Review: Light & Motion Urban 500 Commuter Light

Light & Motion Urban 500 Bike Light Main

The Urban 500 Commuter Light by Light & Motion arrived for review. From a company that specialized originally in dive lights, I didn’t doubt the water resistance of the Urban 500 – it seemed they’d have it perfected by now. Instead, I noted the features an everyday commuter will encounter while using the light. The Urban 500 is an LED rechargeable USB light that packs 500 lumens on its highest setting. At an advertised $159, I ask whether it’s worth the cash. After trying it, my opinions were illuminated.

Click ‘more’ for the full review…

Light & Motion Urban 500 Bike Light Weighed Light & Motion Urban 500 Bike Light Helmet Mount

Light & Motion’s Urban 500 is the most powerful of the Urban line, followed by the 300 and 180 lumen versions.  Out of the package, it weighs 111g and comes with a 22g optional use helmet mount. (The same helmet mount is featured on the Light and Motion Seca 1400 if you want to see how it’s mounted.) Also included is a usb->usb charger, but no wall mount. Light & Motion offers it separate on the website for $20. As for mounting, the strap-and-hook setup should fit all bars. Once attached, the light can swivel a full 360 degrees.

Light & Motion Urban 500 Bike Light Swivel

Light & Motion Urban 500 Bike Light Top

Pressing a button on the top of the light cycles the Urban 500 through four settings – High, Medium, Low, and Flash – in that order. Mashing it for a couple of seconds turns it off. I used each setting for different environments and purposes.

On High, it boasts 500 lumens and dies in about 1.5 hours. When it dies, it gets back to charge in a little over 5 hours. If you don’t mind plugging it up between commutes, then I’d say let the full power reign. But I don’t like constantly charging my gear, so I used the High setting sparingly to conserve battery life.  When I did use it, 500 lumens made a pitch black road or trail feel like daylight. I set it to High in parts of the city where I found the quality of the road questionable. I also used it on roads and trails with zero lighting. In the city, where the environment isn’t pitch black, I found High to be overkill. When directed at pedestrians, they seemed to shade their eyes a bit.

Medium and Low were my sweet spots. Medium isn’t overly bright for lamp-lit city riding. The road is visible, yet the surrounding environment isn’t illuminated like daytime. Although the lighting is a bit dimmer on Medium, it’s still pretty darn bright. On this setting, it burns for 3 hours. I generally used this on short rides.

For longer commutes, I used Low. Set here, the battery lasts 6 hours. I used this only in well-lit parts of the city. Because light output is sacrificed for battery life, there were times when I questioned my visibility. But when I did, the Flash setting was one button-press away. Flash lasts about 18 hours. It may not be brighter than the Low setting, but it sure is more noticeable.

Urban 500 Light and Motion Lumen Test

To test out Light & Motion’s advertised photo on their website, I took the light to a similar location in my town. I testify that they capture the effect here without any fancy camera techniques. This is the Urban 500 at a full 500 lumens in a 60ft beam test.

Light & Motion Urban 500 Bike Light Side

The side lights are great for me though I’d imagine some may get annoyed with them. Basically, to create the side view, they punched a few tiny holes in the light and let it bleed through the orange plastic. In this way, the side view intensity varies as the light intensity changes; also, Flash setting makes it flash. I like the side lights because they illuminate cycling computers and anything else on my bars, including my hands. Although that is wonderful, I don’t believe they completely serve their intended purpose, as a safety feature. I found that my hands blocked a lot of (what would be) side visibility.  However, if helmet-mounted, the lights would be visible.

Light & Motion Urban 500 Bike Light Rear

The battery indicator on the rear gives a charge readout. Green is full. Orange is half-empty. Solid red indicates low. Blinking red means super low. When the light is about to die, the whole lamp goes terror and starts flashing.

Specs:
  • High (500 Lumens) : 1.5 hours
  • Medium: 3 hours
  • Low: 6 hours
  • Flash: 18 hours
  • Price: $159
  • Weight: 111g
Pros:
  • Compact – no attachments, no external batteries.
  • Side Lights
  • Low weight – 111 grams
  • Helmet mount included
  • 500 lumens output with a choice of other settings.
  • 360 degree swivel capability
Cons:
  • Possible breakage: I lock my ride to the bike rack frequently and I refuse to feed the thieves a $159 light. I find that I constantly remove and reapply the light to my bars. Constant fiddling of this kind could weaken or break the mounting device. The rubber strap and plastic hook look sturdy enough, but there is no telling the wear after a few months of use. To solve this problem, Light & Motion sells $10 replacement mounts.
  • Possible glitch: I didn’t personally experience this (luckily), but it is worthy of mention. It seems that a batch of Urban lights between August 2011 and December 2011 had a firmware problem. The lights would randomly shut down regardless of the charge. If you are having this problem, contact Light & Motion customer service. They’ll give you a free replacement plus a Vis 180 tail light to complement it. This firmware glitch has since been fixed.
Conclusion:

I enjoy the compact nature of the Urban 500 – it has no external batteries. It has stylin’ looks. The side lights are a joy. It weighs in low at 111 grams and fits easily in my pant-pocket when not mounted on the bars. The lighting is more than enough for my urban commuting and night rides. It’s versatile, allowing for a hefty 500 lumens when necessary and lower settings for other times. This allows for a commuter to see and be seen in different environments. If I needed the constant 500 lumen output, and I needed it for more than 1.5 hours, then I’d opt for a different light. But I don’t. Throughout my rides that encompass both the well-lit city and the dark path, I cycle through the various settings and enjoy the features offered.

