My photo
Existentialism-- Just a bloody good excuse to go riding...

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Fenix PD35, 860L on turbo mode: latest addition to my light arsenal
Not even sure why I'm still buying lights... have been putting off night rides almost completely these days. Somehow I always blame it on the lack of having a worthy beam on the lid. Of course it helps too when the price is good ;) got me started thinking tonite of the time where the first proper set of proper lights that sparked off all those night offroad rides. Thought it would be fun to put down and see the ridiculous things I did with the ever insatiable hunger for more lumens through the years...

It wasn't all that long ago when good lights were really not so affordable. How time and LED technology has changed!

Not even winding back to the 90s when the battery for a Nightrider was the size of a water bottle! Anyone remembered those metal halide lights that last like all of 20 mins ;)

Weeks of research and hounding every light-freak riding friends later... I finally pulled the trigger for what was one of the top of "the" lights back then.  Helps that Dinotte was having a sales too.

2 x 200L Dinotte at a time when most people are still slapping those cannnot-make-it Cateye toys on their handlebar. Made me realize how a Ferrari owner feels when cruising past the Toyotas and Hondas.

That left me on a  budget for a helmet light and 35 bucks settled some cheapie 80L LED on the lid.

480L of blinking lumens--  quite a wow when normal folks were squinting with about ~250 total on average that is further bogged down with poor optics making the lights less efficient.

Things worked fine for a while until the cheapo helmet light started getting dimmer and dimmer on the trail....which led to adding on a 180L Ledlensor.

Now I really like this light.. its a lot brighter than it looks and with the magnifying capability... beam can be adjusted easily into a tiny hot spot with good throw to a wide flood beam.

80L cheapo top right and Ledlensor 180L centered
The problem was there is no circuitry to control and it drains juice like crazy....almost dwindle down to nothing if keep on high for 30 mins. Bad investment. Well like I said, really like the beam so I'm KIVing it for now to see if it can be modded somehow. Maybe into a commuter light with a mod batt pack on one of my bike instead...

Back to bar lights for a bit... 400L at a time when me eyes didn't need reading glasses and night vision was still good is sufficient. But with everyone pushing for more... the economical solution was turning to those light-freak DIY friends.

First, I have to painstakingly calculate and draw as with most things on excel (yes yes, those days before I learn to use stuff like Google Sketchup and AutoCad)

Yup, created 100% with all those circles and lines within MS Excel...

Another long process later-- I got my Tomato Canner from Winston... Solid piece of homebrewed work cranking out a blazing 300L. Pop that with the Dinotte pair, I was beaming 700L with the Dino playing left right spots and a flooding Tomato Can in the center.

It's laughable by today's standard of course but it was a central topic in many a post ride beers and coffee session back then.

The great thing about home made custom thingies is you just keep adding or upgrading which was thoughtfully built into the design of the Canner.

With the next new board and LED it got "upsized" into a 560L Double Canner with a spot and beam optic on one of each. All rigged up to a 8xAA rechargeable pack

Most time that's all I run on the bar as the Dinos started to collect dust. But on those show off rides... things can get ridiculous like this...

Ok 960L now.... and multiple stupid heavy juice packs to haul on the frame.

Then came the Cheap Light Revolution. Magic Shines. 900L supernova intensity at a fraction of all the branded likes of Lupine and Seca. I remember it sent everyone into a frenzy. Prices of some lights started dropping  but were no match for the Magical onslaught razing around the world.

El Cheapo me of course wasted no time to plonk one in place and with the combined Canner gave me some blinding bar mounted 1450L. In reality I would say it's more like 1100 though.
Top notch DIYers were cranking out more and more elaborate home brewed specimens with uber blinged out CNC parts with of course ever growing intensity of lumens... remembered reading there was some crazy 5400L that can light up 150 meters in mtbr! Think it was Troutie's.

Then came Magic's downfall with all the exploding batteries and warranty problems. But the LED bike light world had a million clones by then. I was still rocking a first generation MS and got one of these clones as well, Price by which time had dropped to less than half that of the first MShine. Still 900L but with the newer LED it was brighter although of a harsher white when switched on.
what i term as the "Johnny 5" setup

Well it's constantly nagging at the back of my skull that a halo is lacking on top. Most people I rode with simply plugging a Magic shine or equivalent clone on the helmet. It was not uncommon to see somebody with 3 MS.. . almost like an alien landing when they crest over a climb as you stare up from below.

However my pet peeve about having some wire dangled to a juice pack tucked into the backpack made it a point I never ever once mounted one of these bright lights on the head. It's just a no no . Paranoia gets the better of me too.. "What if the wire gets caught in the foliage tangle" or "What if the damn thing explodes", given the issues known.

The whole slew of gram vs lumen started on the head started inside my head as well.. Needed a workable light that is err..light enough. The rational was if need be, just add another of the same later on...  By now the market has a whole line up of of 250-500 Lumen contenders that are all pretty decent. All thanks again to the push in the LED world for better and more efficient diodes.

Eventually settled for the Exposure Spark (which I wrote about earlier) over the Lezyne Superdrive. The no brainer operation of  the switching mode won over the brighter but quirky pressing of the Lez.
I guess the truth is CRC was running a sales on the Exposures back then ;)

Had a few good rides since and despite just having 255 lumen.. this is a quality light. If it was back in the days when my bar had just 2 Dinottes or the Canners-- this would have been a perfect combo. But with >1000L being the norm now, bar mounted lights simply overpower lesser headlights. Especially when people front and back of you are putting out copious amount as well.

So the question is -- if everything is so bright why even bother. Won't the spill from others be enough? Yea but not when under the canopy and you find yourself alone all of a sudden.. it happens a lot with all the twist and turns. You always have to have your own lights no matter what.

Having said, it's hard to understand myself sometimes. Regardless of which stage of increasing light intensity I have been caught up with,.. never once have I switched everything to full blast on a single ride the entire time and I always off everything when coming to a halt/ break. Reckon it will be the same with the latest PD 35... the blazing 860L on turbo mode is probably more to show anyone when sitting down... as opposed to actually  using it while riding.

No comments:

Post a Comment