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Verdict: 
Not the best light I've used, but by far the best value
Weight: 
322g
Contact: 
www.ebay.com
CREE XM-L LED front light
8 10

If you want to waste a few hours on eBay then looking at cheap bike lights is one way to go about it. This year we bit the bullet and bought a CREE XM-L to feature in our big road.cc lights test. It's not perfect, and there's a few bits that need attention for the British climate, but for the money it's pretty hard to fault.

Our CREE XM-L unit cost us shy of £20, including postage. For that you'd normally expect to be getting a battery-powered blinky or a cheap torch but this is a fully fledged rechargeable high-output bike lamp. It came with a UK charger and a helemt mount as well as the bar fixing, an O-ring. The battery attaches with a Velcro strap, either to the underside of your stem or the front of your main triangle.

Charging and fitting is a doddle, and once it's dark and you hit the button for the first time the amount of light on offer, for the money, is fantastic. Okay, it's not the 1,000 lumens the listing claims '' or anywhere even remotely near '' but it's fine for charging along unlit roads. The beam is narrow, with a dimmer outer beam that's fairly wide. I found it a touch too narrow at times, but on the other hand it spills very little light above the beam, so it's quite other-traffic friendly.

A diffuser is available as an option; we tried one, but it made the beam too wide. Fine for off roading but I preferred the narrow beam for tarmac. The O-ring was too big to keep the light in place properly so I swapped it out for a much smaller one from the parts drawer and now everything's fine.

The light has three modes: high, low and flashing. On high beam the battery lasts just under two and a half hours, and the illuminated switch does a decent job of keeping you up to date with the battery level, running from blue to amber to red to flashing red as the juice runs out. An overnight charge gets you back to full power.

The battery isn't well waterproofed – even though the lamp and the connectors are – so it's worth sealing it inside a sandwich bag or similar if you intend to go out in the rain. Through town the flashing mode is useful for day running and the light is visible from a pretty wide angle, even though there's no side illumination. It's not the best here but then there are plenty of lights I've used that are worse.

All in all you can't really expect much more for twenty quid. With a few hacks this is a great light for general use and is powerful enough to keep you out of the ditches on unlit lanes. It probably won't last for ever, but then you only paid £18 for it, and by the time you come to get a new one there'll be even brighter, even cheaper ones to choose from. Probably.

Verdict

Not the best light I've used, but by far the best value.

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road.cc test report

Make and model: CREE XM-L LED front light

Size tested: n/a

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

* Can be used as Headlamp or Bicycie Light

* Model of LED: CREE XM-L T6

* Output bright can come to max 1600 lumens [lm]

* Internal wiring applies the high efficient booster circuit, working voltage is wide and can utilize the batteries in the largest extent.

* Waterproofing design

* Aluminum alloy casing

* Aluminum alloy reflector

* 3 switch Mode: Strong Brightness / Normal Brightness / Flashing

* 100v-240v Battery Charger ( LED indication for Power On / Charging / Full charge )

* Model of Battery required: 1 x 8.4v 6400mAh Battery Pack

* Colour : Black

* Dimension : 43mm

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
7/10

Considering the price, pretty good.

Rate the product for performance:
 
7/10

A good all-rounder.

Rate the product for durability:
 
7/10

No issues so far although the battery isn't well protected.

Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
 
7/10

Decent weight for a 2-pack light.

Rate the product for value:
 
10/10

An absolute bargain.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

It did well. A useful light with a decent beam.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

It was very, very cheap.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Battery is vulnerable to water.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.

Would you consider buying the product? Yes.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.

Overall rating: 8/10

Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?

If the battery were waterproof it'd be a 9/10, but don't let put you off - a freezer bag fixes it smartly.

About the tester

Age: 40  Height: 190cm  Weight: 102kg

I usually ride: whatever I'm testing...  My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium 853

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track

 

Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.

35 comments

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Paul_C [393 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

oh this light will make you really popular with other road users as you dazzle them... Needs to have a beam cut-off so that nothing comes out above the horizontal or else a dip/main switching arrangement...

