Help my with flashlight setup- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Help my with flashlight setup

    So I was thinking about the following setup for nightriding. Considered the true bike-lights, but if I can get something without wires, all the better..
    Does this setup have potential?

    Helmet:
    Solarforce L2p with XM-L U2 drop-in
    1x 18650 protected 2400-2600 (+1 spare)

    Bars:
    2x Solarforce L2p with XM-L U2 dropin (or maybe XP-G?)
    Diffuser lenses for both to get more flood
    2x 18650 protected 2400-2600 (+2 spares)

    Solarforce charger.

    Area I will be riding is either tech trails or steep up/down, all in pitch dark woods...

    Thanks.

  2. #2
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    Torches are fine for moderate trails or for rides that start in the day and end at sunset. I also use torches for back-up which is always nice to have. Regardless since you mentioned that you would be riding technical trails I really do recommend at least one dedicated bike lamp ( with 4 cell battery ) mounted on the bars.

    Two torches would work fine on the bars but having just one lamp ( with 3 steady adjustable modes ) would be easier to work with when riding on technical terrain. **Right now you can get a 4-mode triple XM-L lamp on E-bay for about $50 USD. That's a deal that's hard to beat no matter what part of the world you live in. Two torches ( with accessories ) would probably end up costing more. Expect about 1200-1400 lumen output from the triple XM-L set-up regardless of what the ad says. If the lamp yields more consider it the icing on the cake. Output from two bar mounted torches will vary according to what drop-in you use and what batteries you buy. With two standard XM-L T-6 drop-in's, maybe between 1000 to 1200 lumen with both on high.

    For helmet use a torch can work fine as long as you can easily mount it on your helmet.

    ** The triple XM-L light I mention has yet to be reviewed here on MTBreview. Reviews should start appearing in a couple weeks as people start receiving their orders.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the answer, I will keep an eye on that lamp..

  4. #4
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    I think there is merit in your all torch setup. These things are each as bright as the old Niterider Blowtorch HIDs, and I didn't hear many people complaining about riding in full dark with *three* HID units.

    vs the XM-L dedicted bike lights, I see these pros/cons:

    Torch pros:
    - Can select light color if you don't like cool white
    - Fully sealed and waterproof
    - Batteries armored in aluminum
    - Can easily carry spare batteries
    - Can use as torch when you lose something on the trail
    - P60 drop-in upgrade-able in future
    - Lighter

    Torch cons
    - One more button to mess with on the trail
    - Charging a little harder
    - Low run time vs 4 or 6 cell battery
    - Cheaper torches can overheat on high
    - Mounting options more complex
    - More expensive (though still dirt cheap compared to a few years ago)
    - Going over 2 XM-L emitters worth of light starts to look funny on the bars


    Personally, the ability to get a 4200K neutral white color was the difference for me, if I was happy with the U2 cool white emitters I probably would have gone for a dedicated bike light.

  5. #5
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    So you'd suggest either 1 XM-L U2 on the bars, or 2x something less bright (and probably not cool-white)?

    Why would torches be more expensive? The cheapest (not the DX ones) dedicated bike lights I found are still over $50, could get a couple of good torches for that..

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan C. View Post
    ....Personally, the ability to get a 4200K neutral white color was the difference for me, if I was happy with the U2 cool white emitters I probably would have gone for a dedicated bike light.
    I almost have to laugh here because usually I'm the one that is the advocate for torches.

    I have a torch with a neutral white emitter as well. Yes some torches you can order emitter bin/tint. Usually those are the ones that cost a bit more.. With that said I might be buying another to create a duel set-up. I've got money to burn so no problem there as I'll just be adding to my collection.

    Leech mentioned drop-in torches and those can be had for less money.
    Here's a break down for a two bar set-up if you go cheap. Prices from typical Chinese web sites:

    2 x Ultrafire 501B torch host ( no emitter ) > $7.00 ea or $14.00
    2 x XM-L T6 3-mode drop-ins > $15.00 ea. or $30.00
    4 x Trustfire 18650 cells ~ $5.00 ea. or $20.00
    2 x bar mounts > ~ $5.00
    1 x spare button switch for 501B > $2.50

    Different torches ( or torch hosts ) will generally cost more. A Solarforce L2P host mentioned by Leech are about $23.00 ea. ( BTW those L2P hosts look nice. ) The drop-in's I listed are the better 3-mode XML T6 ( no flash modes ) sold by Manafont. Cheaper ones are about $12.00 ea but will have flash modes.

