K-lite Bikepacker Ultra - if it ain't broke fix it anyway.
I tested the K-lite Bikepacker Pro dynamo light some time ago. I was impressed, it was and I believe, still is the brightest dynamo light in the world but time marches on and things change. The Bikepacker Pro has a new stable mate who shares the title of 'the brightest dynamo light in the world' ... it's called the Bikepacker Ultra.
K-Lite Ultra, a very different looking light to the Pro.
Thing is, outright lumens aren't the be all and end all when it comes to lights. Other factors come into play and even the potentially brightest of lights will be an underwhelming disappointment if that potential isn't properly utilised. In the bike light arms race it's something which is all too often ignored and attention directed instead toward a headline grabbing max lumens figure. Fortunately, after my time with the Bikepacking Pro, I think it's something Kerry from K-lite understands completely. I've known for a while that Kerry had ideas and features he wanted to incorporate into a new light but given how good the Pro is, what could he do to make the Ultra better, after all they both produce 1300lm?
What happens where and when.
It's quite obvious that the Ultra isn't simply an updated or upgraded version of what went before. It looks very different because it is very different. Firstly, the single lens has been replaced by three. The two outside ones come on first and I should say that they come on almost as soon as the wheel is spinning with virtually no lag or delay. The one in the middle lights up as speed increases, think of it as a kind of automatic high beam. You'll notice that the centre lens isn't like the others and that's because it produces a longer reaching, tightly focused beam whereas the outers are much more 'floody'.
The aluminium housing has gone, replaced with nylon. It's tough stuff and should remain chip, dent and scratch free for a very long time. Kerry tells me that it's also allowed the light to be built 'inside out' with a semi external heatsink and is now fully potted internally. For us, that means increased vibration and water resistance which of course equals longevity; it may not look quite as pretty as machined anodised aluminium but it's a far more practical choice long-term.
Something you probably won't notice is that the separate 'control box' of the Pro is now integrated into the main light unit. It does simplify things and for anyone who simply wants their dynamo to power a light rather than supply charging power, it makes the Ultra truly 'plug and play'.
It's bigger than the Pro but there's no separate control box ... weight as pictured is 169g on my scales.
You may have spotted the small 'lenses' on each side of the light? Well, these are Kerry's way of trying to keep us all that little bit safer out there while on the roads. Each lights up as the outer emitters do, they're surprisingly bright and add some very welcome 'be seen' rather than 'see by' illumination for anyone who might be approaching from the side. You don't really notice them when you're riding but drivers seem to.
When it comes to mounting, versatility is very much the name of the game. The light comes fitted with a forked mount which is attached to the aluminium heat sink, you then bolt another forked mount of your choice to it and fasten that to the bars or whatever by way of small cable-ties. There's a range of mounts available, so while it may sound a little complicated it allows you to mount the light directly without the need of tape or bits of rubber to pack out the bars. You can also mount the light either way up without effecting the optics; no matter what weird and wonderful bars you're using or how your luggage is placed, you should be able to locate the light with no compromises.
It's very adaptable and you can mount it either way up if that helps.
I did wonder whether the larger and obviously heavier light might try and turn on the bars in use but that thought has proved to be completely unfounded. In fact, it doesn't try to turn or rotate at all and once fitted, it stays exactly where you put it ... granted, the mount isn't quick release but it's secure and completely wobble free which seems like a good trade off to me.
Okay then, I know what your thinking ... yeah, yeah, that's all well and good but just how bright is it? Firstly, let me just remind you that a dynamo light is a different beast to a battery powered light. There isn't a constant and steady source of power; a dynamo light has to contend with differing power levels from virtually nothing to lots and it needs to produce useable light at all points in between. Most dynamo lights have an in-built capacitor who's purpose is to store a certain amount of electricity when the going's good and then release it when there's little or no output from the dynamo ... pushing up a steep hill, waiting at a junction, etc and the Ultra is no different but at times like this, all dynamo lights will appear somewhat dim when compared to battery powered ones.
This is you stopped ... maybe you're eating a pie or something?
