Fenix L2D

Bike commuters have more choices than ever when it comes to bike lighting. The possibilities include: headlights with multiple low-output LEDs that are powered by standard AAA or AA batteries (such as the Cateye EL-220); headlights with a single high-output LED that are either powered by rechargeable internal NiMH batteries or a separate NiMH or Li-Ion battery pack (such as the L&M Vega); headlights with multiple high output LEDs that are almost always powered by a high capacity Li-Ion battery pack (such as the NiteRider TriNewt); integrated generator systems; and high output LED flashlights and headlamps repurposed as bike lights. There are still a few halogen and HID headlights on the market, but with LEDs becoming more efficient and cheaper all the time, lights other than LEDs are on the way out.

I’ve recommended generator systems in the past and I still feel that a high-quality hub generator system is the ultimate for commuters that ride in the dark on a daily basis. You can’t beat a SON hub combined with a high-quality LED headlight such as the B&M IQ Fly or the Schmidt Edelux. The downside to such systems is that they are quite expensive (they can run upwards of $700) and for the most part they need to be dedicated to one bike because a wheel has to be hand-built around the generator hub. For some, the convenience is worth the expense, though others may balk at a $500-$700 lighting system, particularly if it’s to be used on an inexpensive commuter bike.

Battery-powered systems with multiple high-output LEDs are the brightest, but they’re arguably overkill for commuting. Most were designed specifically for endurance racing and, like generator systems, they can be quite expensive ($350-$1000). Again, many people will balk at a headlight that costs more than their bike, particularly because a compact LED system can so easily be stolen.

I’m guessing most people would agree that lights in the $25-$200 price range are more realistic for commuting. There are many lights on the market in this price range (far too many to cover here), and generally, the more you pay, the more you get in performance. Surprisingly, some of the best values are found in high-performance LED flashlights, not bike-specific headlights.

Fenix L2D
The Fenix L2D LED flashlight is commonly recommended for use as a bike light. I first heard about it over at the CandlePower Forums. (For the uninitiated, the CandlePower Forums are the equivalent of our BikeForums, but for flashlight fanatics.) After hearing so many people at the forum recommend the L2D as a bike light, I decided to pick one up for myself to see what all the fuss is about.

The L2D is available in a few different configurations; I ordered what is called the “L2D CE Premium Q5″ with a smooth reflector. The specifications are as follows:

  • Price: $59.50
  • Emitter: Lifetime Cree 7090 XR-E LED
  • Max Output: 180 lumens @ 2.4 hours
  • Batteries: 2/1.5V AA (alkaline, NiMH, or lithium)
  • Body: Hard-anodized aluminum
  • Waterproofing: IPX-8 standard
  • Lens: Optical glass

The L2D has 6 output levels: 4 in standard mode (3 levels and 1 strobe) and 2 in turbo mode (1 steady and 1 strobe). Twisting the light head changes the light from standard to turbo mode. Within each mode, the different output levels are accessed by a button on the back of the light. The same button also serves as the on/off switch. I suspect most people will use the brighter turbo mode for commuting. The flashlight instructions warn against running in turbo mode for over 10 minutes at a time for fear of overheating, but from all reports this is not an issue, particularly on a bicycle where the airflow will keep the light sufficiently cool.

On the highest setting, the L2D’s output is 180 lumens with a runtime of 2.4 hours (over twice the output of the popular L&M Vega). On the next highest setting, the output is 107 lumens with a runtime of 4 hours. The fact that this little flashlight puts out 180 lumens for over two hours on only 2 AA batteries is nothing short of amazing.

B&M Ixon, L&M Vega, Fenix L2D

The L2D’s beam pattern is circular with a marked bright spot in the center that fades out quickly toward the edges. This is typical of most LED flashlights and bike lights manufactured for the U.S. market. I prefer a more controlled Euro-style beam (see above left), but there’s currently nothing coming out of Europe that comes close to the L2D at this price.

