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Home > Magazine > Gear > Sweet New Lights (for Bikes) -- Cheap!

Sweet New Lights (for Bikes) -- Cheap!
May 16, 2012

Personal lighting is booming like crazy right now. And, yeah, a lot of it on the dirt-cheap side is coming from Hong Kong.

Dealextreme.com is rockin' the big firepower for little money like it always has.

I recently picked up a jillion-lumen "Fandyfire" Cree stick light for, like, $17 with free shipping. 900 lumens, maybe? I've been using it clipped into a $5 handlebar mount. Very bright view of the fast night road. (But it only uses one battery and only lasts an hour on high. So I always carry a spare battery.)

Then there are the new breed of eBay lights, also from China. Look for complete headlamp kits that work on both your head and your bike for $35 including charger...and shipping. 1200 lumens for at least a couple hours! (Maybe up to 4 hours.) This kind of lighting normally costs $200. Now, HK workmanship isn't the best. So repairing your light is a handy skill to acquire -- and easy to do. Cleaning grounds and such comes in handy.

Here's a link to just one of them: www.ebay.com/itm/1200-Lumens-CREE-XM-L-T6-LED-Bicycle-Bike-Headlamp-Light-Headlight-Cycling-Lamp-/140726264306?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item20c3f061f2.

The key is the 18650 LiPo battery. Which DX also sells cheap. You can get them at battery chainstores in the US, too. From DX a couple will run you $6 plus $15 for a charger...and free shipping. Big deal. BIG LIGHT. These batteries take lighting to the next level. (You do get to wait a few weeks for delivery, though.)

Another key is the kind of emitter. Some Cree's are very "throwy" -- have a focused hot-spot and are faint elsewhere. These are good for scopin' out what's at the back of a big field. Others are "floody" -- they cast a wide beam -- that's what you want for night cycling and skiing and such. The Seoul SSC-P7 emitter is famous here, but certain Cree's are now floody, too. So it's a matter of both name and model number. Some emitters are known for having a good blend of both. Then there's lens shape and size -- apparently a wider end is throwier. Read the reviews. DX is generally good for having a lot of feedback on their stuff, including mentions of other items that are better for certain uses. Candlepowerforums.com is where you go for the real scoop, but be careful, there's a deep end.

If I was a halfway decent light-freak I'd share a beamshots comparison to show what I mean. We'll see...

I also picked up a single AA Cree for $15 that gives, like, 500 lumens in a chapstick package. Whoa...

A friend got a nice, pricier single CR123 (LiPo) battery twist light that was even brighter -- 800 lumens? -- at HALF chapstick size. Gulp!

Then there is the low-power yet high-power domestic-ish side. Like the Planet Bike Turbo Blinkies for $25 with 2 watts of red power for your rear. Or the Blackburn Flea white front blinkie -- tiny but wow! Perfect for urban nite safety where you don't need actual road illumination.

Anyway, nowadays even if you don't have cash the night is yours with these new lights. Enjoy! ...I am!

(Of course, if you can swing it, buy local, buy US. If you have a job, don't be skinflintin' it!)


Here's a little pic of my older "floody" MTE SSC P7 -- about 5" -- 900 lumens. $25. Nice!


Here's the Fandyfire that uses one AA for a lot of power. Maybe 3" long. $15.


"Throwy" Fandyfire Cree -- 6" long, big "head." $15.


$35 bikelight with everything, including headstrap and charger. 1200 lumens. Nice.

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