Monday, November 2, 2009

Exposure Lights Test & Review

Searching for a light combo (bike/ helmet) that :
-Is lightweight.. A 455 gram light adds one pound, so like to keep the light(s) less than that.

-Has no wires to an external battery-especially for the helmet.
-A helmet light that will add depth of field, a backup light, and something to use in case I have to change a flat.
-Has a run time of minimally 3 hours. I'm not planning to ride thought the night, but if I leave in the dark 45 minutes before sunup--a 2 hour run time light has me nervous for later.
-Has LED bulb(s) so I don't have to worry about replacing the bulb and I get a white light (instead of yellow.)
-Gives off enough light. On roads with no street lights-15 watts/ 110 lumens is too dark.
-Is inexpensive-though lights are not getting cheeper (sic)--but brighter and smaller.

Every year lights get more powerful, smaller, longer lasting (thanks to LEDs.) With my eye toward the Alta Alpina 8 next year--and 2 hours of night mountain riding, I started considering a new bike light. My 65 lumens Coast mini flashlight (100 hours) and 50 lumens Princeton Tec Headlamp (105 grams, 4.5 hours) didn't cut it at the beginning of Knoxville, especially when there were no streetlights. And my NiteRider MiNewt, at 110 lumens, (175 grams, 3 hours) barely did the trick at the end when on a streetlamp-less country road. Something more was needed riding down a mountain pass.

I also have an older15 watt* NiteRider Smart Evolution Halogen light (*lights used to be rated by watts and NiteRider has not converted this to the more precised lumens.) But three problems. (1) Though it could be stepped down to 10 watts and last longer, at 15 watts the light only lasted for 1:45 hours. (2) And it weights--550 grams, adding over 1 pound. (3) Even 15 watts isn't that bright when there is no other surrounds light.

Exposure Lights caught my eye. All their lights last 3 hours on high. Their lights are relatively light--their 960 lumens light is just 298 grams and their helmet mounted Joystick, 240 lumens, is a flyweight 76 grams. At first I figured that I'd get an Exposure Light for my bike and use my NiteRider MiNewt as a helmet light. But then I'd be riding around with a wire dangling from the helmet light to the battery taking up space in the jersey.

An alternative came to mind as Exposure Lights have NO WIRES. I'd picked up the Exposure Joystick to evaluate their product, use it as a helmet light, and if I like it I'd eventually pick up one of its big brothers.

Indoor Comparison
First helmet 10' away from light, 2nd helmet 20' away, Flanders Flag 25' away. (Photos taken on tripod at 1/2s 3.1f) Note-Ward did recommend that I shine each lighting system at annoying corner neighbor's house and see which one they come running out about the fastest.

Coast Mini Flashlight (65 lumens) coupled with Princeton-tec (50 lumens) headlight not the greatest--even if they give off more light than most small bike lights. (And in a garage you get reflection off the walls, ceiling floors; and the light just has to throw 25' which is barely acceptable outside (at 20 mph you'll travel almost 30' a second.)

MiNewt on low puts out a nice white light& 15w halogen Evolution puts out a more diffuse light but yellow so not a great throw forward. Joystick on has the least spread--but has a nice clean spotlight.

Joystick is the same size (actually a tiny bit thinner) than mini flashlight. It snaps onto the helmet on a special bracket that goes through a vent (or a handlebar bracket which I didn't get yet--in fact I put it on the handlebars with ponytail ties which I've used on doubles with my mini-flashlight.) As I later learned, a bonus of the Exposure Joystick helmet mount is that you can change the tilt or direction while you are riding.

Outdoor Test #1

I went to a street without streetlamps (Contra Loma approach.) Throw and brightness of Exposure Light Joystick on High is better than 15w NightRider Evolution, though NightRide has a little more spread close up.
Two things I learned in the meanwhile:
1) Watts vs Lumens. As they measure different things, and watts are dependant on the type of bulb, there is no strict conversion formula. But Peter White Cycles, a very good site re off the beaten path bike equipment, provides this:
Light output: 65 lumens, (5-8 watt halogen equivalent)
Light output: 80 lumens, (8-10 watt halogen equivalent)
Light output: 120 lumens, (12-15 watt halogen equivalent)
Another lighting supply site provides this:
75 lumens=15 watt halogen
So 1 watt halogen ranges from 5-13 lumens equivalent; so my old 15 watt NiteRider Evolution threw out 75-195 lumens.
2) Throw vs With of Beam. A great commentary on this is provided by Peter White Cycles:
On country roads on a moonless night, it's as though you're riding along in a tunnel. The width of the tunnel is determined by the width of your headlight's beam. The wider the beam, the wider the tunnel. With a narrow beam, you need to be paying closer attention to what's going on around you. With a wider beam, you can relax more. You don't feel as though you can make one false move, and go flying off the road. It's just more relaxing. But a wider beam requires more total light, otherwise that tunnel, though wider will be darker.
The 240 lumens Joystick was creating a little narrower but MUCH brighter tunnel than the 15w halogen NiteRider Evolution.
All outdoor photos "brightness" is increased +20 in Photoshop to mimic the conditions I saw after my eyes adjusted.

