2013 Bike Lights Shootout – Mtbr Lumen Tests

Lights Lights Shootout

Bike light manufacturers can put any ‘lumens rating’ on their product that they want. There is no governing body out there that states that they have to measure or be truthful about what they claim their light output to be. What many of them do is read the LED spec that they are using, get that LED’s max rating and multiply by the number of them that they are using and voila, magic lumen number.

The problem is that number is a best case and impossible number. The real output is somewhere below that. The reasons for lower output are:

  • Heat dissipation – as the LED gets hot, it gets dimmer to protect itself
  • Power source – if the power source is not at the perfect voltage, it gets dimmer
  • Reflector light loss – the mirrors on glass on a light will result in some light loss
  • LED Binning – all LEDs at birth are sorted for their brightness. So all LEDs of the same model are not equal

That’s why Mtbr works so hard to demystify LED output.  The ultimate test is using an integrating sphere to measure light output. This piece of equipment costs about $20,000- $100,000 to purchase and requires a trained technician to operate. This year, Mtbr is using the integrating sphere of Light and Motion and Lezyne to measure lumen output.  We are present during all measurements and we will cross-check their work with each other.

To complement these lumen measurements, please check our Beam Pattern Comparisons of these lights.

Lumen measuring process using an integrating sphere with Chris McCaslin.

As you can see, it is not a simple process and that is why so many light manufacturers do not measure their output.  There are very few independent labs around this country too that can do this work.

We realize of course that Light and Motion is a manufacturer and they are testing competitors’ lights. But we have evaluated their process and were present during testing. Furthermore, we are double-sourcing this year by testing at another manufacturer called Lezyne and cross-checking their work. We have already compared four lights that they each measured and the results match up within 1-2%. Finally, this is just a piece of our lights testing and is supplemented by our own Mtbr Lux lab testing and light beam image data.

These lumen readings were recorded 31 seconds after the light was turned on. This is according to the FL-1 Flashlight Standard that specifies lumen measurements to be recorded 30 seconds after the light is turned on. The FL-1 Flashlight Standard was created so manufacturers have a standardized method of measuring lights and making claims such as brightness and waterproofing. Some light companies are using the FL-1 standard and fighting for its use in the bike light industry. Learn more about the FL-1 Flashlight Standard HERE.

Lumen Test Results


Numbers in red color are approximated from Mtbr Lux


Mtbr further supplements this Lumen testing with:

Beam Pattern Shots
Mtbr Lux measurements
Riding Impressions for each light

About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.

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  • Skidad says:

    Great work Francis, do you ever sleep? Keep the light info coming and take your time with the 650B shootout (alternative motive hoping to get the new Banshee Spitfire included with frames arriving in Dec).

    How about getting the Trail Torch from Candle Power Tech in PA? Looks impressive @1800+ lumens.


  • slyfink says:

    to Paul Barrett in the facebook comments re MJ 872. I have that light, and while it is very bright, it doesn’t put the light where you need it, ie down the trail. In fact, it’s so bright so close to my eyes, that it is counterproductive with my helmet light when used at full throttle. I can only use it in the bottom two settings.

    That kind of exposes the weakness of the “lumens-only” measurement as the be-all and end-all pursuit of light measurement. I’m not saying it’s a bad or useless measurement, only that there are far more considerations to take into account. I’d say flood characteristics, throw, colour and temp, and compatibility between bar and helmet are things that need to be taken into account too. Good luck gathering all that into one measurement you can print on the box!

  • Jason says:

    Why are there no Exposure lights in your testing? They seem to have a wide variety of lights with nice features.

  • Jason says:

    Just saw the Facebook posts that they are sending in lights!

  • Kerry says:

    I would really haved liked to see the Cygolite TridenX1100 in this test. I have one and think it is brilliantly bright and love it but I am interested to see how the claimed lumens stack up against the MTBr tests and other lights.

  • Dave says:

    It seems really hard to compete with the Chinese lights. $95 for 648 actual lumen is cheap. My son has two Magicshines that hit nearly 1300 actual lumen and we only paid $190 for both. I ordered two Xeccon’s last night for myself for $210 and they’ll hit around 1600 actual lux. I’d like to buy U.S. products but as we can see on the list, I’d be paying nearly double. And they work well to boot.

    • Deschutesriverbum says:

      Hey Dave, my experience with the cheap Chinese made lights is that they are not well built and the beam pattern is not great. These are other factors to consider when making a purchase. Also, try dealing with customer service with one of those companies is impossible. When you buy an American made product with local customer service then you get better service. Supporting a local US company instead of a Chinese company helps out the US economy too and you get what you pay for. They may be more expensive but they will last for years. My Light & Motion Arc is many years old and still great. And they give an upgrade deal for a new light when I need one!

  • bubbska says:

    lumens per dollar is a good way to evaluate. but you could lump all the major factors together and have (lumens*runtime)/(cost*weight). like 1000 lumens, 3 hrs runtime, $250, 350 grams gives 0.034…maybe multiply all by 1000 to give 34. hi lumens and runtime give a higher score, high cost and weight give a lower score.

  • Diego says:

    Para ser verdaderamente justos, también había que añadir en la prueba las copias chinas de Magicshine que pueden comprarse en Ebay/Dealextreme con 1 o 3 XML, (algunas ya incorporan el LED XML2)
    Todo el mundo comenta que los focos de 3 XML son fantásticos y superan a la Fénix BT20 o la Niteye B20

    Seguro que encuentran a mucha gente con uno de ellos para hacer la prueba!!

  • Diego says:

    Sorry, in English:
    In To be truly fair, also had to add in testing Chinese copies that can be purchased on Ebay / Dealextreme with 1 or 3 XML (some already incorporate LED xml2 U2)
    Everyone says bulbs 3 XML are great and outperform the Phoenix Niteye BT20 or B20

    Sure are a lot of people with one of them for testing!

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