logoMuddymoles – Mountain biking in the Surrey Hills and Mole Valley

MTB (Mountain bike) riding in the South East of England for all tastes (including XC, Freeride, Enduro and Downhill riding)

Four4th Lights MTB LED night light review

Back in November we were contacted by Del from Four4th lights who joined us for a night ride across the North Downs. Having survived that, it turned out Del was the owner and one of the engineers involved with the development of Four4th Lights, at which point I quickly arranged to borrow a couple of sets for review.

Four4th Lights helmet light 10 degree

Is it Four4th Lights, Fourth Lights, 4th Lights, or Forth Lights?

Well, that’s a good question. The correct name is Four4th Lights but you could be forgiven for getting confused – I know I have. I’m not sure what the name refers to but I guess it’s something about riding at 4/4ths at night (i.e. flat out) and a play on the idea of ‘go forth and have fun’.

After a chat with Del it turns out Four4th are based in Farnborough, in Hampshire and have close links to the aerospace industry. It provides access to state of the art CNC milling machines and a wealth of engineering resource to tap into which accounts for the impressive quality of the product, right down to the lovely anodised finish.

The Four4th Lights mountain bike light set

The Four4th Lights package is actually a reasonably conventional arrangement but differs really in key areas of detail. It follows the traditional Lumicycle route (and that of many others) by having a separate head unit connected to a remote battery. This approach allows Four4th to offer a wide range of configurations to suit most applications, with different lens and battery options to cover anything from commuting, to XC racing, to high speed descending. And everything in between.

As such, there’s no definitive Four4th Lights set, as you configure it to suit you, but Del sent me a couple of typical sets. The first came with a pouch battery powering a head unit that features 4 Cree XRE-R2 LEDs with a narrow 10° spot lens. With 1200 lumens output (which has been independantly verified apparantly), the idea was that this would make a very useful helmet light.

Four4th Lights handlebar light 17 degree

The second set is just as interesting. It has a frame mounted battery that powers a head unit that contains 4 of Cree’s latest XP-G LEDs focussed (colimated) through a 17° lens that should be giving somewhere near to 1600 lumens! That’s an astonishing figure but it should be noted that this is a pre-production light at this stage. The wider beam spread means that it naturally works best as a bar mounted light I think.

Add all that up and you can see why I was quite excited to be taking to the hills with a combined 2800 lumen punch!

What about that Four4th Lights attention to detail then?

Well, I mentioned just now that it’s the little things that set Four4th Lights apart from their competition. To be honest, that’s quite literal as their head units are tiny! You can see from the picture how small they are in comparison to my Exposure MaXx-D which itself is a very compact 4 LED unit. But the Four4th ones are something else.

Four4th Lights head units in comparison with an Exposure MaXx-D

They are hexagonal in shape and are just 58.5mm x 32mm x 34.5mm in size (note the half mill sizes quoted – I told you they worked in aerospace engineering!). Each unit has a ‘hood’ at the top which helps reduce upward light spill, particularly useful when you’re climbing out of the saddle and leaning over the bars. Cooling is accounted for by air movement, so the units are also ribbed across their surface and finished in a nice even anodised colour. I had a pink one to match my singlespeed and a charcoal colour for my crash helmet and they come laser-etched with the company’s web address.

More details abound. The on-off switch is very large and features a positive click – once for on at half power, then once more for full power. With a bit of fiddling you can also switch to an energy-saving pulse mode but that’s not one for epileptics. In the middle of the button is a small light which comes on when you have 15 minutes of juice left. The large button means it is extremely easy to operate with gloved hands.

Also worth noting is that the connectors are all aerospace grade which means they’re corrosion resistant and screw on to give a joint that will not come adrift, ever.

Four4th Lights head unit switch

The units are fixed to the bars or helmet via simple O-rings that hold the custom mounts in position. These allow the head unit to be easily snapped into place with one quick twist which is a clever idea. Another twist removes them or can position the unit in one of five positions so together with the adjustment from the O-rings it’s very easy to get the beam pointing where you want it, even on the helmet light.

I had my reservations initially about the mounts for a couple of reasons. First, would the light stay put if I knocked it and second, over rough ground would it keep pointing where it was needed? As it happens, the mounts worked fine even when I clouted the helmet light on low branches or when rattling down Juniper Bottom (Happy Valley) – a decent test of the mount I think!

How were the Four4th Lights in use?

By the time it came to setting out with these lights you can see why I had pretty high expectations. With a massive number of lumens and being such nice looking units I was worried I’d be disappointed.

