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Review

Gloworm XS 2800 and Alpha 1200 Lights

Words Trevor Hansen
Photos Deniz Merdano
Date Jan 6, 2022
Reading time

My dark past

I have been night riding for almost as long as I have been mountain biking (28 years - holy shit!). Rather than buy lights I stuffed a halogen bulb into a tomato paste can and found a huge lead acid battery to power the Frankenlight. Then I spent hours pestering the shop teachers at the high school I work at to help with the wiring. On the first night, we all laughed hard when the weight of the 12 pound battery caused me to fall backwards on a wheelie drop, smack on top of the hard battery in my pack.

A Light & Motion was my first good quality light and it made dad life much more bearable. Being able to pop out for rides when junior went down for the night was a godsend. Later, I couldn't resist the urge to get a lot of lumens for little money with some cheap lights from China my "friends" recommended. They were great for 3 rides but both broke down in the middle of the fourth ride. Luckily Irish Tony was with me to light my way home and entertain me with humour, melancholic quips and happy rants.

I finally bought a nice NiteRider 1400. When my friend gave me 2 Cygolite Metro 1100s, I wanted 2200 on my helmet and the 1400 NiteRider on my bar. A student of mine who rides created a helmet mount using the school's 3D printer. It worked very well but the weight of the lights with self-contained batteries kept causing my helmet lid to drop into my eyes. Night riding is hard enough without that blinding side effect.

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3D printer generated using the skills of grade 12 student/ future aerospace engineer Sean. It worked sort of...

I like self-contained units but I want more power in the headlamp than these lights can provide. This is where lights with separate batteries are way better than anything with a self-contained battery. The small sacrifice of storing the battery on the frame, in bags, or pockets is more than compensated for by LOL (lots of lumens). Gloworm has been making this style of high quality lights in New Zealand for 11 years. They sent me the XS Lightset (G2.0) 2800 LM and the Alpha PLUS (G1.0) RF 1200 LM to be tested. I have had them on 14 rides so far.

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XS 2800 up top, Alpha PLUS 1200 on the bar.

Gloworm XS Lightset (G2.0)2800 LM and Gloworm Alpha PLUS (G1.0) RF 1200 LM

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The whole visor on a helmet being worn in the dark is crazy; but we must all suffer for fashion even in the dark with nobody but your critical buddies and judgemental inner voices around.

2800 up top

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XS Lightset with 2800 Lumens. The battery is light (360g) and easy to store in my small Versa hip bag.

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With previous hemet mounted lights I usually clipped the cable to the bottom helmet backing but this wasn't required with the XS.

Before I get into the lumens, the lenses, the batteries, and the rest of the tech, let my buddy the know-it-all 2 minute expert (ya like I have ever heard his mansplaining stop at 2 minutes) give all the everything you need to know about lights mansplanation

The three features of the Gloworm XS Lightset that appeal to me most are; the 2800 Lumens, the whopping 3 hours of runtime at maximum brightness, a battery that only weighs 360 grams, and the wireless remote. Let's start with lumens. I love lumens. When riding at night I want the most light I can get on my head and my handlebar. The 2800 alone is plenty for medium speed riding on all but the gnarliest trails in my usual ride network. When I attach the 1200 to the bars and throw on another bar light from my pile 'o lights, I get a lit forest that helps me ride at close to regular speed on all the trails I like to hit.

The battery is light, has a slim shape, and comes with a time remaining display. The fact that I can get 3 hours on max is perfect especially for short rides so I only need to worry about charging the battery every other ride. The security of knowing I have 3 hours runtime on max is one of the best features of this system. The closest I got to full battery capacity was on a ride when I went up for 20 minutes, built for 2 hours, and then rode out for 20 minutes.

