Thursday, April 26, 2012

Light & Motion Vis 360 Review

  When the rep for Light & Motion contacted me this was the light I wanted to review.  I was very excited to hear that I would be testing other Light & Motion lights as well, but this was the one I really was curious about.  From what I've seen no other light company is making a system quite like this one, and from what I saw; they all should.  Still I doubt anybody else could do it quite as well as Light & Motion.

What's special about Light & Motion's Vis 360 system is that it's designed specifically for helmet use.  This slide from the Light & Motion workbook explains it well.

As you can see there are some distinct advantages to having your light system mounted on your head.  Most other light companies offer helmet mount kits for their lights but they tend to make the helmet feel top heavy and unbalanced.  The beauty of this system is that it's not only light weight (130g) but also well balanced with the weight evenly distributed on the front and back of the helmet instead of on top and elevated by a bracket.  This picture of a helmet mounted NiteRider MiNewt is a perfect example.  The light is at least an inch above the helmet.

These type of designs make if feel like your waving a flag  on your head. 
The mounting system for the Vis 360 is really simple and easy to use as well.  The battery is contained in the tail light which has a removable velcro mount to make it easier to maneuver and strap on.  The headlight has a notched rubber strap just like the Urban 300.

Another advantage of having your lights mounted on your helmet is your lights can not be left on your bike. Often, especially in urban areas such as Milwaukee,  lights go missing, snatched by unknown (annoying) people. I find that having the lights on my helmet helps me run errands quicker; without having to remove lights at every stop or be able to ride another bike without switching my lights. On the trails, it is easier to find my way as I can pinpoint the light to what I need to see in front of me.

Also, there isn't an uncomfortable bunch up of material under the helmet like the Urban 300 helmet mount.  Instead the velcro is behind the cradle for the back of the head, and the rubber strap that connects the headlamp flexes and stretches to fit the shape of your head when you put on the helmet.

Now lets talk numbers.  The Light & Motion Vis 360 weighs in at 130g total.  The lights puts out 110 lumens from the headlight and 4 lumens from the rear.  This may not seam like a lot from the tail light but remember that it only needs to be seen; not put a beam on the road.  4 lumens is still more than any other tail light on the market is putting out as compared to other light systems.  The system also has amber side lights on both the head and tail light.  This is important because cyclists are most difficult to see and predict movement on when they are crossing intersections.  This is why all new bikes have reflectors on the wheels as well as front and back.  But I think we all know those reflectors aren't nearly enough.

The light has 3 settings: High, Low, and Flashing.  The battery life details are:
The lights also has a battery life indicator on the bottom left of the tail light that tells you the charge level.  The lights use a standard cell phone charger port that you will find on most droid phones these days.  Best of all you can plug it into any USB or use your cell charger while it's still connected to the helmet and both lights fully charge in less than 5 hours.
As I've said before Light & Motion always has the best packaging.  All the packaging is made out of cardboard so it's completely recyclable and the directions are printed on the packaging panel faces; saving paper.
The light is completely accessible through the packaging and comes fully charged.  This allows customers to touch and see the unique features of the light system right away.

This is a great thing to see, but the truth behind it is better.  In order for a product to say that it is made in the USA it must be %100 made in the USA as dictated by the FTC.  Light & Motion does the best they can to meet this.  However, as Jack Gresmer (Sales Director at L&M) explained to me, some of the parts such as the Lithium Ion Battery have no manufacturers in the USA currently.  Here is a list of Light & Motion products and their percentage made in the USA by cost.

I think it's important to remember that these are percentages of the cost.  More of the parts being made in the USA means a higher price tag for consumers.

I've saved the best news for last.  When speaking with Jack Gresmer he informed me that the Vis 360 would be dropping in price soon from $169 to $149.  This is to make way for a new version, the Vis 360+ that will be premiering in May at $189.

For all of you who like mountain biking at night like I do the 110 lumens of the current Vis 360 might appear a little wimpy for use as a spotter.  The new version will feature a 250 lumen headlamp and a switch to turn off the tail light so not to blind your riding mates.

