Review – Light and Motion Urban 650
Light and Motion make lights. Lots of companies make lights. There are a million different brands of lights, some of which are merely lights that have been repackaged with a different brand stuck on them, but in any case, one thing that cyclists have no shortage of these days is choice when it comes to lights.
Light and Motion, however, doesn’t merely make lights. Nope, they specialize “in making illumination for adventures“. They have a rich history of making lights for diving, and specifically, under-water photography, where the quality of light is every bit as important as quantity.
I’ll spare you any further back story (there’s plenty of that on their website), and simply say that Light and Motion seek to produce a high-quality light for life on the go. Cycling, climbing, adventure racing, diving – that kind of go. The Urban 650 sits in their cycling range in a segment where the majority of cyclists will make the most use of – small, light, and bright. As the name suggests, this is pitched towards commuters, recreational roadies, and, with 650 lumens, even some mountain biking. They make plenty of other lights with more power, less power, and other features, but this particular light ticks many of the boxes that the average person is interested in.
Nice clean packaging, containing a nice, clean light. Nothing too flashy, but it looks and feels of quality. It’s light-weight, the strap is reassuringly robust, the seal on the USB port seems tight and not at all fiddly, it swivels, the button is easy to operate and has a lock-out mode to avoid any chance of accidentally having it switch on in your bag, there aren’t too many modes, and they come in lots of pretty colours.
The Urban range have 4 settings, in this case, 650, 300, and 150 lumens, as well as a flashing mode, which isn’t a flashing mode at all. Flashing is great for attracting attention, but it’s really difficult to be on the other end of. It can dazzle and disorient oncoming traffic (especially in the rain), making it more difficult to accurately place the location of the rider using that light. To combat this but still attract attention, you get a pulse rather than a flash, resulting in a much easier light to look at. It’s also far less distracting for the user – I hate using a standard flashing mode at night for all of the above reasons, but also because I don’t like what I’m riding into disappearing and reappearing a few times a second.
Claimed run time on all of the lights in this range (which is fairly unique) is 1.5 hours on max, 3 hours on medium, and 6 on low, with up to 12 hours on pulse.
Switching it on, it looks as though it has earned every lumen that they claim it has. Light and Motion are proud of the rigorous testing they put all of their lights through, and that includes testing for accurate output to satisfy the FL-1 standard. Here’s a flashy video to illustrate said testing:
The other thing I noticed is that the beam doesn’t have quite as concentrated a hot-spot compared to some lights, giving what I hoped would be a nice viewing area. Some lights pack all of their power into a small circle of light, which may be bright, but not all that usable. Even though the peripheral area is still illuminated, compared to the more intense centre section, it’s hard to see much in it. Light and Motion appear to have taken steps to address this. We’ll see.
How does it work?
In a word, well.
The evening light is now fading fast, and I’ve used this light on many after-work commutes home and a handful of night rides through various terrains.
In commute mode it works well, with a light temperature that is slightly less harsh, or cold, than some, but not as warm as the Indigo5 I have used extensively. What I have definitely been a fan of is the reasonably even beam pattern that, although not amazingly wide, has a gradual enough fade from the centre that you are not just starting at a small, hot ball of light directly ahead.
If you are commuting with it then you are probably going to be putting on and taking off your lights all the time. The strap on the Urban range is reassuringly robust. You’ll get it around big 31.8mm bars easily, though the strap isn’t especially stretchy, so if one hole isn’t quite tight enough for your liking (it can bounce upwards if not tight enough, as I discovered), the next hole can require a fair bit of effort to engage. At least it’s tight though. A nice touch is that you can integrate the light into a Go-Pro mount to save space on your bars if you are running one of those as well.
One place where this light will not work is on aero bars. The top half of the mount is a hard plastic, so it won’t conform to any other shape than round. Again, it will fit up to a standard 31.8mm handlebar without issue, but I also haven’t tried it on a larger bar, like Deda’s 35mm bars, so I can’t be sure of that.
The swivel function is nice, but I’m not sure in how many situations you’re going to need to use that. I suppose you could mount the light to your forks and then angle it down a bit to point in the right direction, but really, would you? I also suppose it would be pretty sweet to run two of these and point them slightly apart from each other to give you some pretty killer illumination over a pretty wide angle. In any case, useful or not, it doesn’t get in the way, so at the very least it’s not a negative.
The body never seemed to get hot when used for prolong periods of time, or even warm, really, and the entire light is impressively light-weight, which is an added bonus.
The battery indicator light is difficult to see when the light is mounted on top of your bars due to the angle of the rear where it is found, but better when mounted under the handlebars (which the strap allows you to do pretty easily) – in any case it is pretty reliable. The green light turns to amber at 50% discharge but can easily be confused with red, which is a little worrying until you figure out that it’s not red. It starts flashing with 10% to go, so I guess you shouldn’t start panicking until then. In case you don’t see the flashing red light, the light itself will apparently flash every three minutes, just to be sure.
While the pulsing mode is useful, the other two small lights found on the sides are one of the better and more unique features. While Light and Motion claims a full 180 degrees of visibility, the orange side-lights add an extra measure of visibility at a full side-on view or even further back. They’re bright enough to actually be useful.
Finally, the power is plentiful for most situations. Certainly all urban situations. I have spoken to lots of people who believe need the most light they can get just to ride around town, and, quite frankly, I don’t get that. Unless you are riding technical trail at speed, you really don’t need the 1500 lumens of illumination you think you do. The 300 lumen setting is plenty for around town, and if you want to conserve power on a longer night-ride out in the hills, I still found it to be pretty reasonable.
Using the full 650 lumen setting provided ample light for any road use, throwing the beam far enough ahead to descend at full speed, pick out debris or holes in the road, and provide plenty of confidence at all times. Lights will typically lose power as the battery runs down during each cycle, but I haven’t been conscious of this at any point, ever (that’s not necessarily to say that these don’t).
I have no hesitations in recommending Light and Motion product, finding it generally of a high standard. The Urban 650 has a lot to like. I haven’t once had any difficulty while using it or thought, “I wish they did this with it”. All of the supporting roles are played very well, and the main feature, the light, hits all of its marks. It’s bright, it’s not too harsh, the optics are very good, producing nice and consistent light to its edge (though not particularly wide), and the run-time is respectable. Wrap it up in a neat, light, slick package, and you’ve got a winner.
All images: The Sticky Bidon