C and B Seen 1200 v. Gemini 850 off-road lights review

I've had both lights for around six months now. Both put out roughly equal amounts of light, both use the same battery. One costs four times that of the other. I've not stopped night riding all summer, so have used them at least once a week. You'd be surprised how dark it can get in some wooded valley after 7pm in the UK. Last night lights were needed for much of my ride after 8pm. Winter's coming folks'.

Go ahead punk. Feeling lucky? Which light would I chose?

The C and B Seen.

The Gemini wins on perceived quality. It's a nice unit. However I paid over the odds just to get the battery and charger combo - actually the whole system came in at half price, so not a huge investment. I'd be really pissed with it at £160. Why? Well the so-called high quality battery broke the other day. It still works, but when I picked it up an end cap fell off. The plastic had snapped. In storage. Nobody touched it, nobody did anything to it. It just failed and a bit of plastic snapped. Sure I fixed it, but seeing as how I'd bought it for the battery, well that's just crap.

So the Gemini wins on perceived quality, but fails on actual quality. It also fails miserably on price. How can it cost four times that of the C and B Seen unit, especially when the internals look exactly the same. I'll bet anything that they are fundamentally the same lights. At half price the Gemini was just about OK; the battery charger would be £30 or so from Maplin, and although broken the battery still works. Indeed with the time honoured cyclists fix of wrapping the thing in an old tyre inner tube, it now looks better and has a nicer tactile feel. It also grips the frame tubes better. If only I'd wrapped it in rubber from new eh?

If you'd spent almost £200 on a light you'd want something nice. It'd hack me off no end if I'd spent a few hundred on a light only to be beaten on the trails by some £40 youngster. Sure I'd be smug in having a better charging unit, but that's an hollow victory.

If you want to go night riding, don't faff with expensive units that become outdated within a year. Just buy a decent Chinese system from a UK supplier. £45 to £80 is more than enough to get you out there at night, it really is. Well it would be, but to do it properly you need a head torch as well, so call it £120 minimum. That's not a bad investment given how it opens up the amount of riding you can do. Nice night, nowt on the t.v. but a bit dark? So? Go for a spin.

10/09/2013: Update.

Hmm, the Gemini. Starting to get less than impressed with it. The battery after 6 months, during which it has never been abused and charged properly, now doesn't hold full charge for very long and has become a little untrustworthy. It still works, and I've not failed to complete a ride with it yet, but finding it needs a full charge after just one two hour ride isn't that good. And this week I've been mixing the C and B Seen connectors with the Gemini ones - just to get a good set up on the bike, not to test anything. You know what? The C and B Seen ones are lovely whilst the Gemini ones are baggy and only connect two out of every three times.

I've also read on some of the forums that these Chinese originated lights have quality control issues and should not be trusted as a sole light when out on the trails. I'm not totally convinced here, especially seeing as how my Gemini unit has had one or two niggling problems. Fair enough they've been minor, and really only related to the battery, but so far nothing has gone wrong with the C and B Seen unit. And to be fair, even if it did, at £40 who cares? I've had mine for almost a year now, using it once a week even in the summer [some late nights out then....] and it has been fine. As stated, if I'd spent the full retail on the Gemini, £150 or so, I'd be hacked off.

But can you trust any review? I've seen magazine articles praise quite a few lights only to slag them off a year later, or be a bit more truthful in a follow up review. Personally I'm happy to roll the dice on this one and take a chance with the cheapo units. In any case I don't rely solely on one light when out and about, so for me it wouldn't be an issue if one failed mid ride. You have to be sensible when out at night, and relying only on one light, no matter what the cost, would be slightly mad.

Guess the question is, would I buy another C and B Seen unit? Honestly I don't know. There are a lot of lights out there now, and aesthetically the C and B Seen one is pretty horrid. I'd possibly be tempted to buy an X1 or X2, just on looks - but then they are £125 to £160 so there's no chance of that happening now is there?