Review: Led Lenser XEO19R Head Torch

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 ;-)

Friday night riding with the @LEDLenserUK XEO19R front light. A job well done! #cycling #fromwhereiride

A photo posted by Martin Cox (@themartincox) on

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.


Transcontinental training. A rough guide…

Over 4000km in just 2 weeks! There’s very little like it on this planet of ours, unlike events like The Race Across America, the Transcontinental is unsupported, meaning that riders have to take care of themselves, exercising self-sufficiency in all things, across 10 different European countries, with 5 different currencies!


So how do you prepare? where do you get started?

  • First off, some maths

Each day has 24 hours, each hour has 60 minutes, therefore we each have 1440 minutes to use each and every day.

This is key, crucial in fact, because how we use those minutes can define how successful we may be on a race such as TCR, or indeed any event we may be training for!

  • Get rid of the TV

….or at the very least limit how much time you spend watching TV, films or browsing (wasting time) on the internet.



  • Get to bed early

The old adage of early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, happy and wise, wasn’t said in jest. Sleep aids recovery, both body and mind, allowing for better performance and more focussed efforts (this is good for work as well).

  • GET UP

Set the alarm for an early start. During the Transcontinental, time is miles; the more time sleeping you have, the less time there is for riding. Every four minutes of time not riding equates to a mile that someone else has ridden, the aim is to get to the finish line, you won’t do that if you are spending too much time asleep, or relaxing.

I aim for a 6am ride start during normal days, as TCR gets closer I will set the alarm gradually earlier as well, going all the way down to 4am. This allows for a 100km ride in before breakfast. If you have an accommodating workplace speak to them. Can you shower there? Can you start at 10 perhaps, and get in a 100miles before you start?

  • Recovery is vital, eat well, rest well, live appropriately

If your sole goal is to finish a 4000km race in July, then it’s not wise to be moving furniture the week before. Do your best to remain injury and illness free.

I broke a collarbone and rib just at the peak of my base training this year, which meant no riding for 10 weeks. The damage it did to me physically and psychologically was tremendous. I lost huge amounts of fitness and strength. To make matters worse, I hadn’t recovered my descending confidence by the race time. Descending the Finestre in Italy, I lost over an hour over some of my competitors due to my timidness. Staying healthy is super important.

  • Ride your bike

Ride as much as you can. This year’s winner took time off work for 3 months to ride around Asia. Whilst it’s not officially training, it certainly gave him a massive amount of base mileage.

  • Commute, in all weathers!

Go early, go long. Mix up base work with power. There will be hills – over 40,000metres of climbing this year, be strong, the stronger you are the easier you will find it to get over them.

  • Practise being tired, how do you cope?

It’s not a good idea to practise sleep deprivation to the point of hallucination, but ride tired, work on a strategy to keep focused. How will you keep your speed up? Music? What works best?

  • Go exploring

This is awesome, as the days get longer and the race gets closer, take a day off work, and make for a long weekend of riding. I rode from Nottingham down towards Lands-end and back to test my bike and kit, find out what worked and what didn’t. Don’t be afraid to make changes, and test them out.

  • The bike is a tool, you are the engine

I rode a custom WyndyMilla this year, complete with Shimano hydraulics and tubeless tires – it worked superbly well for me. Others rode steel, some rode aluminium. It doesn’t matter. Ride what works for you, it’s far more important to be fit and comfortable on the bike.

Comfort comes from practise, practise takes time, you’ve got 1440 minutes each day to spend. Spend them wisely.


This post originally appeared on the Bikmo Plus website. I’m very grateful for their support over the last year – and can thoroughly recommend the insurance, having used it myself after crashing!

It’s worth checking out the superb and comprehensive benefits a cycle insurance policy with Bikmo Plus will offer you:

Road cycling insurance 

Road cycling travel insurance

Road cycling competition insurance

easy, simple + brilliant cycle insurance = Bikmo Plus

Review: Vulpine Ultralight Quilted Thermal Gilet

For warming up, or warming down, commuting or just plain hanging out and looking good. The gilet absolutely nails it.

Hooray for cold weather, hooray for winter – for when winter comes and brings with it the cold and frosty mornings I can bring out my orange Vulpine Ultralight Thermal Quilted Gilet!

gilet front

For a decade I have used a North Face down gilet, its kept me warm and toasty through snow, through chilly mornings and saturdays watching the kids playing football. But no more.

Vulpine Gilet - casual

A new king is here. It comes in bright, and I mean bright, Dutch Orange – passers-by will comment, but who cares? Not I, because it is so warm and snug, without the bulk of the North Face item.

gilet rear

I’ve been wearing the Vulpine gilet for 10 months now, always wishing it was a little bit colder out to really justify its use, make no mistake, despite the tiny nature of the garment it packs an incredible amount of heat retention – staggeringly so!

It travelled with me as a post-race recovery jacket to Taiwan, and formed part of my kit on the Transcontinental race, where it’s warmth, lightweight and packability came into its own!

This comes from the use of Primaloft Gold grade fill, which I’ve found to be easily comparable with down, but able to dry much quicker. I’ve been wearing shorter jerseys and t-shirts with it due to its warmth. T-shirts? Yes indeed, Vulpine pride themselves on ‘ride and destination’ and the gilet is certainly suitable for destination, either with jeans, trousers or shorts it works sartorially.

