For example, following my purchase of a Hope Vision HID (Endurance version) back in 2006 I just didn’t feel the need to upgrade my night riding illumination other than the addition of a helmet light a year or so ago. Until now that is.
The Hope Vision HID has been a great light, albeit a bit of a faff to set up and having no battery fuel gauge. I decided that after 12 years the Hope Vision HID had depreciated enough to be able to treat myself to a newer LED light which would also be brighter and hopefully easier to operate and live with.
Given the hassle of cables, connectors and batteries to attach I seriously considered one of the offerings by Exposure such as the Maxx-D. However, I couldn’t bring myself to pay the premium that these lights command and with a special offer from a large cycle shop offering 10% off lights I decided to splash out on a Hope Vision R4+ with a 4 cell battery. I guess I went for the Hope Vision since it seemed to offer a good balance of reliable durability and value.
As the name suggests, the Hope Vision R4+ has 4 Cree LEDs and it is certainly very bright, delivering around 1500 lumens on full power. The R4+ and attachments are very similar to the original Hope Vision HID that I purchased many years ago, although it has been upgraded in a number of ways.
In the box, in addition to the light and battery are a machined bar clamp, head torch strap, helmet mount and extension cable to enable the battery to be placed in a back pack when running the helmet lamp. So the light caters for just about all possible uses, although there doesn’t seem to be a baby buggy mount…
The Hope Vision R4+ lamp is made from beautifully machined aluminium as you’d expect from Hope and about half the size of the original Hope Vision HID, with two sets of three output settings. These are accessed via a simple push button on the top of the lamp that is easy to use with a gloved hand, however there’s no remote so whilst the settings can be changed when moving you do need to take one hand off the bars.
Those two groups of settings are one set to ‘see’ and the other to ‘be seen’. Most of the time I use the ‘see’ or ‘Race’ setting which gives you 550, 1000 and 1550 lumens. You have to press and hold to access the ‘be seen’ setting so there’s no danger of accidentally selecting it when looking to quickly crank up the power before a technical section.
I didn’t think I’d bother with the ‘be seen’ setting but I’ve actually found it to be excellent for using on the road sections without needing to worry about dazzling on-coming drivers, since even on the lowest setting the race mode is too bright for the road. This is actually one of the great features of the light and I’ve found myself using it frequently.
The Hope Vision R4+ bar mount is a black aluminium affair attached to the frame via two Allen bolts but although very similar to the old one that came with the Hope Vision HID, it now uses a bayonet fixing for the lamp unit. While the clamp is securely fixed via the bolts, the light can be removed from the clamp easily which means that if you are lucky enough to have more than one bike you can purchase additional bar clamps to enable easy movement of the light between them in seconds.
The clamp is designed for standard ‘oversize’ bars or skinny bars via a supplied spacer and is offset, enabling the lamp to sit directly over the centre of the bars above the stem clamp.
This leads me to one of my small gripes with the unit and that is the clamp doesn’t work for 35mm bars, forcing the lamp to sit at a jaunty, off centre angle towards the thinner end of the bars. The lamp can be moved vertically on the clamp, but has no horizontal adjustment so it cannot be adjusted from this angle. The offset from pointing exactly forward isn’t ideal but is relatively minimal and doesn’t really impact its use as the beam pattern is sufficiently wide. Hope apparently do a 35mm clamp, but I couldn’t find one in stock and when I contacted Hope they weren’t particularly helpful, so I gave up. Since in my experience most mountain bikes now come as standard with ‘oversize’ bars it would be preferable if the clamp fitted 35mm bars and had spacers for narrower bars. Ho hum.
The Hope Vision R4+ battery is covered in a rubberised green bumper and a Velcro strap which is easy to attach securely to the frame, certainly much easier than the previous Hope batteries that were contained in a neoprene case. There are a number of battery options, including 2 cell, 4 cell and 6 cell options. There are also ‘endurance packs’ with 2 x 2 cell batteries.
The batteries also come with a ‘fuel gauge’ to see if you have enough burn time left to squeeze in that final run of the evening. You have to press a little button on the battery, so when it is sitting on the underside of the frame it isn’t quite as idiot proof as the fuel gauge on the back of the Exposure lights that is right there in front of you and always on, but it’s still better than not having one at all. Of course, what I really wanted was sufficient battery life to give a good 3-4 hour ride and still have plenty of juice left so as to not have to worry about burn times at all.
On this score, the 4 cell, 5100mAh battery of the Hope Vision R4+ gives a quoted burn time for the high mode of 2 hours and 15 minutes. Other burn times aren’t quoted but I expect that burn time on the low ‘see’ mode is approaching 6 hours and medium around 4. Given this, I figured that would be more than enough for a typical 3-4 hour ride if I set it to high on the descents and a lower setting for the climbs. The lower power ‘be seen’ modes presumably adding significantly more burn time. I didn’t want to have to mess around changing batteries mid-ride and decided that the 6 cell was overkill not warranting the additional expense or weight. Everything is a trade-off after all…
On the subject of compromise, battery connectors are now push fit affairs. They are much quicker and easier to connect/disconnect but despite losing the security of a screw fitting it doesn’t seem to have compromised the robustness of the connection compared to the original HID terminals.
Taking all these refinements into account, the combination of the bayonet lamp connector, easy to use battery connectors and easy to attach battery Velcro strap mean that while the Hope Vision R4+ isn’t as simple as the all-in-one battery and lamp style of the Exposure Maxx-D, the additional hassle and time required to set it up is so minimal that I don’t really notice. The big question though, is how does it perform?
It’s early days but so far I’ve been impressed with performance in terms of burn time and light delivered from the Hope Vision R4+. After a recent 3 hour ride there was still around 50% power left in the battery. The light output is much harder to quantify without carrying out an extensive test similar to that done by the Moles many moons ago, however even this suffers from the fact that a photograph with several seconds of exposure time doesn’t provide a fully accurate impression of what you will get when using a light in anger, at speed, on the trail.
All I can say is that the Hope Vision R4+ is very bright on the high setting and illuminates plenty far enough down the trail to travel at ‘trail’ speed, i.e. as fast as you can. It also has a good wide spread of beam. I’d say that the medium setting is still plenty good enough to ride a technical trail that you are familiar with at a reasonable pace.
For me, the Hope Vision R4+ is relatively light, easy to use, offers a decent burn time for my needs and sufficient performance to keep me riding my favourite trails through the dark winter nights. Having the backing of a successful British manufacturer provides peace of mind that it will continue to perform perfectly for years to come. In which case, I’ll see you in 12 years then…