Lumicycle kindly extended their return window on the Freeway, so allowing me to test the Apex and return the light I didn’t want to keep. I was so impressed with the Apex on my first night with it I returned the Freeway.
Riding in Darkness
The headlines from my journey home:
- 30mph on a dark lane on MID!
- 15mph on a Sustrans path on LOW!
It looked icy on the path, which made me glad of the spiked tyres. I kept my speed down to avoid accident.
The Apex’ beam is wider than the Freeway. It spills into the right hand side of the road, though the level is significantly reduced by the time it reaches the opposite side. It’s still possible to corner into darkness, but there is more tolerance using the wider beam making it easier to position myself. Similarly while the spot does wave around while I’m wobbling my way up a steep hill, it spends longer illuminating the way ahead.
The setup is significant, as can be seen in the shots below. The Freeway is included for comparison. The camera auto-exposed each shot, so the pictures cannot be taken as indicative of comparative brightness.
First the narrow beamed Freeway for comparison:
Now the Apex on low and higher beam angles:
The Apex’ light seems brighter and whiter than the Freeway. Unlike the Freeway there is a significant jump from LOW to MID. At these beam angles there is not much benefit in increasing the power above MID. I was perhaps able to make out a little more detail down the road on BOOST.
More power would work well with higher beam angle, but at greater risk of dazzling oncoming road users. The centre of the spot on the second Apex photo looks closer than on the Freeway photo, but a similar distance ahead is illuminated. The Apex seems to light higher up the far wall.
We can see here that the trees are receiving some illumination. This image was taken using a “normal lens” equivalent looking straight ahead. It should have normal perspective and give an idea of the distance visible. It is worth pointing out the effect of the optics, perhaps the diffuser. The falloff is smooth. Some other cyclists I met had lights which gave a bright centre spot with sharp edge leading to a much less bright surround.
I felt on this ride that I was able to zoom down the lane in secondary position, not that there was anyone to overtake me. Riding on the halogen I’d always kept to primary position to avoid the unseen dangers nearer the side of the road. I was able to react on time to avoid potholes.
Does it dazzle?
Lumicycle tell me it will be fine as long as I stick to the lower power modes and angle it down.
If I stand on-axis at a distance of about five meters in our garden and look at it, even on LOW, it is incredibly bright. Off axis, or standing close to the bike, it is not so bright. This may be the situation for a pedestrian on a Sustrans path in complete darkness. We have a few late night dog walkers around here who don’t all seem to carry torches, so would find any light will affect their night vision.
If I were to do the same experiment in town with all of the other light sources then it would not seem so bright. If I were to do the same experiment with a car headlight on dipped beam I expect it would seem very bright.
I asked other cyclists I met on my ride, having approached them with the Apex on MID. They said that it was OK. A friend in a car said the same after I approached on the opposite side of the road on MID, then went up to the car on LOW. Another friend stood directly in front and peered at it before suggesting I lower it. I’ve had no flashes from other car users on the limited riding I have done so far.
A lot will depend on the angle I set the beam. If set very low I don’t light up road signs, but the trade-off is how far down the road I see.
The Apex gives a good light for road use on LOW and MID. The light seems nice and white. LOW to MID is quite a big step of nearly two f-stops. MID acts as high would on any other light. LOW is perfectly adequate on a dark pathway or riding at lower speed. MID is good at the faster speeds I ride, and in some urban situations where there are a lot of other light sources to compete with.
A selling point for me is that these two settings are 0.6W and 3.1W respectively. This will give excellent battery life, though Freeway’s HIGH still gives respectable longevity. I use the 0.6W mode in the day in the grubbier weather without worrying about having a flat battery to go home.
Freeway lights my side of the road and the edge of the road with a fairly narrow beam. It lights the entire width of the Sustrans track or bridleway if you’re going straight ahead. The centre of the beam can be aimed a little further ahead without worrying about dazzling and gives a nice graduation of light back to just in front of the front wheel. Apex spills onto the other side of the road a little but is still by no means a flood light. It can be constrained to my side by angling down.
I found I could learn to position myself to corner fairly quickly with Freeway. Apex makes it easier. Apex worked well in the woods where Freeway’s narrow beam made finding the path under the fallen leaves harder.
Freeway’s 300 Lumen MID gives an intermediate level between the approximately 150 Lumen and 600 Lumens available from both lights, which may be of use in town and if wanting more power on the open road without greatly increasing the risk of dazzling. Freeway’s range of LOW, MID, HIGH works well for the use it is intended. I found myself using all three levels. BOOST is a little spare capacity. I expect I’ll only use LOW and MID on Apex for the vast majority of my cycling.
Freeway is a good pragmatic choice for commuting and riding places on unlit roads and paths. It would serve my commute and evening St John duties in the middle of nowhere well. Apex gives a very nice light and the slightly wider beam is a nice to have. I’m still working out the best beam angle to balance vision and what I think may be a risk of dazzling – a risk which may not actually be there at the power levels I use!