At a standstill the Ultra still provides some useable light via it's capacitor / stand-light. The capacitor will provide the required power for quite a while but not indefinitely and over a period of around 20 minutes or so the light will gradually dim unless there's additional input from the dynamo. At low speeds, you will be literally over-shadowed by anyone following with a modern battery powered light but (a) that's just part and parcel of dynamo lights and (b) can be largely overcome with the use of an additional headlight kept in reserve and utilised if or when it's required.
This is you around 18km/h ... obviously going well after your pie.
As things start to speed up and dynamo output increases a quite dramatic change takes place as the full potential of the light is unleashed on the unsuspecting trail ahead. The two outside emitters provide a very wide spread of light that really helps to highlight the edge of the trail, while the centre one throws its beam way out in front to illuminate the trail ahead. They actually merge very well with no step or noticeable gap between the two, leaving you with a deep pool of quite natural looking light to bathe in.
For anyone wishing to use their dynamo to supply both charge and to power lights, you can set the Ultra up with a K-lite bar switch. It can be mounted pretty much anywhere and allows you to switch between lights and charging without plugging / unplugging any wires. You might also be interested to know (I was) that K-lite also now produce their own USB charging / regulator unit and it addresses some issues that can arise when charging iphone, Samsung and Garmin ... those who've gone down this road already will likely know what I'm talking about here.
Finally, if you're not much of a mountain biker and prefer to cycle on smoother surfaces, the Ultra is available as a road / gravel biased model. It shares the same features as this one except the optics are reversed meaning you get a longer, more penetrative beam early on with the broader floody beam appearing as speed increases. I've not tried one but Kerry tells me that although both models have the same 1300lm output, the road version appears brighter at lower speeds. Apparently, it's all to do with the Lux or 'throw' and how our eyes see light ... but that's probably a subject for another day.
If you're in the market for a dynamo powered light with genuine off-road capability, that's largely idiot, crash and waterproof, I doubt there's anything better.
K-Lite is available in the UK from the lovely folk at Travers Bikes and a Bikepacker Ultra will cost you £219 at this moment in time.Thanks to Bearbones Bikepacking for the review of the kLite Bikepacker ULTRA
Another set of Stunning NEXTIE Wild Dragon Carbon Fat Bike rims built up on Hope Technology Ltd Fatsno hubs!
2 really tough cyclocross races at the weekend, first up the Eastern Region event, then the Central League. Both were quite bumpy. I am starting to feel like I am racing, rather than just riding around. I should be fit for the end of the season!
The DIRTi was flawless and looked amazing with the new Nextie rims and Berd spokes.
Rainbow titanium Travers stem - £175 - 80mm
All stock Travers Frames come with a PF30 bottom bracket shell, the benefits are: stiffer bottom bracket area, larger weld areas and the ability to run a EBB in any frame.
I realise you can't please everyone, there are some riders who prefer the security of a threaded BB shell. To please everyone I have invested in some rather nice Park tools T47 BB taps, all Travers frames with a PF30 BB can now be threaded to take the T47 (Chris King invented threaded standard).
Don't worry, there are lots of T47 Bottom Brackets available, not just from Chris King.
To add the T47 threads to any new Travers Bikes frame or to your current Travers bike - £50
So, a bit more detail on what happened at Fort William…
My last 2 trips to Fort William were less than fruitful with both rides at Relentless ending early due to a knee issue caused by a 3-mile run back to the pits due to an irreparable puncture the first time and back issues after 21 hours resulting in retirement last year. So this year not only did I have self imposed pressure of trying to get a 3rd WEMBO jersey, I had the extra pressure of past experience not being very positive.
The plan was get there, get a lap in, relax, eat, find my happy place and race. I was fortunate that work helped support me for the trip, so straight away some of the pressure was off. However, my last day at work was a tough one, nearly pushing me to the point of booking a few extra hours off just to avoid mental meltdown. In the end, I think this helped me not to think about racing and probably did me some favours. At least our trip up the M6 was clear with no traffic what so ever!
