Monday, August 30, 2010

Lupine Betty 7 Bicycle Lighting System

It is not very often that I get the chance to test new equipment. So when I was asked to test a "Really bright light" of course I said yes, which is how I found myself with a Lupine Betty 7 light system. This system is rated at a max output of 1,750 lumens, with a claimed 3 hour burn time at full power, from a package that weighs in at about 485 grams.

The first thing I noticed with the Betty 7 system, besides how bright it was, was how small the battery pack is, not much larger than a D cell battery. I had expected something larger to power such a powerful light. After that, was the solid feel of the light head, the body of which is machined from a solid piece of aluminum. A hefty rubber band mounts the lighthead to the handlebars, while the battery mounts to the frame with a large velcro flap, and a smaller strap to keep it from spinning around your top tube, should the ride get rough. The power leads are long enough to give you plenty of mounting options, and are pretty well reenforced.


I took the Betty 7 on a few night rides, the first of which saw it mounted on the bars of my cross bike. With the battery pack attached to the stem, the lighthead mounted on the bar top, and the extra length of power leads wrapped around the stem and battery pack, I set out on a group ride over MUPs, streets and some rough fire roads. The light never flickered, and the default light settings (high beam, low beam, and flash) let me chose how much light I wanted based on conditions. Everyone I was riding with was very impressed by the light output and small size of the system, especially when I lit up trees 200 feet away with the low beam. Despite the high pressures I run my tires at, and the rocky roads we rode over, the light never flickered or dimmed on its own, though the light head did tend to move a little, requiring position adjustments now and then.

The light then got moved to my full rigid single speed mountain bike for some true trail testing on some local singletrack. Once again, no matter how rough the trails got, the light never blinked or flickered, and delivered consistent light on the trail in front of me for the entire duration of every ride. I found myself blazing through familiar trails just as fast as I would in sunlight, and new (to me) trails I was able to tackle with confidence. Once again, the light head moved around, which got a little annoying on more technical sections.

One thing I did notice on tighter trails is that despite having a 16 degree lens, with a lot of spill light outside the focused pattern, the intensity of the main beam tends to wash out any peripheral view. In sharp turns and switchbacks, the trail would disappear into the darkness, and even with a helmet lamp, was hard to discern, due to my eyes being used to the bright patch of light in front of me from this light. A brighter helmet light would aid with this, of course, but Lupine is also releasing a 22 degree lens, for greater light spread.

I also took some time to explore the programming options. Out of the box, the light is set up with a high beam, (100% power) low beam, (55%) and a super flash setting. But it can be programmed for any number of stepped dimming and flashes, including an SOS beacon. The programming chart looks a little daunting and hard to understand at first, but a little trial and error didn't hurt anything when I tried it, and it is easy enough to revert back to factory settings. Before long, I had it set up for 2 step dimming, 3 step dimming, and a stepless setting that adjusts from 5% to 100% power, in 5% increments. I did find that at the lowest (5%) setting, the light did flicker badly, but anything higher and it shone steadily.

There were many "Wow! This thing is bright!" moments as I used this light. Moments such as lighting up part of the side of a mountain to show the group I was with how bright it was, and being able to say "Wait, let me turn it up!" Moments like realizing that this light is nearly as bright as some car headlights, so maybe I should turn it down a little so that I am not blinding them. It is far brighter than many people think necessary, including myself, until I rode at night with it. It was really nice being able to have my own swath of daylight in front of me on the trail.

A few quick numbers and features: The Betty 7 lighthead uses 7 Cree XP-G LEDs, for a combined output of 1,750 lumens, adjustable from 23 watts down to .25 watts, with programmable steps between. It has a claimed burn time from 3 hours all the way up to 168 hours, as well as a half-hour "reserve tank." It is powered by a 7.5 amp-hour lithium ion battery, which takes 4 hours to recharge. The light body is machined from a solid piece of aluminum, and acts as a heatsink for the heat generated by 7 LEDs, to keep them from burning up. The light also has a temperature management system that shuts it off if it gets too hot. A titanium ring wraps around a polycarbonate lens, similar to what is used in motorcycle helmet face shields. The system weighs 485 grams.

All this highlights what this light would really shine at, which is 24 hour races. Lupine offers a 14.5 amp-hour bottle battery as an upgrade, for nearly 6 hours of runtime at full power. Between its rugged construction, light output, and battery life options, it seems ideal for night races. The only potential problem is the mounting system, which did indeed keep the light attached to the bars on rougher trails, but didn't keep the light aimed where I put it.

All of this comes at a price, though, as a system similar to that which I tested retails for around US $995. If you want the brightest light made for a bike, there's not much that even comes close to the Betty 7.

This is the best example I can give of the power of this light:
A 160 lumen bicycle headlight.

Motorcycle headlight, on high beam. The fence visible is about 100 feet away.

Lupine Betty 7 Light system, on high beam.

Test Mileage: Around 62 miles ridden with the light.

Thanks to Absolute Bikes for loaning me the light to test!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wind, Rain, Lightning, and all that kind of thing!

So as I sit here in the apartment listening to the wind whip around trees and buildings, I've got one thought in my head, besides Billy Idol's White Wedding.

Boy am I glad I decided to turn around and come home yesterday, or else I'd be riding into the wind all day today.

Wind is at the top of my list as far as conditions I don't like riding in, right up there with mud and washboarded roads. Keep that in mind, there will be a quiz later.

Riding to the Grand Canyon on the Moqui Stage Route has been something I've wanted to do for almost 2 years now, and on Friday morning, I loaded down Henry with food, lots of water, a change of clothes, and some camping gear, and set out for adventure. Let me tell you, nature certainly delivered.