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AdeG [7 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Well I've had one of these for 18 months or so and it's been brilliant, never had a problem. It's been used in torrential rain, sub zero conditions and even off road.
For the money you can't beat it, and as for dazzling other road users... it's no worse than any of it's competition and a bit of common sense when using it (I wouldn't recommend the flash setting in traffic) solves any issues.

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gthornton101 [107 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I've had one of these for the past few months, used 5x per week for commuting and it's been great!

The downside I find is that there is a lot of cable between the light and the battery and have to bunch it up and cable tie it to stop it getting in the way.

My flash setting is an epilepsy-inducing type strobe that I avoid, but I do agree even the brighter setting is definitely no worse than cars on full beam coming towards you. I normally switch it down down to the lower setting if cars are about.

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Notsofast [95 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I have the 5 bulb version of this for the MTB, it's like a captured sun. Riding side by side with my son we've had a fair few people say they thought it was a car coming.

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Ridededog [3 posts] 2 years ago
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I've got the big brother version of this, the 3xXM-L, Really powerful, but the battery life get shorter the more I used it, I didn't think about the battery cover being waterproof... The downward triangle shape enable me to put my hand underneath the light and not touching the light, felt really comfortable there. I love the dimming the lights when you don't need that much light, like at dawn or dusk, just hold down the button for a few secs and then it'll dims, same for brighting up.

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stumps [3184 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I have a cree head torch for fishing and it takes a battering in the cold north east nights and still works brilliantly so if the bike one is half as good then i will get one.

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Guyz2010 [302 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I have rapid these.The older one is a year old and used every day in the mornings & evenings. Battery life is great but the LED battery warning light goes to red too soon. It will last another hour plus on red before it flashes red, even then it goes on for ages.
The projected light is dangerous to other road users. Turn it to dim mode to avoid being unpopular tilt it down. I don't suppose for a minute it would be legal on the road in some countries (Germany). Great for off road use.
For the money I really don't think you can beat it.
You could buy five of these for the cost of a similar Hope light.

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blablablacksheep20 [41 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

awesome light, far better than any of the stupid main branded ones which cost £100s for something similar.

Ive had mine for nearly 2 years and its waterproof if you place it properly.
Battery is fine and tbh i cannot fault it.

I might buy a brighter light thats easier to charge but im not prepared to pay over £100 for one.

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nbrus [293 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Paul_C wrote:

oh this light will make you really popular with other road users as you dazzle them... Needs to have a beam cut-off so that nothing comes out above the horizontal or else a dip/main switching arrangement...

+1

I have one of these that I use off road only ... you can wrap the battery in several layers of cling-film to waterproof it. Unbeatable value.

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matheson [54 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I use one of these for commuting, generally on the lower output. Full power is great for off-road, and the flash mode is guaranteed to give someone a seizure.
I use an old water bottle to house the battery and the excess cable, keeps it watertight on even the grim days.

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badback [302 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I've been using one of these since last summer.

I use it as well as a less powerful led light and only switch it on when I get out into the sticks where there's no street lighting and fewer cars.

I usually get about 2-3 hours on full power.

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anarchy [99 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Lad at work has two of these for off-road in the dark; one on handlebars, one on helmet, and he reckons it's like turning night into day.

Just bought this one myself, which is even cheaper.
http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/400599100961?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=...

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Shouldbeinbed [43 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Can't fault mine at all, I find the fresnel diffuser I've added has improved its throw of light for dark countryside lanes and unlit parkland and seems not to be blinding passing aircraft anymore.
I have put the battery and yards of cable into a small gadget bag, it has a belt loop so attaches easily to the frame and has the little rubberised headphone cable hole to keep it all tidy and plenty watertight. £3 from the supermarket.
My only gripe is the fairly weak joining between the lights body and plastic bar mounting, I've re-sited it slightly and threadlocked the screw in place & it seems a bit more reliable now. The O rings both seem on the big side but switching them for a zip tie fixes that.