As I said from the beginning; I love this light.  It's a completely unique to the market and something sorely needed by bike commuters.  Everything about the the light system was fantastic from the simplicity and weight balance on my helmet to the packaging it comes in.  It functions beautifully; emitting a clear white beam from the front, a strong red flasher on the rear with a reflective background, and 4 amber side markers.  I find no fault in this system, I only wish it was brighter, and soon it will be.

I give this product a gold star rating.  If I could I'd give it a platinum star, but that would look too much like silver and be confusing.  Congratulations Light & Motion on a most exemplary product.  Keep up the good work.  Check it out on their website at, or "like" them on Facebook at

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

I'm On a Motherfucking Bike

My boss sent this to me the other day.  Sometimes I'm afraid he might know me a little too well.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Light & Motion Stella 600 Review

I was very excited to learn that I would be reviewing this light because it is very similar to my own Nitrerider MiNewt Dual 700.  Both lights have similar lumen values (especially when one takes into account Light & Motion's "Integrated Sphere" lumen test chart featured in the Urban 300 reveiw).  Both lights are corded dual head lights.
To start, here are some facts and figures.  Light  Motion advertises their light at 313g.  Niterider lists their system at 490g.  Obviously, the Light & Motion system is lighter and in past calculations I found that Light & Motion always had the best lumen/gram scores on all of their lights.  However it was interesting to weigh the parts separately.  Niterider's battery was actually 10g lighter then the Light & Motion battery.  The difference was in the light heads.  Light & Motion was almost half the weight of the Niterider light heads which means less bar weight and better maneuverability.

Now, lets talk about mounting systems.  The MiNewt 700 uses rubber rings that stretch and hook into place on the front and back.  The issue I have with this system is  that it has three different ring sizes and if one switches the lights from bike to bike one may need to have all three sizes handy; not convenient.

The Stella 600 uses a notched rubber strap: simple, adjustable, easy to use, and locks on well at whatever size is needed.  Light & Motion's battery mount system is much better than Niterider's too. The mount is designed to hang under the top tube instead of on the top (the Niterider tends to rotate while riding and brush upon my leg) and it uses one strap instead of two. On the other hand, I do prefer the length of Niterider's cords. The stem on my commuter was a little to long to split the cables around my head tube with the Stella 600.

As far as the actual light lenses are concerned, the two light systems have very different approaches to a dual head system.  I believe, both are valid.

Night rider uses two identical 350 Lumen heads that can be disconnected from their Y-Conector. This means that the rider could also run just one of them if they wanted to conserve battery life or buy a second smaller battery and helmet mount one of the light heads.  One can also "stack" the light beams as Niterider demonstrates on this literature that they included with my light when I bought it.

Light & Motion has a defuser lens on one of the light heads so one side is designed to work as a flood light and the other can be used as a long range spotter.

Light & Motion also puts switch for their light on the head instead of the battery, a virtue afforded them by making their divider and light heads one piece.  Niterider has since also done this with their single head 700 lumen unit.  Cygolite has always put the switch for their lights on the head instead of the battery.

As I demonstrated,  the competition is much closer for the corded-duel head light systems.  Many companies are coming to similar conclusions on how to build their lights.  Light & Motion continues to make some of the best lights on the market.  The weight of their light heads makes them a great choice for riders concerned with weight on their handlebars.  Light & Motion's light systems consistently product light in the whitest part of the light spectrum . Here's an example...

Always a clear white light, not blue, not yellow.

For better pictures of the two lights compared Light & Motion does an awesome job on their website of showing you the difference in how their lights perform.  Check out the Beam Test section of their website.

I give this product a gold star.  Light & Motion may not be doing anything particularly unique with the product but they still maintain their best in class status among light manufacturers.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I put on 70miles yesterday doing this loop.
Winter had a little visit from Summer yesterday.  High of 78.
Why was that turtle trying to cross the road?
A perfect Wanderday.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Light & Motion Urban 300 Review

Behold Light & Motion's Urban 300
This light has all kinds of great commuter friendly features.  The side lights might be the most valuable.  Unlike many other lights that try to give you side visibility by cutting holes in the side of the lens or other such cheap attempts  the Urban 300 actually puts a bright yellow LED on either side to make you easily visible from the sides as well as the front.

It really is very bright.
Light Motion really does their homework too.  There's a reason why they decided to put side lights on their bike light, and here's why.