Aww, Henry thinks he's cars now!

Nice view of the Peaks. It looks like it's going to be a nice day.

Darkening clouds 10 miles later... What was that about a nice day?

Rain falling right where I want to go.

At about 1 in the afternoon, I tied up the tarp and huddled with Henry while the rain pounded away, and lightning danced around. Four times, lightning struck within 50 feet, shaking the ground and leaving me deaf for a few minutes. After about 4 hours, I decided to call it a day, and pitched my tent under the tarp, figuring the ground there was fairly dry compared to the rest of the forest. I had only gone 27 miles, but I figured I would make it up the next day.


It then proceeded to rain off and on all night, stopping just before dawn, when it started to clear out.
I broke camp, packed everything up, and set off down the road, meeting up with the Arizona trail, to follow it through an area called Lava Wash, which would take me to the Babbitt Ranch.

Remember what I said about mud?

The road through Lava Wash is a winding rocky road, with deep ruts and decent drops. And, because of all the rain, it was now a mud pit. 15 miles of it. I had to stop 3 times to clear mud from Henry's fenders, because it was binding the tires. It took me almost 4 hours to make it 15 miles.

I was not happy, nor was I having fun. And because of the progress, I wasn't going to make my mileage goals. So I called it, made it to the Babbitt Ranch, and took the dirt road (Which was dry, and only mildly washboardy) to Highway 180, to ride back home.

But I wasn't home free, not yet. Remember what I said about wind? I fought a 20 mph headwind all the way back to Flagstaff, with higher gusts. Finding the fun in that was hard.

Frustrating? A little. Disappointing? Mildly, but weather happens. Fun? Overall, yes. Would I do it again? Now that I have a better idea about certain aspects of bike camping and touring, absolutely! Though, preferably without the mud.
Mileage: Nil for the day.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Hit It Like You Mean It!

My thought processes are finicky. I was seriously kicking around entering the Absolute Bikes Old Fashioned Mountain Bike Race to benefit the St. Mary's Food Bank Alliance. I figured, it was one of my goals, and I'd never been in a race before, why not?

Then I successfully talked myself out of it, with reasons like "I'm not competitive enough." and "I can ride on the trails anytime I want to." I hadn't ever ridden the course, and just wasn't sure about it. Also, the race was capped to 300 riders, and I had figured it was full.

Then I went on a night ride with some folks from Team Absolute, and they talked me in to signing up.

Yeah, successfully indeed.

So, I found myself signed up, and sitting in eager anticipation waiting to start riding this morning, trying to convince myself that it's just a bike ride, and to just have fun, and ride my own pace, and stick to my goal of just finishing my three laps before the 1PM cutoff time. It wasn't until most of the riders had passed me at the end of the first lap that I finally started relaxing and falling into a groove with the climbs. I had no ambitions about trying to finish well, I just wanted TO finish, so every time someone was coming up behind me, I moved over with more haste and enthusiasm than was probably necessary.

Hey, I know I'm gonna come in last, I just don't want to slow anyone else down.

So, about 4 or so miles into my second lap, I spun a rock out from under my rear wheel as I was negotiating a technical climb, and bashed my right pedal into a rock. My foot popped out of the pedal, and I could not clip back in. "Ok, this is annoying." Stop, drag the bike off the side of the trail, and look:

There's yer problem, right there.

One bent wing with cracks where it is brazed to the body, the spring's kicked off it's seat, and the entire pedal body bent along it's axis, binding the bearings on the spindle. After spending a few moments thinking "Ok, how can I fix this" I pulled out my Leathermans, and pulled the pedal body off the spindle, with the intention of finishing the race like this:

Yeah, that didn't happen. With no foot retention on my right foot, my left leg was doing most of the work. I couldn't climb anything technical, and my right foot kept slipping around and off the spindle. My first race, and it became my first DNF.

Oddly enough though, I had a blast after I bashed the pedal. Now that I wasn't racing at all, I could just ride with my head up and enjoy the scenery. I made sure to stay out of everyone's way, and just sort of cruised. It's a shame I didn't have that mentality at the start of the race, as I think I would have done much better, but I'll attribute that to the fact that it was my first time racing.

Another thing was that, even with the broken pedal, I wasn't that much slower, and probably could have finished the race on it. But, it wasn't safe, with that sharp spindle hanging out waiting to gouge my leg if I let my foot slip off, or if I was involved in a crash with another rider. Better to take the DNF with no bodily injury, no shame in that.

All in all, a great race, a great FIRST race for me, with (in my opinion) excellent support, for a good cause. I'll probably be back next year for it, and hopefully, with a finishing time.

"3: Enter in a mountain bike race. Preferably the Crazy 88, but we'll see. This one is highly uncertain, but we'll see."

Two of three goals down.
Mileage: 29.7

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Just another ride.

And what a good ride it was. I'll let the pictures speak for it.

Mileage: 20.4

Monday, August 2, 2010

Riding between the rain.

So Flagstaff's been getting a lot of rain. This seems to be shaping up to be one of the better monsoon seasons we've had for quite a while. Welcome news for most, since we've been in the midst of a years long drought, though the folks under the Schultz Fire burn area are getting flooded out, which sucks.

After work today I found myself walking out into very humid air, but it seemed to be a break in the rain, so I rode around town some. I'm starting to think Flagstaff is shifting into a sub-tropical rainforest climate. The air's been thick with mist, and the clouds have been hanging low and heavy, which is not something I'm used to seeing.

But it does look cool:

Mileage: 21.2