The evenings are drawing in and the mornings are getting darker and darker. Yup, it's that time of year again - for 2015 we've got in a whole range of lights, from budget commuter lights to top-end mountain bike lights.
If you're new to commuting or riding at night, here are our top tips:
- To be legal on NZ's roads you need at least one front and rear light, but it's always a good idea to have an additional pair of small backup lights too - these increase your visibility (you can run one set of lights on steady and the other on flashing) and provide a backup in case either light runs out of juice.
- Lights come in battery-powered or rechargeable flavours. Battery lights tend to be cheaper - rechargeable lights are more expensive to buy, but you don't need to buy batteries (or send more old batteries into landfill), and they tend to be brighter. Most rechargeables are USB-powered - high-powered MTB lights come with a wall charger.
- Commuting lights make you more visible to other road users so they have a large spread. If you want to ride unlit roads or trails at night, you'll need a dedicated light with a concentrated beam to illuminate the road/trail directly ahead. We'd recommend a high-powered handlebar or helmet-mount light for this. Helmet mounted lights are particularly useful for mountain-biking because you can light up around corners!
Mountain Biking Lights
2015 Gloworm X1, X2, and XS
$249 - $459
Gloworm are a New Zealand company making some of the best MTB lights in the world. Needless to say they use the best LEDs and top-notch batteries, but what sets them apart is their minuscule size and weight, their awesome guarantee and NZ support network, and some great pre-programmable modes and interchangeable optics. As standard they come with helmet mounts, but QR bar mounts are available (standard on the triple-LED XS), as are bigger batteries.
For 2015, Gloworm lights have all-new Cree XM-L2 U2 LEDs - they're a full 12% brighter than last year's model (so if you're searching around online, make sure you know what you're getting!).
One light brand you may not have heard of is Zero. These are amazingly bright lights for the money - the baby in the range has 850 lumens for only $149 - and they come with bar and helmet mounts!
USB-rechargeable Commuting Lights
These lights from Blackburn are USB-rechargeable, have good side visibility, and come with a lifetime warranty. Another nifty feature is the clip on the rear light, which makes it easy to attach it to a jacket or backpack. These are a great mid-range rechargeable option, and the front is seriously bright for the money.
These very cool lights from Cateye were released last year, and for 2015 the new X2 version is even brighter. Rather than having individual LEDs, they emit a wide strip of light, kinda like Tron. They're very bright, have excellent side visibility, and the rubber-strap attachment means you can pop them on and off your bike in seconds. Build quality is excellent - Lewis has had a pair of these on his commuter for 18 months and they're still like new! Clicky here.
These aren't really a pair but they seem to go together naturally. The Volt 100 is a bright headlight with high-output and low-output modes - it doesn't quite have the same side visibility as the two above, but it's got a much brighter, more concentrated beam for illuminating potholes and debris up ahead. The Rapid Mini is, well, a smaller (and cheaper) version of the Rapid X above.
An interesting light from Lezyne, these are bright, have cool beam patterns, and have a bulletproof (not really... well, maybe) metal construction. They also look amazing. The Zecto Pro is swappable between front and rear modes - a handy backup! Click here for more details.
High Powered Bar Mount
We've got two options in stock for this category. The Cateye Volt 1200 puts out a massive 1200 lumens (that's like a car's headlight on full beam) and has loads of power modes - from 'All-Night' giving 17.5 hours runtime, to full power giving only two hours but maximum illumination of the terrain ahead. Road.cc gave the Cateye Volt 1200 4.5/5 stars.
Our other option is the Lezyne Mega Drive - it's pretty similar to the Cateye, with 1200 lumens on max. output with 15-hour low-output mode (and everything in between, of course). A cool feature is the all-aluminium body which should be very sturdy. Road.cc also gave the Lezyne Mega Drive 4.5/5 stars, noting that it has a particularly good beam pattern.
Battery Commuting Light
Cateye Omni3 Set
A good option for around town, these Cateye lights are bright, have good all-round visibility, and good weatherproofing. Being battery-powered, you'll have to replace the batteries every 70-100 hours (or twice that on flashing mode), but if you're only riding once or twice a week then these are a good option. Running these on flashing mode extends the battery life, but to be road-legal you need at least one front light on steady.
Blackburn Voyager 2.0 and Mars Click Set
This set from Blackburn is another good budget option. The front doesn't quite have as good side visibility as the Cateye, but it's just as bright. The rear is a tiny unit powered by two watch batteries. Battery life is rated at 70 hours, which is excellent for a battery-powered light. Like all Blackburn lights, these have a lifetime warranty. Again, running these on flashing mode extends the battery life, but to be road-legal you need at least one front light on steady.
Backup Light - Battery Powered
Cateye Loop Front & Rear
These are probably our favourite battery-powered backup lights. They've got good brightness with all-round visibility, they're weatherproof, the elastic attachment is great, and the on-off push requires some force so they won't accidentally turn on in your bag. Despite using little watch batteries, the run time is great on flashing mode, and on steady mode the rear makes an excellent trail light for group mountain bike rides. Everyone that works here has at least a couple of these great wee things!
Blackburn Voyager Click & Mars Click Set
Another great wee set from Blackburn. These are bright enough, have good side visibility, and handy rubber clips. And as always, Blackburn lights have a lifetime warranty!
USB-rechargeable Backup Lights
Blackburn Flea Front & Rear
These tiny lights from Blackburn come with a separate USB charger. They're very bright for their size, the front has reasonable side visibility and the rear is excellent all-round.
Lezyne Macro Drive Duo
Another interesting light from Lezyne, this is designed to sit on top of your helmet and provides both front and rear illumination. Great for being visible over the top of the traffic!
That's it for this little review. If you're at all unsure about the kind of light that would suit you best, come into the store to try them out, give us a ring, or flick us an email.