Vulpine pride themselves on the details that make the whole come together, and once again this gilet is a great example, every item on it is seemingly ideally placed and purposefully designed.

gilet v

On the bike it has a longer rear to it, covering up the backside and preventing those troublesome drafts, there’s no draw cord to it, but it’s already snug enough to not need it. And because it’s there for commuting, it has reinforced shoulders to keep the bag straps from wearing a hole in your gilet.

I can only really find 2 downsides to the top, and one isn’t really a downside at all. First-up; it’s warm, like really warm – some may find it’s too warm for riding in during the milder weather. You could unzip it, YKK in case you were wondering, but it’s not as aesthetically pleasing when undone, but of course looks aren’t everything. So when the mercury refuses to rise in the mornings then it’s a jolly good reason to break out the gilet!

gilet label

The other quibble? It should really have its own little stuff sack, it packs down incredibly small, I find myself almost shoving it into any cranny in my bag and it seems to fit. A stuff sack would be a nice touch I think.

Day to day it has 2 fleece lined pockets to the front, both with zips. A pocket to the rear, in a nod to its cycling heritage, just enough for a small wallet or phone etc. It also has a zipped-up internal chest pocket, hidden so well that it actually took me 3 weeks to find it!

At £119 it’s a bargain – I wear it nearly every single day, either on or off the bike. It’s stylish, practical, lightweight, washes well – and drys quickly. I love it.

DIY – How to paint your own bike!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Stealth black on black, fluro, primary colours, intricate or chunky; all possible options that help determine the bike we ride. When it comes down to it, consumers will choose a bike as much on it’s aesthetics as it’s technical abilities(shocking I know!), the manufacturers know this, so style their machines within brand guidelines and with an eye on current fashions.

But what if you could choose what you wanted? What if your chosen steed was painted the way you wanted it?There is a growing market for custom painted machines, either as part of the initial purchase of a custom bike, or as an aftermarket personalisation exercise. Some of the paint shops out there are true artisans, creating one-off works of art that are almost too pretty to ride, almost.

When visiting an artist you are limited only by what you can imagine, with flair, panache and a steady hand these folks are able to create almost anything you can dream of. They’ve got the skill, come get your fill.

But I don’t. I was notoriously bad at art at school, the images in my head would be distorted by the time they got to paper.

Obviously it made perfect sense for me to paint my own bike!

I rang up the best bike painter I knew – Stuart over at Ooey Custom – and asked if I could borrow a desk in his paintshop for a couple of days whilst I painted my Transcontinental-racing machine, a custom WyndyMilla Massive Attack, designed for the longer days of continent crossing. He laughed, kindly obliged, but promised me he wouldn’t help, telling me it was going to be all down to me, he would instruct, but not do, I would be on my own…….

So, off I toddled!

Day 1 saw the raw carbon frame being sanded, and then sanded again – taking off the lacquer that it comes with  – it then has a degreaser applied and things can get serious!

The best looking frames quite often need the best designs, whether that’s an artisitic flourish or a classic style, it’s got to look right, and that’s why companies from Rapha to Ray-Ban employ teams of designers, stylists, and user experience people to ensure it all works stylistically. I used me.

My design was in my head, and I very quickly came upon a slight challenge – I didn’t know how to actually make the thing in my head appear on the frame.

No decals were used on the frame, everything is painted by hand, so it all had to be masked off, that is blocking out the bits you don’t want to paint and only leaving the bits you do. And well, it’s quite tricky. I spent hours lining up strips of 2mm wide electrical tape, ensuring that lines were parallel, evenly-spaced, and joining neatly. It was a lot harder than that sentence made it sound!

At this stage I realised I didn’t have the technical skill to do what I had in my head, trying to get 1 line to wrap across 3 tubes (from fork to seat) remaining straight and parallel the whole time and repeatable was way too complicated for me! Plans where changed on the hoof!!!

Base coats of paint were applied, remasked, and the next section repainted, then repeated again to put down the colour foundation – it was like being in the delivery room as each layer of colour was added, bringing my design(!) to life as it did so. Spray painting is an interesting experience, not for me was the tin of aerosol from Halfords, but rather it was all pantone-matched with a tiny nozzle, very intricate, very delicate, and very easy to spray too much in one place (you dry it then rub it off and start again when that happens!) – cursing!!

After all the colours are added, the masking comes off and the frame is there, fully exposed, in its coloured, but matt state – a smile can’t help but come to your face as your realise that you actually did that!

Next up is ‘flatting’, that is rubbing with paper very gently and carefully to remove the edges from the paint work – it’s quite an unnerving process as you are effectively rubbing off paint!

Stencils for logos are applied, a bit of gold sparkle is added to the paint for the logos, just because, and they are filled in.

Lacquer is applied, more fun in the spray booth! Stuart kindly informed me that at this point you can ruin the entire body of work done so far, too much lacquer and you get a run, a big enough run and you can’t correct it, can’t correct it and you have to sand the whole thing down and start again.

Then bake. Exactly as it sounds, put the finished work in a massive oven and wait for it to cook solid. 30 minutes later and you venture into the, now cooled oven, to retrieve your finished frame. It’s a wicked-good feeling, this is the finished article! It’s not perfect, it never was going to be if I did it, but it’s damn good, and it’s mine, and I made it!

I’ve got to admit, it’s actually quite tricky to do this malarkey, and this design was pretty simple! I certainly appreciate the effort and skill that goes into the more complicated paint jobs you may find, and it was fascinating to watch Stuart at Ooey Custom as he was working on the more artistic stuff in the workshop – if you are wanting to refresh your frame then definitely give the guy a call, its cheaper than a new bike!


%d bloggers like this: