Like having a guardian angel on your helmet. A light designed in response to extensive research on commuter safety – has quickly won the heart of commuters around the globe concerned about their visibility on roadways.
- Power – 120 Lumens
- Run times
- High – 2 hrs
- Low – 5 hrs
- Flash – 14 hrs
- Helmet mounting
- Micro USB charge port
- One button operation
- Single cell Li-ion cell battery
- Battery charge indicator
- Included charger cable
- Charge time from zero to full – 5 hours
- Measured weight – 130 g (4.6 oz)
- Retail – $149
Light & Motion has been making lights for over 20 years now. They have lights for the depths of the ocean to the bike trails in the forest. All their design and production still takes place in Monterey, California. I did not have much interaction with Light & Motion until a co-worker who commutes by bike put his on for the last winter. He and I both commute by bike, and it is dark for the winter ride home. After talking with him a little I was intrigued not only by Light & Motion but also the idea of a helmet mounted light. I contacted Light & Motion, and they were willing to supply a Vis 360 for review. Now the question is, how well did it work?
I used the Vis 360 on my road commute to and from work. My commute is 16 miles each way with the ride home being entirely dark. Here in Bend we have ordinances against excessive lights and on the back roads I take; there is not any street lights anyway so I light is very mandatory. I used the Vis 360 on several different helmets to get a feel for how well it works across different designs.
Straps & Securing (30%)
Light & Motion makes lights for cycling, diving, and the outdoors. Over the last year when I saw my first of their lights it seems like there has been more and more popping up. I wonder if that is just me now recognizing them, or they are, in fact, getting more popular. In their cycling lights, they essentially have three categories. Performance lights that are high output for riding trails at night. A Crossover collection that is a step below in power made to take you from the commute to light trails. The third collection is the Commuter collection with lights that have an urban feel and functionality to them. This is where the Vis 360 light resides. The Vis 360 is a light system that has been developed to attach to your helmet. Of course that means that you need to wear a helmet to use the light in its most ideal fashion. Everyone should be wearing helmets, right? Anyway, the Vis 360 is a two-part light consisting of the rear flasher section and the front headlight. These two sections are connected by a cord that has a stretchable coil to allow it to flex when needed.
Let’s start with the headlight. It uses a single bulb that emits up to 120 lumens on high power. The headlight has been designed with two small cutouts in the internal reflector that allow the light to illuminate two small yellow panels on the sides for visibility from the side as well. On the top of the headlight is one single button that operates the whole system. Press once to turn the light on. You can then cycle through High, Low, and Flash settings. To turn the light off you just have to hold the button don for two seconds. It is really easy. The headlight attaches to your helmet via a plastic and rubber bracket that has an included rubber strap. Just route the strap in one vent, out another, and then hook it to the bracket to hold it in place. If this does not work there is an included internal plastic anchor type piece that can be used to secure the headlight through a single vent. The headlight just slides into this bracket and can be removed by pushing down on the release lever and sliding it back out. This is especially useful when you need to charge the device. The front headlight has a pivot to help it adjust vertically and make it able to adjust to different positions on a helmet.
The Vis 360 battery is contained n the Rear Flasher body. The 360 uses a 3.7 volt Li-ion battery that is rechargeable via a micro USB. Light & Motion includes a recharger cable that can be used to charge the light through any computer USB. If you have a wall outlet to USB adapter, you can use that as well. The battery pack has a battery life indicator light that can help you know the amount of juice you have left. On the bottom of the unit, there is the micro USB plug that has a rubber weather cover that peels back when needed. This battery pack is also where the rear and side flashers live. There are three bulbs in the back that are housed in a red unit to flash toward the rear. There are also two yellow side flashing bulbs, one on each side, to give you 360 degrees of visibility. No matter what mode you choose the rear lights will always flash. Like the front headlight, the rear unit attaches to the helmet via a plastic and rubber bracket. This bracket uses a long Velcro strap instead and can be attached both vertically and horizontally through the same method of going through the vents. The rear light can be removed from the bracket by just clipping it on and off making for easier charging.
You will notice when you look at the review I did give it a rating for appearance. Not that the appearance really matters but it really kind of does. I will say that if you are going to have a light system for your helmet, this one looks pretty cool. As with nearly all electronics, there is not much information on the actual materials used to make it. I imagine none of the actual materials are sustainable, or it would have been called out. One thing that is great about it is that it uses a rechargeable Li-ion battery. You should be able to get hundreds of charges on this and that itself will save lots of money any waste. I really like that Light & Motion both designs and builds their lights in Monterey, California. This both streamlines the process and eliminates a lot of shipping. This also keeps jobs in the US which is always a good thing. Light & Motion has more information on their website about the Sustainable Business Integrity. It is really cool all the effort they have put into this idea. I wish more companies could follow this lead.
