A Spectrum Of Lights: The Amazon Lights – by Grannygear
The Amazon specials: Lights for cheap.
So we have looked at a few samples of 1000L-ish Lumen lights to see how they worked for moderately demanding night riding on road and gravel, all of them from established brands. But a causal search of Amazon for bike lights will show a huuuuge availability of lights…small to large…pretty much all from China, and at reduced prices compared to the mainstream brands. Like really reduced.
I paid $21.00 for one and $32.00 for the other. And that was for two lights, both rated at a claimed 1000L or 1200L. And the $21.00 price was the 1200L one! That is dirt cheap, but are they dirt worthy? Are they, at the heart of it all, more than cheap toys or unreliable junk? Well, I cannot say for all the various lights on Amazon, but the cheaper one of this pair of lights has over 3700 reviews on Amazon, so someone is buying these things.
The ones I picked, the Burning Sun 1000L light and the Wastou light, seemed to represent the lights commonly bought. Both of these had mostly positive reviews and feedback. I realize that covering all the Amazon based lights would be unrealistic. Hopefully I chose wisely. So off we go. Can we find value in spending less than 50 bucks…much less, actually…for a high power bike light to be used for seeing at night in difficult conditions?
Light Number One: “Wastou Bike Lights, Super Bright Bike Front Light 1200 Lumen, IPX6 Waterproof 6 Modes Cycling Light Flashlight Torch with USB Rechargeable Tail Light(USB Cable Included)“
When I opened the box this came in, I thought “Toy!”, not bike light. At least not for serious night riding. It is quite small, fitting into a closed hand and it weighs hardly anything. It has a mount that is a small half round plastic piece with hooks for a ‘rubber band’ to secure it to the bars. This is not the best way for a heavy light, but it is fine for this one as it weighs so little. It includes a taillight as well, but I never used it.
The IPX6 rating is described as follows: • IPX6: Can resist high-pressure, heavy sprays of water. The light seems to be sealed in the assembly points, but the plug that covers the USB charging port will not stay closed so basically the IPX6 rating seems doubtful at best.
The modes are actually pretty well thought out with one glaring exception. They are High-Medium-Low and Off. Yes. I said Off. The static modes actually include OFF in the rotation so that going from Low to High again actually turns the light off until you press the button again. Not good. I never want my light to turn completely off when riding. There are flashy modes as well that you enter with a double-click button press and there are also battery status LEDs on the top of the light.
The beam pattern is a center weighed spot with a rather square, dimmer, ‘frame’ around the center spot. It is not a terrible pattern but it is not very smooth with a lot of fall-off from center. iI is also not even close to 1200L IMO. Based on the other lights in the test, and comparing them mode to mode for perceived light output, I would say it’s more like 500L. The light temperature is a bit on the blue side. It’s not too bad, but it is not a warm color light.
They say in the features part of the Amazon content, that the light will run “At least 2 hours in STRONG mode”. There is no way that this light would run at the claimed 1200L for two hours with what must be a pretty tiny battery. As well, if this light were 1200L it would generate a lot of heat and this light is all plastic as far as the case goes. The webpage for this light says the material the case is made from is “aluminum”. Not sure what part that is exactly.
At The Finish: Is it a gravel bike rated light? Well I would say this- It is quite cheap at 20 bucks or so. The mount is not horrible considering what it needs to support. The button is easy to press and the modes make sense…well, almost. That rotation through Off mode is not so great. But the light level is a bit low for serious riding at night. Still, it could work for you.
Is it junk? Well it still operates, so it has not broken (yet), but honestly it has been used mostly by me as a small flashlight. Hardly a real test of how it would live on a bike handlebar with impacts and dirt and heat and cold and water. However I would not trust it as my main light for going too far from civilization. I would make a cool light to keep in a bag (although the button is not protected against accidental use) or just on the bars for those every so often rides where the day goes a bit long.
Basically, it’s a good light for riding bike paths, etc. It would be great for small kids as it is easy for them to use and would be bright enough to work at the speeds at which they they would be riding their bikes. It they break it or lose it, it’s not a great loss. I am not using it anymore, but my wife liked it on the last camping trip as a flashlight.
Light Number Two: What does another 10 dollars get you? Well, it gets you the: “BurningSun Bike Light Set 5 Mode 1000 Lumens Super Bright 360 Degree Rotatable IP65 Waterproof USB Rechargeable Bicycle Headlight Front and Taillight Rear Back Light Cycling Riding Lamp LED Flashlight “.
BurningSun. Cool name! Nothing subtle about that. IP65 is described as this: • IP65 Enclosure – IP rated as “dust tight” and protected against water projected from a nozzle. So that seems about right for bike mounted use. I would expect that claimed rating, but what I did not expect was how well made this light seems to be.
First off, it’s heavy. Like twice what some of the other lights weigh. And it looks like there would be two batteries in there to go along with the dual LEDs. And this is all metal too and the case is nicely finished. The charging port plug actually seals back up after use. The clamp is beef and is tough enough to support the light. There are screws holding the front and rear ends of the light together, just like a 100+ dollar light. If I handed you this light and asked you what it cost, I bet you would not say 30 bucks. It looks and feels really nice. Not a toy.
But how does it work? You know, this is not bad at all. It is quite bright, although the beam pattern has some artifacts in it with a ring around the center hot spot that is noticeable. Still it’s very rideable. It is a bit on the cool side temp wise.
The modes rotate through Low-Med-High-Flash 1-Flash 2- Off. Yes, Off. Drat that! Initial turn on is to Low mode. As well, a long press and hold on the power button will power it off. Those long mode choices are a big negative for me, but that it not unusable, even for more costly lights.
Some other notes: The battery status LEDs are a bit too bright and that is annoying in the dark. As well, the power button is not the status light and it is NOT backlit, so where most lights have the power button illuminated, this one does not.
I do not know about reliability (and that goes for ALL the lights in the test) as I would want to use it for at least one season with many, many charging cycles, etc. But yes, I could use this as a full time gravel bike light. I could. But I will not because I have better lights I like more with smoother beam patterns and less weight and better mode routines. But it’s only 30 dollars. And it comes with a taillight. And a pretty serious clamp. And a card thanking me for buying it with warranty contact info on it.
And it got me thinking that, with some refinement, this could be a serious contender for someone’s limited pocket book. As it is, it’s still a reasonable gamble and I bet a lot of folks would be pleased with this as a full on night ride light.
At The Finish: The take away here is Amazon shopping for night riding lights, based on my rather limited samples, seem to range from Toy to Pretty Good. How one knows which is which and how the long term results will be and how responsive the vendor will be to any issues that arise is hard to say.
I don’t think you can trust the marketing statements for Lumen and performance and ruggedness, etc., that you read in the descriptions. It’s just too easy for some Chinese factory or seller to make claims that are not based in reality. What are you going to do about it?
But cost is always a factor in any purchase. Many folks simply do not see the value in spending 100 dollars and up on a bike light so they are well served with options like these. Others are on a tight budget and this lower expense makes if possible to night ride on a tight purse.
But Wait! There’s More! Now that we have accomplished some of what I set out to discover, I am not done with lights. No,not yet. I have been spending some more money. And the next light steps up the Lumen and the complexity (and the tunability) a bit more for not a lot more money than the mainstream lights I tested. That one is next and then I will be looking into at least two more lights, both more costly, both with unique features that just might make the others off-the-back.
We shall see. Stay tuned. Meanwhile, go riding. No need to fear the darkness anymore.