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, http://www.bikelights.com/index.html

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