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According to the scores on the doors, this unit from Westbourne light wizards Lumicycle kicks out a mighty 1120 lumens. That's all good, but where this light really scores is in the little details that make it a joy to use.
Lumicycle have made quite a name for themselves over the years, producing top notch lighting rigs for everyone, from commuters to serious off-roaders. They're a relatively late arrival at the high-end LED party, bringing out the System 3 at the end of 2008. The System 4 is an upgraded version with four high power Cree XRE R2 LEDs (the System 3 has, surprise, 3 of them) kicking out a maximum of 1120 lumens.
It's easy to blind yourself with numbers when it comes to systems like this and a mad lumen rating doesn't always equate to a good or usable light. Happily that doesn't apply to the System 4 that we tested. As well as enough power to fry eggs and a beam of light that you could stand a fat budgie on, a lot of thought has gone into making this light a pleasure to use.
In common with other LED lights, there is a range of power settings:
Boost - 1120 lumens, 2.2 hours
High - 800 lumens, 3.6 hour
Low - 400 lumens, 9 hours
Commute - 200 lumens, 31 hours
Flashing - 100 lumens, 98 hours
Any one of the steady settings is enough for a comfortable pace on the unlit lanes that I commute on but the higher settings really do provide superb illumination and confidence. The colour temperature is well thought out too, with a clean white tone that gives clear definition without bleaching. It's more natural than the rather cold blue-white tone normally associated with LEDs. There’s a significant difference between some of the settings but Lumicycle have programmed the unit with a gradual fade rather than a harsh step giving your eyes chance to adjust.
The 6 degree spot gives a nicely focused central pool but with lots of spill round the edges which is great for tricky lanes with hedges and overhanging trees. I’ve seen beam shots which show single-track illuminated as far as the eye can see, but for road use you’ll need to be careful with the angle the light is set at. The last thing you want to do is blind oncoming traffic. A typical nice touch is the built in glow-ring which adds a little extra side visibility.
Access to the settings is through a single, very clever, switch. A series of long or short, up or down pushes toggles between settings. Although the switching diagram makes it look complicated, actually using it is incredibly intuitive. It's also virtually impossible to switch off by mistake which is reassuring if you're given to hooning down pitch black hills while dodging sudden badgers. This cleverness extends to the intelligent circuitry inside the lamp. Normally testing the run time of a light is straightforward, just switch on and leave. With the System 4 that's not so easy. For a start, if the lamp gets too hot it powers down. It also takes the power down a notch when the battery gets low and in fact, although the quoted run-time on Boost is 2.2 hours it steps down to Low for 36 minutes and then down again to Commute for another 10 after you’ve had your maximum allocation of Boost. Without watching the neat battery life/setting indicator obsessively for many hours it's almost impossible to check these figures and, dear reader, I'm not that obsessive. I'd be willing to trust Lumicycle's word for it though. Our test rig came with the tiny 2.6ah battery: run times are doubled if you use the 5.2ah unit.
Build quality is to Lumicycle's normal high standards, the plug is a reassuringly tight fit, the switch has a solid and positive action and the QR bracket is familiar from previous models in the range. Lumicycle handily include an extra link which converts the bracket to fit on oversize bars.
I was looking forward to checking out this light and it didn't disappoint. When my old halogen cans finally give up I'll be buying one of these.
* - all lights in the beam shots are focused on the brick (5m from source) with the reflective patch at 15m. The shed wall is at just under 20m. These aren't the blistering straight-ahead beam shots that you might see in some off-road magazines. Instead I've tried to replicate real life road conditions.
Not just superb light performance, the S4 offers a truly versatile and well thought out package for anyone from gnarly off-roaders to commuters.
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Make and model: Lumicycle System 4 LED light
Size tested: Elite
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Lumicycle say - "LED4 spot gives superb lighting for Road, Trail and good for singletrack too."
I say - Super high end lights like these tend to be aimed at off-roaders but the spot version and the sensible range of settings make it a versatile do-anything set for roadies.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Brace yourself, here comes the tech....
"1120 lumen, 13.6 watt, 4 LED lamp head
Utilising CREE XRE-R2 - worlds brightest LED
Warm colour temperature
Custom optics : 6°spot or 13° flood beam pattern
Ideal size and performance for singletrack and road riders
Custom driver circuitry - most efficient 95% Max
Five operating modes including flash and Lumicycle’s Smart Bost mode
Smart Indicator featuring a Fuel Gauge and Power Mode
Up and down positive non-cyclical switching
High specification finish in solid anodised aluminium
Upgradable and Retrofittable
Conceived, designed and manufactured in the UK
Synergy of quality components"
Solid and nicely put together.
Fantastic! It's not just that the S4 scores highly in the silly numbers lumen game, it's the thought the clever chaps at Lumicycle have put into the design that makes this light stand out.
Lumicycle lightsets have a reputation for being bombproof, their batteries are always good quality and the light head is a chunky item that should withstand plenty of abuse. It's also upgradeable as and when new LED arrays come along.
Neat and petite. 385g for the whole package.
For this kind of money a light set is an investment for years of happy night riding. The System 4 certainly delivers that, although for pure roadies who don't necessarily need the extra power it's slightly littler brother, the System 3, is better value for money, especially if you've already got a battery.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Hmmm, define 'designed purpose'. I don't off-road, but I do commute and ride on some crappy unlit lanes. The top Boost setting is probably pushing the edge of what I truly need (can you have too much light?) but the run times on lower settings would see me comfortably through a long night ride or a whole load of commutes, with the option of going nuclear if the going gets really hairy.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Neat switch design, easy to use, good run-times, excellent quality and it's pretty darn bright. I loved the range of settings which make this a very versatile light for commuting through to hardcore off-road racing.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I've got to send it back after I post this review...
Did you enjoy using the product? Oh yes!
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
Lumicycle is a name that inspires confidence when it comes to lighting and their new LED system only enhances that reputation. This is an excellent piece of kit.
Age: 40 Height: 5\' 8 Weight: er....86kg
I usually ride: GT Rave - singlespeed conversion My best bike is: Guess SC1 scandium
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed,