Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Light & Motion Arc Lion Review

After a great summer and hours of ‘Chiltern’ Mtbing my fellow Mtb riding chums decided that we should inspire ourselves to 4/5 months winter riding by exploring the thrills of night riding. To be honest, the concept was entirely new to me but I figured that it must involve a decent gadget or two so I quickly indicated my enthusiasm and started my advanced research phase.

I quickly established that I was faced with three possible solutions;

  • Halogen with ‘yellow light’ and generally heavy batteries, probably entry level product and not for a Mtb gadget/technology research freak like me.
  • Luxeon LED (Love the technology) Reliable, durable, generally light weight but questionable light output. Nevertheless very tempted!
  • HID ‘big boys light’, high performance white light, lightweight, high end product. Just the sort of thing I’d like to impress my mates with but unfortunately, over budget!
That’s when Rob and Farqui came to the rescue. A work related meeting with Rob quickly degenerated into a technology debate on all things Mtb and subsequently an offer from Farqui to help source L&M ‘big boys lights’ direct from the US. I’ll be forever grateful for the final import price of £270.00 inclusive, which was just about in budget (well close enough ish..). This equated to a saving of over £100.00 on UK retail.

I didn’t have to wait too long before the excitement levels rose and I was the proud (and extensively well researched) owner of a new set of L&M ‘big boys lights’. It was like Xmas but early and I quickly rushed home to tinker and prepare for a trial ride.

My first impression of the light assembly was how could something so small allegedly provide so much light? I tinkered some more…

The HID lamp assembly unit is approximately 50mm X 70mm in size. It’s constructed from a quality plastic moulding which houses the lamp, ballast lamp control assembly and an integral on/off function switch and LED status indicator. The power cable is moulded in and the whole unit is factory sealed. The ‘Solarc’ lamp is specified as factory replacement only. The lamp assembly is very lightweight and is provided with a universal bar mount or helmet mount. I chose to mount my lamp assembly on the handlebars as close to the stem as it would go. The assembly bracket is well designed and clamped in place within seconds.
The Lion battery pack is also functionally well designed and lighter then I expected. Just like the light assembly it utilises a quality plastic moulding (with a moulded in top tube profile) with integral lamp cable socket and alignment markings and Velcro top tube strap. Again, installation to my bike top tube was very easy.
By now all that remained in the box was the battery charger. Thanks to Farqui, the battery was already fully charged and ready to go. However, the L&M battery charger is designed to charge all L&M battery technology products and consequently will seamlessly handle both L&M Lion and NmHi battery technology. I like this concept and somehow it makes me feel like I should buy another product just to take advantage of it?! Anyway, its plug….wait 2hours…and play!

Enough said. It’s a very well designed and manufactured product but does it justify the price tag and is it as bright as folk would have you believe?

Answer: Yes, WOW, Yes!

This really is a ‘big boys light’. It has two power settings: 13W (attract UFO spotters) 3.5 hours burn time and 10W (irrelevant – I like the 13W setting!) 4.0hours burn time. My first ‘virgin’ night ride was solo for around 1.5 hours. I covered a mixture of open countryside single track and dense woodland track. I was able to maintain around 70% normal riding speed (except on downhill- scary) and thanks to this great product I loved every minute of it. Quick Summary:

  • Great price (thanks Rob/Farqui)
  • Lightweight
  • Very bright ‘wide and spot’ light dispersal
  • Excellent functional design
  • Good battery performance and re-charge time
  • Breakaway bracket (hope I don’t need it!)
  • Versatile bar and head mounting brackets.
  • Lamp to battery cable management. I wanted something to keep my bike looking tidy. Wrapped cable around top tube but still didn’t look quite right.
Other then that I haven’t found any other cons yet. All I’d say is that in my opinion this light is a minimum requirement for ‘dark dense woodland’ night riding. Anything less would slow you down too much. To get closer to 100% daytime speed I’m sure an additional helmet mounted light would make a big difference. I missed the loss of peripheral vision. This is most prevalent when you steer the bike around an obstacle only to completely loose sight of the trail ahead.
Think I need a new gadget! I fancy a Luxeon LED helmet mounted system to complement my L&M ARC. Maybe a Cateye twin or a Hope twin system.

Farqui, any options from the US??



daahnhilla said...

Great lights, and I can recommend the Hope LED lights to compliment your L&M setup, they work perfectly as a Helmet mounted lamp.

Just remember that the bulbs are rated in how many times you switch them on and off!

Rob#2 said...

Thanks. Regarding the Hope LED lights, can you give me some info on the power settings and relative light output and battery performance. I've checked out the Hope site and it has nothing to offer in this department?

daahnhilla said...

Sorry, can't really give you specific details on performance, but it lasted dusk till dawn nicely.

Has about 4 different settings, and the battery is REALLY small. very light setup. I'm sure Hope would happily tell you the specifics, but they sure don't let on in any of the literature.

Farqui said...

I'm very glad that you like your new gadget, mine has proved reliable and I'm sure yours will.

Try dropping Chad and Larry an email for any other gizmo's, I'm sure that they'll be happy to deal with you direct. It might be worth letting the posse know if you do place an order (to help split the shipping).

PS: A great review btw, I'll tag it into the "review" section.

Rob said...

Excellent review.

Rule of thumb for Hal/ LED/ HID is Halogen=15-20 Lumens/watt, LED (Lux3)=45-50 Lumens/watt and HID=70 Lumens/watt. (flourescent is 70-75Lumens/watt, ccfl is less). Diamond Dragon (Osram LED) White will be 69 Lumens/watt in 2007.

LED and HID have higher colour temperature than halogen so produce better 3D vision in greens and browns of night XC riding.

LED's project nearly all light output forwards (thanks to AlO2 ion implantation layer which is also their undoing in later life) so have a lens not a reflector and are therefore more efficient with the avaialable light.

Budget Halogen will have much less efficient reflector than quality halogen. I have both and would estimate BLT or Niterider 10w gives about 30% more forward light than Cateye RC thanks to secondary reflector behind the lamp and top quality lamps.

You also have to take into account the electrical performance. For example a typical cateye RC220 10w will actually run at about 9.5w for the first 10mins only, settling back to 7-8w or about 120 lumens.

A NR or L&M Solo Hal uses a switcher which flattens this out, you can resonably expect more like 200 lumens out of a 10w lamp and much better colour temperature.

So a few examples

Cateye RC220 std 120Lumens
NR 15w 300 lumens
BLT 10w 200 lumens
L&M Arc Lion 700 lumens
20% overvolting RC230 10+12w (Daves) 550 lumens
Stadium 3 21w HID 1200 lumens (before it's eroded it's own refector!)
Luxeon 3 3w 120 Lumens
Luxeon 3 2x3w 240 Lumens (claimed 5w LEDS are overdriven 3W Leds and Light o/p is inv proportional to die Temp, in short 2x5w= 300-350lumens not 450)
2007/8 Diamond dragon LED will be 2x5w 680 lumens (overdriven)

So for a bonce mount light? I would (and do) use a quality Halogen like the L&M Solo. It's much cheaper than equiv LED and for this application you require narrow beam projection. I would recommend this until the next gen LED's get here which will probably be summer 07 for Luxeon. Current LED systems are just too expensive for the amount of light you get.

Now you know!!