A really long time ago a customer suggested that we round up some bike lights and do some sort of laboratory-controlled comparison thing worthy of a car magazine. Today we had a nice confluence of events: a reasonable number of lights in stock, a short day and a fairly wide open (inside) place where we could shine lights and take pictures.
There’s a nice basket of lights. From Cateye we have a Volt 300 and a Volt 1200. From Light & Motion we have an Urban 650, an Urban 800, a Stella 500, a Taz 1500 and a Seca 2000. All of these lights feature USB rechargeable batteries.
Here’s our test rig, Ryan. He pulls a light out of the basket and shines it on a garage door approximately 40 feet away. Once that happens, I turn out the lights and take a picture. Teamwork? Yeah, we’re eat up with teamwork around here.
At $200, the volt 1200 is pretty tough to beat. It’s a nice little all-in-one handlebar unit that pumps out a good amount of light. What I notice looking at this is that the light is a spot, very concentrated on the door a few feet off the ground.
The Volt 300 is a nice package — less than $100 with two batteries. This is a great setup for a commuter who mostly rides in the city with the aid of street lights. Like the Volt 1200, the 300 has a tight spot, good for looking down the road but maybe not as awesome for seeing something right in front of you.
This is the Light & Motion Urban 800, which will set you back a smooth $150. Notice how this guy puts more light on the ground than either Cateye while still providing a nice tight spot on the door.
The Urban 650 costs $130 has a very similar beam to the 800, with perhaps just a bit less punch.
The Light & Motion Taz 1500 is a brute, lots of light on the ground while the spot tries to burn a hole in the door. Cheap? No. The Taz is a $300 light. Still, the all-in-one design (as opposed to separate battery pack as seen on the Stella and Seca models) and light weight make this one tops on my wish list.
We love the Stella, long a favorite of night-time mountain bikers. Note the nice broad beam pattern. This is a very sweet $200 light.
For those times when excessive is almost enough, I present the Light & Motion Seca 2000, which throws out just an incredible amount of light. Were I asked to repeatedly ride my bike through the woods at night, the Seca 2000 would perhaps make sense. However, most of us would not exploit the good things one receives from a $500 light.
In closing, it’s hard to believe how good modern bike lights have become, largely due to LED technology and its associated lower power requirements. Any of these lights is a nice chunk of technology that’ll last a good long time. All of the pictures in this post were taken of each light at its highest setting. Yeah, that’s the brightest, but it’s the setting that drains the battery most quickly. If you’re going to be out in the dark for hours, it may make sense to buy a more expensive light, but run it at a lower setting. We can help sort through this stuff.