Review: Trail LED DS

Texas engineering meets bright lights

Lights Lights Shootout

2015 Lights Shootout

Trail LED DS Lens

Trail LED sent us their new lights and it comes with all new packaging and an upgraded version of the LEDs used, which is now the Cree XPL v6 LED. It’s now slightly brighter than last year but the big improvement is a an increase of 30 minutes of run time to 2 hours at full brightness of a measured 2700 lumens.

Quality and usability is still top notch as the head unit displays the finest machining we’ve ever seen in a light. The notches for the rubber mounting straps are making a lot of sense to us now in terms of their simplicity. There’s also a bar mount included in the kit. It’s essentially a plastic mold mounted on the stem that gives the light a perch to sit on.

Trail LED DS Bar Mount

Trail LED is a bike light company similar to the great handmade bike builders like Moots and Chris King. It is run by craftsman Grady Pace who is meticulous about his work and craftsmanship. These lights are machined from billet aluminum and then assembled in Dallas, TX. All components except lenses, batteries, and chargers come from the USA.

They sent us three lights and they are illuminating in their design and innovation. The three in the line are:

Trail LED XXX: $300 – 1800 Lumens claimed
Trail LED Halo: $1,200 – 6000 Lumens claimed

The aspirational light is the Trail LED Halo at 6000 Lumens. It's called Halo perhaps due to its shape and brightness.

The aspirational light is the Trail LED Halo at 6000 Lumens. It’s called Halo perhaps due to its shape and brightness.

Mounting is done with a couple of heat proof bands that go through the vents of the helmet. Some helmet shapes don’t conform with the light shape, so uniform contact will not be achieved. Aiming the light is done by positioning the light along the curvature of the helmet. Mounting the DS model is easy on any helmet since it’s small and only slightly curved.

Charging is done by a huge external charger that will fully charge this powerful battery in two hours.

They also put out ridiculous amounts of light on the helmet. Grady believes that the helmet is the best place for the light, as a wide beam beam pattern that can be pointed gives the best illumination for the fastest and most aggressive night rides.

The Trail LED DS is the happy medium light hitting 2700 measured Lumens. The form factor and shape is just right with 6 LEDs in a curved row. This forms kind of a halo around the helmet and is shaped to follow the curvature of most helmets. This gives the light a low profile, as it is just a couple centimeters above the helmet. It just seems like a dialed solution for helmets for someone who wants a very bright light with long runtime.

Video: Test loop with the Trail LED DS. Camera is on a locked ISO setting and is set to Wide Angle mode.

The beam pattern has a nice rectangular shape. It’s fairly wide for peripheral vision and it’s got a nice spot to see far ahead.

The battery is separate of course and it is a very well-insulated ‘brick’ style with a system weight of 380 grams. It can power the light at full brightness for 2.5 hours and the battery can be charged to full capacity in just two hours. It is intended to be carried in a hydration pack.

Beam Pattern Photo

We photographed the lights in the same location setting with the same camera settings. The photos were taken in the back yard that is approximately 25 yards long. These photos feature many objects and a distinct background to analyze detail and beam pattern. Compare all Beam Patterns here »

Trail LED DS Backyard Beam Pattern

Integrating Sphere Measured Lumens

This light measured 2700 Lumens in an integrating sphere. Claimed Lumens by the manufacturer is 3000 Lumens. Compare all Lumen Tests here »

Strengths
  • Excellent brightness and beam pattern
  • Power and run time compared to weight is very good
  • This can be used by itself as an ultimate helmet light
  • Excellent construction and very versatile light for $500
  • Charging is very fast
Weaknesses
  • Mounting is simple once learned but up and down aiming cannot be done on the fly
  • Very bright helmet mount can cause glare in foggy or dusty conditions
Specifications
  • Price: $550
  • Claimed Lumens: 3000 Lumens
  • Measured Lumens: 2700 Lumens
  • Lumens per $: 4.91 Lumens
  • Lumens per gram: 6.47 Lumens
  • Time on High: 2:00 Hours
  • Charge Time: 2:00 Hours
  • Mounted Weight: 417 grams
  • Category: High End
Overall Rating

4.5 Flamin' Chili Peppers 4.5 out of 5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

Trail LED has quite a range of lights, all the way to the ridiculously bright Trail LED Halo model. This one is a good balance of quality, size and good old American ingenuity.

For more information visit www.trailled.com.

This article is part of Mtbr and RoadBikeReview’s 2015 Lights Shootout. To see all the bike lights tested CLICK HERE.


About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.


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  • Leonard says:

    Francis, it would be cool if you ran a illumination retrospective, especially showing the progression in brightness of your back yard shots. The shot of your yard in this article looks like daylight nearly. It would be interesting to see how lighting has progressed over the years.

