Wouldn't life would be easier if all bikes came with lights built into the frame? The typical removable ones are as easy to forget as they are to steal, either of which will ruin your evening. Well, Trek's new Lync models come with built-in lights! This matte black beaut is fully equipped with powerful LEDs in front (white) and back (red). You'll never be without night-time illumination -- as long as you keep them charged, at least.
I tried out the Lync 5, which, for $1799 -- the Lync 3 is $1399 -- is a pretty badass commuter cycle with a lot of great features.
But the main draw is this new internally wired onboard lighting system. I was particularly excited to give it a go, because I've blown a lot of cash over the years on temporary illumination. I would have been more excited if the ones embedded in the Lync were solar- or pedal-powered, but Trek's alternative isn't too bad: a detachable lithium-ion battery that just pops right off.
So, functionally: The lights work! They work really well. A pair of small buttons on the underside of the frame's top tube turn them on and off, set them to shine steadily or flash repeatedly, and adjust their intensity between bright and relatively dim. The very first night I spent with the Lync, I ventured onto San Francisco's after-hours urban grid for a quick jaunt from the Haight to the Mission, and was honest-to-goodness delighted to know that my lights were not only in place and secure, but were also totally charged and totally potent for piercing through the night. The front one shines at a gnarly, squint-inducing 500 lumens on high.
San Francisco's streets are relatively well-lit, so I wasn't braving any kind of crazy pitch-dark routes, but these have significantly more oomph than any other lights I've ever ridden with. I could tell the difference, and the difference was good. My way was well illuminated, but I wasn't blinding oncoming traffic with the power of a miniature sun.
This was a genuine relief for many reasons, not least of which because I had been riding my roadie for weeks with no spark in my Sparse lights, which I've had mounted to my regular bike's headset and seatpost for months. Those were dead simply because I kept forgetting to juice them up when I was at home.
Which is the fundamental problem with bike lights -- even the ones that are affixed to your ride in the most theft-proof way possible like these. They're still going to run down eventually, and you're still going to need to recharge them. It's not difficult to do! Just snap off the battery pack and flip open the teensy cap covering the USB port.
And then I realised: Damn. These didn't come with a cord. After digging through a junk drawer full of random gadget cables, I found my match. It was the one that came with my dead-as-a-doornail Sparse lights. The irony.
I wanted to see how long the Lync's lights would last before fading out to zero, so I did a run-down test in my studio, leaving both front and back lights on continuously until they went kaput. At almost exactly three hours, the front started to blink, and it beat in a syncopated rhythm as it slowly, slowly dimmed down and quite ceremoniously died at about the three-and-a-half hour mark. The back two lights were still flashing at four hours but didn't last long after that.
For my needs, those results sound A-ok: I work from home so my commute is… nonexistent, and even if I went out every night of the week -- which I don't -- the amount of time it takes to get anywhere I'm going in SF is a half-hour or less. I could probably make it through a week and a bit on a single fill-up. Your mileage, quite literally, may vary.
Once the lights were dead, I plugged the pack in to replenish the precious juice -- a process that took about as long as it did to run down. At three and a half hours it still wasn't finished but I had to move, so I just grabbed the pack, clicked it on, and rolled out the door.
You know what? Lync gives a good ride. Great, even! I bonded with it immediately after I first picked it up from City Cycle. After a cramped Muni ride from the Mission (a flat part of San Francisco) to the Marina (another flat part of San Francisco) I headed to the Haight, which is situated atop a series of hills. I started with four not-insignificant steepies on Steiner Street. In the interest of putting this new model to work immediately, I figured: Fuck it. I'll give 'em a go.
It was a slow slog, but I'll be damned if it wasn't also smooth as hell. Downshifting between the Shimano Acera M390's nine speeds was a total breeze, and despite the fact that this baby weighs more than my road bike, I couldn't feel the extra bulk when I was on the move at all. (Carrying it up the four flights of stairs to my apartment is another story). I made it to the top, no problem.
And that was totally typical throughout the week that I was testing the Lync. I enjoyed taking it out on any and all urban terrain in SF. Granted, I was a little leery of leaving this loaner locked up on the street in the same way I do my regular ride, but if I owned it I wouldn't have been so skittish. That being said, I did feel like I should take the battery pack with me whenever I parked. It's detachable, after all. Which means that even if my lights can't easily get stolen, a thief could still snatch a component that's necessary to make them work.
We're still mid-draught in California, so there were no rainy afternoons to test out the full-coverage fenders on the front and back wheels, and if I had a pannier instead of my over-the-shoulder bag, I would have definitely been stoked about the custom rear rack.
Folks who track their mileage will also appreciate the compatibility with Bontrager's Dual S Digital Sensor. Plus: It's got a bell. I've never had a bike with a bell. I LOVE having a bike with a bell.
Should You Buy It?
I really and truly want to believe that at some point, smart, reliable, solar-or-pedal-powered illuminators will come standard on all cycles, without the need to invest in extra accessories -- or plug anything into a wall. The Lync is a great step forward, but one that you shouldn't take unless you're already in the market for a new mid-range commuter.
Any time you're considering a big bike purchase, I'd strongly recommend a handful of test-rides to see what suits your body, style, budget, and needs, but if you're looking, the Lync is a great option. And hey: You may forget to recharge the lights, but if nothing else you'll never be without 'em. [Trek Lync]