One of the unique things about Adventure Racing is that even "moderate" length races see us racing in the darkness. National Championships will see a team needing lights for the entire night. Progress to an Adventure Racing World Series race and you'll be needing lights to last you for many many nights. Furthermore, the race never stops for conditions, so your lights better be up for extreme situations. Ok, yeah most lights can handle some rain pretty well, but race enough and it will not be uncommon to have your headlamp "swimming" underwater (or just sitting in boat bilge) for hours at a a time. Or pulled from your head in a violent manner during intense bush-bashing.
Look, I'm not trying to convince you that these things are fun (well actually I think they are!), but more that they will happen, and your lights better survive and thrive in these environments, even if your body and emotions fail. The complete darkness that comes from a failing light will just make the hard parts nearly impossible.
We've used all the lights over the past 2 decades, from systems that cost over $1500, to uber cheap-o ones. And through it all, we keep coming back to Fenix Lights.
They strike a perfect balance between brightness, extreme durability, burn time, simplicity (no cords), and light weight. We love our lights as self-contained units, and love having readily available and inexpensive spare batteries. And for our primary headlamp, we required that it be a IPX 68 waterproof rating (which means it can handle serious submersion for over 30 minutes, and fine dust and dirt)- which is a bit hard to find. But Fenix has it all.
Wanna know how to do it? We'll tell you exactly what and why we use what we do.
Bend Racing’s 2023 complete lighting set-up for all adventure racing (including expedition racing) for under $300
AR light systems vary across the board, and we’d tried so many over our two decades of racing. For 2023 we’ve returned to a brand that we’ve loved over the years, but moved away from sometimes due to other sponsorship opportunities. Truthfully, we actually turned down several other lighting companies this year to simplify our system across the entire team, and add a level of extreme durability that was not possible with many/most other brands. As an added bonus, the entire system (helmet, bike, headlamp, rear bike light) including extra batteries comes in at less than $300 if you use our discount code.
But first, lets get to a few constraints that we used when choosing our system.
Headlamp and helmet light needed to be IPX 68 - essentially totally bombproof. Which means any charging port must be totally waterproof. Those little rubber caps don’t cut it for AR. And lets face it, race enough and your light will be submerged in water for a long time at some point.
No cords. These fail. Don’t believe me? Lucky you, but EVERY season we’ve used a corded lights something gets messed up. The third place male at MTB world championships was using a big brand super bright corded light - failed when the cord got yanked to hard in a battery swap. Luckily Chelsey had an extra light for him….
Non-proprietary rechargeable batteries. We like spare batteries that do not cost an arm and a leg. So we can get lots of them, and buy them online easily. These lights all use either the 18650 or 21700 lithium batteries, which are the same cells that are used in Tesla cars!
Lights must be able to recharge without a special charger. Sure a 4 battery charger is nice, but if you forget it, we need to be able to charge the light/battery natively in the light itself…but see #1…as rechargeable lights that have IPX 68 are rare.
Smart light management. We wanted lights that have a linear/flat light curve. Light run times are notorious for “cheating the specs” by listing the
total time. For example, many light might list their high mode as being 400 lumens, and lasting 40 hours. But what this really means that the light will still be burning after 40 hours, but not necessarily anywhere close to 400 lumens. By only choosing lights with published light curve data, we are able to find a light that has even lighting for a long duration. We can accurately understand the lights limitations, and manage that (for the most part) to make its through each night (or several nights) without a single battery switch.
Ok, enough with that. Here is our system, built entirely out of Fenix lights.
Headlamp: Fenix HM60R rechargeable ($79.95)
Helmet light: Fenix HM60R rechargeable ($79.95), we remove the headband and mount it too our helmets
Bike light: Fenix BC26R rechargeable ($89.95)
Rear bike light: BC05R Rechargeable taillight ($19.95)
Each light includes a battery, but we like to have 2 spare 21700 batteries for the bike light ($24.95 each), and 5 total spare 18650 batteries for the HM60Rs ($9.95 each for the 2600mAH, $24.95 for the 3500mAH). WE love the Fenix batteries cause they have been dependable and we trust the ratings, but cheaper batteries are readily available on the internet, just check their ratings to make sure they are legit, and always look for a “protected” battery to help avoid overcharging or overheating.
So the whole system cost if you use the code BENDRACING on the fenixlighting.com site is:
This includes the headlamp, helmet light, bike light, rear bike light, 2 spare 21700 batteries, and 5 spare 18650 batteries. And to think, we used to spend more that that on a single light!!!!
We mostly keep our bike light in low or med mode, saving the high or turbo for downhills. But the med level of 150 lumens last for 11 hours which is plenty for most flat or uphill riding, and even enough for much moderate single track or downhill in a pinch, and the 1600 lumen turbo mode is so great for ripping down after those big AR uphill grinds. We usually just change the battery preemptively going into each new night bike session.
Same goes for the headlamp/helmet light, which will last for an entire night or more with a steady 350 lumens that lasts 8 hours, or a steady 130 lumens that lasts over 18 hours! Yowza. I've done several expeditions now without ever changing batteries. I keep waiting for it to go flat and it rarely does! Best feature of this particular headlamp is the "stride frequency" intelligence. Start running faster, and the light increases in brightness up to 150% of the chosen level. Slow down and it decreases down to 70%. Pretty cool, and you'll hardly notice it - mostly just to realize that the downhill mountain run you just started after getting that CP at the saddle feels fast, fun, and not sketchy at all.
Ok, enough writing - time for me to charge up the batteries and head out to Expedition Ozark!