Some time ago we had this wild idea of doing a comparative test of our various MTB lights to let other people judge for themselves which was best. Having missed last year (yes, it takes us a while to organise ourselves!), last week we tramped out to the North Downs Way on Ranmore to do some back to back testing. A strange experience it has to be said…
The results are published here with the original shots of our MTB LED Night Light Test and Beam Shots on Flickr. I haven’t tweaked them at all in order to be fair but here’s a few words on the set up from our technical guru (Dave):
The process of photographing these lights involved the following steps;
- Mark out 15m points with the further points being marked by reflective ankle bands and printed A4 Muddymoles logos nearer.
- Try different exposures based on the brightest light (determined by eye) so as not to overexpose the foreground too much. Fix manual exposure to enable a good judge of relative brightness.
- Adjust the zoom lens to give a reasonable field of view.
The process wasn’t without a few trials and tribulations though. We started out thinking that 45m might be sufficient but had to nearly double that when setting the camera up using the MaxxD light.
Distance using a wide angle lens means the detail gets rather small. Using a Zoom lens also limits the aperture choice, a fixed 35mm or 50mm lens would have let more light in and given me more choice on exposure. I settled on 15 seconds at about 2 stops down from wide open.
Choosing to base the exposure on one of the 4-LED lights meant that the single LED lights or the low level settings don’t really give an accurate representation of what your eye sees as you ride. I don’t think there is much I could do to equal this out as I suspect it is a function of the sensitivity of the CCD in the camera compared to our eyes. Finally, with a 15 second exposure some movement is visible on the trees.
The location had it’s issues as well. We chose this because it is a trail we ride often and has difficult roots and ruts that need good lighting. Being a narrow bridleway means you don’t get the full idea of how wide the light might throw on an open field for example but then that’s not where we ride.
Having said all of the above I think the brighter settings give a very representative image of what your are going to get when you ride.
For the record the markings are as follows:
- First Mole A4 paper – 15m
- Second Mole A4 paper – 30m
- First reflective band – 45m
- Second reflective band – 60m
- Third Mole A4 paper and reflective band – 75m
Having walked down to position that last reflective band I can vouch for just how far away that is!
So there you go. Technical bits explained, excuses made, just sit back and enjoy the ride. If you want to see the shots in a larger format click on a photo and you’ll get a fancy expanded view. Or visit our flickr site for the originals.
Update Here’s the results of our tests with the Nukeproof Reactor Extreme with beam shots which we had in for review during September 2009.
Airbike SL LED light
Originally purchased from On-one, these are now available from their sister company Planet-X. To be fair, there seems to be a problem with the lights in this test, possibly with a weak battery as this isn’t entirely representative of their usual performance.
Airbike SL High beam shot
The Airbike SL on High delivers a claimed 670 lumens.
Airbike SL Low beam shot
The Airbike SL on Low delivers a claimed 375 lumens
Ay-Up MTB LED helmet and handlebar light
These Ay-Up MTB lights are Lee’s and he’s written a full Ay-Up MTB LED lights review based on his experiences with them. Very nice lights which combine the flexibility of long burn times with the convenience of helmet and bar positions to provide a wide spread of light. Plus, the bonus of multiple colour options to the aluminium casings!
Ay-Up MTB LED helmet light beam shot
The Ay-Up MTB LED helmet light delivers a claimed 340 lumens with a narrow beam from the ‘narrow’ lens option.
Ay-Up MTB LED handlebar light beam shot
The Ay-Up MTB LED handlebar light delivers a claimed 340 lumens with a wider beam spread from the ‘intermediate’ lens.
Ay-Up MTB LED helmet and handlebar light beam shot
The Ay-Up MTB LED helmet and handlebar lights delivers a claimed 680 lumens.
Dealextreme HA-III P7 LED MTB light
These are one of the bargains of the year for us. Dealextreme offer the HA-III P7 LED light for around £50 which includes battery, charger and everything you need. Rated at up to 900 lumens these are actually pretty bright (brighter than the images suggest) and provide a decent spread of light. You can read a Dealextreme HA-III P7 LED review from Colin based on his experience with them.
Dealextreme HA-III P7 LED MTB light High beam shot
The Dealextreme HA-III on High delivers a claimed 900 lumens.
Dealextreme HA-III P7 LED MTB light Low beam shot
The Dealextreme HA-III on Low delivers a claimed 500 lumens.
Exposure Joystick LED helmet light (not MaXx)
This is the original Joystick model from Exposure back in late 2006, showing how far LED technology has come. It still provides useful light but has been superceded by many lights these days, including Exposure’s own MaXx models.
Exposure Joystick beam shot
The Exposure Joystick delivers (we think) around 180 lumens
Exposure MaXx-D LED light
The Exposure MaXx-D is one of the best LED lights you can buy. It’s unique advantage is the compact, all-in-one body which houses 4 LEDs and a battery with a 3 hour burntime on maximum output. With useful options that include a remote bar mounted switch to toggle between settings it has a lot going for it. I’ve written a detailed review of the Exposure Lights MaXx-D 4 LED light which covers the light in more depth – suffice to say it’s a great light.
