Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Urban 500

A few weeks back I submitted a post about my Light & Motion Stella 120 that I was having issues with, it would only run on high for about 25 minutes before it started to flash and turn itself to the lower setting. Since we were (and still are) in the season of shorter days and mandatory night rides it was a little unsettling to be having issues with a light that was about one season old. After reading up on probable causes of the issue I started to realize that perhaps the light wasn't to blame as much as the user was. Although to be fair the procedures and processes to keep the NiMH battery working optimally would give an anal retentive person a run for their money, I'm usually lucky to get home in time to ride, take a shower and scarf down some food before it's time to call it a night and start all over again in the morning. Coddling a battery just isn't in the schedule, anyway I contacted Light and Motion's support figuring that they would tell me that it might be my fault that the battery went dead so quickly and I was S.O.L, truthfully it would be hard to argue with them after actually reading the user manual so I prepared myself for the worst while hoping for the best. As it turned out the best is what I got, rather than place blame or explain that there wasn't anything they could do because of my lack of attention to details when it came to care of the battery, they instead offered to either let me ship the light in and they would evaluate it and fix it at a nominal charge or I could upgrade to a newer light at a substantially discounted rate. Since I had been eyeballing some of their newer commuter lights and I wasn't really too keen on my ability to keep the replaced battery healthy I jumped at the chance to exchange the Stella 120 for the new Urban 500!


I have only had the light for a few weeks now and have only had to use it on a handful of rides but even with that small sampling I can tell that it is everything that the Stella wasn't and not surprisingly more my type of light. It's one piece design with no separate battery to mount to the bike somewhere and the use of a much more slacker friendly Li-ion battery are right up my alley and lets face it with the gray aluminum on black casing it's just dead sexy to boot.


Looks aren't everything but when it comes to cycling we buy, use or wear a lot of stuff because of what it looks like or how it fits our own sense of style, sometimes despite the lack of functionality. In addition to great looks and a convenient form factor, this light is also crammed with innovative and useful features. I have always been a big fan of the mounting system that Light and Motion uses, it's simple, effective and best of all easy to remove if and when you need to lock your bike somewhere for a few minutes and take the light with you. I have never done any serious trail riding with the mount but I have taken it on a few rides through Wilderness Park and never had it move or come lose on me and as a bonus if you're looking for a second helmet mounted light the Urban 500 also comes with a helmet mount.



Being a light intended for commuting in an urban (i.e. traffic) environment; Light and Motion also added two amber side facing lights for additional visibility when you are traveling alongside vehicles. It makes a lot of sense from a safety standpoint but to be honest I really don't have an opinion either way but safety is always a good thing and they aren't bothersome in any way that I have noticed, they aren't over powering and do add a nice amber glow to the cockpit.


Probably the feature that I love the most, aside from the blazing 500 lumens, is the LED indicator on the back of the light that changes from green to amber to red so that you never have to guess what state the battery is in. I realized in retrospect that I probably over charged the Stella 120 on several occasions because I never knew if it needed to be charged or not, this led to me charging it for a few hours every time I thought I was going to use it. My logic was always that I would hate to be out on the trail and have the light go dead but in reality I was doing more harm to the NiHM battery than good and am probably responsible for premature battery-cide. With the addition of one tiny LED light, Light and Motion has taken the guess work out of it, simply turn the light on and the indicator lets you know if it's good to go or not. Throw in the fact that the charging time is half that of the Stella, 5 hrs vs. 10, and that it is achieved via a micro USB port under the lamp, you can charge it from either a computer USB port or a wall outlet. The latter of course is dependent on if you have a cell/iPad/iPod type wall charger with a removable USB cord because for some reason even at $159 retail Light and Motion doesn't provide you with the wall plug piece but only provides you with the micro USB cord. That might be the one hit I would give the light so far but since most cell phones, iPods and iPads now come with a wall plug with removable USB cord it's a minor annoyance more than an actual problem with the light. I have seen people posting online that the earlier versions of the Urban 500 would get extremely hot after running them for awhile, I have used mine for up to 2.5 hours at a time and the case never seemed overly warm to the touch even with non-gloved hands. Of course being winter in Nebraska it hasn't gotten much above 40 on most night rides but I would say they fixed the problem of the early versions.



Light and Motion claims that the light will last 1.5 hours on high, whether it does or not I am unsure of at this point since I have only used the high setting a few times in instances where there wasn't any ambient light at all from a street light or other sources, I generally run the light in the medium setting to increase battery life.  I would guess that the medium setting is somewhere around 200 lumens, guess being the optimal word since I don't have any way of actually reading lumen output,  it's more of a comparison to the lights of my ridding buddies and lights I have had in the past. Medium has been more than adequate for most of my riding situations and it keeps those coming toward you from shielding their eyes and spraying expletives about how blinding the light is. I do know that with using it on a combination of medium and high I have ran the Urban 500 for more than 2.5 hours without the light dying or losing any brightness. I have even on one occasion ran the light into the red and it was still lighting the way 30 mins later when I finally arrived at home, I wouldn't recommend living on the edge and counting on that amount of battery being left every time but it is comforting to know that the light isn't going to just quit on you once the LED turns red.

Overall I would recommend this light to anyone looking for a lighting system for commuting or even light trail riding, it really is a vast improvement over the Stella 120 I purchased just a year and a half ago and I am a big fan of Light and Motions lighting pattern they use on their lights. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Voluntary Homeless

Managed to get out for another chilly, slightly snowy ride today. The temps weren't terrible, said it felt like 9-7 degrees with the wind but with the sun out off and on it actually didn't feel too bad.


