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Published on September 18th, 2012 | by James Tennant

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Best bike lights tested and reviewed

Best bike lights tested and reviewed

With the dark evenings suddenly upon us, it’s time to trip the light fantastic with some bike lights ready for the colder, darker months. With so many to choose from, we’ve shed some light on a small but perfectly formed selection of the LED bike lights on offer and road tested them out at night to give you (or any burglars/alternative lifestyle choice participants reading this) an idea of how much beam you’ll get for your bucks.

Just a quick note – as a legal requirement between sunset and sunrise you need to use a white front light & red rear light on your bike which can be steady or flashing. Steady lights need to conform to BS 6102-3 and flashing lights need a flash rate of between 60 and 240 (or 1-4) equal flashes per second with a luminous intensity of at least 4 candela. You’ll also need a red rear reflector and amber/yellow pedal reflectors which must conform to BS 6102-2.

 

How we tested the lights (feel free to skip if you aren’t a tech head)

To make the test fair and relative, the test photos were taken in near darkness with a DSLR camera (Canon 7D) in fully manual mode so nothing changed between shots. The camera settings were: 2.5 seconds at f/5.0, ISO 1000 and we used a lens at 24mm. These settings were used to replicate the best representation of what you can actually see when the lights were used. All the lights were on maximum power for the test. The lights were all bar-mounted and focused for optimum visibility. See, it’s not just bikes we get technical about.

 


Cateye EL530 Power Opticube Front Light

Cateye EL300 RRP: £54.99 Now: £46.74

  • Brightness: 1500+ candlepower/200+ lumens*
  • Runtime: Up to 50 hours
  • Waterproof? Yes
  • Steady/Flashing: Both
  • Batteries:  AA, included, internal
  • Mounting Bracket: Handlebar – standard and oversized – infinity adjustable
  • Weight: 244g (with bracket and batteries)

Reviewed

The Cateye EL 530 has a very directional beam, with an outer halo that lights up the surrounding area. The centered beam is actually quite bright but the spread is a little uninspiring. We would expect more from light in this price range but included batteries did help win us over a bit. The mounting bracket is infinitely adjustable within its range, so you don’t have to worry about getting the right piece of rubber to fit your bars. The beam does allow you to view things at a further distance so is good for picking out potholes in the city. However we’d be reluctant to use the EL300 on dark country roads or unlit areas.

Rating:

Glowing report: Narrow but long beam – a good spot but a little bit narrow for unlit areas.

  • Brightness rating: ☀
  • Value: ☀☀
  • Function: ☀☀
  • Overall: ☀☀

 


Electron Micro 5 Front Light

Electron Micro 5 RRP: £19.99 Now: £12.99

  • Brightness: 5 watt-peaks (approximately the maximum power output of 5 square metre solar panels at 25 degrees centigrade, fact fans)
  • Runtime: Up to 150 hours
  • Waterproof? Yes
  • Steady/Flashing:  Both
  • Batteries:  4 x AAA batteries (included)
  • Mounting Bracket: Handlebar mounted quick release bracket (included)
  • Weight: 195g

Reviewed

The Electron Micro 5 is a great value light with added side-on viability. The beam is adequate for riding in lit city areas and the added ring at the back of the light’s head illuminates the  Micro 5  from the side as well as the front. This is great if you are at a junction, as some lights can be hard to see from a 90 degree angle. Ok, the beam isn’t going to light too much tarmac and you certainly wouldn’t want to use it off road, but for just £12.99 the Electron Micro 5 is prefect for the occasional to medium use commuter and has batteries included.

Rating

Glowing report: Visibility from the front and side – perfect for city riding.

  • Brightness rating: ☀
  • Value: ☀☀
  • Function: ☀☀
  • Overall: ☀☀

 


RSP Asteri 3 Rechargeable Front Light

RSP Asteri 3 RRP: £79.98 Now: £48.99

  • Brightness: 1,500 candle power/200 lumens
  • Runtime: Up to 7 hours (4-6 hours charge time)
  • Waterproof? Yes
  • Steady/Flashing: Both
  • Batteries:  Integrated Li-ion rechargeable battery
  • Mounting Bracket: Easy mount quick release bracket
  • Weight: 170g (with bracket)

Reviewed

The RRP Asteri 3 come with a sturdy mount and produces a fair amount of light for its size. We liked the fact the Asteri 3 comes with an internal Li-ION battery so you don’t have to keep replacing your AAAs, but you do expect that with a light of this price range. The light unit can be removed and would work as a torch and the water resistant outer means you don’t have to worry when the weather gets nasty. The beam is easily bright enough for unlit roads and is quite wide/bright enough to let you see where you are going. Not quite a trail light but it wouldn’t do a terrible job if it’s all you had.

