PREVIEWED: Princeton Tec Switchback 1 Light

WHAT:Princeton Tec Switchback 1
HOW MUCH: $199

Gift giving season is in full swing. And though mountain bikers are generally a picky, cantankerous lot, there's nothing better than receiving a nice, unexpected accessory. The guys at Princeton Tec, seem to know this and were nice enough to drop one of their new Switchback 1 LEDs in the mail. When it arrived, it even had a little bow on the box.

Princeton Tec has been making lights since 1975, but this is the first year they offer anything specifically designed for performance mountain bikers. The Switchback line features three lights, all with 3W Maxbright LED bulbs, Lithium-Ion battery packs, LED battery charge indicators and unique battery cord locking connectors that help prevent blackouts. It all sounds fairly impressive.

The current is regulated on all three models to ensure constant light output for as long as the battery has sufficient voltage. Each model comes with a Rapid Smart Charger, which takes only two hours to charge a completely depleted battery pack, and includes US, UK and European outlet adaptors as well as a 12V car charger adaptor. Additionally, the lights come with bar and helmet mounts, a helmet extension cord and cable straps. This is one of the most complete light kits available. Usually, bar or helmet mounts and car chargers come separately, and hardly anyone offers UK and European plug adaptors.

The Switchback 1 is the runt of the group. Its lens is slightly larger than the diameter of a quarter and it weighs 436 grams. Yet this diminutive LED packs a punch and the claimed burn times are impressive. It has three brightness levels (plus a strobe mode), which offer 4.5, 6 or 10 hours of operation. Not bad.

Even more impressive are the burn times for the Switchback 2 and 3 models. These lights offer two and three times the illumination of the Switchback 1 model, plus their larger batteries yield longer burn times. And check this out: According to Princeton Tec, the Switchback 3 will run at its highest level for six hours or its lowest level for up to 50 hours. That's a pretty bold claim and we can't wait to start testing these new lights in the field.