Note: We purchased this with our own money and have no ties to either DealExtreme or whatever no-name Chinese factory produces this light. We just think it kicks ass and the more cyclists with bright and visible headlights the better.
In a post earlier this month we referenced a “OMFGIT’SBURNINGMYRETINAS handlebar light”, and I figured that we should finally get around to giving a quick review on it, and why any person on a bike after dark should have one. Shortly after that post was written my wife and I were stopped by the cops while riding home from an event in Madison, and the cop just wanted to know where we got the lights since those were the best and brightest that he’d ever seen on a road/commuting bike.
Bicycle lights have two purposes, to be seen and to see. The first is mandated by law, the second is common sense. To get something that can be seen from the legally required 500′ away is pretty easy, as almost any cheap single-LED light can accomplish it. Manufacturers have been selling cheaper “commuting” lights for some time, usually in the $35 range and consisting of anywhere from 1-5 lower-end LEDs. The “seeing” part is a whole different story, with bicycle lights getting more and more powerful as different iterations of LEDs and more powerful battery packs become commonplace. The mountain biking community has long demanded amazingly-bright lights for riding in the dark and rechargeable batteries that can last for hours. Up until now, however, those have been *frightfully* expensive. Li-Ion (rechargeable) batteries aren’t cheap and neither are some of the higher-end LED “bulbs”. When those are sold at retail they are prohibitively expensive for just a normal bike commuter, and often more than you paid for your actual bicycle (For example, the Light & Motion SECA 800, $499).
What about those of us who don’t want to pay the exorbitant costs of a high-end mountain bike light but still want to see and be seen? Well, this little light that we found on a Hong Kong website might just be the answer. (NOTE!! Deal Extreme had some malware dropped on it on 5/29, so I’m cancelling the links. The item referenced is the P7 headlight) Deal Extreme sells unbranded, off-the-shelf merchandise from factories in China, and so while shipping is free you might have to wait a bit to get your merchandise. They do have a US warehouse for some items that cuts the shipping time down to less than a week (usually), but otherwise be prepared to wait a while… One of our orders took ~3 weeks to arrive from HK, so just keep that in mind when you’re making your decision.
Overall the light is a handlebar mounted (or helmet mounted) light with a separate rechargeable Li-Ion battery pack. Here it is along with the Planet Bike Beamer-5, a 5 LED handlebar mounted light that runs off of 2 AA batteries and sells for $35. NOTE: We added in the comparison of a few lights that we have here to give a bit of comparison to other lights that are currently available. This isn’t a “lights shootout” by any means, and some of the competitors might not even be available anymore.
The P7′s mount isn’t the best, and its rubber O-ring can be chewed through in no time by a determined house cat if he’s anything like one of ours who just LOVES to chew on rubber/tape/cardboard boxes/etc. When it’s on the bike, however, it mostly holds it in position although it does have a tendency to “walk” its way up a bit. A better mount for a 31.8 handlebar would be great, as would a bit of non-slip material on the plastic underside of the lamp. Those are easy enough fixes by the end-user, though… one of ours is ziptied *tight* to the handlebar (see previous “cat chewing through the O-ring comment”), and the other has a small bit of rubber that holds it in place. I wouldn’t want to use this while mtn biking, but it works fine for commuting.
The light has 3 settings, high, low and “seizure” where it flashes at the high setting several times per second. I’m a fan of lower-level lights being able to flash, as it’s more visible to drivers and pedestrians, but when it’s this bright it’s utterly useless. If they had it set to flash at the “low” setting it might not be that bad, but it’s disorienting and distracting in this case and I’m talking about for the rider… It’s probably 10x worse for any drivers who happen to see it.
Now to the brightness test. We set these up in a dark basement 15 feet away from a white wall, and took pictures at the same shutter speed / aperture so you can get an idea of the difference in brightness (camera setting was: Shutter – 1sec, Aperture – f5.6, ISO – 100). First up is the Beamer 5. If you look closely, you can see the differentiation between the LEDs and one of my cat “helpers” in the picture:
Next up is the P7 on it’s “low” setting:
Already you can see it having a brighter and more diffused light pattern. However, the biggest difference is when it’s on it’s OMFGIT’SBURNINGMYRETINAS “high” setting:
Suddenly everything is lit up. What’s amazing is that this doesn’t even do it justice. When both lights are pointed at the ground ~15′ in front of the bike, the P7 does such a great job of lighting it up that motorists notice the large patch of well-lit ground as opposed to a smaller LED that has to literally be shining into their eyes for them to see it. It’s incredible.
The best thing about it, however, is that it’s only $47 with free shipping. It’s a light priced closer to the commuter-style lights, but it’s bright enough to utterly blow any of them out of the water. If you’re willing to pay $35 for a halfway decent commuting headlamp, I *highly* suggest paying another $12 and picking one of these up. The rechargeable Li-Ion battery saves money in the long run over buying multiple AA batteries, and motorists appreciate highly visible cyclists (I’ve found that the more visible you are, the nicer motorists are). It illuminates walkers, joggers, dogs off of leashes (found that out from personal experience), potholes, and so on. Just be aware that it is *really* bright, and try to keep it pointed at the ground in front of you instead of pointed horizontally. Drivers, joggers, walkers and dogs-off-of-leashes will thank you.
(NOTE!! Deal Extreme had some malware dropped on it on 5/29, so I’m cancelling the links. The item referenced is the P7 headlight)
1) It ships from HK, unless it becomes available from their US warehouse. It’ll take a while to arrive.
2) While it claims that it’s ‘waterproof’, I *highly* doubt it. The battery in particular isn’t encased in plastic, so either waterproof it yourself or don’t use it when it’s pouring.
3) It also claims to be 900 lumens, there is definitely some doubt as to whether it’s actually putting out that amount of light. It’s not a bother to us since it’s definitely bright enough for our use, but it’s something to keep in mind.