|We may be coming out of the long dark winter but the long nights of the multi-day AR season and 24 hr mountain bike races beckon so bike lights are still a much needed necessity. Solid Lights are a small UK company producing lights using the latest state of the art technology at a price that puts them on a par with similar offerings aimed at the endurance biking market.
The 1303 (catchy name, I know) is a triple-LED 10W system using three 3W Luxeon LEDs. The lamp unit is a fairly functional affair, certainly not designed for aesthetics, but the engineers out there will appreciate the work that’s gone into it. The shell is constructed from extruded aluminium with aluminium and caps screwed onto each side, with a Perspex panel on the front. So there’s no glass in there and pictures on the Solid Lights with a truck driving over it, show that it’s certainly tough enough for the knocks it will get in an AR race; it will even survive brief immersions in water with no problems. Though they’re sealed within the weatherproof housing, the electronics also have a waterproof coating and are baked dry for reliability. Behind the Perspex are the three LEDs and lenses, with the middle one using a different lens to produce a narrower beam profile for distance penetration, while the two other lights are focused for a wider beam angle.
The two batteries in the 1303 system are tiny standard style Lithium-Ion units, similar in size to a mobile phone battery. They are wrapped in a tough Cordura bag sealed with Velcro and with a rubbery grip patch on one side and a small tab to remind you of each batteries max run time on full power. A Velcro strap allows them to be attached around any tube or stem within cable range and the grippy patch stops them moving. The batteries attach to the lamp with a very secure locking interface which I was very impressed with. The lamp unit mounts to the bars with a thumbwheel release mount and the light clicks into the top and can be quick released for speed by pressing a small button. The bracket is made from nylon and fits bars using a number of supplies rubber shims. Cheap, simple and easy to use.
The light is turned on with a simple large red push button on the side of the lamp, easy to operate with gloves and cold hands. Hold for two seconds and the light comes on. Each time you press, it cycles through three settings; low (1W), medium (3W) and high (10W). Holding the button again for a few seconds turns it off. So simple yet other manufacturers seem to find ways to complicate matters.
There are two versions of the light, with the choice of one battery (£270) or two (£300), both come with the intelligent charger which will top up a single battery in three hours. The basic version has a run time of 1h20mins on max power, but up to 20 hours on the lowest (1W) setting which will be the part of interest to expedition adventure racers. The medium setting is perhaps most use and other tests have shown it to have a light output similar to a 10W Halogen system but with an 8hour run time on the two battery setup.
The electronic wizardry in the system is pretty advanced for the price point and for those of a techy nature keen to find out more, details can be found on the Solid Lights website and other sites found through search engines. However, the key thing is that the LEDS are held at the highest power setting possible until the battery runs too low, at which point they will automatically switch to the lower setting giving you 10-20 minutes of reserve power capacity. Soon to be available is a PC interface kit that will allow the light to be tuned to your exact requirements, as well as performing useful tasks such as automatically testing battery life.
So, how’s the performance. Well my first ride was a bit of a let down, but then my ride partners seemed to have enough light power each to glare a passing space station making my light seem what insignificant, but I couldn’t let first impressions stick. Once out on my own the light performed well and proved very easy to use. My personal preference for a helmet mounted light in technical sections meant that the bar mounted 1303 took a little getting used to, but a helmet mount is available if this is your preference too. The beam is very evenly spread (at about a 20o angle) with no distortion in the middle of the field from the different lens used for the central LED. The central LED lens projects light up to 70m down the trail which is very good compared to similar LED lights and is reassuring on faster road and downhill sections.
I found myself using the medium setting for the majority of the time; perhaps it’s just drilled into me now to switch to a lower setting to save power, so I never once ran out of battery power during the testing period. It should be ample for most races and extra batteries can be purchased for £42 if required, which could be useful for longer races.
All in all, this is a very well designed and manufactured light, made in the UK and backup service seems to be top notch from the word on the web. When reviewing a light it can be easier sometimes to think of the things that I find annoying and would want to change, but in this case I really can’t find anything I would do that with. There are other lights on the market that are better (brighter or longer run time) but they can be up to double the price, so at this price point this is hard to beat.
Solid Lights are made in the UK and sold direct through their website at www.solidlights.co.uk
For more details please visit: http://www.solidlights.co.uk