The bar-mounted remote pairs easily and allows you to change modes and power on and off. Rather than having to fumble for those controls on the light itself, while wearing gloves, while fatigued, and sometimes alone and scared, the remote makes operation easy. The only issue I had was that I needed to pair the remote each time for it to work; not a big deal as it only takes about 10 seconds but it's another faff to add to the already extra faffs of night ride preparation faffing. Other features include customizable lens swapping, customizing beam pattern settings using the Gloworm app, CNC machined alloy for less breakage on wipeouts, waterproof to IP67 and the fast charging capability of the 10000 mAH Lithium battery.

The lens swapping is a good idea but the lenses that comes stock with this light, 2 spots and 1 honeycomb lens, are so superior to anything I have used before I don't see the need to change them. For those that are into experimentation, this system has a spare honeycomb, spot and wide lens included. The CNC'd light not only offers shock protection, it looks and feels good on the hands. Even after two hours on high the light was not that hot. Most other lights I have owned would burn my hands after that much time- not that it matters much but it means power consumption is lower.

The beam pattern default settings are Low (20%) / Medium (70%) / High (100%) and special mode: Disrupted flash pattern. These can be customized using the mobile app. Because I just keep it on high beams all the way up and down trails, and medium on the road, I didn't need to change the settings. Also I dislike looking at flashing lights on other bikes while driving and biking so there was no need to get the flash going.

While the $485 CAD price tag is reflective of all of the high quality features, this is an excellent light that I would highly recommend.

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The time remaining display is a good feature and I used it after and before rides but never on rides as I never thought I needed to check. You have to pull the battery out of the pack for that info, or check your watch stupid (not you, me.)

Alpha PLUS (G1.0) RF 1200 on the bar

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The mounting bracket is easy to install. It lines up directly over the stem.

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I used the remote for the 2800 headlamp not the 1200 as it's basically the same thing to press a button on the handlebar light.

The 1200 is an excellent light, with all the features I listed for the 2800 except the dim elephant in the under-lit room: lumens and lots of them. Did I mention I love lumens? I get it, this is a light that focusses (ya I wrote it) on duration more (4 hrs on max) than Lumens (1200 on max). To get the 4 hours, a battery needs to be used. It isn't really that big a deal to strap the Alpha Plus battery to the frame but, well, you have to strap a battery to a frame. I would prefer a couple of self contained units on the bars to get up to the 2800 brightness of the helmet light. I did ride 4 times in different conditions with just the 1200 on the bar. It was fine but when I added a 1600 Lumen self contained battery, the 2800 made a huge difference. Don't get me wrong, 1200 is fine but when it comes to riding bikes in the woods at night I want more.

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1200

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The broken strap.

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During the dark months I like to engage in the spooky art of night-building.

The light clamp is narrow and easy to mount or dismount. It screws into the side of the lamp allowing the light to be centered over the stem. It also comes with all the right stuff for helmet mounting. This provides a better beam than two bar-mounted lights on either side of the stem but again: lumens. One night I decided to plus size my ride and mounted a 1200 on one side, the 1200 Alpha in the middle and an 1100 on the other side. Wow - that just made riding a little easier. Who says money can't buy you lumen happiness?

The battery strap provided by Gloworm ripped on the second ride. I could still strap the battery down but it was not as secure. I used one of my velcro straps with a plastic loop attached (hint hint Gloworm) and it works perfectly. The battery is a bit portly in dimensions and weight ( 225g and about 4" by 2"). I used this on the bar but

I really liked the beam, the light lamp, the clamp but it just isn't enough light for my sub 2.5 hour night rides. I can see using this on my helmet for night building more than I can for night riding. But do I really wanna be out building at night longer than a couple of hours?

The light is priced at $300 CAD. Info on these lights and the entire selection of Gloworm products here.

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Comments

Gunnar-man
0
Gunnar-man  - Jan. 6, 2022, 7:24 a.m.

Too bad the battery cannot be mounted to the helmet (looks a little long?)  Might help the balance of the light in the front if it was a more compact size/shape.  I have an old Dinotte helmet light that I still use and having both strapped to the helmet keeps the fore and aft shift to a minimum. Drove me nuts years ago when I would have a battery in my pack and tethered to my helmet, only for me to forget about it when taking either of them off trailside.

