TwentyNineInches.com Reviews the Super and Mini Drive LED Lights
Guitar Ted reviews our Super and Mini Drive lights. An honest and well-thought out review. Thank you sir.
We at Twenty Nine Inches received a pair of Lezyne’s 2012 LED lights a while back for test/review. We had heard about these new products last year at a Press Camp attended by Grannygear and when the products were ready, Grannygear and Guitar Ted each got a sample to test out. Granygear received the Mini Drive while Guitar Ted reviews the Super Drive here. Without further adieu, here are their thoughts on these new for Lezyne products, the Super Drive and Mini Drive LED lights.
Guitar Ted’s Super Drive Review: When I heard Lezyne was going to do a line of LED lights, I was intrigued. I have used their pumps and have seen their accessories for cyclists, so the overall look and function of their products was well known to me. Would a line of LED lights live up to expectations? Grannygear’s trip to vist Lezyne only whetted my appetite even more after he described some of the lights he saw then to me over the phone. To say that my expectations were set at a high level is an understatement.
Impressions And Tech Intro: I received the Super Drive and was immediately struck by how diminutive it was for a rated 450 Lumen of lighting power. The pewter anodized look was typically elegant for a Lezyne product, and as far as aesthetics go, this met my approval and expectations right out of the box. The battery for the unit is a 18650 Li-ion button top 3.7V cell with built in protection for overcharging and over discharging, but it isn’t unusual enough that a serviceable replacement couldn’t be found. (Note: Lezyne says only their battery should be used in the Super Drive). Lezyne does sell spare batteries if you want to have back ups available. You also get mounts suitable for 31.8mm or 25.4mm bars in the box along with the USB type cord for recharging duties.
The battery needs to be charged out of the box, and the port for the cable is located underneath the light body, covered by a thick, rubber piece that is tethered to the main light body. Plug in the USB cord to any computer or USB compatible wall charger and the Power Drive blinks softly to let you know it is taking a charge. It stops blinking when it is done, and to double check the level, you unplug, then plug in again, at which time the light should blink once and cease. I had to do this three times upon the first charging to see one blink, and the total time to charge was about an hour and a half out of the box. This went away and the light charged as described in the instructions after a couple of uses.
The mount is simple, made of plastic, and has a thumb screw style attachment. The light clips into this base in a rather simple but effective manner. It allows the light body to swivel a few degrees so you can center the beam pattern and of course, you can swivel the entire mount around your bars to attain the perfect beam spot pattern on the trail that you are riding. Note: I never had any issues with the mount in rough terrain. It always held the light body firmly in place. The Lezyne Super Drive weighs in at 140 grams with the 31.8mm mount. Just recently a helmet mount was announced by Lezyne that fits all the LED lights in their line-up.
Run times are as follows:
High: 450 lumens- 1.5hr
Medium: 300 lumens- 2.5hr
Low: 100 lumens- 4hr
Flash: 300 lumens- 5hr
Run times seemed pretty consistent with spec, and when you run out of time, the Super Drive resorts to the 110 Lumen setting, and blinks intermittently to let you know you are running on the 15 minutes of reserve power.
The light has a simple protocol for the single button which has a rubber cover and is located near the front of the light body on the top side. Press the button for a couple of seconds and release to turn the unit on. This gets you to the highest setting, which is rated at 450 Lumen. Press once to lower the output to 300 Lumen, and once again to drop down to 110 lumen. One more push will yield a blinking pattern at the 300 Lumen level. Finally, hold the button down for a couple of seconds in any mode to shut the unit down. You do have to toggle all the way through the settings to get back to a higher out put. Maybe not an ideal set up, but the Super Drive does retail for MSRP $110.00, so I can forgive this little annoyance.
Performance: Lezyne makes some pretty heady claims for the Super Drive’s light performance. A light- no matter the power rating- is only as good as its optics. Would the Super Drive measure up? In a word: Yes. The beam pattern shows no “hot spots”, corona effects, or any weirdness at all. The light color is neither too blue or too warm/yellow, (for my eyes, at any rate. Yours may vary.). The intensity at 450 Lumen is great, and typically I stayed with the 300 Lumen setting to milk more run time from the light. But this was not a big compromise in my mind. The difference between 450 and 300 Lumen being negligible as far as what I could see.
