L&M Urban 300 vs. Lezyne Power Drive
Light comparison between Light and Motion’s “Urban 300″ and Lezyne’s “Power Drive”.
Late last year as the shorter days were encroaching the wife and I needed some proper lights for commuting. We both don’t fancy dynamos and the old basic 5 LED Knogs we had just weren’t cutting it.I have a DIY LED set-up for MTB riding from about 6 years ago, an ancient 10w halogen and I had the misfortune of owning a NR Mi-Newt Ni-cad (battery had a very short life and not worth the trouble to replace). We live in the city and run lots of errands – so lots of hopping on and off the bikes… battery packs/connector cables and straps just get in the way.
Being the geek that I am, I figured I’d buy two different lights just for the fun of it. We’ve now been regularly using the lights for around 3 months.
Both the Urban 300 and Power Drive are rated at 300 lumens, both self-contained units/single button/hi-med-low-flash cycles, both weigh about the same ~115gm and have roughly the same burn times (2:20 & 2:00 respectively). However the Urban 300 costs around $30 more ($115 vs $80 – Amazon) – but many reviews of L&M lights said that their optics are worth the premium.
Both lights are small and compact. They’ll both fit easily in your pocket/bag. As mentioned above, they really don’t weigh anything, but both feel very solid.
The Power Drive is typical Lezyne – machined, elegant and purposeful. The machined aluminium body induces that mag-lite-quality type of reassurance. We’ve yet to drop it, but it seems as if it would only be cosmetically damaged.
The Urban 300 is also well built. I’ve actually dropped it onto the pavement, plastic rear end first- not a scratch! I do agree though that it’s more likely to crack on hard impact, in this case I’m pretty sure the few extra grams for a full Alu casing wouldn’t go astray for piece of mind.
I’d say overall that the Lezyne edges just a little out in front – but only time will tell. Both lights are waterproof and have worked flawlessly through heavy rain/snow.
Both of the lights’ rubber switches work well and feel solid. To turn the Power Drive on, you have to depress the swtich for a second, then release (the light turns on during this second at very low intensity) > switches off the same way. The Urban 300 switches on immediately and needs a 2 sec long press to turn it off – It hasn’t happened to me yet, but I could for-see accidentally turning the Urban 300 on in your pocket or bag.
The Power Drive is supplied with a tool free plastic bracket for your bars (one fastening screw, one holster for the light, one 25.4mm and one 31.8mm bracket). This isn’t your cheap and dreadful plastic mount from “generic made in China 5 LED re-branded crap” – it’s quality resin that is well made. On the light itself, a protruding metal tab inserts into the plastic mount. This means that in the off-chance that you break the mount, it’s just the mount you’ll have to replace and not the light itself. The light can be swiveled a few degrees left to right and the wife’s had no issues of the light moving round, even when riding over the less than flat cobbled streets. It’s also worth noting that it’s possible to screw the clamp down so that it no longer can be moved left-to-right. In conjunction with a piece of old innertube the mount has stayed in place – no issues. It’s really easy to get the light in and out, simply push the plastic tab (beware that if you don’t do this when inserting the light, it’s not securely locked in).
The Urban 300 employs a rubber strap and hook system. Easily adapts to any bar diameter – including those transition areas between your grips/the tops and the stem clamp. Again, not your average cheap rubber band/plastic- The hook could be damaged and I assume the rubber will eventually harden up and crack, but it looks easy enough to replace (hex screw on the bottom). The light can also be swiveled a few degrees side to side and has never moved over those same cobbled streets. Even in the wet the rubber strap holds firm (all my handlebars are anondised alu, if you have glossy carbon bars it may not work as well). The hook for the strap has enough space so that you should be able to fold the excess strap and hook it down – this unfortunately doesn’t work so well, so the excess ends up flicking up. It doesn’t affect the function of the light though.
Overall both systems are great. As an owner of multiple bikes, it’s definitely easier to move the Urban 300 between bikes whereas the Power Drive is a bit more of a fiddle.
