Light & Motion Vis 360 and Vis 180 Light Review

by Brian Mullin on January 21, 2011

The Light & Motion Vis 360 and Vis 180 commuter lights are pretty amazing, since they are self contained system’s, which are light, easy to use, with great mounting system’s, are reasonably priced and have some innovative features, the foremost being the safety oriented side visibility. The Vis 180 is a one piece rear light who attaches to a seatpost or pack, while the helmet based Vis 360 is a two piece unit, comprised of a rear light containing the battery, and the front unit, which is attached via an umbilical cord. Both lights share one basic, and incredibly innovate and safety oriented feature, which is a small and distinctive side amber LED.

The lights have seductive lines, a gorgeous bronze tone, carefully thought out feature placements and charismatic industrial design work via the infamous Roxy Lo of Ibis Mojo fame. They were designed and built in Monterrey California by Light & Motion, whom have been doing lights for over 20 years, for both mountain biking and underwater lighting. The Vis 180 and the front Vis 360 are CNC machined aluminum casing, while the rear Vis 360 is plastic, and everything has a solid build quality throughout. They use LED’s from Cree, and Lithium-ion polymer batteries, with waterproof lights and connectors.

My friend Roxy Lo did the design work on both units, and the colors, fit and finish, and seductive lines are synonymous with her work, and remind me very much of Italian flair (massive complement). I asked her to chime in with some tidbits on her involvement with the Vis 360 and Vis 180, and I was certainly overwhelmed with the in depth and complex world of industrial design!

=> Roxy Lo Design Studios offered industrial design guidance through the entire process. From concept and idea generation for product lines and specific use modes, my job was to inspire growth and innovation through the company’s core competencies and strengths. I try to enrich the design process by being an integral part of the team, working with the product engineers, offering packaging and color/material direction and paying strict attention to maintaining design details throughout the production and testing process, until the final release to the consumer. In that sense, I am integrated within their team. From understanding sales and their distributor’s needs to making a great product for the end user, I really try to become the customer, by actively engaging core and expert users, novices and scanning the market for innovations or inspiration that can help the product be better. We live in a fast paced world, but well designed items should be timeless. Through a thoughtful and collaborative process, we constantly generate ideas that address technical attributes and aesthetics at the same time.

We really wanted to rethink the whole flashlight on the top of the head look. Since we are able to use some of the most advanced LED’s in the industry, and have the ability to cast metal for heat shielding, and create smaller shapes with LiPo batteries, etc. We visually showcased that innovation by splitting the light into two for the Vis360. The ability to introduce white front lights, side amber lights and rear red blinky into the 360 was really great, and giving it a sleek profile that didn’t give it a geeky look was the goal. The 180 taillight was also fun to develop because we wanted to utilize something that was tall and skinny, and jam pack it with sleek looks and multiple mounting locations. I’m really big on authenticity and the touch and feel of an object is important. When you hold the lights in your hand, you can see that there is a lot of design detail that went into it.

In developing the commuter line, the entire team interviewed cycling commuters of all types, observed cyclists that commuted and realized that there was also a class of growing casual commuters. In this respect, I felt safety was a big issue that these lights could potentially address as well. What better way to be noticed by motorists and other cyclists than to have a helmet mounted head and tail light. See and be seen. These lights are meant to help you stand out, both visually and in the marketplace, so hopefully, the design efforts will entice people to try these out and to use them for their daily commute. <=

The Lights – Vis 360 and Vis 180

The Vis 360 kit consists of the rear light and front light (connected via a cord), a USB cable, and front, and rear helmet mounts. The simple Vis 180 kit, includes the light, a USB cable and a seatpost mount. Both lights come in nice packaging, with some rudimentary usage instructions on the sides of the inner sleeve.

NOTE: Francois of MTBR.com has done a mini write up on the units, and it includes a review video, beam patterns and lux readings of the system, refer to http://reviews.mtbr.com/blog/light-and-motion-vis360-and-vis180-bike-tail-lights-review/ for further details.

Vis 180 Vis 360
MSRP $99 $169
Lumens 35 110 front/4 rear
Run Time (hours) High 4/Low 8 High 2.5/Low 5/Flash 15
Charge Time (hours) 4.5 4.5
Weight 110 grams 131 grams
Measured Weight (w/ mounts) 102.8 grams 129.6 grams

Vis360

The Vis 360 was designed for the helmet, and is an all-in-one commuter light system, and combines a front light, which is connected by a power cord to the rear, which also houses the Lithium-ion polymer (LiPo) battery. The front, uses a white and two side amber LED’s, while the rear has three reds and two side amber LED’s, and they all combine to give 360 degrees of visibility to a passing vehicle.