Exposure Light Joystick Helmet Light Review
Joystick mounts on the helmet on a plastic mount that locks through the vents, and then is able to be adjusted/ tilted on a ball joint, even when riding. It is very stable while riding. There is also a supplied lanyard I clipped to the Joystick that also loops through the helmet vents--provided as on mountain bike rides branches can dislodge the Joystick from its mount. Doesn't seem like it would be a problem on a road ride.

I'll have to make the helmet a tad tighter, it seemed to slip forward a little with the light.
Otherwise the helmet felt the same as always as the light adds little weight.

Small push button switch in the back of the light can scroll through 3 light levels--the small button was easy to find and change (even with mini-Red led taillight plugged into the back next to it) though it would be hard with thick glove; not a problem with glove liners. There are many options for the light--ability to double the light output and attach another lens, attach an aux. battery for longer run time, attach a full sized taillight, or, what I did, attach a mini taillight to the back of the unit. The light does have a power level indicator--though while on the helmet of course impossible to see while riding.

The light does mount on the handlebars--in fact as I didn't order the handlebar mount that also fits its big brothers, I used my old pony tail tie trick to secure the Joystick to the bars. No problem.

After test ride very happy with the Exposure Light Joystick, so I was ready to go ahead and order one of it's big brothers.

Outdoor Test #2
An initial dilemma. Exposure Lights had a holdover model, Maxx-D, that put out 900 lumens A new model, Toro, put our 700 lumens. Weight was basically the same, very light for a high powered light (slightly under 300 grams), run time (3 hours on high) exactly the same. Big difference was that with 4 LED bulbs the Maxx-D had a wider light spread while with one "super" LED the Toro had a more focused beam.
Damn--wish I could have tested both out side by side.
Even though I now had the Joystick as a tight focused beam, for road riding the throw more important than the spread, so I went with the Toro.
I took the Toro and my other lights to the base of Mt. Diablo--again the last streetlight about 100' behind me and blocked by a tree so very dark. I set up a can about 5' in front of the camera on tripod, a pumpkin on the center line of the road, left side of the photos 30-40' away, and another pumpkin in front of the Mt. Diablo sign about 90' down the right side road.
Brightest light?? The ranger's overhead flashing lights when he came racing down to kick me out of a closed park, which prevented me measuring the marks I set up.

As you can see below, the MiNewt's 110 lumens lights up the can hazard, but really fades to the 1st pumpkin on the road, and this area is not that bright. The 15wEvolution really brightens up the can hazard, but really doesn't light up much else--though if I had time to look at the photos at the site I'd have redone this one pointing the light further out.
I included the Exposure Light's Joystick and Toro 10 hour medium setting photos, but this should only be used when riding on a lit street. Using the 3 hour max settings, the Joystick did a nice job throwing out a long beam, but again not too wide, the area around the 1st pumpkin, 30'-40' away, is brighter than the area around the can 5' away. Actually good for a helmet light, will brighten up what I am looking at.

The Toro was real impressive. On medium it is as bright as the MiNewt. On max it is scorching! You can start to make out the 2nd Pumpkin and the Mt. Diablo sign 100' down the road. Coupled with the Joystick the lane for 100' is really lit up.
All outdoor photos increased +20 in brightness.

Exposure Lights Toro Light Review

I'm really impressed how light the light is in total darkness.
As previously reported this brand caught my eye as apart from being cordless, about half the weight of other high powered lights. The only spec negative is that it takes 12 hours to fully charge the Toro (9 hours for 90%.)
The light is nicely machined and so is the light bracket--and the light goes on the bracket very easily but securly. I got a few brackets to put and keep on each bike--as once I get the optimal light angle dialed in I don't want to keep having to move the bracket and start over. Conversely, the MiNewt doesn't need a bracket, can easily be moved from bike to bike, but every time I put it on it took a few adjustments to get the angle where I wanted it.
With glove liners on it was easy to cycle through the different outputs--and on a street with streetlights the medium setting (that goes for 10 hours) was more than enought. But as you can see when it is pitch dark, the medium setting doesn't cut it. As a quick afterthought I had in the back of my mind that the Joystick and Toro on medium would cast half the lumens as they do on full power. But after seeing the lights in action, and thinking about it (Expsoure Lighst does not provide this information), as the medium setting runs over 3x longer than at max/ high, then it stands to reason that the lumens cast are not half but a THIRD of max/ high. So on the medium setting the Toro just cast 210 lumens (the Joystick just 72.) And on the low setting the Toro can run for 24 hours, but just at 84 lumens. I wish the light had less of a run time at medium and low setting but more with more lumens.
In short, I'm amazed how lights have become better (more powerful, lighter, run longer) in a few years. And after a light test and a few night time runs, real impressd with the Exposure Lights.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Be careful of those helmets littering the road (OK, garage) in front of you!