I think you could definitely use the Super Drive as a casual single track light, and it is overkill for a commute. In fact, the 110 Lumen setting may be all you’d ever use in a city setting, the beam pattern and throw is that good. Plus, you’ll get more run time out of it. I used this light during a 65 mile snow bike event that took me from day into night. The 110 Lumen setting against a snow covered trail was all I could ask for in terms of not washing out the contours and giving me plenty of light thrown down the trail to cover ground as fast as I wanted to go.
Conclusions: The Super Drive is just, well…super. I can recommend it for anything from commuting to casual single track riding off road. Back road riding, gravel roads, or service roads would be this lights domain for sure. The mount is secure enough for rough riding, but severe, rock infested, fast down hill type mountain biking isn’t where this light should be used. Maybe as a good back up/bail out light for your current, high powered system perhaps.
The light charges as stated after a few charges, and otherwise I have no concerns about the Super Drive. The beam pattern is near perfect, and the performance for the dollar says “high value” here. I highly recommend this torch.
Mini Drive Review:
I received the Mini Drive model to review, the least powerful of the range of Lezyne’s LED bike lights. Rated at 150L (lumens) on high, and with light level options for a 100L, 50L, and a high rate and slow rate flash, the Mini Drive looks poised to be a commuter special more than a true off-road bike light, but we shall see. It charges like the bigger brother Guitar Ted tested, with a USB cable and a blinking LED (the same one that lights your way) to tell you the charging state. I had some issues the second time I charged it in that the LED never stopped its slow flash even after all day of charging. It is supposed to stop blinking when it is fully charged. The circuit protected CR123a battery measured to be at its full capacity (with a DVM), so that seems like a bug with the programming of the unit I had. I also played around with the cooling abilities of the Mini Drive by turning it on high and letting it sit at room temp while I hit the case with an infrared temp gun. Beginning with 68.5* ambient temps, after 20 minutes it reached a high of 93* right at the emitter end of the unit. However, putting a bit of air across the Mini Drive dropped the temps to 89* within 3 minutes. Putting the light outside on a breezy 45* day, the external case temp plunged to 60* in 2 minutes. It never got hot enough to self protect (the driver will lower the current if it overheats) and it would seem that the small case is plenty to keep up with the demands of the 150L output.
The physical size is super for the light output and the Mini Drive looks solid and tough. It does not feel like a toy, but looks like a high quality flashlight. The clamp holds the light well and it never bobbled or slipped on the bars, holding the light body very securely. The beam pattern of the Cree XP type emitter and reflector is very spot in nature rather than flood so even with the 150L limit, it reaches out pretty well. I used it off road and even at 20 mph speeds on fireroads, I had enough distance to the beam. However, the overall pattern is not that pleasant as the hot spot gives way to a shadow quickly off center. As well, there are some artifacts from part of the lens holder ‘fingers’ that I could see in the beam pattern that were annoying.
Battery life seems to be a bit limited and that is typical of an All-In-One light like this. The battery can only be so big and still fit in there. I would anticipate that a regular user of this light would charge it every time after use or expect a dim light mid-ride.
So what do we have in the Mini Drive? I think the off road potential is limited, not just by the beam pattern, but the run time. But really, no serious night rider will be looking at a 150L light for his main light source, and if he was, having to cycle through the High-Med-Low-Fast Flash-Slow Flash to get all the way around to High again is really annoying and a bit dangerous in a true off road light where you may need to go from Med to High in a moments notice.
But let’s step down our expectations a bit and put this light on a commuter’s handlebars, or a recreational rider that needs a light source for under a 2 hour ride. Now there the Mini Drive would be very good. Most commutes are under an hour one way and as long as the light was charged while you were at work, it would have more than enough capacity for the journey. And the flashy modes, something that is just annoying to a dedicated off road night rider, gains value as a ‘can you see me now?’ factor, even in the daytime. Although Lezyne does not suggest it be used as a stand alone flashlight, obviously it could be removed from the bar clamp and used for roadside repairs, etc, especially since that typically would be done at less than the full 150L High setting.
In this mode of use I can overlook the faults of the Mini Drive and enjoy the small size, great build quality, easy charging, great mount (no silly rubber O rings) and decent price ($69.95 suggested retail) + bike shop warranty support. It also has good potential as a helmet light for an off road rider, as long as the Mini Drive helmet light was in addition to the main bar mounted light. For a first shot at lighting your bike’s path, Lezyne has hit the ball well. Maybe not out of the park yet, but the fence is coming up fast.
NOTE: Lezyne sent out the Super Drive and Mini Drive lights out at no charge for test/review. We were not bribed nor paid for this review. we strove to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.