When we were getting into mountain biking, back in the nineties, we used to do the occasional night ride with a guy who would literally carry a torch in his mouth. We are not making this shit up.
To the best of our knowledge he dodged a bullet, and the Darwin Award-worthy disaster that would’ve followed a faceplant never eventuated. We only mention this story because the mouth-mounted torch system, like the Diablo Mk6 we’re testing here, was totally self-contained without an external battery. Thankfully, that’s where the similarities end.
[divider]What’s it all about?[/divider]
As the name suggests, this is the sixth iteration of the Diablo, and it’s a highly evolved piece of kit now. Weighing just 140g, and around the same size as your average Toad Fish (uninflated), the Diablo is remarkable small given it contains all the battery power and circuitry need to pump out 1300 lumens for an hour and the impressive number of features it boasts.
Cord-free design… no cords to snag on low-flying fruit bats, no saggy pockets, and no need for a pack.
The unit comes with both bar and helmet mounts; it’s a super popular light with roadies as a bar-mount, using a simple o-ring and bracket to affix it, but for us the real appeal of this light is whacking it on your melon. On of the accepted annoyances of night riding is that a helmet mounted light will leave you with a cord dangling down your back, and that you have to cart the battery around in either a jersey pocket (often leading to Saggy Pocket Syndrome) or in a hydration pack. The Diablo, with its Cord Free design, rids you of these issues; no cords to snag on low-flying fruit bats, no saggy pockets, and no need for a pack.
The helmet mount is neat, with a ball joint offering stacks of adjustment to get the beam angle right. The mount is formed from two halves, which slot into a helmet vent. A plastic bolt secures the two halves, and you need to be careful not to over-tighten it as the thread can be easily damaged. While a plastic thread is a bit poxy, we understand why it’s used – you wouldn’t want a steel bolt pointing directly at your skull in the event of a crash. Helmets which have vents running down the centre work best, otherwise you’ll need to mount the light off centre, which is less than ideal.
[divider]I’d TAP that[/divider]
Simply tap the light anywhere and a bunch of accelerometers and magic voodoo changes the mode.
Exposure have used the Diablo to debut their new TAP system (Tap Activated Power). Essentially, you don’t need to find the button to toggle between output modes, you simply tap the light anywhere and a bunch of accelerometers and magic voodoo changes the mode. On our first ride, the system drove us crazy. We didn’t read the instructions (especially the bit about TAP mode not being suitable for bar-mounted use) and so every time we hit a bump the light output changed! We subsequently read up and realised that TAP mode is meant for you helmet (fewer violent bumps) and that you can adjust the sensitivity so that a more forceful tap is required to trigger a change in mode. You can also turn the TAP system off entirely.
[divider]Many (maybe too many) modes[/divider]
Choosing our preferred program proved involved more button clicking, flashing lights and confusion than we’d have liked.
Speaking of modes, the light offers considerable customisation; in its stock form you have three output settings which will give you one, three and six hours of burn time respectively. But all up there are eight separate programs to choose from each offering you different combos of output/burn times, which is more than most people will ever need, but will be appreciated by those who need longer burn times, such as at a 24hr race. In general, we like to keep things simple, and our night rides rarely last for more than an hour and a half. With that in mind, we decided we want to use program number four, which has just two modes, offering one and three hours of burn time.
It may just be that we lack patience, but choosing our preferred program proved involved more button clicking, flashing lights and confusion than we’d have liked. The same goes for setting up the TAP sensitivities – there’s a fair bit of button pressing, holding and flash counting involved. We needed to run through the programming process a number of times too for some reason.
Options for customisation are a positive, but make sure you’re not distracted or in a hurry when you sit down to get your light set up to your preferences. Thankfully there are good video tutorials on the Exposure site and we think most people will never even bother to play with all the program options, or they’ll just set and forget.
[divider]Convenience vs burn times[/divider]
We don’t want to bang on about the light’s size too much (though it really is a highlight) but we love the fact this light is small enough to stick in your pocket as a just-in-case light. In the shorter winter months, it’s easy to find yourself inadvertently finishing a ride in the dark, and with the light barely bigger than a 32g CO2 canister you can throw it in a jersey pocket as a precaution.
The ultimate setup, we think, would be two Diablos – bugger all weight, no cords and 2600 lumens of juice.
With the light’s size there are some understandable compromises with burn time and output. At full juice (1300 lumens) you’ll get an hour of run time. As such, you need to get into the habit of toggling down the power when it’s not needed. Thankfully you can keep an eye on the remaining power – the function/mode button glows green/orange/red to let you know how much is left in the tank. In terms of the output, perhaps we’ve just become accustomed to the plethora of bazillion-lumen bike-mounted suns that are on the market now, because even at full power we still preferred to pair the Diablo with a second, bar-mounted for riding technical trails fast. The ultimate setup, we think, would be two Diablos – bugger all weight, no cords and 2600 lumens of juice.
If you’re happy with trading burn-time and sheer power for convenience, size and super lightweight night riding, then the Diablo really is the cat’s pyjamas. As we’ve stated, it’s probably over featured for most people, but the technology involved in fitting such impressive performance into this little fellas is astounding. And the pricing is pretty damn keen too. For riders like us, who tend to ride for shorter periods at night and who love being free of pack, the Diablo is a dream.