Charging & Battery Life
The Power Drive charges via Mini USB, common with most P&S cameras and portable HDDs. The battery itself has built in over-charge protection. There isn’t a charge/ing indicator per se. Charging is indicated by a low intensity flash of the light itself. It’s meant to stop flashing when fully charged. If you’re charging the light at work (wife works on an iMac) the flashing can be distracting, but it’s easily solved by covering it up. Unfortunately the light doesn’t always stop flashing after the alleged 4 hours. It may just be a bug, but it’s easy to set a timer. I should also mention that the battery is ‘commonly’ available from electronics stores (although Lezyne sell spares). It’s just like a big fat AA. Burn time has been pretty accurate so far – does what it says on the tin. Although as to be expected, battery life is slightly reduced due to the cold temps we have at the moment. Personally I find the lack of battery indicator to be a pain. Sure, the light has a ‘low battery mode’ when it hits 15% but it really requires you to log in which modes and for just how long you’ve used (the wife’s been caught out once – but we always carry a back-up). Then again, with USB charging it’s easy to top off the battery.
The Urban 300 has a small multi-colour LED at the rear of the light. It utilises as Micro USB port, common on most smart phones and probably the future standard for all non-smart phones. When charging the non-removable-internal battery through the different stages (from low to high) it flashes: red, orange, green… when solid green, it’s finished. It’s also equipped with over-charge protection. As the battery drains it annoyingly quickly moves from green to orange, then red and finally red flashing. It just makes me think that I have to charge my light more often than is probably required. I normally charge it after it hits red – solid (about 30% left). However, despite this flaw, it’s a lot easier to find out when you should top up the battery than the Power Drive. Burn times are again pretty accurate as to the claimed times.
Urban 300 angled down:
Power Drive, angled down:
Urban 300, facing towards the oncoming person/car:
Power Drive facing the oncoming person/car:
One big thing that’s noticeable is the lack of side-lighting of the Power Drive. The Urban 300 has two small ports that direct light to the sides and as you can see, they’re really effective where we cyclists often rely on reflectives to be seen from the side. The reflective on my gloves light up and I can read my road bike’s computer with ease.
In terms of beam pattern, the Power Drive has a distinct tight spot, it’s great for oncoming traffic since the light is very intense and noticeable. Whereas the Urban 300 has a wider spot with more light spilling available surrounding the spot. Personally I prefer the Urban 300 for fast road rides, especially unlit roads/streets, not that the Power Drive isn’t bright enough – it just doesn’t illuminate as much (but only a little). Both lights on low mode are great for well-lit city streets, although we tend to leave them on medium to try and get noticed out of the flood of street lights.
Given that battery and charging times are about on par for both, it comes down to the features for me. I really think that the side windows of the Urban 300 make sense in terms of safety- they don’t consume any more battery since they’re lit up by the same LED. Also the lack of dedicated charge indicator on the Power Drive can be a little worrying when you haven’t kept a log of just how long you’ve used the light. I can’t say enough about having a commonly available, user replaceable battery of the Lezyne- rather than having to send the whole light back to the manufacturer (major PIA and $$), just order one and pop it in and cycle on your merry way. IMO that makes the Lezyne better value as you’ll more likely get a spare battery rather than think about buying a new light (which I’d be more inclined to do when the Urban 300’s battery dies).
In essence I’d love these two lights to make a baby… the battery indicator, wider spot & side windows of the Urban 300 with the all aluminium casing & user-replaceble battery of the Lezyne. In retrospect, I’m not sure if the Urban 300’s extra features are worth the extra $30, but considering I ride a lot in the city – I think they are. Also I use the Urban 300 on my commuter and roadie, so not having to order an extra mount is a definite plus.
Overall though I think you can’t go wrong with either. They’re both fantastic lights, especially for the money. I’m really happy with my Urban 300 and the wife is happy with the Power Drive.