Tuesday 18 March 2014
I am trying to get fit again after a long wet winter of not using my bike and I decided it was time to replace my old halogen bike lights with a modern LED system so we can go out for night time rides after work. My old lighting kit which was made by Cateye had served me well over the years but the nicad batteries no longer held a good charge and the 5W and 15W halogen bulbs gave off a very poor light compared to the current range of LED lights which are a lot smaller and lighter and have a much better battery life.
I looked at a lot of different lighting systems in the local bike shops which cost from £150 to over £300 a set. I found a recommendation on a mountainbike forum for a budget dual LED light from China on ebay called a SolarStorm X2, (also called a Ultra Bright 2x CREE XML U2) which claimed to be a 5000 lumen output system and the cost from ebay was under £25 for the lights, mounts, battery pack and mains charger. The lights have three power settings and a strobe mode.
I ordered two sets of the lights and they arrived after a few days and the first impressions was that the build quality was ok for the price but the mounting bracket which consisted of a plastic bracket and a thick rubber band wouldn’t hold the light still so that had to be replaced.
We removed the clamping brackets from our old Cateye lights and the bolt on the base of the new lights was a M5 bolt which matched the bolts from the Cateye lights so it was an easy swap to upgrade the mounting brackets.
The rear of the lights have three green battery voltage indicator LEDs and these are very bright. We plan to install lower brightness red leds and after removing the cover of the light we found that the LEDs are smaller than any we have in stock so we have ordered new LEDs and will install them later. As a temporary fix we have covered the green LEDs with some insulation tape which still allows enough light through to see the batteries charge level.
Tonight we took the bikes out for a ride around Rempstone Forest near Swanage. This was the first time we had tried the lights outdoors in a dark environment and even with the lights on its low power setting it was bright enough to use on and off the road. With the lights on their highest power setting the light output was very good and gave an even light on the trails and roads.
The video below was filmed on our GoPro Hero 2 camera with the light on its low setting which seemed to cause the GoPro to flicker as it recorded and on the high setting which didn’t have the flickering issues on the GoPro. When the light is on its low and medium setting there isn’t any visible flickering from the light with the PWM dimming circuit.
We used the lights on low power for approx. 20% of the ride and on high for the remaining 80% and on a ride which lasted 1 hour the battery indicators hadn’t dropped down from the full setting.