- all photography copyright John Horscroft, 2008 -
...And if you go down to the woods tonight...
Night riding. Night .......... riding. No, doesn’t sound right to me. Like 'government initiative', or 'TV entertainment'. Why on earth would I want to test my limited mountain biking skills in the dead of night? I’m perfectly capable of injuring myself when I can see the tree I’m going to hit. No, as far as I’m concerned there’s day riding and night-time is for drinking, eating and sleeping.
At least, that’s what I thought until PlanetFear sent me some lights to test. Well, it would have been rude to say no, particularly as the lights in question were the Hope Vision 4 LED, Niterider TriNewt and MiNewt Mini USB. Not only do they have great names which remind me of acting legend David Hasselhoff but they look pretty funky too. So the die was cast, the decision was out of my hands, duty called.
Light at the end of the tunnel: night riding brings a sense of isolation rarely found in daylight biking
But what about a partner in crime? Who was sufficiently deranged to join me on this crazy endeavour? More to the point, who has got me into ludicrous scrapes in the past and is in sore need of some payback? David, your hour has come. Luckily, he’s also the proud owner of a Cateye light against which we could pit the Hope and Niteriders. Game on.
Setting up, we soon found, was comparatively easy as the chargers and mounts provided with all the lights are self explanatory and simple to use.
Hope Vision 4 LED:
The Hope is a four LED light pushing out 960 lumen on full power yet it only weighs 420 grams. It comes with both a helmet and handlebar mount and I opted for the latter which is an easily adjusted nylon clamp suitable for both standard and o/s bars. There is lateral adjustment built into the mount and height can easily be adjusted by rotating the clamp on the bars. Both the light and clamp feel reassuringly solid and well manufactured as you’d expect from Hope. The rechargeable battery gives a run time of between 2hrs 15mins to 35hrs (on flash mode), is surprisingly small and attaches to the frame with an elasticated Velcro strap.
The Hope Vision 4 LED
The battery pack for the Hope fits securely under the cross bar
960 Lumens output
Battery Type: Li-Ion (4xCell PVC battery)
Universal Handlebar Clamp
Reinforced Nylon Helmet Mount
2hrs 25 mins - 35hrs run time
Weight: 420 grams
Power - Low:2W Medium:5W High:10W Max:14W
Low Battery Warning
Smart Charger Included
The Vision 4 on test on david's David's bike
The NiteRider TriNewt is a three LED unit with a 500 lumen output and also comes with both helmet and handlebar mounts which can be swopped with the removal of a single allen key. The battery is somewhat larger and gives a run time of between 3hrs 30mins to 7 hours depending on power level. Again, the build quality is excellent.
500 lumen light output Li-Ion battery with 4hr smart charger Helmet and Multifit bar mount
3hrs 30mins - 7hrs run time
Weight - 519 g
High / Low / Flash lighting modes System contains: head lamp, battery, smart charger, bar mount, helmet mount and extension cable.
The MiNewt is an altogether simpler piece of kit. A single LED provides 110 lumens, is mounted in a glass fibre reinforced case and weighs only 175 grams. The handlebar mount is effectively an elasticated strap and mounting on the helmet is accomplished with the use of a variety of rubber o-rings. The battery gives a run time of 3 hours.
The MiniNewt fitted to the helmet and ready to go!
USB Rechargeable Li-ion Battery Pack
O-ring mount with easy release tab (fit any bar)
3hrs run time
System Contains: Battery, Smart charger, Bar mount
Planning your first ever night ride in the depths of winter is fraught with problems, not least the vagaries of the British weather. After a couple of false starts when sleet put paid to our plans, we lucked out with a night when the temperature was due to hit the dizzy heights of 6°C. David was kitted out with the TriNewt on his helmet and Cateye on his handlebars while I swanned about with the powerful Hope Vision on the handlebars and the MiNewt on my helmet.
When did you last read a Stephen King novel, by the way?
- Ghost Rider in Eccleshall Woods - (photo by Dave Cook)
As we hit Eccleshall Woods, the last of the daylight disappeared and I suddenly realised just how good these LED lights are. The Hope is simply phenomenal. As you can see from the photos, the Hope lights up an enormous area without any apparent hotspots. The slightly frosted lens ensures a wide distribution of light that is thoroughly confidence inspiring. The TriNewt was no slouch either. Although it has a more discernible hotspot, it still packs a mighty punch. On paper, the MiNewt looks hopelessly underpowered at 110 lumen, but in practice an experienced night rider would find this enough light for most circumstances. David almost immediately decided that his venerable Cateye was neither use nor ornament compared to the mighty lights from Hope and NiteRider.
The Hope Vision has a on/off/mode switch on the back of the light unit. This allows four possible power settings and a flash mode to be used. The flash is ideal for road use and is preferable to dazzling on-coming motorists with any of the other power settings. The Hope boffins had suggested that I try using the light on the second most powerful setting. Sure enough, for a sizeable gain in the longevity of the battery, there is little discernible reduction in the amount of light. The battery pack does tend to rattle on the frame, but nothing that a cable tie wouldn’t put right.
David found the light output from the TriNewt perfectly adequate for hard, fast riding. He did however decide that owing to the weight of the unit, the place for this light is on the handlebars. Having the battery on the frame would also allow easier access to the on/off/mode switch.
As for the MiNewt, the sheer simplicity of the unit, its lightness and packability would make it a superb addition to anyone’s trail arsenal. If you stay out late and get caught by the light, this tiddler will do more than get you home, it’ll let you have some fun too. Again, some form of switch on the light itself would be useful, but that’s a minor gripe.
Even a familiar local trail looks completely different in the dark!
Night riding is an unsettling experience initially. Denied the usual reference points such as a horizon, balance becomes more difficult. Toiling up the roads to get into the Peak District was accomplished with a good deal of weaving. Once on the moors, the surrounding darkness fosters a sense of isolation as you ghost along in your personal bubble of light. It really is a unique sensation.
On familiar ground, the instinctive caution slowly dissipates and before you know it, you’re pushing on, speed exaggerated by the encroaching night. It seems easier when you’re surrounded by trees although it’s worth remembering that your field of vision is much smaller than usual, so watch out for the unexpected sharp turn – you’ll be on it before you know. However, I’m sure that speed would increase once a few miles have been clocked up.
We stayed out for over three hours and couldn’t discern any lessening in the light output on our return. Overall, the Hope is the best of these lights, but the TriNewt runs it a close second and has a superb output. The MiNewt is fantastic value for money and still manages to produce enough light for all but the toughest trails. Night riding? It makes perfect sense with lights like these.
The lights of Sheffield from Houndkirk Road
Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire...
- T.S. Eliot, from 'Little Gidding' (Four Quartets)