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gareth2510 [167 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

ditto to all of the above. Had an exposure and went out on the mtb with a friend who had just purchased one of these... within a week Id sold the exposure and got myself 2 of the above, 1 for the bars and 1 for the lid. Use the bar mounted 1 on the road bike too..job done!
 21

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gareth2510 [167 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

ditto to all of the above. Had an exposure and went out on the mtb with a friend who had just purchased one of these... within a week Id sold the exposure and got myself 2 of the above, 1 for the bars and 1 for the lid. Use the bar mounted 1 on the road bike too..job done!
 21

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dave atkinson [6142 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Paul_C wrote:

oh this light will make you really popular with other road users as you dazzle them... Needs to have a beam cut-off so that nothing comes out above the horizontal or else a dip/main switching arrangement...

it's a very narrow beam and there's very little light spill above horizontal if you angle it at the road. erm, like i said.

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I bought one of these about a year ago, on Ebay, for 18 quid inc p&p. I was so gobsmacked at the price, I've bought four more. Ok, it's cheap, but I've had no problems with rain or vibration at all.

Last year, I did an off road 24 hour ride with two of these lights up front, and three batteries, set to normal mode, were enough to see me through about 8 hours of darkness. No problems at all. I have one pointing well down, to avoid dazzle, and another pointing straight ahead for when there's no cars about, which I can switch on and off as required, rather than faffing about trying to constantly adjust just the one light.

I've come from an era where we all had to thump our Eveready lights into action, and even if I had had a crytstal ball back then, I would never have believed how stonkingly good modern lights are. And for no more than the price of a few ales, too. Certainly no more need to piss on the carbide.

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userfriendly [538 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I've been using two of these for a few months now, 4 days a week for the commute home, on a mix of city streets, (somewhat) lit cycle paths, and unlit roads.

Have got a wide-angle lens fitted to one of them, the other one has the original lens (spot). Most of the time I'm only using the wide-angle one on the low setting, pointing down a bit, when I get into darker areas I'll switch on the spot light, pointing ahead. Only switching them to high when on completely unlit roads.

Never had any problems with the batteries even in heavy rain. Yes, the cables are quite long, but IMHO that's actually a plus - I never liked the batteries dangling from the top tube, so I've routed the cables along the top tube using some velcro straps, ending in a y-cable to connect both of them to a single battery, which is fitted to the top of the seat stays below the saddle. Much neater that way.

I always keep the other battery at hand as a spare in case one runs out of power, but have never had to change them in mid-commute so far (2 hours one way).

Will definitely buy two more of them for the n+1 bike.

Edited to add: using this y-cable for £2 w/ free worldwide shipping:
http://www.fasttech.com/product/1087000-54mm-male-to-dual-female-adapter...

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drfabulous0 [409 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Dave Atkinson wrote:
Paul_C wrote:

oh this light will make you really popular with other road users as you dazzle them... Needs to have a beam cut-off so that nothing comes out above the horizontal or else a dip/main switching arrangement...

it's a very narrow beam and there's very little light spill above horizontal if you angle it at the road. erm, like i said.

That's true if you angle it directly at the road, ie pointed directly downward, at least on mine, otherwise it is ridiculously dazzling to anyone in front and I feel a bit of a douche using it on urban roads.

Also I have never had more than 1 1/2 hours battery life on full beam and the low battery light comes on about 30 secs before the light dies. the flash function is only useful if I'm having a rave.

That said put next to my friend's (bought in the same order) mine is significantly brighter, which is the real issue with these cheap items, they aren't consistant.

I love this light, especially for £18 but it won't replace my Macro Drive as an everyday light, it is used for the dark places.

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Leodis [399 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Is this light like this one:-

http://forums.mtbr.com/lights-night-riding/exploding-battery-pack-cree-x...

Rather have a bike light that at least reaches UK standards and not have to charge it in a metal box whilst watching it.

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nbrus [293 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Leodis wrote:

Is this light like this one:-

http://forums.mtbr.com/lights-night-riding/exploding-battery-pack-cree-x...

Rather have a bike light that at least reaches UK standards and not have to charge it in a metal box whilst watching it.

It isn't the light that is the problem, but the lithium battery pack. Even quality cells can catch fire if they go faulty. You should NEVER leave lithium cells recharging unattended. It's not just cheap cells that can catch fire, though they are more likely to go faulty. Go and buy a better after-market battery pack if you are worried about this.

