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Lupine Edison 5 review   By Ben Freeman

Lupine Edison 5     RRP £550
The Edison 5 is one of the new breed of ultra high performance bike lights aimed at the serious biker looking for some nocturnal off road fun. This review explains a bit about HID lights, introduces the Edison 5 and explains just how good it is and finally compares it with a cheaper alternative HID light, the Lumicycle HID.

Choosing a light
There are three things which matter: brightness, battery life and size / weight (in order of importance). If it's not bright enough it will compromise your ability to ride off road at night. If it's bright enough but has a one hour burn time, then you're not going to get very far off road before being plunged into darkness in the middle of no-where. Lastly, it's nice if the light and battery are small and compact so it doesn't weigh you down and the pack can sit in the bottom of your camelback as opposed to filling your camelback.

Lupine Edison 5

Why HID?
A Halogen bulb can produce 22 lumen (light output) per watt (electricity input) whereas a HID light can manage up to 60 lumen per watt. So HID lights are 270% more efficient than Halogen i.e. for the same light and battery capacity, they'll last 2.7 times longer. So you can get an obscenely bright light, which is small, compact and has a decent run time. Excluding HID lights, for long run times you're looking at LEDs or dim Halogens and for bright lights you can get very bright Halogen set ups, but they'll only last an hour or so on a 4Ah battery (typical size for a bike).

Why Lupine HID?
I'm going to compare the Edison 5 with Lumicycle's HID light for a good reason. They both use the same 'Solarc' bulb from Welch Allyn (in fact all MTB HID lights use this bulb). The key differentiator is that Lupine have developed their own ballast (the bit which generates the 6000 Volts necessary to get the bulb to start arcing), whereas most of the other manufacturers use a basic ballast from Welch Allyn. With the standard ballast the Welch bulb can produce 500 lumen whereas with the Lupine ballast the same bulb produces 900 lumen (equivalent to a 65 Watt Halogen bulb or a car headlight). So basically the Edison 5 produces 180% more light than the Lumicycle (& Hope etc) HID lights.

To see what this means look at the picture below:

Another advantage of Lupine's custom ballast design, is that their light is a lot more compact than Lumicycle's (in fact they also use a modified bulb housing to keep the complete unit really small). Yet another technical advantage is the ability to dim the HID unit from 16W to 10W, so far the only HID system on the market with this feature. This allows you to eek more life out of the battery by dimming on the climbs and then using 'full beam' for the descents / flat sections where you're going faster and want more visibility. NB A dimmed Lupine is still significantly brighter than the Lumicycle HID.

The Edison 5 is so packed full of features it's hard to know where to start, so I'll briefly cover a few nice touches: Charging is fast (so you can ping-pong two lights on a 24 hour race as it can charge quicker than you can discharge it). The Charger is a work of brilliance in its own right (OK at this point I confess to being an Engineer), it's small, sleek and has an LCD display which tells you how much charge has gone into the battery and what state the battery is in. 

The charger comes with a mains adaptor and 12v car adaptor (very useful for 24 hour races). The on/off switch lights up so you can find it and also has LEDs to tell you battery status and which beam you're using (16W or 10W). It also auto dims to 10W as the battery empties and then auto shuts off before the battery is fully flat, BUT  has a 10 minute reserve capacity you can engage to get you out of trouble if you've cut you're ride a bit fine (read long).

Charger One

The handle bar mount is super simple, a single thick elastic band which fits 25.4mm and 31.8mm bars but doesn't allow for lateral alignment so on riser bars it can end up pointing a bit off centre. This would be a problem if it weren't for the fact that it's so bright it doesn't need to be accurately pointed straight ahead.

Spec comparison: Edison 5 vs Lumicycle HID

  • The Edison 5 costs £550 whereas the Lumicycle HID costs £300.

  • The Edison 5 is on paper 1.8 times brighter but in reality it seems more like 3-5 times brighter.

  • Edison burn times are 3 hours at 16 watt (950 lumen, eqv 65W halogen) & 4 hours 20 min at 10 Watt (500 lumen, eqv 20W halogen). Lumicycle burn time 5 hours at 10 Watts (claimed equivalence of 40W halogen).

  • Edison battery charge time 3 hours. Lumicycle charge time 4 hours.
  • The Edison 5 light & battery weigh 450g vs 655g form the Lumicycle.

Edison 5 and Lumicycle HID

One disadvantage of Lupine lights is that they are not available mail order in the UK i.e. you have to buy them from your local bike shop (I assume because Lupine have banned this as you used to be able to buy them at a significant discount online from Wiggle, etc). So, not wishing to pay full price at my LBS, I bought mine mail order from the USA for £450.

My first decent light set up was the Lumicycle NiMH Halogen system with a 10W spot and 20W flood and this worked fine except that the battery life was only just over an hour. When Lumicycle brought out their HID bulb I bought it straight away to get a 4 hour + burn time out of the same NiMH battery pack. One disadvantage of the Lumicycle HID vs Halogen was that the colour of the light was different and it didn't show detail anywhere near as well as the Halogens did. So even though technically I'd gone from 30W Halogen to 40W HID equivalent, it felt like a downgrade to say 25W, but I still got the better burn time. On my first MTBB Forum night ride I was behind Matt (with the Edison 5) and I was amazed to discover that the Edison 5 was so bright that turning my Lumicycle HID on or off made no difference to how well I could see the trail (even riding behind Matt) as the Edison 5 was just so bright it blew it away (this was in Gwydyr forest at night). At that point I knew I had to get an Edison 5 and I haven't looked back since. I cannot fault the Edison 5 in anyway (except maybe the bar clamp rubber band), it is simply the best light out there.

For more info visit Lupine. To discuss this article visit the Forum.

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