Friday, June 28, 2013

Exposure Lights Review

Cannondale Sugoi Factory Racing is pleased to welcome Exposure Lights as an official team sponsor!

Even though USE has just officially come on board, team riders have been using the 2013 Exposure Lights all year, and have logged up plenty of race and training hours using these great lights.

We thought it time to share our experiences and thoughts on these lights with you ...

Lets start with the mountain bike helmet light, the Diablo Mk4.  This light also doubles as a great light for the roadie when you are out doing hill repeats in the dark and need to dodge the odd kangaroo!

Diablo Mk4 - 106 grams

The Diablo Mk4 puts out a solid 1100 lumens at it's max level, and this will last for an hour.Weighing in at under the advertised weight, the lights is easily under 110 grams - making it ideal for either a helmet mount or bar mount.

The Diablo uses the USE "Optimised Mode Selector" (OMS) technology - which is a fancy way of saying you can easily change between both the output level, as well as select from a range of 8 pre-configured hi-medium-lo configurations.

For instance, in the 1st mode, you will be 1hr / 3hr / 6hr out of the hi, medium and low settings. An alternate mode will give you 3hr / 10hr / 24hr burn times!

Selecting a mode is simple via pressing a led colored button on the rear of the light. The button is big enough that even with winter gloves you can easily change modes. Each mode is colored coded, so it is easy to see which mode you have gone into.

As the battery runs down the same light changes color to indicate run time remaining. Green means > 50%, orange 25-50%, red 5-25% and below 5% the button will flash and the light will go into the lowest setting.

Having used this light in a bunch of night races - including the Mont 24hr, Australian Solo Nationals, and the night stage of the ICME Alice Springs Stage Race - I can say that the 1100 lumens is more then you need to race with on your helmet. Where you have the luxury of knowing you will be only out on track for under an hour, crank it up to full output and enjoy all those lumens.

The light is bright and focused. It is a white light, but does not wash out the ground contrast. Take note that the burn time on the Diablo is quick - unlike all the other USE lights, if anything this light may be slightly under the advertised time. So, err on the side of caution when estimating burn time!

When out on the roadie, I usually just run the light in the middle mode (3 hr). This is still brighter then many other lights on the market and all you need on the road.

For racing in longer night events, such as a 24hr Solo or a 12 hr I would suggest plugging in the "Piggyback triple cell" and stashing this in your jersey pocket. This should extend the burn time at max output to 4 hours. Keep in mind as well that these piggy back battery packs are quite cheap,so you can easily stock up on a few of these to get you through the night.

Piggyback triple cell - 204 grams
I've also run the "Piggyback single cell" on the rear of the helmet. These only weight round 76 grams and can easily be mounted with a bit of velcro. This will bump your burn time to 2 hours at full, or 6 hours at half. This too is a good option for a night race.

Piggyback single cell - 76 grams
If you are super diligent, you could also plug in one of the Remote Switches - basically a big button that plugs into the light making it even easier to change modes. Stick this on your helmet too and you can easily switch between modes - turn down for climbing and crank it up for descents. Doing this sort of battery saving will buy you even more time between light and battery swaps.

Keep in mind as well that when you come into the pits and need to swap lights the Diablo is simple to pull off the helmet mount and stick in a new one. There are no cables, velcro, rubber straps etc to get in the way of the mount. Just clip out and clip in.

The other awesome thing to note about the helmet mount is that it is on a ball pivot joint. So, it is trivial to adjust the light direction on the fly. Move the light up when you hit the fireroad, and move it down when you get into the singletrack. Easy and efficient.

Diablo mounted - ready for action

On the bars we have been running the Reflex MX1 - with a whooping 2200 lumens, and with heaps of awesome technologies this really is an industry leading light.

The Reflex MX1 comes in around 290 grams, and makes for the perfect MTB bar light.

Like the Diablo, the Reflex uses the OMS system - and in this case there are 11 pre-canned configurations to choose from. In the default configuration, you will get at least 2 hours at 2200 lumens. I say at least because the first few configurations use the new "Reflex" technology which automatically adjusts the lumen output based on the terrain!

When you are climbing the light turns down, and when you speed up the light turns up! And yes, this does work just as it sounds!

So, then how do you know how much burn time you have left? Well, on the back of the Reflex is a big LED display which shows you exactly how many minutes you have left! How sweet is that!!

Burn time remaining - over 3 hours!
No more gambling on whether or not you can squeeze in one more lap or not.

This has become my go-to light for any mid-week MTB riding. I don't even bother with a helmet light, as the Reflex is so bright and puts out such a good light spread that it is all you need for training night rides. Even in single track, this bar light alone is great.

