Monday, November 2, 2009

The "Noisy Cricket" of flashlights

If you saw the movie, "Men in Black," you will likely recall when the Will Smith character was issued his alien-fighting gun. It was diminutive in size, and Smith was scornful... until he pulled the trigger and blasted a big hole in a truck a couple blocks away.

Looks are sometimes deceiving.

At the recommendation of Bob T, who has NEVER steered me wrong, I ordered an LED flashlight from DealExtreme. The wait was somewhat agonizing [more about that later] but it ended Friday.

I opted for the AKOray K-106 model. (SKU #28546) $13.99, including shipping. (Bargain!)

When I opened the padded envelope and saw it, I wasn't overwhelmed. It's dark gray and machined out of aluminum, I believe. It's about 3.75 inches long and .75 inches in diameter. It has a chintzy-looking pocket clip, and a green control button on the tail cap. The lens is supposedly made of glass... a good thing, IMO, because it's less likely to get scratched up.

Since I'm something of a flashlight fetishist, I've got several small flashlights, including 3 LED models that use one AA battery (as does this AKOray). It seems like every AA-LED flashlight I've gotten has been meaningfully brighter than the previous, as the technology has improved.

I put a battery in the AKOray and pushed the button.


This is a bright flashlight!

Light output is supposed to be up to 230 lumens. It totally drowns out a Gerber "Firecracker" LED light that I got a couple months back at REI. (And it seemed "bright enough" before the AKOray arrived.)

It is advertised to have 60 minutes of life from a battery, on the high setting. (When the power is on, you can half-depress the power button to switch modes, which include bright, medium, dim, "SOS," and strobe flasher.) I'm sure batteries last longer when a lower power, or strobe-mode, is selected.

On the bright setting, this light is far brighter than any other LED light in my collection. It rivals a big D-cell "cop flashlight" I have. Definitely more than adequate for headlight duty. I anticipate using it mostly for headlight ("seeing") or strobe light ("being seen"), depending on the situation. Oh... and it should make a fine flashlight for camping and such, too.

I immediately ordered two more of these.

Of course, for bicycle duty, you need to mount it to the bike.

Bob T suggested the "universal nylon mount" (SKU 12000, $2.21). I also ordered a plastic "universal bicycle mount" (SKU 08274, $1.54).

The 12000 is the ultimate in simplicity... a piece of rubber with two grooves for flashlight and handlebar stem (or gun barrel, or whatever), with 2 velcro staps to hold everything in place. It is designed for the light to be mounted in parallel to the tube it's being hooked to... like a handlebar stem.

The 08274 snaps into place on the handlebar, and the flashlight holder screws down for tight installation. (Although the snap-over is a little loose for my handlebars... but still functional.) It is designed for right-angle mounting - like on handlebars.

I'm going to try to rig the universal (velcro strap) mount on my brain bucket, so I can have the option of a helmet-mounted light.

Time will tell:
1) real-life battery drainage,
2) long-term durability.
I will report my findings.

A little about DealExtreme... they are based in Hong Kong. Air shipping is included in all prices. The stuff I ordered arrived in 2 shipments; the mounts maybe 10 days after I ordered and the flashlight took a couple weeks longer, because they were on back order. If you need something now, DealExtreme probably won't work for you. Check out the website... they've got a little of everything. Actually a LOT of everything. (I happened across a combination prophylactic/electric-shocker gizmo... that might surprise somebody, huh? I didn't order it.)


bob t said...

I've used a similar model for about 4 months and have been very pleased with it. There is no reason to spend $6 more to get the one I have unless you want the strobe rate to be adjustable. After some trial and error I have mine set to three flashes per second, which I find works well both day and night as a supplement to my headlight. I used the universal mount to attach the flashlight to my helmet. I don't notice the extra weight, which is probably negligible.

Today I switched to my "winter" safety vest with sleeves and extra reflective material. The week after the return to standard time is statistically the most dangerous time of the year for late afternoon / early evening traffic accidents, so I'm planning to be extra careful heading home.

Bikeboy said...

I was riding at night on Saturday 11/7 and again on Sunday 11/8. With this flashlight, in "strobe" mode.

On Saturday, a pickup coming toward me (assumption is that a redneck was driving, of course) turned on his brights as if to "punish" me for being so visible. (Could he have thought a 1-cell flashlight was MY equivalent of bright headlights?)

On Sunday, I had two cars dim their lights as they headed toward me. (Traditionally I haven't seemed to even register with other roadway users; it's like they don't understand that their bright headlights are just as blinding to somebody on a bike, as they are to somebody else in a car.)

bob t said...

Strobe is great to get oneself noticed in daylight and during "civil twilight" (the period of time starting 30 minutes before sunrise and ending 30 minutes after sunset), but I think that it's too intense when it's totally dark. At night the cyclist needs to see also and a strobe doesn't work as well for that as a solid light.