I don’t like this light.
There’s nothing really drastically wrong with it; it’s more every single aspect is slightly disappointing. It’s not quite bright enough, with not quite enough battery life and not quite enough strength to the mounts. In some ways it makes matters worse by having quite a sexy aluminium body. It feels much more expensive than it actually is.
If I might compare this light to a snack (and I will), it’s like buying a £3.50 sandwich in glorious packaging with fancy writing, but inside discovering the same old slice of processed ham, cheap mustard and dull white bread.
Before I put you off this review completely, let’s get started.
Lots of stuff in the box
If you do go for this light, get the ‘Loaded Box’ option. It’s almost the same price as the unit by itself if you hunt around (currently £48.74 on Wiggle) and comes with an assortment of extra goodies including a spare battery in a snazzy little case, handlebar mount, and ball-and-socket-style helmet mount. It all comes well protected in a plastic box, which is itself a suitably handy size for reusing.
You get a micro-USB charging cable (that’s the super-skinny one that modern phones use), but not a wall adapter.
The mounts are ok, but not great
Both are very plastic-y and have a tendency to slip in use (I note from Lezyne’s website they do sell aluminium mounts separately). Not to the extent that you’d lose the light, but if you’re on a rough surface for any stretch of time you’ll end up illuminating your feet in reasonably short order.
The helmet mount in particular is bad for this, as it’s not possible to tighten down the screw ring enough to firmly lock the ball in place. Couple this with the stiff on/off button and a pair of clumsy winter gloves, and you’ve no hope in keeping the thing pointing forward if you try and adjust settings mid-ride. Light on, helmet on, gloves on is the only option.
The Velcro strap works well enough to clamp it through your helmet vents, but then, it is Velcro. That’s what it does.
The separate handlebar mount also suffers from not tightening up enough. This is partly due to the awkward positioning of the turny knob (stop me if I’m getting too technical) preventing easy finger access. Again, it does the job if you’re careful, but it feels cheap.
You won’t use the spare battery
At least, you won’t use it in the way you’re thinking now.
Your initial plan, no doubt, is to keep the spare charged up in your work bag. When the light gets low you’ll quickly swap them over and—ta da!—bright light again.
Not going to happen. The end cap of the light screws on using unbelievably fine threads. There’s also a very robust spring on the far end of the battery compartment, so every swap becomes a ten-minute battle of cross-threading and accidental launches of the battery across the room.
It’s a task I avoid doing at my desk with warm fingers in good light, partly because it’s so much easier to find a handy charger and plug it in. I would not fancy attempting it outside on a freezing, rainy night.
Treat this feature as a way to replace the battery when the first one reaches the end of its working life.
The light is good.
Not great, but good.
To turn it on, press and hold the switch. It’s pretty stubborn, so if your thumb bruises easily look elsewhere. Bonus; this light won’t turn on accidentally in your bag. The switch also glows to indicate battery life—green is lots, green/red middling, red low, and flashing red means imminent demise (of the light, not you). This is pretty nifty, and you can tap the switch briefly with the light off to temporarily display the battery life using the same code.
With the light on the switch toggles through four steady modes and one flashing. Four options seems a little over the top for a unit that’s all out of ideas at 250 lumen, so happily you can set the light to Race Mode to only toggle between overdrive (the brightest, with a measly hour of quoted runtime) and economy (the weakest, at five hours). This does lock out the flashing option, which may or may not bother you.
Overdrive is certainly bright enough to trundle around at sensible speeds in complete darkness, although with such a short runtime I’d be very wary of heading that far away from street lighting. There’s no beam shaping to speak of, so don’t go thinking all of your 250 lumen will actually end up somewhere useful (like on the road).
Economy should be thought of as a strong ‘being seen’ mode. The quoted five hours is on the generous side — I’ve been getting just over four. It’s bright enough to be easily noticeable in daylight.
There are semicircular cutouts to the sides of the body to improve side visibility. Nothing special, but better than many other offerings.
The actual body of the light is by far its best feature. The aluminium is durable, nicely machined, and as attractive as lights get. The charging socket is well protected with a rubber tab/plug.
Would I buy it again?
Because the higher-power modes drain the battery alarmingly fast, it’s only really workable in its more economical setting. The switch is too firm and the mounts too flimsy to let you switch modes easily on the move, so you’re also not able to eke out your battery life by tweaking the power as you go.
This relegates the Mini Drive XL to an expensive urban ‘being seen’ light, in my mind. And in that category I can think of much better options.
Wiggle are currently selling the excellent Moon Gem 2.0 at £11. Buy two. Or at least, they were when I first drafted this. Best I can now find is £13.99 from Ribble. Still cheap enough to grab a brace of them.
If you want a bit more oomph at a sensible price, you really should go German. Legislation means their lights actually have to focus the beam somewhere useful, so you get much more bang for your buck. Maybe something like the B+M Ixon Core, which is half the price of the Mini Drive and also has much better side visibility.
For the big guns, look at dynamos plus something like the Luxos IQ2 (which I reviewed here), or the really expensive battery lights.
Sadly, I just can’t see a place for the Mini Drive XL.
PS: The Lezyne Mini Drive is a completely different light that isn’t produced any more. Don’t get confused!