Blue Runnings

Race Reviews, GPX files and more from North-East England

Gear Review – Lights – LED Lenser Neo Headlight and Nathan LightSpur & LightBender

on 15 March 2015

Author’s Note – 17-12-16:

Since writing the below I have had more experience running on trails and woodland paths in bad weather at night – the true test of whether a light is good enough to see where you’re going. As such, I feel I must acknowledge – particularly as this post seems to get quite a bit of traffic, that I am no longer using the LED Lenser Neo Headlight for most of my winter night runs. It’s fine even in the darkest places if the ground is even and well-surfaced, but treacherous on rough ground with tree roots as it’s just too white and not bright enough for the eye to be able to distinguish them – being white light your eye is only using the rods on your retina and half your sight is blind. A slightly yellower or a brighter light allows the cones in your retina to come into play and depth perception is so much easier.

The LED Lenser is absolutely fine for road running – you’ll be seen a mile off by all around you, however they’re travelling, and fine for good trails in the dark where you only need to be able to see that you’re still comfortably on the path, there are no trees on it and there’s not a crocodile lying in the middle of it. It’s also a lot smaller and lighter than what I use for completely dark running.

Personally, I am now using the GRDE 2014 headlamp – a 2000 lumens waterproof number with rechargeable batteries and a ‘brightest’ setting life of about 2 hours continuous use on 2x  18650 batteries before it starts to be noticeably less effective than it was (but still fine for decent paths with no street lights). There are several similar versions available – such as this one, but I have not expressly tried this model myself. They’re not usually bank breakers anyway – I spent a grand total of £16 on mine and wouldn’t change it.

The Nathan LightSpur and LightBender below, I still swear by – I’ve been using them for 2 winters now and have only just needed to change the batteries and I always get good feedback about how visible they are from a large distance away even when I’m not also wearing my like-the-sun headtorch.

The original review can be found below:

When the winter started coming in, rather than investing in a tonne of reflective gear I went for lights – some of the routes I run are not lit with street-lights, and while the reflective gear works great when a car comes nearby, they’re not worth anything from a distance, or if the other traffic is cyclists or pedestrians. I have a head-light for when I’m out by myself or not running in town where the street lighting is frequent, and some lower intensity body lights for running with a group or in well-lit places. I bought all my lights from Amazon,

First up – the LED Lenser Neo Headlight          

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We use LED Lenser torches at work – this one has three different light settings. There are two lights on the headset – a solid white light on the front and a red flashing light on the back. You cycle through them by pushing the button on the top of the front light. The first setting has just the front light on its brightest setting, the second and third settings have the front light at two brightnesses – the same as setting 1, and a dimmer one, and the red light on the back set to flash.

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Setting 1 is great for when you’re not on the roads and need to see where you’re going – great for night runs. Setting 2 and 3 are good for the roads where you might need people to see you from behind – cars and cyclists in particular, and the different brightness settings means if you want the light for being seen rather than blinding everyone approaching and seeing your own way – you can use setting 3 and conserve the batteries too!

The white light on the front of this headlight gives a wide-angle beam. I’ve used it on two night-runs in trail conditions and found it excellent for seeing quite a wide area. Because of this though, you don’t get the same brightness as the concentrated circle-in-front-of-you head torches – it’s blinding if you look into it but not so wonderful for showing every tree-root or rabbit-hole. The world becomes more of a light grey black-and-white movie rather than dark with a clear yellow spotlight. On good quality trail paths, it’s fine, if running through the woods or fields, I don’t know which I’d prefer – being able to see the clearest part of the path to run on, or having extra clarity on the bit you are running on!

The other thing I’ve found using this for running, is that it’s best used with a headband underneath. It doesn’t have an over-the-head strap like some do, so when your forehead gets sweaty under it when running (if it doesn’t you’re not trying hard enough!!!), it slides down onto one’s eyebrows, despite being foam-lined behind the front light. This isn’t really a hardship in the winter, when keeping the tops of your ears warm is usually welcomed, but may be a little warm in the summer. For myself, I don’t envisage it being a problem as I am unlikely to be running in the dark in the summer and needing it, but some may be proper night-owls!

This is a relatively compact headlight compared to some on the market, being much closer to the head – some stick out quite far from the forehead like having a ping-pong ball on your forehead. I have one of these too that I got for walking to work a few years ago, and the advantage with it is that it takes flat batteries that fit behind the light itself which keeps the total weight down. The LED Lenser is a little heavier, as it has a battery pack on the back and runs on three AAA batteries – which also gives the option of using renewable batteries. The batteries are sealed in a silicon encased compartment that goes on the back of the head.

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Everything is well sealed, and I’ve had no issues with it so far being used in rain or snow, though I wouldn’t recommend submerging it!

Overall rating for this light:

4 star

Next up – the Nathan LightSpur and Nathan LightBender

These are my ‘body lights’ for extra visibility on busy road routes. They both glow green quite brightly – they will light up the pavement around my foot and any hedges/walls next to me, but they’re too soft for actual route illumination. These guys make me feel like a mobile disco as I trot around and have elicited many positive comments from my fellow runners. I tend to wear the LightBender on my right arm, and the LightSpur on my left trainer so I’m glowing from both sides.

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They both use LEDs so are very low battery consumers, and use flat watch-type batteries which helps keep the weight down – apart from how awesome you will look wearing them, it’s easy to forget they’re on!

The LightBender is a velcro-fastened arm band (or I suppose you could put it on your ankle or something if you wanted to?!) and I think would fit all but the most mighty of arms – so if you’re a built like a tank body-builder, this may not fit you, but if you can’t lift bungalows single-handed you’ll probably be fine. You turn it on and off with a button on one side, and it has two light settings – static and flashing. I’ve never actually used the flashing setting while out running as I figure that by glowing bright green I’m enough of a distraction to everyone without also putting on my own light show.

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The velcro feels secure without cutting off all circulation to your arm, and I’ve not normally had to readjust it once it’s on for feeling too constrictive or loose once I start swinging my arms about. It also features a reflective panel just incase someone did manage to miss you! The light-up section of the band is mostly water-proof, I’m not sure it would survive being fully submerged for any length of time, but mine’s been no bother in the rain, snow or being around my sweaty self.

The LightSpur fits onto the back of your trainer – like a spur would on a cowboy’s boots, but you shall glow with pretty lights to urge you onto greater speeds rather than gouging the sides out of your mount! I’d not seen shoe lights before other than the ones you get on kids trainers which flash when they walk – and should definitely be an option on adult trainers 😉

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I was concerned when I first got this that it would feel constrictive on my ankle and possibly impact my gait as it has quite a tight ‘spring’ to hold it on, but you can’t feel it on a normal trainer – it probably would pinch if you were running in Ugg boots or something but on a regular shoe it’s absolutely fine. The first couple of runs I used it, I was constantly checking it hadn’t fallen off but it grips very well – and I hardly check at all anymore! As well as it’s tight ‘springiness’, it also has gripping spikes on the inside of the ends – not deep enough to penetrate the trainer material, but they certainly help it grip on.

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Mine has even saved me from the potential of having to finish a race trainer-less! On the No Ego Torch Run J and I completed, I managed to lose a shoe to very gripping mud – fortunately it was the one with the LightSpur on it, and was able to immediately retrieve it rather than scratting around in my stockings hunting for it on very uneven and slick ground!

These two are my favourite lights, and I’ve been wearing them all winter whenever the sun’s been down, whether I needed the head-torch or not. They really are fab and I can see me using them for a long time to come!

Overall rating for the LightBender and LightSpur:

5 star

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