Why are most headlights LED now?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Why are most headlights LED now?

    Sure, they can be smaller, lighter, and better on batteries, but I'm having difficulties finding a good cheap headlight for my girlfriend for riding in the dusk hours. Cheap and bright LED flashers are easy to come by, but what happened to cheap halogen headlights?

    I have a Blackburn Flea for my front flasher, along with a CatEye HL-1500 for my headlight (Mars 3.0 rear). The HL-1500 is not as good as the true headlights w/external battery pack, etc. However, compared to any other LED headlamp I've seen, it is much more focused and the amazing beam pattern makes it more useful and seem much brighter.

    So, what's the deal? I'm curious if any of you also prefer cheap halogens to cheap LEDs for headlights, and are disappointed with the increasing focus on LEDs for this.

  2. #2
    ballbuster
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    why bother?

    Quote Originally Posted by intoflatlines
    Sure, they can be smaller, lighter, and better on batteries, but I'm having difficulties finding a good cheap headlight for my girlfriend for riding in the dusk hours. Cheap and bright LED flashers are easy to come by, but what happened to cheap halogen headlights?

    I have a Blackburn Flea for my front flasher, along with a CatEye HL-1500 for my headlight (Mars 3.0 rear). The HL-1500 is not as good as the true headlights w/external battery pack, etc. However, compared to any other LED headlamp I've seen, it is much more focused and the amazing beam pattern makes it more useful and seem much brighter.

    So, what's the deal? I'm curious if any of you also prefer cheap halogens to cheap LEDs for headlights, and are disappointed with the increasing focus on LEDs for this.
    LEDs are cheaper than Halogen these days, and better.

    You got something for nostalgia?

  3. #3
    discombobulated SuperModerator
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    Why not ask why all homes have AC electric lights rather than DC or better yet, gas?

    LED's are taking over. Pretty much everywhere. in 5 years you might not be able to buy a household incandescent.... CF or LED will be the norm...

  4. #4
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    Ummm because AC power transmits across transmission lines with greater efficiency....duh. How this relates to bicycle lights though....

  5. #5
    discombobulated SuperModerator
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeeEight
    Ummm because AC power transmits across transmission lines with greater efficiency....duh. How this relates to bicycle lights though....
    Hello.
    Progress?
    Gas - DC- AC...
    Halogen-HID- LED

  6. #6
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    I don't get what LED headlights you people are referring to.. I'd love to see a $15 LED headlight that is as useful (i.e., bright, good tight beam pattern) as my HL-1500. If you find one, please let me know, I'll definitely pick it up.

    And since you brought up AC/DC and household lighting.. for every advantage of CFLs and LEDs in household use, there's a disadvantage. CFLs are expensive, dimmer (in terms of actual light output, not per watt), take a while to warm up, etc. LEDs are expensive, some are bothered by the effects of PWM, light is noticeably unnatural, etc.. I use CFLs for every bulb in my house, but only for the energy savings and longer life. Light output and and color are not as good as incandescents, in my opinion. I really look forward to the day when LED "bulbs" and lamps are affordable though! In AC vs DC, I'm not going to get even more off topic, so I'll just say there's several reasons why many electronics are designed to use DC instead of AC..

  7. #7
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    This question comes up every now and then, here is one topic about it:
    http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=582564

    Cateye HL-1500? Come on! Is this a joke?
    Check out the Magicshine for an affordable LED solution.

  8. #8
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    No joke I should have specified that I don't do really dark night riding. The darkest I typically ride in is maybe an hour after sunset or on lit city streets.

    I was actually looking into getting a Magicshine, but I didn't know Magicshines could be had for $15! Great deal!

    In all seriousness though, I can't help but notice that no one's been able to name a single cheap LED headlight that outperforms the HL-1500. Once I find one I'll gladly ditch the old halogen and move to LED for my headlight.

  9. #9
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    Take a look around DX, you'll find plenty, if you insist on your $15...
    For example: http://www.dealextreme.com/products.dx/category.942

    I agree with you though that for the commuter market there are currently no cheap and useful LED lights (that would be comparable on both price and performance to an old halogen light).

    Don't you like the Flea? I haven't seen it but seemed quite acceptable in the reviews (eg: http://acidinmylegs.blogspot.com/200...eam-shots.html)

    Btw. the dynamo-powered lights have finally started to improve, take a look at this:
    http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/headlights.asp
    They are way outside your price range though.

