I love night riding off road. On road it’s a bit terrifying, what with traffic and denizens of the night and all, but off-road, at night, with a good set of lights and some friends…it’s magic time. I first began night riding back in the early 90s when I met a guy who founded Turbocat Lighting. The main product was a simple Cateye commuter light modded with an external battery pack and a hopped up halogen bulb. After that came a crazy looking helmet light based on Malibu yard light sealed beam. The external battery packs were lead acid at first and weighed more than your front wheel…more than your rear wheel actually. Then we moved into machined aluminum housings with brighter halogen bulbs in the 15 watt range powered by NiCad packs stuffed into foam sealed water bottles.
It was crude and it was awesome all at the same time.
Fast forward through the years to where LEDs and lithium ion batteries, all controlled by smart drivers/electronics, have made bike lights so feather weight, so compact, and so self contained, that it is like the Wright Brothers vs. the Space Shuttle. I have made my own high power LED lights from scratch, so I understand Lumens and drivers and LEDs and UIs, etc. But at this point in time, it costs more to build your own then it does to buy a set of lights, especially with the China-Direct market supplying lights to the general public.
Now those cool looking Chinese $40.00 lights are a crap-shoot, quality wise, so you often get what you pay for…cheaper batteries that do not supply the advertised current, and lumen (brightness) outputs that are much less than advertised. Add in trying to work out warranty issues by email with a China based supplier and it’s often less than optimal for the consumer with a flaky switch on his light. On the other hand are high end lights from folks like Night Rider or Light and Motion and even from major players such as Bontrager or Specialized. They can be priced from mild to wild, ranging in price from around $100 bucks up to several hundred dollars and can be had in crazy high, bunny roasting lumen ratings in the 1500L range. Even moths don’t want any part of that. *POOF* In any case, with this wide selection of options and prices it’s a competitive and crowded market.
When I saw the Ethos Components booth at a recent MTB event, I stopped in to see what the deal was. Do we really need another light at this point? But after chatting for quite a while, I came away impressed enough to purchase a couple of lights to use this season. Here is why.
Made in the USA is a bit of a quandary for me. I like the idea of supporting home grown stuff, but it has to stand on its own merits as a product and bring decent value. Draping an American flag over a pig does not make it fly. But these guys are the quintessential small start-up, passionate business owner types with some great ideas on how to do things. And if I, for about the same price as the other products of like quality, can support a small American business with my cash then I will do that.
Some things that impressed me:
- It’s really light. At 85g for the Ethos Components Helmet Light and 100g with the helmet mount, so far I cannot tell its on my helmet at all.
- The UI, or User Interface is very advanced, and while it does not let you program it in a true custom sense, it does have enough setting options to make anyone happy.
- Its good looking, all that carbon tube stuff. And we all know that anything carbon makes you faster. ‘Nuff said,
- The indicator lights on theEthos Components Helmet Light are very advanced, offering 5 levels of color LEDs to let you know battery status. Some lights only give you two states, turning red only when you get near the ‘free electron cliff’ so to speak, and then it might be too late.
- The ‘button’ is easy to use even with gloves and gives you “tactile feedback” by vibrating when the button is used, such as when changing modes. There is a cover over the control end of things for dust, etc.
- Light output is decently high at 600 or 800 max lumens, depending on the model. There are 4 ‘modes’ to choose from, so you do not have to cycle through some annoying flashy-commuter setting to get to high on your trail light. There are two lenses as well, either a spot or a flood beam. Your choice.
- You can use it to charge your cell phone or GoPro with the USB powering port. Your light battery has to be charged enough to do this, but its a cool feature. Someone was thinking here. “How can I offer more value in this product to the end user?”
- The battery is very high quality, offering a very high mAh rating. Often the battery is a cost cutting item in cheaper lights.
- The beam pattern on the flood is very even and smooth with a good but not crazy wide spread. Not much throw though, but the spot beam gives you more distance with only some slight artifacts ( a bit of odd shaping to the edges of the light pattern).
- There are temperature ratings to LEDs. Most LEDs you will see used in lights are a blue/white color. That makes the light look very bright and sells well. You see it and go “Oooooo…that’s bright”. But a warmer, more natural color LED is actually easier on your eyes and looks more like natural light, preserving your vision and keeping the surface of the trail easier to navigate. That is what is used in the Ethos Components Helmet Light…warmer tint LEDs.
I will be using a Trail Beam version at 800L on the bars and a Spot Beam version at 600L on the helmet, using the included mount system, a simple moulded mount with O-rings. I will report back after some night-time trail use living with the Ethos Components Helmet Lights.
Prices range from $99.95 to $129.95 depending on light output. Check out the Ethos Components Helmet Light website for more info and contact numbers, etc.
Note: The products shown here were purchased at a discount to Twenty Nine Inches for test and review. We are not being paid, nor bribed for these reviews and we will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.