I've been looking for a good solution for lighting during night rides. Choices abound, and lumens are not a reliable way to judge brightness. Furthermore, reviews are pretty difficult. One person says they ride at night all winter, and they have some little flashlight they use. Only to realize that they are riding on city streets and the winter temps don't drop below 40F.
Pretty different if you are riding in 10F with ice and snow on unlit roads.
Or if you are riding in those conditions on singletrack.
If you want just a quick way to go, I would go with the knog microchip. For $50, you get a bright light, in a compact format, that works for nighttime commuting. Or a cygolite 600, also for about $50. These are widely available and so can be purchased from a local bike shop (preferable) or online, and likely returned if not functioning
Another way to go is what I did: tape your backpacking headlamp to your helmet.
Having found that I want something on my handlebars for the winter, I entered research mode again for something that was better and cheaper.
I have been looking at buying lights straight from China. "OH! C'mon don't buy those cheap chinese crap lights!" you might say. Pretty much everything is made in China, cheap, middle, and high-quality.
The question is figuring out:
1) what you need
2) how to identify what you need
What kind of bikes lights do I need?
Brighter. Let's not over complicate it with mountain biking at night. Let's say commuting brightness, but my commuting at night is mostly not well-lit roads, and in the winter there is uneven, unexpected pavement...so maybe it has a tiny portion of the elements of mountain biking at night.
What do I want?
I am looking for either a cheap light that performs, or a multipurpose light for potentially more money.
I want a mount that is reliable
I want USB rechargeable
How to identify what you need?
*Lumens are out. They might provide somewhat of a measure if comparing within a company, but they are all over the place when you are reading reviews, or between manufacturers.
If you can find a site that has controlled reviews, then I guess, like candlepowerforums.
*I would check the emitter used. These tend to be pretty standard. Q5 is a bright emitter, but I'm looking at Cree XML T6 or maybe U2.
*The other thing you can look at is power. How many watts does the unit use? How is it powered? They do not make a super bright light that runs on a AAA battery. If you find something running a 14650, or off a powerbank, you can pretty reliably say it is brighter than a AA battery or a 14500 cell. Not 100%, but on average.
My potential solutions:
1) a AA small flashlight mounted to the handlebars with this mount. This mount looks sturdy, adapatable, and if it fails, I can replace just the mount and not have to get a completely new light. Problem is: the Q5 emitter is not bright enough for me and the mount stripped the first time I tried to use it. $3 for the light $5 for the mount. Failure. But even in that failure, I still ended up with a good AA flashlight for home, EDC, even backup backpacking use.
2) a commuter light as mentioned above. These are nice, but I wanted something cheaper (the featureset I want tends to be a light in the $80-$120 range) or for that price multifunctional.
3) $10 XML U2 Cree light - a singletrack mountain biker said they like this emitter. I could get a diffuser for better bike use. It would need to be paired with a powerbank ($10 or free if you already have one). Also the powerbank would need to be mounted to the frame (get a $20 top tube bag). While that comes to $40, for my use that would be an overall better system than a $60 light because I could recharge easier, and I can use the components for multiple things. The toptube bag can also store snacks and spare tube, the charger could be used on other outdoor activities. Additionally if the light does turn out to be bright enough, then I would have a bright light that could run for a really long time because a powerbank holds more than lots of the smaller rechargeable cells.
4) a premium light - those niterider lights or something like that. I could wait for a discount or find one on eBay. I do not think I could spend $180 on a bike light for my use, even though the warranty is supposed to be good and it fits what I want. There are other options available, or I could find a way, like I said above, to get it for cheaper.
5) premium backpacking headlamp - the manker or the zebralight 53w. These are much better lights from a technical standpoint than most anything offered on the bike light market. They have more options for batteries, the batteries last longer, in actual use they are brighter (can't judge off arbritrary lumen 'measurements'), they can run regulated. This last point deserves explanation. Most lights will start off bright or at max, and then drop progressively more dim until they are pretty unuseable, but you don't know how long it will stay at the high output. Regulated lights will stay at high until they are out of battery and then they will die. You get a better idea of actual use. I would need to buy a bike mount, though I read some come with them, these could be much more versatile, and don't require all the extra mounting stuff I described. However, the price is around $80 for a good one. If I didn't already have a headlamp, I would go for this option. An average headlamp is $40-$80. For backpacking though, it is probably overkill, plus I like the ability to use normal cells like AA and AAA in a backpacking headlamp.
So I'm going to try option 3 and get back to you.