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Like so many aspects of 24-hour racing, lighting is as much a logistics challenge as anything else. When preparing for our duo entry to 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, we spent a lot of time with the good folks from Exposure Lights’ US importer Ibex Sports doing mental calculations to balance light output and run times. While a number of races are scheduled around the longest day of the year, February’s 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo is split nearly evenly between light and dark. What this means is that each rider would need to be reasonably lit (or better) for seven or more hours, with a bit of padding built in for trailside repairs or especially slow laps.
Pairing Exposure’s 900 Lumen Diablo helmet-mounted lights with two 3-cell external batteries apiece (look for a separate Diablo review soon) provided us with seven hours worth of helmet-mounted lights. After reviewing the Exposure catalog, we asked for the use of one of the company’s MaXx D headlights each- which proved to be an excellent choice. Find out why after the jump…
At 2in in diameter and 4in long, the 3rd generation MaXx D resembles nothing so much as aCNC machined soda can perched above the bars. four Cree XPG LEDs are visible at the business end, providing 1200 Lumen for 3 hours on high. That’s a lot of light. For most trail rides, this would be more than enough light and run time- but would come up well short of what we needed. Talking to Ibex, we learned that the harder an LED is driven, the less efficient it becomes. As a result, the MaXx D’s medium setting puts out somewhere in the neighborhood of 900 Lumen for ten hours. Bad. Ass. No external batteries. No charging between laps. In fact, no real chance of running the light dry. A whole night’s worth of light (for a duo rider) in one 320g package.
Unlike any their competition, Exposure are big proponents of what they call Cable Free Design. (There’s really not much else that they could have called it.) Having lived with lights that provided far more cable than could possibly be needed (and having had to wrap it around and around… and around the top tube to keep things tidy), the idea appealed to me. The ability to easily attach the light to its nicely forged and rattle-free mount between laps meant less time fiddling and more time eating, changing clothes, or practicing my thousand-mile stare.
At full tilt, the MaXx D puts out a staggering amount of light. Though there are brighter lights out there (like Exposure’s own 1800 Lumen Six Pack), but 1200 Lumen are more than enough light for fast desert riding. The MaXx D’s beam is broad and even, without much of a noticeable spot or any other distracting rings. On medium, the light’s output remains plenty bright enough for racing- there’s no shame in 900 Lumen- and Exposure’s seems like a brighter 900 Lumen than budget models’.
Looking at the profile shot, above, I would have expected some vibration to have come from cantilevering the battery behind its mounting point. The mount is solid enough that I never saw the beam vibrate and the light stayed where it had been positioned from dusk ’til dawn. The spring-loaded tapered pin pushes the light’s ‘foot’ into a mating pair of tapers- very slick and easy to use. A thumb screw might be nice on the mount, though- a 4mm Allen key is needed to adjust the beam angle, which means that small on-trail adjustments basically don’t happen.
As Exposure lights are designed and built in notoriously damp Britain, the two laps’ worth of rain riding during this year’s race didn’t worry me or phase either lightset. Though the company strongly recommend against submerging their lights, they are “fully sealed against the elements” and are fine for rainy rides even with external batteries or accessories.
A word about those accessories: the company’s Smart Port Technology means that the light can power an external tail light, accept a remote switch, or draw from an external 1- or 3-cell battery. All from the charging port. The Red Eye tail light will interest commuters, but having a cable running from the headlight to the tail is a bit of a bummer- look for a review of the company’s self-contained Flare tail light before long.
For $500, the latest MaXx D is an impressive piece of gear. The ability to put out a massive amount of light for 3 hours is attractive in and of itself, but the 10 hour run time on medium is what sold me (the 24 hour run time on low verges on silly). In fact, the run time makes my one complaint- a 12 hour charge time- largely moot. Forgetful types who throw their lights on their chargers at lunch time should take note, though, as they’ll find themselves running their lights on medium power out of necessity. When compared to other high end lights, the price is very reasonable and the MaXx D’s quality is evident. Like a lot of good ideas, the benefits of the company’s cable free design aren’t obvious until returning to corded lights, and is something that commuters who lock their bikes out in the open will appreciate. When purchased through an authorized US dealer or exposurelightsusa.com, the MaXx D comes with a US-specific charger, a nice zippered carrying case, a 2-year warranty (lifetime on the LEDs themselves), and Stateside service. Anyone shopping for a high quality, well thought out light should put the MaXx D at the top of their list.