Introduction (Or, why you should buy a really bright light!)
You are plunging into the darkness at over thirty miles per hour, balanced on a spinning rim that graces you with no more than a quarter inch of thickness at its final point of contact with the ground. You can't see what lies in front of you, but perhaps more perilously, you can't see the ground below you either. You don't know what that thin disc is rolling across, and when you feel the jolts and the jars, it's far too late to react.
Of course you're wearing a helmet! What kind of fool do people take you for?!
...Unfortunately, nothing will protect the rest of your body if you hit the concrete, and as you begin another steep descent, you wonder how much force it takes to break a human neck...
You could slow down, but then you might lose that moving pool of light in front of you, the only thing granting you even a modicum of safety. You could speed up. You can see a brighter pool in the distance, but to get to that, you'll need to brave a deeper blackness first.
This more or less summarises my initial adventures into night time cycling. I'm not quite as idiotic as I made myself sound, because I did take a light; my normal commuting light in fact, a little Cat Eye Uno, but it was helpless, and it rendered me equally so. I had over one hundred miles to cover with this level of illumination, and so my only hope was to tack onto riders who had something more substantial to light the way. Sometimes I would find someone who matched my pace perfectly, more often they were uncomfortably fast, or slow.
Occasionally riders would zip past with gargant lights that brought temporary daylight to my world. In my head, as the fatigue set in, they seemed a little bit like sweaty, lycra clad angels. In my worst moment, I hit something that must have fallen off a cycle, onto the floor. It felt, under wheel, like it may have been a substantial toolkit, or a hefty hard case full of supplies. I never saw it, and any information that I've gained about it was sensed from the impact that I felt through both my wrists and groin. A delight, I assure you! I was lucky to walk away shaken, but not stirred. Stirred in this metaphor meaning hospitalised, or scarred for life!
This was the reason, that for my next long distance night time ride, I swallowed my misgivings, and set out to purchase a good light. A really good light. A light that had the power to keep me safe, but also the endurance to keep shining all night long.
Overview (Why did I choose the Lezyne?)
As it turned out, this was not a simple proposition. You see, the problem was energy. I needed at least 7 hours of sustained, high power, illumination. Some car batteries provide less. What I needed was to find a way of packing all of that power, all of that endurance, into a unit no bigger, or heavier, than my hand.
As you move into the higher echelons of bike lights, the usage of standard triple, or double A batteries melts away. This kills off my past ride strategies, of simply packing a few extra cells. Instead, manufacturers choose to build their lights around their own proprietary battery. Rechargeable, but not replaceable. This is a problem, because in reality, many of these batteries can only output power for a maximum of 3-4 hours. Not good enough for a long distance rider. Equally vexing - for me - many of them require you to clumsily affix, not just a light to your handlebars, but also a battery pack to your frame. Not really a problem, until you need to park your bike somewhere like Peckham, at which point everything of value needs to be removed, or locked down, and an extraneous battery pack, with a high resale value becomes either a hassle, or a liability.
Enter the Lezyne Super Drive. This light is bright. Insanely bright. It has a good battery life, but no better than many other offerings. It's also rechargeable via USB, but so are many other lights. It has an attractive, solid, and nicely machined outer shell, as you would expect from Lezyne, and it doesn't weigh much, but these are also not the key selling points. The real kicker is that the Super Drive gives you all of this, but also allows you to change the standardised "18650" battery.
Lezyne would have you believe that you need to buy their branded batteries to use as spares, and at £30 each, this is not an attractive option. These can be disregarded however, and I was able to buy replacements online for a mere six pounds each online. I could have spent less, but I opted for high quality XTAR batteries, that came with a PCB protection circuit. I'm not technically competent enough to tell you why this is a good idea, but I've been reliably informed that it is!
Reflective review (Am I happy with my purchase?)
I could not be happier with my Super Drive. If you are in the market for a bicycle light, and you're going to need to do some cycling without the assistance of daylight or street lamps, then I strongly advise you both to skip the budget options, and to consider one of these.
I have enjoyed several late night rides with this light, and have now become one of those brilliant beacons of daylight for fellow riders. I notice people enjoying the extra light that accompanies my arrival, and have had several compliments regarding it. On my most recent night ride, a group of music bearing cyclists found me, and attached themselves to my group for a few hours, bringing an unmatched party atmosphere to my endurance event.
I also commute with the Super Drive on a daily basis. It's simple to use with cold hands, with only one big waterproof button, and a basic battery release that even the most ham-fisted roadie in boxing gloves could use. It's been through rain, shine, scrapes, and one absolutely catastrophic crash. It's a survivor, and it's highly functional.
Apart, of course, from the fellow who finally knocked me for six, people notice this light, and it causes them to stop and take a second look, usually in the time that they might otherwise reserve for driving into your face.
It's also worthy of note, that onlookers are not blinded. A little metal lip on the roof of the light prevents unnecessary upward glare, reducing the lights potential to overtly dazzle. Everybody's happy!
My one, and only, complaint about the Super Drive is that it does not feature any degree of side-lighting. My back light, A Cateye TL LD 1100 fulfills this role nicely, but I would have appreciated a contribution to the workload from the Lezyne, and may buy a few funky aerodynamic coloured lights at some point in the future to negate this issue. Your recommendations are appreciated!