For quite a while I had been eyeing off with envy Mountain bike riders heading out from trail head car parks at dusk with the distinctive twin set Ay-Up lights. Part of it was because I could see how good the gear was. A rider with the full set of lights on high is about as bright as my car headlights! The other aspect for my envy was due to the fact that these guys could get a good ride in WHENEVER THEY WANTED! Gone would be the days of missing riding because work finished late, or because of the short winter days. The whole night time could become viable riding time, and all of a sudden the only thing holding me back from the 24hr solo MTB races I have been eying off is the challenge to find one that is not sold out within a few days of rego opening up.
For the last few years I had attempted to court the Ay-Up company for sponsorship without any luck. They are in a privileged position where their equipment is so far ahead of the pack- and everybody knows it. If you are the best in the business by a long way you don’t need to sponsor people- the product speaks for itself. So eventually I bit the bullet and parted with a small fortune ($520 AUS) for the V4 adventure Kit.
What you get:
The whole kit comes in a very clever and neat Ay-pod- a bean shaped plastic container. Inside it you get 2 sets of dual lights (waterproof to 6m), two ½ epic battery packs (3hrs burn time on high) and one full epic battery (6 hours on high), mounts for your helmet, handlebar and a head torch strap. You also get a mains charging unit (can charge 2 batteries at once), and a 12v charging attachment for your car. Then there is a whole bunch of other stuff that is nifty but not so important- saxon caps to turn your lights into red blinkers, different mounting components etc. For full specs consult the website at http://www.ayup-lights.com/
When you order you get to spec the bulbs for your kit. I got the wide angle for my handlebar to throw a nice broad diffused light for the 5 meters directly ahead of the unicycle. For the helmet mount I got the all rounders which reinforce the light in that critical 1-5m range but also to light up the trail into the distance with great efficiency. The great thing about these lights is that they can be moved independently of each other. I twiddled the nicely anodised aluminium cups so that the beams from my lights were staggered and overlapping- giving a really great view of the trail and all its features.
Getting these things set up takes no time at all. The instructions are easy to follow and I had my helmet light mounted and ready to go in 5 min. This kit is spec’d for MTB use so mounting the second set of lights under the seat can be a bit tricky. I managed to pack out my custom handlebar with some small rubber inserts then cable tie the mounting bracket to it. It is snug and firm- and the lights stay where you want them even when you are crashing down gnarly single track at full speed.
On the Trail:
I headed out to my new local trails at Glenrock nature reserve in Newcastle excited to put these things to the test. Once I tweaked the adjustment on the lights orientation so that the beams overlapped it was all dialled in and I didn’t have to think about it for the rest of the ride. Even with the best lights, you can’t expect to ride as well as you would in the daylight- your sense of depth perception is shortened in the bright white light. Nevertheless, I was out hitting my training loop as fast as I would I the day time (albeit with a few more UPDs).
Something to consider for schlumpf owners- your trail focus when you are in low gear is completely different to your area of focus when you are in high gear. So if you want to ride high gear effectively at night on single track you need a set of lights that not only covers the immediate area in front of you- but also the more distant trail features so you can know when to down/up shift. As far as I know, this is the only light set that is capable of achieving that- and trust me, high gear single track in the middle of the night is one hell of an experience!
Yes these are expensive, but if the cost is the only thing you are considering then maybe riding in daylight hours is sufficient for your needs. For me, with work being unpredictable in its hours, and the changing seasons putting limitations on the amount of available daylight, this piece of kit means I will get the opportunity to do the thing I love every day of the year. In my opinion, you can’t put a price on that. The kit is extremely well thought out, manufactured from the highest quality components, is light, durable and backed by great customer service. To top it all off, they are made in Australia, and the company is owned by passionate MTBers who, in turn, support a number of great races and events around the country.