Friday, December 20, 2013

NiteRider Lumina 650 - the bad and the good

Well let's get right to the bad:

Yes, that little micro-USB connection should be inside the unit under the open door.  I bought the Lumina 650 sometime last year and within a few months the little connection broke loose when I tried to plug it in to charge it.  I chalked this up to bad luck, and maybe riding over some bumpy roads had loosened the connection.  I exchanged it, thinking this was just a freak circumstance and wouldn't happen again.  But no, just this week it broke loose again, so I'm guessing bad design.  The connection is tight, difficult to connect just right, and not strong enough.  The handlebar mounting connection isn't solid, and the light rattles in it a little bit.  The battery seemed to last only 2 1/2 to 3 hours on low before it switched automatically to walk mode.

The good:

A huge improvement over the Planet Bike Blaze lights that I had been using. I started out with the 1/2-watt Blaze, and then got the 2-watt.  I usually had the Lumina set on low (200 Lumens) or medium, and I could actually see the road in front of me! Now I can't believe I commuted after dark with the Blaze. When I bought the Lumina I felt like I was splurging, but after using it the first time I realized it was one of the best bike-related buying decisions.

This week I've used a Blaze or a Princeton-Tec Eos (70 Lumens) I had lying around.  The Eos is brighter than the Blaze, but still doesn't light up the road.  Didn't like riding with either one, and felt a bit unsafe.

The good doesn't outweigh the bad in this case.  Maybe the 2014 Luminas are built better, but I'm leaning towards the Cygolite ExpiliOn 800 or 680 now. Worried they might have the same connection problem...


  1. the pace of LED light technology is insane -- just a few years ago, the cost and performance of the best lights would barely compete with today's entry models.

    it's a shame the industry has trained us consumers to talk about lumens instead of lux and optics, which are really what matters with bike lights...

    alex wisdom here:

  2. I'm thinking about this one by Fenix:

    Claimed 750 lumens, uses (somewhat) standard batteries. $130 with a couple handfuls of batteries and a charger, or < $100 without.

    I rarely ride after dark anymore, so I just have a couple Blazes on the handlebar blinking at cars.
    - Ventura

  3. Thanks for the links. It's taking awhile to understand the difference between lux and lumens. I hadn't considered the lights with battery packs, but the connections sure seem like they would last better. Bright, too.


  4. Lumens to lux -- here's an easy way to conceptualize it: horsepower to 0-60.

    you can have a car with a bunch of horsepower that does 0-60 a lot quicker than a truck with the same horsepower. If you want the quickest accelerating vehicle, then the folly of measuring the two vehicles by horsepower alone is obvious. You measure the results of the output, not the size of the engine.

    Same with Lumens to lux -- shoving a crapload of lumens into an otherwise poorly designed light results in poor performance. As a marketing tool, using Lumens it's ideal, because it provides a single and relatively cheap-to-implement data point for consumers to obsess over... but as an indicator of performance, it's not useful.

  5. Interested to find this post. I too am on my second. First bought in October 2012, replaced in December 2012. I ran with the second one for a couple of months and didn't need it until October 2013. Two charges into the season and the USB thing came out just as with yours. I never got round to going through the hassle of returning it. A few days ago I thought I'd have a bash at fixing it. Dismantled, but not yet tried soldering it. Did you return your second one?

    1. I emailed NiteRider asking if the connection was upgraded on the new 2014 models but didn't hear back from them. I bought mine at REI so returned it there and bought a Cygolite 800. That was easier than sending it to NiteRider for a replacement; and I didn't want a replacement if the same thing was just going to happen again. The Cygolite has the larger connection and I'm hoping is more durable.

  6. I have bought 6 of these Nite Rider Lumina 650 lights over the years. Three of them had the Mini-USB connection break off when I plugged in to re-charge. These did not last but a few months when this happened. The other three are lightly used by a friend and my son. As of today, they have not had the connection breaking off the internal circuit board. I plan to return these to REI or Nite Rider to try for a refund or repair. Good lights otherwise, but this is definitely a design problem which should be fixed.