Mark V reviews: Light and Motion Urban 850 Trail

Wherever I hear the word “progress”, whether it be a political speech or a product advertisement, I am always a little suspicious. The idea that we are “moving forward” and getting “better” is deeply seductive, and we as a people would do anything to embrace it, even allowing ourselves to be fooled. Politicians and marketing executives know this well, telling people exactly what they need to hear to believe that they are part of a greater cause. Vote for this politician; he’ll make your country better! Upgrade to 11-speed; you’ll ride faster! Use this deodorant; you won’t stink like cheese! But we all need to recognize what is the actual truth behind the lies….the lies people tell us and the lies we tell ourselves. There is no such thing as “progress”; we are merely traveling in circles. There is no “better”, there is just “different”.

Except for headlights. They DO keep getting better. And that’s what should make you really suspicious.

Look at Light & Motion’s Urban 850 Trail headlight. When the L&M Urban series were introduced, I think the brightest models were like 500 lumens (FWIW, Light & Motion quote actual measured output not theoretical values based off of the subcomponents). Now here’s the Urban 850 Trail that burns almost twice as bright for as long or longer, charges faster, and is the same size/weight as the originals. And it only costs $180, which is about the same retail as the originals were like 5 years ago. So if you account for inflation, the Urban 850 Trail costs less than its predecessors. How is that even possible? First, we have to assume that Light & Motion has stepped into a realm of science that dangerously brushes the boundaries that mortal man was never meant to cross. The only rational explanation for this unassailable progress is that Light & Motion has found some manner of extracting energy from a source hereto untapped. Best guess? I’m thinking something like the souls of orphans, but I don’t pretend to be an expert in the laws of California, where Light & Motion Urban headlights are made.

The point is that the Urban 850 Trail is the best yet from Light & Motion. It’s small so it doesn’t take up much room on your handlebar, and it’s low mass means that its stretchy rubber strap can competently keep the Urban 850 from rotating on the bar as you bounce along on singletrack or rough roads. You can also adapt the Urban 850 to other positions (like your helmet) by replacing the handlebar mount with the included GoPro-style mount, or using the strap mount one of L&M’s existing adapters. One small gripe is that the early mounts that came with the 850 swiveled a little too readily, but L&M has already made a running change to the plastic formula to correct this. A change that L&M made last year to the Urban series is the improved waterproof min-USB charge port. The original Urban headlights had a simple rubber flap/plug, but if you liked to sling the light upside-down on your bar to keep the tops clear (like I do), gravity and exposure might work moisture into the casing. All of the newer Urban headlights have a more robust plastic cap with a rubber o-ring that firmly seals the charge port from the elements.

Like previous high-end models in the Urban line, the 850 Trail is a fast charge, taking just 2.5hrs if plugged into a 2A source (6hrs if you’re using one of those crap .5A wall chargers). Unique to the 850 Trail is a smooth rather than faceted mirror that throws a more concentrated beam further ahead, which is important for seeing trail obstacles on an MTB or fast downhills on a road bike. Also, the trademark amber sidelights of the Urban series are a more muted red on the 850 Trail, which is nice yet subtle beacon for riders following you on the trail that isn’t going to affect their night vision.