Check it out here at Light & Motion.

Comments

craigsj - 03/05/12 - 11:42am

Light and Motion didn’t specialize originally in dive lights and their underwater products are known for frequent failure. Good machinists, horrible electronics design.

Oh, and the possible firmware gitch? Welcome to L&M. It’s their trademark.

Paul - 03/05/12 - 11:46am

Colin you are TOO punny.

mkrs - 03/05/12 - 2:00pm

$150 for a light that does not even have decent optics to make it safe for the co-users of the road? Thanks, I’ll pass.

Meta - 03/05/12 - 2:06pm

I wish Bikerumor did a google search, or looked at Amazon, this light has massive reliability issues. I don’t understand, Light & Motion doesn’t the budget to do proper testing and QC on what they make!

Brian - 03/05/12 - 2:08pm

I had one of the “possible firmware glitch” lights from day one and it never had any issues. Several of the other guys at my shop had no issues as well. I have ridden their product for a long time and have had nothing but good things to say about their product. The Vis 180 tail light is by far the best tail light I have used. The headlight is great for my commute and I prefer it over my SECA400 now. It also doubles as a great helmet mount light for trail riding.

Jamie - 03/05/12 - 2:19pm

How would you compare it to the Lezyne Super Drive you reviewed a few weeks back? The Lezyne seems like it’s better, yet it costs $50 less.

Jacob Thompson - 03/05/12 - 7:19pm

I work for Light & Motion and wanted to make sure that everybody was aware that the company is quite dedicated to customer satisfaction and for those with an Urban light that does have the firmware glitch are encouraged to send in their light for an upgrade:
Urban 180′s will get replaced with an updated Urban 300, the Urban 300 will get replaced with an updated Urban 500, and the Urban 500 will get replaced with an updated Urban 500 and a Vis180.
The firmware glitch has been fixed and people are absolutely loving the compact Urban Lights.

And the company did in fact get started in Monterey with underwater lights and video housings (http://www.uwimaging.com/company.html) and the underwater products have become the industry standard with a reputation for being second to none.
The company is still manufacturing their products in an old cannery building on Cannery Row in Monterey. There are rapid prototype machines, a variety of CNC milling machines, injection molding, etc. And all the lights are assembled in-house. The lights are not some product that arrive off a container ship from China and are resold.

Colin - 03/05/12 - 8:06pm

@ Jamie – I didn’t get to test the Lezyne. Another contributor (Marc) got to try it. Though I didn’t get to try it, I’ve read a bit about it and I’ll do a quick comparison.

The Lezyne Super Drive 450 Lumen Light review is here –
http://www.bikerumor.com/2012/02/07/initial-review-lezynes-compact-superdrive-led-headlight/

Weights: Urban 500 (111g), Lezyne Super Drive (125g)
Helmet mount included: Urban 500 (yes), Lezyne Super Drive (No)
Removable/swappable battery: Urban 500(no), Lezyne Super Drive (yes). This is a huge plus to Lezyne, as they are dealing with the same 1.5 hour battery life as the Urban 500.
Light Output: Urban 500 (500 lumens), Lezyne Super Drive (450 lumens).
Price: Urban 500 ($159), Lezyne Super Drive ($110)

So here is my take on what you are paying the extra 50 dollars for: You get 50 more lumens, a helmet mount, and a few grams shaved. As for the made in America hype, Light & Motion designs and manufactures gear in California, whereas Lezyne designs in California and manufactures in Taiwan.

Aesthetically speaking, I really like the ‘hood’ feature on the Lezyne. This blocks light from getting in the eye of the rider. That is a nifty addition, quite innovative. On the other hand, I like the sleek and minimal design of the Urban 500. The Urban is cool in that it is self contained and doesn’t require a separate bar mount (as the Lezyne does).

I haven’t seen the actual beam test of the Lezyne, but I’d imagine it is very similar to the Urban 500. As for light versatility, they have the same 4 settings – High, Medium, Low, Flash – so they will both function great for commuting. The Lezyne may be better if you need the full capacity of the light all of the time, as it allows you to swap batteries. On the other hand, the Urban 500 seems to have a better battery life when not blasting full power, as illustrated below.

Urban 500 Run Time as advertised: High – 1.5hr, Medium – 3hr, Low – 6hr, Flash – 18hr
Lezyne Run Time as advertised on their website: High – 1.5hr, Medium – 2.5hr, Low – 4hr, Flash – 5hr

Regardless, both are great lights and it comes down to personal opinion.

Zach - 03/06/12 - 12:00am

I’ve had a L&M Stella 300 for trail riding and commuting for two years now. Have absolutely fallen in love with their products. They make their own bowls so they can tune the optics, the connections are still water tight, the universal bar mount is phenomenal and shows no sign of wear, and the battery is still going strong.

Alessandro - 05/08/12 - 10:21am

The “customer satisfaction” is only for US customer, which have free shipping, replacement and vis180. bought one of the “possible firmware glitch” Urban 500 lights, but as a European customer the best I obtained (after some e-mail exchanges with L&M) was a replacement trough the UK distributor with shipping expenses charged on myself (about 1/3 of the cost of the light) and given as a “favor”. I will keep my faulty light and my discontent.

Simon - 05/02/13 - 7:41pm

Ditto Alessandro – you can forget about customer satisfaction if you live in Australia too.

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