Lights That Keep Us Riding Through Dark Times
It’s that tough time of year. Dark, wet and not enough daylight hours to stay active unless you are lucky enough to get out on the skis. Getting yourself a good set of lights can help open up your riding options and a solid setup doesn’t have to break the bank anymore.
Lights have come a long way over the last 5 to 10 years. You get more lumens in smaller, lighter packages for less money. It was time to upgrade my light system this fall and with all of the options out there this got me thinking about how to build the optimum system.
I started planning my system with the headlight as in many ways this is the most important component. You can have all the light in the world on your bars but you are heading into corners blind unless you have a good helmet mounted beam. My main considerations for the helmet light were balancing brightness with weight and runtime. I personally don’t like having a big bulky weight on my head that makes your helmet flop around and makes your neck work extra hard. I’m also not a fan of external battery packs as you need to run the wires and find a place to store the battery. I’ve always had good luck with the Lezyne lights for commuting and as they have a solid lineup of performance lights I decided to go with their products.
For my first ride I tried out the Lezyne Macro Drive 1300xxl on my helmet. My Giro Montaro helmet has a quick release mount for a GoPro and Lezyne offers and inexpensive adaptor that is compatible with the GoPro mount. I found the 1300xxl to be plenty bright but I did notice the weight a bit and when combined with a bit of play in the GoPro mount it felt like both my helmet and the light were moving around a bit. For the next ride I sized way down and tried the Lezyne Micro Drive 600xl on my helmet and moved the 1300xxl to the bars. The 600 is super light and basically disappeared once mounted but it did leave me wishing for a bit more illumination and battery life. The 1300 on the bars was great though with lots of lumens and runtime. So being the gear head I am, I decided to split the difference and try the Lezyne Lite Drive 1000xl mounted on my helmet. For me this is the sweet spot, not too much weight, enough brightness and no external battery or wires to deal with. So there you are… the ideal setup for me is the 1000 on the helmet, the 1300 on the bars and (because I can) the 600 on the bars for complete backup should anything go wrong on a long ride.
After finally reading through the user manual on the Lezyne lights I noticed a couple of other things of note. The battery indicator switches to orange once the battery hits about 50%. So no reason to panic when this happens unlike some other lights I’ve had that only changed indicator lights when they were about to die. Another feature that I discovered I love is what Lezyne calls race mode. Like many options out there you have 7+ settings for these lights including all the different brightness levels and flashing modes. This is great if you are commuting with these lights but can be a bit of a pain to scroll through if you just want to turn the lights down a bit to conserve battery life.
For me it feels like there are two solid approaches to battery management while mountain biking. Figure out your approximate ride time and set your light at a level that will last the duration (with a little factor of safety of course). Or as I prefer, run the lights at a lower level when climbing slowly on open roads etc. and then ramp them up to max for the fast technical descents. If this is your approach I think you’ll be a fan of the race mode. With the lights in race mode you essentially lock out all of the options except for a high beam and low beam type setup. With only the 2 settings to scroll between you can make this change on the fly with a single push of the button. I really like this option and generally just leave the lights set like this.
So there you go. A few thoughts about my recent quest for a solid mountain biking light setup. I find having good lights provides me a bit more motivation to get on the bike in the fall and winter, which for me is the main goal.
By Scott McGregor