Serious off-road-capable lights no longer have to involve bulky external batteries and huge expense. Needing something compact to augment my ageing handlebar-mounted halogens, I decided to try out a Joystick – one of Exposure’s smaller lights.
The Joystick uses the same LED technology as beefier Exposure models, but in a small helmet-mountable package. Compared to other options, it’s not cheapest light of its size, but friends’ recommendations convinced me that this was an investment worth making.
The Joystick comes in a padded case with a serious feel. Unzipping the chunky neoprene wallet reveals an abundance of padding, with the small light unit nestling in its own shaped space. A compact mains charger sits alongside, with a bracket for helmet or handlebar mounting. I chose a helmet mount, but some current versions of the Joystick are supplied with both bracket types. There’s also a lanyard, to prevent loss if you choose to use the Joystick as a handheld torch.
With a size, shape and weight not much greater than that of a chunky marker pen, it’s amazing how much light is belted out from such a modestly-sized unit. At a full power of 300 lumens (240 on the version I tested), an internal Li-ion battery fuels the Joystick at full power for 3 hours. Choosing one of the lower power levels offers durations of up to 24 hours (even longer on flashing mode).
Controls are extremely minimal. A single button brings together the functions of power switch, mode selector, power indicator and charging indicator. At first I was confused by the required combination of clicks and holds needed to cycle through the Joystick’s four power levels, but this soon becomes second nature.
There is no instruction manual provided with the Joystick. Exposure have etched the most important info (burn times, mode selection) onto the body of the light itself. What a great idea. Bulky instructional pamphlets rarely get read, especially out on the trail in the middle of the night. Full instructions are available online for anyone who should need them.
The Joystick’s helmet mount is a perfect example of simple design. A plastic disc bolts through a vent to another disc, forming a kind of ‘helmet sandwich’ to which a simple articulated U-shaped bracket is mounted. The light unit snaps easily in and out of the bracket.
Commuting and road riding
I first used the Joystick for commuting during darkness hours. Squeezing through heavy urban traffic, I set a handlebar-mounted light to constant and put the Joystick on flashing mode to ensure visibility over the stationary cars of Guildford town centre. On dark country roads, I switch from flashing mode to full power. The light is impressive, but a fairly narrow beam made me wish for a little more peripheral vision when out of town.
The first time I took the Joystick it off-road, I really didn’t expect it to be enough on its own. I was curious to find how fast twisty singletrack would be illuminated by a light that’s usually used as an adjunct to bigger bar-mounted lights.
I was pleasantly surprised at how effectively the Joystick lit up the trails of the Surrey Hills. For technical riding, at relatively low speeds, the Joystick was just right for keeping me on course in the singletrack. The only time I felt under-equipped was on faster sections. When rolling at higher speeds, a rider looks ahead, further along the trail, so it takes a heftier light to maintain visibility at a greater distance. But on the tricky technical stuff, I never once felt under-illuminated.
I fell in love with the Joystick straight away. This is an impressive UK-built light that performs well at a reasonable (but not cheap) price. Lower-priced unbranded eBay-sourced alternatives seem like a bargain, but there’s a certain feel of quality and reliability from the Exposure Joystick. The fairly narrow beam and the reasonable-but-not-massive output may mean that this light is not the only one you’ll need, but it’s a highly useful bit of kit.