  10. #10
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    Those flashlights look interesting but I wonder how they'd mount/function as headlights. I might pick one of those up for a carry light!

    I actually do like the Flea very much. A few hours ago I was out with the girlfriend riding on a local path after sunset. As it started to get pretty dark I put the Flea on her handlebars and set it to flash. I rode up ahead and had her pass me. Wow, was that bright for a tiny thing! As it got darker and it became apparent that we needed some path illumination instead of the "be seen" flashing. I was surprised at the amount of light that it put out on a dark path, but it was very unfocused and was basically like everything 180 degrees in front was lit up by a dim light, but riding next to or in front of her was blinding, due to the intense brightness of the LEDs but the lack of focusing lens. My HL-1500, on the other hand, put out less total light than the Flea, but the beam was focused into a wide horizontal bar with adequate lighting on the path ahead. Scatter was very low and I would have liked a more powerful light but I would take the HL-1500 over the Flea as a night time illumination source any time. The Flea is amazing for the price, size, and brightness as a "be seen" flasher for commuting or the times of day where it's too light to be seen with a constant light but too dark to not have one (dawn/dusk).

    I normally don't ride in the dark like tonight, if I did I would have upgraded from the old halogen awhile ago!

    That last link you provided showed some nice beams. Definitely making me want a better light..

    Something I forgot to mention.. The LED lights I've seen, even if they did have a good lens/beam pattern and were bright enough, still don't make things as easy to see as halogens, in my opinion. There's a reason why auto manufacturers stick to 4300-5000 K temperature HIDs in their headlights.. they provide the most usable light, as opposed to the higher temperature (blue/purple) HIDs many aftermarket kits have. Sure they might be bright, but the usable light is lower and decreases your visibility.

    Quote Originally Posted by peterwhitecycles.com
    ...people often find that the bluish light from LEDs makes it harder to see details, particularly in the rain, than the more yellow light from the halogen bulb. Also, LEDs emit light at only a few specific wavelengths, whereas a halogen bulb's spectrum is smoother, creating light over a much larger range of wavelengths. So, sometimes, brighter isn't necessarily better.

  11. #11
    discombobulated SuperModerator
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    [QUOTE=intoflatlines]I don't get what LED headlights you people are referring to.. I'd love to see a $15 LED headlight that is as useful (i.e., bright, good tight beam pattern) as my HL-1500. If you find one, please let me know, I'll definitely pick it up.

    And since you brought up AC/DC and household lighting.. for every advantage of CFLs and LEDs in household use, there's a disadvantage. CFLs are expensive, dimmer (in terms of actual light output, not per watt), take a while to warm up, etc. LEDs are expensive, some are bothered by the effects of PWM, light is noticeably unnatural, etc.. I use CFLs for every bulb in my house, but only for the energy savings and longer life. Light output and and color are not as good as incandescents, in my opinion. I really look forward to the day when LED "bulbs" and lamps are affordable though! In AC vs DC, I'm not going to get even more off topic, so I'll just say there's several reasons why many electronics are designed to use DC instead of AC..[/QUOTE]

    I just intended to show the progression for household lighting/electricity.. Gas to DC/AC and AC won out... Something about Xformers and efficiency...And then again there was a publicity stunt about DC and safety....
    CDT

  12. #12
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    LEDs emitting in high color temperature are the most efficient, that's why they are used in most products. However lower color temps are readily available, just like any color you like (red, green or blue). Some light manufacturers are aware of this issue, and they chose their LEDs accordingly.
    Examples: Lupine are famous for their neutral white bins. Exposure Lights and Light&Motion are examples of companies having yellower output lights, they are closer to the old halogen color.
    I have seen an older DIY light where the harshness of white-blue LED output was modified by adding a few red LEDs, this was at least 5 years ago, when LED lighting meant you used clusters of small diodes...
    So just go and check out the Magicshine, it's also quite neutral (although depending on the varying bin you may get a slightly green(ish) light). It cannot be compared to low-cost commuter LED lights (Cateye...) nor is it similar to automotive lighting (HID).
    Actually, with the last Cree XPG upgrade my light now emits a light very similar to sunlight... well, that's what my GF said when she saw it, she commented it as "daylight"... ;-)

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by intoflatlines
    I want everything but don't want to pay anything. Can someone help me?

