The sun is going down, I’m on a hillside in the middle of Wales standing astride a mountain bike – I could be back in my youth! But no, I’m here to spend a couple of days riding and caving with Led Lenser testing out their latest and greatest bike/helmet torch; the LED LENSER XEO19R.
To call it a torch is to do it a disservice though, it’s 2000 lumens of twin-beam adjustability, operating independently from each other, with multiple intensities and a flash option as well.
The light attaches to the handlebar, whilst the battery is secured to the top-tube. It’s no big deal, but aesthetically it reminds me of my light in the 90’s. It’s not necessarily the most elegant option, but it’s certainly very practical – it does seem churlish somewhat to criticise something that works when it comes down to a styling thing, rather than a performance issue.
Having the battery separate does mean that it’s easier to charge, rather than removing the light, whose position is dialled-in, it’s just a case of taking the battery off, or possibly swapping if you have a spare?
So, the XEO19R in use.
The light is turned on by the big red button on the body (it operates both outputs), cycling through the beam patterns in tandem. If you don’t want both lights to be doing the same thing, then the buttons either side of the main one operate the individual lights.
There are 4 light strengths and a flashing option, the lowest output I have found is more than enough for a country road ride, whilst the highest output will light up a mountain bike track in a dense wood.
Press the relevant button once for 25% beam, press twice for 100% beam. A third press is where the magic happens and “Optisense Technology” mode kicks in – this adjusts the brightness of the beam according to the surroundings.
(This is such a simple, yet great feature. It senses the amount of ambient light and adjusts the brightness accordingly. So if you use Optisense mode in the daytime, it’s very dim. Or it auto-dims if you aim it at someone else’s headlamp close to you, or look at something close to you like a map, wrist-watch or tree. From dimmed, it takes between 2 and 3 seconds to achieve full brightness, i.e. it’s a smooth transition, not like throwing a switch.)
A fourth press brings up strobe mode, whilst a fifth will return it to off.
- Most lamps give a choice of brightness modes but the XEO19R goes one step beyond and allows you to choose any brightness level between 15% and 100% by cycling between then – just press and hold the required button for 2 seconds and then release the button at the brightness you require.
With the option of independent lights also comes the awesomeness of being able to focus the light-beam independently from each other as well.
This means that you can have a tight focus up close on one beam whilst spreading the light out further with the other, this is operated with a simple switch on the head unit, nice and close to your fingers if you choose to use it as a dipping option for cars – and cars will appreciate it
Battery life is very respectable, in real-world usage I can get a week of commuting out of it – I generally run one low beam and one flashing light, and I’m getting 14 hours of life from it easily. If you are out in the woods then you’ll get around 3-4 hours of twin-beams at max output – more than enough for a good thrashing! (It will take about 3 hours to fully recharge the battery)
When the battery is empty it stops. As in, stops without any warning flashes or pulses. Not the end of the world if you are just using it as daytime running lights, but if you are going downhill rapidly it makes things very interesting very quickly. I use an LED Lenser head torch for running and it pulses when the battery is running low, and gives me about 10 minutes warning of failure, the XEO19R really needs a similar feature – if only to forewarn the rider to not take the black route….. (Since initially writing this I’ve read the instructions and I can see that there is a lamp for this, it is on the battery back itself, so it can be checked!)
The XEO19R is fully waterproof, with grommets protecting the output socket on the battery, I can report that despite my best efforts to soak the battery it has stopped all water ingress.
It’s quite a chunky unit all in, weighing around 450grams, but with the weight spread over front and rear it can attach to a helmet without too much lopsidedness. This I did when going caving under Snowdonia. Upon first fitting you certainly notice the weight, but 4 hours in and there’s no sign of sore neck or aching muscles, the ergonoomics seem to hold up well.
On the head and in the dark the XEO19R is again in its natural environment, with the beams throwing light in all the right places, the main beams are more than capable of making the dark vanish for a considerable distance around you, again being able to focus the beams separately really highlights what a good idea it is, with close up work being simple whilst still illuminating the surroundings.
Like all top end torches and bike lights its not a cheap item, retailing at over £200 is a steep price. Having said that it does seem to be a worthwhile purchase if… you want and need all the light – night riding and commuting in foul weather will certainly help justify the price tag, however the lack of obvious notice about battery depletion is a issue for me – a couple of more visible leds on the battery or a warning sign that comes from the torch itself is all it would take to overcome this.
The Led Lenser XEO19R is super bright, customisable, long lasting, and securely mounted, It comes with a good range of accessories for mounting options, and it has held up well to some foul weather abuse. It may not be everyone’s aesthetic choice, but in day to day use it is a fantastic bit of kit, only let down by being tricky to gauge battery life.