Review – Speedwolf 1500 Lumen Bike Light

Speedwolf IV MTB Light

Arwoo! Wolves are endurance predators, hunting by running their prey to the ground. The Speedwolf IV is aptly named, given its claimed runtime of just over five hours at full power. This is an impressive boast for a light with an output specified as 1500 lumens – particularly given that it retails for a mere $179!

So will the Speedwolf IV help you hunt down your prey out on the trail? To put them to the test, I rode with two Speedwolf IVs on a mixture of MTB single track, paths, and roads throughout the winter, culminating in the Mont 24-hour mountain bike race in late October.

 

What’s in the box?
The Speedwolf IV comes packaged neatly into a soft zip case that is perfect for travel (two lights and batteries will fit into a single case, along with a single charger and helmet mount, if packed carefully). Along with the light and battery, the retail package includes a helmet mount, power adapter, extension cable and several rubber loops for the mounting system, along with warranty and manual cards.

Speedwolf in the box

Speedwolf Unboxing

Nearly all trail lights on the market use a similar mounting system, a plastic and rubber mounting surface on the light body with hooks for a thick rubber band to wrap around the handlebar or helmet mount point. They do, however, vary wildly in quality. The Speedwolf mount is nicely engineered, with a couple of nice additional touches: the hook at the back of the light has a notch on either side for the rubber band to sit in, preventing it from falling off when the light is removed. The included bands are very tough and have held up to dozens of installations without any visible nicks or noticeable stretching. The only negative point is that the rubber lining on the mount doesn’t quite cover the entire plastic mounting surface. This led to a very slight rub mark on my carbon handlebars, but further rubbing was easily avoided by adding a section of inner tube between the mount and bars.

Speedwolf 4 cree lumens

Speedwolf bike light battery

The helmet mount is attached using two straps, secured using plastic clips rather than the usual Velcro. This allows the straps to be tightened a little more easily, however it does mean that any excess strap has a tendency to flap around, so trimming the straps is a good idea.

Speedwolf bike light helmet mount

The battery is encased in a rubber housing and attached to the bike using a fabric case with a wide Velcro strap. There are more well thought-out design features here; the strap is long enough and has sufficient Velcro to attach to anything from a narrow stem to a thick carbon top-tube, and it has a soft, brushed finish on the inside to prevent marking the frame. It is further secured with a strap and quick-release clip.

Finally, the light head unit itself is sleekly machined from “aircraft grade aluminium” featuring “an abrasive resistant sleek black finish”, with a sleekly-integrated mount on the bottom and a single push button switch at the rear. Speedwolf claim that both the light and battery are water resistant, though recommend against immersing either in water – more on that shortly.

 

In the wild
Wolves aren’t domesticated animals, so their behaviour in the test lab is meaningless compared to their performance in the bush and backstreets. To test the Speedwolf IVs thoroughly, I mounted one unit on the handlebars on either side of my stem and hit the trails. The back-sweep of the bars aimed them slightly outwards, but the widely and evenly diffused beam of the Speedwolf lights overlapped to give a clear view of the path ahead, spilling to more subtly light the terrain on either side of the track. The evenly diffused beam highlighted the details of the track, showing rocks, roots and other obstacles as clearly as in daylight.

Speedwolf Low Power Lights

Speedwolf Light High Power Demo

While the light output is bright (1500 lumens is a lot), the very wide spread of the beams is not dazzling and doesn’t lead to the ‘tunnel vision’ effect common to cheaper high-powered lights with poorer optics. To give you feel for what I mean, when I was running the Speedwolfs, I teamed them up with a cheap eBay 1800 lumen light mounted on my helmet. Focusing the 1800 lumen light on the foreground actually reduced my ability to ‘read’ the trail and pick lines, as the hotspot ‘flattened’ the trail rather than showing rocks and roots. On the twisty and familiar trails of the Yarra Singletrack, I found that turning the helmet light off entirely and relying solely on the two handlebar-mounted Speedwolf IVs worked surprisingly well. However, when I had an accidental opportunity to test this theory at the Mont, the faster and more technical trails demanded better line selection and I lost time over my other night laps; pairing the bar mounted lights with a helmet-mounted light is recommended. I eventually settled on running the 1800 lumen light on ‘low’ mode – a compromise between distance vision and creating that ‘tunnel vision’ effect of a very bright, narrow beam.

Speedwolf MTB Night Ride

I also tried running one Speedwolf light each on the handlebar and helmet, but found the output too low to be sufficient at speed. Both lights really needed to be focussed on the same spot to light the trail adequately, so the benefit of a separate helmet light in scanning the trail further ahead was lost. The battery was also quite bulky in my jersey pocket – the price of a long runtime – and mounting it to the back of the helmet would be uncomfortable.