My first reaction was that faffing with batteries is such a, well, faff. I’m so used to just sticking my Exposure MaXx-D on my bike and setting off that it comes as a bit of a shock to spend a few minutes thinking about cables and battery placement and so on. In the end I managed to get the battery very securely mounted using the hook and eye fixing straps provided but it’s not as painless as the Exposure. If you’re coming from a more conventional bike light arrangement then you won’t notice this though.

The second reaction is that having just two realistic output options (half or full) was a bit restricting. Again, I’m used to having the option of flash or low for road work, medium for ‘just riding along’ and full power for singletrack and I really do use all of those.

I kept worrying about burn time as the batteries supplied had no markings on them so I wasn’t sure if they were the 2600, 3300 or 4500mAh batteries or how long that meant they’d last. I’m guessing the lights draw 1 or perhaps 1.2 amps or so on full, meaning I always had at least 2 and a half hours burntime but could never be sure. I guess if you order the lights yourself you’d know exactly what you were dealing with!

Despite that it was extremely easy to locate the switch and toggle the lights between half and full power even when riding along, so it was only on one occasion I ran out of power – and that was when the battery had not been recharged after a ride.

This threw up another problem. The switches on the head units are supposed to light up when you have about 15 minutes of power left but when the light is on your helmet you can’t see that! It meant I was plunged into darkness in the middle of Alsation which was a bit scary. Far better in my view to automatically switch to half power or maybe have an intermittant pulse when you have half an hour to go to let you know to be frugal. It can make all the difference.

The good news is that Four4th actually make their own drivers so it’s possible these modifications can be relatively easily fixed.

In terms of light output, both the head unit and lens options I had on test were superlative performers. After the obligatory back garden test, which proved as disappointing as usual, I first tried these out on my Friday commute to work in the depths of a wet and muddy winter.

Four4th Lights 10 degree spot and 17 degree beam shot

The combination of wide, high output flood on the handlebars with a narrow helmet light was terrific as I hope you can see from the pictures taken from our famous MTB Night Light review/beam shot location on Collarbone. Either light on it’s own is a decent performer – I tried switching both lights between my helmet and bars – but it’s the flood on the bars and spot on the helmet that works best.

At full power I had no problems at all, the flood was superb in filling up the entire foreground with light and penetrated a surprising distance too. This means that when you’re noodling through some technical bits you can always see clearly what’s coming up in your peripheral vision. It really is a comprehensive wash of light.

The spot just punches into the dark. I’m used to a narrow and relatively weak 240 lumens on my helmet which even so allows a reasonable amount of vision but this is a different league entirely. It’s like a sodding laser! And definitely my prefered helmet light.

The separate battery in this case isn’t such an issue as you can just put it in your Camelbak and with a wide range of adjustment on the helmet light mount you can mount it right on the front of your helmet. This is important because you can then get the profile of the helmet lower as opposed to having a branch-snagging lump on the top.

I also tried running the helmet light with my Exposure on the handlebars, which despite it’s lower output was not a bad combination either. It’s nowhere near the performance of the Four4th light but it has that cable free design which I’m a huge fan of. Not to be underestimated until you’ve lived with it for a while and something I hope Four4th ultimately get round to developing.

Conclusions from my Four4th Lights review

Pros and cons time.

Well, on the cons side, I was a bit disappointed by the charger and batteries which are both pretty simple and basic designs. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s easy to see where your money has been spent, in the head unit mainly. Which is as it should be I suppose.

I was also frustrated by the rudimentary programming of the low-power logic but there’s hope there as Four4th have the drivers under their own control.

On the plus side these are every bit as powerful as their 1200 minimum output would suggest but it’s not just their headline output figures that impress.

What impressed me was the quality of the product, it seems like Four4th have taken a conventional tried and tested format and refined it as much as they can. The head units are masterpieces of design and engineering and look pretty much bullet proof and the connectors and switch have been well thought through.

What really tips the balance though is that the price is incredibly low, at £195 plus postage which compares strongly with the £325 asked for Exposure’s MaXx-D. For that you get all you need, a head unit, charger, 3.3Ah battery, mounts and of course a choice of colours. Configuration options from there are comprehensive so the whole thing is quite a bargain from a UK based company. Kudos to Four4th.

Think of it another way. For £400 or so you pay about £75 more than the Exposure but get 2.4 times more light output from two units that can be directed where you want!

Actually, so impressed have I been that I’ll be buying a helmet light for myself after quickly getting used to the 1200 lumen fire-starter I’ve been running and I know other Moles such as Tony are interested too.

