Review: Light & Motion Vis 360°

The past few weeks have been absolutely crazy for me. Lots of really early-morning commutes, some late days at the office.

Combined with the shorter days, I’ve had some of the best testing conditions imaginable for a helmet-mounted lighting system that was purpose-built for bike commuters!

Let’s take a look at the gear. The rear part houses the battery, two amber side-facing LEDs, three bright red rear LEDs with a combined output that matches some of the most popular rear blinkies on the market, and a generous-sized swath of engineering-grade prismatic reflective material, all inside a water-resistant case. A rubber flap covers the Micro-USB charging port.
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There’s also a small window on the under-side of the unit that displays a multi-color LED which functions as a battery gauge and charging indicator. I was able to fully charge the Vis 360º in about 5 hours, meaning that a full recharge at home or in the office is easily achievable.

The rear part of the Vis 360º snaps onto a plastic base that attaches to the helmet with velcro. I found that getting this part mounted securely was somewhat difficult on all of my helmets. This was the most frustrating part of getting the Vis 360º installed. I eventually found a position that worked well enough with a little bit of tinkering. The headlight snaps into a plastic base that attaches to the helmet with a notched rubber strap. This part was easy to mount on several different helmets. The ability to remove the lighting hardware from the helmet while leaving the mounting hardware attached is a nice touch.

The headlight itself features one bright white LED and two amber pieces to scatter light to the side with a rubber-covered power button on the top, all packed into a small, light and attractive metal shell. The light has three modes: Full power, half power and flashing. The front LED flashes quite rapidly. The rear LEDs always flash twice per second (250ms on, 250ms off) regardless which mode the front light is in. You must hold the power switch for two seconds to shut the unit off.
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The whole package looks a bit bulky on the helmet, but it’s surprisingly light at 130 grams. I notice the extra weight on my helmet, but it’s not unwieldy or uncomfortable.
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The proving grounds:
A very dark section of walking trail around the community pond where I live. All photos were taken using the exact same exposure settings on my digital camera.
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The competition:
Bell Orion. This 3 LED helmet-mounted lamp is powered by two CR2032 batteries. It’s on par with any cheap department store bicycle headlight I’ve ever seen. When blinking, it might draw some attention to you, but it won’t help you see much on a dark road even at a very low speed. What this light (seriously) lacks in output, it gains in run-time. It will go dozens of hours on a pair of CR2032 batteries. Good thing, too, because CR2032s aren’t rechargeable, and they’re not usually cost-effective to replace. MSRP: About $15
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Blackburn Flea. This rechargeable light is a decent headlight to use if you want to be seen on a budget. If you keep it slow, the high output setting (used in this photo) is bright enough to alert you to potholes or obvious road hazards in a pinch and run for about 3 hours. Really, though, they’re best suited for riders who ride near dusk or dawn, or spend time riding under streetlights. MSRP: About $25
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NiteRider Evolution Halogen (Upgraded to 15W). This was my first serious commuting light, and it features a bulky NiMH battery pack that can be strapped to the bike’s frame. The OEM bulb was 10 Watts, and when it burned out, my LBS only had the 5W and 15W bulbs in stock. With the 15W bulb shown here, this system runs for about an hour. As you can see, it provides a very high intensity spot without much side visibility. This model isn’t made anymore, but you can expect to pay between $100 and $200 for a quality halogen system.
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Vis 360º lights up the path more evenly and plenty bright. I have to admit, when I saw 115 lumens listed for the specification, I was concerned that this might not light the way far ahead enough for some of the faster sections of my commute. I usually average about 15 MPH, and never had any problems seeing the road surface far enough ahead for my own comfort. On the high setting, I was getting a little more than 2 hours of total use before the low battery indicator kicked in, but it was still on regulated battery power, with no obvious fade in brightness. Advertised run time on high is 2:30. MSRP: $169
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On normal mornings when I leave as the sun is peeking over the horizon, I used the Vis 360º in flashing mode. A whole week of commuting (about 6 hours on the road) without a recharge didn’t even put a dent in the battery with flashing mode. It still registered as “fully charged” this evening when I got home.

Is this unit worth the price? I’d say it is. The system is competently designed and can fulfill all the basic lighting needs of a bicycle commuter with the additional bonus that you don’t need to leave any hardware on your bike while it sits vulnerable and unattended throughout the work day. It has ample run-time for even the most die-hard long-distance commuters and shines far enough ahead that most average cyclists shouldn’t need to seek supplemental light.

I’m giving this one two thumbs up.

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17 Comments

  1. Deb November 6, 2010 3:23 am 

    Do you have any pictures of how well you are seen wearing this? Front and rear?

