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?
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.
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.
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.