no sweat.

    But when you're also wanting/needing to buy a pile of other stuff, then things add up VERY fast to the point of busting the bank.

    Besides bike lights, I'm looking at...
    • winter riding shoes
    • neoprene shoe covers
    • a new cold-weather riding jacket
    • a bash protector for my chainring
    • new brake pads
    • a tubeless setup

    And for snowboarding, I'm looking at...
    • replacement tuning equipment (sharpening stones, wax, etc)
    • replacement gloves
    • replacement boot liners

    And for music I'm looking at...
    • digital sampling software
    • a small-sized (1-2 octave) portable MIDI keyboard
    • an upgrade to my Zendrum MIDI percussion controller

    ...the list goes on and on! So **that's** why I'm trying to save as much $$$ as possible on every purchase!

    Scott
    29er wheels are dangerous. They may cause you to go faster which can result in serious bodily injury. —Jim311

  21. #21
    www.hahntronix.com
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    Cat-man-do,

    I hear you about it being easier to toss a torch in your pack when going out for a ride that may last past sundown if things don't go as planned. It's much more convenient.

    But I build lights as a hobby (and as a hobby business) so I always ride with too many lights. Day or night. I have cables permanently mounted on my bike, so I can simply add lights and a fresh battery, then go.

    I'm always checking new mounting ideas, testing out a new battery pack to see how long it lasts, or making sure the new thermal regulation subroutine I wrote yesterday really does keep the light from overheating.

    As an added bonus, people really notice 1800 lumens of headlight and 400 lumens of tail light on a bike, even in bright sunlight. Hey I sometimes ride on the road to get to the trails near my house.

    Torches have their uses. And it is a very personal taste sort of thing wether to use torches or a DBL. But since I usually have lots of both laying about, I usually takes lots of both .

    Mark
    Nimium est melior!

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