    Maybe now you understand why one on these might not be better.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leech73 View Post
    So you'd suggest either 1 XM-L U2 on the bars, or 2x something less bright (and probably not cool-white)?
    Definitely 2 on the bars either way. The light output of a U2 cool white (~6500K color temp) is only about 110% of a T6 neutral white (~5000K). I went for T5 neutral white (~4200K) to get better depth and color perception. About 80% as bright, but I can still see far better with them than the U2. Everyone is different in this regard though. There's a poll and discussion about color.

    Quote Originally Posted by Leech73 View Post
    Why would torches be more expensive?
    Cat-man-do's analysis is right on and a good like-for-like comparison. Though I do have a Trustfire 501b, and I'd spring for the L2P if I were you. For 7 bucks the 501b is an amazing deal, but the threads are tricky and many people have reported issues with the switch.

    To be fair to the bike light, it would probably take 3 of those torches to equal the light output of that $50 bike light.

    While the Trustfire batteries are probably better than what is in the $50 bike light (the 8.4V of the bike light means it's either 7 NiCd or NiMH cells), you might also want to invest in better batteries. With the 3100Ah Panasonic cells, you're still looking at 90 minutes on high with a typical P60 drop-in. With the Trustfires you'd be lucky to get an hour. Here's a good 18650 comparison. The chart of Amp hours to 3v at 2A is most relevant for a normal P60 drop-in. I wouldn't go over 1.8A on the drop-ins. You'll end up with heat problems, the XM-Ls get less efficient, and the battery voltage drop starts to really eat into your runtimes without a boost driver, which almost no drop-ins have.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan C. View Post
    ....While the Trustfire batteries are probably better than what is in the $50 bike light (the 8.4V of the bike light means it's either 7 NiCd or NiMH cells), you might also want to invest in better batteries. With the 3100Ah Panasonic cells, you're still looking at 90 minutes on high with a typical P60 drop-in. With the Trustfires you'd be lucky to get an hour. Here's a good 18650 comparison. The chart of Amp hours to 3v at 2A is most relevant for a normal P60 drop-in. I wouldn't go over 1.8A on the drop-ins. You'll end up with heat problems, the XM-Ls get less efficient, and the battery voltage drop starts to really eat into your runtimes without a boost driver, which almost no drop-ins have.
    I agree with most of what you a saying but will add some thoughts. The battery is likely Li-ion. Li-ion cells are 3.7 volt nominal and 4.2 volts peak voltage. Some sites use the peak voltage listing. When they charge each cell will reach 4.2 volts and later reach 3.7 volts as they discharge. Two cells in series are 8.4 volts freshly charged. Since the battery has 2 in series and the other series set in parallel the total parallel voltage is 8.4 volts.

    As for the drop-in's, The 3-mode XM-L drop-in I linked to will run near 2.7A with a good Panasonic 3100mAh cell. Yes, the torch will heat up and drain the battery very fast at that rate. However a good mid-mode is your friend and will give you ample output and prolong run times. If you only use the high mode for short periods the higher amp draw comes in real handy. Like you said though, there are drop-in's made to top off at 1.5amp if you want a lower maximum output.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cat-man-do View Post
    the total parallel voltage is 8.4 volts
    OK, nonstandard labeling, but I'll buy that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cat-man-do View Post
    As for the drop-in's, The 3-mode XM-L drop-in I linked to will run near 2.7A with a good Panasonic 3100mAh cell. Yes, the torch will heat up and drain the battery very fast at that rate. However a good mid-mode is your friend and will give you ample output and prolong run times. If you only use the high mode for short periods the higher amp draw comes in real handy. Like you said though, there are drop-in's made to top off at 1.5amp if you want a lower maximum output.
    Yes, if you're willing to mess with the torch a bit, then a 2.8A driver can be great for MTB. The medium on most cheap linear drivers is set to about 30%, so you get around 900mA on medium and enough light to climb with. Then go to full power for the downhill. The caveats I'd give for these are that the cheap ones are usually not thermally potted and they don't make good contact with the host, so at minimum you should put some thermal compound on the pill threads and wrap enough copper tape or aluminum foil around the drop-in to snug it to the host body. Otherwise you'll at best get a dimming light from heat and at worst a fried emitter and driver. If the host body gets too hot to hold after 5 minutes on high then you'll know you're doing it right. Also note that most 18650 single cells will have a large voltage sag with 2.7A, so they'll go under the Vf of the LED early in their discharge cycle and dim quickly. Lastly, going from 1.8 to 2.8A nets you about a 37% more light, which your eyes will tell you looks more like a 17% difference when projected.

    tl;dr: There's a lot less to worry about if you keep it under 1.8A

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ryan C. View Post
    OK, nonstandard labeling, but I'll buy that.



