Saturday, October 01, 2005

Which Light ? - Light & Motion ARC

It's that time of year again when the darkness takes a hold over most of our day and we need to dig out those lights in order to keep riding. I did this a couple of months ago and found that my good ol'DIY bodge-it, halogen unit was even heavier than I remembered at around 5lbs. I've happily run this 20w puppy for at least two winters but msTurner looked shocked when I approached her with it, "okay, okay, I'll look for something else."

A few magazine reviews and hours of web browsing later presented me with a couple of options. Upgrade my SLA (sealed lead acid) battery to NiMH (nickle metal hydride) which'd be much lighter. Wait until LED's are more powerful and then go shopping. Purchase a lighter NiMH powered system, probably with halogen bulbs. Or take the plunge and opt for a bright HID (high intensity discharge) unit with a light L-Ion (Lithium Ion) battery. Much depended on the £'s but I also wanted a replacement that'd be a significant improvement over da bodge.

I contacted my trusty suppliers in the USA and Chad came back with favourable prices for JetLights and Larry with Light&Motion. Price hunting in the UK just turned up the old adage; "rip off Britain" but manufacturer's worth a mention are; Lumicycle and Rush. The US run MTBR website provided a very useful insight into most options available and I especially appreciated the light beam comparisons, the specification table is also handy.

Time was tickin' on and the L&M ARC was starting to look like a decent option for me. I also understood that Larry was making an order in the very near future so I took the plunge and request one be sent over the pond. Why'd I select it ? The HID bulb isn't off the shelf with the standard casing and uses their own reflector which gives an excellent long range spot yet stil with ample floodlight spread. The battery is tiny (rumoured to be made even smaller soon) yet has a runtime that will suffice for long evening jaunt's. If I do need to carry another then it's so light that I'll hardly notice it in my backpack. It's also been well reviewed, should provide ample light, is compact, charges fairly quickly, simple to use and light weight. Plus msTurner seemed to like ! Although the charger came with a US mains plug it uses a standard old school "kettle" style cable which was easily swapped for a UK equivalent. The L-Ion ARC weighs in at 1.2lbs, around 4lbs lighter than my trusty ol'DIY jobbie and is so much neater. It also only cost half UK retail at approx £220 (incl'g shipping/duty/VAT) compared to £450...

In use the system is very easy to setup and was mounted up with any problems. The bar clamp will fit both standard and oversize bars and the screw fitting clamps up to any tension you want - I usually have it a little on the loose side so that I can dip the beam and it's also less likely to get damaged in a crash. The L&M mount also incorporates a break away mount to help save the bulb in a crash and if you look deep in the box it also comes with a helment mount - which I've not tried yet. On the bike, just a single plug fitting is needed which looks secure and weather tight. The lamp has two settings; 13w (60w halogen equivalent) and 11w (40w equiv) which don't provide a great deal of difference to the light yet give another 30-45mins burn time.

On my first few rides the harsh, white light emitted from the HID seemed odd compared to the softer, yellow halogen lamp. However, the brightness is most definitely the biggest improvement and has to be seen to be believed. Some don't like the spot of L&M but I thinks it's great for those high speed Millenium Falcon speed runs thru the woods. It helps you to spot that log or low branch long before it comes as a BIG surprise ! As my night rides are typically less than 2.5hrs I've had no problems with the battery running down and tend to leave it on for the duration, even during stops. HID lamps have a relatively short life which is greatly reduced by switching on/off repeatedly, plus then take a few sec's to warm up after each off.

Can it be improved ? Overall, I'd say that it's a crackin' little system that allows you to ride into the darkness almost as fast as during daylight. It might just have one possible short coming as I'd actually like to see a reduced low power setting so that it'd be more useful on the road. At the moment I tend to swing the lamp down and into the verge. Having said that, the relatively high settings are great for getting lazy drivers to dip their main beam if you swing your ARC across their bonnet !


Dan Howell said...

Wow - serious lightage. Mind you, serious wonga too - even at the US price.

I must say the "Bristol MTB Club Lamp" is still great value for money (circa £30 without the charger), even if it is a little heavy - well, in all fairness it's only the battery that's the heavy bit. I think I'll manage another few years out of the old dear yet.

Farqui said...

Hmmm, you're right about the dosh involved but I figured it'd help force me out on those dark, murky winter evenings - when my knobblies usually rest easy.

The ol'DIY beasty's are still going strong and will be enjoyed by other(s) for a while longer.