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I used a Cateye Single Shot for 5 years until it died. Now I use a Cateye Single Shot Plus that I picked up on Ebay for $50. It's noticeably brighter than the Single Shot, but with my new commute I'm finding I need something much brighter. Dead animals, collision debris, Mother Nature's debris, a faster road, and long stretches that aren't illuminated.

I've searching in vain to find any sort of lumen estimation of the Cateye Single Shot Plus, and I've read a number of critiques of the various candlepower to lumen conversions being flawed.

Have my eye on the Light and Motion Urban series--specifically the 800 Fast Charge. 800 lumens for $180 seems a good lumen/dollar ratio, and $180 is about my spending comfort limit. Put the Urban on my handlebar and move the Single Shot Plus to my helmet.

If money were no object, I'd get a pair of 2000 lumen L&M Secas--one for my handlebar and one for my helmet. However, I don't think I could successfully pitch $1,000 worth of bike lights to the wife.

Does this seem like overkill?

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    This is going to get closed as product req or opinion based. However, 800 lumens is a lot for a light. $180 is alot as well. It might be something better suited to off road trails. I personally upgraded to a Cygolite Metro 400 at $53 on Amazon (from a Viewport 5). This light is a huge improvement and works really well for me. I don't have a link handy but somebody around here can provide a link to the lights review/database which makes a great starting point. – BPugh Nov 13 '14 at 4:09
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    I know in the past that a guy called Nathan Hinkle, who is a keen SE user, has written some blog entries on this very site, reviewing bike lights. See the "blog" link at the bottom of the page for these. But it looks like he also registered the domain www.bikelightdatabase.com which looks to be a bit more contempora\ry – PeteH Nov 13 '14 at 10:30
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    Beyond just looking at lumens and dollars, I'd recommend looking at battery life as well. A light that throws out 1000 lumens for $100, but only has a battery life of 15 minutes is just as useless (if not more so) than a light that only produces 10 lumens. Additionally shotgun lumens that don't project can be similarly wasteful. I generally look for more lumens than I consistently need, but can run at a lower setting to get better life out of. – Deleted User Nov 13 '14 at 21:37
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    I've removed the last sentence of your question asking for specific product recommendations as that's off topic for this site. It'll be more likely to remain open that way. Although it is still bordering on being too broad. It's up to the community whether or not to leave it open. – jimchristie Nov 13 '14 at 22:59
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I suspect you will find 800 lumen to be plenty, even for avoiding debris on unlit roads.

For context, I commute in the dark (and often in the rain) along unlit back roads and along our regional trail system which is unlit double track gravel with forest coverage. I often need to avoid fallen branches, rabbits and the odd deer that pops out of the trees at inopportune times. I have found that my 4 year old Nite Rider Pro 700, which is rated at 700 lumen has plenty of light to ride at about 30-35 km/hr in the darkness even when it is raining. Anything less and I would have to ride slower in the forest tracks. Anything more would be overkill unless your night vision is horrible.

Caveats - Raw output isn't everything - Mirrors are also important.

Raw output is only half the story. Where you put the light is also very important. For riding on the road a light with a properly shaped mirror with half the output can let you ride faster than a light with an inappropriate mirror. Most battery powered LED lights (e.g., Nite Rider, Light in Motion, etc) have symmetrical beams that shine light up, down, left and right. It is great in the forest, but bad for other road users as it can blind oncoming traffic and could represent wasted light depending on your needs. I would contend these lights are inappropriate for most road riding and require higher outputs due to the wasteful light spread.

For context I also have a LED dynamo light that is probably around 200 lumen which I use as my primary light. The mirrors produce a sharp cut-off at the horizon similar to a car's low beams. This puts all of the light generated on the road in front of me where it is needed. It actually reaches farther down the road than the Nite Rider (symmetric beam) at a full 700 lumen. As an added bonus it also does not blind oncoming traffic such as other cyclists on these unlit close proximity tracks. Unfortunately, very few battery powered lights have this beam pattern.

Where the shaped light pattern of dynamo light excels, it also fails. In the forest tracks, where I would like to see off the track and into the forest so I can pick up any deer that may be looking to bolt across the path on my approach (this has happened a number of times) a shaped beam is insufficient. Here the Nite Rider trail light excels. At night, in the rain, I find 700 lumen with this beam pattern to be more than enough at full pace. But because of symmetric beam I need to turn it off (or down low) when encountering other cyclists, runners, pedestrians. Here I rely on the dynamo light so as to not blind oncoming traffic.

