After the recent night ride fiasco, I resolved to get myself some better lighting. And with an upcoming weekend tour planned, in which there was a good chance of some nighttime riding, the need was rather urgent.
Still, I couldn’t quite persuade myself to drop $100+ on a bike-specific lighting system.
Browsing the selection at my local Wal-Mart (yah, big spender), I came across some Coleman flashlights and headlamps. I don’t expect that these are bleeding-edge state-of-the-art lights, but they looked pretty solid, and weren’t too pricey.
I bought a Coleman 3AAA LED Headlamp for about $25, thinking that it could replace the anemic Energizer headlamp I had been using.
The Coleman light uses three AAA batteries (it comes with Alkaline cells, but I bought some rechargeables as well) contained within a cylindrical plastic case about the size and shape of an old 35mm film cannister, with LEDs on one side, the battery compartment on the other, and a rotating mode selector switch on one end. The case snaps onto a plastic holder with elastic headband.
The lamp uses three LEDs, a white CREE Xlamp XR-E LED for the main light, and two 5mm red LEDs for “enhanced night vision”. I’m not sure if the red LEDs are worth much, but the white LED is very bright. The packaging lists it as 105 lumens, with a throw of 58 meters. The Coleman web site lists the brightness as 55 lumens. Not sure why the discrepancy, or which one is correct, but regardless, it’s darn bright, at least compared to my old lights.
The size and shape of the light worked out well with my helmet (a Bell Aquila). I was able to mount the lamp just under the visor, with the lamp’s headband stretched around the back of the helmet. This, by itself, was fairly secure, but I added a rubber band (made out of an old inner tube) to make the connection between the lamp and visor even more secure. Time will tell, but it looks pretty solid.
The weight of the lamp is noticeable, but not too objectionable. If it gets to be too much, I can unclip the lamp from it’s holder, leaving only the holder and headband in place.
One minor complaint: The rotatable mode switch is kind of hard to operate with the light tucked up under the helmet visor. Given that I shouldn’t have to be making many on-the-fly adjustments, it should be fine.
So how’s it work?
I haven’t ridden with it yet, but in some quick tests, I’m rather impressed. Walking outside on a dark night, the beam carries a good distance, and the beam is fairly tight.
The following photos were taken in a semi-dark garage, at a distance of about 10 feet:
The left photo shows the Energizer headlamp on the left and the Coleman headlamp on the right. No contest.
The right photo shows the Cateye HL-EL300 on the left and the Coleman headlamp on the right. Closer, but the Coleman’s beam is clearly brighter and more focused.
I haven’t taken photos to prove it, but at longer distances the differences are even more stark.
Now to give the new light a go in real-world conditions…
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The reason for the discrepancy on the Lumen is due to the older model having 55 Lumen Cree for a 6 hour Max battery life, (which I don’t find to be very accurate, more like 3 hours, then it shuts off) and 2 white LEDs for a supposedly 25 hour battery life.
The 105 lumen model you referenced, looks the same as the old model except the two white LEDs have been replaced by 2 Red Leds and instead of having only 3 positions on the side switch, it now has 4 positions, apparently it’s a hi-low for the cree and one position for the red, then the off position, the new one says 6 hours max for the Cree as well, but at twice the previous lumen than the older model, unless it’s a Q5 generation Cree, I can’t see how it averages the same battery life unless they’re referencing the low mode for 6 hours, (at aprox 55 lumen) and 2.5 for the 105lumen high mode.
The other difference is the 105 lumen model says MAX LED vice the words LED performance on the same right hand facing position on the upper shell of the top half.
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