 

Hit the road, Jack
On the road, the Speedwolf IV inspires confidence, although one driver complained that the single light was dazzling in her rear-vision mirror. If you’re using it often on the road or path, a shade or diffuser would be recommended. The diffused beam doesn’t provide particularly good long-distance light, however, so mountain descents at speed should probably be avoided. I double-pinch-flatted when I hit an unseen and unidentified object on a road descent, but fortunately it was at a relatively low speed and I managed to stay rubber-side-down. (I wouldn’t blame the light for this however, as I was rolling along a narrow shoulder to allow cars to pass and the obstacle was likely hidden amongst other debris).

Speedwolf commuting mtb bike lights

The Speedwolf’s water-resistant claim was also put to the test on the road when I was caught in a sudden and very heavy Melbourne downpour; I noticed that the light was flashing with an irregular pattern, rather than its usual slow blink. The following day the light failed to switch on at all, and a small amount of condensation could be seen inside the lens. Removing the rubber cover from the switch allowed the water to evaporate during the day, and the light has operated flawlessly since, including surviving other wet and muddy rides with no water ingress. The lights also survived extremely dusty conditions at the Mont without any dust making it past the switch seal – quite a feat, as I still feel as though I have some Canberra dust in my lungs four weeks on.

 

Running ’em to the ground
Runtime. This is the Speedwolf IV’s claim to fame, and its key difference from its predecessor, the less-impressively named Bike Ray IV, and its competitors. The battery level is easily monitored via the colour of the power button – green meaning over 75%; blue 25-75% and red below 25%. When the battery is critical, the power light starts flashing, followed by the light itself and then, finally, darkness.

Speedwolf bike light battery mount

Speedwolf handlebar mount

On my first run-down test, a five-hour mountain bike ride, both batteries were fully discharged just inside five hours’ use, mostly on the highest power setting. After a few more recharge cycles, a night-time road fondo ride yielded a runtime of close to six hours using a mix of high, low, and flashing modes. At the Mont, neither light dipped far below 75% during my three one-hour night laps, though I did visit the charging tent to quickly top up the batteries between each lap.

 

Ranking
Value: 4.5/5
Quality: 4.5/5
Performance: 4/5
Overall: 4/5

Pros:
• Widely diffused beam helps ‘read’ the trail
• Exceptional runtime
• Quality design and build
• Weather resistant

Cons:
• Not completely waterproof
• Mount can rub bars
• Not great for illuminating longer distances

 

Conclusion
Casual mountain bikers and path riders might find that a single Speedwolf IV light is sufficient for their needs, giving more than adequate light output for lower speeds, with exceptional runtime. For more serious riders, two Speedwolf lights paired with a bright helmet light using a moderately narrow beam would be a near-unbeatable setup at an affordable price, with sufficient battery power to ride a solo 24-hour race without charging if not run constantly at full power.

Excellent build quality and a ‘just right’ feature list rounds out an excellent package; if I were in the market for trail lights, the Speedwolf IV would be at the top of my shortlist, nipping at the heels of its much pricier opposition.

Online: www.speedwolf.com.au



Product Details:

2014 Speedwolf IV 1500 Lumen (RRP $ 179)

Related: Sprockt

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About The Author

is a mountain biker, a roadie and a commuter cyclist.

4 responses to “Review – Speedwolf 1500 Lumen Bike Light”

  1. Dave the Blunt says:

    This would appear to be one of the hundreds of variations all coming out of the same manufacturer. You will probably find it among the 503 similar lights available for $20-$50 from DealExtreme. Why anyone would pay $180 escapes me…

  2. M@ says:

    Not sure about that at all Dave – Speedwolf manufacture and retail the lights themselves, so a case of comparing apples and oranges I’d suggest. Of course it’s possible that the factory also sells unbranded units to other customers – but equally possible that other manufacturers make copies.

    Having gone through my share of DX lights, none have impressed in terms of quality and all have had reliability issues eventually landing them in the ‘stuff that doesn’t work but I don’t want to throw away just yet’ drawer 😉

    Aside from the design and build quality (and actually living up to the claimed light output and battery life), I’d suggest dealing with a reputable local company is a benefit in case a warranty claim is needed. I’ll post an update if I ever actually need to test this theory!

    Matt

  3. Dave the Blunt says:

    Hey Matt, yeah, they’re all good points – if they’re true.

    Trouble is, the lights, mounts, leads, plugs, sockets, batteries, battery cases, battery chargers, buttons, button illumination, helmet mounts and rubber rings are all IDENTICAL to the gear available ex-factory (from China) through sites like DX.

    One might conclude from this that Speed Wolf are manufacturing identical equipment, or they’re buying the same gear and marking it up a thousand percent.

    *shrugs*

  4. M@ says:

    I guess it’s all speculation really… another possibility is that DX and others are selling factory seconds or cheap knockoff versions of a successful design.

    As I said, I couldn’t find anything similar looking on DX though – can you provide a link? Heck, for $50 I’ll even buy one and do a comparison!

    Cheers,
    Matt