Words by Kristen Gross and photos by Francis Cebedo
Here are five myths we busted about the iconic pioneer of mountain bike lighting systems. Prepare to be illuminated:
1) Myth: NiteRider was started for mountain bikers
CEO Tom Carroll came up with the idea of a hands-free helmet light for surfing, not mountain biking. The Southern Californian wanted to avoid the crowds and sometimes, after dark was the only time he could get to the water. So, he devised a 150-watt waterproof lighting system that was worn on the head, and powered with a battery fitted around the waist.
The editors of Mountain Bike Action magazine, based in Ventura CA, heard about Tom Carroll’s light and invited him up so they could give it a try on a night surf. It wasn’t until they suggested he run an ad in their magazine that he introduced his invention to those kinds of night riders. Until then, the “Rider” in NiteRider was a surfer, not a mountain biker.
2) Myth: The Smaller, The Better
When it comes to measuring the power of your light, smaller isn’t better. We’re talking about a special piece of equipment called an integrating sphere. Until this tour, the biggest one we’ve seen at a light manufacturer’s facility was only about the size of a globe. If those were models of earth, NiteRider’s integrating sphere is on scale with the sun (no, not really—but it’s big).
The light goes in and they measure things like lumens, how temperature affects performance, run time, and consistency. Why does size matter? If you have an integrating sphere that’s too small, it can easily become saturated with all that light and corrupt your data. That means when NiteRider puts “750 Lumens” on a box, you can be confident that that’s what you’re going to get.
The more lumens you’re testing, the bigger the integrating sphere you’ll need. The size of the sphere at NiteRider means that their data is solid, and also hints at even bigger light outputs to come. “We want to make sure our numbers are as accurate as possible so we can stand behind them,” said NiteRider’s Director of Engineering, Alex McKay.
And by the way, if you send your light back to NiteRider for repair or warranty (we saw some lights on the table that were over ten years old), it goes back into the integrating sphere as well, to make sure it’s still up to snuff.
3) Myth: NiteRider Is Just Another Light Company Slapping Their Logos On Made-In-China, Mass-Produced Product
At NiteRider, they pride themselves on innovation. Every light is designed and tested in-house by their team of engineers. They have 19 “firsts” to their credit, including the first HID light, and the introduction of USB charging—features that each became industry standards.
In their San Diego headquarters, they have a team of about 30 staff—almost half of whom have an average of 16 years of service. Why does that matter? This crew has been learning from each other, trying things, and discovering what works for a very long time.
Every microprocessor, chip, cable, housing and bulb is sourced from the manufacturers that do it best. For example, CREE makes the best LED bulbs, so that’s where NiteRider gets theirs. The lights are then assembled by hand, tested, packed and shipped from NiteRider HQ in San Diego.