The paved paths were nice and clear at least.


Rode by the Occupy Lincoln, the supposed 99%... to me it looks a lot like camping without paying for a park pass or a nightly site rate.


I know that they are trying to make a point but only in America would those with homes become voluntarily homeless to prove a point, if they really wanted to make a statement they would have turned over their house keys to an actual homeless person while they decided to "live on the streets" the middle class way with the helps of tents, warm sleeping bags and food.


But I digress, all you need is love, love, love... love is all you need.


There was still a little snow left to be had on the Jamaican Trail or parts of it any way.


There be traces that fat bikes this way traveled, Pugsleys, Moonlanders, Mukluks and perhaps even Neck Romancers have passed this way.


Tomorrows looking like a miserable wet/icy/snowy day but after that it seems the 40s might be back in the forecast.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

It's a 60/30 split

60s today and 30s tomorrow, I guess while that might not make mathematical sense it does fit with the fact that winter has only been 90% involved this year. I am pretty sure the missing 10% was used up a couple of winters ago when it was giving us at least a 110% effort. But in the tradition of living in the present, tonight was a great night!


Riding on the fringe.


Clear skies and artificial amber waves of grain.


ZOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!! The Haymarket was a little crazy tonight.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Chilly ride...

Riding has been pretty good this year since winter has seemed to decide that it was going to play nice if not take a hiatus all together. More pics, less words.


Had a little company despite the chilly temps, probably the most people I've see on one ride in months.


All layered up, iPod in and rolling out the miles.


Roca Berry Farm sitting idle, waiting for next November.


The sun did attempt to make an appearance but never really came out, well not until after I was done riding. I guess that is one of the hazards of early-ish morning riding. Still with temps above freezing at 10 a.m. in January you can't really complain too much.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


60's in January in Nebraska!! It's not often that we are treated to such nice weather, dry trails and forecasts that are predicting nothing but great weather for days to come.


Days are getting longer, it's only a matter of time before the light can go back into storage for the season. Today reminded me of when I was living in California and winter temps were always in the 50-60 and pants were an after thought.

Often while I'm riding I think to myself how grateful I am that my commute is almost devoid of red light/green light, stop and go traffic; just hop on Hwy 77, take my exit and I'm home. There are times when I dream of committing myself to commuting by bike, if I had a place to keep the bike at work other than a $50 antiquated bike rack that has gone unchanged since bikes were $20 and they hung people for theft I'd seriously consider it. Riding to work with the potential of walking home is not appealing at all... someday... maybe someday.

Monday, January 2, 2012

2011, my year behind bars

Where one year ends another begins, I have never really been one to make a list of things I'm going to do or do better in the coming year. It's always been my philosophy that if there is something that needs changing why wait until the end/beginning of a year just because that's the time that everyone else makes a list of things that they miraculously hope are going to change without any effort on their part. Any change that really needs to be made should be apparent to you irregardless of what date is on the calendar. The beginning of a new year is not a fresh start, all the problems you had from the previous year follow you into the new year. There are no mulligans, no magic erasers and no clean slates... it's your life people and it doesn't come with a trip odometer you reset when you get gas. So, instead of a blog about things I promise myself I'm going to do next year because I wrote it on a piece of paper, I'm doing a blog about the year that was... and mostly pictures at that.

I have never really tracked mileage or at least never tracked it in any really manageable way that I could look back on and see what I had done for the year, last year I decided to try to find a reliable site. There are a million websites out there that allow you to track your workouts in a cumulative manner and I have tried more than a few of them but kept going back to dailymile.com; it might not be the most technical or have the most bells and whistles but it worked for what I needed and it was easy to use and understand. It was a little interesting to see that for the most part the warmer months of the year were fairly consistent as expected but December was a bit of a surprise.


I think I will stick with this site and see if I can't improve a on my mileage for 2012, so if you want to call that a resolution I suppose that's about as close as I'm going to get to one. Sure there are things I'd like to change but most of them are ongoing and already in the works. I had hoped to get to 2000 miles this year but fell just a bit short, guess that just means I have a goal for 2012.


Lets look back on the year that was 2011:


January ride, just a little but of snow on what I can only assume was a cold night ride.


February started out pretty much the same as January, a little snow but mostly clear.


It didn't end that way though, snow was on the menu for February.


March we were back to just a little snow on the ground, temps starting to warm up and days getting a little longer.


March meant lots of chilly rides and more miles...


...and the first signs of spring.


April meant more warming and wind, lots and lots of wind.


April also meant spring storms.


May brought more and more hairless bipeds out of hibernation, obstacles were now in full swing.


June meant summer was in full swing, swamp butt and tan lines were the norm.


July was more heat, sweat, rides through Wilderness Park and mosquitoes as big as Buicks.


August brought new adventures in Washington state.


Banner Forest and Wildcat Trail were a blast.


September meant that the incessant heat was starting to show signs of yielding to milder temps.


October brought brown colors, shorter days and relief from the heat and humidity.


November was a great month, 60 degrees on Thanksgiving day.


December saw snow early in the month... but 50s on Christmas.


February 2011


December 2011

So another year ends pretty much as it began, with places to go, things to accomplish and obstacles in the path to overcome. Here's hoping 2012 is as least as good as 2011, maybe just a little bit better.