Shine A Light

Full disclosure: This blog has a strict policy of accepting any and all offers of bike-related goodies – or indeed bikes – in exchange for cravenly flattering reviews (this means you, Brompton). However, despite this, nobody has yet sent me so much as a novelty keychain* so this bike light review comes courtesy of a friend who nobly and generously lent me his wife’s.
I’m still very fond of my Knog light which is nifty and shines a pretty good light for something so neat and handy, good enough that I can make out and avoid potholes on the darkest of nights before I crunch into them and, in combination with my other flashy light has been safely getting me home from choir and the pub as long as I ride with care:

But it is not this:

Which is surely visible from space.

The light itself, the snappily named MJ-808 HA-III SSC P7-C (SXO)3-Mode 900-Lumen LED Bike Light Set, which costs how much?!, is nothing like as small and neat as the Knog, with a separate battery back attached to the bike by a velcro strap reminiscent of some sort of a medical appliance. The light itself has a similar fitting to the Knog and has a handy glow-in-the-dark switch on the back (no more fumbling for the button in the dark) which lights up when you plug it in. There’s a battery meter reading on the pack and the whole thing can be charged up from the mains. I’ve got into the habit of just leaving my lights on my bike so I’d find the need to keep taking it on and off (or dealing with the trailing cables when the light’s detached from the battery) a bit of a pain in the neck and it’s neither light nor cheap but that all pales into comparison when you switch it on.

I was going to use it to ride back from an event in Bigtown on Tuesday but in the end the dire weather forecast (actually merely grim in the event – BBC Terror Centre strikes again, sigh) saw me cry off and accept a lift from someone who was going that way anyway. In the end I only got a chance to play with it last night at around 10pm, by which time it was fully dark. Technically there was a full moon, but it was cloudy enough that there was almost no light in the sky. Normally that means riding pretty slowly, concentrating hard and often with absolutely no idea where I am in relation to the road, just following the little illuminated patch of asphalt ahead of me. No such caution necessary with this light. I cycled down to the village and back at more or less the speed I’d go in daylight and it was so clear and bright I almost forgot I was riding at night – I looked down to check what gear I was in and got a little confused when I couldn’t see the lever. It also, I can report, wakens the neighbourhood dogs as I pass and I’d like to apologise for that now. It was even bright enough to confuse a rabbit that got caught in my headlight, but I suppose that’s easily done. In short, this makes longer night rides – which I’ve tended to avoid in the winter in the past – something I might actually look forward to.

There’s just one tiny catch, which is that its owner wants it back. It’s going to be hard to go back to the peering-at-the-asphalt now I’ve seen the light.

She’s going to have to catch me first.

*baked goods from other bloggers notwithstanding

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19 Responses to Shine A Light

  1. Commuterjohn says:

    Hi, I just bought a rechargeable LED light by Sigma called the Pava.
    I bought it from Bike 24 a German company and all in it cost around 55 euros delivered.
    It is a one piece unit that you can hold in your hand, has a 25 lumen output which the manufactures reckon will light up to 40 metres infront of you with an 18 degree spread. It charges via a mains plug in charger which does require a British adaptor.
    The unit has a high power run time of 5 hrs and a low run time of 10 hrs, with an emergency light to get you home if you almost run out of power, with a light up switch that changes colour depending on the battery condition.
    That’s an overview not a sales pitch! as I haven’t had it to test well enough yet but it seems pretty good.
    The interesting sales point that they make is – The brightest street legal front light – Now I have wondered as to wether some of this mega bright off road kit was legal on the roads before, I know people are going to say a car head lamp is…….. but a car headlamp is a fixed unit which has to be aligned properly to avoid glare and pass a MOT.
    On too many occasions have I been half blinded by some clown on a bike path with some mega bright light pointing straight in your face and nearly causing a crash.

  2. disgruntled says:

    yeah, I remember reading that there’s a limit to how bright a bike light can be, which on a very dark rural road can be a pain. Back before the bright LEDs came out, people were rigging up car reversing lights to their bikes for off roading. This one does have a dim option for when riding through actual traffic. I didn’t actually encounter a single car on my test, I did keep it angled down though.

  3. Commuterjohn says:

    Oh I am sure you did being a sensible cyclist that you are but it would be interesting to hear if anyone does have any legal jargon on this issue.

  4. disgruntled says:

    The excellent UK Cycle Rules blog is usually the place to find that sort of thing, but there’s nothing about too bright lights that I could see here.

  5. The main reason why torches bolted to handlebars and off-road oriented lights blind people is that the beam is round. This also means that much of the light they produce goes in the wrong direction, up into eyes and lighting up trees around the side of the road. This means there is less in front on the road where you need it, but your battery is being drained anyway to put light where you don’t want it.

    It’s much more important, and much more effective, if the light is designed to put a good amount of light in the right place with little in the wrong places.

    The better front bike lights these days use a mirror to produce a shaped beam. This means that the light which is produced all goes in the right direction, getting brighter as it gets further away until at the top there’s a clean cut off. With this type of light, the ground appears evenly lit from the point of view of the cyclist up to a considerable distance, but it won’t blind anyone.

