The first thing you notice when unpacking the light is the case, NiteRider includes a sweet nylon zip-up bag to keep everything safe and in one place while traveling. A nice touch indeed considering that these lights are far from inexpensive. The build quality is above and beyond what I was expecting. Everything is sturdy and looks up to the task at hand. Even the mounts are solid feeling, which is a major weak point of a lot of other options out there. Attention to detail appears to have been key in their design.
The Pro 700 LED Race comes with both bar and helmet mounts and if you only have one light, mounting it on the helmet is a must as it allows you to look into corners and off to the sides, while a bar mount would not. Just beware - you can easily blind your riding buddies if you look at them to talk. The light's helmet mount looks sturdy and is easy to put on. It also doesn't stick up too far, and a cool little slide system allows you to easily adjust the tilt of the light for both head position and helmet shape. The light head itself has a built in 8 step "Fuel Gauge". A quick look and you can tell how much juice you have left to go. The bar mounting system is eons better than most bar mounts. Not only does it look overbuilt and solid, but it is also easy to install and centers the light directly over your stem's faceplate. It fits both 25.4 mm and 31.8 mm bars through the use of rubber pads that clip inside, and a simple swing knob tightens everything down.
Powerful lights usually mean big batteries, and big batteries do not equal light weight. While not exactly petite, using Li-Ion battery technology has allowed NiteRider to create a 505g, 4 cell pack for the 700 Race model that gives you a claimed 2:40 run time at full power, and up to 32 hours on low! Most of the system's weight is centered around the battery pack, which is nice, as it means you only have a small amount of bulk on top of your head with the battery in your pack and the included long cord extension attached.
The Pro 700 LED Race mounted to the top tube of my bike.
The charging system for the lights resembles the same thing you'd get with a high end cordless drill. It's a nicely built cradle with power, error and stepped charge level indicator lights. It also includes a USB port to connect it to your computer for use with the DIY software. More on this later. The battery slips out of its holder and into the charging cradle.
DIY Main Setup Screen
The 3 settings available to you by default are basically on, bright and brightest. It also includes a strobe mode for emergencies. This isn't the end of the story though, as the 700 Pro LED is compatible with the Niterider D.I.Y. software. Simply plug in your light via USB under any Windows system, and crank up the software. It allows you to customize the settings you need. Want a really low power light for visibility while commuting, but a super powerful spotlight for riding in the woods? No problem! The software is easy to use, involving only a few sliders and a save button. Once your light is updated (a pretty quick process), it's good to go with your new settings. It's a pretty intuitive system, and allows your light to be extremely versatile. NOTE: DIY is Windows only and will not work on Mac OS X. It works perfectly well under bootcamp however, as well as Parallels and other virtualization software packages.
NiteRider Pro 700 LED Race
- • 700 Lumens
- • 4 Cell Li-ion Battery (standard 700 LED uses 6 cell)
- • Borofloat lens
- • D.I.Y. Software
- • 8 Step Fuel Gauge
- • Includes both helmet and bar mounts
- • 8 Step Fuel Gauge
- • 2:40 hour - 32:00 hour run time
- • 505 grams
- • 3 hour charge time
- • MSRP $399.99 USD
The 700 Pro LED claims a 700 lumen rating, and although we don't have access to actual lumen measuring devices, it is plainly obvious just how bright it is when put next to 300 lumen lights from the competition. The low setting turned out to be more than enough for a singletrack climb, although I wouldn't want to ride DH with it. The high setting was enough to actually ride a DH jump trail with, although I highly do not recommend trying it... Unfortunately, the go pro footage didn't work out so well - it was hilarious. The Borofloat lens is nicely shaped and perfectly clear. Borofloat is a brand name for a pyrex like glass that has a mirror like finish, but is also impact and highly thermal resistant. This means you can run a very hot light under very cold conditions for example, and then crash and not have it break into a million pieces. This fancy lens gives a nice spread of light that slowly fades to the outside, giving you fantastic peripheral vision and limiting the tunnel vision you tend to get with many lights. It still offers a nice bright spot directly in front of you, but it isn't a glaring hotspot.
One of our major concerns were the vents in the light. It rains pretty much in perpetuity all winter long out here, and products from the competition were largely sealed devices. Would rain get into the light and short it out, setting my hair on fire and ruining a perfectly good helmet? Apparently not! We ran the light in terrible rainstorms at full power and it is still going strong.The battery connections and cable extender connections also appeared to seal very well, with no water getting in on any rides. Another concern was the plastic material the light is made out of. While providing nice light weight, it wasn't nearly as burly looking as some of the other lights on the market. The plastic took a few good knocks in testing, from crashing on it during a night jump trail ride (not a good idea), to having the helmet fall off of the bed of the pickup a few times, light first. Not so much as a scratch. The lens also got its fair share of abuse, specifically from mud and branches (it takes a while to remember you are 3" taller than normal!) and doesn't have any scratches so far, surprisingly. Battery life appears to be slightly longer than the claimed 2 hours and 40 minutes at full power, and the battery pack is only now coming up to pull power after a few full drain cycles. A Li-On battery pack needs to be completely charged and discharged a few times until it comes up to full capacity, and this is definitely the case with these lights, as the battery lasted noticeable longer on each consecutive ride at first. The fancy charging station lights up like a Christmas tree while in use, telling you how far the lights have to go to be 100% charges, as well as any errors that may crop up. Usage was pretty straightforward, and the 4 cell Li-On pack charged quickly (under 3 hours) from full dead to fully charged. Both of the included mounts (bar & helmet) work really well. The helmet mount is similar to a Go Pro vented helmet strap, and was super solid on a Giro Xen trail helmet. It never slipped or twisted, even in the rain. Considering the height of the light on the top of the helmet, that was pretty impressive. The foam padding on the underside of the mount seemed to almost get grippier when wet. The bar mount held fast, even when it was crashed into repeatedly (again, don't ride jump trails in the dark). It was super easy to use, with only one swing bolt with an ergonomic knob on it needed to get things solid. The majority of the time, this light was used on a helmet, so the frame mount for the battery pack was seldom used, however a couple of trail rides on it showed it would stay put when mounted to the top tube of our Orange 5 thanks to the grippy rubber bottom and some super easy to use velcro straps.
The Pro 700 LED Race on its high setting
Here is our test subject on the default settings. Remember, a camera is no where near as sensitive as the human eye to light, so this picture may be a bit deceiving. Also, it was held slightly above and to the left of the camera, as well as ahead of it to create the circle effect you see in order to show light fall-off. For reference sake, all of the above photos were shot with the same settings- Shutter Speed: 0.3, Aperture: f/4.0, ISO Speed: 2000
The Pro 700 LED Race at medium default output
The low setting on the Pro 700 Led Race
With an MSRP of $399.99 USD, there are definitely cheaper options out there. None of the ones I have tried, however, seem to match the versatility, build quality, ease of use and even light spread of the NiteRider. Many had incredibly hot center spots matching the 700 lumens, but faded quickly to the outsides, giving the rider little to no peripheral vision resulting in extreme tunnel vision. Long term durability is, of course, still to be seen. However, so far the NiteRider 700 Pro LED has been an easy to use product offering bright light with an even spread. If you have the money, and are interested in versatility, particularly if you only plan on running a helmet light with no secondary bar light, I highly recommend this unit.
You can find more info on the NiteRider website
and they can be ordered through your local bike shop from Orange Sport Supply in Canada.