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What is a good headlight for my bike?

Requirements:

  • Swappable between bikes
  • Good for bumpy roads/situations such as gravel or dirt
  • Long lasting battery
  • Far reaching range of light
  • LED of course! :-)
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5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

The Dinotte series of lights is great, and I love mine. I can get almost 2 hours out of my 200L on high mode. It meets all of your requirements, except for the one about bumpy/gravel roads -- if you mean by that something durable, then it meets all your requirements.

alt text

Dinotte 200L headlight and battery mounted on my helmet.

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no idea about quality but a review mentioned this as a competing product in DX: dealextreme.com/p/… –  user652 Mar 2 '11 at 16:14
    
@hhh - It looks like it's fairly similar, at least in the base tech. It's certainly cheaper, the Dinotte headlights start at US $229. –  Neil Fein Mar 2 '11 at 17:53
    
+1 Dinotte lights. The majority of lights in this price class are comparable (I don't have first hand experience with all of them so I can't say which is best), but almost all of them are an order of magnitude better than the "high quality" $30-$50 lights. –  James Schek Oct 16 '12 at 3:37
    
I will say that I've had problems, not with the lights or batteries themselves, but with the cabling. The connectors do tend to wear, and the company itself could be friendlier. But I would buy Dinotte again despite that. –  Neil Fein Oct 16 '12 at 5:04
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If you're just riding city streets, with street lights, you aren't going to need much in terms of illumination. More likely you will need a light that is bright enough so that The other drivers can see you. I picked up a 7-LED head lamp light from my local dollar store for $2, and mounted it to my handle bars. You can get a second one and mount it to your helmet if you like. It is plenty bright for streets that already have street lights. If you're looking for mountain biking, or for going on streets without street lights, you can save a lot of money by going to a site like deal extreme and checking out their selection. They have some lights that are so bright they are almost scary. Brighter than a car headlamp. Something like this cree light will give you a lot light. And for a really good price. Be careful about the big names. Some of their lights aren't any different (same assembly line) than the cheap stuff you find at the dollar store, but they charge 10 times more, simply because they put a name on it. For instance, this is the exact same headlamp I picked up for $2 Canadian at the dollar store, and they are charging $13 US for it.

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I would go with a helmet mounted light, as this meets your swapable requirement, and if you're riding at night, you should always be wearing a helmet anyway.

As for the light itself, a name brand light from a bike or specialty manufacturer (Bontrager, Light & Motion, etc, etc) LED lamp should give you the best bang for your buck. Also don't forget a red tail light, which are often required by law. You can get some small elastic strap on ones for a few dollars.

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If you mean helmet-mounted, +1. Having light where your head is turned makes it easier to spot stuff at the sides of the road as well as in front of you. –  Neil Fein Aug 29 '10 at 3:01
    
Arg yes, helmet mount. –  Dana the Sane Aug 30 '10 at 1:49
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What does riding at night have to do with wearing a helmet or not? –  Neil Fein Aug 30 '10 at 15:28
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Well, for a variety of reasons, I think that accidents are more likely at night. The inconvenience of wearing a helmet isn't worth suffering a concussion or worse. –  Dana the Sane Aug 31 '10 at 20:15
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I'm extremely happy with my Knog Gator. It was a bit pricy, but definitely worth the money. The battery lasts about 5 hours if you have the light on full power, but it has 4 different settings to make the battery last even longer. And it takes a few seconds to swop between bikes, handle-bar mounted

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+1 I use this too. one small snag I've found is that it can cut out if the connecting plug/socket between the battery and the light gets a little twisted –  Jonny Cundall Sep 7 '10 at 9:58
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I recommend the Romisen "RC-2R4 II R5" LED flashlight (available from ShiningBeam.com). Its $26 + shipping and you can get two 18650 Lithium Ion batteries and a charger for another $30 + shipping from BatteryJunction.com. All told you are looking at less than $70 for 300 lumens of spot-light in a very small (think AA Mag-light size) flashlight. Each 18650 battery will last over two hours in this flashlight.

I made a little block of foam and used a small velcro strap to mount the flashlight on my helmet (seen below with a similar-sized Jet III M flashlight): alt text

I used the Romisen light on my helmet two weeks ago combined with a 350 lumen flood light on my handle bars (Cygolite MityCross -- $175) for the 24 Hours of Great Glen mountain bike race. The combination of a spot-light on the helmet and a flood on the handlebars allowed my to ride single-track downhill at the same race-speed that I did during the day. The flood-light on the bars serves to cast shadows behind rocks and drops, giving good terrain definition for single-track racing that would be lost with just a helmet light. For dirt roads though, the Romisen spot-light on the helmet is way more than enough, throwing a large pool of light 50 yards or more ahead.

I have used the MityCross flood light alone for commuting, but it only casts a defined beam about 15 yards ahead which isn't quite enough for me to feel comfortable at road speeds.

These new LED flashlights from China (like the Romisen) are giving fabulous amounts of light and are mostly are standardized on the 18650 LiIon batteries. They provide a great value and can also be used around the house and anywhere you might want a flashlight. The big thing that bike-specific lights provide is sturdy handlebar mounts (which are harder to find for flashlights) though at a large price premium.

For your specified dirt-road use I'd suggest that a 300 lumen LED flashlight on your helmet would be more than sufficient.

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