Deal Extreme P7 Lights

Lighting.

In the wintertime, it’s paramount in a way no movie or schwinn road frame could ever hope to be. With precious few hours of daylight, and commuting traffic on street and trail alike in darkness, lights on your bike become so important they actually cause physical harm. That is to say, you may be able to build a house out of the bricks you’ll shit from not having adequate lights.

Of course, there are marker “be-seen” lights, and illumination “seeing” lights. Most people know the places to go for, and the good deals on, marker lights. But for actual illumination, people either end up buying very expensive products from nightrider or light and motion, or try to make due with smaller, lower power LED’s from the same shelves they find the marker lights on.

Now in this post I won’t argue for what’s a better light or what’s the best tail light around for the money(that’s for another day) but I will tell you about the cheap, slightly problem-ridden bargains I’ve found from Deal Extreme.

DX is a chinese distributor that sells direct to the public with free worldwide(mostly, US definitely) shipping. Their products are knockoffs that are usually preproduction or outdated designs either backengineered or just tweaked from more reliably good companies. However, they usually use the same LED emitters that nicer lights do, just without the manufacture or assembly quality invested into nicer products manufactured in the same factories.

What this means is that you can get lights for a fraction the cost of the expensive lights that put out almost as much, and in some cases more, output than the name brand quality lights.

The Seoul Semiconductor (SCC) P7 is a fantastic quad core emitter that is rated at under 900 lumens. Because of current restrictions and heat and other problems, they don’t emit anywhere near 900, but a good functioning light can put out anywhere from 5-700 lumens, even with shoddy craftsmanship and poor manufacture quality of these bargain DX lights.

I’ll show you two lights, both by the DX sock puppet brand “MTE.” the first is a five-function P7 light which uses a D-bin emitter. The D bin is a little bluer in color and looks a little brighter, but depends on the actual unit.

Here it is on High, Medium, and Low. It also has two flash modes, a hi-strobe which seems like it would cause seizures, but is actually TOO HIGH FREQUENCY!!! to cause seizures in something like 99% of epileptics. That means it’s so annoying that when you first see it, you want to have a seizure but the actual danger of it causing a seizure is on par with a police strobe causing one. The fifth mode is an SOS mode, which actually flashes SOO and pauses for so long inbetween transmissions that it’s basically useless in traffic. By the time it starts flashing after completing a sequence, you’ll already be under the tires of that dumptruck.

All images shot at ISO 200, 3 sec shutter, f4.0 aperture on a nikon with no editing other than standard lightroom3 raw conversion. I’ve been told these are the same settings MountainBikeReview or whatever uses.

High:

high mode

high mode

Medium:

med mode

medium mode

Low:

low mode

low mode

You can see that low mode is very dim, probably only about 50-100 lumens. This actually works great to conserve battery life and have it operate as a ‘be-seen’ marker light.

The Hi-Strobe mode is same brightness as High mode. It’s ridiculously bright and when you’re riding with it, it kind of makes the world look like a old time projector reel movie. It stops being annoying after about five seconds or so of focusing on it as primary illumination.

Also, I have  a P7-C bin emitter light, a Two-mode MTE lamp mounted to my helmet.

Using both on high is unnecessary, but it’s nice to be able to point the beam because they have a center spot and there’s hardly any light outside of the beam.

This is High:

Low:

What’s nice about the combination, is that you can run one on low and the other on high and still have illumination even if they’re not pointed the same direction, like for when you’re checking your blind spots or whatnot.

These are brighter than lights that cost over $200, and as bright as some $400 lights.

Of course, because the quality is so low on these, sometimes you have to fix them with a solder gun or sand down the battery contacts in order to get them to work properly. I had to do the latter.

Also, battery life is extremely short, so you have to pack an extra battery if you could be on the road for more than an hour.

However, they’re also $20-40 each. You need to buy batteries and chargers(these take 18650 batteries which are huge and basically just for flashlights so hard to source) in addition, but it ends up costing around 50 dollars for the system with a bike mount or two and some extra batteries.

Also sold by DX is the magicshine lamp, which are basically versions of these P7 lights with external battery packs. Everyone loves them, but they cost 80-120. Now more manufacturers are copying the magicshine’s design and putting their own name on it with slight differences in things like the reflector design and heatsink fin design on the heads… but they’re still the same light. To me, magicshine is about the stupidest name for a light there is. I’d rather say “MTE SF-15 SSC P7 SXO D-Bin” and sound like a complete fuckhead than say “Magicshine” and sound like someone who farts rainbows and sings songs to children about sharing and why mommy went into the toolshed with the milkman.

Basically, I don’t care about an external battery pack. It just means I can’t take the flashlight off as easily and once it’s off, I can’t use it as a blunt force self defense weapon with the pointy assault crowns of these tactical flashlights.

I forgot to mention, they’re meant for tactical use attached to rifles or for personal carry to illuminate dark rooms when you’re holding a pistol in the other hand. Scared yet? Don’t crash into anyone with one of these on your bike.

Now these didn’t work properly and flickered and had stupid low output when I got them, but I’ve been able to fix one seemingly permanently and the other just takes some fiddling once in a while. For a system that performs with stuff costing four times as much, I’m okay with a little DIY. Don’t want DIY? buy a magicshine or similar lamp from a reputable vendor that will give you a replacement if something isn’t right.

Hey.

Don’t stop reading. I’m not done.

They also make tactical lights with red LEDs!

Here’s two K2 Luxeon LED lamps ziptied side by side to a triathalon water carry system that mounts to the seat rails:

Full lighting

Foreground lit by 'lightpainting' with the helmet mounted P7-C

And here’s what it looks like if you’re unfortunate enough to get in the beam pattern:

Again, foreground P7-C lit

These two babies put out around 200 lumens each and actually hurt to look at directly. We can argue the tactics of blinding or causing pain to the driver of a heavy car who’s behind you later… but in my experience this makes people back the fuck up off me. These K2 luxeons are ten bucks a lamp and take the same battery that the P7’s do.

Battery life is definitely the downside to such bright lights. But when the alternative is spending the same 60 dollars on a system that makes you blink a lot and not able to see adequately over 10mph, I am pretty happy with the performance of these lights.

I love be seen lights, and I have a pair of knog boomers that I love dearly.

But the Boomers are marker lights. These are illumination lights, and the fact that you can set yourself up with lights this powerful for 60 bucks front and rear is pretty insane. or pay closer to 150 and go with Magicshine lamps and have external batteries that may last a bit longer. Or just pay ten more bucks for a spare set of batteries and keep them charged. Or live in the dark and live in fear. Choice is up to you. If I could do it all over again I’d get a magicshine 1400, or save up for a stella 300. I can live with a lot less light if the quality of the component is high. I’d rather have a light I won’t ever worry about flickering than one where the battery pack has been recalled.

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