Friday was a soggy morning, but a sighting lap was still sorted. This flushed out some issues with a dodgy chain tensioner. Apparently there’s not much call for singlespeed bits around the bike shops in Fort William and the Nevis Range – can’t think why… Even the lad in Off Beat Bikes said he stopped using his after moving to Fort Bill! An old mech was donated from the shops hack bike to get my spare bike up & running. Cheers chaps! The afternoon was spent getting the Lezyne easy-ups in place (thank you Rory) before running & hiding and dinner with Ingrid. Mark finally turned up 6 hours late after a hellish trip from Austria.
Race day arrived, Mark & I dropped the van and kit off early, then ran for home for breakfast in a nice warm holiday house, with the plan being to get back to Nevis Range as late as possible to avoid being dragged into any pre-race, pressure inducing banter. A quick introduction to the Bikeshak lads that were with Andrew Burgess & Team JMC was about as much conversation that I could handle. We had enough time to unload the van and for me to finalise a few things before the start. Perfect – everything was falling into place.
The forecast had looked grim for a few days, but come the start of the race, it looked like the weather might hold off a while, making clothing choice a little easier. The start was relatively frantic, with the first, short lap running up the fireroads to the top of the Whiches Trail. There was the usual shuffling to get a good place in the queue for the long singletrack descent back to the pit area. Last thing I needed at this point was a crash, but first switchback on the Whichcraft descent resulted in the unexpected, kit scattering, head against rock fall down a short stretch of boardwalk. Doh! Slight panic ensued, followed by a few moments to pick everything up, straighten the bars and calm down before getting back on to hit the rest of the descent and try to avoid another crash on the rocks and roots.
The next lap was always planned to be a slightly higher pace, but catching back up with Steve Chapman and Matthew Jones over the next lap gave me a chance to manage my pace for a while, get my head straight and my heart rate back in check before finding the pace I felt could keep me going for the next 23 hours.
The race would all be about riding at my pace for my race, so I had no interest in where I was, who was in front of me or who was chasing me. The next few hours were so different to some of my recent races where I have pushed to be out front. I was swapping places with a few different riders from around the world, but there was no discussion about positions. Jason Miles asked, but seemed amused that I had no idea! I was feeling great. Jon (e3coach.com) had been on the phone to Ingrid to check I wasn’t pushing too hard, but my feedback on average heart rate seemed to settle him. My brothers constant reminders about pace were a good reminder of the plan each time I came through the pits.
Darkness set in, Exposure Lights came on, rhythm was well settled and my TraversBikes.com Angus-II was running smooth and problem free. The rain threatened a few times before midnight, but it wasn’t until after the witching hour that it really kicked in… The wind started picking up, to the point where at times, the rain couldn't have been far off horizontal. At least the last kick up to the highest point on the loop had the wind on our back taking the sting out of the final bit of climbing each lap.
It wasn’t until 15 hours that my riding kit needed to be changed. The cold had started to seep in and the dry kit was much needed. Thanks to Mark for effectively helping me get changed as my hands were so cold I was struggling to grip anything. The pre-soaked porridge & dates went down a treat. Chain was lubed (the pre-impregnated Squirt Cycling Products chains take a lot of abuse before needing lube), lights checked, cockles were warmed, feeling came back into my hands and I was back out after 20 minutes. A few hours in the rain had me chilled to the core, so a rain jacket was applied rather than dry kit, the theory being boil in the bag rather than constantly chasing dry kit and long stops.
By 5am there seemed to be a dip in the number of people out on course, with one lap seeming particularly lonely. Normally you can always see lights, but this lap was very quiet! The race was clearly becoming a seriously mental battle as well as the physical challenge a 24-hour race presents. It had also been dark for close to 11 hours now, with still 2-3 hours to go before it could be described as light. I was grateful for the support and encouragement from my pit team, but also from the Exposure boys and those still up and about in the pits (thanks Tom & Mark).
19 hours in was the first time Ingrid & Mark had asked me if I wanted to know what was going on in terms of positions. My muddled head took a moment to compute that they thought there was something I needed to know. This was when I first knew I was lead singlespeed and that Paul Renshaw was snapping at my heels about ¾ of a lap behind me. Enough info to get me head down to ensure he know I wasn’t backing off.
