Lezyne Mega Drive Light

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Bicycles and headlights have had a relationship as fraught with unhappiness as Liz Taylor and each of her last 14 or 15 husbands. Cyclists have suffered weak lights with no staying power but were easily mounted, weak lights with plenty of staying power that were difficult to mount, powerful lights that had no staying power but were difficult to mount and occasionally powerful lights with great staying power that took forever to mount and ate up a bottle cage and weighed more than a regulation bowling ball.

As a set of choices, they all left plenty to be desired.

I don’t mind admitting that my core philosophy states that if the sun is not yet up or has gone down for the day, I need to be off the bike. Call that a bias if you like, but I couch it terms of self-preservation because if something doesn’t get me in the dark on the road, I still have plenty to fear when my wife looks at me and asks (in her most disdainful tone), “You were riding where? When?

But riding at the margins of the day, when I’m least likely to be missed means that this time of year, it’s a good idea to have some lights to try to notify less than fully awake drivers that I, too, am on the road and would like to survive the experience. A guy can dream, right?

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What I learned some years ago was that the darker it is, the less powerful the light needs to be to illuminate your way. I was working on a light buyer’s guide with co-workers and found that the lights that didn’t seem to be on at dusk were pretty effective at midnight. The converse was the real eye-opener, though. Only the most powerful lights could be perceived as helping illuminate your path at dusk. It takes a lot more power to overcome the ambient light available and the relative dilation of your pupils to pierce dusk than full dark.

That was a disheartening realization for a simple reason. I’m far more likely to be caught out getting home late for a ride and need riding them than I am to need enough lighting to help me ride to the midnight showing of the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Only the most expensive lights would help. Dang.

The 2012 Interbike show is scarred in my memory because that was the occasion when I made the mistake of staring at a 1000 lumens Lezyne Mega Drive when it was turned on. The entire convention center went fluorescent purple as my retinas attempted to recover. Wow.

Here’s what I hate about most lights: They don’t last long enough. They are hard to mount and remove. They are awkward thanks to cables that have to be strung to battery packs. And as previously mentioned, only depleted uranium is heavier. They are crazy expensive. The Mega Drive solves almost all of these issues.

The light features four modes: the 747 landing-light-esque  1000 lumens, which will go for 1.5 hrs; then there’s the enduro mode which offers a remarkably effective 500 lumens for 2.5 hrs; there’s the economy mode that offers 250 lumens (bright enough for a slow ride on a bike path in darkness) for a whopped in 5.5 hrs; finally, there’s a 250 lumens flashing function that will last for 10 hours—long enough to ride a Tour de France stage at night. It comes with quick-to-mount clamps for either 25.4mm or 31.8mm bars and the mount includes a swivel that will allow you to point the light to the exact spot ahead of your bike where you most want the light, not a foot to the right or the left.

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Did I mention that it has the good fortune to look like something that would power Billy Blastoff’s next moon mission? It’s space-agey in a funnily retro ways, but that corrugated surface has actual engineering behind it; the casing is the light’s heat sink. My light, with 31.8mm clamp weighs all of 287g. I’ve eaten bananas that weighed more than that.

The battery is in the light, not at the end of some damn spiral cable nor does it take up a whole water bottle cage. The quick release mount means that it’s easy not just to do a ride without the light, but also to recharge it with a USB cable.

The rides I’ve done with this light have gone so well I’ve literally ceased to notice that I’m riding at night. While I’ve tried the light on the enduro mode, my rides in darkness have been short enough that I haven’t seen the point in cutting the power. Another liability of weak lights is that if you ride fast enough, you’ll outrun the light, meaning that you reach what enters the beam faster than you can process it. I can say with some authority that’s a bad thing if your path is being crossed by bunny rabbits. Been there, almost hit that. I’ve not ridden with another light that didn’t frustrate me at some level.

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True story: Our son went missing at home a few months ago. While my wife looked for him, frantically waving a flashlight in closets, I grabbed the Mega Drive and used it in my search because … well because it was brighter than our flashlight.

Okay, so it’s $199.99. That’s not cheap. I won’t argue the point. But this is the first light I’ve run across where I saw the light (was blinded by it, actually) and then figured it was worth every cent.

I still don’t like riding at night, but thanks to the Mega Drive, I’m not so frightened anymore.

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13 comments

  1. randomactsofcycling

    thank goodness Battery technology and LEDs are finally making it possible to have a single, relatively small, headlight that lasts more than 30 minutes on hi-beam. I also dislike all those cables and external battery packs.
    It’s just a shame that in Australia we are getting whacked by the importer. It’s retailing for $250++ here. I know the LBS would love to offer it cheaper but they wouldn’t be making a cent.

  2. Mr. Fly

    Yet another mega-lumen glorified flash light! Why can’t manufacturers spend some effort on developing useful beam shape (ala Busch & Müller) instead of touting big lumen numbers? This is like the megahertz war all over again, where consumers are led to simplistically believe bigger number = better. But the truth is really how all that lumen is used (the “lux” across the coverage of interest).

    No *road* rider should waste half the output lighting up treetops and blinding on-coming traffic (get a friend to ride towards you sometimes). Even if you aim the beam down, it’s still not optimal as there’s usually a super-bright spot in the middle creating contrast blind-spots everywhere else.