They're also the only company who accurately tests their lights and posts the results.  Here is an example of Light & Motions Lumen testing data.

It was this particular graph that lead me to do my own testing of the lights.  Notice not only how inaccurate the lumen values are for the other lights compared to their posted lumen values as well as how quickly the values drop after initial start up.  I wanted to see if I could visualize a discernible difference in the output over time.

First, a few disclaimers to give you the level of inaccuracy in my experiment.  The light I have to compare the Urban 300 to is the Niterider MiNewt 250, not the 350 that Light Motion has on their graph.  Secondly, the human eye is a poor measuring device hence why Light Motion probably thought it was important to buy an incredibly expensive tool to measure their lumen output values.
A few seconds after initial start up.
30 minutes later...
As you can see there is very little discernible difference but, as stated the human eye (and a poor quality photograph) do not make very good measuring tools.  Still it is clear that the Light & Motion light is significantly brighter.  Most likely more than 50 lumens of difference.  Also you can see that the Light & Motion light has a much whiter light versus the Niterider is more yellow colored and more focused.  The Urban 300 gives a better spread while maintaining a strong beam.  To make matters better for the weight weenies out there the Niterider MiNewt is 190grams versus the Light Motion comes in at a measly 112grams!  That means the MiNewt weighs 70% more which is right in line with what Light & Motion claims.

They also do an interesting job with their packaging.  There is no instruction manual because all the instructions are printed on different panels of the box.  The light is still prominently displayed and accessible so people can play with it (Light & Motion lights come fully charged to start).  All this and there is no plastic involved, just corrugated cardboard with a glossy finish so it's completely recyclable.

Light & Motion's mount system is simple and elegant as well, a notched rubber strap.  It doesn't disconnect from the bar mount because the strap is easy to remove and reinstall on the handlebar or the helmet mount.
Simple and elegant, the light just straps to the helmet mount.
However, the helmet mount system does leave something to be desired.  Because of the thickness of wrapping two strips of velcro around the vents of the helmet to secure the mount it creates a bulge in the ceiling of the helmet.
It's very uncomfortable.
Some would also be disheartened by the built in battery versus Cygolite and others make their batteries removable so you could cary a spare fully charged.  However, I would argue that Light & Motion's system has long battery life and being non removable allows them to make a lighter weight light.

It's hard to go wrong with a company that can make a claim like this

Overall, I believe this is one of the best commuter light's on the market, only out-shined by it's new big brother the Urban 500.  A small issue with the helmet mount that Light & Motion could easily correct with a little more engineering; however, the other benefits of this system drastically out weigh this small flaw.  Though the price tag may be a bit higher ($129) than it's competitors, it's easy to see where the money goes.  I give this product a gold star.
Light & Motion also has a great website with lots of interesting things for you to explore such as side by side Beam Test photos with all of their lights versus competitors.  Visit them at,

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

First Ride With Light & Motion

  Yesterday I received some lights from Light & Motion to test out and review on this blog.  Here are some pictures from my first ride with them.
Stay tuned, in the next two weeks I'll be testing and reviewing Light & Motion's Urban 300, Stella 600, and my personal favorite, the Vis 360.  It should be very exciting.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ray's MTB, Indoor Winter Cycling

Greetings fellow winter cyclists.  I have a confession to make, as of yesterday when I rode to work it had been 9 days since I had ridden outside.  My apologies, but in my defense it's because I started working part time at this place, Ray's indoor MTB park.  I usually work there in the afternoons after my shift at Wheel & Sprocket so in order for me to ride to work I would have to take this route.
I'm sorry to say that's just a little too much for me especially on a day that I work 12 hours already.  But that means I've been getting in a fair amount of riding at the park.  If you've never been to Ray's MTB I highly recommend it.  Very family friendly and it offers terrain for every level of rider, so you can bring your hybrid riding wife and your street BMXing son there and they'll both have a good time (sorry if that was a gross generalization).  If you have been there before come check it out again.  The Pro riders for Clif Bar were just in town riding to shoot a new video as well a painting a sweet new mural in the pump track.
But not all of us Wisconsin winter riders have been so lazy check out this ice beard picture from my buddy Ronsta's blog.
You can find Ronsta's blog at
Thanks for the sweet pic Ronsta! See you at Ray's!