Alternative Bike Lighting

The Fenix E21 LED torch

Regular readers of my blog will have noted that I’m not the type of person who blindly buys ‘bicycle specific’. Be it clothing, luggage or lighting, ‘cycle specific’ can often be used as an excuse to charge more for less. Don’t get me wrong, there are some fantastic bike specific products out there, but I urge you to have an open mind when seeking out solutions to cycling problems, such as keeping warm, dry and visible at night.

In this vein, I’ve been experimenting with alternatives to the cycle specific front light. I’ve bought new front lights each winter and they have all failed, fallen to pieces or fallen down the road. It seems that the basic truth is, unless you pay mega-bucks for a high-end lighting system (whether it be dynamo or Li-Ion/LED) affordable bike lights are generally disappointing. However, in contrast, there are some superbly made, full waterproof LED torches out there, which more than rival equally priced ‘bike’ lights in terms of output and knock them out of the park in terms of build quality and weatherproofing.

After a good deal of research, probing some pretty obscure forums, I’m pleased to announce that soon to be joining The Everyday Cyclist’s lighting arsenal will be a Fenix E21 LED torch. This diminutive torch is the same size (more or less) to a Mini Maglite (the one that takes 2xAA batteries) yet kicks out a massive 150 lumens on full power. Encased in a hard anodised CNC aluminium waterproof case, at £30 it looks, on paper, to be massively better than a comparably priced front bike light from Cateye, Nightrider or other popular ‘bike brands’.

The light will run for 2.5 hours on full power (enough power for off-road night riding) or over 11 hours on its low power setting, which is still more than powerful enough to see by on unlit country lanes.

But how to fit it to the bike? A quick Google for ‘maglite bike mount’ resulted in a neat, simple rubber block and Velcro mount arriving through the post (via a popular auction site). This will securely hold any AA sized torch. The cost? £3.50.

This cunningly simple item attaches the torch to the bars, allows it to be released in a thrice and isolates the light from road shock. Perfect.

So, for £33.50, I’ll soon have a high-powered, compact, lightweight front light system that will far outlast cheaply made, plastic lights from bike specific manufacturers.

When the Fenix torch arrives, I’ll subject it to some real world testing and get back to you with the results. In the meantime, I’m trialling the system with my modified LED Maglite. Although not in the same league of brightness, this is a great ‘be seen’ front light, with long, long battery life. It’s also (rather unsurprisingly) a great torch for roadside repairs.

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16 thoughts on “Alternative Bike Lighting

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      I looked at the LD20 but it’s a little out of my price range. Glad to hear that other cyclists out there are already onto the benefits of ‘non-bike-specific’ lights. Looking forward to getting the light on my bike and going somewhere dark. My only other experience of hi power bike lights was a superb set of Ay-Up lights that I borrowed for Mountain Mayhem in 2009 – they were amazing, but they should be at £170!!!

  1. dexey

    I meant to add that the beam is very good but I’ve had to buy a seperate blinky because flash mode on the fenix is very disorientating

  2. Great! Another practical review on the way. I’m looking forward to it. I’m a dyno guy myself, but always interested in new lighting options. Happy testing…

  3. welshcyclist

    I’m using Smart lights, that I bought for £30 from a bike shop’s closing down sale. they are adequate for my commute in the pitch black of rural roads, but I was impressed with the 39 stone cyclists review of the magilite today. It, from the pictures on his blog, throws out a load of light. I need to get something better myself, so I’ll be having a look at your trials, as well. Cheers

  4. Geoff Briers

    Interesting…I’ve been looking around for something better than my budget Cateye (held on with an elastic band because the catch on the mount broke), without spending too much. Until reading this I was leaning towards the Hope Vision 1, which seems to be highly recommended by riders. Whilst apparently very good, they’re about 80 quid and I’m struggling to persuade myself they’re good value. I might well give one of these a try!
    Great site by the way, I’m becoming a regular visitor!!

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      Thanks for the kind feedback Geoff. I’ll keep you posted on the performance of the Fenix. Like you I took a long hard look at the Hope Vision 1 but just couldn’t spring for 80 quid. Not for a light…

    2. Nonsteeler

      The Hope Vision one is fine and blabla. But I wonder both if one looks at the Vision one and at a non-cycling specific product, why she or he isn’t considering the Hope Vision One Adventure (same light as the Vision one). Because it can be perfectly both: non-cycling specific (as a head torch) and cycling specific (bar mounted, ideally with a tri-top-tube bag).

      1. theeverydaycyclist

        The Vision 1 looks like a nice light, but I think the Fenix torch is a killer deal at 30 quid for 150 lumens, and it’s beautifully made and multi functional for camping, biking and general skulking about in the dark!

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      That looks like a great light – 250 lumens and the ability to switch between AA and CR123 batteries. I wonder if it’s available from a UK supplier? I’ve done a Google shopping search – found Romisen but not that particular model. Do you own one and how would you rate its performance?

  5. erlebo

    Yes, Romisen lights can be bought elsewhere but the models made for ShiningBeam have better LEDs and other modifications. I don’t own this one but others from that store have worked well for me.

    Here’s someting about it on BikeForums: http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread.php?697814-Finally-have-my-narrowed-my-choice-to-two-flashlights!-Romisen-RV-235-R4-or-R5-HELP

    and on CandlePowerForums:
    http://www.candlepowerforums.com/vb/showthread.php?303566-Just-got-my-Romisen-RV235

  6. dexey

    I think the main consideration for using a torch as a bike light is the shape of the beam. A pencil shape doesn’t light enough road and too broad a spread lights areas you don’t need to see (and possibly dazzles oncoming traffic).
    Something I’m finding with the Fenix LD20 is that I rarely need the full power setting.
    I see they do a camping lampshade for the LD20 now. That’ll make a nice stocking filler :0)

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      That’s the one thing the Fenix E21 lacks – an adjustable beam, a la Maglite. Hoping that the beam spread is a good compromise for cycling.

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