  2. Ghost Rider November 6, 2010 3:29 am 

    Excellent review, Noah! The comparison shots were great and really demonstrate that 115 lumens does the job. I like that everything is contained into the light units with no separate battery pack, too. And USB charging is always a plus…plug it into your work machine and have a full charge by the time you’ve got to go home…

  3. danc November 6, 2010 7:51 am 

    Thank you, excellent review. I have 15W NiteRider and will definitely consider a Light & Motion LED light (probably Stella) for my next road light.

  4. WickedVT November 6, 2010 9:53 am 

    Great review. I have to say though I don’t really like the trend of using this style of light (which were designed for mountain biking) on road bikes. Instead of projecting the light onto the road like a car headlight they just spray light everywhere, wasting light by sending light everywhere and also blinding drivers. And to make matters worse, this bright light is mounted on the helmet so it is going to be bouncing all over the place, and the blinking? In the daytime, this makes sense, but in the dark it’s going to really blind people and just invite more resentment about us being on the roads. I have a Stella (also from Light & Motion) and the beam is totally inappropriate for road riding. I light up the tops of the trees, and not enough light hits the ground in front of me since the light focuses most around the center hotspot and dims as you move outward. This characteristic is evident in the pictures above.

    The Germans, Dutch, etc really have the right idea using lights like the ones from Schmitt and B&M, which have very bright but properly focused beams of light. The result is a much more usable beam, safer for everyone, and no wasted light. More efficient = less power needed to operate. Most of these are designed to be used with generator hubs, but there are a few battery powered models out there as well. Ideally though we should be seeing bicycles marked as “commuter oriented” coming with generator lights already. It’s cost prohibitive for most people to have their front wheel rebuilt around a dyno hub, but on the other hand you can get decent lights for under $100 which helps equalize it somewhat.

    Anyway I don’t understand why companies like Light & Motion and Niterider market lights with spherical beams as being for commuters. I’m guessing it’s because the specially focused optics in lights like the Schmitt Edelux cost more to manufacture, and since people don’t seem to care, they just save the money and sell lights like this instead.

  5. Noah November 6, 2010 11:07 am 

    I generally agree with you on the Schmitt stuff. Several rando friends of mine have Schmitt LED lights with generator hubs, and they do a really good job of focusing.

    There’s no reason to use this light on strobe mode in the dark. I’m talking mostly about that time of day when the sun is on the horizon and when there’s more risk of people not seeing you due to sun in their eyes. Fortunately, my commute has my back to the sun both directions, but there’s still the danger from turning cars.

    As for the “pissing off motorists” comment… I’ve used 10W and 15W halogens as well as the DiNotte 200L and this light. They’re not nearly bright enough to piss off any motorists. Even if you have the hottest part of the beam pointed directly into the eyes of oncoming traffic, it’s significantly less light than they’re getting just from the fringe of the beams of oncoming cars, most of which are cranking out 110 Watts or more. While a focused beam pattern would be nice, the spherical beam isn’t getting on anyone’s nerves.

  6. Noah November 6, 2010 11:16 am 

    As for the rear light… it’s 4 lumens. I took a video with my point-and-shoot digital camera of the Vis 360º tail light, a PlanetBike SuperFlash and the Blackburn Flea rear blinkie all side by side. I’d say the brightness of the SuperFlash and the Vis 360º were almost identical, but the SuperFlash’s unique flashing pattern is much more eye-catching on the road.

    The video turned out horrible and unusable, though. The flashing doesn’t show up right, and it leaves big streaks on the video. I’d need a real video camera to do it justice, so you’ll have to kind of take my word on it.

  7. Ghost Rider November 6, 2010 11:23 am 

    There’s nothing wrong with using a low-powered front strobe, as long as it’s coupled with a “to see” light. That way, you get the best of both worlds: you can see the road AND you’ll get a lot more attention from motorists.

    Shining a superbright light into anyone’s eyes is a bad idea, of course, and that’s why I’ve moved away from helmet-mounted lights. The natural movement of my head meant I was pointing that light directly at oncoming cars.

  8. Noah November 6, 2010 11:36 am 

    And that’s a good point. I usually have my Blackburn Flea on strobe mode when combined with a “to see with” light such as this one. I don’t generally turn my head to see oncoming traffic. and I use a helmet-mounted mirror to get a look at what’s behind me. Helmet-mounted lights aren’t for everyone, for sure. I tend to go back and forth on the issue, but going into winter, I would usually opt for my halogen NiteRider mounted on the handlebar.