Rating

Glowing report: light and bright the Asteri 3 is great for use in and out of the city.

  • Brightness rating: ☀☀☀
  • Value: ☀☀
  • Function: ☀☀
  • Overall: ☀☀


Exposure Spark Front Light

Exposure Spark RRP: £80.00 Now: £68.99

  • Brightness: 255 lumens
  • Runtime: Maximum – 2.5hrs, high – 8hrs, low – 20hrs, flash – days!
  • Waterproof? Weatherproof under normal conditions
  • Steady/Flashing:  Max/high /low and flashing settings
  • Batteries:  Choice of rechargeble or disposable battery types
  • Mounting Bracket: Bar or helmet mounted
  • Weight: 72g (light only)

Reviewed

Exposure are a real market leader in the lighting market. The UK-based company have produced the Spark to be used on your bars as a commuter light or possibly your helmet if you want to head off road. A sturdy rubber mount and a pair of rechargeable batteries (charger also) come included with the Spark and it provides you with a surprisingly bright beam for its size and weight – no less than 255 lumens. Weatherproof and with 3 power settings, the Spark is a favourite for its size and versatility.

Rating

Glowing report: Small and really powerful combined with rechargeable batteries and charger make the Spark a must have for on and off road use.

  • Brightness rating: ☀☀☀
  • Value: ☀☀
  • Function: ☀☀
  • Overall: ☀☀

 


Electron Terra 1 Evo Li-Ion Rechargeable Front Light System

Electron Terra 1 Now: £99.99

  • Brightness: 180 lumen
  • Runtime: Up to 30 hours on low, 8 hours on high and 60 hours on flashing
  • Waterproof? Water resistant headlight design
  • Steady/Flashing:  High, low and flashing and hold for off
  • Batteries:  Advanced Sanyo Li-Ion (stem or frame mounted)
  • Mounting Bracket: Handlebar mounted head unit
  • Weight: Boxed product weight 499g

Reviewed

The Electron Terra 1 is built with a remote battery so you have the option to bar mount it, or helmet mount with the battery carried in your back pack. Water resistant, rechargeable, three modes, all standard stuff for lights in this range and the Terra 1 is no exception. The beam is bright and has a spot and fill effect to the emitted light (shown below). The spot provides a long centered beam while the outer ring helps to project some ambient light in the wider field. The Terra 1 is the most expensive light on test but didn’t appear to give the best field of view. However you can see Electron have focused the beam on being wide and long so we can let them off a bit.

Rating

Glowing report: External battery and light, weather-proof head unit equals good functionality and options of fitting. However for the money it could have been brighter.

  • Brightness rating: ☀☀☀
  • Value: ☀☀
  • Function: ☀☀
  • Overall: ☀☀

 


Lezyne Super Drive 450 Lumen Rechargeable Front Light

Lezyne Superdrive RRP: £99.99 Now: £89.99

  • Brightness: 450 lumen
  • Runtime: High (450 Lumens) – 1hr 30mins, medium (300 Lumens) – 2hrs 30mins, low (150 Lumens) – 4hrs, flash – hours!
  • Waterproof? Weather proof with O-ring and rubber seals
  • Steady/Flashing:  Three steady modes and one high-visibility blinking mode
  • Batteries: USB rechargeable and replaceable high capacity Li-ion battery
  • Mounting Bracket: Tool-free universal handlebar bracket included
  • Weight: 126g (236g with bracket)
  • Colours: Black/Grey/Silver

Reviewed

Last be not at all least, the Lezyne Superdrive offers unrivalled power and value for its sub-£100 price tag. The beam of the Superdrive is wide, even and bright! The small bar mounted unit produces a maximum of 450 lumens and of course it’s weather proof and rechargeable. You could easily use the Superdrive in an unlit area and you might even feel comfortable enough to take it off road, but it doesn’t come with a helmet mount. USB charging does make up for the lack of a helmet mount and three colour options (unit-not beam) mean you can match your bike. If I was commuting and spending my own money, it would be on the Superdrive.

