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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cygolite Metro 300 LED headlight

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I am now a believer in dynamo powered lighting. I guess you can say I saw the light. (Ouch!) There are many reasons: they are bright, they are theft-resistant, batteries don't ever need to be recharged or replaced. It's always there, always on (if you just leave it in the on position.) When one gets used to dynamo lights, one stops thinking about the lights themselves.

Now enters a new bike into the mix: The Raleigh Crested Butte. I intend to use the Crested Butte as an everyday bike, and my other two everyday bikes, the Raleigh Wayfarer and the Surly Long Haul Trucker, have dynamo lighting systems. But the Crested Butte won't "go dynamo" anytime soon, basically because of the expense of a dynamo system. Even if I did it on a budget, a dynamo hub system creeps toward $300. ($50 for a budget dynamo hub, $30 for a decent rim, $40 for spokes, $50 for a wheel build, $60 for the basic B+M light, $30 for a dynamo powered tail light.) Take out the new wheel and add a decent bottle dynamo instead, I'd save about $125 from the above price, but there are no decent bottle dynamos available locally (or for the most part anywhere in the US save for the B+M model available through Peter White.) Ordering from Europe gives me more options, and I may just do that at some point, but can you say expensive shipping? Not only that, but bottle dynamos have more resistance than a hub and can wear the tire.

So for now, a battery powered headlamp will suffice. Of course, since I've gone dynamo I haven't bought a battery powered headlamp in at least two years. And most of the ones I had are MIA, leaving only one, my Princeton Tec EOS that is mounted on my helmet. But I want to keep it on my helmet, so a new light had to be purchased.

Thankfully in this highly technological world of 2012 we have good choices in the bike lights department. Pretty much any battery light you see these days are LED and each year they get better and better. Much better than when I started city biking in Portland in 2001. The basic battery light selection was very mediocre unless I wanted to spend serious cash on a high-powered battery pack system. I bought what many newbie bicyclists bought in that era: A Cateye halogen headlight that took 2 "C" batteries and went dim within one night of use. The next year Planet Bike released their ubiquitous "Spot" headlight, the beginning of the "blinkie" trend. It's hard to think of it as such an improvement, ten years later, but it was. And like many other budget minded cyclists, I bought a few over the years. Heck, I still have a working one at the bottom of my parts bin.
The VW Bug of the bike light world. Still available in 2012.

So I could have gone with another Planet Bike light, I could have "kept it local"* and bought a Portland Design Works headlamp,** or maybe another Princeton Tec as my EOS is a great light. But upon the recommendation of Kim at North Portland Bikeworks, I got myself a Cygolite Metro 300.

And the Metro 300 has a lot of selling points.
  • 300 lumens, 3.5 watts. It's bright.
  • Five modes. Med > High > Low > SteadyPulse > Day Flash. After the "its on or off" settings of dynamo lights, this one takes a little getting used to.
  • Water resistant. Old battery powered lights sucked in rainy weather.
  • Rechargeable via USB. No more worrying about disposable batteries, as long as you have access to a computer you can recharge easily.
  • Made in the USA.
  • Grant Petersen likes 'em. (Why do I keep on saying this?)
After a few weeks of regular use on the Crested Butte, I can say I'm pretty impressed. As a battery powered light, it is good. The strength of the light at high (or heck, medium) setting is comparable to my dynamo lights. The one big difference is beam: like most of the battery powered LEDs I've used, it's pretty much a "round" beam (think of a flashlight beam.) It lacks the fancier optics of the B+M lights. It's better since I made the lower mount for the light, as the beam stays closer to the ground.

There are of course the inevitable shortcomings associated with any battery light. It's not hard mounted (and can't be due to charging) so I need to remember to remove the light when I leave the bike for any significant period of time. (The position of the light is more hidden than being on the bars, but I don't want to chance it.) And yep, I still need to recharge it. More importantly, I need to remember to charge it, because it's no fun to realize your light is about to die, and you're miles from home. Which is the situation I got myself in the other night. (Thankfully I had the EOS on my helmet as back-up. But of course, that started to die as well.)

And this is the one failing of the Metro 300: There is no low battery warning. It's fine, and then it dims rapidly. There is a little green light on the power button, located on the top of the light, that is "on" when the light is on, and flashes when charging. How much harder would it have been for Cygolite to add a "low battery" setting to this? Could be a fast flash, or a red light. In this day and age with so many rechargeable electronics and their battery indicators, why can't a battery headlight have this as well? 

Despite that shortcoming, I think it's still a good headlight. And hopefully the last battery powered headlight I'll have to buy for some time.

*All of their products are manufactured overseas.
**I do have their Fenderbot, so I am "representing."


  1. There were quite a few recommendations about this light on LGRAB just two days ago in the comments. Sounds like an effective light.

  2. I have the very similar Expilion 300, and really like the swivellability (Grant's word) of it. On trails or other situations where it seems polite to not shine it into people's eyes, I discretely swivel it slightly to one side or the other. Also made in USA, Cygolite sounds like a good company to work for, too.

  3. Thanks, Shawn. Great review. As a lay psychologist and amateur brain surgeon I am starting to notice a new malady creeping into the lexicon of the cycling writer. I have taken the liberty of coining the phrase "Grant Shame" and look forward to further research into the phenomenom.

    Again, thanks for a fine review and taking the time to write it down. St. Sheldon would be proud.


    1. I wonder if "Grant Shame" is anything like "Granton Shame" which I get quite often around the UAL HQ.


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