The PDW Lars Rover 650 is typical of the latest generation of battery operated headlights, and it is interesting to compare it to the lights that I was testing a couple of years ago. Almost all this type of light now recharges with USB, and use an internal battery that may or may not be removable. I have mixed feelings about this; I still prefer removable NiMh AA and AAA cells since the lifetime of these batteries is not infinite. However I understand the convenience of USB recharging; you don’t have to have a separate charger, and you don’t have to open up the light to get to the batteries, which means that the light can be designed to be more resistant to breakage.
I will point out that this is probably also the last headlight review that I’ll write for the blog since there is a website called “the bike headlight database” that has a fantastic amount of information on all sorts of lights for all sorts of riding. However, they haven’t looked at this particular light in detail.
The Lars Rover offers a bright (650 lumens) at a price point (US MSRP is $110) that seems to be pretty competitive. For example the L&M Urban 500 offers 500 lumens at $100, and the Cygolite Expilion 720 is nominally brighter for slightly more money. What makes this light a good deal in Canada is that MEC sells it for $85.
In the package, you get the light and three different mounting brackets: a helmet mount with Velcro strap, a standard clamp on handlebar bracket, and a quick detach handlebar mount that uses an elastic strap.
Here are a couple of pictures comparing the light to the earlier generation PDW Cosmic Dreadnought. The new light is slightly bigger than the old one, although it is slimmer in profile.
The bluish front half of the housing is metal, which I assume helps dissipate heat from the LED.
Looking from the side, I guess they decided that throwing light directly to the side is no longer important. The elastic strap works surprisingly well on a range of handlebar diameters, but in practice I would wrap enough electrical tape on any given bar so that the light doesn’t get moved by riding over bumps.
In terms of performance, the quick summary is that the 650 lumens mode is much brighter than any of my other lights, to the point where it is almost stupidly bright for use in the city. I can imagine that the light would be pretty blinding to on-coming car traffic, and would be insanely annoying on flash mode. There is a good summary of advice on the bikelight database that can be summarized as follows: during the day, there is no harm in using a very bright light in flash mode to grab attention, but at night it is inadvisable to use a very bright light in flash mode as it runs the risk of disorienting drivers.
However the Lars Rover has one nice feature to address this issue: it has a slow pulse mode that is much less annoying than the flash mode, and this is now my preferred mode at night since it still attracts more attention than a steady light, but it shouldn’t induce anyone to go into a epileptic fit.
One situation where the high intensity would be useful is in trail riding. I didn’t get a chance to do any trail riding at night with this light, so I can’t comment on this application, but this is what the helmet mount would be for. I wouldn’t use the helmet mount in the city unless I deliberately wanted to blind drivers.
Here is a timelapse video showing the runtime of the light on steady high intensity mode, and the slow flash mode.
The high intensity runs a little longer (2:15) than the claimed two hours, but the pulse mode runs shorter (7:20) than the claimed 10 hours. In both modes, there is a low battery/low intensity mode that will let you limp home without totally losing all light. It lasts about an hour, which is much longer than the 15 minutes stated on the PDW website. These run times were measured indoors at room temperature. Run times out in the cold seem to be shorter, but again, it is helpful to have the red LED to indicate that you are running on fumes.
Here is the beam pattern of three different lights (all taken at dusk, 10 m from the garage, 1/6 sec, F 1.8, ISO 1600
The PDW Cosmic Dreadnought, which had the brightest hot spot of my older lights, with not much light outside the hotspot.
The Ixon IQ Premium, a German light that was state of the art a year ago. Nominally 80 lux.
Note that the beam pattern has a sharp horizontal cutoff, and lots of light spread out evenly below the cutoff.
However, it should be pointed out that the Ixon IQ is quite a bulky light, taking 4 AA cells. It is also heavy enough that I found that it would often rotate downward when I rode over bumps; it looks like it is too much light for a handlebar mount that is barely bigger than the PDW mount.
The one thing that would make this light (or any of its peers) a segment leader would be if it had better optics so that the light would throw a beam pattern with a sharp horizontal cutoff, similar to that of the Ixon. I was disappointed to see that the Lars Rover has essentially a round beam pattern. It throws a lot of light on the road, but does it in such a way that it can also blind oncoming traffic. I see that B&M has a new light called the Ixon Core that is USB rechargeable and much smaller than the Ixon IQ Premium, but it appears also to be less powerful at 50 lux. The market awaits a more powerful, more widely distributed version of this light.
In summary, the Lars Rover 650 is a light that is powerful and has some nice features, but is not necessarily ideal for the city.
What I liked:
- relatively small size
- the choice of three different mounts
- the fact that you had to keep the power button depressed for two seconds to turn it on
- the light remembers the last mode that was used
- tons of light
- the slow pulse mode
- looks more durable than than my older lights (such as the Planet Bike Blaze: all of mine have basically died at this point)
- I’m finding the elastic mount very convenient
What I didn’t like so much
- too much light all over the place for use on city streets?
- inferior optics (related to the above)
On balance, the Lars Rover 650 qualifies as “tried and liked”, although I’ll be running it in the slow flash mode. I’ll note that some PDW taillights also have the slow flash mode, such as the Danger Zone.
Update: as noted in the comments, Light and Motion make an excellent line of bike lights, and they are made in the USA. Many of them (like the aforementioned Urban 500) are rated very highly on the bike light database.