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Illumination: Bike Lights pt1

Illumination: Bike Lights pt1

Billy Thackray Billy Thackray

Part one of a quick round up of what lights we’ve been using this year.

It’s getting dark out there. Darker still in the woods. But lack of sunbeams shouldn’t put you off riding your bicycle. Invest in a set of lights and you can ride all Winter on your favourite trails.

We’ve got a local group of midweek warriors here at DirtHQ who go out a couple of times a week for a night time spin. The riding we do here is mainly two to three minute downhills with 30 to 40 minute climbs and usually only go out for about three hours. We reckon you need at least 1000 lumens on your bars and at 1000 lumens on your lid for best results.

Here’s what a couple of the local warriors have been running this year:

Ay Up

$420.00 AUD
Approx £269.81 GBP


Words: Nobby

I’ve been using these for a year now in all conditions and temperatures and they really are a “buy, fit and forget” set of lights. I use exactly the same set up on the helmet as on the bars (battery and all) which speaks wonders for the lightweight overall design. Everything that I have needed is included in the pack, even a larger battery but with the typical “Wednesday nighter” rarely more than 3 hours the regular battery packs have been perfect. In fact I rarely take them off even on a daytime trip into the woods. I love the individual adjustment on each light meaning you can fine tune exactly where you need to see – but on the flip side it may take a few minutes to get them set up just right for you.

Conclusion :- Beautifully engineered, bright, lightweight lights in a comprehensive kit that should last for many years – highly recommended.

Cree XM-L Lights from Deal Extreme

900-1200 Lumen

Words: Jeffsey

If you’re like me and have a very small budget to spent on lights but really want to carry on riding through the winter, you won’t go far wrong blowing your cash on the Cree XM-L.

It’s supplied with all the usual stuff: handle bar and helmet mounts and it is very robust and waterproof light. The manufactures say it pushes out around 1200 lumens, but seeing some of the other top quality lights out there I would say more like 900 to 1000 which still lights up the trails giving you good visibility with a combination of spot and flood beam pattern.
It’s quick and easy to attach with a choice of two sizes of O-ring supplied and the battery which fits snugly to the frame. It’s also easy to switch on and off by way of the tail cap on the back of the light unit giving you three modes Hi, Mid and Strobe.

The li-ion battery takes about 4-5 hours to charge which gives me about 3 hours of ride time on Hi and forever on the Mid setting which is ideal for riding home from the pub.

I’ve been running this light for the last couple of years and it’s taken a fair hammering but as yet I haven’t had any major issue with it so far. So if you’re looking for a cheap alternative you can’t go far wrong with this one.

Homemade Lights.

Words: Ian

The idea to build these lights happened about 5/6 years ago.
My old halogen lights did not seem bright enough and they had a heavy lead acid battery that weighed the same a as small child and lasted approx 1hr. At the time LED lights had just started to be produced by Exposure and Hope etc. However the were very expensive, the other alternative High-intensity discharge (HID) lights were just as expensive as LEDs and also had fragile and expensive bulbs.

After some digging around on the Internet I found some info on how to order and build yourself some LED lights. We basically copied someone else’s design in terms of aluminium housing and heat sinking the LEDs. As the parts (i.e. LEDs Cree R2s, drivers and LED lenses) had to come from Australia two other friends (Steve and Cpt Hardcore) also joined in to share postage costs and to help build the lights.

I built one helmet light and one bar light. The bar light uses a Lumnicycle mount, and a simple waterproof on/off switch whilst the helmet light attaches with Velcro and uses a dial (variable resistor) to alter the brightness. This saves having to go through multiple modes (low, med/high/strobe etc.). I don’t know why more manufactures do this.

We soldered up the LEDs to the drivers and switches, used thermal paste to glue the LEDs to a heat sink inside the housing. Each light has 2 LEDs. I can swap over the lenses to have either flood, spot or a mixture of both.

The theoretical Lumen rating for a single CREE XPE R2 LED is about 250. So each light (i.e. 2 LEDs) has approx 500 lumens. So having 1000 lumens 5 or 6 years ago that was pretty good.

In total each light cost approx £40. This was far cheaper than the equivalent LED lights you could buy at the time, but had lower spec/older LEDs in.

The lights still work well now and will be used again this winter. If I was doing this again, I would do like a lot of people and buy some fairly cheap lights from China, but it was a good project to do and it was a proud moment the first time we switched the lights and they did not catch fire.

Exposure MaXx-D and Gemini Xera.

