In the battle to own the night, LEDs came in and killed the light bulb as far as bike lights are concerned. That is old news as today we have a dizzying choice of bike lights, both helmet and handlebar mounted, across a wide range of costs, light output, quality, and intended use and all of them use efficient and high powered LEDs driven by Lithium Ion or LiPoly batteries.
I have been running the trails for some time now on Lezyne’s top of the heap LED light, the Mega Drive, and I have some thoughts and overall impressions. Here we go. Now, if you need to, see our On Test and Out Of the Box for all the background and fine details on the light before we go any further.
To begin with, I used the existing mount on the bike my wife rides, a mount that held her Lezyne Mini Drive, a generation 1 Lezyne effort. The Mega Drive is Gen II. I found that the increased weight of the Mega Drive was not so stable on the clamp (the clamps have not changed) until I removed the rubber sizing gasket from the clamp inside diameter. Once I did that, and I slid the clamp onto the bulge part of the handlebar, the clamp held the light firmly and still allowed me to rotate the light side to side if I felt the need to aim it better. One caveat…you really need to pay attention to make sure that the Mega is ‘clicked into’ the clamp and latched. It has a very firm fit, at least the one I have does. It is that way across the two resin clamp samples, and you need to pay attention to that. There is an aluminum clamp option that might allow for a more positive mount, but I did not try it, and eventually came to not need it.
The first few times out I had the light on a bike, it was mounted to a bike I was not riding, as I wanted to do two things. First, to see the beam pattern as an observer from a distance, and secondly to let my riding partner get a impression of the light compared to the older Mini Drive. Now obviously I am comparing apples to bananas here, but chances are someone could be upgrading from a lesser light to the Mega Drive. The beam pattern is really quite good consisting of a very bright spot that reaches waaaay out there and a wide swath of light right in front of the bike to light up encroaching trail demons. There are no artifacts, distortions or odd shapes in the beam but there is a slight dark crescent between the center spot and the closer part of the beam.
I set it right away to the ‘Race’ mode so the options are a low/high level of light…250L and 1000L, eliminating the 500L ‘Medium’ setting and the flashy-flashy strobe setting as choices. The rider, who was coming from the lesser Mini Drive, also 200L or so, felt that the beam of the Mega Drive was better in every way, even on the equivalent lumens setting. On high, it was all they could ask for for casual off road riding. But I ride way above casual. Time to swap it to my bars.
I took it out both with and without my helmet light so I could see it all on its own. After a few sessions of night time singletrack and fast double track, here is what I have come to think overall of the Mega Drive in form and function.
- There is something to be said about the self contained approach, meaning no external battery packs, wires, switches, etc. Clean and simple. Most LED light issues come from broken wires, poor connections, and failed batteries. The Mega keep all this pretty well enclosed and the battery is dead simple to replace.
- It is tough and solid looking and the mount worked fine after I got it sorted out. It never rotated or moved around under rough trail conditions.
- Bright. Very bright. On high, and this light was independently tested and exceeded 1000L, it is very rideable punching far down the trail but still allowing for good ‘spill’. The spill gets you clarity for what is right in front of the bike and to the sides, helping in slower, tight corners. Now beware of outrageous claims for Lumens levels on any LED light, especially the more budget China direct types. For instance, none of the Magicshines I have seen tested have been measured as more than 75% of the claimed light output. Check out this very well done review and comparison from MTBR.com where they show that the Mega Drive delivers what Lezyne claims.
- I never had it run low on battery power level during a trail ride. I always went out with a fresh charge and used the Low setting for all climbing and saved the High setting for the faster stuff. On 2 hour rides this never put me into the danger zone battery wise. Low is enough for even slow single track…barely, but when I used my 200 lumen helmet light together with the Low setting on the Mega, that was all I needed on slow to moderate singletrack. I seldom ride with only one light source.
- The button on the top of the light that does all the switching is recessed and sealed and also keeps you apprized of the battery status and mode of operation. It stays lit while the light is on, but never bothered me unlike some lights that have an annoyingly bright power button glaring in your face all the time.
- It is heavy, enough so that it would be too much for a helmet light.
- That well sealed switch is also hard to feel and press with gloves on, especially winter gloves. And the force it takes to press it may also make the light move on the bars. I never felt like I could go from Low to High on a moments notice while in the heat of battle.
- If anything, the somewhat spotty pattern on high was a bit too much on slower, tighter single track where your eye fell right into the center spot all the time. I would get a bit night blind and I would notice the dark in-between section of the beam pattern. There I wish I could have throttled the light back to the 500L setting or diffused that beam just a bit more. Still, I would rather have it be too bright than too dim. As well, I think that the warmer tint LEDs are better for seeing trail details and feel more natural to the eye. I do not know of any pre-built lights that use them, but they are becoming very popular in among those that build their own lights at home.
- Why do I have to lose the 500L setting or live with the darn strobe as part of the rotation process from Low to High? Race mode gets me Low or High. That is a pretty good compromise. On my homemade light, the driver is configurable so I have it set to bounce between an approx 30% of High setting and High (somewhere near 1000L) with a quick touch of a momentary switch. Then, if I want a true low. I can hold the button down for a couple of seconds and force to Low. That, in my opinion, is perfect. What I get with the Mega is less perfect and I wish I could tweak it a bit. I wonder what cost it would add to the light to make it user progammable?
- It takes a while to recharge, USB and all so plan ahead.
- The self contained part bites you in the butt if you want a longer run time. The battery pack can only be so big and still fit in there. Of course you can purchase a spare battery and bring it with you.
I took it out and did some beam shots using the standard (from MTBR.com) settings of 100 ISO, 6 sec, F4.0 and Daylight WB. I compared it to a Magicshine MJ-816 light a buddy owns that is rated at 1400L if I recall correctly. It is a $120.00 light or there a bouts and has a three level mode…Low Med High and flashy. Here are the pics to compare. First is the control pic for reference. It was a dark night. The next pic is of the Magicshine that I used as a foil to the Mega Drive.
The three pics below are from the Mega Drive on Low, Medium, and High settings. Note the strong center spot but still there is a lot of light spill in the immediate area before the camera. That first power pole on the right is at 60 paces from the camera.
The next three are the Magic Shine MJ-816 on Low, Medium and High. The MJ-816 does a silly thing in that it actually switches between the three different LEDs and lenses to regulate the light level. That gives you a different light pattern on each setting instead of a lesser drive level for the same LEDs. Bad plan, still, here we go.
Here is a rotating GIF with these images in them. First the Mega Drive on Low, then the Magicshine on Low, etc. You may have to open the image to see it play.
So while I have some things I would like to see improved in Gen III of the Lezyne lights, I have to conclude that the Mega Drive is a solid value, gives you what they advertise as far as light output (and more!) and is an attractively simple light to deal with day to day. As much as I enjoy the lights I build for my own use as I can ‘have it my way’, the day that you can build it cheaper than buying it are long gone and if I was using the Mega Drive as my main light, I would be fat and happy. The Lezyne Mega Drive is not a cheap light, but it is well worth the asking price.
Note: Lezyne sent the Mega Drive for test and review at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches. We are not being bribed, nor paid to do this review. We will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.