Ben Horan is a freelance writer and sometimes-guide based in Missoula, Montana, and blogs at thegentlemanatlarge.com (instagram: @thegentlemanatlarge). Photos by Tom Robertson, a photographer out of Missoula, whose work has appeared in a variety of national and international publications.
There’s a thick crust of frost on your windshield in the mornings, now. The sun is setting early and you’ve stopped leaving the house without a puffy. Most people are hanging up their bikes and geeking out on ski gear or racing cyclocross, but you know better. It’s raining more and the trails are tacky. It’s cool in the evenings. The parking lots are clear. Fall is the real mountain bike season. The only problem is that it gets dark at 5pm, but that’s not a problem if you reach for NiteRider’s Pro 1400 Race to light the trail ahead.
Whether you’re pairing it with another light for 24 hour racing at daytime pace or cruising your local singletrack after dark, NiteRider has you covered with this one.
The Pro 1400 Race has a few options for mounting. A screw-clamp with a rubber gasket fits well on a variety of modern handlebars (up to 31.8mm). If your cockpit is cramped with dropper posts and fork lockouts and who knows what else, you might have a hard time finding real estate on the bars. If this is the case you can either a) remove that stupid fork lockout switch, or b) turn to the intuitive helmet mount bracket that comes with this light. The separate Li-Ion battery either Velcros onto the frame or slips easily into a jersey pocket or backpack.
The handlebar mount is quick, easy, and un-obstructive, and the battery pack easily straps onto the top tube of your bike. This lower mounting point does throw longer shadows than when the light is on the helmet, and you can’t see around corners quite as well, but it’s simple, smooth, and functional.
The helmet mount is also quick and intuitive, but the mounting bracket takes a little bit of futzing to get it to throw light in the right direction. I really like that the battery pack is separate, other lights with attached batteries get pretty heavy when you strap them on your helmet, but the cord does require a little bit of management as it runs into your pack. If you don’t ride with jersey pockets or a backpack, you’ll probably want to keep the light on the bike. NiteRider advises against using the light on your helmet while the battery is connected to the bike.
Both mounting options work well, and most riders will find their own preference.
So how bright is a Lumen, anyway? Is 1400 of them a lot? I had the same questions. The trick with lighting is that lumens are a measure of total light output, which can change based on how the light is focused, and doesn’t have a linear relationship with perceived brightness.
For the first part, a good analogy is a garden hose. When you turn on a spigot you can change the way water comes out of the hose by pressing on the end of it with your thumb. You can focus the stream into a point, or let it flow naturally. Lighting is the same way. The lumen count is like the flow of water from the house, and the lens is like your thumb. A light can cast a wider, dimmer field of view or a narrower, brighter focus with the same lumen count.
Also, when comparing lights, one needs to be significantly brighter than the other for the human eye to really notice a difference. Generally, you’ll need to experience a 20-50% change in measured light in order to perceive a significant difference. A 1400 lumen light will probably be indistinguishable from a 1700 lumen light to the naked eye; any differences in perception will probably be a function of how the light is focused.
In fact, I tested the Pro 1400 Race against NiteRider’s Lumina 750 and the difference in light was barely perceptible. I wouldn’t say that the Pro 1400 Race and the Lumina 750 are necessarily comparable products, the race model comes with a high-capacity Li-Ion battery and a suite of mounting options, but as far as basic functionality goes they’re in the same ballpark.
Ultimately, the 1400 lumens that this thing throws are plenty for cruising your local singletrack after work. Most 24 hour racers I know run a pair of lights for the night laps, and this one would really benefit from a second light if you’re riding at race pace. The trails in my part of the world are smooth and fast, and I found myself on the limit of out-riding my light. Having a mount on the bars as well as the helmet also helps to cut down on throwing shadows, and allows you to set up switchbacks a little more smoothly. With that said, for casual trail riding one of these things is more than enough.
One of the reasons that this Niterider doesn’t seem that much brighter than some lower output lights is that the beam focus feels fairly wide. Several riding partners have lights in the 500-700 lumen range with a more intense, narrowly focused beam. The Pro 1400 Race casts a light in about a 45 degree wedge. Most of the light is centered, but the periphery is lit as well. The resulting illumination is a little bit wider than most singletrack that I ride, but very well suited for doubletrack and wider trails.
I especially appreciate the wider angle when the light is attached to the handlebars. It allows for a fair amount of peripheral vision, and helps set up corners that would be blind with a narrower beam. So while at first glance the light isn’t significantly brighter than some lower lumen lights, it definitely lets you see more when things get really dark.
I’m for it. The Pro 1400 Race is plenty of horsepower for cruising trails after dark in the shoulder season. For racing at night or really pushing the limits, I think you’ll benefit from adding a second light, and something like the MiNewt 770 would really complement the Pro 1400 Race well. I was a little bummed at the barely perceptible brightness difference between the 1400 and the much less expensive Lumina 750.
- Pretty dang bright
- Strong battery life
- Not sure it’s the best value
- Battery is bulky