BTW I love the Canadian mix of units of measure when describing the dimensions.  Glad you didn't use cm and ounces, as I would have no idea how heavy it was if you used ounces.

Reply

HollyBoni
0
HollyBoni  - Jan. 9, 2022, 1:34 a.m.

How can you ride with that much extra weight on your head? I'm so jealous!
I use a Skilhunt H04 headlamp which weighs like 80-85g with an 18650 battery, and even with this light I can feel the weight and extra strain on my neck.

Am I just a big p***y?

Reply

oldmanbike
+1 Andrew Major
OldManBike  - Jan. 6, 2022, 8:04 a.m.

I sprang for 2 of their x2 lights a couple years ago and use them regularly on night rides. They're not bad, but if I had it to do over again I'd get something else. My biggest gripe is that the remote (which was the #1 selling point for me) failed on the first ride and never worked thereafter. My bad for not dealing with warranty hassle (or maybe I did once and then gave up, I forget), but that makes me a little mad out every time I reach for them. My second gripe is that they shipped them (for years, maybe still) knowing that the plugs connecting the light and battery were stupid tight, and instead of addressing it they just told buyers to futz around with heat guns themselves. Which would be no big deal if these weren't high-end priced. Those two irritants aside, they're quality lights.

Reply

mb
0
Mikey Bikey  - Jan. 11, 2022, 12:07 p.m.

The remote battery doesn't seem to last too long. I think it's a Duracell DL2022. The plugs were too tight, but now too loose after sending in the battery on warranty for display issues. Otherwise pretty happy with the old XS Adventure 2800

.

Reply

rwalters
0
Ryan Walters  - Jan. 6, 2022, 10:38 a.m.

Man, 3500 lumens coming from your bars - who needs sunlight??

While the mounting might be too flimsy, it would be cool if there was some way to mount the light under the helmet visor. Would eliminate any visor shadow, while avoiding the dreaded low-hanging-branch-wiping-out-your-light scenario.

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+2 Mark Forbes Dogl0rd
Cam McRae  - Jan. 6, 2022, 11:03 a.m.

I personally don’t understand Trevor’s lumen lust. I can get by pretty well for our riding around here with 700 on my helmet. Ideally I’ll go for more but 1200 would be just fine for me. High speed riding is likely a different ballgame.

Reply

SprSonik
+1 Mammal
Mark Forbes  - Jan. 6, 2022, 11:29 a.m.

Beam pattern is so much more important than lumens. I could run full on daytime speed with a pair of Lumina 1100s, and can't remember ever really using my NR 3600 Pro and 1800 Pro at full power, unless it was to show off. Really bright lights also screw up the trail for anyone in front, thanks to the dark shadows. Where the big lumen lights pay off is on run time at lower power. Or at least that is what decades of night riding about 2x weekly has taught me.

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
0
Tjaard Breeuwer  - Jan. 12, 2022, 6:01 a.m.

Exactly. My night riding is mostly in winter, and the cold reduces battery capacity, so I want big batteries. However, (probably due to competing for low eight and low price), most medium brightness lights have small batteries, so I end up buying a high powered light and running it at a lower setting.

Reply

fartymarty
0
fartymarty  - Jan. 7, 2022, 12:22 a.m.

Cam - my old setup had a Lezyne 1800 lm up top and a modded Lumicycle set on the bars at about 1000 lm.  This worked fine but I did get a lot of light shadows when someone was following me with brighter lights.  It runs out of depth on faster trails - say above 20-25 mph.

I'm now on Lezyne 1600 lm up top and a Lumicycle Apogee (up to 4500 lm on boost) on the bars.  This gives me more depth and a whole lot less light shadows.  Also I don't use the 4500 lm boost that often but it's nice to have if needed.

I tend to ride at night (after the kids are in bed) and ride a similar speed to the day - generally on familiar trails.

