I have always purchased bicycle lights from well-known, recognized brands, and over about the past decade I’ve favored American brands such as Nite Rider (based in San Diego) and Light and Motion (which does manufacturing outside of Monterey, California).
Made-In-America from an established brand with a reputation for quality translates into a premium price, and to be honest, I’ve been disappointed in the operational lifespan of these lights. Every light I’ve bought from Light & Motion and Nite Rider (and I’ve bought a couple of dozen) breaks or fails not long after the warranty period expires. Either the mounting hardware falls apart, or the the light itself just stops working. The only light on my bicycle that hasn’t fallen apart yet is the Bontrager Flare R, which still works great and which I still love.
If I pay $120 or more for a bike light, I would kind of like if it lasted more than a couple of years. I’ve always been suspicious of no-brand Chinese-designed lights, but they’re beginning to look a little more attractive. To see how these cheap lights compare against these lights from American companies, I bought this Super Bright L2 Bike Light USB Rechargeable Waterproof Bicycle Headlight.
The Amazon product reviews are universally four and five star so I expect at least a thousand lumens from this light. I charge it up, go for a night ride, and it’s perhaps half the brightness of my Light & Motion Urban 800, which tests at 801 lumens. If I expect 1200 lumens, I’m extremely disappointed when I only see 400 lumens.
Check the specs.
The product description suggests the “10W CREE LED Light that can provide up to 1200 Lumen” of eye-searing brightness. One person told me this light “turns night into day.” The production specification doesn’t specifically mention the model, but it’s probably reasonable to infer that it’s the XM-L2.
If I bothered the read the product specs on Amazon, I should have suspected the 1200 lumen claim can’t be true. The light comes with a smallish 2000 mAH battery. For the Cree XM-L2 to generate a full 1198 lumens, you need to drive 3 amps into that sucker. That’s like telling me your 2016 Dodge Charger SXT with a 3.6 liter V6 can generate 300 horses even though you’ve blocked the fuel line and air intake.
It’s not a horrible light for the price, but it’s also not the light I expected. The handlebar quick-release mount seems reasonably robust, surviving six bus trips so far. It has a unique touch switch that can’t be accidentally activated as it jostles inside of a backpack. 400 lumens is certainly sufficient for use on dark paths and in city traffic. An light with equivalent brightness from the likes of Light & Motion retails for around $50. If it lasts at least two years, I’ll consider this cheap light a decent deal for the price in spite of the blatantly false advertising.
Why the great reviews?
I have a feeling most purchasers aren’t accustomed to using high-lumen lights. While I waited for my bus a few nights ago a random guy rolled up on his well-used bike. He had those cheap five-dollar gas station flash lights taped to the hubs of his wheels, so that the lights spun with the rotation of his wheels. I mentioned how clever I thought his solution was, and he proceeded to very enthusiastically talk about the awesome brightness of his flashlights.
I nodded and smiled, but those lights aren’t bright. I picture somebody who’s accustomed to using these flashlights or maybe the cheapest Cateye or Planet Bike blinkies will be blown away with a couple of hundred lumens.
I also ordered this “Comunite 1200 Lumens Super Bright CREE XML T6 LED Rechargeable Waterproof Mountain Bike Headlight Bicycle Headlamp Flashlight with 5200mah Battery Pack. It’s the same LED as the “Super Bright L2” etc bike light, but this Comunite comes with a larger 5200mAH battery, so I’ll try it out and let you know how it goes. I didn’t initially buy this lamp because I don’t like external battery packs that require their own, proprietary chargers but a person I trust suggested I try it out. I’ll let you know how it goes.