Tuesday, September 6, 2011

bicycle headlight - moon X-power 500 review

I have recently taken to early starts at o'dark thirty as my previous post highlights. As I have been riding on unlit country roads, a proper headlight was in order. In my case, the Moon X-Power 500 – that's a 500 lumens headlight for a bike! I know brighter lights are available, but really, are they necessary for cycling? Perhaps for mountain bike riding in the dark?

The 500 is ample bright for unlit roads. So bright in fact that I have been riding it on its "standard" setting of 240 lumens (made from a selection of "Full after-burners engaged", High, Standard and Low) unless its really pitch black. The beam is a good design with ample reach and diffusion to provide a nice balance between seeing ahead at speed and around to give a sense of the space beside you. When the sunlight makes its debut, I switch to Flashing mode which, at a reported 380 lumens, is blindingly bright. Retro-reflective street signs flash at me from a kilometre away when I have this mode on. In pitch black, flash mode is disorienting. The whole world seems to strobe and the mode makes me dizzy.

The power/mode button is a flush press fit, not the best when wearing full gloves but manageable. I would also like a mode indicator on the light or a switch that shows by its position the current mode. It is hard to tell which mode you're in and since the battery life is reduced significantly in the brightest modes, I would like to be able to tell at a glance that I am in a lower intensity mode as I trundle along. The unit does flash red LED at you when it is running low on juice. Switching to a lower power mode can save you from complete blackout for awhile.

The mounting bracket for handlebar use is sturdy but the "quick-release" is not quick. You have to screw in the bolt and use the lever just to cinch it down. There's no way to get the quick-release to work as one since you can't get the clamping loop over the bars if the screw is in. Still, this is a minor quibble. The bracket clamps to my oversize road bars with no problems and the light is slid into place on (or removed from) the bracket with the press of a catch. The pitch and yaw of the headlight are adjustable easily.

A helmet mount (velcro strap and bracket) is included with the kit. I haven't tried it and I am unlikely to do so. There's nothing I hate more than a fellow cyclist looking me in the eye and blinding me with their head-mounted laser beam as they wish me good morning. I bet motorists hate it too. This system (IMHO) has no place on the road.

The light comes in a funky carry case with charger and USB cable. It charges okay in a few hours from computer USB or the wall USB charger provided. Only time will tell how many recharge cycles I get from the unit. It doesn't take a standard AA but instead a specially built NiMH battery enclosure slides inside the light. Hopefully a replacement is available when it comes time! Otherwise I would be really annoyed.

Be seen. Be safe.

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