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vbvb [522 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Neil753 wrote:

I've come from an era where we all had to thump our Eveready lights.. ..would never have believed how stonkingly good modern lights are. And for no more than the price of a few ales, too..

The lights are getting cheaper and the ales are getting dearer! I can't work out if I'm winning or losing!  36

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dave atkinson [6142 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
drfabulous0 wrote:

That's true if you angle it directly at the road, ie pointed directly downward, at least on mine, otherwise it is ridiculously dazzling to anyone in front and I feel a bit of a douche using it on urban roads.

not with mine. the beam shape means you can point it pretty far ahead and the vast majority of the light (>80% i'd estimate) goes on the road, not in the eyes of oncoming traffic.

but like you say, they vary, and that's an issue with buying cheap online

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Neil753 [447 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Dave Atkinson wrote:
drfabulous0 wrote:

That's true if you angle it directly at the road, ie pointed directly downward, at least on mine, otherwise it is ridiculously dazzling to anyone in front and I feel a bit of a douche using it on urban roads.

not with mine. the beam shape means you can point it pretty far ahead and the vast majority of the light (>80% i'd estimate) goes on the road, not in the eyes of oncoming traffic.

but like you say, they vary, and that's an issue with buying cheap online

Yes, they do seem to vary; so prop your bike up on a kerb, walk down the road a couple of hundred metres, look back and see if you're being dazzled. If you are, then tilt it down a little more. Repeat until you're not.

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euanlindsay [80 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

The far majority of users I come across have one or more, pointed horizontally. Its getting pretty dangerous.

More so when you have people sitting in your wheel with one and you cannot see traffic behind you either.

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KiwiMike [1074 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

All of the above reflects (sorry) our club experience of about a dozen of these over the last few years. Only one OOTB failure, and the seller sent a whole new one next day so the buyer was quids in with a spare battery.

Otherwise trouble-free, and means a lot of folks are riding at night when otherwise they simply would not have been able to afford to.

My *only* caveat with these is that because the battery notification is not consistent (some don't have it at all, others change colour, others have indicator LED's, others dim first) and the batteries themselves frequently have a low-voltage cutout, they can turn off without warning. Had this happen twice before I twigged to actual vs. indicated runtime, going too close to the 2hr-ish max on full beam. This could be a bit hairy if you were descending in pitch darkness at the end of a ride with no others around you. Like I said, it's not an issue for me now because I don't run them flat anymore, just be aware of the possibly abrupt cut-off. Given the lucky dip that is exact feature delivered, it might pay to do your own run-flat test to find out what happens, when.

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Jo_ [21 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I've had mine a few months and it's been very good. I keep it on the low setting on the road and angle it down (as is sensible with any light). I've used the bright beam off road and it's excellent.

As a few others have said, the battery warning is inconsistent.

I used mine over 2 days (about an hour and a half of usage, but it had been charged 2 weeks earlier) and the indicator light went from green to flashing red to off within 10 seconds.

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Gizmo_ [1333 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
anarchy wrote:

Lad at work has two of these for off-road in the dark; one on handlebars, one on helmet, and he reckons it's like turning night into day.

That's my setup too for off-road - and it's enough for hammering through the forest at night. On-road I find one on the bars is just fine, usually on low.

Worth mentioning that you can get 'orange-peel' and 'smooth' mirror versions: orange-peel ones scatter far more and are really for off-road only.

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Mombee [84 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I've had one of these and a Cree Solarstorm over the winter, and they're amazing. If you're looking to try night-riding, as a way of extending your training in the dark months, or want a cheap back-up for commuting, then this option makes a whole lot of sense. I think that two Cree XM-L lights makes for a good set-up - most of my night-time rides end-up on the muddy trails around the Fosse Way, rather than staying to the roads.
I totally agree with the comments about dazzling other road users, so some common courtesy is necessary, especially on dark & narrow country lanes, when the brightness seems more extreme.

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lerrup [20 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

The dazzle problem is made worse when people have them on their helmets on the road. They are right in your eyeline, made worse when they look at you along an offroad path to ensure you don't run into each other.

it absolutely kills what little night vision you have, leaving the night even blacker than it was before.

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