MBA PRODUCT TEST: OUTBOUND LIGHTING

We put Outbound Lighting's Trail Evo and Hangover combo to the test

Outbound Lighting started in 2017 with a small but passionate Chicago, Illinois-based team focused on bringing the next generation of bike lighting systems to riders. Its founder, Matthew Conte, has a diverse background that spreads into the rally car world, fighter jets and even designing roller coasters. Co-owner Tom “Danger” Place is a former R&D manager for Cree Lighting, who is a well-known leader in the LED design industry. After seeing what was in the current market, both were convinced that they could develop and build a better lighting system. Sure, they both love the thrill of riding bikes, but ultimately, these two wanted to go above and beyond with a well-thought-out engineering approach to their products.

Beyond the simple battery indicator to keep you informed, there is a safety net in every mode. This gives the rider a 20-minute reserve and will power down the light systems to Low mode when the battery reaches 5 percent.

Tech features: Looking at the tech that’s packed inside, let’s start with some of the unique development tools being used. Each light is hand-built right in Outbound Lighting’s Chicago warehouse. Outbound uses a combination of programs to meet their standards for a bike lighting system. LucidShape (lighting design software) is used to develop automotive-grade optics and adjust potential beam patterns. At the same time, SolidWorks (3D design program) is used to develop custom hard parts, while Eagle (an electronic design automation software) then lays out the circuit board designs. Bottom line, no matter the lumen output, you cannot have a great light without properly designed optics. Yes, it needs to be bright, but precision optics and battery run-time are more important than a light’s intensity. This is precisely why a “lumen output number” is not Outbound Lighting’s primary focus.

Both the Hangover and Trail Evo use blended TIR (total internal reflection) optics with a beam shape intended to diminish what Outbound refers to as “round hot-spot edges.” This design redirects portions of the beam to where you need it most to create a smoother beam pattern. Some lights give riders tunnel view, while the Trail Evo and Hangover creates a wider, softer spread of light for improved peripheral vision. Both options feature an Adaptive mode (approximately 1.8 hours for Hangover, 2.6 hours for Trail Evo) that provides the most output possible while gradually tapering down in power as you ride. This gradual taper allows you to ride at maximum power straight into a ride. Along with that, both of these lights share a USB-C quick-charging port. With the Hangover, you can get an hour of runtime in just 30–40 minutes with a compatible charger and a nearly full charge in around an hour thanks to standard USB-C. The Trail Evo is not as quick to charge as the Hangover (single 18650 battery versus two 21700 cells); however, it can provide an 85-percent charge in just under three hours. If that is not enough, the both options can even be plugged into an external USB power bank while in use. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the tech involved, but this covers the main points before we put this combo to the test.

Outbound Hangover Output

Each design centers around a high-quality beam pattern rather than big lumen outputs.

 

Outbound Trail Evo Output

Although it isn’t the lightest choice on the market, riders will be hard-pressed to find another light with 37.0 watt-hours at only 275 grams for the unit. Say goodbye to external battery packs!

Field test results: Most of MBA’s wrecking crew is made up of riders who don’t mind reaching to switch modes to save power and be efficient. If you like to “set it and forget it,” then you’ll fancy the Adaptive mode. For climbing speeds, the Trail Evo in the lowest setting (approximately 8.5 hours of run-time) had plenty of output to allow us to stay in control. If we felt like more light was needed, we would then run the Hangover on our helmet in the low setting (approximately 9.5 hours of run-time) as well. There were times we left the Hangover off until hitting the downhill, though, since the Trail Evo on our handlebars provided enough output for us to feel safe.

When fast-paced downhills/singletrack were in order, we’d typically run both lights at medium (approximately. 2.8 hours for Hangover, 4.2 hours for Trail Evo) while alternating between that mode and High on the Hangover. For heat management, a noteworthy, clever and claimed industry-first design comes into play with the Trail Evo. The housing has ventilation that allows air to literally flow through the light and behind the LEDs. Genius! Even at lower speed in the High setting (approximately 1.1- hours for Hangover, 1.7 hours for Trail Evo), both the Trail Evo and Hangover remained cool to the touch.

Overall, the Outbound Lighting package we tested has changed our preconceived notions of what a bike lighting system should be. We realize that they are not the lightest options on the market, but let’s face it, riding at night requires the right tools for the job when your safety is on the line.

We think that there is a strong center point beam with the Hangover helmet light, yet it emits just enough soft flooding for a rider’s peripheral vision. Given the Hangover uses a GoPro mount, it is versatile and can also be put to use elsewhere. Sitting front and center of the handlebars, the Trail Evo design is reminiscent of a world rally car cluster. This light uses a robust quick-release system that can be easily operated, as we tested with thicker cold riding gloves in the wet. We didn’t realize how familiar we’ve become with other options on the market that tend to create the spotlight and tunnel effect on our local trails until putting the Outbound Lighting to the test. The Trail Evo has an impressively wide and evenly lit main beam direction that continuously fades beyond 180 degrees around a rider’s view.

While we recommend using the combo, most casual night riders can get away with the quality of light on the medium setting of the Trail Evo. If you are a rider who enjoys night adventures, look no further for a lighting system to keep you safe and confident on the trail ahead.

HITS:

• Optics and beam pattern

• Easy-to-read battery indicator

• Simple quick-release mounts

• Well-thought-out and researched

MISSES:

• High-performance optics and design come with slightly more weight than other riding lights

STAR RATING:

★★★★★

Weight: Trail Evo (W/mount and accessory clamp) 316g; Hangover (W/GoPro mount attached) 127g

Price: Trail Evo $245; Hangover $125

Contact: www.outboundlighting.com

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