Exposure MaXx-D 960 lumens www.exposurelights.com

Gemini Xera 800 lumen £129.00 www.i-ride.co.uk/gemini_lights

Words: Barry

I’ve been running the 960 lumen MaXx D Exposure lamp on the bars for a few years. They were a bit pricey £300 ish I think. But they give a good beam pattern and I love the simplicity of the stand alone unit, ie no remote battery, and at 295g not too heavy either. An easy quick release clamp secures the light to the bar, good if you need to unclip it and have a shine about the woods for bears and stuff. Three beam modes which you cycle through with a water proof switch on the back. 3 hours on full beam is plenty, I only use that for the descents and switch to mid or low for the climbs. Also being a British company the back up service is great. I once zapped it with the jetwasher good and proper, sent it back to the lads at Exposure and they had it fixed and returned in a day or two.

Had this Gemini Lights Xera lamp for about a year now and it’s quite a neat compact unit. Two cell battery and lamp weigh 185g so not too hefty sat on top of your lid. 4 modes, which is sometimes a faff clicking through, I really just need Hi for descending and Lo for climbing/tracking along. Comes with all the usually rubber o-ring mounts, though the helmet mount sits too high for me so I prefer to gaffer tape it on to keep it out of the way of low hanging branches, though that does make aiming it a bit hit and hiss. 800 lumens is okay when I’m out on my own but with the Wednesday crew hurtling down the trail behind me I can get out shone. But all in all I do like the miniature nature of this lamp.

  1. Tom

    30 quid china specials all the way! Mine are great. How can companies justify a £300 pricetag on something that does the same thing?

    1. Cyrus

      Well Tom, I guess companies can justify £300 because they don’t do the same thing. A Hope or Exposure light charger won’t blow up in your face or set fire to your house. The design won’t be a cheap rip off of another company’s, they won’t be taking manufacturing jobs away the UK. And on the most part they won’t randomly fail on you. Your rhetorical question is like asking how Ferrari can justify £200k for a car when you can buy a Kia for £6k, they’re both cars right?

      1. Tom

        £30 bike lights aren’t really in the same league as cars are they… Anyway, at £30 I could afford to buy a set every year for a whole decade, without having to worry! (my CREE china specials have lasted 3 years so far as it happens)
        IMO £300 lights are for suckers.

  2. tea leaves

    Those DIY lights are great! How about a how to build tutorial eh Dirt? That would be grand.

  3. Ben

    Just got me a Philips Saferide http://www.philips.co.uk/c/Bicycle%20bulbs/saferide-80-lux-bf48l20balx1/prd/ not sexy looking but pumps out a great beam (not blinding for drivers) maybe a bit low for off road (low hanging branches) but superb for dark lanes and open trails.

  4. sam2442

    Home built triple xpg array based setup.

  5. Eoin

    I love my regular exposure joystick on the helmet. No external battery or cables, very light and enough capacity for 3hrs on full. Not the brightest, but has served me well for 3 years on it’s own. Might get some china lights for the handlebars now that they are so cheap and hopefully reliable.

  6. Rob C

    If you’re using roads as part of your nightride then I strongly recommend a Lezyne microdrive rear light. Reasonably priced, robust and bright enough for country lanes

    I’m using an oldish Lumicycle halogen light with bottle battery. Does the job

  7. Nathan

    Exposure lights all the way for me. Great products: very bright, very light, secure attachments and customer service is brilliant.

    I run a MaXx-D on the bars and a Diablo on me bonce and it’s like riding during the day!

  8. ddmonkey

    Wow, deal extreme indeed, ordered one straight away for $44 you can’t go wrong!

  9. Martin Francis

    Is there any way to attach the Cree XM-L Lights to you helmet?

    1. LemonadeMoney

      They attach to my Xen no problem. The O ring that comes with it loops around a bridge between two vents for a secure fix, although I bought an extension lead from Deal Extreme, as the lead wasn’t quite long enough to comfortably reach the battery sitting in the top pocket of my Camelbak. Haven’t tried fixing the battery to the helmet tho. Get the light with the 3 modes, not the 5 modes.
      I haven’t done it, but Deal Extreme sell small torches with the same bulb, and it may be possible to use this with one of their universal mounts to get a helmet set up without leads.

  10. Andy

    Those LED torch light from China are the best CREE. Very cheap, really light, mega bright, no wires etc. If they ever run out you can just pop another battery in. You can get them off Ebay for about £35 as someone else said.

  11. onion

    china lights all the way. My mate’s got some and it makes my me look like a right pillock with my more expensive, less powerful Hopes. Sorry Hope.

  12. tarquin

    Wow, geeking out on lights, ripping some hand cut tracks for free and some good hard bummin with the boys in the woods, this sounds like fun

    1. billy
  13. tarquin

    BUCA me Billy….


    Dont care what anyone says about the cheap Chinese stuff, same parts, same builds 1/10th of the price. Bought them in bulk for me and my friends. Tested it completely waterproof, aluminium casing dissipates heat perfectly and the batteries are waterproofing too. and battery life is amazing. And just to make a point Hope etc order all the internals for their products from china.Same stuff different label.


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