Last year, Niterider bumped their top of the line dual light system from 1400 to 3000 lumens, essentially doubling the output of any other major U.S. brand.
We’ve been testing one out since just before daylight savings time kicked in this winter and it’s been pretty awesome. Prior to that, we had put a fair number of night time miles on the 1400. In addition to the light output, the new model improves the beam pattern considerably.
Read on for the full review, tech specs and weights…
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
The kit includes:
- Light head unit
- Battery Mount
- Extension cable
- USB cable
- Helmet & handlebar mounts
- Canvas zippered carry case
It comes bundled nicely all in the canvas case, and you will never, ever get it all back in there the same again. But that’s fine. Other than traveling to overnight races, there’s not much need to pack the charger up with you.
From left to right: Battery (457g) – Light (193g) – Battery Mount (125g)
Handlebar Mount (68g) – Helmet Mount (45g) – Extension Cable (42g)
The light comes out of the box preset to run three settings plus a flashing mode. They are:
- 750 lumens (6 hour run time)
- 1,500 lumens (3 hour run time)
- 3,000 lumens (1.5 hour run time)
The on/off switch toggles between them, always starting at the lowest setting. Hold it for a couple seconds to turn the lights off. To turn on flashing mode, hold the button down for about three seconds.
One of the unique features to NiteRider is their DIY software. For PC’s only (sorry Mac users), it lets you create four more Programs, and in each Program you can customize the three settings. This gives you five possible Programs on the light at any time. The software uses simple sliders to show the tradeoff between lumens and battery life, letting you adjust each bulb in 50 lumen increments. So, if you know a race course requires about two hours of night riding, you could maximize brightness to last two hours, setting it around 2,000 total lumens or so. Go crazy.
Since our office is Mac only, we left it running with the stock program only and, honestly, it worked out fine for normal use.
USE & REVIEW:
Perhaps the biggest upgrade from the Pro 1400 (above) is the move to three individual Cree LED lights per reflector, for a total of six bulbs. The Pro 1400 had just two, one per side. The other distinct difference is the reflector cones. The 1400 had an obvious flood and spot. The 3000 has two reflector cones that look identical and seem to split the difference between a flood and spot.
On the trail, the new reflectors vastly improve the beam pattern quality. With the 1400, the spot put a bit too much light right in the center with a very small point, and the flood put most of the light at the outer circumference. Together they gave a decent light pattern, but it was still narrower than the Light & Motion SECA 1400 we reviewed.
While we’re comparing, because we know you are, too, the NiteRider system uses a much larger, heavier battery than the Seca, and it requires the battery be slid into a separate mount. So, you have light + cable + battery mount + battery.
By contrast, the Seca’s light has one cable and plugs directly into the battery, and the cables plug in a bit easier.
The Seca still has a slightly broader, perhaps infinitesimally better beam pattern, but the Pro 3000’s massive light output makes that a non issue. Last bit of comparison: Both brands’ helmet mounts are very secure and do a great job. The Seca’s allows for simpler angle adjustments.
You might be thinking, “Sounds like you like the Seca better.” For ease of set up, yes. But that’s only the four or five minutes before the ride. Once you’re riding, other than the systems’ weight differences, all that becomes irrelevant. And that’s where the Pro 3000 starts pulling ahead.
The raised on/off switch makes operation easy, even with full finger winter gloves. The lights on top show remaining battery charge when on. They also provide a visual indicator of which program the light is set on, which we’ll cover in a minute.
To adjust the angle of the light, you lift the tab at the rear and slide it up or down on the mount. The handlebar mount has just one position, you adjust the angle by rotating the mount around your bar.
The helmet mount uses simple cams to lock the straps into place. They hold really well and are plenty long enough to work with just about any vent layout your lid may have. Even better, there’s no velcro to get stuck to the pads, so they slide into the place easily. The design does put the light a good bit off the helmet, but we haven’t caught it on any low branches yet.
The handlebar mount threads around your bar (OS or regular) with a large, easy to turn plastic nut.
It would be nice if the battery unit was one piece, as it would save weight and simplify things. The mount could be separate for putting it on your frame, but we suspect most riders (mountain bikers, anyway) will simply run it in their jersey pocket or hydration pack. Speaking of which, the extension cable is long enough to run it inside your jersey, out the bottom and up and around to your jersey pocket. But, the battery’s pretty heavy for aggressive riding like that. We’d recommend a hydration pack if total rider weight isn’t at an absolute premium.
BEAM PATTERN & BRIGHTNESS
With any light, how your camera spits out night imagery using time lapse is largely dependent on how it process the input and creates the file. These images show the three toggle positions using the stock Program out of the box:
750 lumens (one push)
1500 lumens (two pushes)
3,000 lumens (three pushes)
Are these accurate? More or less, I’d say they do a pretty good job representing what my eyes see on the trail. They’re probably just a bit on the bright side, but they do accurately reflect how far down the trail you can see. On the bottom photo, the thicker tree flanked by a thinner tree on either side directly in the center of the trail is about 120 feet away (36.5 meters).
This video is a bit darker than what we experience in person, but it gives a good idea of how much of a difference there is between the various light outputs:
We’ve ridden the Pro 3000 on rides usually lasting about 2.5 hours. These rides use a mix of settings, but most of the time is spent in the 1500 and 3000 lumen settings. Putting it back on the charger afterward usually shows one bar left, meaning we’ve run through about 80% of the battery. To us, this indicates you could get a solid three hour ride in with judicious use of the max setting.
Quite honestly, unless you put it on the max setting right out of the gate, 1500 is plenty for fast, race-intensity riding. That said, 3000 is A. Maze. Ing. It makes the 1400 lumen lights we’ve tested and even the 1500 setting seem dull and dreary. Turning it on is like when you first saw the Cateye HID Stadium light and your jaw hit the dirt. Even with someone riding behind you, its light swallows your shadow. It’s simply ridiculous how bright it is. And yet, once you’ve ridden with it, it’s hard to contemplate riding with anything less.
Our test rides have included 90+ minutes in a light rain, temps between 32º and 36º F and some nice, warm rides, too. The light worked flawlessly in all conditions we’ve encountered. And, while testing the 1400, it sat on our pit table at the BURN 24 Hour and was covered in dew between laps. It still works just fine.
Do you need 3000 lumens to have a good ride? No. Do you want 3000 lumens? Abso-freakin-lutely.
Options: Given that half or more of our riding time was on the 1500 setting, the Pro 1500 is a solid option for those on a budget, and they have two versions of that. Here’s pricing:
- Pro 3000 – $699.99 (8-cell battery, DIY software, docking station)
- Pro 1500 – $549.99 (6-cell battery, DIY software, docking station)
- Pro 1500 Race – $349.99 (4-cell battery, no DIY, etc.)