Exposure MaXx-D High beam shot
The Exposure MaXx-D on High delivers a claimed 960 lumens
Exposure MaXx-D Mid beam shot
Exposure MaXx-D Low beam shot
Four4th Lights MTB LED night lights
Four4th Lights come from a solid aerospace engineering background and have concentrated on refining the separate head unit and battery concept as much as possible. The results are head units that masterpieces of industrial design, packing a minimum of a 1200 lumen punch into tiny 50mm anodised shells. Our Four4th Lights review featured a 1600 lumen wide beam and 1200 lumen spot beam. With a wide range of colours available and carefully thought out details, these lights are up there with the best.
Four4th Lights MTB LED 10° Spot beam shot on Max
Using 4 Cree XP-E LEDs, this unit was delivering a claimed 1200 lumens on full.
Four4th Lights MTB LED 10° Spot beam shot on Low
Four4th Lights MTB LED 17° Wide beam shot on Max
Using 4 Cree XP-G LEDs, this unit was delivering a claimed 1600 lumens on full.
Four4th Lights MTB LED 17° Wide beam shot on Low
Four4th Lights MTB LED 10° Spot and 17° Wide beam shot on Max
Around 2800 lumens according to For4th Lights!
Four4th Lights MTB LED 10° Spot and 17° Wide beam shot on Low
iBlaast 3 x Cree R2 LED light
iBlaast are a New Zealand company and supply their lights as pre-built or DIY kits depending on how handy you are with a soldering iron. The iBlaast here is Colin’s and has the updated iBlaast2 LEDs (Cree R2s). As you can see, it’s chucking out a lot of light and can be bought in a wide range of options. Once you deciphered their website and got past the relatively unsophisticated (but reliable) build quality you’ll find a very impressive and flexible light. For more details, see Colin’s review of the iBlaast MTB lights.
iBlaast High beam shot
The iBlaast on High delivers up to a claimed 1000 lumens
iBlaast Mid beam shot
iBlaast Low beam shot
Lumicycle LED System 4 (LEDSys4) MTB light
Lumicycle have been late to the LED party but have finally weighed in with some strong contenders for the ultimate LED light crown. The LEDSys4 (and LEDSys3) system provides plenty of flexibility to get the right light for you and we were very impressed by it’s performance. Lumicycle customer service is excellent and when Tony contacted them we managed to get hold of the new Lumicycle LED System 4 head unit for testing and review.
Lumicycle LED System 4 (LEDSys4) High beam shot (spot)
The Lumicycle LED System 4 on Max (boost) delivers a claimed 1120 lumens
Lumicycle LED System 4 (LEDSys4) Mid beam shot (spot)
The Lumicycle LED System 4 on High delivers a claimed 800 lumens
Lumicycle LED System 4 (LEDSys4) Low beam shot (spot)
The Lumicycle LED System 4 on Low delivers a claimed 400 lumens
Lumicycle LED System 3 (LEDSys3) MTB light
The Lumicycle LED System 3 is quite a saving over the LEDSys4 and as with all their systems if you already have a Lumicycle battery you only need to buy the head unit to get up-to-date light levels. Which means the LEDSys3 could cost as ‘little’ as £159 (as at Sept 2009).
Lumicycle LED System 3 (LEDSys3) High beam shot (spot)
The Lumicycle LED System 4 on Max (boost) delivers a claimed 850 lumens
Lumicycle LED System 3 (LEDSys3) Mid beam shot (spot)
Lumicycle LED System 3 (LEDSys3) Low beam shot (spot)
Nukeproof Reactor Extreme MTB LED light
We were lucky enough to be sent the Nukeproof Reactor Extreme set for review recently and ran it at the Dusk til Dawn where it performed pretty well. It’s a nicely packaged and versatile light. For more detail, read Dave’s review of the Nukeproof Reactor Extreme light.
Nukeproof Reactor spot beam shot on high power
Nukeproof Reactor spot beam shot on medium power
Nukeproof Reactor spot beam shot on low power
Nukeproof Reactor medium beam shot on high power
Nukeproof Reactor medium beam shot on medium power
Nukeproof Reactor medium beam shot on low power
Nukeproof Reactor wide beam shot on high power
Nukeproof Reactor wide beam shot on medium power
Nukeproof Reactor wide beam shot on low power
TrustFire TR-801 Cree Q5 LED torch
Another find off Dealextreme, the Trustfire uses one high output LED and is roughly the same diameter as the latest Exposure Joystick models. Several of us have used these since last year as helmet lights (here’s a review of the TrustFire TR-801) as the light has the convenience of no wires and can be fitted with protected rechargeable Lithium batteries. For around £25-30 all-in, these are great and provide a tight focused beam of light. The photo here doesn’t really show how bright they really are.
TrustFire TR-801 beam shot
The TrustFire TR-801 delivers a claimed 230 lumens