    Seriously, if you want something done right, you're going to have to do it yourself:

    http://forums.mtbr.com/forumdisplay.php?f=124
    Long Live Long Rides

  14. #14
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    So far only Audi has brought LED lights to a production car for headlights (lots use them for tail lights and turn indicators), and then only with their R8 supercars. For bicycle lighting, where people generally don't actually need to light up a 300 foot wide by 1000 foot long swath of road clear enough to see a pedestrian or animal about to step onto that road at night (where Halogens and HIDs will remain the king for at least another decade) LED lights are now adequate for the task. But you still need to run multiple diodes to have any sort of useful beam pattern for anything in the way of technical singletrack. I'd run one magicshine if I was on a wide open fireroad, in the desert, or on a hike... but i'm not riding in stuff where the trees are barely further apart than a DH handlebar with just one LED lamp going. I would still ride with ONE HID or over-volted halogen though.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by intoflatlines
    No joke I should have specified that I don't do really dark night riding. The darkest I typically ride in is maybe an hour after sunset or on lit city streets.

    I was actually looking into getting a Magicshine, but I didn't know Magicshines could be had for $15! Great deal!

    In all seriousness though, I can't help but notice that no one's been able to name a single cheap LED headlight that outperforms the HL-1500. Once I find one I'll gladly ditch the old halogen and move to LED for my headlight.
    Done!

    Lots more choices if you are willing to go to $30.
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  16. #16
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    I ride my city beater bike to the grocery store...

    ... with one of those hardware store 11 LED lights that go for $10, with a velcro bar mount strap that cost me $4. If it gets ripped off from my bars while parked outside of the store, I won't feel too badly about it.

    It's fine to be seen by cars at dusk, and even lights the way a bit, well enough to avoid the potholes at 7 mph.

    Of course, that was before I bought the Magicshine. Not that I want to leave my Magicshine on my bars while I go in the corner store for some soy milk and cookies (and beer, naturally).

    BTW, don't they have a handheld torch version of the Magicshine that goes for like $45?

    I'm unclear on what you are asking in the first place. Do you want a light to be seen, or to see the road a bit, night ride, ride at real speeds, or what?

    All of the cheap options beat the tar out of halogen (like the AAA-C battery ones), and even in the mid and higher end, they beat HID. The problem isn't so much how bright they are, but how efficient they are. LEDs are so efficient that you don't need a big expensive battery pack to make them go, which hugely brings down the price.

    BTW, I added a $65 ebay 4300k HID upgrade kit to my wife's Audi Avant, and it was a pretty nice upgrade from Silverstar Halogens. You can actually choose the bulb temp when you buy an HID kit. Its just the ricer streetracer wannabe, massive whale tail spoiler that slows the car down, 19" 35 aspect rear tire with 65 aspect front tires on steelies up front, neon lights under the car, with a coffee can exhaust out back mufuggers want pimptastic purple 12000k lights for some stupid reason.
    Last edited by pimpbot; 04-08-2010 at 10:49 AM.

  17. #17
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    So keep buying halogen if you're so convinced. I'd be surprised if whatever light you found for 15 bucks was worth two chits.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by pimpbot
    Of course, that was before I bought the Magicshine. Not that I want to leave my Magicshine on my bars while I go in the corner store for some soy milk and cookies (and beer, naturally).

    BTW, don't they have a handheld torch version of the Magicshine that goes for like $45?
    I am looking into a Magicshine in the near future but first I want upgraded brakes.

    I'm unclear on what you are asking in the first place. Do you want a light to be seen, or to see the road a bit, night ride, ride at real speeds, or what?
    I already have a nice "be seen light". I'm looking more for a light that will let me see at dusk or later, on pavement/gravel paths at around 15 mph. I don't ride off road when it's dark so very powerful lights are not as necessary.

    All of the cheap options beat the tar out of halogen (like the AAA-C battery ones), and even in the mid and higher end, they beat HID. The problem isn't so much how bright they are, but how efficient they are. LEDs are so efficient that you don't need a big expensive battery pack to make them go, which hugely brings down the price.
    I do agree that LEDs are brighter and smaller with higher efficiency. I think the problem is in the reflector/lens design of the cheap ones.

