Until recently, if you wanted a bike light bright enough for riding at a decent speed on completely dark roads there were limited options. You could spend hundreds of pounds on an expensive branded MTB light, or you could buy a cheap Chinese import (e.g. Magicshine). Most of these lights would come with separate battery packs which for the average commuter are often too much of a faff.
Exposure Lights were one of the first brands to start supplying more compact bright lights with built in batteries. These are excellent lights but cost more than a lot of people are prepared or able to spend. Fortunately, a number of new lights are appearing on the market this year costing around the £100 mark, which have brightness levels at the sweet spot of around 500 lumens, ideal for unlit country road riding.
I have a few of this new breed of lights in for review, all of which all have similar characteristics in terms of brightness, beam pattern, battery life and features.
First up is one of my favourites, the Lezyne Super Drive light. This is the brightest in the new range of Lezyne lights. When I spotted these a couple of months back I thought they looked interesting and was eager to try one out. It took me a while but I finally got hold of one and having used the Super drive for few weeks I’m happy to report I’ve not been disappointed.
Lezyne Super Drive Design
The light is made of cool aluminium and feels solid and of high quality. The review model is the silver one. The light with battery but without the handlebar clamp weighs 127g. A cap at the rear of the case unscrews to reveal the battery, a standard 18650 rechargeable type which would be easy to replace when and if it eventually reaches the end of its life. It’s a lithium battery cell which offers excellent power to weight ratio.
The light comes supplied with a simple but effective and sturdy handle bar mount with two sizes of clamp to accommodate a wide range of handlebar diameters. It can be fitted without tools – a thumb screw is used to tighten the clamp to the bars. Once fitted, the light can be swivelled to the left or right. A helmet mount is not supplied though I’m told one will be available some time in December as an optional extra.
I’ve not yet taken the light out in any more than a light shower but I have no worries about using it in heavy rain. The sealing on the rear battery cap is good and a rubber plug covers the USB charger socket on the underside.
The light is supplied with a USB lead for charging. A mains USB adapter is not supplied so if you don’t have a USB socket handy you’ll need to buy a USB mains adapter. These are widely available and inexpensive so I don’t find its omission from the box a huge issue. Charging the light takes approx 4 hours. The light does not have a charge indicator LED, but instead the main beam LED dimly flashes to show the light is being charged. It seems to flash slower as the charge level increases until it stops flashing altogether when fully charged.
A single button on the top of the unit controls the light . Pressing and holding the button down for a couple of seconds switches the light on. Then each press switches the mode through high, medium, low and flashing. Holding the button down for a couple of seconds switches it off again. There are no problems with operating the light when wearing gloves.
In the battery life test on high power mode I got approx 1 hour 45 minutes before the light triggered the low battery warning which is indicated by the light flashing every 20 seconds or so. At this point the light automatically switches to its lowest power mode. The light lasted around a further 30 minutes before it finally switched off. This is a very good battery life for such a bright light with low weight. Of course use of the lower brightness modes will let you travel further. You also have the option of carrying spare batteries to let you ride all night.
Lithium batteries really don’t like being run down so I would suggest keeping the battery topped up after every use. This will ensure you get maximum life from the battery.
A thermal protection circuit is included so in the unlikely event the light should overheat it automatically switches to its lowest power mode. In normal use the light will be more than sufficiently cooled by air flow while riding the bike.
The beam pattern is roughly circular with a sharper top edge and slightly feathered at the bottom. It provides plenty enough oomph for fast confident riding on unlit roads. As can be seen in the road shot below, the shape of the beam provides for fairly even brightness from near to far, and is also wide enough to cover the entire width of the road (and beyond). I was careful to point the beam slightly downwards to ensure oncoming drivers were not dazzled. I found they approached cautiously but I don’t think the brightness was overpowering.
I have some other lights in test rated from 500 to 600 lumens. The Super drive is rated at 450 lumens but I would suggest ignoring the numbers when choosing between lights of similar ratings – I find it difficult to distinguish between this and those other lights rated at up to 600 lumens.
A video showing the light in action is shown below. Some parts are in town and others in the countryside. Note that these are challenging conditions for a video camera and it doesn’t really do the bike light justice.
Lezyne have hit the ground running with a very appealing set of bike lights. They combine luxury build quality and sensible feature set with great light output, reasonable battery life, low weight, and all for a very competitive price. They’ve quite rightly taken the top spot in the mid-priced category on our best lights page.
The Lezyne Super Drive is unsurprisingly selling like hot cakes and they do seem to sell out quickly as soon as anywhere gets them in stock. At the time of writing they are available at this online store, or this one.
Manufacturers Web Page
Here is the official web page for the Lezyne Super Drive.