Summer 2008/2009 in Southern Australia was extremely hot and dry. With day rides in the forest not always a good idea I started to ride in the cooler evenings and was hooked – unicycling off road at night is huge fun – and began looking for a good light system. My last experience with night riding was in the early 90’s – MTB’ing in the mountains around my home in Victoria’s High Country using a NiteRider which was super bright, but also super heavy (the battery was the shape of a large water bottle). The Niterider battery didn’t last long especially in the cold mountain temperatures (I rode home in the dark a few times!) and all up was crazy expensive at the time, but night MTB’ing was a definitely a hoot.
Lights for night unicycling need to be super low weight, bright, tough, small, have a long burn time, have a versatile and quick mounting system, and oh yeah, not cost a fortune. Looking around in local bike stores I saw the familiar brand names in lights but nothing really grabbed my attention. MTB endurance racers would have similar light requirements to night MUNI (Mountain Unicycling) – which lights are those guys using I wondered? Ay Up! lights designed and made in my own back yard, Australia, cool, and at a great price, even better!
I ordered a MultiSport kit direct from Ay Up! that included 1 lightset, 2 x 3 hour batteries, Gecko Helmet mounts, handlebar mounts, charger plus a bunch of goodies like pouches, ties etc. I opted for the Intermediate Beam lightset figuring that given how slow night unicycling is compared to MTB a helmet mounted intermediate beam would be the best place to start (the standard MTB setup is Intermediate/Medium lights mounted on the handlebar and a Narrow beam mounted on the helmet). The package from Ay Up! arrived within 2 days – excellent service. Great!
While charging the battery I mounted the lights on my helmet using Ay Up!’s Gecko system. As the photos above show – it’s a neat package which can be attached and removed in seconds, leaving only small Velcro dots on your helmet. Weight-wise, all up the mounted kit comes to only 155 grams. While the small change in weight is noticeable when you first fit your helmet, the light and the battery balance each other out nicely. Bottom line – within a minute or two you don’t know the lights are there.
As a side note, the battery unplugs from the back of the light and the off/on switch for the light is a large button on the side of the battery pack which is easy to find in the dark with full finger gloves on.
Out on the trail at night the first impression is how bright the Ay Up!’s are, especially given their overall size. The light thrown by the helmet mounted intermediate beam CREE XRE LED is broad, strong and neutral in color and works exceptionally well for night riding on the 36″. What a blast!
Even with great lights riding a unicycle off road at night is a surreal experience. Changes in the track surface and obstacles that are easy seen and ridden over in daylight seem to blend into a mottled texture blurring along in front of you, completely undetected, leading to unexpected UPD’s. Familiar trails take on a new life with the ground surface being quite hard to read, requiring you to use ‘the force’ just as much as your eyes to motor along. You need to feel the track through the tire as it happens, which incidentally seems to improve your day riding!
Being hooked on night MUNI I started to plan longer night rides. The two three hour batteries that came with the Multisport kit were more than sufficient, but a second lightset would open up a few possibilities so I ordered an additional Narrow beam. Depending on the adventure I use either a helmet mounted Intermediate lightset, or a helmet mounted Narrow beam lightset, or both lightsets combined (a helmet mounted Narrow beam plus the Intermediate beam mounted on my XC GUNI handle bar).
When the Ay Up lights aren’t in use on the unicycle they make great torches for the family and were especially useful during the bushfire season power blackouts.
Months after the initial purchase I continue to happily buzz around the Wombat Forest at night with my Ay Up! lights. If you’re waiting for the catch there isn’t one. The Ay Up! lights work as advertised – super low weight, bright, tough, small, long burn time, versatile mounting system, and oh yeah, don’t cost a fortune. Perfect for Mountain Unicycling once the sun has gone down. It’s as simple as that, like it should be!
For more info visit http://www.ayup.com.au