  9. harry krishna November 6, 2010 11:46 am 

    well done – 2 fleas for me

  10. hector November 8, 2010 5:57 am 

    Great review for light motion vis 360. So nice to have these when travelling at night.

  11. BigPapa November 8, 2010 7:06 pm 

    Any reason the PUSH was not included with this experiment?

  12. Keith Gates December 2, 2010 8:28 pm 

    Well done — having ridden with you while you were using this light really made the Flea I’ve been using as a helmet light seem a little anemic. Time for an upgrade… also, the beam shots are SUPER clear, and well staged. Excellent way to compare light output… well done!

  13. cyclefresksix February 19, 2011 10:02 pm 

    Just ordered this light based on your excellent review. I currently use a Magic Shine on my bars and a one watt Blackburn strobe on my headtube as a “be seen ” light.

    Looking forward to adding this to my arsenal !

  14. derek vh February 26, 2011 10:55 am 

    The light charges via mini USB. The connector on the first run of these products failed in a couple of days – I shipped the product back and they sent me a new one saying they figured out the design flaw. I rode to work on it for a few days, and the usb connector failed again. I went to my LBS and purchased a new one (because im an idiot), and shipped the broken one back again. They sent it back ‘repaired’…. My new one lasted a week before it broke, luckily I had the repaired one in my bag for the ride home…. went to charge the repaired one and the usb connector failed – I sent them both back in and they told me they now really had a solution for the usb connector – just received the units back and went to charge one before even using it and won’t charge – so they sent it back without testing it – as far as bike products go this is probably the worst purchase I have ever made…. I have them for sale cheap if someone wants to buy them – why is there no zero rating on this site??

  15. Paul Hileman May 25, 2011 11:25 am 

    The weak link is the usb connection. It tears away from the circuit card rendering it useless. You can mail it back, at your cost, and they will fix it but the warranty is only good for a year from the time of purchase. AND IT WILL BREAK AGAIN.

    Mine last about 5 months. This is the most expensive light I had ever bought and it lasted the shortest amount of time.

  16. Noah July 9, 2011 11:28 pm 

    Paul, I just experienced the same failure last week. September to July is longer than 5 months, but less than a year by far. I’m what I’d consider “moderately skilled” with electronics, and I have experience soldering small things like the USB connection. The weak link seems to be primarily due to the fact that L&M didn’t design the board to use solder anchors for the USB connector’s board-connect end, only the end closest to where you plug the cable in. I re-soldered the connection and it broke again quickly, so I had to use a hack fix and wedge something on the USB connector’s end that puts pressure on the connections when the light is assembled and screwed together.

    I can say I’m similarly disappointed, because this is otherwise an awesome light and has been great the past 8 months or so. We’ll see how long this fix lasts.

  17. Rob April 5, 2013 9:35 pm 

    I purchased the Vis 360+ last fall as my main commuting light. My ride is 16mi each way and takes about an hour. I start at dawn out in the sticks and ride into a small city. I use the strobe function all the way to work. I plug in the light at my desk (helmet and all) and leave it there all day. I start riding home after 6pm so I miss the bulk of the traffic. I use the strobe function through the city for the extra visibility I get for the cars coming from side streets. This is where having the light up high is a huge benefit. The headlight is still visible in daylight. By the time I am out of the city, I am on steady light at low power mode for the last 8-6mi. I want to address some of the comments and assumptions I see in the comments here.

    I often look right at motorists to make sure they see me. No one cringes in shock and blindness when the light is set to strobe. No cars flash their lights at me in when I am out in the country and the light is on steady. Same goes for people walking dogs.

    I had some difficulty getting the tail light to stay put as the back of my helmet has vents and cutouts that allowed no flat spots for the light’s mount to sit. Finally found a way to get the light to sit in a helmet cavity using both straps in a way that I was comfortable with. It only took a month of fiddling and asking strangers if they could see the tail light OK.

    The head light has always been rock solid. If your light is jiggling around, you need your helmet adjusted or neck examined. I kid, but the headligh mount is rock solid and foolproof

    At the low setting there was enough light for 12mph on a dark potholed street. Any faster and a misplaced blink would send you over the handle bars. The high setting is plenty adequate, but the reduction in run time would be an issue for me. A flat tire or other mechanical could push my commute over the run time at high.

    The headlight can be angled vertically, and twisted left and right slightly. So far the light stays where I point it. No problem with the pivot loosening.

    The taillight does not blink, but oscillates from low to high slowly. The tail light can be turned off if you decide to use this on a group ride to avoid blinding the rider behind you.

    I have plugged this light in about 20-30 time without any issues. Hopefully the USB issue has been fixed.

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