The most important item on your bike at night are your lights and this is an often talked subject on night rides. Thanks to the internet, lights are very accessible to every one with a small or a large budget. The requirements for road riders and MTB riders are different, I am far for being an expert but would like to chair my experience with other hopping this will be a little help to guide you through the confusing world of bike lights for MTB night ridding.
For what it is worth, here is my own experience.
In my early days, I used cheap flashlights-torches putting out a decreasing 200/300 lumens for just a little more than an hour on full power. You had to seriously monitor your usage as the output did drop quickly, of course much more expensive lights with better output were available, but being new to all this, I could not see the point of spending hundreds of pounds on dedicated high power cycling lights.
As I went on riding and Chinese lights like the Solarstorm X2 started to appear on ebay for an affordable price, I got myself a set. This did transform my night time riding experience.
I soon realise that cycling in the forest with a single bar light was a bad idea, specially with a cheap one. I was advised to get another one for my helmet. This does allow you to look around corners and spot hazard on the trail. Also if one battery or light decided to give up, you would not be plunged into darkness. I got another couple sets from ebay, but the cheap ebay experience did not go entirely smoothly. Out of 3 ebay lights I purchased, the 1st one was fine, the second one was a terribly made copy of a Solarstorm X2 which went back for a refund and the 3rd one the battery lasted 30mn , this was exchanged by the seller. Later one, of the battery pack started to smoke and was disposed of promptly and one of the battery charger packed up within 6 months. I tried also some Yinding YD cheap Chinese copy of the Gemini lights which in my mind were not better than the Solarstorm X2 despite the fact they cost more.
I found all of them to have weak battery pack and not good heat dispersion with no heat management system causing the light output to decrease quickly. So I started looking for a decent battery pack to improve the Solarstorm X2 light head. I came across the Fluxient range and got myself a good battery which did cost me nearly as much as what I paid for the Solarstorm X2. With it, the output was more steady with a better run time.
There is no doubt that lights like the Solarstorm X2 and others similar lights are very good value for money and will do a similar job as expensive branded lights. There is a huge number of riders who swear by these type of cheap ebay lights, some having more success than others, but once you start talking to them or follow forums, you soon discover, that they don’t last very long, first thing to pack up are usually the battery pack and or the charger, so you end up buying another light or a decent battery or a charger with an end result of making your cheap light no so cheap in the long run!
Solarstorm X2 do vary a lot in price and range from £12.99 to £34.50, Output advertised are between 1500 to 8000 lumens 🙂 All I can say is do not believe the massively inflated output, the TRUE LUMEN OUTPUT of the Solarstorm X2 is around 1000 to 1200 lumens according the model of Cree LED used but the output decrease very quickly as the light has no heat management system. It will pay off to switch the light to low mode when you stop moving. Go for the XML-U2 instead of the T6. BEWARE, fake SOLARSTORM X2 are being sold, yes the Chinese even fake there own cheap lights!
After quite a few years riding trails with my Solarstorm lights, I was given the chance to review a bike light from a well established reputable Chinese light manufacturer Fenix. Their BC30 bike light was a mid price bar type twin LED bike light design for cycling and at the time was a great purchase.
I liked the experience of ridding with it, the light was better made, had a better beam, better fittings and behaved differently to the cheap ones so I started looking for a quality dual LED lights that could replace my Solarstorm X2 for a better lighting experience.
After extensive research via MTB forums and reviews, in December 2015,I bought myself one of the best high quality light on the market: the Gloworm X2. I was blown away by the difference between the usability of my new Gloworm X2. The GW X2 rated at 1500 lumens had no doubt more output that my old SS X2 which was advertised with similar or higher output. In short, the GW light had a better beam, a better tint, better run time, better battery, a lower profile, a very useful remote switch, a more secure attachment for the light and battery and was programmable to my own requirements. The light experience was just a lot better, but of course you had to pay quite a lot more for all this.
A couple of years ago, I was contacted by a new Chinese bike light company: ITUO, they had read some of my flashlight and bike light reviews and were looking for a few reviewers world wide for their new range of lights. So, I jumped to the chance of trying something new. With others, we have tested their lights off road or on road and have send them feedback on our experience and they have modified their lights from some of our recommendations.
Their slogan is: Reliable affordable performance bike lights.
Their reliability is only two years old, but from what I and other reviewers have experienced, their products do match their slogan!
And they listen and act on what the cycling community has got to say on their lights.
One of their last product is the XP2 a direct competitor to the Gloworm X2 that I so much love.
For me, the Ituo XP2 is a better option due to the lower price, first class heat management system and removable remote switch, the UK price is £134 for the Ituo XP2 against £179.99 for the Gloworm X2. (Nov 2016)
I do get ask sometime what light would you recommend?
This is based on my own experience:
The Solarstorm X2 for the price is a good but basic cheap light as long as you get a genuine light as copies are being sold on ebay ( you can not tell them apart unless you have a look inside them), so my recommendation is if you want to buy one, get it from a UK reputable dealer.
If your budget can stretch further, have a look to the ITUO range, great value as you are getting purposed made high quality and a high tech bike lights for what is still a reasonable price.
Don’t forget if a light is very cheap, there is generally good reasons for this!
It is more than likely a copy of an existing one or one badly designed which had been thrown together with cheap material and with no quality control in some sweat shop. Now I am not saying, don’t buy any of the cheap ebay ones, but I will say be very careful and don’t write off all the other lights!
Some of the more expensive lights have a lot more to offer you!
Lights are like bikes, you can have as much fun in the forest with a cheap Halfords bike or a expensive branded ones, but your ridding experience will be different and it is the same with lights!
Luc, MTB 2b night ride leader
Brightbikelights are the UK distributor of the ITUO range and have kindly offered for our club a 5% discount on the Ituo range after, I allowed them to use photos from my ITUO WIZ20 review. The code is “SEAHAVEN”