In preparation for the 24 Hours of Great Glen mountain bike race next weekend I purchased a CygoLight MityCross 350-Lumen LED headlight (on sale for $170). It arrived on the FEDEX truck yesterday and I took it out for this evening (9-10:30pm) for my first-ever night mountain-ride. Having only ridden by day, night riding was quite a change, and definitely a blast. We received heavy rains yesterday, so the rolling limestone-ledge single-track of Battel Woods in Middlebury was moderately muddy with very slick rocks and roots. While I had a little (low-powered) flashlight as backup, the MityCross was the only light I used during the ride.
I mostly rode with the light on my helmet and battery in my CamelBack which worked great on all of the trails from super-twisty handle-bar-wide singletrack to wider double-track. I certainly had plenty of light to see and I was pleasently reminded of mogul-skiing advise: Stop looking at your feet, observe strategically. Lifting my head a bit and looking 15-20 feet down the trail (on single-track) rather than at my feet helped my speed pick up measurably. There were a couple of time while I was exploring some new single-track that I came around a large tree in a hairpin-turn to be surprised by a drop or climb that I wasn’t expecting, but I don’t think more light would have helped shine through an obstacle.
I tried one short stretch of double-track with the light on my bars and found that while the the depth-perceptions is much better (as everyone says), it was really distracting to have the light twitching back and forth as I dodged rocks. With the light on the bars I was able to cleanly bunny-hop a series of 3, 6, and 8-inch logs, whereas with the light on my head I miss-judged the big one and clipped it in the air with my tires — praise-be to 6″ of suspension travel.
Overall the MityCross 350 is plenty of light to get out into the woods and ride after dark. More light would always be nice, but I had a great hour and a half ride with just this light. My plan is to get a high-powered LED flashlight to complement this light and provide depth-perception on the handlebars, but the MityCross was more than enough to get started.
On my ride home after leaving the woods I tested the “throw” of the light by riding down my dark road as fast as I could. I found that the beam of the MittyCross allowed me to resolve details about 100ft (30yards/meters) ahead which made me comfortable riding up to ~20-25mph. Beyond that, the road seemed kind of dim and fuzzy and I had to really strain to see further. While adequate for a leisurely road ride (or as fast as I can get the mountain bike), I wouldn’t want to bomb down a hill at 50mph with only this light.
(Note: cross-posed at MTBR.com)