Something like the 2000 lumen L&M Secas (symmetrical beam I assume) at full tilt will be outrageously bright and could cause many oncoming road users to hate you or even cause many to crashes or bodily injury (as mentioned by Moz)

Conclusion

If you are only riding on unlit roads with a symmetrical beam light (again most battery powered lights) something with what is now a moderate output (i.e., 300-800 lumen) should be sufficient, even at a faster pace (e.g., 30+ km/hr). 2000 lumen will really be overkill and could be inconsiderate to other road users.

If you are only riding on the road you may also want to consider a battery powered light with a shaped beam (e.g., Bushch & Muller. These are cheaper than what you were considering ($60-120, instead of $180-1000) and you can get the same road performance from about half the output. In some ways this light is superior to symmetrical beams lights for road riding as the reach is much better letting you pick up objects earlier. The hotspot is less bright, as the light is more even spread so some misinterpret these lights as being less bright.

If you ride on unlit mixed roads or on forest paths where you might need to see overhead branches or off the path/road a symmetrical beam will be better.

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Going fast on unlit roads you definitely want a decent light. Personally I find the combination of my 100 lumen dyno headlight plus another 100 lumens on the handlebars to be enough, but I ride relatively slowly and on a manoeuvrable bike. On a faster bike with handling and brakes designed for speed you want more. Perhaps not 2000 lumens - that's off road singletrack territory. And price. If you get a better quality 200-300 lumen light that actually puts out 200 lumens you'll be much better off than with an off-brand "500 lumens" that is actually 200...

One consideration is how people coming towards you. While it's annoying to hit a small, dark-coloured lump and end up on the road, it's worse to blind an oncoming motorist and end up as a hood ornament. It's not as bad on bike paths, you're more likely just to get beaten up if you blind someone. Paying a little attention to how much light, and where you're pointing it, is important. With a high powered helmet light it's really important not to look at people's faces... when normally you should be looking there. My preference is to have a relatively low-powered helmet light for that reason - I can still look at faces, and people will see me but not be blinded unless they're already very close.

Nathan's Bike Light Database is a good place to start.

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MTBR.com does a big review of lights every year; here is the one for 2015. They have a ton of useful information.

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    Do you have any information on whether these reviews involve any kind of sponsirship from the manufacturers? That is always the thing that concerns me with reviews from cycling mags. – PeteH Nov 13 '14 at 21:31
  • @PeteH it's common for reviewers to receive free samples to review, however some reviewers may also have an advertising relationship with some of the companies. However, with larger organizations, the people doing the advertising agreements and the people doing the testing may be completely separate groups. To ensure no conflict of interest, some reviewers like myself accept no advertising, sponsorship, product placement, etc. from any company whose products they review. – nhinkle Nov 14 '14 at 4:21
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    A key question is: how often do they review things and say "this is junk". If the answer is "never", there's no point reading more reviews. Either they filter out bad products or they're not allowed to say they're junk, and either way you're left with no idea whether their scale runs from your "junk" to "amazing" or your "mediocre" to "acceptable", until you buy something they've reviewed... which defeats the point of reading the review. – Móż Nov 15 '15 at 3:34
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I run a 200 lumen headlamp that claims 175 hours out of 4 AAs and cost roughly $100. In the wide mode (outside spread LEDs) it produces more than enough light to be seen with and I can see with it fairly well. When I need more light, I can cut over to the big beam and see as much as I need to. I bought it mainly for racing, but the battery life was so good I use it for commuting as well. For dedicated commuting I have always looked at rechargeable units. Right now I'd say ~400 lumens should cost you $100 or less. Most of my stuff gets run in medium or low setting producing half the lumens, but allowing me to get through a whole week of commuting before I need to recharge.

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I got a Niterider Lumina 700 for about $100 on Amazon. It's plenty bright for commuting (most of the time I don't even use the high setting) on unlit roads, it throws a pretty wide beam, and the light is very white. It's rechargeable through USB which is awesome, so I charge it up at work when I see the indication that it's getting low.

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