    BTW, I added a $65 ebay 4300k HID upgrade kit to my wife's Audi Avant, and it was a pretty nice upgrade from Silverstar Halogens. You can actually choose the bulb temp when you buy an HID kit. Its just the ricer streetracer wannabe, massive whale tail spoiler that slows the car down, 19" 35 aspect rear tire with 65 aspect front tires on steelies up front, neon lights under the car, with a coffee can exhaust out back mufuggers want pimptastic purple 12000k lights for some stupid reason.
    HIDs are very nice and bright. I'm not familiar with the Avant off the top of my head.. does it come with projectors on it? The problem with drop in HID kits for autos isn't so much the color choice but more when HIDs are put in OEM housings designed for halogens. When this is done, the much more powerful HIDs scatter with the halogen reflector, potentially blinding other drivers, which is a reason why HIDs in halogen reflectors is illegal. I'd love to put some HIDs on my car, though.. I just need to save up for some nice HID projectors first.

  19. #19
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    I think the original poster was talking about the inexpensive non-rechargeable lights used for casual commuting. I tend to think of these as the kind of lights a college student would buy to ride back to the dorm on the occasions when they end up riding after dark. For this type of application, something like the magicshine or anything that would be used for offroad trail riding, doesn't make any sense. It needs to be cheap, it needs to be self contained, and it needs to run off AA batteries. It doesn't have to be all that bright, but it needs to have an effective beam pattern.

    I agree with the original poster. If you compare something like the HL-1500 to what you can buy today. The current cheap commuter lights I've seen simply don't have good beam patterns or make good use of the light very effectively. They are all LED now, and they should be better than the old halogen models, but the ones I've seen are worse.

    I don't think there is any technical reason that they couldn't be much better. And maybe the one shiggy posted is better. I've never seen that one in person. But, I think that is what the original poster is asking.

    Does anyone know of one of these cheap lights that actually produces a good useable beam pattern? Seems like a simple enough question, but so far the responses don't seem all that helpful. I don't know of one, but would like to know if there is one just because I'm curious.....

  20. #20
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    Thanks for pretty much summarizing what I was trying to get across.

    BTW, that Viewpoint that shiggy posted is not so good. I've seen it and it suffers the same issues that the cheap LED headlights have.. bright, but very soft light with a poor beam pattern.

  21. #21
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    I suggest going the flashlight route if it really has to be that inexpensive like radirpok suggested. Dealextreme has bicycle mounts for flashlights too.

  22. #22
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    For certain: riding "at night" on a paved path or city street with ambient light all around does not equate to "Night Riding" as used in mountainbiking.

    Of course a firefly light on the bars is enough for paved paths, as are blinky lights for the back of your bike. Now, get off road on a trail that's away from streetlights and has some features to it and you'll find you want more light.

    Personally, I am a longtime user of a (halogen) Nightsun Max that more than does the job, albeit at about 5-times the weight of my new MagicShine and more than 2-times the weight of my Lume HID rig. (Hey, the old lights don't fit on my new OS bar). Notably, the Magicshine is brighter than either, with a longer run time. Wahoo, progress!

  23. #23
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    This DX torch is $15 and has a nice tight beam, and is significantly brighter than a $15 halogen bike light. You will need a Li Ion battery and charger, so your total will be more like $30. They sell a few different mounts like this one for handlebar mounting. Or you can do a ghetto mount for bars or helmet using fat rubber bands.

    JZ
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeeEight
    Ummm because AC power transmits across transmission lines with greater efficiency....duh. How this relates to bicycle lights though....
    The Europeans might disagree according to this article

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by intoflatlines
    I don't get what LED headlights you people are referring to.. I'd love to see a $15 LED headlight that is as useful (i.e., bright, good tight beam pattern) as my HL-1500. If you find one, please let me know, I'll definitely pick it up. ...
    Since I am one of the most noted for advocating the use of torches for bike lights I might as well go ahead and speak up. Also since you seem to want a tight beam pattern, having a torch on your bars should be just what the Dr. ordered. You also mentioned not liking harsh/bluish light so I would suggest using one of the Cree powered torches. I think your best bet would be using one that uses either the Q-5 or the R-2 emitter since those emitters tend to be more warmer than others I have seen. If you check the D/X web site you will find many torches than use the Q-5 and R-2. The TR-801 that Jim Z suggested is very popular among the forum users. Yes, you will have to buy a couple 18650 cells ( $10 ) and a charger ( $12 ) but your other light used batteries as well right?
    Personally, if you really want a MAJOR upgrade I would highly recommend a 5-mode *P-7 torch. Even on medium they are outstanding, be it on the trail or the road...great throw and wide beam, the best of both worlds. ( * the D-bin P-7 tends to be a little warmer than the C-bin IMO. ) Okay so it's $15 more than you wanted to spend but if you buy it it'll be the best extra 15 bucks you've ever spent.

