- 4.5 / 5 Bee's Knees -
Not to disappoint the cult-like followers it has adopted, Lezyne holds true to their quality-first brand image with the release of two beautifully engineered lights: the Mega Drive and Deca Drive. It is no coincidence that the photographs for each of these lights were taken at “The Depot,” a museum exhibiting the masterfully engineered locomotives that enabled the industrial revolution and evoked inspiration in people of all ages. Now…I can’t give Lezyne so much credit as to say they are paving the way for a new and prosperous economy with the creation of a mere bike light. However, they just may have gone above the calling to create two new products that not only check all the necessary feature prerequisite boxes but also fill in that magical Scantron oval that rarely sees a scribble: desirability! Both the Mega Drive and Deca Drive lights share many similarities but for the sake of these two reviews, I will associate the Mega Drive model with the optional “loaded box” purchase option which includes an upgraded aluminum mount and extra battery. Either light can be ordered as loaded or standard.
The primary differences between the Mega Drive and Deca Drive models are their emitters, beam pattern and overall output. After owning and testing so many lights over the last 10+ years, I’m always surprised to find that no two companies will produce a product with the same beam pattern. After racking up several commutes with the Mega Drive I really began to understand and appreciate its beam pattern design. This light generates a calculated balance of flood and spot making it one of the most usable lights I’ve tested. At first I greatly preferred the Deca Drive solely based on its wider beam pattern, but again, the balance that the Mega Drive accomplishes drew me into loving this light as well. To bring such a great beam pattern to the table, the use of premium optics and a crystal clear lens was crucial.
Sharing quality materials while differing in optical components, the Deca Drive model targets consumers who are less concerned with owning every possible lumen known to man and more concerned with a practical yet generous beam pattern. Pushing three premium LED’s, the Deca Drive does offer a slightly wider beam pattern than the Mega Drive, particularly with a wider spot, but also overall. Again, the Deca Drive does not emit light with the same reach or intensity that is noticed in the Mega Drive, but the throw of the Deca is still substantial. Additionally, the kelvin or temperature of the Deca is noticeably higher, aka bluer. The Mega appears (purely based on my naked-eye judgment) as a natural white similar to an OEM 4300k HID bulb. In contrast, the Deca has a noticeably blue hue which rivals a 5000-6000K aftermarket HID bulb…consider how the flicker effect of an Acura TL or Nissan Maxima is much bluer than that of many other manufactures HID’s…that’s reflects the difference here.
In both the Mega and Deca Drive models, there seems to be an intent in design to illuminate the edges of the clear front lens to effectively create additional side visibility. Whether this design was intended or inadvertent, I have both praise and protest. Starting with the positive and put simply, side visibility is increased by the illumination of the front lens. As for my criticism, the hood which extends over the emitters is designed to eliminate light from traveling up toward the rider and it does in fact accomplish this. However, the hood does not extend the entire width of the light, leaving about a ½ inch of exposed lens on either side of the hood. This exposed portion lights up with great intensity and creates unwelcomed glare in the riders field of vision. While this doesn’t spoil the excellent of both lights, I would however go to the extent of adhering two small strips of electrical tape over these edges so no light would be directed upwards.
Whether you purchase the load box or standard option, both lights have a hatch door (better term anyone?) at the back of the light housing which makes quick work of swapping batteries or exposing the USB port for charging. As mentioned above, purchasing the loaded box version for either of these lights will provide you with an extra battery which can be easily stowed in a saddle bag and is certainly light enough to even stuff in your jersey pocket. Exchanging a spent battery for a fully juiced one is entirely self-explanatory and fool proof with the offset terminal battery design. Installing the battery upside down will not damage the light but rather cause it to remain inoperable.
I’ll mention again that I have an aversion to the trend of charging large output lights via USB. While it is convenient in some circumstances and works effectively, the charge times are pretty slow in comparison to alternative charging methods. For the Mega and Deca Drive, this charging method almost defeats the purpose of purchasing two batteries since the light itself is used for charging. If a charging dock was employed, you could be cruising around town with your light while tomorrows battery was at home charging. Still, owning a second charged battery is nice for races or long rides. You’ll simply need to have both charged prior to your ride. Both Lezyne lights have charge times comparable with their competitors. To clarify, there are no issues with the USB charging method but I’d like to see a rapid-charge dock to independently juice extra batteries outside the light housing. However, it goes without saying a dock would increase the price point of these light packages and ultimately may not appeal to all users given the added cost.
The importance of a secure mount along with a convenient coupling surface seems to be an easily overlooked design element among manufactures. Thankfully, Lezyne has placed great importance in the design of their mounts and gives you a standard composite-material mount or an optional CNC machined aluminum mount included in the loaded box option. Differences between the two mounts are entirely cosmetic with both offering a vise-like grip on your handlebar. Still, the Al mount is a nice pairing with your machined light housing. Attaching the light to its bar-mount isn’t as fluid or rapid as observed on other lights, notably the Volt 1200, but as a result of these tight tolerances it is no wonder that both the Mega and Deca Drive models had the least vibration of all the lights tested. No beam pattern jitter was noticeable over the most treacherous of roads. With use of nothing more than your bare fingers, you can tighten down the thumb screw and achieve a sufficiently secure joining of the mount to any handlebar. However, for added confidence in rough applications (possibly cyclocross?), a small nut is embedded within the thumb screw so the user can torque the mount with a hex wrench. For my application on Duluth roads, which are neither impassable nor supple, hand tightening of the thumb screw yielded a slip free mating. Although this mount comes close to perfection, there is a less-than-desired margin of play about the yaw axis. During testing, both lights spun roughly 5-10° in either direction under moderate jarring. To a degree, re-tightening the thumb screw improves this, however, once the light is turned/adjusted it seems to loosen the system overall. Lesson…mount and align the light on your bike, torque it down and forget it. If you happen to spin the light (especially to the left) be sure to tighten the thumb screw if it has become loose. The hex nut feature also helps to add extra torque to the system and limits side-to-side movement. But with a carbon bar, anything over 6Nm is likely not advisable and therefore you may have to live with a little lateral movement, all-be-it infrequent. Overall, this minor drawback, which I suspect could be resolved with a larger o-ring or something tacky like rosin, is of little concern in a system that is otherwise excellent.
When I got the opportunity to test both the Mega and Deca Drive models, I was quite excited to see what this quality-centric brand would produce to compete with a broad and established market. What I wasn’t expecting was an aggressive price point compared to that of premium competitors (namely Exposure), let alone to be priced below budget-based lights (True 750 vs Deca Drive). With all features considered, a bike light built to these specifications is certainly a bargain. But for this package to be manufactured and backed by the quality assuring name Lezyne, the bar has been raised and other manufactures are sure to take notice. As to a preference over the Deca or Mega Drive, there is no black-and-white victor. Instead, cyclists with different preferences, primarily in beam pattern, will select the light that best fits their predilections. The Mega Drive offers greater reach and intensity while the Deca provides a bit more flood and a slightly more dispersed spot resulting in a more gradual transition of light intensity from the spot to flood regions. And with pricing only separated by $50, both lights seem to be attainable for similar audiences.