There’s a discussion ongoing about the reasonableness of cycling outside during this time. If you do choose to ride outdoors you absolutely do not want to find yourself in need of medical assistance these days, such as you might need after getting hit by a car that “just didn’t see you” while you were out simply enjoying an appropriately socially-distant ride.
This increased safety imperative has manifested in a renewed interest in – and focus on – the things that make me visible on the bike. I’m wearing a bright yellow helmet. I’m paying much closer attention to the clothing choices I make, and I’m rolling out of the house with lights on my bike, regardless of whether it’s night or day.
Lately, when I roll out it’s been with a Smart Connect LED light combo from Lezyne.
You’ll note that there is a head unit in that photo, and that’s not a mistake. What you’re looking at is a system. The lighting units in this system are linked together by and operate in tandem with a variety of Lezyne head units, or your phone if you don’t happen to be using a compatible head unit. There will be more on the system aspects of this setup later, but we’re going to talk about the lights themselves first.
The front light in this particular rig is the 1000XL, and as you might surmise from the name they manage to coax 1000 lumens out of a 10 x 4 x 2.5cm unit that weighs 153g. Impressively, you will get an hour-and-a-half of run time at that level with a steady beam, and over seven hours in “Day Flash” mode.
You can scale the output level – and, consequently the endurance – down from there, as outlined in this chart from the Lezyne website…
…all the way down to 15 lumens and 87 hours. You aren’t getting much illumination at that level, but you sure are getting it for a long time!
I’m a big fan of lights that allow you to ramp down output like this, as they offer you the ability to limp back home with at least some degree of illumination when you totally botch the timing on your ride or suddenly remember that you forgot to charge your battery up the night before. Having said that, It’s good to bear in mind just how far we’ve come with light and battery technology in the last several years.
For the old-timers out there, that 15 lumens is a wee bit better than the average output of a Mini Maglite, which was/is right about 12 lumens.
If you’re a flashlight geek you already know that lumen numbers don’t actually tell you all that much about the performance of a flashlight. It’s a measure of the total light coming out of the bulb or emitter(s), two of them in this case. It doesn’t speak at all to the beam pattern, lens type or quality, reflector pattern and quality, color temperature… suffice to say that there are many factors beyond lumen count that determine what that output number actually looks like when it hits the road in front of you. Subjectively, this thing is bright. It’s roughly on par with the expensive flashlight-geek units I own with similar lumen numbers, and that means “Overdrive” mode is overkill when it comes to riding on a bike path.
You’ll be glad it’s there if you go off road or you’re riding out in the country on a moonless night, but you’re definitely going to blind cyclists heading the other way on a trail.
This is good news, because the “Blast” mode you’re likely to use most of the time will keep you going for 3 full hours and you’ll get over 5 in “Enduro.”
Whatever mode you happen to find yourself in, the 1000xl has a beam pattern appropriate to the intended use; enough spotlighting to see down the road, sufficient flood to pick up what’s coming at you on the margins, and it has a color temperature up around the cool white range, which definitely helps with the perceived brightness. My experience has been that the battery life estimates in the chart are conservative, and the unit will hit or exceed them in the real world.
The switch logic of the unit is fairly simple and easy to use. A single push button switch on top of the unit – that has a status indicator LED buried in it - turns the unit on, and then advances through the light modes. On the plus side, this interface is easy and intuitive to use. The downside is that you need to work your way through all the different modes in order to, for example, go from “Overdrive” to “Blast” and back again. Flash modes aren’t in a separate grouping, and you can’t pre-select a couple of modes and switch between them.
There is a “Race Mode” that allows you to toggle between “Overdrive” and “Economy” output levels, but that’s a pretty big jump in output.
The 1000XL has a Li-Ion battery, which is high-speed charge capable when connected to a compatible charger. That connection is made via micro USB port on the rear of the unit, which sits under a formidable rubber cap. Micro is fine, but it sure would be great if outdoor industry companies could switch over to USB-C. At this point, the *only* devices I still need to lug micro cables around for when I travel are Tri/Bike products.
The light is IPX7 rated so feel free to ride with it in the rain, just don’t go scuba diving with it. The case is high quality machined aluminum, and it looks and feels like it costs a lot more than the asking price.
Bringing up the rear in this combo is the KTV Pro Smart 75. Again, as you might expect, the “75” refers to the max output level of the light, in this case 75 lumens in “DayFlash” mode.
For comparison purposes, the Garmin Varia Radar RTL510 that we reviewed recently tops out at 65lm, so you get a fair bit more horsepower out of this unit in a package that’s about ½ the size, albeit without the radar functionality.
Naturally, there are multiple modes of operation, and here’s the chart…
Once again, these runtime estimates seem to be on the accurate to conservative side. Optics-wise, it’s solid. Wide angle lensing insures lots of visibility, and the two LED emitters output enough oomph to be seen in daytime operation. If you make the mistake of looking straight at it (as I just did, ouch!) you will absolutely have trouble seeing right for a while.
No micro USB on this light! A rubber-ish cover pops off the bottom to reveal a full-size male USB plug…
…and you simply plug that in to any convenient USB port to charge. This is a pretty big plus for a commuter light; just pull the unit off your bike and stick it into your work computer to charge.
The plastic case of the unit is IPX7 rated just like the front light, and it mounts to your bike via a fairly thick rubber strap that loops onto two wings that protrude from the side of the case. An adapter is included so that you can mount it to a round seatpost or a “D” shaped post.
I was able to affix the light to the deep aero section post on my Tri bike, but I had to daisy chain a couple of rubber O-ring straps from another light to do so.
This works fine, but be aware that you’ll need to do something of the sort if you want to mount to a deep section post. That, or use an alternate mounting location. I’m running with the light on the seat stay now.
As I wrote in the above-linked Garmin review, it would be great if we had a better, universal mounting standard for rear lights. It just seems silly that we’re reduced to strapping these things on with rubber bands, but this isn’t really on the shoulders of the light manufacturers: bike makers, I’m talking to you.
Once again, switch logic is straightforward and obvious. Press and hold the button on top to turn the unit on, subsequent button presses page through the options, another press and hold turns the unit off.
This is a lot of light in a very small package, and we haven’t even touched on the “system” functions that you can access when you hook it up to a phone or Lezyne head unit.
Here's Lezyne's suite of Smart Connect lights, and here's Lezyne's GPS head units, that range from $79 to $199. (I'm using the Mega XL, which is what's pictured in the image up top.)
Stay tuned, we’ll be talking about that in part 2…