    An ideal beam pattern should have a sharp cutoff at the top. It should also have a tapering off of “lumen” from the top (where the cutoff is) to the bottom, thus ensuring a consistent “lux” (even lighting) across the entire covered area. One can even use less “lumen” and achieve the same “lux” if one is clever about it. More for less! Really, in effect, I’ve just described a modern car headlight.

    Yes, why can’t manufacturers do something useful like that instead of stuffing commodity flash light parts inside proprietary pretty cases and marking them up X%?

  3. Michael

    I bought the Lezyne SuperDrive a couple of months ago and keep it tucked in my commuter bag for those evenings I get caught late at work. It weighs about half the Mega Drive’s weight, so I just keep it with me all the time, along with a couple of blinkies. I use it occasionally on recreational rides too. At 450 lumens (I think), it is not blinding, but it sure lights the road better than my old and heavy light. One thing you did not mention about the Lezyne lights is that you can buy extra batteries and carry them with you as replacements if you decide to ride longer. This is great if, like me, you enjoy the occasional late-night mountain-bike ride that extends into five hours. You can get a helmet mount for the light too, which helps a lot for trails.

  4. Sam Findley

    As a committed commuter, let me note that it’s really important to have more than one light. I’m personally lit up like a christmas tree with all the tinsel. As one of the guys at the bike shop said: If I ever get hit by a car, at least I know I’ll win the lawsuit.

  5. slappy

    so sad, night riding off road is a true joy, especially on fat bikes in the winter. I run the niterider 750 on my helmet, battery pack in my jersey pocket. I also have a bar mount for climbing with it. neither of them are difficult to install, but then again, I am a professional bike mechanic ha
    also check out amoeba lights hand made in coloRADo, they are, rad

  6. Chromatic Dramatic

    Unfortunately I can’t specifically comment on this light.

    What I can comment on is other lights, especially the sort with an external battery packs.

    There is no reason why lights with external batteries have to be difficult to mount. I can think of plenty.

    The benefit of a light with an external battery pack, is that they tend to give more light, for longer burn times.

    When you are talking about getting a long early morning ride, plus commute home, this becomes important.

    For me, I just find lights like this to be clunky.

  7. Paul Feng

    Since I chimed in with my less-than-completely happy experience with a Lezyne bag you reviewed previously, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that I am a happy owner of a 1st gen. Lezyne Superdrive. The fact that it is powered by a user-replaceable, easily-obtainable 18650 LiIon battery was a major selling point for me. The price, while not cheap, was very competitive with comparable lights, many of which did not feature a standard user-replaceable battery.

    I run the thing mostly during the day in flashing mode to try to catch inattentive drivers’ attentions. Not the most “PRO” but I don’t really give a rip. Well, I did mount the thing under my handlebar rather than over to look a little less un-PRO.

  8. Steevo

    As nice as this light may be, I have been running a Cree XML T6 off Ebay for the last 2 years with great success. At $30 with a lithium battery, they are ridiculously bright, easy to mount and hold up quite well in my experience. Fancy, expensive lights are great but I worry about mine a lot less when I lock up my commuter and have plenty of batteries to on hand when one dies on me. You can buy 6 (again, including batteries) for the price of one these and have change leftover, not to mention that they are easier to mount.

  9. Helm

    It surprises me when you’re blinded by so much light that it is something positive, like Padraig suggests.

    Mr. Fly is absolutely right. A good bicycle light has a useful beam shape. Big lumen numbers is a marketing trick. This is not a bicycle light, but a flashlight that you can settle on a bicycle.

    This bike light is dangerous on normal roads. In my experience, this applies not only for the Mega Drive, but also for the Super Drive, Power Drive and even the Micro driver (front and rear) from Lezyne. The lamps are dangerous because the oncoming traffic is blinded.

    The Lezyne Mega Drive is an expensive flashlight, but is not a bicycle lamp. The lamp is dangerous as a bicycle light.

    In Europe (eg Germany) it does not meet the legal requirements. Maybe Americans are more sensitive to large numbers and marketing than for safety. I live in the Netherlands, a country of cyclists.

  10. P Poppenjay

    Saw a VERY, VERY, BRIGHT light on Poplar avenue from about 2 blocks away yesterday. Wondered what it could possibly be.
    Upon approaching it, I saw it was a headlight on a bike.
    Hmm, I thought, something to ask Padraig about.
    It looked to be round and was extremely bright.

  11. Khal Spencer

    The advances in LEDs as light sources have been a real boon for those of us who ride at night. In 1980 I was bolting a motorcycle headlight to my handlebars and hanging a small motorcycle battery behind the seat. Now I am adding about 250-400 grams of LED and Li-ion battery to get good lighting. We don’t have excuses any more to ride invisibly at night.

    But like others here have said, I wish more of the companies selling bike lights would spend at least as much time crafting the shape of the beam as they do making the light look pretty or cranking up the light output. Blinding oncoming traffic or waking up roosting birds in treetops are not effective use of light.

    Need more reviews with side by side light shootouts.

  12. Martin

    I own a Lezyne Mega Drive Light and so far I have mixed feelings. Yes it is very bright light and certainly an improvement on what I had previously. However it fell from the plastic attachment going over a speed bump on my first ride and the clip holding the back plate came off so now it is zip tied each time I use it. While I am complaining (at the price I think I deserve to complain) I also find it sits too far back on my handlebars. When I get out of the saddle on a climb I find I am bumping the light with my knees – all my othe lights were further forward on my handlebars.

    Anyway as I said at the top – nice and bright, but I have some compaints too.

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