The Vis 360 mounting system works pretty easy, with a snap on mounting for the rear and a slider for the front. Just attach the front mount, by threading the rubber strap through the front center vents, and loop it around to lock it tight. For the rear, you can wrap the Velcro mount either vertically or horizontally, and centering it will be dependent on the vent hole orientation, and loop the strap back around to cinch down. The rear light snaps straight into the mount, and a simple prying off removes the unit. The front slides up into the mount’s slot until the clip snap shut, and to release just push down hard, and press out. If desired, the lights are easy to take off when not in use or for charging, and can be cycled back on for a commute.

The Vis 360 switch is located on the top of the front light, and it’s a nice soft rubberized unit, that has a sharp distinctive click. The switch has three modes (plus Off), High, Low, and Flashing, and they are easy to engage following a simple pattern. From the Off mode, click once for High, and again for Low, and once more for Flashing, and you cycle between them if needed, and then hold the switch for two seconds to turn Off. The rear light is always blinking, but the light output is subdued for both the Low and Flashing modes.

The small front white light is moderate bright for a commute light (not to be confused with a night light), which has an easy adjustable pitch with nice clicking indention’s, and lights up plenty of the street and/or side walk. I like to supplement it with a normal handlebar mounted night light for additional safety and enhancement, but it does work by itself for commuting. The rear light is bright, and uses three reds LED’s, and the prism really makes the color very obvious. On the bottom left corner is an additional small LED which gives the battery level, which changes color depending on the current reserves, and is green when full, amber for medium, red in low, and blinking red when close to reaching danger levels, “Danger, Will Robinson”. To recharge the unit, remove it from the helmet (or just carry the entire helmet), and open up the rubber covered port on the bottom, and connect the kits micro USB cable to a computer.

Impressions
The system seems pretty evenly weighted on the head, even though the rear unit comprises 70 percent of the weight, and I think it mostly has to do with the general lightness of the entire kit. It is extremely easy to reach up and use the switch, and make minor adjustments in the pitch or tilt of the front beam as needed, which I did quite frequently depending on conditions and environment on the commute. I never used the switch in any other mode than High, as I didn’t require the Low setting, and I dislike the Flashing one. I really liked the tactile feel of the switch, and I liked the very positive clicks. I tended to leave the light on the helmet, since I have a spare one I just use for commuting, but the units come off easy enough, though the front does take a hard to push to remove. Although the front beam pattern wasn’t the widest, nor the brightest, it stayed centered right where you need for commuting, so it was more than adequate, and could easily be adjusted by reaching up on the helmet. The rear light is very noticeable, with well designed reflectors (prismatic reflective material), so you stick out like a sore thumb (which is good), and the side amber lights really help you to be seen in the usual blind spot for drivers, when they move past you, and they are greatly benefited by the high helmet perch.

Vis 180

The Vis 180 is a nice one piece unit, that houses the lights and Lithium-ion polymer (LiPo) battery, and it has a seatpost attachment, with a pivot point that allows for pitch adjustment. The Vis 180 has three main lights, which include a red rear and two amber side LED’s, and all combine to give 180 degrees of visibility to a passing vehicle. To adjust the light’s angle to be near vertical for proper functionality, just push the red pivot button, and the unit will rotate from its top axis, and it has eight engagement indention’s. The seatpost mount is easily attached, by placing the pad in the desired location on the post, and looping the strap around, feeding it back through the mount’s slot, and locking it down snugly. To install the Vis 180, just insert its rear prong into the top of the mount’s slot until it clicks, which locks it in place. To remove, press the pivot button, and put it into its closed position, and give a firm push towards the post, and pull up to release it. It can be detached from the post attachment when it’s not in use or when it’s being used on the back of a hydration pack (clipped to a webbing loop), or on a belt loop. The light is fairly bright for a small rear light, and it blinded me more than a number of times during the testing!

The Vis 180 switch is located on the right side of the unit, and it’s a rubberized unit, that has a soft click. The rear light has an interesting feature, as it doesn’t have a distinctive flashing like the sides, and it pulses like a heartbeat, never quite shutting down completely between its cycles. The switch has four modes (plus Off), Pulse High (high with rear pulse/side flash), Pulse Low (low with rear pulse/side flash), Steady On (high with rear steady/side flash), and Pace Line ( High side flash/rear off), and they are easy to engage following a simple pattern. From the Off mode, click once for Pulse High, and then through Pulse Low, Steady On, and Pace Line, and you can cycle between the modes if needed, and hold the switch for two seconds to turn Off.

