You’ve heard about the current ‘hoverboard’ issue with the cheap units burning down people’s homes, right? The truth is that not all hoverboards are going to explode. There are well built units that won’t catch fire and then there are those cheap knock offs that do.
We were reading a post over on single tracks that got us to thinking about the issue of cheap lights vs better quality units along the same lines.
Of course, when we think quality lighting, we naturally think “Serfas” – one of the best lighting systems out there.
There’s no denying that a Serfas light built for real night riding (like the Serfas TSL-1800 Headlight) is going to cost you a pretty penny.
“Light is light, right? What do I get for my money?”
Besides the obvious, you know… NOT burning your house down, and having ridden many night rides with both cheapo and Serfas lights, here’s what we’ve found.
- The Build: From the outside, everything is better quality. From the rubber in the mounts, to the plastic and aluminum in the body, all the way down to the screws holding everything together. The unit is built tough, and tough is good.
- The Light: It might just be us, but the light output just seems brighter. Ride with a cheapo 1,200 lumen and compare it side by side with a 750 Serfas and you’ll see that the little 750 is actually cleaner and brighter light.
- The Battery: Battery life on a single charge is much better than a similar cheapo unit. If you’ve ever ridden the second half of a night ride with no lights you learn quickly how important this is.
- The Battery (Lifetime): Over time we’ve found that the battery packs in cheapo units just stop holding a charge. Sometimes the battery pack gives up in a few months, sometimes in a few weeks. There’s no way to know when it’s going to fail. So far, every Serfas unit we’re using is still on it’s original battery and some of them are more than 3 years old!
- Cables and wires: Higher powered lights require a bigger battery and the design guys generally make these as separate units. Strap the pack on to your frame or backpack and run the cable to the light unit on the bars or helmet. The weak spot in this setup is that cable connecting the two. No matter how careful you are, the Cheapo units just don’t have cables that last.
- The Mounts: Cheapo units attach via glorified rubber bands. While that works great at the start, they stretch out and become lose over time. The Serfas lights use rubber to wrap around the bars but it’s a solid (and thick) band – higher quality rubber too!
So that’s our opinion. But we took it one step further and asked Erik. Who is Erik? He is the Product Manager at Serfas for lights. Here’s what he had to say…
There are many of reasons not to buy the cheap lights on the internet.
- Being from China is not the issue, as most companies in the light market (not just the cheapies) either have their lights made in China or the parts are made there and they are assembled here. The issue with the cheap stuff is that it is usually sold direct from China or from some entity that there is no person to contact in case of a warranty or issue with the light.
- Batteries. As you read in the article, these rechargeable lights have batteries that hold a lot of energy and if there is a short or the protection circuitry fails it has catastrophic consequences. (Look at all these hover boards that are creating issues as well as the Boeing 787 Dreamliners that were grounded due to the batteries) Most of these cheap online lights may look good in the picture or even identical to the reputable companies, but once they are taken apart you can see the inferior quality of the LED’s, boards and especially batteries. They do not care if the product lasts because there are no consequences to them. The QC of a company that has a name to uphold is very important and we as well as the other brands sold in the IBD’s spend a lot of money to make sure their quality lasts and the product is SAFE.
- Lumen output. Again, most of the major players now use testing equipment to at least come close to the lumen output that is claimed (some do better than others). We use ours to test finished product to make sure it at least exceeds our stated lumen output and runs at the highest output as long as possible during the runtime of the light.
- Copies, copies, copies. I would be lying and so would all the other companies if I or they said that they do not look at new and disruptive product from the competition. (Look at our Thunderbolt for example. It was a disruptive product that we pioneered the tech in the bicycle industry and now everyone has a similar light). But, we all do our own tweaks and design changes to make it our own or offer better features or drop features to make it cheaper. These other companies just copy a design, use cheaper components and sell it hoping you think it is the same as from a reputable company. I have seen it where the person buying it has an issue and they contact the reputable company when they have an issue and they did not make the light.
We need to fight these copies by educating the consumer on how they lose from buying these knock offs. As I think I have clearly shown above there is a reason the cost of these products is so much less. There is a difference between coming to market with a great price, and having a too good to be true price. Serfas came to market about 5 years ago with the higher end stuff when there were 2-3 companies that you saw in the IBD. Light & Motion, Niterider and some Cygo. They were the only players in the mass market and their prices showed it. We came in with a great quality product, great warranty and a good price, now the market is a little more flooded and pricing has come way down due to competition and technology. Every once in a while one of the major players has a “great price” but not a “Too good to be true” price. And there is a reason for that.
Moral of the Story:
There are certainly some places to skimp and save on cheaper quality gear, there are places where that isn’t a good idea at all (like your helmet). In the case of something as simple as lighting you might be tempted to go the cheap route (and who would blame you) but you’ll soon find out that it comes with a higher cost you didn’t anticipate – like burning your house down, or just being stranded in the middle of a ride. You take pride in your ride, ride with quality lights!