Bicycles

Review: Light & Motion Urban Trail 850 FC bike light is compact but packs a wallop

Review: Light & Motion Urban T...
Light and Motion's Urban 850 Trail FC, in its natural habitat
Light and Motion's Urban 850 Trail FC, in its natural habitat
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The Urban 850 Trail FC has a total weight of 121 g (4.3 oz)
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The Urban 850 Trail FC has a total weight of 121 g (4.3 oz)
Light and Motion's Urban 850 Trail FC, in its natural habitat
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Light and Motion's Urban 850 Trail FC, in its natural habitat
An LED on the back of the The Urban 850 Trail FC indicates its battery status
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An LED on the back of the The Urban 850 Trail FC indicates its battery status
The Urban 850 Trail FC can be panned to either side relative to its mount, allowing users to fine-tune where it's pointing
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The Urban 850 Trail FC can be panned to either side relative to its mount, allowing users to fine-tune where it's pointing
The Urban 850 Trail FC comes with a helmet mount
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The Urban 850 Trail FC comes with a helmet mount
The Urban 850 Trail FC's single 850-lumen CREE LED
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The Urban 850 Trail FC's single 850-lumen CREE LED
We were initially wondering if the Urban 850 Trail FC's single-bulb beam might be too narrow, but that definitely didn't turn out to be the case
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We were initially wondering if the Urban 850 Trail FC's single-bulb beam might be too narrow, but that definitely didn't turn out to be the case
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Thanks to continuing advances in LED and lithium battery technology, it's now not uncommon to see mountain bike headlights putting out 3,000 lumens or more. Most of these high-intensity lights incorporate two or three bulbs, however, requiring a separate battery pack to power them. With this in mind, we were intrigued when we heard that Light & Motion had declared its self-contained new Urban 850 Trail FC to be "the most powerful single-LED bike light that exists." We gave it a try and liked what it has to offer ... even if its claim may be a little hard to substantiate.

As its name implies, the Urban 850 Trail puts out a maximum of 850 lumens via a single CREE LED and custom firmware. While that's significantly below the output of some of the ridiculously-powerful multi-LED lights, we found it to be more than sufficient for our nocturnal trail rides.

A quick Googling, however, will show that a number of other manufacturers are offering single-bulb headlights that are rated as high or even higher – Cygolite's Expilion 850 reportedly also pumps out 850 lumens, while Australian start-up Indigo Lighting claims that its Indigo5 manages a whopping 1,800 lumens.

When we asked a Light & Motion rep about this, they responded that unlike the lights of some competitors, the Urban 850 Trail's output has actually been certified to the commonly-accepted FL-1 Standard. For their part, Cygolite and Indigo told us that their lights also measure up on the FL-1 system – the Indigo5 can only manage its maximum 1,800-lumen output for 30 minutes on its standard battery, although higher-capacity "booster" batteries are also available.

So suffice to say ... the Urban 850 Trail might not necessarily be the single brightest single-LED bike headlight in existence, but it's certainly among them, particularly if you stick to established brand names.

The Urban 850 Trail FC has a total weight of 121 g (4.3 oz)
The Urban 850 Trail FC has a total weight of 121 g (4.3 oz)

Putting it to the test

The headlight's built-in lithium-ion battery charges in 2.5 hours via USB, and is claimed to provide 1.5 hours of run time at maximum output. In our tests, although we started getting a low-battery warning at the 1.5-hour mark, the light itself kept going for just over two hours. Battery life can be extended considerably by selecting medium- or low-output settings (375 or 185 lumens, respectively), although if you're using it for honest-to-goodness mountain biking, you'll likely find those to be insufficient once the night truly settles in.

We were initially wondering if its single-bulb beam might be too narrow, but that definitely didn't turn out to be the case – the reflector provides 180 degrees of visibility, which nicely illuminated the sides of the trail while still not creating an overly-intense spotlight in the middle.

