Review: District Rear and New R4 LED Lighting Review

Hope Factory Racing Team’s Lee Owen-Stanford reviews something every cyclist needs during the short days of winter — Lights!

So it’s that time of year again where you need to get the Winter Training hours under your belt, thus ensuring you are at least half ready for next season’s racing on the road.  If you go old school, which I am afraid to say I now am, to be competitive you need at least a couple of 6 hour rides in the bag per week.

Now since I have a real job, two kids and a wife, getting your two long rides in on both of your days off isn’t always the most sensible of options, well not unless you want to sleep on the couch, and being selfish that isn’t exactly conducive of a good nights rest after training.

So, to ensure that I don’t turn around and find my two children are in their late teens, due to me having missed it all because my Sunday’s were lost in winter to several hours on the bike, I have taken to low intensity night rides.

Whilst I have used the lights now on a number of occasions, I thought the ultimate test would be the first 6hr night ride.  Therefore, after a huge and exceptional Sunday dinner prepared by my nearest and dearest, I was fully fuelled (more like over fuelled) and ready to ride by 5pm.

With regards to lighting I have always been a bit over kill, but my argument has always been, if I am lit up like the proverbial Christmas tree, drivers have less chance of using the old ‘I didn’t see him officer’ excuse.  With that in mind I have an original Vision Four LED on the bars set to flash, an R4 on my helmet with the batteries (yes batteries, 2 of) in my back pocket and the District Rear on the Seat post.  Not that I need it but I have an old Cateye on the Seat Stay and an even older Cateye on my mudguard.  I did say Christmas Tree!

Heading out from Harrogate I had all the lights on their flashing mode, other than the helmet light, where I made an early call, that since the Endurance Battery lasted 2hrs 30mins, to conserve the R4 for unlit roads only.  This turned out to be the perfect decision.

Once I left the bright lights of Knaresborough, heading for the back roads to York, I engaged the R4 to full and turned on some tunes from my iPhone via a brand new set of Bang & Olufsen Earset 3i earphones, I couldn’t decide whether to chuckle or ride as Tenacious D swore and sang as I negotiated the ever expanding network of potholed roads of Yorkshire.

All was frankly perfect with the R4, I have used a huge bunch of lights over the years, I have been spoilt in the past having tested a few lights for a friend working as an MTB journalists, as a result my bench mark became the MK2 Cateye Stadium for actual light output.  Yes, I said light output, before you tell me about the heat from the metal halide and the fact that they caught fire at totally random moments, mainly when they were flat and awaiting charge.  Freaky product, but stupid bright none the less.

The R4 performed easily as well, if not better, with all the advantages of LED.  The back roads to Malton were perfectly lit; all pot holes were seen even on high speed descents and didn’t pose any threat.  The only thing causing any form of danger was my imagination, after about an hour of not seeing signs of any life, in a starless dark sky, miles from the nearest town, my marbles started to get the better of me.  Not helped when Tenacious D kicked out Tribute with the devil singing in my head.   I was maybe getting tired at this point?

Just before I got to Crayke, the battery for the R4 gave up, but as promised the light dimmed and gave me enough illumination to get up the climb after which I pulled up outside the pub and swapped battery.  Sadly I don’t drink any more, as the warmth of the bar and smell of beer was very tempting.

With regards to the District Rear, it is obviously a bit difficult to comment as it’s on the back of the bike but the most noticeable effect was when looking behind to check for traffic when turning right.  I was amazed to see a wash of flashing red on cats’ eyes and corner signs.  To top that, whilst passing through Easingwold, as if on cue, maybe Hope sent out an employee,  I guy passed in a car and complimented me on having such a good back light.  Another way to consider the District Rear, it probably keeps you alive, its bright enough to get even the attention of the idiot ‘texting whilst driving’ motorist.

The R4 surprisingly got me home and whilst I did turn it off in the lit areas of York, Malton and Easingwold, it was on maximum for almost all of the 6hrs, exceeding the 2½ hours per battery.

In conclusion, for me the lights are worth every penny, they give maximum visibility in two ways; you are seen by motorists from a considerable distance, from the front, behind and from the side; the R4 gives you a tremendous long distance throw, ensuring that you see the road clearly, which with the current state of our roads is crucial, as its easy to come off if you hit a hole in the road.

I suppose you are going to question my sincerity as Hope Technology have given us the lights to test as they are our Sponsor, I would argue that’s no different than sending the lights on long term test to the comics.  But to answer the question in a different way, if Hope Technology decides that sponsoring a team for 2012 is not something they want to do the following year, I would definitely head down to my local bike shop and invest in a new R4.  One final point, I purchased the District Light and the Vision Four pre Team Hope Factory Racing.  Think that answers that one!

I will be using the R4, District Rear and Vision Four over the winter and will update the review with a long term test in the New Year.

2012 Event News