I remember my first headlight for a bike I had ever owned. Powered by a 9-volt battery, the weak incandescent headlight was pitifully inadequate to see or be seen. However, at 7 years old, it was akin to mounting a lighthouse on my handlebars. Fast forward to 2012 and I am riding in all sorts of weather. I knew I needed a good headlight and after looking around, decided that I’d try the NiteRider MiNewt 600. I have experience with LED lighting but was not sure how this would perform, especially after hazy memories of that headlight so long ago.
Inside the box is the headlight itself, a helmet mount, handlebar mount, rubber shim for the handlebar mount and charger, along with directions instructing you to register your light on NiteRider’s website, which took all of two seconds. The NiteRider MiNewt 600’s output is 600 lumens. By comparison, a traffic light puts out under 10 lumens. Rather than getting in to the various metrics used to understand lighting (luminous flux, illuminance, color, etc) I’ll make this review more real-world. The light has a single button, which when pushed and/or held, performs the mode settings as well as serving as an on/off switch. The light comes with a “float charge” which means that the light will need to be charged prior to use. Claimed charge time is 5 hours, and after close to 100 charge cycles, it remains right around 5 hours. While this may seem detrimental, the light is mini-USB rechargeable so carry a cord with you to work and charge it during your day. The light does drop to a lower brightness setting when the battery reaches a critically low level, and the button turns red indicating a need to recharge. Also note that the light is shipped in “locked” mode, so it will not turn on until you unlock it.
After the 5 hours of charge time, I unlocked the light by holding down the button for approximately 6 seconds. When the button is pressed, the button will glow red; when unlocked the light turns green. The settings on the light are low (bright), medium (super bright), high (retina scorching), flash (the pattern made me nauseous when reflecting off of things if I stared too long) and “walk” which is a dim light useful for walking your bike along a path when you do not need to light up the entire area. Once the light is unlocked, a simple push of the button will change the modes from low-medium-high. A prolonged hold, (4-5 seconds) will put the light into flashing mode. Once flashing, a quick hold will enter the light in to “walk”. A quick press again will put the light back in to low. It sounds confusing but becomes intuitive after a few uses. To turn the light off, a prolonged press of the button (6 seconds) will do the trick. If you keep the button held, the light enters flashing mode and then turns off and locks. The reason for a locked mode is so when the light is in a bag or pannier, it does not accidentally turn on and burn itself out from the heat generated.
The helmet mount attaches to a helmet with two nylon webbed straps and two cam locks – your helmet will need vents for this. I used it on a Specialized Echelon helmet without any problems. The light then slides on to a rail and clicks in to place. The light can be pivoted vertically and rotated horizontally to aim the light where you need it. While having a light mounted on top of your head may look dorky to some, I came to appreciate the ability to illuminate a particular patch in front of my bike, to see puddles or look at a driver to get their attention. I will note though, that when sweating, my helmet had a tendency to slip forward regardless of helmet retention setting or chin strap settings.
The handlebar mount attaches around your handlebars with a simple click type of ratchet clamp, and the rubber spacer is used to snug things up. The light is adjusted vertically by rotating the mount on your handlebars and the mount pivots horizontally. This adjustability proved useful when switching the light from different bikes.
The light itself is amazing when on a steady mode, no weird concentric circles, or abnormal bright/dull areas. I found I used the lowest setting the most, medium and high tended to frustrate car drivers as well as shorten battery life. During daylight hours I used the flash setting and it garnered enough attention where I didn’t feel threatened by oncoming/left-turning cars. Cars coming out from side streets even did a “deer in the headlights” double take when stopping.
This review of the NiteRider MiNewt 600 has left me with an appreciation of the advances made in bicycle lighting and I am very glad that I chose this particular light. I wish it had a shorter charge time, but I’ve found that charging it during the workday is good enough for me and that I have yet to be left with a dead battery. NiteRider.com
– Alex (Dos)