SEVEN DAY CYCLIST
CYCLING, BUT NOT USUALLY RACING
LATEST UPDATE: MAY 30th
K LITE BIKEPACKER ULTRA DYNAMO LIGHT
278g each £376.96 Complete (As Tested)
The K-Lite Bikepacker Ultra Dynamo Light produces a maximum of 1300lumens at 11.185mph and comes in both road/gravel and Snow/MTB versions. I've been lucky enough to play with both and frankly, they're like having a premium quality 1300lumen light with unlimited run times. Fully water and shockproof, they're phenomenally rugged, too.
Pros: Beautiful build quality throughout , phenomenal performance.
Cons: Completely sealed, non-serviceable components. However reckoned to last ten years.
Hold onto your bars, there's no corners cut when it comes to materials and technology. First up, unlike something like Exposure Revo MK1 dynano light (one that I've run for seven years and am extremely fond of) these are completely sealed, in the fit n' forget sense. However, I'm assured they've a ten-year lifespan, which works out seriously cheap, in the longer term.
The casings are 3D printed in house, which allows rapid changes in production run. An internal heat sink (or thermal core) permits weight savings, while also reducing thermal junctions. therefore, more efficient cooling.
Both systems use CREE diodes and carry two-year warranties. However, the road/gravel version runs two spots, one flood, the trail two floods, one spot. Inside, the Ultra features a "Supercap" powerbank, which apparently takes a few minutes to charge.
Once charged, the switch can be flicked to dip, say when passing others on a shared use bike path, or for use as a "camp light", when setting up base, or at rest stops. Talking of which, look closely and you will also note two amber windows either side. These are to cast a 90degree bleed, thus improving presence from the side.
In common with megapixels and cameras, lumens are only half the story. Optics define how usable a system is. K-Lite have gone for specialist Square Tech lenses, which are designed "For trail riding, not flashlights". these employ the collimator technology to project a very pure and accurate beam.
Ours was also supplied with their AC/DC twin-port charger. This enables, phones/GPS/LED lights and other tech, to be refuelled, while you ride-during daylight.
There is also a front and rear safety light option (think blinky) for £99.
The cheapest way of "getting going with the system, is a direct lead between hub and lamp (£29.99). However, we were sent the simple switch, which is designed to mount on the top cap, or bars, courtesy of some equally high calibre cable ties. This simple switch allows the dipping and on functions, as discussed earlier.
Nonetheless, it oozes quality and is buttery smooth. Since we're on the subject, the connector cables and couplings also ooze quality, more so than Exposure's, which is well sealed and very sturdy.
These also come in a choice of SON, or SP/Shimano compatibility. I was slightly surprised to discover the plug was a more precise union with Shimano, rather than SP. However, this hasn't presented any issues, off the workstand.
Ours was the increasingly standard machined aluminium Go-Pro pattern. CNC machined clamp and other detailing is similarly flawless, which makes bolting everything together, a pleasure. The clamp is similarly standard 31.8, although you could easily raid the bodge box for rubber shim, to accommodate diameters 22.5 to 26.0.
There are other options, including fork crown and aero bars, which broadens the appeal yet further should you prefer. Incidentally, the lamp's design means it can be mounted above, or beneath the bars, with no effect upon beam pattern.
Wow, in a nutshell: but there are a few minor things to consider. In common with my long serving Exposure Revo, it takes a short while before the system awakens. A hundred feet, or so-from the box, nearer 50, once the capacitor's stored some charge. In my view, worth having a blinkie in flashing mode, especially if you live along a very dark, unlit road/street.
Talking of which, I paired the road/gravel version with my fixed gear winter trainer and its trail sibling with my Univega. Now, while I was literally blown away by the output and navigational prowess, it’s worth mentioning that my first two outings were using the Shutter Precision SL9 hub .
Now, to comply with strict German regulations, it's listed as being a 6V 1.5W and output does dip below 6V 3W at very slow speeds. Between 15 and 35mph, the hybrid beam is bang on, giving as much navigational oomph as you could want - even along the darkest lanes, on the wettest nights.