The light body is nicely machined and is plenty waterproof for cycling. Officially it’s consider “water-resistant” or “dunkable” which is more than enough for bike commuting in the rain.

Mounting the L2D requires an accessory mount of some sort. The Twofish Lockblock is a simple, effective, and inexpensive mount that can be clamped onto a handlebar or any other tube that would normally be used for mounting a headlight. For a mounting position other than the handlebar, a Lockblock used in conjunction with a Terracycle Accessory Mount should make it possible to mount an L2D almost anywhere on a bike.

Since most people will want to run the L2D in turbo mode, I highly recommend rechargeable NiMH batteries over disposable alkalines. I have a couple dozen rechargeable NiMH batteries that I use for my LED headlights and tail lights, cameras, wireless keyboards, wireless mice, and whatever else requires a AA battery in the household, and I was able to drop the L2D into the charging rotation without purchasing more batteries.

Conclusion
The Fenix L2D is widely regarded as the best high-performance LED flashlight in its price range. It uses a high-end Cree emitter that produces an output of 180 lumens for 2.4 hours on 2 AA batteries, all housed in a lightweight, but tough, water-resistant body. At under $60 it is probably the best value on the market in a bike light. The fact that it’s marketed as a “flashlight” should not discourage anyone from considering it for use as a serious headlight for bike commuting.

17 Responses to “Fenix L2D”

  • randy schlitter says:

    I run 2 to 4 cateye HL-EL135′s, you can set a couple on blink the other two on beam, pretty good lights, all for $100. Note works best two topside, two bottom of the bars.

  • Croupier says:

    Alan, have you used any of TwoFish Unlimited’s other products? I’m looking for something that’ll let me hang my u-lock from my top tube and I was checking out their MegaBlock. But I use the Kryptonite New York Fahgettaboudit u-lock and it’s THICK and weighs like 5 lbs. so I need something of good quality (and that will fit such a beefy lock, obviously; it’s got an 18mm thick shackle). Have you found it to be good quality stuff, in your experience?

  • Alan says:

    @Croupier

    I’ve only used their small Lockblocks and Cycloblocks for mounting flashlights. The quality seems good and I haven’t had any problems, but I’ve only used them on small items. It’s hard to say how the larger mounts would work on something as heavy as a big Kryptonite.

  • Barbara Kilts says:

    I am wondering if this light has a blink function? For most urban commuting there’s nothing better then a blinking headlight – as the ubiquitous blinkie tail light – that says “BIKE”! I find that bikes with some of the very bright steady burning lights could get mistaken for other vehicles. And when riding with other cyclists, the glance back in the mirror says “is that a car back, or…?”. Of course for dark street riding, a steady light shows ya where you’re going, but a lot of city riding is on lit streets and the flashing light can’t be beat for getting attention of other road users.

    Just my 2 cents… actually more, due to inflation… :-)

    Barbara

  • Barbara Kilts says:

    OK…. guess I’ve been staring into too many blinkies! I see that it does have a strobe function. Sounds like a nice light, plus it’s handy to use it as a flashlight – fits in your hand and pocket.

    B

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » Star Light, Star Bright says:

    [...] pair of Fenix L2Ds at [...]

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    [...] The Fenix L2D [...]

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    [...] (Busch & Müller Ixon, Fenix L2D) – The Ixon is aimed straight forward and serves as my “be seen” light, the L2D is [...]

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » A.N.T. Light Brackets says:

    [...] Flanigan at A.N.T. fabricated a very nice pair of brackets for mounting my Fenix L2D flashlights on my mid-fork lowrider braze-ons. Mounting the lights closer to the ground is quite an [...]

  • ‘BentRider Online » Blog Archive » Fenix LED Light & ANT Bracket says:

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  • oknups says:

    Latest pricing I have found from Peter White would suggest that I could purchase a 700c wheel with a SON hub and a Lumetec Fly IQ lamp for well under $600.00.

