Deny it all you want, but the days are getting unmistakably shorter. Those of us who like to keep riding into the fall and even winter will need lights… or time off work.
In recent years the cycling light market has exploded from just a handful of high-end models to a whole spectrum of choices that includes everything from budget offerings to insanely-expensive units with lumen ratings in the thousands. The new Taz series from Light and Motion hits the middle price point of the current range, but brings with it some features from their more premium lights.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Taz is the solid construction. All seams are perfectly aligned and every panel fits tightly. Nothing squeaks, rattles, or even moves. I have inadvertently dropped mine several times, onto dirt, pavement, and concrete, and it is none the worse for wear. Whatever abuse you can dish out, this light can take it.
The Taz is also waterproof to a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes for when you get caught in the rain or don’t quite nail that creek crossing.
The biggest differentiating feature of the Taz is its integrated battery pack. I didn’t think much about it one way or the other… until I started using it. Not having to remember to grab the (correct) external battery pack makes ride prep so much easier. Then on the trail, I can just grab it, strap it, and go. No cable routing, no weird dance to don the hydration pack with the battery in it, etc. For mounting, the integrated rubber strap doubles back through a simple buckle to allow a tight, secure fit with minimal fuss.
Charging the internal battery is as easy as simply plugging in a standard Micro-USB. The camera ships with one cable, and with it you can charge it with a car charger, phone charger, or even your PC or Mac! Forgot to charge it up for your after work ride? No problem! With a full charge, advertised run times are 1.5, 3, or 6 hours for High, Medium, or Low, respectively.
Operational controls are simple and to the point. A single large button turns on the main LEDs and then cycles through the three brightness settings and two strobe settings. Simply hold it down for three seconds to turn it off. A second, smaller button activates the amber colored side marker lights for stints on the road or even dedicated commuting use.
All the cool design features in the world don’t amount to jack if it doesn’t light your way down some sweet night-time singletrack. Fortunately, the Taz 1500 delivers here too. As you may have already guessed, the light puts out 1500 (measured) lumens via an array of three LEDs. These are arranged such that light covers a decent distance, but also illuminates the side of the trail. The beam pattern works equally well from either the helmet or handlebars.
Out on the Trail
The simple charging, ease of use, and incredible brightness of this light have combined to make it my go-to choice for after work rides that last until after sun down, or impromptu night rides. I can’t stress enough how easy it is to grab one device, with an integrated mounting strap, and charge it in my car on the way to the trailhead. When riding, I typically use the low setting for climbing sections, and cycle it to high for downhill. With this strategy I’ve yet to run out of battery, and on group rides I no longer bother to bring a second light. (However, on solo rides I always bring a backup.)
When aimed at the trail, the Taz does an amazing job of throwing a broad beam across the area in front of the tire, but it also sends a nice spotlight down the trail. In the past I have ridden with a MagicShine on my helmet and a Light & Motion Seca 800 on my bars; the Taz 1500 by itself illuminates as well as that combo.
Because the light uses internal batteries, it may seem heavier than other lights, but if you compare the combined weight, the Taz brings you 1500 lumens at 16 grams less than the vaunted Light & Motion Stella 500, making it a solid choice for racing as well as recreational riding of every level. Additionally, the weight of the light is perfectly balanced so that it tends to stay put once you aim it; it doesn’t gradually tip forward like some other lights on the market. When I have used it on my helmet, I found it to be a bit heavy due to the internal batteries, but no worse than a MagicShine or LumenTrail, even though those both have external batteries. It also doesn’t stick out quite as far.
If the Taz has any weakness, it’s that the integrated batteries are subject to ambient temperature conditions. This is really only an issue for night time, winter fat biking in the coldest of conditions. In that situation, a detached battery pack can be secured inside warm garments for longer life. This is obviously a very specific scenario, and for every other riding condition this light performs extremely well.
At $300 MSRP, the Taz is 10x the price of some of the imported knock-off brands, and of course uses the exact same Cree LED’s. However, Light & Motion brings their excellent manufacturing and lens crafting skill into the equation, and they use the best rechargeable battery cells available. Having used this light for a couple of months now, I feel like the features and durability make it a good value for the money, and it should last for years of regular use. Still, don’t let the price tag scare you away, as Light & Motion also sells an otherwise identical 1200 lumen model available for $240, and an “urban” variant ranging from $70 to $150 with 350 to 800 lumens.
Thanks to the folks at Light & Motion for providing over the Taz 1500 for review!