Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Light Season Starts Now

My lights are two years old and already old technology!
Maybe you are old enough to remember when computers, home computers, or "PC's", went out of date at a rate of about every six months. You'd buy a cutting edge system only to have it be , essentially, an antique in a year. 

Well, I feel that way about LED lights for bicycles. The technology changes so quickly that I end up having lights that have good batteries yet but don't have nearly the lens technology or battery performance that the newer stuff coming out now has. It's hard to "make do" with two year old lights when you see how well new lights work and especially when you see how inexpensive that technology is

This is getting important right now because we are just coming into "Light Season". I know, many of you think it is "Fall", whatever that means, but for us cyclists who like to ride all year, it is "Light Season". The time of year we have to break out the lights, charging cables (uggh!) and to make sure we have the mounts (double uggh!), for the lights we want to use. 

So, this press release from Lezyne came out the other day featuring their newly redesigned (of course they are!) lights. I checked out the "big dog" of the range with the most Lumen power. I do this out of habit because in the past, those were the lights I'd use for longer outings. Never at the maximum power rating, but at a mid-level, because battery run times on "high" level were generally around an hour, maybe an hour and a half. And you know, that isn't very long for my rides out in the country.

The Lezyne Macro Drive 1400+ (Image courtesy of Lezyne)

I was looking for something at a lumen rating of 300 with at least two hours of run time. That would be great! And lately, those lights have started to appear that have that capability. But now?

Oh my!

Check out these stats for the latest Lezyne model, the Macro Drive 1400+. On the highest setting, the blinding 1400 Lumen setting, this light is rated to run for three hours! What?!!

And 450L is a lot of light on white rock, gravel roads, and I can see really well at that level, given the lens tech is reasonably good. What is the run time there?

Twelve hours plus. 

Okay, but what do you have to pay for that? Usually great specs equaled big dollars, at least it used to in the past. How does a hundred bucks seem to you? Actually, it lists for a penny less than 100 at $99.99, but who's quibbling over that penny here when you get all of that packed into a self-contained unit? It's insane what you can buy for that kind of money in 2023. 

Look, you don't have to just look at Lezyne. Many lights will be hitting the market this Fall, (Light Season) for similar prices with similar specs. These sorts of advancements in bicycle lighting are generated by LED emitter tech and battery tech that is available to many companies. So, I'm not saying Lezyne is all that, although I will admit to liking heir past products. Good stuff which I still use. But obviously, Lezyne isn't the only deal on the block here. 

But if you haven't been thinking about some late-season night riding, you should. These lights out now are bargains for what performance you can get and they are compact and easy to get along with. The lens technologies have never been better and riding in the dark is fun. It's Light Season - Go ride in the dark!


AL said...

The other gamechanger for me has been the Garmin Varia. Especially on long, mostly empty roads, it's great that it can give me a heads up about cars approaching from 300ish yards back. And (as I just learned this weekend), it works in torrential rain!

Nooge said...

I bought a Lezyne light last year with a similar strategy of not caring about the max lumens but how many hours it could output a more reasonable 500 or so lumens. Lezyne has a product matrix on their website. What was interesting was the lights with the highest max lumens and longest runtime at max lumens weren’t the ones with the longest runtime at medium/low lumens. I think to get the super bright levels they have to use less efficient LEDs. Anyways it worked out better because it was cheaper. I got the Macro Drive 1300xxl for $89 and it can do 450L for 8 hours.

A year later and that 1400 at $100 for 12 hours is quite the leap. But 8 hours is plenty for me.

Guitar Ted said...

@Nooge - Interesting note you point out there. Thanks!

Nooge said...

I really tried to find that comparison matrix from Lezyne but it appears that they took it down (probably because it became outdated with newer light models coming out). That’s a shame because it had a lot of good info.

The next best thing is to go to their light manuals page and see the runtime chart in the manual for each model. See here

The Mega Drive 1800i and Super Drive 1600XXL can only do either 10 hours at 250L or 3:45 at 600L.

Oddly the Macro Drive 1400 and all their new models’ manuals aren’t listed on that page, but you can see the runtimes on the product pages. The 1400 is king of the hill for the ~500L run times.

Daniel said...

I got myself a dynamo light and haven't looked back. Love the thing. Also like Al mentioned the Garmin Varia is awesome.

Blain said...

Lights are definitely getting better, but it’s worth noting that runtime can be a deceptive measurement. The ANSI FL1 runtime measurement allows them to state ‘peak’ lumens and associate that with a runtime that counts until the light is at 10% of its max output. They don’t (often) remain at peak intensity for the full time stated. You can see how one could game the system to overstate the capability of a light. I don’t know what Lezyne’s lights do as far as holding intensity, but it’s worth being aware of.