At the very bottom of the Vis 180 is a small light for the battery level indicator, which changes color depending on the current reserves. The LED is green when full, amber for medium, red in low, and blinking red when close to discharge. To recharge the unit, remove it from the bike or pack, and open up the rubber covered port on the left side, and connect the kits micro USB cable to a computer.

Impressions
Holding the Vis 180 in your hand gives a wonderful look and feel, as the one piece unit has everything situated in the proper place, for both form and function. Plopping the mount on any seatpost is easy, and it can be swapped around to any bike required, and it fit on any post in my vast array of test equipment. The pivot button was a nice feature, and it was simple to tilt the light to an angle required, so it could be used on steep or slack posts, and always remain near vertical (best for driver visibility). After you got used to the system, it was quite easy to close the unit, push it in and pull the light off the mount for recharging purposes. Although it could be used on a pack or belt loop, I always had it attached to the seatpost, where seemed the most useful to me. I only used the light in Pulse High mode for the best vehicle visibility, though if I was riding with groups the Pace Line might come in handy, so I wouldn’t blind my co-riders. The bright rear red light and amber side light, make the bike pretty noticeable to the back and side viewpoint, greatly helping with visibility.

Safety

Light & Motion performed extensive studies into accidents, and what helps you to be seen, and they found that 72% of bike accidents occur at intersections with the driver turning into the bike’s path. It turns out one of the most important things is having lights who are placed high, so they can be seen by a driver (consider tall SUV doors), especially as the vehicle goes by or turns in towards the biker, when they become invisible (into a blind spot) along the sides, and the addition of the side LED’s greatly aids visibility. The lights provide a 360 degree cushion of visibility, and draw attention to the motorist that a biker is next to them. The side LED’s are unique to this company’s Vis 180 and Vis 360 commuter lights, and the bright, blinking and very noticeable rear red, and amber side lights make you more obvious to the cager. With a flick of the head, the Vis 360 signals your intention for lane changes or turns, and the amber side emitters remind them you are there. You can refer to some additional information of safety at http://www.bikelights.com/safetyinfo.pdf

Bottom Line
The Vis 360 and Vis 180 are lightweight, easy to use, attach and remove, and are excellent commuter lights. They are highly functional, well built, with many superb features, which are very carefully thought out. These light was designed with safety in mind, and the addition of the side emitters was very innovative, and allow a cyclist to be seen by a driver, in what is usually a blind spot. The high positioning of the Vis 360, along with its side facing emitters, and well placed and bright, front and rear lights, allow 360 degrees of visibility. The Vis 360 switch has a wonderful tactile feel and is easy to reach, and in addition the tilt adjustment is very useful, along with the sweet mounting systems. The Vis 180 is a great one piece unit, that has an excellent mounting system that works with any seatpost or pack, and has great adjustability for any post angle.

The LED’s themselves might not be the brightest, and are anemic for singletrack use, but the rear makes excellent use of the prism system, to make a very bright red light. I would have liked an extra strap, especially for the front Vis 360 mount, since it was overtly long for my helmet vents. I know some cell phones use the micro USB connector, but virtually every electronic device I own uses a mini USB instead, so it would make more sense to use that?

I first saw the units at Sea Otter, and was highly intrigued, with their lovely synergy. The Vis 360 is a supremely wonderful commuter light, and the Vis 180 adds an additional accompaniment.

Strengths

  • 360 – Great side visibility with 360 degrees of attention, 180 – Decent side visibility
  • Lightweight
  • Great mounting systems, 180 is excellent
  • Innovative battery level indicator
  • Self enclosed battery
  • 180 – one piece system
  • 180 – Pace Line mode is great for group rides
  • USB charging

Weaknesses

  • Poor for singletrack
  • Front light isn’t the brightest nor widest
  • Front light can be troublesome to remove from mount
  • Needs additional rubber straps – replacement and a shorter one for front
  • Uses USB micro connector instead of the more common mini

Vis 360 – Overall Rating: 5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers
Vis 180 – Overall Rating: 4.5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

MSRP: Vis 180 $99 and Vis 360 $169

Visit the Light & Motion Website: http://www.bikelights.com/vis360.html and http://www.bikelights.com/vis180.html

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Bicycle Light May 4, 2011 at 1:10 pm

These lights are really good. they provide the rider with a clear visibility during the dark conditions. Such lights are good because they are a forms of reflectors and or a reusable source of light. moreover the flashing and other specifications gives a unique touch. i like ur blog

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