Nightlightning Ruby tested - Bike Magic

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Nightlightning Ruby tested

  • Nightlightning Ruby
  • Price: (can change with exchange rate) Lamp, battery, charger, helmet mount £136 plus freight. DIY kits from £37 and multisport kits up to £192 plus freight.

Over recent years bike light technology has evolved at a similar pace to fork and suspension designs during the late 90s. Gone are the days of taping a cheap torch to your helmet or following a dull yellow ball through the woods with a massive motorcycle battery in your backpack. With the huge gains made by the big names -Lumicycle, Nite Rider and Cateye – competition has become fierce and you can now choose from a number of lights that turn night into day for hours on end with a very little weight disadvantage, though often with a hefty price tag. So when we got a chance to test Nightlightning’s Ruby, a light that comes at a relatively accessible price, we were pretty keen.

Nightlightning is a small New Zealand company based in Christchurch who are fast developing a reputation for quality lights. Their extensive range covers everything from cycling to multi-sporting, and even includes build kits for those who want to save money (but not time) by making the lights themselves.

We first took the Ruby out at the Marin ‘Dusk Til Dawn’ in September and have used it regularly on night rides since. Our package contained a 20 watt lamp, 10 degree IRC, 4ahr Nihm Battery and charger.

The Ruby’s features are:

  • 20 or 35 Watt IRC lamp
  • 3 different lighting levels
  • Different flashing options (including SOS)
  • Flashing indicators at different battery levels
  • Soft start/dim up for maximum lamp life
  • Red rear indicator

The expected run times in the different power settings (with a 13.2v battery) are: Full power 1.75 hrs, Medium 2.3 hrs, Low power 4.5 -5 hrs

The first thing that struck us about the light was its size, as it’s a little larger than many others in the market. When we quizzed Nightlightning over the size of the unit they told us that when you use this larger lamp “a 20watt IRC lamp powered by a 4ahr Nimh battery gives you around 35watts of bright, white light but only draws 20watts from the battery”, so more bang for your battery.

The Ruby has three different light brightness settings: high, medium and low. It also has flashing settings including one that flashes SOS – should you ever be unlucky enough to need a night rescue.
There’s a battery level indicator that sends low battery level warnings with a series of rapid blips in the light. When the battery is down to quarter power left there are 4 blips times, down at 10% power there are seven blips, and when the light blips about every ten seconds you need to turn to low power right away. The next step is that the lamp will go to low power to protect the battery and then finally, when the battery gets too low, the lamp will turn off automatically to protect the battery from going into deep recycling.

The lamp is also kitted out with a temperature alarm that to protect the lamp from overheating. When the light first starts to get too hot it turns the light to a low setting and if it continues to overheat it will switch itself off and lock out. If this happens you’ll need to disconnect and reconnect the battery, effectively resetting it, before you can carry on using the light.

The on/off and beam adjustment is on the back of the light in a “one button rules all” arrangement. You need to vary how long you hold the button down to change the beam. The cable is a good length and disconnects near the battery so you can keep the connection in a safe dry place. At first we were a little disappointed with the quality of the joining plugs as it looked as though the cables could be pulled out in a moment of tiredness or inattention, but they seem to do the job well enough so far.

The Ruby is mounted with a hard Velcro that proved really secure, as well as making the fitting and removing the lights a breeze.

On the ride

Once out on the bike our earlier concerns about the size of the lamp melted away – in fact, we simply forgot them. We used the Ruby as our sole light source and found that running it on the lowest setting, and so conserving energy, generally gave us all the light we needed. When conditions demanded a bit more we switched to the highest setting and were never left wanting for visibility. As you would expect, both the width and penetration of the beam significantly improved with each higher setting. We did find changing the lamp’s light mode a little tricky when helmet-mounted, especially as we usually needed more light where the trail got a bit rough: The button doesn’t have an overly positive feeling, especially with full finger gloves on.

On the light’s first outing at the ‘Dusk till Dawn’ we managed to get four hours riding time out of the battery without compromising visibility. Keeping the battery in our hydration pack worked well for us, but it is small enough to be kept in a back pocket of a riding shirt. The Ruby’s battery indicators were useful, especially when using the lights for a prolonged period of time, but personally we’d prefer an LED indicator for battery life (though admittedly this would be a more expensive option).

Verdict so far

We got on pretty well with the Ruby, despite misgivings about the quality of the joining plugs and finding changing the beam a of an acquired skill? It’s a bright light with solid features and it’s hard to be too nit-picky at that price. If we were on the market for a new light it would definitely make our shortlist.


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