On race day in the longer races I'd probably run the triple cell piggy back strapped to the top tube. This will double the Reflex's burn time - so at full burn you will get 4 hours - which matches up nicely with the Diablo.

Like the Diablo, the Reflex is easy to get on/off the bar mount. It uses a little pull-pin to release the light from the mount, and then you just slide the new light in.  Just remember to keep this little pull-pin clean of dirt and stick a little chain lube on the pin to keep it moving easily.

It is also worth noting that with a supplied adapter you can also run the Diablo and Joystick lights on these mounts, so this is how I run the Diablo or Joysticks on the roadie.

Bar mount - 20 grams
When you are just commuting on the road bike, or hitting up an early morning bunch ride, then check out the little Joystick MK7 - just 86 grams.

Like the Diablo and Reflex, the Joystick also has OMS - and at full burn you get 400 lumens for 2 hours.At the lowest mode you can squeeze out 36 hours!

I have left this light on at full burn for over 5 hours and it still produces light! This is the < 5% kicking in and the light reverting to the lowest mode. Pretty impressive.

Stick this light on the roadie and you get more lumens then many other lights on the market, and at only 86 grams you have not sacrificed anything in weight.

I run the bar mount upside down, so it is under the bars on the roadie - so in doing this the light is out of the way and you hardly even know it is there.

Joystick mounted under the bars

So, all up these lights are really impressive - packed with great technologies, easy to use and produce great quality light.  It goes without saying, that when you run these lights without any piggybacks the lack of cables is fantastic. I really hate cables, and it makes it so simple to clip in a light and head out for a ride - no need for strapping in extra batteries and weight.

For the commuters and roadies out there - I'd suggest going for either the Joystick or Diablo on your bars.

For the serious mtb racer - Go for the Diablo + Reflex combo. If you are just racing team based night laps, or XCO night races you can get away without any extra batteries / piggybacks.  For the enduro / solo riders stock up on the piggybacks and probably run 2 sets of lights.

There are heaps of other great features and technologies in these lights - which you should check out the Exposure Lights web site for - such as powering your Garmin off the light, or re-charging your light off your PC/Laptops USB port, or the smart chargers that show an indicator light on whether the battery is charged or not ... very cool stuff!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Catching up

It's been a busy few months and I've missed writing up a few races ... so here is a summary of the last few months of racing ...

After the Solo Nationals 6x6 it was off to Woodend Victoria for the Wombat 100km. Having never raced down there before I had no idea what to expect. I was lucky enough to get a hotel room at the event center, which was literally 50m from the start line! 

The race started out with around 10km of fireroad. Having no idea when the singletrack would start, I moved to the front to set the pace and hopefully give me a little more time to react once we did reach the singletrack.

Soon enough we were into it, and it did not take too long for the lead bunch to break apart. Little did I know we were in for around 50km of singletrack!

Falling off the pace in the unknown single and moto track, I was left on my own. 

At the 50km mark, I was caught by Sammy Chancellor and a few others, and they now set the pace through the next sections of singletrack. Again I was off the pace. It was not until around the 70km mark when we hit more fireroads that I started to feel good. Catching sight of Andrew Fellows up the road at the 75km mark I hit the gas. 

Pretty soon, I caught sight of the main chase group! I got across to these guys and did what I could to try and break this group up before the finish.  Again, not knowing where exactly the finish was was a problem, but I knew it has to be soon so I kept pushing.

Soon enough it was Shaun Lewis, Sammy C, myself and a few others sprinting for the line.

In the end, it was 6th for me.

Up front in the Wombat 100km

Next up it was off to Tathra for their local 100km race. This venue has some of the best singletrack in the country, and is well worth a visit.

James and I had a race plan, which of course did not go to plan. Up front with us was fellow Canberra rider Lewis Cressy - who was riding strong as ever.  With the three of us still together at the 50km point, we knew that the 2nd 50km was all singletrack - and no one was going to get away. This did not stop Cressy from launching a few attacks, but we reeled him in each time.

Heading into the final few kms, I was giving JD the reminder to get his sprinting legs on. Since I had led the boys and set the pace for pretty much 90km of the race I was smoked, and all I could do was set him up for a sprint with Lewis. 

The final corner came, I pulled out of the way and off they went. Lewis got the little gap and that was it. 2nd for JD and 3rd for me. Disappointing, but an awesome day of riding.

Next up it was off to the Convict 100km outside of Sydney.

Just prior to race start, some deals were made with Team Specialized - with the idea being that Andrew and Shaun Lewis (aka 'Wombat') would do an early breakaway. Reading between the lines, Blair wanted to get Wombat a head start to get over the climb early.