Rating

Glowing report: A simply brilliant light, all weather and almost as powerful as a car. Highly recommended.

  • Brightness rating: ☀☀☀
  • Value: ☀☀
  • Function: ☀☀
  • Overall: ☀☀

 


Hope R4 LED Vision Rechargeable Front Light - in comparison

Hope R4 was £249.98 Now £179.99

The Hope R4 is what we would class as a ‘trail light’. These lights are designed for use off road and at mountain bike trail centres. As  a benchmark, and to demonstrate the difference, we have shown an R4 light in the above picture. You will notice that there is a lot of overexposure happening, which suggests there is a lot more light than is obvious in the picture. The Hope R4 will cost you more than twice the price of the Lezyne Superdrive, but you are into car lights territory. There is nothing wrong with using a 1,000 lumen Hope R4 on the road if you have one or want to ride on both trail and road, they will just cost more.

  • Brightness: 1,000 measured lumens, 1,446 generated lumens
  • Runtime: 1.15 hours to 8 hours (depending on setting)
  • Waterproof? Yes
  • Steady/Flashing:  Both
  • Batteries:  7.4v Li-Ion, 2600mAh (charge time 3 hours)
  • Mounting Bracket: CNC machined aluminium QR bayonet mount for handlebar, helmet or head
  • Weight: 235g (std),338g (epic),367g (endurance)

 


 

Comparison

In the manner of Go Compare (but without the annoying moustached man), here’s a handy table.

 Cateye   EL530Electron   Micro 5RSP   Asteri 3Lezyne   Super DriveElectron   Terra 1 Evo Li-IonExposure   SparkHope   R4

Brightness

1500+ candlepower/200+ lumens

Not as much as the other ones

1,500 candle power/200 lumens

450 lumen

180 lumen

255 lumens

1,000 lumens

Runtime

Up to 50 hours

Up to 150 hours

Up to 7 hours (4-6 hours charge time)

High (450 Lumens) – 1hr 30mins, medium   (300 Lumens) – 2hrs 30mins, low (150 Lumens) – 4hrs, flash – hours

Up to 30 hours on low, 8 hours on high   and 60 hours on flashing

Maximum – 2.5hrs, high – 8hrs, low – 20hrs, flash – days!

1.15 hours to 8 hours (depending on   setting)

Waterproof?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Weather proof with O-ring and rubber   seals

Water resistant headlight design

Weatherproof under normal conditions

Yes

Steady/

Flashing

Both

Both

Both

Three steady modes and one high-visibility   blinking mode

High, low and flashing and hold for off

Max/high /low and flashing settings

Both

Batteries

AA, included, internal

4 x AAA batteries (included)

Integrated Li-ion rechargeable battery

USB rechargeable and replaceable high   capacity Li-ion battery

Advanced Sanyo Li-Ion (stem or frame   mounted)

Choice of rechargeble or disposable battery   types

7.4v Li-Ion, 2600mAh (charge time 3   hours)

Mounting Bracket

Handlebar   – Standard and Oversized

Handlebar mounted quick release bracket   (included)

Easy mount quick release bracket

Tool-free universal handlebar bracket   included

Handlebar   mounted head unit

Bar or helmet mounted

CNC machined aluminium QR bayonet mount   for handlebar, helmet or head

Weight

Mountain   bike or road Weight: 244 grams (with bracket and batteries)

195g

170g (with bracket)

126g (236g with bracket)

Boxed product weight 499g

72g (light only)

235g (std),338g (epic),367g (endurance)

Price

£46.74

£12.99

£48.99

£89.99

£99.99

£68.99

From £215

*In simple terms, lumens are measurements of how much light arrives at it’s target and candela (also known as candlepower) measure how much light is produced by the bulb itself. To compare, one candela equals 12.57 lumens.

 

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About the Author

has been a cyclist for over fifteen years and in that time he's raced off road in both the UK and Europe. He's a Cytech level 2 mechanic, qualified cycle coach, guide and has extensive cycle industry experience. JT rides both road and mountain although refuses to commute by bike because he lives so close to work. You'll also see his mug on most of our Tredz TV productions.



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