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Showing posts with label headlamp. Show all posts
Showing posts with label headlamp. Show all posts

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cygolite Metro 300 LED headlight

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I am now a believer in dynamo powered lighting. I guess you can say I saw the light. (Ouch!) There are many reasons: they are bright, they are theft-resistant, batteries don't ever need to be recharged or replaced. It's always there, always on (if you just leave it in the on position.) When one gets used to dynamo lights, one stops thinking about the lights themselves.

Now enters a new bike into the mix: The Raleigh Crested Butte. I intend to use the Crested Butte as an everyday bike, and my other two everyday bikes, the Raleigh Wayfarer and the Surly Long Haul Trucker, have dynamo lighting systems. But the Crested Butte won't "go dynamo" anytime soon, basically because of the expense of a dynamo system. Even if I did it on a budget, a dynamo hub system creeps toward $300. ($50 for a budget dynamo hub, $30 for a decent rim, $40 for spokes, $50 for a wheel build, $60 for the basic B+M light, $30 for a dynamo powered tail light.) Take out the new wheel and add a decent bottle dynamo instead, I'd save about $125 from the above price, but there are no decent bottle dynamos available locally (or for the most part anywhere in the US save for the B+M model available through Peter White.) Ordering from Europe gives me more options, and I may just do that at some point, but can you say expensive shipping? Not only that, but bottle dynamos have more resistance than a hub and can wear the tire.

So for now, a battery powered headlamp will suffice. Of course, since I've gone dynamo I haven't bought a battery powered headlamp in at least two years. And most of the ones I had are MIA, leaving only one, my Princeton Tec EOS that is mounted on my helmet. But I want to keep it on my helmet, so a new light had to be purchased.

Thankfully in this highly technological world of 2012 we have good choices in the bike lights department. Pretty much any battery light you see these days are LED and each year they get better and better. Much better than when I started city biking in Portland in 2001. The basic battery light selection was very mediocre unless I wanted to spend serious cash on a high-powered battery pack system. I bought what many newbie bicyclists bought in that era: A Cateye halogen headlight that took 2 "C" batteries and went dim within one night of use. The next year Planet Bike released their ubiquitous "Spot" headlight, the beginning of the "blinkie" trend. It's hard to think of it as such an improvement, ten years later, but it was. And like many other budget minded cyclists, I bought a few over the years. Heck, I still have a working one at the bottom of my parts bin.
The VW Bug of the bike light world. Still available in 2012.

So I could have gone with another Planet Bike light, I could have "kept it local"* and bought a Portland Design Works headlamp,** or maybe another Princeton Tec as my EOS is a great light. But upon the recommendation of Kim at North Portland Bikeworks, I got myself a Cygolite Metro 300.

And the Metro 300 has a lot of selling points.
  • 300 lumens, 3.5 watts. It's bright.
  • Five modes. Med > High > Low > SteadyPulse > Day Flash. After the "its on or off" settings of dynamo lights, this one takes a little getting used to.
  • Water resistant. Old battery powered lights sucked in rainy weather.
  • Rechargeable via USB. No more worrying about disposable batteries, as long as you have access to a computer you can recharge easily.
  • Made in the USA.
  • Grant Petersen likes 'em. (Why do I keep on saying this?)
After a few weeks of regular use on the Crested Butte, I can say I'm pretty impressed. As a battery powered light, it is good. The strength of the light at high (or heck, medium) setting is comparable to my dynamo lights. The one big difference is beam: like most of the battery powered LEDs I've used, it's pretty much a "round" beam (think of a flashlight beam.) It lacks the fancier optics of the B+M lights. It's better since I made the lower mount for the light, as the beam stays closer to the ground.

There are of course the inevitable shortcomings associated with any battery light. It's not hard mounted (and can't be due to charging) so I need to remember to remove the light when I leave the bike for any significant period of time. (The position of the light is more hidden than being on the bars, but I don't want to chance it.) And yep, I still need to recharge it. More importantly, I need to remember to charge it, because it's no fun to realize your light is about to die, and you're miles from home. Which is the situation I got myself in the other night. (Thankfully I had the EOS on my helmet as back-up. But of course, that started to die as well.)

And this is the one failing of the Metro 300: There is no low battery warning. It's fine, and then it dims rapidly. There is a little green light on the power button, located on the top of the light, that is "on" when the light is on, and flashes when charging. How much harder would it have been for Cygolite to add a "low battery" setting to this? Could be a fast flash, or a red light. In this day and age with so many rechargeable electronics and their battery indicators, why can't a battery headlight have this as well? 

Despite that shortcoming, I think it's still a good headlight. And hopefully the last battery powered headlight I'll have to buy for some time.

*All of their products are manufactured overseas.
**I do have their Fenderbot, so I am "representing."


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The light hack two: Electric Boogaloo.

After all the work done to the Raleigh Crested Butte, there remained one important thing to figure out: what to do about the headlight.

