Back in late October early November I contacted the top cycling light manufactures in the country. I wanted to do a review and see how their cycling lights stacked up. With a few exceptions most companies including Light & Motion, Serfas, Exposure, NiteRider, Lupine and SpokeGrenade all sent units. NiteRider, which I was really looking forward to reviewing somehow got shipped to the wrong address or was stolen prior to me receiving their package. This was a big disappointment since NiteRider is widely known in the cycling community. Should I receive a NiteRider unit in the future, I will certainly add it to this review.
My original goal of the review was to see which light stood out on top. Well, as it turns out, all lights tested were exceptional and worked as advertised. That said, I do have a few favorites as some are better suited for various tasks.
The Bar Hopper. For this evaluation I tried to figure out which light would be my preference if I was to go bar hopping with my bike and only had pockets to store the light in. Normally bar hopping involves leaving your bike in locations that you might not otherwise leave them in, so it is certainly a good idea to take your light with you. As it turns out the Light & Motion Urban 500 seemed the best suited for this. The light is small and compacted and easy to take off and attach. The Serfas TSL-500 came in second, due to the fact that it is just a tad bigger. The Exposure Strada is the biggest light in the group and would be a pain to carry around unless you has a backpack. Just for reference, Devils Backbone Brewing Company is my brother’s beer company, so if you find yourself in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, you certainly want to check it out.
Side Impact. For this evaluation I wanted to know which light was most visible from the side, which in turn might alert oncoming traffic from side streets. The Serfas TSL-500 was the clear winner. The Urban 500 was the only light in the lineup to have side emitting yellow safety lights. All the other lights failed to have any type of warning light or mechanism.
Best In Show. What can I say. German engineering of the Lupine Piko TL Max is about as good as it gets. The light is simply a work of art. It looks and feels like it will last a lifetime. The only plastic/rubber used on the Lupine unit is the on/off switch. Runner up is the Exposure Strada. While the Exposure Strada, doesn’t win on style, it certainly looks and feels like a solid piece of equipment. It’s sort of like comparing a jeep to a land rover. A jeep is nice, but a land rover just looks beefy and solid.
Mount Up. The Exposure Strada is king. The Strata quick release mounting unit is pretty awesome and once locked in, the unit doesn’t look or feel like it will go anywhere. The Serfas True 500 also has a good setup, but it isn’t as elegant or as easy to remove the light. The Lupine and SpokeGrenade O-ring mounting setup certainly is quick, but I don’t feel the rubber O-ring attachment makes you feel as confident compared with the other designs.
Alien Lights A Flashing. This one is a little unfair. You really can not compare a 500 lumen light to a 650 or 1000 lumen light in terms of brightness. If I am out mountain biking on single track at night, I want 2 things, The brightest light available and a light that will last many hours. Both the Exposure Strada and the Lupine Piko TL put out some serious light and have a longer burn time. The Light & Motion and Serfas are good, but don’t match up to the Exposure and Lupine in brightness or burn time.. Another favorite is the SpokeGrenade, which also puts out some serious light. The only downside to the SpokeGrenade, is it isn’t a self contained unit (meaning a separate battery unit is required). Based on light alone, the SpokeGrenade wins with it’s 1000 lumen output.
Trains, Planes and Automobiles. As a rule, the faster you are cycling the more light is needed. Most commuters, probably don’t need anything beyond 500 lumen, unless they plan on cycling above 18mph for an extended period of time. The SpokeGrenade wins, having a massive 1000 lumen output. The runners up are the Exposure and Lupine.
When choosing a cycling light, time is also an important factor. Longer burn time means more reliable and higher light output when you need it the most. The Exposure, SpokeGrenade and the Lupine were the clear winners, all having longer burn times then the others. The Exposure Strada had the best battery life of the lineup and is my go to light when considering burn time.
Walmart Special. If you’re looking for cheapest…I mean least expensive…light for your needs, the SpokeGrenade certainly falls into this category. In general any non self contained light will be cheaper than their self contained counter parts. On the other end of the spectrum are Exposure and Lupine, which are more than double the cost of the others.
Breaking Up. This is a tough category since my testing hasn’t found a clear winner. Thus far all lights have performed flawlessly and I have had zero issues. If I had to pick one that might fail, it would be the Light & Motion’s mounting strap. The strap is made out of rubber. Over time and with lots of use, the strap could tear or break. The Exposure Strada appears least likely to fail. The light is a beast and has a rock solid mounting system. No plastic or cheap components anywhere.
My take is if you are a serious mountain biker and you want a rock solid light that will not move, you want the Exposure Strada. The light is beefy and should be able to take the hits and come on, you know you’re going to go down sometime when mountain biking.
Time Is Of The Essence. For this test, I wanted to see how fast I could mount the lights to various handlebar diameters. My commuter for instance has a really really small diameter handle bar, my road bike has a much larger one. The Light & Motion Urban 500 rocked this event. Regardless of bar size, the Light & Motion easily mounted all bars without the use tools or optional bands. The Exposure Strada was the slowest, requiring a tool to add the mounting bracket. If you’re wanting a single light to use on multiple bikes and don’t want to purchase extra mounting units, the Light & Motion is your light.
I Will Take That. If your looking for a light that is a little less conspicuous and something that doesn’t draw attention to your bike, then the Light & Motion Urban 500 is it. Since the Light & Motion unit is small, it doesn’t look like it costs a ton, so a random thief might pass it up for other more tempting targets. The worst of the bunch is probably the Exposure Strada. It draws a lot of attention due to the size of the unit.
Dog Walking. Why just use the cycling light for cycling, heck it could become your ultimate flashlight. Whether your out hiking, walking the dog or reading a map, your cycling light could become your best friend. The best of the bunch is the Lupine Piko TL Max. The light feels great in hand and is super easy to switch between light modes using just your thumb.
Too Hot To Handle. Since all the units use LEDs and have a high lumen value, they all tend to run pretty hot. The one that disperses the heat the best at maximum output is the Lupine Piko TL Max. The Exposure Strada comes in 2nd.
Time To Get Serious
Which light is for you really depends on your needs. If you’re going to use the light for things other than cycling, I highly recommend the either the Exposure Strada or the Lupine Piko TL Max.
The Light & Motion Urban 500 is and would be my go to light when commuting downtown. It’s small, easy to take off and mount and does everything I want a light to do.
For fast night time training rides, I would want the Exposure Strada Mk 3 or the Lupine Piko TL Max. The extra lumen, wider coverage and longer batter life make these a must have.
For single track night time riding, I would opt for the SpokeGrenade or the Exposure Strada Mk 3. The SpokeGrendade puts out a lot of lumen, but the Exposure seems to last longer and is built like a tank with no extra wires or batteries to worry about.
For those that are money conscious, the SpokeGrenade is the least expensive of the bunch and may fit well into your budget.
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