Reply

Ride.DMC
0
Ride.DMC  - Jan. 6, 2022, 12:47 p.m.

I've only recently started night riding.  I use a two light system (one on the bars, one on the helmet), and I have been using the lighter weight light (NiteRider Lumina 650) on my helmet, and the heavier more powerful light (NiteRider Lumina 1200) on my bars.

But honestly the weight difference is not all that much.  Would it be better to run the more powerful light on my helmet?

Based on how the lights work it appears (to me at least) that the Lumina 1200 has a wider pattern and the Lumina 650 is more of a spot light, which is mainly how I determined which should go on the bars and which should go on the helmet.

I will experiment with this but is it common to put the brighter/more powerful light on your helmet?

Reply

Tbone
0
Trevor Hansen  - Jan. 6, 2022, 1:01 p.m.

It's tricky...but on the helmet is usually way better. When it is foggy the bar light is the one that needs the higher power. In really foggy, rainy and snowy conditions I usually turn the helmet light off to help with vision.

Reply

velocipedestrian
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
Velocipedestrian  - Jan. 8, 2022, 2:41 p.m.

Helmet needs to overpower the bars for me.

I find my eyes want to follow the brightest patch, and if that's bars I often wind up looking where they're pointing - not always where I want to go. 

Fog is rare around here, so I look forward to having to experiment on the night I get caught in it.

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
0
Tjaard Breeuwer  - Jan. 12, 2022, 6:04 a.m.

That is exactly my experience. I have no need for a high powered light on my bars, lighting up the stuff in the distance, because (due to the twisting nature of mtb trails), that point will be trees, rocks and bushes.

The helmet light will be looking around the corner, so having that brighter than my bar light helps my eyes/brain look at that.

Maybe, if I had a handle bar light that, while high powered, was spread in a very wide, and even, beam pattern, it would work better.

Reply

PdxDevvy
+1 Dogl0rd
Devin Zoller  - Jan. 6, 2022, 1:09 p.m.

I do the same thing, gloworm 1200 on the bars, 800 on the helmet. I find (with handlebar lenses swapped) that the fill from the more powerful light meant my helmet light was just doing specific focus duty and the weight difference isn’t insignificant.

I find on trails I know well I can actually ride faster at night, and my guess is the focus I get from having less visual distraction is a subconscious reminder to look further ahead. God I love night riding, there’s really nothing like it!

Reply

Dogl0rd
0
Dogl0rd  - Jan. 7, 2022, 10:13 a.m.

I get the same great feeling riding at night. Although the first time I did it it was pretty terrifying. 

...but especially on a night ride alone, I feel so much flow; It's like your focus narrows to just the bike and what your lights illuminate...

Reply

Ride.DMC
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
Ride.DMC  - Jan. 7, 2022, 11:18 a.m.

Thanks for the replies.  Next ride I will put the Lumina 1200 on my helmet and see how it works out.  As for riding alone at night - I am not afraid to admit that I am somewhat weary of being alone in the woods at night!  My solution is simple - I just bring by dog with me and try to ride well within my abilities.

Reply

Dogl0rd
+1 Tjaard Breeuwer
Dogl0rd  - Jan. 7, 2022, 10:04 a.m.

I have a gloworm too, it works great, but the mounting hardware and straps that came with it were disappointing.

I bought a stick on GoPro mount for my helmet for like $7 on Amazon and that worked much better

Reply

manu_moisan
0
manu_moisan  - Jan. 11, 2022, 10:17 a.m.

Remote batteries non merci

Reply

Tjaardbreeuwer
0
Tjaard Breeuwer  - Jan. 12, 2022, 6:07 a.m.

They do add a fair bit of hassle, making sure you have the right cord, running it through what ever you need etc.

But, when riding in the winter, I want a decent size battery. Big habbteries are heavy, so running them in top of my helmet is not my choice. Remote batteries can also go inside your clothgin, keeping them warmer, so they run longer.

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