A Spectrum Of Lights: Outbound Lighting – by Grannygear
You would think by this time I would have enough lights in my light box for just about anything, but no. Not quite. I was on my mountain bike a few months ago and realized that the old MTB light I was using, a Light & Motion 1200L all in one, was just OK. Nothing more. So I went on a search to see what might be new on the market since I really do not stay in tune with MTB stuff too much any more.
My search led me to some YouTube videos where one of the lights shown was from Outbound Lighting. It looked impressive and seemed to get good reviews. It also seemed to be a small company doing innovative work. https://www.outboundlighting.com
After some dialogue with Tom, one of the principle players in the company, where we geeked out a bit on LED lighting tech and how the market is treating bike lights specifically, I was impressed enough to order a set of lights for MTB riding (paid for with my own cash at retail, by the way).
Now I typically do not run a helmet light as I find them distracting more than useful. I find that my eyes tend to follow the dancing hot spot instead of just seeing the trail. But I also recognize the usefulness of having light where you are looking and not just where the bars are pointed as well as having a second source of light with you just in case your main light dies.
So I ordered a set of their MTB combo lights, the Trail Evo and the Hangover, and waited for them to be built. That package at the time of this writing is $365.00. Not cheap, so we shall see if they are all that and a bag of chips.
The bar light interested me the most, that being the Trail Evo. With nine LEDs sitting behind a custom lens and in an all in one housing, it’s unique looking. The housing is finned with the ability for air to pass through the middle of the light. The mount was unlike anything I had seen, tech borrowed from the camera industry (so I understand), and it had the right amount of light levels built in with not a flashy mode to rotate through, etc. Just Low, Med, High, and Adaptive mode which we will get into later.
It is lighter than it looks (did not weigh it) and fits well on a burly MTB, although it might look a bit bulky on a drop bar bike. The mount also is centered at the stem so it could interfere with the typical drop bar computer mount.
There is a top mounted LED that does two things…tells you what level of light you are on as you go through the modes, and battery status. The top mounted power button is large and easy to use but is not illuminated. It also can use pass through charging from a remote battery, like a power bank, and run on any level at the same time. So while most of my MTB rides are very short (2 hours or so), I could go big if I wanted to.
Now then. Why am I talking about an MTB light on a gravel bike site? Well good question. One reason is that the tech here is worth looking into as the cut off beam, the adaptive mode, the pass-through charging, the mount system….etc. The other reason is that Outbound is coming out with the Detour, an updated version of their road light that will apply to gravel riding. I am not certain that all the features will carry over, but I expect most will. So there. It’s relevant.
Now then, the light(s) in use.
One word: Wow!
I set out with the Trail Evo on the bars and did not even bring the helmet light. I wanted to see if the lens on the bar light was doing justice to MTB riding. It’s not like gravel/road where you rarely need a wide spread with no hot spots. MTB riding on twisty trails at relatively slow (compared to road/gravel) speeds requires a wide beam, almost so you could see around a corner if possible, with few distracting hot spots.
I did my climb mostly in fading light, only to run the light on low for the end of the climb as darkness fell. Then I pointed the bike downhill over a few miles of very twisty trail. I hit the High setting and was simply blown away by how effective the light output and spread was. Impressed, I was. ‘Game changer’ is not an overstatement.
And since then I have enjoyed that light very, very, much. Low is quite good for the typical long, non-tech climbs we have here in So Cal, and Medium is fine for those in-between sections of easy trail or level fire road. High is pretty…well…high…and I would not ask for more light level. The Adaptive mode is interesting and does give you longer run times with what ends up being in between High and Medium. More on that mode in the next article.
That work they put into the lens really is impressive. The beam is flat and wide and does not light up the sky uselessly. Just about perfect IMO.
The mount is soooo good. It stays on the bike, taking up almost no room, the light is easy to fix to it and is exceptionally solid when there. This system also preserves the lights orientation, so once you get it pointed where you like it, it will always be there unless you move the fixed mount on the bars.
The Hangover helmet light is smaller, lighter, and less powerful and uses a GoPro mount. I have found it to be the best helmet light I have used, but that is not saying much as I typically pass on running a hemet light. I have found that running both in Adaptive mode is a very good solution in the twisties and I am learning to like the bar/helmet combo. Old dogs and new tricks.
The light color of the LEDs (temperature in Kelvins) is not too cool and is easy on the eyes. So I feel that I got my money’s worth out of this light package and I am looking forward to the Detour (great name, by the way) when it comes out as we are promised a sample to review.
But until then, I put out some questions to Tom regarding the tech in these lights and we will be running that next, providing more details on many of the features and the philosophy behind Outbound and how they do things.
Note: Grannygear purchased the Outbound Lighting Trail Evo and Hangover lights for test and review for Riding Gravel. We were not paid nor bribed for this review and we will always strive to give our honest thoughts and views throughout.