The dark and short days are truly upon us prompting the need for a quality set of bike lights. We put the Moon Vortex Pro and the Moon Nebula to the test.
By Samuel Dixon
Establishing themselves in 1996, Moon has since cemented a respected reputation in the bike lighting market. For riders like ourselves that continue to train on mixed terrain through the Winter months, the lights we equip our bikes with must tick all the criteria. 2017 saw an impressive addition to the Moon light range, introducing USB rechargeable and external battery options for a broad cycling audience.
In a market that’s saturated by choice, it’s the little things that count. The Moon Light Vortex Pro and Nebula are presented in a neatly arranged box, allowing you to gain a full 360° perspective of a particular light without taking it out of the package – nice touch.
Let’s get down to the basics – the Moon Vortex Pro now delivers up to 900 lumens from a Cree XML LED through a steady beam, which covers an 84° beam angle. There are 4 different settings in the beam mode, 3 different settings for steady flashing modes, a day flash setting and lastly, one that certainly impressed us, an SOS flash pattern. The wide spectrum of options certainly indicates enough choices for all riding styles. If you manage to utilise all of these modes in your riding activities (perhaps apart from the SOS mode for your sake…), then we tip our hats to you.
Getting to Grips
Enough chit-chat, time to open up what on paper sounds like a promising piece of equipment. The Vortex Pro is accompanied with straps to attach the light to either your helmet or handlebars, plus a USB charger cable. For the purpose of this test we’ve stuck to mounting it on the handlebars. The light straps on to the handlebars with ease, in our case, using the second tightest loop to keep it firmly attached to the handlebars (Cannondale C3 Compact). Giving the frame a shake sees no wobble from the light, it’s firmly on there.
To fire up the Vortex Pro just click the power button once. Turning on the light will bring you back to the mode you last left it in, or using for the first time, a steady beam. The beam illuminates the un-adopted, streetlight-free road this ride begins on. Pressing the power button once will cycle through the settings, in this case, the steady beams. Unlike a lot of lights, the Vortex Pro’s mode indicator displays different colours (blue, green, purple and red) to inform you which steady beam you are using, rather than you having to cycle through the range until you think you’re at the brightest/lowest.
This next step just requires some simple mathematics. Hold the power button for two seconds and the light will change modes to the range of flashing settings. Make sure you hold the button for two seconds as holding it for just one second will turn the device off completely… The colour indicator hierarchy applies the same to the flashing settings, but the colours flash on the top of the device, rather than a block colour. The only difference is once on the SOS setting, the mode indicator will flash red and green. The clear indications by the mode indicator ensures you won’t be flashing an SOS signal at every passer-by when going to collect your morning pastry and coffee on your early morning commute.
Next up, taking the Vortex Pro out where it really counts. We utilised the mode range taking it on routes including technical country lane descents, flat, fast main roads, back alley hill climbs, morning commutes and dusky day rides (talk about versatility!). When navigating winding, pot-hole ridden descents, a quality front light offering you optimal vision is paramount. Even with local knowledge of the real terror spots, the 900 lumens delivered by the Vortex Pro was essential. For those who do not want to compromise on descending at speed, the light shone the way warning of upcoming pot holes, yet not blinding oncoming traffic. As much as being able to see what’s ahead, it’s equally as important to be seen by drivers. Our test passed junctions where drivers were looking to join the main road. We’re glad to say there were no near misses, nor even a slight creeping forward of the cars before seeing the light of the Vortex Pro – thumbs up. The commute took us from the roads and on to shared cycle and pedestrian paths, where we took the chance to utilise the flashing modes. Again, the light was effective in warning oncoming cyclists and pedestrians – no head on collisions. A brief use of the daytime setting seemed to provide extra visibility, although this one is slightly harder to measure without attempting to hail down drivers and interview them…
Taking the guessing game out of front lighting, the Vortex Pro combines its mode indicator with a battery power indicator, ensuring you don’t get stuck out in the sticks. The battery is a Panasonic Li-Po 18650 3350 mAh, which we found easy enough to find by unlocking the battery cover if a replacement is required. To recharge the light, simply pop open the tab on the base of the device and plug in the USB cable provided. The battery indicator will also show the amount of power as it increases if you only have the time for an emergency charge.
The Moon Vortex Pro 900 lumen is clearly a versatile light through the range of cycling situations we put it through. The steady beam meant we could still safely continue evening hill climb training sessions, early morning commutes and dusky evening leisure rides providing visibility ahead and to surrounding traffic. Once you’ve got the hang of remembering how to change modes and turn the device off (we’re not that slow – the process is slightly different on the rear light), the only drawback we could find is the power button can occasionally be awkward to press with full contact when wearing Winter gloves, but that’s nothing a well-earned drinks/snack stop to quickly amend the setting can’t solve, before speeding on in the light of the Moon…
We accompanied the Vortex Pro with the Nebula rear light (don’t they all just have great names?). The Nebula produces up to 180 lumens, and a lot like the Vortex Pro, offers a range of modes. The one-piece COB LED is powered by an 800 mAh Li-PO battery, which is USB rechargeable. The Nebula covers a total angle of 270° utilised through 4 beam modes, 3 steady flashing and a day flash mode.
Open up the Nebula and you will find an array of accessories to attach the light to your bike. The light can be attached in one of three ways: using the saddle rail mount, a seatpost mount or using the belt clip mount. For this test, we used the seatpost mount (Cannondale C3) which sat nicely underneath the saddle bag. Giving the frame another shake, there was minimal trembling from the Nebula.
Got Your Back
Pressing the power button once brought the Nebula to life and to its default beam mode. One thing that allows you to get moving quick with the Nebula is the Mode Memory Function. If you find yourself favouring one mode across all your rides, the light will remember this and when you next come to saddle up, it will return to your preferred setting. Press the power button again to cycle through the beam modes. Now, this is where the Nebula’s process of changing between the modes differs to the Vortex Pro (easy as pie once you remember which process belongs to each light). Double click the power button to toggle between the beam and flashing modes – simple enough?
Putting It Through the Paces
We generally preferred the flashing modes of the Nebula when putting the light to the test. Taking it on the different routes put it through a range of scenarios. When navigating twisting country lane climbs, it’s essential to be seen from distance. The likelihood of being overtaken on these longer climbs is fairly high, requiring a warning for upcoming drivers. The Nebula fulfilled its purpose, being able to hear traffic slow as it approached and giving plenty of room when over taking, when previous experiences have resulted in the tooting of horns and close passes. Likewise, when it came to commuting, those cyclists in a rush were able to see the brightness of the Nebula and safely overtake.
The Guessing Game
Cyclists do not want to be caught out by battery life on either of their lights, and despite the limited space on the Nebula, Moon have still managed to incorporate a battery indicator. Just above the power button, a light will show in blue to alert you of the battery running low. Similarly to the Vortex, reverse the Nebula to find the USB port. Lift the rubber cover and plug in for your next ride.
The Moon Nebula is a great accompaniment to the Vortex Pro that we felt safe with when either training on the road or commuting. Cars and riders alike could see the upcoming cyclist from distance, allowing a safe over take. The range of modes suit a wide spectrum of cyclist preferences and the incorporation of a battery power indicator is useful in telling you when it’s time to quickly pop it into a USB port to recharge.