This is a review of Four4th lights.
Who does not like night riding? If you live in the UK and want to ride all year round you really have no option but to embrace it, which means you need to make an investment in some lights.
Now at this point I will lay my cards on the table, I am a cheapskate when it comes to lights. I generally spend £50 to £100 a year on a pair of lights made in the far east. As yet I have not been disappointed with them, but then my expectations have been low. So what does the extra money buy you?
Well, in a word quality. The casings are CNC machined aluminium, beautifully made and very nicely finished and anodised. Even at first glance these are a world away from the cheap extruded casings that I am used to. Looking closer you find that the battery connectors are also a cut above the norm, robust and watertight with knurled metal locking rings, these things are built to last.
Moving on to the battery packs my initial impressions remain good. The battery packs supplied with the cheaper far eastern lights are generally the weakest link and the first part to fail. Often they are made from battery cells recycled from old laptop batteries, crudely soldered together with no protection, then wrapped in heat shrink plastic. I have never had one last more than six months and on one occasion have seen one expand and explode before my eyes. This was so worrying that at the start of last winter I made my own battery backs from components I knew to be safe.
The Four4ths battery packs are different, completely sealed and watertight they have casings made from high quality plastic with built in protection circuitry. They feel like an engineered product rather than a thrown in afterthought. Four4ths offer a large number of battery options from small batteries that mount under your stem to large waterbottle cage mounted solutions, there is something to suit all applications.
Now as I mentioned earlier I have gone through a cycle of buying a new set of lights every year. Often this is down to failed batteries, but there have been occasions where I have thrown lights out due to small failures and breakages, so I was interested in what spares might be available. I was astonished to discover that pretty much every part is available; smash the lens? No problem, bend a connector? Again easy to order a replacement, this is a world away from what other manufacturers offer.
Time to Ride
The combination I am testing is a little different from the normal offering; I have a Holy Moses 7 emitter light for the bars and a 3 emitter Genesis 3-spot for my helmet, however both lights have LEDs that have a distinct green tint to them. Four4ths claim that this helps with reflection and increases definition at night. I was intrigued by this; for years I have ridden at night wearing yellow tinted glasses, could these lights make my yellow Bono wannabe lenses redundant?
First off these things are bright, forget the claims made by far east manufacturers of thousands of Lumens of light for £20, the Four4ths offering is on another level altogether. The Holy Moses is rated at 2900 Lumens max output and on its lowest setting it comfortably outperformed my ‘2000 Lumen’ Chinese specials on their highest setting. I couldn’t help but notice how stable the light appears to be, some of this is no doubt down to the mounting solution. These are machined from Acetal; a tough engineering plastic that is rock solid compared to the standard rubber O-ring solution offered by many manufacturers. But there is more to this, these lights have no perceptible flicker at all, something I have begun to detect with the cheaper sets I normally use.
The beam pattern of the Holy Moses is a little hard to describe, it manages to be wide and floody, while still maintaining a good ‘hotspot’ in the centre that throws the light out a surprising distance. If you should need a different beam pattern Four4ths offer different lens types for different patterns. I found I never needed to use the highest of the three settings. When coupled with the smaller, helmet mounted Genesis three spot they were more than enough, turning the darkest night in the darkest Wiltshire wood into a summers day. If anything the brightest setting was too bright, throwing back reflections and lighting up dust and moisture in the air to a distracting level.
I simply can’t say if the green tinted light these produce makes much of a difference, (this is possibly down to my use of yellow lenses for years) but what I can say is that I prefer the coloured tint of these lights (or the effect caused by yellow glasses) to the harsh unfiltered blue-white light that LED light systems normally produce. My eyes seem to get less tired and I can ride for longer.
So would I spend money on these lights? I have been avoiding talking about costs up to now but this does need to be taken into account. £500, there I said it, this combination I have been using would cost £500, or more depending on options. But despite this I have been genuinely considering opening my Scottish wallet and buying a set. While these are coming in at 5 times what I would normally pay for a set of lights, I am coming round to the advantages of them.
Firstly it is the spares availability and service that comes with these lights; I would expect them to last a long, long time. And when I inevitably smash one on a rock they could be repaired, try sending a Solarstorm X2 back for repair.
Secondly is reliability, all that build quality I have been banging on about translates into a product that gives a real sense of confidence. I would have no worries at all taking these out into the wilds at night, and I can’t say that about any of the Chinese lights I have used.
The final reason to buy these is a little more difficult to quantify. To put it simply these lights gave me confidence; confidence to push a little harder on unfamiliar trails in the dark, confidence that the batteries won’t die in the middle of a ride and confidence that they will last longer than the six months I normally get from a set of lights.
In conclusion If you need a set of lights, and you have the money, then get a set of these and you won’t be disappointed. I really don’t want to give them back.