It's no secret that I've become a convert to dynamo-powered lighting. It's always there, you don't have to worry about removing lights or batteries dying. But there's also another benefit: a light not mounted to the handlebars. Dynamo powered lights are usually lower and/or more forward, meaning the road gets lit up a lot better. After all, dynamo headlamps are not just for being seen, but for seeing. Having the headlamp off the bars frees up valuable "real estate" on the handlebars. You only have so much room on your bars, and it's a given that grips, brake levers, and (usually) shifters will be located there, which take up a lot of space as it is. Anything one can take off the bars and put elsewhere either opens up opportunities for different things to be put on the bars, or if you are a minimalist, an opportunity to get rid of clutter.

While dynamo powered lights on the Crested Butte would be nice, I am in no hurry to do this. For one, dynamo hubs require the cost of the hub and building a wheel around it. The front wheel is still perfectly functional and pretty nice, so I don't want to nix it right now. And I don't have the cash. Heck, I might try a nice bottle dynamo at some point, but that's not going to happen soon. So a battery powered light is what will be used. And I do have a nice one, the Cygolite Metro 300 I bought last month.

So where to mount it? I don't want to mount it to the bars, not only for the reasons above, but for the added pain of the front basket. I've done the whole "mount a handlebar light to a basket bike" before, and frankly, it sucks. If there's too much stuff in the basket, it blocks the light. Even when the basket isn't completely full, the light ends up lighting the basket more than anything else.
You can see how a handlebar mounted light would be problematic in this scenario, as the top of the box is higher than the bars.

The hack I've used in the past is using one of Wald"s "flashlight mounts" that bolt to the side of a basket. It works, but barely. For one, they're designed for antique flashlights, not modern bike lights, so I would have to use a number of straps to secure the light in the bracket. Even then, I've had lights fall off after hitting a bump. And the bracket doesn't offer the best positioning for the light; rather than tilted slightly down, it aims straight ahead. This was problematic on bike paths at night, as the light aims directly into oncoming bicyclists. You better believe I got yelled at more than once.

Rather than buy a fancy "down low" mount for about twenty bucks, I finally figured out an appropriate, workable hack, one that allows me to mount the light under the basket. This is what I did:

The light itself  is mounted  to a 3/4" diamter PVC pipe "endcap". I drilled a hole into the center of it. Through this hole went a bolt that attached to one half of a 4" steel "L" bracket (the type sold for shelves.) The other half of the "L" attached to the underside of the front rack via bolt and judicious zip-tying (for now.)

Voila.

The cost for this hack? About three bucks. Parts found in a typical hardware store. Not bad.

It's worked so far. It's not the most elegant thing, but it works, and it's in a position where most folks aren't going to see it anyway. The biggest drawback to this placement is it's almost impossible to turn the light on/off or change settings while I'm on the bike. But it's pretty minor in comparison to the hassles of the handlebar mount.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New bling for the Wayfarer

Why yes, there will be talk about the Crested Butte very soon. But first, some talk about my other Raleigh bike, the Wayfarer! After getting a rebuilt rear wheel and a new Linus rear rack, there was not much else I could do with this lovely bike, so I declared this bike "pretty much done". But somehow I found three ways to improve this almost-perfect-to-me beauty.

First: a new headlamp. The Spanninga Micro FF LED Dyno Headlamp with Safe Stop did a fine job after almost two years of use, so there was nothing wrong with it. But while the light is bright in comparison to a lot of battery powered LED lights, it's on the bottom end of the dynamo-powered LED spectrum. I knew this when buying it last January, as it was the cheapest option available. I was already spending so much money on a bike that I didn't know if I would end up liking or not, so I was okay with spending $42 for the headlamp. Now that I really know I like the bike (and dyno lighting in general) it was time for an upgrade.

Enter the B+M Lumotec Classic headlamp. It's basically the Lyt in a classier package. (I used to have a Lyt on my LHT before the upgrade.) It puts out a nice wide beam, and at 25 lux, it's quite bright. Not to mention the "classic" aesthetic matches the Raleigh quite nicely. The only thing that's a bit off is the janky light mount that I used with the Spanninga. This may change.

And now up to the handlebars. The shellacked cork grips were still workable, but cracking. So I finally got around to a new set of cork grips, the Miesha's Portuguese Tree Cork Grips from Retro-Grouch emporium Rivendell were just the ticket. Very classy looking, especially after two coats of shellac, the recommended amount as advice by Andy. This was the first set of cork grips that I glued to bars, as I've always just put a layer or two of electrical tape on the bars underneath the other cork grips I've used. My first foray with Gorilla Glue was mostly successful, but some of it "squeezed" out the ends and through a crack in the grip that was caused by my own stupidity. (Oops.) The Portuguese Grips were also shorter than my other cork grips, so I rounded out the rest of the length was shellacked cloth tape. (I would have used more appropriate and Riv-approved twine, but I couldn't find my ball. Oops.)

Finally, a new bell. Yes, my old Crane bell was still good, but when I saw and heard the great ring on the Crane brass "rotary" bell, I knew I had to have it. And I knew what the appropriate bike would be.

Keep it classy, folks.