IPMBA Product Review

Cygolite Lights the Way

Cygolite Lights the Way

by Craig Lepkowski, PCI #1180/EMSCI #272
Lake Forest Police Department (IL)

Three years ago when I was selected to attend the IPMBA Instructor Course, I decided to buy and outfit my own police bike. I had nothing against the bikes my department provided the bike unit; I just didn’t feel like sharing a bike with accessories that were purchased with budgeting always at the forefront.  Therefore, I bought myself a Trek Police package bike and decided I’d outfit it myself with the best equipment, no matter the cost.  With that in mind, and knowing I was assigned the overnight shift for an entire year, I went in search of a good light.

There were certain characteristics I was seeking in a patrol bike light.  I did not want the low cost lights that took everyday batteries – those seemed to light up well for a short time and then dim until you replaced the batteries.  I knew I wanted a rechargeable battery pack, but not one of the old heavy water-bottle shaped packs of yesteryear.  Those never seemed to hold a charge long and were expensive to replace.  I knew enough to realize that technology had advanced and better, smarter batteries were on the market.  Capacity and run-time came into play as well; despite the fact that my department did not have a full-time bike unit, there were times I might be assigned to ride the entire shift.

A light with different settings, like the flashlights that were coming on the market, would be good to have.  Since different riding situations depend on various lighting options, a simple light with on/off was out of the question.  I also wanted a light that was bright enough to illuminate the dark streets of my town, which is notorious for its curved roads, wooded ravines and dim (or non-existent) street lights.  At night in my jurisdiction, your spotlight becomes your most commonly used piece of equipment in locating addresses, lighting up cars during traffic stops, or looking into businesses.   But I knew I also wanted to be incognito at times, so a light that could dim or turn off immediately was important.

I researched all kinds of lights on the market:  cheap lights that met the IPMBA minimum standard of 42 lumens at 10 feet, lights that didn’t describe how many lumens they generated, ones that combined the head light and taillight, lights with wires and others with all sorts of battery sizes to save space and weight.  Finally, I went to the IPMBA Product Purchase Program and looked through all the vendors that might sell lights.  After examining all the options, I settled on Cygolite.  They had what appeared to be a great product, and the video demonstrations on their website sold me on the effectiveness of the light.  The price was higher than I had hoped for, but the IPMBA discount helped make it a little easier on the wallet.

Thanks to IPMBA, I had stumbled upon one of the best lights I had ever seen – the Cygolite Centauri 1000 OSP.  It was a brand new model and the brightest option they offered.  They had less expensive possibilities, but I was really intrigued by the idea of a 1000-lumen light with programmable features.  It met all my qualifications, and then some.  It was a programmable LED light, so runtime varied depending on the output, but I’ve verified their claims of 2.75 hours on high-brightness and have never seen the low-brightness setting run out, even after an 8-hour night ride.  They claim a 12-hour run time on the lowest setting, and I have no reason to doubt them.  The rechargeable battery, cord and light all weigh 430 grams which makes the system suitable for handlebar or helmet mounting (with a quick release extension cord).  I’ve had mine mounted on my handlebars for regular patrol, teaching class and personal use for three years and have never encountered a single hitch in recharging the battery or programming of the light.

The Li-Ion battery mounts very easily to the bike frame and the light has indicators to advise the rider of the setting and remaining battery life.  The smart rapid charger takes seven hours to fully charge the battery.  The indicator light changes from red to green when the charging is done.  The smart charger will not overcharge the battery and is compatible with 100 – 240 volts, so it can be used around the world.  The aluminum case with protective seals makes the unit strong but light, and weather tight.  I’ve ridden in the rain, and left my bike out in a storm or two (breaking my rule of always storing my bike) and the light has always functioned perfectly.

The OSP (On-Site Programming) programmable light allows the rider to pre-set or set while riding (hence, OSP) the level of lumens that the two LED lights generate.  They have a narrow beam collimator to throw the light far ahead of the bike, and a wide beam reflector to spread the light peripherally.  Riding at night with this light is like having a car headlight on high-beam on the front of the bike.  Having 1000 lumens may seem like overload, but believe me, there are times I’ve truly appreciated the ability to light up a scene like daylight, and I’m never worried that oncoming traffic won’t see me.  The programmable function comes in handy for regular patrol or personal riding when you don’t want to call too much attention to yourself, or you are conserving battery life.  A simple press of the program button brightens the light to its highest setting immediately for those times on patrol you need to light someone or something up.   

Otherwise there are four settings that can be programmed at whatever level of brightness the user requires.  The programmable light also has settings built in for fast flash, slow flash, walking and SOS modes.  Since my department doesn’t use red and blue lights or sirens on our bikes, I’ve used the fast-flash function to get cars to pull over at night.  The functions are all controlled through the power button, so I simply have to hold and press for two seconds to turn off my steady high beam, and then press and hold for an additional two seconds to get the fast-flash mode – and the driver’s attention!

At retail prices around $400, the Cygolite Centauri 1000 is not for the casual rider.  The discount they provided to IPMBA members cut a third of the price.  Cygolite offers other less expensive models with the OSP functionality, but in my opinion, the lumens generated by the Centauri 1000 outshine all the others.  Check out www.cygolite.com for more details and a video demonstration.  Ride often and be safe!

Commander Craig Lepkowski is a patrol supervisor for the Lake Forest (IL) Police Department.  He is an IPMBA Police and EMS Cyclist Instructor and oversees the department’s part-time bike unit.  He enjoys biking as often as possible with his son and daughter, and can be reached at lepkowsc@cityoflakeforest.com.

(c) 2012 IPMBA.  This review appeared in the Fall 2012 issue of IPMBA News

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