Expect to see a few more Four4th Lights out on the trails soon. With Dusk til Dawn starting to get us Moles twitching again, this could be a useful performance aid! The tough bit is choosing the colour…

More photos are available from our Four4th Lights photo review on Flickr.

Now, over to you…

Something to say? Jump to our comments form!.

Spring Clearance up to 50% off

13 comments on Four4th Lights MTB LED night light review

  1. Muddymoles says:

    MTB LED Night Light Test and Beam Shots

    A review of popular MTB LED night lights with beam shots including Ay-Up!, Exposure MaXx-D, Lumicycle LEDSys3 and LEDSys4, Four4th Lights, iBlaast and more.

  2. Andy C says:

    They sound like the the mutts nuts, but I foresee a problem when riding in groups. With all that output it’s a bugger when you’re the poor sod riding in front with ‘normal’ lights. The shadow cast is quite disconcerting, as your eyes adjust to the brighter light from behind and you can’t pick out all the detail in front of you. I’ve experienced this before when riding in front of Tony down BKB.

    Clearly the answer is to ride in light output order, but if all this skills training delivers results then I could be getting very well acquainted with your pink bits, Matt !

  3. tony says:

    and Andy I was thinking of upping the light output on my bike :)

  4. mike61 says:

    Great review Matt.

    I’ll check these out, I’m on a budget but need to replace my bar unit due to frayed/exposed cables.

    If there are a few of us ordering any chance of a bulk discount? (hopeful)

    Cheers

  5. James says:

    It was a nice light although I will stick with the mole favourite. Deal extreme £50 bar mounted and £10 helmet mounted chinese special. Still confussed that a few leds, bit of wiring and a small battery equals £400!

  6. Matt says:

    Mike, these are well worth a look. Tiny head units and decent cable connectors. The Four4th cables are quite heavy duty too.

    I’m not sure about discounts because the website claims the £195 price is a discounted price anyway but Del’s service has been very good so far.

    And they come in colours! (Lime if AndyC’s interested…)

  7. tony says:

    I completely agree James that the DX light is unbelievable value. It’s so much more advanced than even the best lights that we were using only a few years ago. The only downsides are the lack of support if it goes wrong (you pay for what you get) and that it’s difficult to mount as a helmet mounted light due to it’s size and weight.

  8. Andy661 says:

    Gonna be getting an order in for the DX P7 so i can do some night rides as i’ve just had my team place confirmed for Mountain Mayhem!

    My mate is also riding and is awaiting delivery of a hand built Rock Lobster. I’ll bring him along for a sunday ride and sure you’ll all be interested in his bike!

    Hopefully the cycle to work scheme will come good shortly and get something that weighs less than the QE2…

  9. StevenD says:

    @Matt, thanks for the review.

    I never did get new lights, but our mid week pubs runs seem to be getting ever later as we discover new drinking holes (I cannot believe that I can now cycle 15-20 miles WITH beer breaks, LOL). So I need to rethink and these look really, well, sexy.

    If getting one light would you go handlebar or helmet, as I can only really afford one ?

    Thanks

    Steven

  10. Matt says:

    Steven, my recommendation would be a high powered flood on the handlebars I think as you can then think about a much more tightly focussed spot for the helmet.

    We’ve used some of the DealExtreme LED torches for that, at about £30 for everything – they’re not the last word in light output but really do help picking out things where you are looking – useful on twisty singletrack. I’ve reviewed the Trustfire here, but the new Skyray looks interesting too.

    If you’re not riding really technical stuff or going ultra fast at night though the flood I’ve used here will be perfect and a solid backbone to your lighting needs for a long time.

    I’ve been lucky enough to have enough lighting power for so long that I forget what it was like in the dark days (pardon the pun).

  11. Dave says:

    The Skyray looks interesting but might be heavy compared to the Trustfire. Also the two black rings might mean it does not fit in the Exposure bracket so tread carefully with that one.

  12. Muddymoles says:

    Ride report: Wednesday 8 July – Brockham and China Pig

    A brisk ride across the North Downs with the Brockham descent and China Pig the highlights.

  13. Paul M says:

    I’d just like to put a shout out for Four4th.
    I’ve been running their lights for almost 3yrs now, really pleased with them and their customer service continues to be superb.

    The same lights have been “through” D2D 2010 and Mountain Mayhem 2012 – performed brilliantly and still as bright as ever (the lights, not me!) – Highly recommended.

Leave a comment…

Have your say – we'd love to hear what you think.

If you have something to add, just complete this comment form (we will not publish your email address).

*Required information.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Back to Top

Back to Top