Within the first 100 meters of the race, the attacks started. At first the bunch was quick to shutdown the attacks, but on about the 4th attack it all came together. Wombat, myself, Brendon Johnson ('Trekie'), and Mike Blewitt launched a strong attack and got the gap. Meanwhile, James, Andy Blair and Cannondale stagiaire Anthony Shippard got to the front of the bunch and controlled the pace.

This was a perfect example of team tactics at play in an XCM - something we are likely to see a lot more of!

Up front, I attacked the climb with Trekie, and got a good gap over the others in the lead group and without any hesitation pushed on to see how long the gap could be maintained.

We stayed off the front until around the 45km mark. This is the part of the course where it is really rocky and technical. Unfortunately, due to some mechanical issues, I only had 2 working gears at this point and was unable to hang onto the back of the chase group.

Over the next 55km, I picked up a few riders who had burnt too many matches early, and finished up crossing the line in 5th place.

Meanwhile, James was out climbing Anthony, and finished the last 20km solo. James and Shippard finished up in 6th and 7th place respectively - a great result for Cannondale Australia!

Over the climb with Trekie

Breakaway group

Canoe bridge

With the race calendar opened up slightly, the last minute decision was made to head up to the Ingerreke Commerical stage race in Alice Springs. This stage race is of an XCO stage race format, so 7 short stages over 5 days.

The last time I raced an XCO was maybe 2 years ago at a local corc clubbie - this was going to hurt!

Our race plans were dashed early when the flight out of Canberra could not land in Sydney due to fog, and we took an 7 hour detour via Melbourne! In the end, we missed our connecting flight to Alice and therefore missed the first day of racing.

Despite being out of GC contention, and out of the overall results, JD and I decided to hit each stage hard and just aim for good individual stage results.

The first real stage for us to hit was the 49km race from Telegraph Point into Alice. We had time to scope most of this route out the previous day, so we had a plan for attack. I attacked early, and got away with Rockstar Racing Kyle Ward. Knowing some of the sandy river crossings to come gave a distinct advantage, as there was no way the main group would make it through these without losing time. 

We managed to stay off the front for the first 25km, before being picked up by the chase group lead by Andy Blair.

The course was great fun - there is some really amazing singletrack out there, and nothing like what we have around Canberra.

I finished up in 5th place, and JD 6th - both crossing the line in just over 2 hours.

It was then off to the pool for relaxation and eating :)

The next day's stage was the Queen stage - 90km of fireroad back to Alice. On paper, this would perfect for me. Long, flat, fast. Wanting to keep the pace high, and not give anyone a rest, I set the pace early and stayed up near the front to keep it driving along. The lead group was quickly whittled down to about 7 riders.

With 10km to go, some blistering attacks were made by Andy Blair, and by the 'Wombat fence scurry' maneuver.   This was going to be a big 3-way sprint finish ... until we lost the course!  Course marking sabotage, or just poor course marking meant we lost the course and spent the next 20 minutes making phone calls and finding our way back to the finish line.  We were not the only ones, as we picked up various other bunches on the way who also lost their way.

In the end, they gave us some random results - a frustrating end to an otherwise great day of racing.

The next day of racing was split into 2 x 23km races. The first being done in the morning as an individual time trial, and the latter being done under lights in a mass start.  As with the theme for the week, we got the short straw and were pretty well first off in the ITT. The problem was that it had rained a lot over night and the course was sticky and soggy. In the end, our times would be 5 minutes behind the leaders who went out a few hours later in the day - when the course was bedded in and dry. Lucky we were not in the GC!

The night race made up for this - in one word, it was awesome! I had the new Exposure lights cranked up to full-ball, and got away with the lead group of 5. 

The course was amazing under lights - rocky step ups, fast single track and crazy rocky descents. 

In the end, I finished 5th (and I need to work on my sprint finishes), and James 11th. James had some chain drop issues and was reminded all the benefits of XX1.

The final stage was short 40km back out to Telegraph point. The pace was exceptionally fast, and in the technical singletrack it was only a matter of time until the front bunch broke apart.  We were both in the first chase group, and largely stayed together for most of the stage.

Nearing the last few km, it was time to lose our passenger - I attacked at the top of the final climb, and nailed the technical descent. The advantage of the 29er Scalpel in these conditions was evident. Meanwhile, James relied on his sprinting legs to get the passenger before the line.  In the end, it was Andrew 5th again and James 7th.

Overall, the ICME is a fun race - the tracks are great fun and well built. I'd love it if they were just a little longer stages ... riding less then 2 hours a day was a struggle for me :)

For more reports on the ICME check out

One of the many fences in the 90km stage

Someone has to set the pace around here ...

Hill climb TT - ouch