Battery Life (20%)
Ease of Use (15%)
Weather Resistance (10%)
I have been using the Light & Motion Vis 360 for the last month as my commute is no longer safe without it. It is in October every year when my commute home from work goes from light to dark. I have a 16 mile each way commute on roads that do not have any lighting. There are few lights in the city and even more so in the fields and farms that ride by. The Vis 360 is perfect for this. I have attached it to several of my helmets, but it mainly lives on my commuting helmet. Depending on the helmet, the Vis 360 can be easy to install or give you a bit of a fit. The front headlight is generally easy assuming you have regular vents on your helmet. The rubber strap is super easy to use, enough so that I wish a similar method could be found for the rear unit. The rear unit can be a bit more difficult depending on your helmet. One thing that is really nice about the rear bracket is that it will work both routed horizontally and vertically so depending on the amount of vents you can hopefully find some that work. With my commuter helmet, the ideal setup would not work as the Velcro strap was just not quite long enough. I was able to flip it to route vertically, and this made it work better. Fortunately, the lights can be seen from nearly all angles so if the light has to angle up or down a little you will still be seen. There is one thing that will make the light unable to use, and I ran into this on one of my helmets, that has an integrated netting. The Limar Ultralight helmet has this, and the only way around it would be cutting the net.
Once you have the lights attached you really do not need to take the brackets off. This is great as it sometimes can take so tight routing to get it set up, and I would hate to do it each time I need to charge my light. The light can be easily separated from the mounting brackets to be charged. My buddy who has this same light and has had it for much longer than me has had his attached for over a year. I am sure it has become a part of his commuting helmet by now. Even though this is a two-part system, I found that it really spread the weight out well so it was not really noticeable. Yes, it adds weight but since it is spread out I did not have any increased neck tiredness when I got home. My commute is an hour each way so I think I might notice it over two hours if it was enough to tire me out.
The Vis 360 is plenty bright for riding on roads. One of the best parts of having it mounted on your helmet is that you have light wherever you are looking. Whether it is ahead on the road or at a driver to make sure they see you. I do generally pair this with lights that are permanently mounted on my bike, so I always have lights facing forward and back. This way, I can move my head around and always know I have these lights in position. Do I need them to light the way? No, but it is nice to make sure I am seen as best as I can. I found the Vis 360 to be easy to operate. It only has one button, which takes the guessing out of the equation. Essentially all you have to do is turn it on and then each push just cycles through the three modes. When you want to turn it off you just have to hold the button down. Since it is one button, and it is fairly large, I had no problems operating it even with thick gloves on.
The Vis 360 uses a lithium-ion battery that can be recharged via a micro USB. Light & Motion provides one of these cables, but if you are like me; you already have plenty lying around. The charging time will vary based on how much power is still in the battery. I normally plug it in while I am at work, and it is charged in around three hours. The battery indicator light lets me know when it is full, which takes out the guess work. According to Light & Motion if the battery is totally drained it will take five hours to fully charge it.
Battery life is always a question when it comes to lights. Since my commute home is over an hour I generally need at least an hour and a half of power to feel safe getting home. This is also why I have two lights. According to Light & Motion, the Vis 360 will last 2 hours on high, 5 hours on low, and 14 hours on flashing. All Light & Motion lights incorporate a low battery warning, and battery discharge protection circuit. When the battery gets to 5-10% of capacity, the light will flash and switch to a lower setting to conserve battery life. The light will continue to flash a warning every three minutes unless you manually change the setting. I have found that, for some reason, I get the flashing at just over one hour on high setting. This is not all the time so it may be that I am pulling the unit of the charging cable before it is fully charged. Once it does switch to the lower setting I easily have enough time to get home. It does worry me a bit that the high setting is that much shorter than what is reported. It has happened several times so it is not a onetime occurrence. The Vis 360 does have an Auto Shutoff Feature so it will not damage the battery. The main LED will flash slowly for 10 seconds and then shut off. The light will not power up again until it has been charged. When it starts to do this, make sure to stop unless you have another light already on. Believe me, riding in the pitch dark is not fun when you are on a road.
Thus far the light has held up great with no issues. I have only had a little weather to test it in, and it held up to that as well. My buddy who I mentioned has this light has had his for much longer, and it is still going strong. His has also been through all sorts of weather without issue. From my little bit of testing and his thorough experience with the light I would rate its durability as very good.
Overall, I have really enjoyed having this light for my commutes. Having a light on your helmet makes you feel that much safer as you always have light wherever you are looking. The power on the Vis 360 is 120 lumens which I find to be plenty for road riding. If you plan to use it on trails you may want some more depending on your speed. The unit does take some time to set up as each helmet is different. Some of my helmets were really easy while one did not work at all, unless I did some cutting. Of course, I have several helmets so this was not a big deal to me. To others, it may be. One on the light is super easy to use and can detach from the brackets really easy. I love the fact that it is rechargeable and the extra features surrounding battery life and output are great. I do wish that there was a little more battery life, but I can lower the setting to get the most out of it I can. If you are looking for a good helmet commuter light, this is a really good option. It is fully visible from 360 degrees and can work with most helmets. The Light & Motion Vis 360 retails for $149 and will save you much more than that compared to a battery-powered light. I would definitely recommend the Vis 360 to anyone who commutes in the dark. Both my buddy and I agree it is a solid light. As always, your mileage may vary.
Pros [field name=iFrame]
- 120 lumen output
- 360 degree visibility
- Rechargeable via micro USB
- Can detach from mounting brackets easily
- Weight is distributed well
- Designed and made in Monterey, California
- Has low battery mode change and auto shutoff
- Battery life seems slightly shorter than claimed
- Some helmets are not able to use the light due to their design
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