Review: 5,000 Lumen SolarStorm

WARNING: The battery pack of this light has been known to ignite while charging, causing a fire that destroyed a home.

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Back in November I ordered the 5,000 lumen SolarStorm™ bike light on Amazon.com for the too-good-to-be-true price of $17.56 (plus free shipping). Here’s my review for those who are considering taking a chance and purchasing this or any other “cheapo” light from Amazon or eBay.

Ridiculous Delivery Times

I placed my order on November 22, 2014 and was given a delivery window between December 22, 2014 and January 9, 2015. I was cautiously optimistic that I might actually receive my light before Christmas, but it wasn’t really a gift so I wasn’t in a huge rush.

A few weeks after placing my order I mentioned my purchase to a biking buddy and he remarked that the delivery was probably slow because they still had to invent a 5,000 lumen bike light that cost less than $20. Ha!

In all seriousness, these lights are typically sold and marketed directly by the manufacturer (or at the very least, a company that’s located overseas close to manufacturing) so long lead times are to be expected. For such a low price (and free shipping!) I figured my light was making the slow journey from Asia on a boat rather than a DHL jet. The DHL tracking number I received was invalid but sometimes that happens, right?

No Show

The shipping information on Amazon.com said my light would be delivered by 8pm on Friday, January 9. It turned out that the price really was too good to be true, since the light never arrived! On Monday I decided to contact the seller to let them know about the problem but, surprise! No response.

Ok, again, I shouldn’t be shocked: at such a low price, how can anyone afford to offer reasonable shipping or customer service? Clicking over to the seller’s page I quickly realized I wasn’t the only person who was having problems. In one day alone the seller had received at least a dozen 1-star reviews with all the reviewers stating they never received their goods. Uh oh. I think I got scammed.

In writing this article I went back to the product page and lo and behold, there’s a new seller (the old one was probably tanked from all the poor reviews) and the new seller claimed to have 9 lights left in stock. Sure, the price went up a few cents to $18.00 but that’s still a deal–and the lights are in stock!  Even if I end up paying for this twice, it’s still a 5,000 lumen light for under $36. You know how the old saying goes: fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…

The Light

Here's how my 5,000 lumen SolarStorm™ light illuminates the trail. Ha!
Here’s how my 5,000 lumen SolarStorm™ light illuminates the trail. Ha!

Clearly I don’t have the light, but after looking through reviews from customers who presumably did receive a light at some point, there are some red flags. Amazon reviewer Scott A. Hauert says:

Charged and tested in dark garage side-by-side with the 2800 [lumen] SecurityING. They are the same.

Ok, so the light might actually produce just half the claimed 5,000 lumens. I guess that’s ok. On our light buyer’s guide the closest (legit) thing we found was a 6,000 lumen behemoth… and it costs about $1,200. Not only does it seem the bulbs aren’t as bright as claimed, but other reviewers point out there are issues with the battery as well. Andrew McQuinn says:

…the battery pack is not as advertised. Two of four cells in the battery pack aren’t even real batteries, but rather dummy cells. As it arrived, the 2 working cells were wired in series for 7.2 volts with 2 useless dummies hanging on. As such, the capacity is 1300 mAh @ 7.2v, or 20% the advertised amperage.

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Honestly I couldn’t even find claimed battery life listed anywhere on the product page when I ordered, so I didn’t know what to expect. But providing just 20% of the advertised amperage is completely ridiculous.

Buyer Beware

As many readers pointed out when we first published our light buyers guide back in November, there are many inexpensive light options out there beyond the big names on our list. However, clearly there are benefits to buying reputable brands from reputable sellers. Notably:

  • Shipping and customer service. If I had purchased a light from Chain Reaction Cycles or JensonUSA or even a local bike shop, you can bet I wouldn’t be quoted a shipping date a month out. Plus, I feel confident I would at least get a response from customer service to address any issues.
  • Truth in advertising. When I buy a light from NiteRider or Light & Motion, I expect the lights to be as bright as claimed, and I expect the batteries to last at least as long as stated.
  • Safety. I expect brand name lights to be safe–batteries are packed with reactive chemicals that can pose a safety hazard if they’re not assembled correctly.
  • Trust. How can anyone trust a company that inserts dummy parts into a product? Brands like NiteRider have built consumer trust over a 25-year period and won’t cut corners to undermine the trust they’ve worked so hard to build.

Is buying an inexpensive, no-name light from an Amazon or eBay seller worth the risk? Ultimately that’s up to the buyer. For me, risking $17.56 on a light that might not actually exist wasn’t a big deal but if it had been, say, $50 or more, I probably would have balked.

Still, there’s the off chance that my light might actually arrive one day. If it does, I’ll definitely give it a try and will post my review right here. Stay tuned. 🙂

What has your experience buying cheapo bike lights been like?

WARNING: The battery pack of this light has been known to ignite while charging, causing a fire that destroyed a home.

Warnings added on December 14, 2015.

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