Cycling

New lights (and how to fix them)

I got a new set of take-me-home lights recently: the USE Exposure Trace/TraceR set, an evolution of the brand’s previous small front/rear pairs. I’ve been riding with them for a couple of months now and love them.

My pair was working perfectly well until a few days ago, when I washed the bike while the rear light was still onboard. Already a bad idea, probably, but I’d forgotten to batten down the charging port cover and, predictably, the light succumbed to the hosepipe. Of course, once a waterproof thing has water in it, it’s rather difficult to get it out. In this case, the only way the water could come out was through the tiny micro-USB port machined into the side of the otherwise sealed body.

To my surprise, though, I eventually managed to get it working again by leaving it for a few hours in my friend’s food dehydrator (where rice, salt, and a hairdryer had all failed). So if you have water-damaged electronics, a dehydrator or dehumidifier might give them a new lease on life…

The lights themselves

The lights are well-constructed, each with an identical two-piece casing comprising an aluminium body and plastic lens. The charging port is covered by a rubber band that extends around the circumference of the body and forms the button on the other side (where it’s glued down). It seems pretty waterproof, if treated properly; barring my negligence while cleaning my bike, they’ve so far stood up admirably to a very wet winter. USE suggest adding something like petroleum jelly under the charging port cover to keep it fully watertight (the lights come with a small amount already applied).

The lights use non-removable 700 mAh Li-ion batteries that are recharged via a micro-USB charging port. I’ve found the battery life to be a little lacking — I get around 4 hours of life on high power flashing mode, rather than the claimed 6 hours — but the convenience of charging them from a laptop or phone charger offsets this for me. The lights produce an impressive 75 lumens of output on high power, but when in flashing mode it seems to be quite a bit brighter. In fact, I’ve found that high-power flashing mode is so bright that the flashes are disorienting when away from good street lighting. My sources tell me the rear light is also probably too bright for those behind me after dark, so I now leave both of the lights on medium power. If riding in complete darkness, it might even be worth putting them on low power; either way, it’s easy to switch.

The mounting system was another reason these lights appealed to me. They clip into brackets that attach to the handle bar and seat post with rubber bands. They’ve proved very secure so far, and I don’t worry about losing them while riding (though they’re solid enough to survive a fall from the bike quite happily). The lights occupy very little space on their respective bars, so they don’t get in the way of saddle bags, Garmins, and the like.

In flashing mode, the lights produce constant low-power illumination, punctuated twice a second by a bright pulse. The constant “base” illumination was important for me in picking this light, since it makes it much, much easier for others to gauge my speed in the dark. Here’s a video of (high-power) flashing mode in my office:

The TraceR's flashing mode.

They’re expensive (RRP £90, though I got mine for £75), but in my opinion the quality is worth it.

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