    Stuff I personally use and like: http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.12060
    and this quick release cam-type torch holder > http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.15342

    This is the only D-bin P-7 torch I know of > http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.22569

  26. #26
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    Battery choice

    "Yes, you will have to buy a couple 18650 cells ( $10 ) and a charger ( $12 )"

    Any specific batteries & charger better than others on DX?

    I am thinking of ordering and want to make sure that I get the appropriate ones.

    Thanks
    Goatman
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  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by goatman
    "Yes, you will have to buy a couple 18650 cells ( $10 ) and a charger ( $12 )"

    Any specific batteries & charger better than others on DX?

    I am thinking of ordering and want to make sure that I get the appropriate ones.

    Thanks
    This is the charger that I would recommend > http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.1251
    It uses two bays that have a separate led/circuit to charge and monitor both batteries separately. This means regardless of how much charge is on the batteries, they will both get an equal charge when their led turns green. The ones I own don't have the separate bay charging feature. (DSD charger ) but I've never had a problem with them. Browsing the D/X web site I noticed a couple other chargers which look to be knock-offs of the Ultrafire charger. This is just one > http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.12594
    Looks like it has separate bay circuits as well and a little cheaper. One last note on chargers: Whatever you buy get two. That way if one goes up you still have the other. Personally I own three cheap chargers and have never had a problem in 2 yrs. Edit..almost forgot...make sure it uses the plug you need unless you like hunting down adapters!

    Now about the batteries: What I use and recommend in descending order...

    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.26247
    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.20392
    http://www.dealextreme.com/details.dx/sku.5790

    The next time I buy anything from D/X I'll buy a couple new chargers. Just make sure the ones you buy look like they have two monitoring leds and you should be good. Mine only have one. Lastly, make sure the batteries you buy are protected..BUT...make sure they will also *fit the torch you buy. (* some torches have a problem with protected batteries ) Personally I've never had a problem using protected batteries in any of my torches. Cat.

  28. #28
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    Thanks for the info. I'm looking into picking up a couple Magicshine 900, after reading all the great reviews and checking out the shots of the beam pattern. The only potential issue (for me) is that it seems like the manufacturer isn't very large or well known, so I'm not sure if it would be hard to get replacement parts in the future. I've done a lot of DIY electronics projects in the past so maybe I'd just be able to take care of stuff on my own?

  29. #29
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    I have a Night Rider Digital Evolution (15w halogen) that is a few years old. I got it lightly used at an REI garage sale for $30, not the standard $240 they were selling for at the time. I've had to send it in for repair once, and it cost me $15 just for the diagnosis. A replacement bulb is $20 and a new battery is around $80. When the battery was new, I got 1.5 hrs run time.

    A couple years ago I bought a DiNotte 200L for $100 on sale. It is noticably brighter than the NR, so I haven't used the NR since getting the DiNotte. DiNotte has excellent customer service. I'm certain if I ever needed a repair, it wouldn't cost me anything. And, the LED shouldn't ever need to be replaced. The batteries are AA, which are ubiquitous and cheap.

    In Dec. 09 I got a MS900, around $90. It is significantly brighter than the DiNotte. I rode with it on the trail last night, for the first time (I've commuted with it dozens of times, but this was my first trail ride). My friend, who doesn't have a light, was using my NR. I laughed when I saw the comparison. It was about like comparing your 2xAA Mag light with your car's headlight. Really, no comparison. The MS battery is smaller than the NR battery, and runs over twice as long with exponentially greater light output. The LED should never need to be replaced and a new battery is around $40.

    So, why are most headlights LED? Because they're cheap to make, durable, and are significantly more efficient.
    Last edited by J_Hopper; 04-18-2010 at 09:39 PM.

  30. #30
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    Charger & battery info

    Cat,

    Thanks for your valuable input regarding charger and battery choice.

    As I am new to night riding, I still have to decide what bar/helmet combo to use.
    Either 2x magicshine 900 or P7 torch on bars and Magicshine 900 on helmet.
    Needs to work for fast, twisty singletrack.
    As the Magicshine 1400 is relatively new I am not sure if it's a "better" choice than the 900 model...
    Goatman
    - It's not the destination that counts but how you get there -

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