The Mountain Bike Life

Night Riding on a Budget

The days are short, and your daily window to ride is growing shorter. A night ride may be the only option to get you out on the trails. If you are like me, the thought of trudging through the darkness, aided by light, cool fall air surrounding your swift direction is enough to get you through the week, but you may run into a problem when shopping for the necessary luminary aids- they can be incredibly pricey.

This was definitely a problem for me, since, well- I tend to be cheap. So I hit the inter-webs in search of a cost effective solution, and there it was, my proverbial cake that I could also eat. The 3X CREE XM-L T6 LED 3800Lm LED. I had tracked it down in a couple of forums. It appears to be a Chinese knockoff, yet many owners in the forums raved about the knockoff’s capabilities at an affordable price of about $20.00-$30.00 each, while other lights of the same caliber cost 5X as much.


Photo Jeff QB | Location: Mormon Trail, South Mountain

Photo Jeff QB | Location: Mormon Trail, South Mountain

Now, I know what you are thinking… the last thing I need is to purchase some cheap knockoff light as I head out into the middle of the wilderness after dark… Luckily for you, my perpetual frugality has led me to the purchase of said lights, head out into the darkness, and test them to the best of my ability… With that being said, I present to you my first impressions of the $30 Amazon specials.

So I hit up the web page and ordered two lamps, one for my helmet and one for my handle bars. First things first, I recommend spending a couple of extra bucks and ordering from an Amazon distributor, or a distributor from your country. Ordering from China will save you a few bucks, but will take a significantly longer time to arrive.

Only 4 zip ties necessary | Photo: Jeff QB

Only 4 zip ties necessary | Photo: Jeff QB

Upon opening the package, you will be surprised at the study feel of the lights. They are equipped with a metal casing, some tricky mountain hardware, and a charger. I recommend ditching the headlamp strap and coordinating your own light holding mechanism. Here is how I installed mine, it doesn’t wiggle at all.

So far I have taken the lights out on the trail a handful of times and have yet to find a complaint. They are super bright, I would say closer to 2,000 lumens than 3,800, but still plenty bright on the trail. I had no problem hitting the trails as hard as I would during the day.

Only 4 zip ties necessary | Photo: Jeff QB

Photo: Jeff QB

The battery has shown that is capable with run times of 2-4+ hours. 2 hours on high, beyond 4 hours on the lowest setting. This is plenty for me and my night rides. It may be exactly what you are looking for as well, but the jury is not out yet. I will give an extended review in the future, at that time we will see what kind of longevity these Cree lights will hold and inevitably, what value they yield.

So far, I have to recommend these lights. They will get you out on the trails after hours without breaking the bank. They are bright, they are small, they last 2-4 hours, and they cost 30 bucks a pop. I couldn’t ask for more.