  • Toby says:

    I have been using the DS for around a month now and am very, very happy with this light. It is bright, the beam pattern is excellent, and the run time is fantastic. I found the mounting took a little bit of fine tuning on my helmet but once dialed-in the DS is plug and play (mount the light, connect the battery, and ride until the cows come home).

  • Seattle Medic says:

    I have used the Trail LED during a nighttime endurance race in the middle of the summer here in Texas and was extremely pleased with the results. I actually had to bring another rider back around on the final lap because his light had run out of batteries. The rep/owner of the company was onsite and set me up with the light on my helmet. It didn’t scratch or leave any marks on my helmet which I had just picked up from the shop before the race. With some explanation and adjustment (5minutes) I was set to race.. I would recommend the light.

  • Kevin Smith says:

    Ok, so this is the highest quality light I’ve used in 25 years of riding at night. Period. I own a xxx and I rented a DS to compliment my xxx during a recent 24 hour MTB race. All I can say is WOW. xxx on the bar and DS on my helmet. It was the perfect setup. Low profile on both, small lightweight battery on both, super SIMPLE mounting on both. QUALITY on/off switches on both. What more can you ask? Oh, and did I mention BRIGHT!?!?!? I could have raced with both lights on their dim setting and been just fine. But what the heck, rode with both on high and found myself squinting just little bit because they were so bright. Great light, great support, great quality. Any questions??

  • Chad Ross says:

    I Used trail led xxx on my first 24 hour mountain bike race. Having never rode at night before I was worried that the light wasn’t going to be enough…after all it was just three led lights on my helmet. It was enough! I ran my first couple laps with it on “dim” before I found the high beam setting. The light mounts super easy to helmets (bell volt is what I used), battery fits perfect in jersey pocket, and staff at race was super friendly & helpful. If you are going to buy a light this is it. Oh yea & it does NOT feel like it’s on fire like the magic shine lights my friends have.

  • Glen says:

    Can’t say enough about these lights. Quickly mounts right to your helmet without brackets or goofy velcro straps. Doesn’t stick up off the top like a unicorn, and has the best charging system in the industry. Sure, there’s cheaper lights that “work”. But if I’m out in the middle of a night ride, 5 miles from the trailhead, it’s worth to pay a little more for quality that does more than, “work”. If it was that simple, we’d all be riding Huffy bicycles.

  • Josh says:

    Review of Trail LED XXX on the Race Across Texas

    Last week I was rode to a win in the first Race Across Texas (RAT). The Race/Ride Across Texas (RAT) is a multi-day endurance event starting in Texarkana, AR and ending in Tucumcari, NM nearly 900 miles and 25,000 feet of climbing later. This was the first year for the event which could be called the biggest “gravel grinder” in the state as race Director Kevin Lee of Spinistry aims to keep participants on the dirt and off the “hardball” (gravel grinder term for pavement) as much as possible.

    My XXX easily met my needs during the RAT. I mounted the light upside down to a carved piece of PVC that I zip tied between my aero bars. It cast a good amount of flood with a centered hot spot where I focused most of the time. I used the “emergency” 200 lumen setting for the entire ride and it was perfect for me at any speed on the gravel roads and rail beds without any headlamp or secondary light. I rode through rain, slogged through mud, and spun through deep sugary sand without any effect on the XXX. We rode in wind chills that dipped into the 30’s but my lighting didn’t seem to notice.

    Trail LED claims that one battery pack will last 27 hours on the 200 lumen setting. But I find that their claims to be conservative. In my own burn test on the medium 900 lumen setting my battery burned 30% longer than stated on their website. I had no doubts that I could ride as long as I needed with my 2 battery packs and light set on low during the race. And when riding with other racers, they appreciated me lighting the way when we had to hike and their Dynamo lights wouldn’t illuminate.

    I would love to tell you how great the more powerful lights are that they sell, but I just can’t imagine needing more light than this versatile and dependable little workhorse.

  • Scott Buchholtz says:

    I have used the Trail LED bike lights for about a year now. After riding with a Serfas and a Nightrider, these bike lights are by far the best lights I have ever used. They are built with pride right here in the USA, they perform flawlessly and they are really light so don’t weigh down my helmet.
    As I ride around my local trails, my friends make me lead the way so I can light up the trail. Thanks Trail LED.

  • Brad says:

    Been using a L&M light for years and had been debating on getting a Trail LED. Finally pulled the trigger on XXX race.
    First ride and the first notable difference was the weight on my head, the Trail LED is crazy light and so low profile, you never know it is there. The pendulum effect was gone and my ride was so much more enjoyable.
    Secondly, the light output – WOW! Great pattern, great beam for the night time single track. I rode the first part of the ride on the medium (900 lumens) setting and it was a lot of light, then I realized that I was not on high, so clicked the light up to high and was blown away.
    Awesome product – great owner who is pushing the envelopes of lighting!
    Get sum

  • JC says:

    It appears Trail LED is going our of business or discontinuing the production of lights. See their web site.

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