    Yes, if you're willing to mess with the torch a bit, then a 2.8A driver can be great for MTB. The medium on most cheap linear drivers is set to about 30%, so you get around 900mA on medium and enough light to climb with. Then go to full power for the downhill. The caveats I'd give for these are that the cheap ones are usually not thermally potted and they don't make good contact with the host, so at minimum you should put some thermal compound on the pill threads and wrap enough copper tape or aluminum foil around the drop-in to snug it to the host body. Otherwise you'll at best get a dimming light from heat and at worst a fried emitter and driver. If the host body gets too hot to hold after 5 minutes on high then you'll know you're doing it right. Also note that most 18650 single cells will have a large voltage sag with 2.7A, so they'll go under the Vf of the LED early in their discharge cycle and dim quickly. Lastly, going from 1.8 to 2.8A nets you about a 37% more light, which your eyes will tell you looks more like a 17% difference when projected.

    tl;dr: There's a lot less to worry about if you keep it under 1.8A
    I can agree with most of that. Thermal potting helps but I'm not sure how really effective it is. Let's face it, most torches aren't designed with long term steady high output in mind...double that for drop-in torches. This is one of the reasons why I try to steer people away from torch use because if you run high mode full time something bad is likely to happen. My mid-modes are usually around 750-800ma. That's more than enough light for most of the stuff I ride if I'm using two ( one bar, one helmet ) If I go faster I hit the high modes and then turn them down once I slow again. When using torches you have to adapt what I call, "torch use strategy" if you want them to last. Like I said before you can buy torches with lower outputs for high and yes they will run longer as you said. The 1.8A draw you mention would still look very bright and not get near as hot. Now wouldn't it be nice if you could order torches and drop-in's exactly as you want them. Yeah, there are places like International Outdoor but still there are more places that won't even give you the specs.

  11. #11
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    Torches definitely have their place for shorter rides, but swapping batteries on 3 torches on a longer ride gets old!

    I guess it comes down to what is more annoying to you, swapping batteries, or dealing with cords.

    Maybe a good compromise is one of each (1 torch, 1 bike light).

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by fightnut View Post
    Torches definitely have their place for shorter rides, but swapping batteries on 3 torches on a longer ride gets old!

    I guess it comes down to what is more annoying to you, swapping batteries, or dealing with cords.

    Maybe a good compromise is one of each (1 torch, 1 bike light).
    Back in the day most of my rides were in the day. Occasionally I did rides that started later in the afternoon and on some of those rides I would have to race the sun to get back before dark. After a couple of scares of just making it back before getting dark I started carrying my lights whenever I started in the late afternoon. Eventually that became tedious because most of the times I ended up carrying two complete systems and most of the times not even needing them. That was the old halogen days when batteries were not so light.

    When led lamps powered by Li-ion batteries started coming out that changed the strategy for starting late day rides. I soon learned that with LED powered torches I could start late day rides and just carry a couple light-weight torches, a couple 18650 cells, and leave my heavier ( large battery ) systems home. No reason to carry all that weight if you only need an hour of run time. Not to mention with multi-modes you can run lower outputs for even longer periods. It works and I never have to worry about not making it back to the car before dark. For the $50 it might cost you to get set-up you will never regret spending the money.

    Now when I ride I'm usually planning a night ride right from the get-go. As such I'm using a dedicated bike light on the bars and a torch on the helmet ( most of the time ). Though I always carry a spare cell I don't think I ever had to switch batteries because I only use the helmet light when needed. If I plan a ride that is longer or with bigger hills I will use a dedicated bike helmet light. Nice to have options though if you can afford it.

  13. #13
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    Thank you for all the responses so far. I haven't desided anything yet, but I'm sure I'll get to it.

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