Review: Light & Motion Urban 500 Commuter Light
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- High (500 Lumens) : 1.5 hours
- Medium: 3 hours
- Low: 6 hours
- Flash: 18 hours
- Price: $159
- Weight: 111g
- 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
- 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.
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.