Light and Motion Urban 700 Review

[Originally posted at MTBVT.com]

I discovered Light & Motion‘s headlights while checking out the vendor booths at the Vermont 50 this fall.  After checking their lights out a bit and talking with their rep., I really wanted to get my hands on one.  That was after I recovered from the semi-permanent blue spots I got from accidentally turning one on while looking into the business end of the light.  I was particularly intrigued by the fact that all of their lights are manufactured in the U.S. – it’s not often that you hear that about any cycling product.  I was able to get an Urban 700 model just as the days started getting short around here.  Since then, I have used it extensively for commuting as well as mountain biking and even more winter fat bike riding.

Everything you need: manual, charging cable, helmet mount, light and a sticker.
Everything you need: manual, charging cable, helmet mount, light and a sticker.

Features:

Verdict:

I began using this light for my daily commute once the mornings started getting dark.  It didn’t take long into October before it was still fully dark at 6:30 am and I was able to get a good feel for how this light performed.  For the record, 700 lumens borders on being overkill for riding on the road; I think oncoming drivers would have preferred that I used my “low beam” option.   On high power, I could see down the road so that I could descend the longest hill on my ride to work at full speed – usually around 35mph – just as I would during the day.  I found that most of the time the lower settings were plenty of illumination for normal cruising around 20mph.  Even in these modes, it was able to put out enough light that in several instances I thought there cars were coming up behind me because of the bright reflection off the road signs.  In contrast to some other lights I’ve used with a super bright center spot and weak peripheral area, the Urban 700’s beam covers the road well with a nice, evenly distributed brightness.

As I mentioned earlier, I used this light quite a bit for off-road riding and fat biking.  Light & Motion makes several models in their “Performance” line that are intended for off-road use.  I’m not sure what more you’d gain from a light that can put out 2000 lumens, other than blinding any wildlife within a hundred yards of the trail and leaving a wake of sunburnt foliage.  The Urban 700 performed very well in the woods.  The shape of the beam was pretty good and certainly bright enough to show the terrain well in single-track.  In very tight cornering situations with the light mounted on my bars, the edges of beam didn’t go quite as wide as I would have liked to give full view of the inside of the corner.  A small helmet mounted light would compliment the bar mounted light well in this context.  The light showed no sign of any effects from the vibration, rain, snow, extreme cold (-12F) and everything else that off-road riding in a Vermont winter entails.

It even works in the cold.
It even works in the cold.

The light is mounted to the handlebar with a heavy rubber strap that lashes the light to the handlebars.  I wasn’t too keen on this design at first, preferring a hardware clamp mechanism.  I didn’t expect it to hold very well but that expectation proved to be unfounded.  The light stayed in position well even when getting rattled on  a rigid fork over root-covered terrain.  It fits 31.8mm bars without issue.  Probably the nicest thing about the mount, aside from keeping the light solidly in place, is that it’s very easy to move the light between bikes.  It is also handy to be able to easily remove the light if you are going to be leaving your bike unattended, such as being locked up while at work.

Unfortunately, I did run into a problem with this light.  After a month or two of use, the light stopped being able to take a charge.  I was more than a little disappointed by this.  I contacted their support phone number shortly after the holidays to see what could be done about it.  In my work, I’ve spent a LOT of time on the phone with various vendors dealing with support issues and Light & Motion is certainly one of the few that I would characterize as excellent.  No byzantine phone menu systems, no third-world staff who barely speak English, no endless hold times, no haggling.  I was able to talk with a real human being in my native tongue.   The guy I spoke with quickly worked though the light’s symptoms with me and a replacement arrived in my mailbox within a week along with return shipping for the dead light.  Any product can have a defect, and L&M stand by theirs when something isn’t right.

On the trail...
On the trail…

Overall, the light has performed exceptionally well.  With a full charge I have consistently gotten at least the advertised run time out of this light.  The pulse mode gives an almost ridiculous 12 hours of run time and is plenty bright enough in most situations.  It doesn’t just blink like some lights, but softly cycles its brightness up and down about once a second.  The light also gives a nice colored indicator on the back about the status of the battery.  That’s very handy, but if you’re not paying attention it also gives you a warning that things are about to quickly get really dark  by rapidly blinking the headlight for several seconds before shutting down.  It’s a warning that you can’t miss and gives enough time to safely stop the bike.  Fortunately, I only put myself in that position once through my own miscalculations.

I’m continually amazed at what we have available for headlights now.  I recall when night riding involved weak little lights powered by standard batteries or halogen bulbs using heavy lead-acid water bottle batteries with a tangle of wires and mounting hardware.  All this is outperformed by a small LED light with lithium ion battery that you can easily stuff in your pocket and light enough that you could forget about it.  Light & Motion has put together a very high quality product that is so simple and small that it’s easy to take it for granted.  Even with the minor hassle of the warranty replacement, I can say that I would definitely buy another one of their lights if I were in the market for a new one.

It illuminates snowy single-track as well.
It illuminates snowy single-track as well as snowy deer tracks.

Rating:

  • Innovation: 2/2
  • Function: 2/2
  • Aestheitcs: 2/2
  • Features: 2/2
  • Quality/Price: 2/2
  • Overall Rating: 10/10

Pros:

  • Bright!
  • Very good construction
  • simple effective mounting system.
  • long run times.
  • Made in the U.S.

Cons:

  • long charge time.
  • USB charging cable doesn’t come with a wall adapter
  • You can get similar lights for less money (but I wouldn’t expect their quality to be as high).

Package

Specs:

  • 700 lumens on high (med: 350 low: 175: pulse: 175)
  • weight: 112g
  • Run time: 1:30 on high to 12:00 on pulse
  • charge time: 6 hours
  • battery: Lithium Ion
  • mounts: bar and helmet
  • MSRP: $159.00
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3 thoughts on “Light and Motion Urban 700 Review

    1. I think they serve two purposes. The primary one is probably to increase your visibility from the side. The second is to illuminate the controls on the bars. It’s actually pretty nice.

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