Come daybreak I had started getting the feeling that my brake pads were about to hit their limits of wear as I could hear the squeal spring just starting to touch the disk when the brakes were applied. At just before 8am I went for a bike swap, with the plan being to get the pads changed by the Bikeshak guys over the next lap and swap back on the following lap. However, the bike swap instantly showed the spare bike still had an issue with the china alignment and with a pedal stroke I was off and grabbing back the main bike. The next lap was ridden without touching the rear brake unless really necessary – certainly a good way to regain focus and concentration so far into the race.
Arriving back in the pits was amazing - Ben Benjamin Othen & Luke Sprout Verheyden had been waiting for me for close to an hour ready to change my brake pads. 6 minutes for a pad and wheel change – super slick! This really put Ingrid under pressure to get more porridge warmed up and down my neck while mark did his best to keep me warm.
The last few hours were about managing the gap and taking care. As I rolled through the pits for the last time, the message from Mark was clear – go careful, go for something close to an hour to seal the deal. It wasn’t until I rolled across the line at 24hours 7minutes of riding that I found out that as well as first singlespeed, I was also third overall and first Brit back. All I could do was laugh – I simply could not believe it, what a way to end a race that had felt such a long time coming.
The first time I went to Fort William, my initial impression was that this was my kind of course. WEMBO-18 confirmed that was the case.
So, last but not least, thanks to everyone who has stood by me this year and supported me after my back issues at the end of last season and DVT diagnosis earlier this year and loss of a big chunk of this seasons racing: TraversBikes.com, e3coach.com, Exposure Lights, Lauf, Fibrax Limited, Precision Hydration, VeeTireCo UK, Squirt Cycling Products, Lezyne, Upgrade Bikes, Velotech Services Ltd, Physiobikefit & Mudhugger
Thanks also to the team at No Fuss Events and Russ Baker & WEMBO for a great event, and Anthony Pease for the images.
Now, just enough time to get ready for Lap of My Mind - a very different challenge!
Congratulations to Steve Day Travers Bikes Ambassador who became WEMBO Singlespeed 24hr World Champion riding his Travers ANGUS. Not only that he came 3rd overall!
Stunning ride, extremely proud, the conditions were extreme even by Scottish standards but the bike didn't miss a beat, just needing replacement brake pads.
Pre-Order only Travers Team Jacket, closing Monday 22nd for delivery in 6 week.
Travers Bikes Team Autumn Jacket
Colours: Black. fluro Orange and Blue
Zipped rear pockets,
Reflective Elements on rear
The new kLite Bikepacker Ultra Road/Gravel and MTB plus the stealthy Bikepacker Pro V2 are all ready to ship.
The pre-ordered Road/Gravel Ultras are all on their way to customers!
A Few Questions I get asked about kLite Products
Whats the Difference between the Bikepacker Ultra Road/Gravel and the MTB version?
There is only one difference:
The Road/Gravel Light has 2 main beams and 1 Spread beam.
The MTB Light has 1 Main beam and 2 Spread beams.
Is the Road/Gravel Light legal on the Roads?
Yes everywhere in the worlds except Germany.
Why buy a Bikepacker Pro V2 now the Ultra is out?
Both the Pro V2 and Ultra produce the same amount of lumens 1300, the main difference is the Pro V2 is much more compact, the standby battery is external of the light meaning you can tuck it under the stem etc when space is tight or you want a more aero cockpit. The Ultra has the standby battery built into the main head unit.
Does the kLite work straight out of the box?
It depends on the setup you already have, you will obviously need a dynamo to power the light, you will also need a way to connect the kLite to the dynamo, you do this via either of the kLite Switches Handlebar or Topcap.
Can I run a kLite upside down?
Yes, no problem, the beam pattern is the same either way up.
Is the kLite really Plug and Play? with other Dynamos I needed to Solder and heat shrink the cables
Yes, Plug the switch directly into the hub, the cable comes pre-fitted with either SON or SP/Shimano connections. Plug the Switch directly into the kLite Ultra or Pro V2. The kLite USB Charger is also the same, the Plug is already fitted, simply plug this straight into the kLite switch.
HAND BUILT TITANIUM FRAMES.