    It is false economy to rely on disposable batteries or for that matter rechargeable ones, when you consider the lifetime of a SON hub and a LED lamp such as the Fly IQ. Then take in to consideration the impact to the environment of any battery.

  • Matthew Noel says:

    I bought an L2D about a month ago…WOW! The light is outstanding in every way. The beam is nice and tight, the functions work as advertised and battery consumption nil unless you run it in “Turbo” mode all the time. Even at maximum output the light still uses only two batteries (cheap AA) every three hours or so.
    One peculiarity of the “chipped” flashlights: they use a tiny microchip to regulate the power to the LED and it keeps the light steady until it dies suddenly. You can actually SEE the light dimming to the lowest setting when it runs out of battery power, but then it stays there until depletion.
    Overall I would give this light a 9/10. It is a real value for the money.

  • Tomas says:

    I LOVE the L2D. I’ve been using an older model for the last 2 years that tops at 135 lumens and it’s the best damn flashlight I’ve ever used. I’m looking to buy the newer model LD20 this winter.

    Good Review!

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » Planet Bike Blaze 1W says:

    [...] Competition It’s natural to compare the Blaze to the Fenix L2D because the L2D is generally considered the current leader of the pack in sub-$100 LED headlights. [...]

  • Kenneth Rhodes says:

    I think the Vetta Micro Lux is a lot more bang for the buck for just a few dollars more. The Vetta comes with a bar mount, and a helmet mount. Price: $69.99
    http://www.vetta.com/product_show.asp?ptype=whole&id=63

    Bulb : 3 – Watt Solid State Emitter
    # of Modes : Hi / Low
    Beam Colors : white
    Burn Time
    18 hours ( High )
    32 hours ( Low )
    Brightness
    420 lux ( High )
    230 lux ( Low )

    note: The difference between the lux and the lumen is that the lux takes into account the area over which the luminous flux is spread. A flux of 1,000 lumens, concentrated into an area of one square metre, lights up that square metre with an illuminance of 1,000 lux. However, the same 1,000 lumens, spread out over ten square metres, produces a dimmer illuminance of only 100 lux. (ref. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lux#Lux_versus_lumen )

  • EcoVelo » Blog Archive » Double Down Low says:

    [...] a Schmidt or Busch & Müller, or a clamp-on U.S.-style headlight, which in my case is a Fenix L2D. What Matt doesn’t mention on his website is that the rack comes with braze-ons for mounting [...]

  • Mel Hughes says:

    When I first read through this I thought the Fenix lights were interesting but probably not a serious contender. After all, I have a collection of Planet Bike lights up to 2 watts, a NiteRider MiNewt 250, and even some old Cateye lights. Surely a 2-cell AA led light would pale in comparison. But I saw a good offer on-line for the Fenix LD20 R5 combined with a great price on eneloop AA’s ( which also run my cameras, flashes, mice, ect…) and could not resist trying the Fenix out.

    When I got the light and the two-fish mount, I put it on the opposite side of a Mark’s Rack, across from the MiNewt. Below it, on the bottom mount of the Mark’s Rack, I had the 2 watt Planet Bike light. In my highly subjective, un-scientific trials on back country roads at night, the relatively tiny Fenix holds its own with the MiNewt, providing a brighter (to my eyes) and cleaner light than the 2 watt Planet Bike Light. It seems to me to equal the intensity and quality of light from the MiNewt, if it doesn’t exceed it a bit.

    I am amazed! I liked it so much, I ordered a second Fenix, as they are lighter than the MiNewt and plan to use the two of them with the Planet Bike as a strobe. I would have never guessed this to be the case!

    These little lights are made like small tanks. I own a lot of small lights that were ostensibly obtained for me to carry in the helicopter at night. My favorite of these “tactical” lights is a Surefire Aviator A2L Dual LED Output. But it eats CR123 batteries and lives in my flight bag. The Fenix could be a very good replacement, being thinner and lighter but VERY bright and highly adjustable… I am impressed.

 
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