Having your only source of light on an unlit country road go missing in action is not an experience I personally cherish. My trusty old light had become another victim of the roads I ride. It seems the rough roads had shaken the connections inside loose because every time I hit a decent bump in the road, the light intensity would go from high to non-existent.
I am a commuter, plain and simple. I am constantly being told that I am mad and crazy for the roads I ride and for the fact that I ride in all sorts of weather. However, I feel that I am lucky enough to be in a position which allows me to ride to and from work and on average I ride between 400 and 500 kilometers a week, and this on a combination of country and city roads. I need a good light.
I was in the process of sourcing another light when the good people at Bicycles Network Australia (BNA) promoted the chance to win a SingFire SF-539 1000 lumen bike light to test. Obviously the blurb I wrote about how I would test the light, and the reasons why I should be the one to test it, won the people over at BNA since here I am writing about the light.
I had never heard of the SingFire brand or company before, so a little bit of googling to try and find more about them and what they offered led me to the Shenzhen SingPad Technology Company Ltd. page on Alibaba. The actual company website seemed to be advertising gambling (perhaps a placeholder website?), but the company specialises in aluminium LED lights.
The SingFire SF-539 that I received came in a nice box and on first sight looked a quality product. An initial inspection of each item did however cause me to dampen my enthusiasm a little. The battery pack is not a sealed unit and has exposed cardboard looking ends. Given that I ride in the rain, I immediately thought this battery pack is not going to last the distance if I keep using it without protecting it in some way.
A cardboard battery threatened to put a dampener on my commuting plans
The oldest trick in the book, a plastic bag to protect the battery from water
The next source of my unhappiness was in relation to the power adapter charger for the battery. The power adapter is not designed for Australian power points as it has a 2 flat pin head and not the 3 flat pin head used here. I looked at getting a conversion adapter head for the charger but the cheapest that I could source came in around the $40 mark, roughly the same price as what the light itself is being marketed for. The solution that I found and ended up using was that of a Toshiba laptop power adapter, which fitted perfectly with regards the connection point on the battery pack. The thing that I had to be mindful about here was that my “adapter solution” was compatible with regards to the amps/wattage of the original charger, so that I didn’t damage either the fuses at home or the battery pack itself.
The mounting and securing of the light itself is done via an O-ring; the box set comes with two, a small and a large. The small would likely only be used for a helmet connection, it’s too small for handlebar mounting. As mentioned earlier, I ride pretty rough roads, but in the time that I have been using it the light has not moved once using the large O-ring, and the light beam has always pointed to where I have set it to be. Securing the battery pack is done via a simple Velcro strap.
Solid O-Ring mounting
The battery pack mounted below the stem
As an easy to use helmet mounted light, the whole system fails badly I believe. The “headlamp” mount is not designed to easily mount to a helmet. The straps that come with the headlamp mount need to be cut off first, then a secondary solution to fix the mount to the helmet must be found. Cable ties would meet this need easily, but would prevent quick detachment of the mount when not using the light itself. I also found that the length of cable between battery pack and the light is nowhere near long enough to allow the battery pack to be easily carried, as in a back pocket of a cycling jersey. Yes, you could use a backpack to overcome this, but should you really need to have a backpack simply so you can have a helmet mounted light? These facts alone prevented me from even attempting to use the light as a helmet mounted solution.
Actual use of the light is very easy. It has a single silicon button which turns the light on and off and allows you to switch between the different modes. The button is lit at all times, even when not switched on, so in complete darkness you are not struggling to find the button. The modes are High (100%), Low (20%), Strobe and off. The product blurb about run time states that the light will run in high mode for 3-4 hours. I purposely ran the light on high for an entire morning and afternoon commute and found that what they are stating is pretty spot on. The light was still providing plenty of light by the time I got home in the evening after 4 hours of riding.
I did find that when the battery power gets really low, the projected light beam dimmed quite dramatically. I wondered what was going on when this happened the first time, and when I looked at the silicon button I found that its colur had changed from blue to a light red. As the battery power dropped, the intensity of the red lighting increased. On high, it took the light nearly 50 minutes before it was dead.
The low beam of the SingFire SF 539
The high beam of the SingFire SF 539
Whilst on the battery pack I must mention the connector between the battery pack cable and the light cable. Wow, is it good! It has a great seal and there will never be an issue with rain getting into it. However, trying to get it apart with dry fingers, let alone wet fingers, is a challenge. I found myself disconnecting the cables by pulling on the actual cables, as the plug ends simply don’t allow for a good grip to pull them apart. It’s a small thing, I know, but over time I would be worried about stretching or even pulling out the wire cables from the connectors.
I didn’t find out about a key feature of the light until after a week or so of use. The “manual”, if you want to call it that, simply states: “Focus adjustable design” and nothing else. The red band on the SingFire is not just simply there for its looks, but it is used for adjusting the sharpness/focal point of the light. The sharpest focal point of the light has the beam in the shape of a diamond and I found this to be a clear white light, and very mesmerizing. The other end of the spectrum has the beam very wide but the intensity of the projected beam is very watered down, and in pitch darkness not very useful. I think it is just a matter of fine tuning the beam until you find the sweet spot that suits you personally.
“Focus adjustable design” creates a bright diamond when the beam is focussed
Since getting this light and using it for a couple of weeks, I have come to actually like it. Finding the “focus adjustable design” feature made this light very usable. The light is very easy to setup or remove and has a small footprint on the handlebar. The battery has more than enough life in it for a very long early morning ride or a couple of commutes. Visually, it isn’t too bad on the eye and the quality of design and production is up there; it certainly doesn’t look the price that it is currently being marketed for.
The SingFire after some commuter cycling action
The negative points about the SingFire SF-539 1000lm bike light are that the battery pack isn’t 100% waterproof and the power adapter, the one I received anyway, isn’t designed for the Australian market. The other small issues I found with the light I think most people can live with. If the SingFire company can overcome these two points, I think they would have a winner on their hands.
I can recommend this light to cycle commuters after a budget priced reliable light and who can turn a blind-eye to some of the deficits.
The light was provided by DX – Deal Extreme who sell the Singfire SF-539 1000 Lumen bike light available for $38.15 (incl. shipping).