Category: light

Bike light prices are crazy right now

I received a press release announcing a Black Friday Sale for Outbound Lightning (more about them in another post, but the short of it is I think I like them). I haven’t thought about bike lights in a while because I’m happy with what I have, but it reminds me of a long time rant I’ve had in store for bike lights sold at America’s favorite bike shop.

While writing this post, I’m checking retail prices for brands I trust and I don’t know what to believe anymore. I planned to describe how to tell frauds from the good deals, but the outdoor industry’s bursting bubble makes this more challenging. Maybe you all can help me out.

Let’s look at this “OLIGHT BFL1800 Bike Headlights 1,800 Lumen LED Bike Light“, which seems fairly typical of cheap, copycat products that sell predominantly through Amazon, with a quick reminder that this post contains affiliate links.

Marketing graphic illustrating the OLITE BFL1800 Bike headlight. "Illuminate your cycling adventure. Max output 1800 lumens, max runtime 8.5 hours, max throw 210 meters, battery customized rechargeable battery. Drop test 1 Meter. Water resistant IPX6."

I haven’t tested this light so can’t speak to the claims of battery life, water resistance, “max throw,” and durability. Before the pandemic bike boom, I would’ve dismissed the lumens claim just based on the price of the light — a ludicrously low $67.96 on Amazon at the time I’m typing this. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

Brands I trust such as Light & Motion or NiteRider test the brightness of their lights. When they claim 500 lumens of output, you’ll actually get that level of brightness. Light & Motion in particular puts some attention in their beam pattern as well. I trust them, I trust their claims, I trust their product. I use their lights as the benchmark.

I browse to Light & Motion’s website for the light that’s probably the most equivalent to this Olite thing and hello? L&M’s “VIS 1000 Custom” is only $65? This light is “only” 1000 lumens compared against Olight’s claimed 1800 lumens, but I’m confident in Light & Motion’s claim. We also need to pay attention to the battery life claim, and notice Light & Motion shows battery life when operating at high power, while Olite shows “max runtime” which means low power operation.

Still, we have a very comparable price from two apparently similar bike lights. Is Light & Motion selling inventory at a loss as they pivot to photo and video lights? Or is Olight’s marketing approaching something like the truth?

I found this video from the Torque Test Channel helpfully approachable, and if you buy lights online you might find it helpful too. He explains lumens and brightness and why the claims for many of the handheld lights he’s interested in are so ridiculous.

Affordable conspicuity

Quick Reminder: The last San Jose Bike Train of 2016 rolls on the Winter Solstice, departing Caffe Bel Bacio in San Jose’s Little Italy at 8:15 A.M. on Wednesday, December 21, 2016. Bring a Santa hat for a group photo!

After I warned you off ultra-cheap bicycle lights, Cherokee suggested this inexpensive knock-off of an older Magicshine bike light. I was skeptical, but for only $18 and free shipping I gave it a try.

Communite bright bicycle headlight


Buyer beware on those cheap “super bright” bicycle lights

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.

L2 light

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.


I’d buy the Bontrager Flare R light again, but I can’t

Watch for my tale of woe below, but here’s the TL;DR summary: the Bontrager Flare R tail light is surprisingly bright even in daylight and a good value for the money. It’s especially great for this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere when the sun is low in the sky even at midday. Bontrager accessories are available at your local Trek dealer or order online from

Bontrager Flare R bright bicycle tail light


Lumenous bike jacket with built-in turn signals, brake lights

This teaser video quickly highlights the features of the new products from Lumenous, which promise to enhance night-time visibility with wearable technology without making you look like a complete dork. The commuter jacket communicates with your phone via Bluetooth LE, so it knows when you’re slowing or approaching turns.

Illuminated wearable tech for bicycling a night

The Kickstarter for this project has many more details. Available products to order include a backpack, a performance vest, a commuter jacket, an all weather jacket, and a shell. As of this writing, early bird specials are still available on all of these items.

Fortified theft-resistant lights

If you lock your bike outside with a typical quick-release bike light, you risk losing your light to theft. Way back in 2012, Slava Menn successfully funded his Gotham theft-resistant bike lights after a buddy lost his lights to theft. Since then, Menn started Fortified Bicycle Company to market theft-proof lights and other components to enhance bicycle security.

Fortified locking bicycle lights mounted to bike

Menn sent me his two latest lights — the Fortified Boost Aviator headlight, and the Fortified Boost Afterburner tail light. Like his other lights, they attach to the bike using screws with uncommon heads that a typical component thief (hopefully) doesn’t carry.