    Busch und Muller were the leaders in this. I have two of their headlights and they’re still excellent. I can ride at 40 km/h into darkness with my B&M IQ Speed, see where I’m going, and not blind anyone.

    However, at the moment, Philips make the best bike lights and they outclass B&M. Philips lights are available either for dynamo or battery usage (the battery one larger, brighter and more expensive, but the dynamo version is still amazing compared to anything else).

    I would provide links to where you can buy these, but that would perhaps be a bit too self-serving. Someone who tests these things quite rigorously wrote this, and you can see from this chart how having lots of light produced (estimated OTF (Lumen)) doesn’t necessarily result in lots of light where you need it (estimated Lux @10 m)

  6. ed says:

    You’ve gone from one extreme of front light to another.

    There’s really no need for an expensive front light even on rural roads unless you have slow reaction times or poor eyesight.

    If you ride at very high speeds in the dark on roads you don’t know then perhaps it might be worth buying an expensive, bright front light.

    But those conditions don’t apply to nearly all cyclists.

    Moderately priced lights are good enough for nearly all cyclists.

    • But on narrow rural roads it’s the oncoming car driver who’s the biggest threat – being seen clearly and well ahead of time could be a lifesaver?

    • I disagree, everyone should have a light like this or better.
      People fool around with hi-viz junk that doesn’t work, how many bollards or signs get smashed to pieces by cars, they are hi-viz reflective things too!
      Bright lights are more important to your safety than you know.

  7. If only you knew how bright a top of the range lupine is, of course it costs more than the average car does 🙂

    Not long before the magicshine came out, the airbike ssc p7 was the import of the day. I still love my airbike light and I’m sure the performance is comparable, so if or when it dies on me I will probably buy a magicshine as a cheap replacement.

    These P7 lights open up a whole new world, night riding is sooo much fun, moon light riding is too, but seeing where you are going and knowing that cars see you coming is a great thing and worth a hundred pounds or so.

  8. disgruntled says:

    In my case, cycling at night, the risk for once isn’t from the cars – even a feeble light can be seen pretty well in the dark and I can see the cars coming from miles away. In fact, I’ve often welcomed a car approaching because its headlights light up the road for me and round here everyone dips their headlights when they see me which is very welcome (it wasn’t the case years ago when I was riding around on rural Derbyshire roads, sometimes half blinded from the dazzle). My problem is avoiding the potholes and other pitfalls and also getting myself home in decent time – the dimmer the light, basically, the slower you have to go and the more you have to concentrate on where you’re going (and so the less you are able to actually enjoy the ride and the moonlight and all the fun of riding out under the stars). Coming back from the village (1.5 miles) is fine – coming back from Bigtown means an hour of quite tense riding when it’s dark.

    On the other hand I can’t afford to spend a fortune on a light, particularly as I’m not commuting so I don’t *have* to ride a lot at night. It’s just a question of balancing the cost against the freedom to have a night in town and not having to dread eight miles of pitch black road on the way home.

    The real problem is that it’s almost impossible to tell in the shop (or over the internet) just how good a light is going to be. I have to say I really didn’t believe that the light would make as much difference as it did. Probably the answer boringly lies somewhere in the middle between visible from space and not particularly visible at all…

  9. Commuterjohn says:

    I have the B&M IQ running off a dynamo set on my city cross bike and they do lay the light down very well, On my return commute from work which happens at around 10pm on a couple of evenings a week part of the ride takes me along some unlit back lanes.
    If it had not been for the B&M IQ there is no way that I could have seen that some low life had gone and stolen the cast iron manhole cover from over a sewer for scrap during the evening. I managed easily to avoid it and continue home safely.
    Unless your commute is on well lit roads I think you must have a light that lights your pathway as well as making you visible to others for safety’s sake.

  10. WOL says:

    They advertise a baseball cap here that has LEDs in the leading edge of the brim. Supposedly bright enough that you can walk your dog at night, see to take out the trash, etc. http://www.gofastandlight.com/LED-Cap-Baseball-Hat-Contains-Lights-in-brim-and-CUB/productinfo/CL-P-CB/?gclid=CPuMwYvk7KsCFcTD7QodR2mHLA
    but I doubt it is bright enough for biking. I have toyed with the idea of getting one, but then the maglight flashlight I use is big enough and sturdy enough to use as a rather effective club.

  11. disgruntled says:

    John – I am seriously interested in a dynamo light, but need to work out the practicality of getting it fitted
    WOL – one of our neighbours has one of those – handy for shutting the chickens away at night but, as you say, probably not good for cycling

  12. Kim says:

    Damn! Above should read:

    You should see my Dinotte 400L Road Rider’s experience, now that is bright…

  13. […] know I’ve already written about this light (and read the comments for some extensive and knowledgeable – not from me, I hasten to add […]

  14. hair loss says:

    hair loss…

    […]Shine A Light « Town Mouse[…]…

  15. […] not the only manufacturer of dynamo lights, merely the one with which I have most experience. Mr Hembrow gives high praise to the new dynamo front lamp manufactured by Philips; the Saferide […]

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