We were initially wondering if the Urban 850 Trail FC's single-bulb beam might be too narrow, but that definitely didn't turn out to be the case
We were initially wondering if the Urban 850 Trail FC's single-bulb beam might be too narrow, but that definitely didn't turn out to be the case

Using its silicone strap and mounting bracket, the Urban 850 Trail stayed securely in place on the handlebars, even after bumping over some rooty sections. The headlight can be panned to either side relative to the mount, allowing users to fine-tune where it's pointing. Although it did occur to us that this feature might let it jiggle out of alignment, that never happened. It could be more of an issue if using the light on your helmet (a mount is included), as it would be more likely to get hit by overhanging branches up there.

Some of its other features include IP67 waterproofing (immersible to 1 meter/3.3 ft for 30 minutes), a low-output "pulse" setting for increased visibility in traffic, and a total weight of 121 g (4.3 oz). It's priced at US$179.

We definitely liked the Urban 850 Trail FC, and appreciated the fact that it was considerably smaller and sleeker than more needlessly-intense multi-LED lights that require separate battery packs. That said, it would be nice to have the options of either forking out for a higher-capacity onboard battery, or plugging the light into an external battery – even at two hours, some riders may find that it just doesn't deliver its 850 lumens for long enough.

Product page: Light & Motion Urban 850 Trail FC

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8 comments
Mark_S
Why can't they make more LED headlights for cars, then?
Anne Ominous
1800 lumens is a highly questionable figure from a single LED, as even the newer CREE T6-L2 is not rated for that kind of output. It might be driven higher at a cost of heavy heat-sinking and lower lifespan.

But the real culprit in most of these claims is the driver circuitry. The Urban 850 might be honest in that regard, but many aren't.

Many Chinese flashlights, even using T6 LEDs, have circuitry that is only capable of delivering about 380 lumens. They just rate them by the LED theoretical output, not the actual delivered output. Buyer beware.
Anne Ominous
Mark_S

You wouldn't want them to. Tiny, extremely bright lights are far harder on the eyes of oncoming drivers than larger lights are.

It might look nice from your side of the windshield but you could be sure a lot of others would be swearing at you.
Dave82
I think super bright led's on some bicycles are outright dangerous. Yes they need to be bright but some are just over the top, often when driving I find that they blind me and whilst i know where the cyclist is it ruins my vision for anything in the general area that doesn't have flashing led's on them like pedestrians for instance. If you are off road fair enough but there should be a limit.
Brooke
Hi:
Lumens are a measure of all the light from a lamp over a spherical surface. Edison used a sphere with an ID of a few feet to measure his bulbs. So Lumens are a measure of the total light output and not a measure of how much light falls on a surface. Foot Candles or Lumens are measures of the light falling on a surface and would be a better measure of something like a flashlight. http://www.prc68.com/I/Weston594Photronic.shtml http://www.prc68.com/I/FlashlightPat.shtml
Have Fun,
Brooke PS another metric would be Lumens per Watt, or how well the device converts power into light. This goes to battery life.
ljaques
Mark_S, I'm glad more people don't make LED light kits for cars. We no longer have any kind of regulation for this kind of thing and the LED lights are not built to limit the light they submit other drivers to, so most of the kits will put out so much glare that other drivers' vision is severely abused.
As to the purported luminous output of these lights, I'd like to see the specs on that certification. They are highly questionable, as Anne said.
As to the price of this yuppie light, I think it goes way beyond the pale. There are dozens of lights being built and sold from China right now which can give (nearly) the same output and you can buy one for UNDER TEN BUCKS. I just spent $7.21 on eBay for one rated 1200lm (I doubt more than 800, actual) with high/low/strobe settings, a charger, and an 18650 battery. I've seen others, complete with with bicycle handlebar mounts, selling for $11-14 right now, delivery included. The flashlights with no battery or charger go for $5.98, delivered, and have a Cree T-6 LED which is rated between 800 and 2000lm. Of course, those come without the urban legend name, but fer Chrissake, let's bring prices in line with reality. Your kharma is at stake.
SimonZappia
@Anne Ominous, assuming you are questioning the INDIGO5 referencing 1800 lumen, we use the MTG2 emitter which is rated at over 2000lm so we are within crees guide lines. Our lights are for nil ambient light situations, i.e. MTB tracks, rural roads etc. http://indigo.lighting/shop/lights/indigo5
MeganThomsson
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