SUVs and other vehicles observed my right of way, all bar two have dipped down from main beam. The ability to generate this kind of power, under my own steam was incredibly satisfying. Probably a moot point, on a machine with variable gears but with a 79 inch fixed, you're going to be grinding up the climbs. In these scenarios, when speed dropped between 8 and 12mph, there was a noticeable dip in output. This was still vastly superior to the Trelock and to a lesser extent, the Revo but an educated guess suggested I'd gone from the full 1300 to 500 lumens. Similar narrative at junctions too, although the wide arc of light meant I was never at any risk of falling off the radar. Switching back to the PD8 and tackling the same loop confirmed my suspicions. Namely, that the bigger hub would reveal the lamp's true potential.
Even at 13-14mph, there was noticeably greater light than produced by the SL9 and the pickup was much quicker-say when leaving an unlit junction. Obviously, this kind of firepower is anti-social through the suburbs, a deft flick of the switch dipped it suitably, although only one SUV pilot chose to ignore me.
Some have suggested the beam's prowess doesn't quite cut it in the corners. I've had no problems, whatsoever, even tackling some S bends at 30+mph. The spot beams have also provided phenomenal amounts of detail, allowing me to pick out holes, glass, thorns and even toads at 20 feet, even at 33mph plus.
Output certainly cuts muster along gravel type roads. No less than I'd expect, given the quality and price point. Frankly, if you were looking at a system that would cope very well with mixed terrain riding, then the road version would certainly get my vote.
So, to the Snow/MTB version.
A very similar story here, in terms of output, characteristics and overall performance. Coming from its road sibling, the big flood wasn't quite so impressive on the tarmac-at least in terms of picking out really small details but it was still perfectly capable along the back roads.
Some flood types tend to project too much around the hedgerows and trees but while the arc is very wide, there remained ample light. No problems at 20mph on the flat, up to 28 when descending. I'd paired ours to a Shimano Ultegra hub and as with the Shutter Precision PD8, the standlight function is both captivating and long-lasting. 15-20 minutes, before it starts noticeably dropping lumens.
I had enough oomph for woodland trails to around 17mph, the spot function belting out additional power, quite some distance, too. True to our manufacturer contact, Kerry State's, assertions, the beam pattern renders a helmet mounted light redundant.
Crucially, it provides more output at the slower speeds, which helps when you're trying to tackle ruts, tree roots and other potential hazards. On that note, I've belted along flooded causeways, back roads and boggy trails, coupled with the odd dousing from an aortic. Neither version missed a beat.
Twin Port USB Charger 4/5
This adds another £125.94 to the asking price and isn't essential. In keeping with the other components, it oozes quality and could literally be indispensable, if you're into epic tours and need to charge smart phones/GPS/ battery powered lights and other gizmos (with the K-lite off). This connects to the lamp courtesy of an XT30 cable, which is also totally impervious. Aside from the practicalities, I've found refuelling my LED lights, and indeed phone incredibly satisfying!
Initial purchase cost may put some people off and it is a fair chunk of money. However, standard of performance and manufacturing mean it should work out very cheap, in the long run. £219 (plus £29 for the simple lead from lamp to hub) is slightly cheaper than the 800lumen Exposure Revo. (£240) (below)
The Revo doesn't have the USB charging option, either. That said, you'll still have to fork out for the switch (£52) and charge port (£125.94) for the K-lite. £350 or so, all told. Sinewave Beacon 750 lumen dynamo light produces 750 lumens at 13mph, can also be powered by a rechargeable battery (or 50/50 dynamo/battery, should you prefer).This might be a winner for some riders. Say those in particularly hilly regions, or with a physical impairment. It also boats an integral USB charger. However, at £379.99 its still £20 more than the K-Lite Bikepacker Ultra and comparable accessories.
There's no doubt the K-Lite Bikepacker Ultra is a serious investment (more or less, depending on which options you select) but it’s a phenomenally capable, old boots tough lighting system. For me personally, it’s the closest I've come to the perfect dynamo light, given most of my night riding, is along unlit roads and lanes.
The trail will certainly cut muster on tarmac. That said, if I wanted one system (with spares/accessories to port between bikes) I'd go for the road, since its spot priority provides optimal clarity and there's enough bite for unmade, gravel type excursions.
Verdict: 4.5/5 A sizeable investment but with specification and performance to suit. Easily the best dynamo system I’ve used to date.
PUBLISHED OCTOBER 2019
BUILDER OF STEEL CYCLE FRAMES
Ryton On Dunsmore
Coventry CV8 3FH