Review: Gloworm CX Trail & X2 Lights

by
January 31, 2017

gloworm light led helmet handlebar cx trail x2

Kiwi brand Gloworm has been producing high-powered LED bike lights for a few years now. We check out the latest X2 and the CX Trail lights from Gloworm.

Brand:
Gloworm Lights
Product:
CX Trail & X2
From:
Ison Distribution, ison-distribution.com
Price:
£134.99 - £179.99
Tested:
by Wil Barrett for 4 months

Read the Gloworm CX Trail & X2 light review as part of our Combo Lights Group Test.


Based out of Auckland in New Zealand, Gloworm Lights has been around since 2010. In that relatively short space of time, the once small brand has promptly established itself as a genuine global player, with distributors located all over the world including in the US, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. Ison Distribution sells and supports Gloworm Lights in the UK through a broad network of bike stores, and that means things like spare batteries and mount kits are never too far away.

With a focus on compact high-powered LED technology, Gloworm Lights aim to fill the void between super-cheap eBay Chinese lights and the uber-expensive gucci lights. Gloworm first launched with the X1 and X2 lights, which have both been updated for 2017 to deliver more power and longer runtimes. They’re now joined by the even more powerful XS light system, and the all-in-one CX series.

For our Combo Light Group Test, we’ve chosen the Gloworm CX Trail and the X2 lights.

gloworm cx trail handlebar light helmet led
The CX Trail is the newest light designs from Gloworm.

Gloworm CX Trail

  • RRP: £134.99
  • Claimed power: 1300 Lumens
  • 2 X Cree U3 XM-L2 LEDS
  • Weight: 237 grams (light & handlebar mount)
  • Mounting: Handlebar & helmet
  • Actual run time: 2 hours on High, before stepping down to emergency mode
  • Charge time: 3 hours (with AC wall charger)
  • Includes: Light, helmet mount, handlebar mount, USB charger, flood & spot lens
  • Pros: Compact and sturdy design, no cables, 2 hour burn time
  • Cons: Poor handlebar mount, narrow beam pattern, least powerful on test
gloworm cx trail handlebar light helmet led
No battery packs or cables here.

All-In-One Design

Unlike the existing Gloworm X1 and X2 lights, the CX Trail ditches the cables and battery pack in favour of an all-in-one design. The CX Trail is built upon a single alloy housing, with a removable lithium-ion battery pack and two Cree U3 XM-L2 LEDs inside. There’s a large opaque button on top for turning the light on, but it’s a bit vague in use and it requires a concentrated push to engage. Turning the light off also requires quite a long hold of the button. Gloworm also offers a CX Urban light, but that light uses two lesser LEDs and comes up shorter on power output with only 900 Lumens, compared with 1300 on the CX Trail.

It’s a tidy package overall, and one that feels reassuringly solid in the hand. On top of the light head is a bolt-on hood that helps to shield your eyes from the bright LEDs underneath, and the rear door is held on with a tightly-fitting O-ring that keeps it snug and watertight. This last point is worth noting, as Gloworm has designed the battery to be easily replaceable if you need to swap it out for a new pack.

gloworm cx trail handlebar light helmet led
The CX Trail can be handlebar or helmet mounted.

Flexible Mounting

Inside the box, the CX Trail light comes with a myriad of different mounting options. Underneath the light body is a removable mounting plate. With four minuscule hex bolts (the allen key is thankfully included in the box), this mounting plate can be changed from a Garmin mount to a GoPro mount. There’s a quick release handlebar bracket included in the box, and this bracket is designed to fit with the Garmin 1/4 turn mount.

gloworm light led helmet handlebar cx trail x2
The hinged handlebar bracket is too flimsy, and wouldn’t hold the light body straight.
gloworm light led helmet handlebar cx trail x2
The fitting on the underside of the light body can be changed between a GoPro or a Garmin style mount.

Unfortunately due to the hinged design, the CX Trail has a horrible tendency to rotate on the handlebar bracket. And I’m not talking about hitting drops and G-outs on the trail – I’m talking about riding across potholes on the road. Any sized bump was enough to disturb the light body and cause it to rotate on the bracket, no matter how tight you do up the main bolt. As a result, I didn’t even attempt to use the CX Trail off road with the stock handlebar bracket.

gloworm light led helmet handlebar cx trail x2
During a crash, the Garmin mount actually broke, rendering it unusable.

Instead, I got my hands on a much sturdier Barfly handlebar mount that had no such slipping issues. However, the 1/4 turn Garmin mount still doesn’t feel that secure, and I did have the CX Trail dislodge from the mount during a small front-wheel washout during a recent night ride. After discovering that the Garmin mounting plate had fractured in the crash, I decided to swap in the GoPro mounting plate instead, and that’s proven to be a lot better. Still, it’s a lot of faffing with a feature that should be dialled from the get-go.

gloworm cx trail led light
Compared to the other lights on test, the CX Trail was the least powerful.

Beam Pattern

Included in the box with the CX Trail light are two sets of lenses. You can swap these around to change from a narrow to a wide beam pattern, depending on what your application is. I initially started out testing the CX Trail as a handlebar light, so I swapped in the wide lens, and the above photo was taken in that configuration. With the light being cast over a larger surface area, the claimed 1300 Lumens appear to disappear rather quickly. Compared to the other lights on test, the CX Trail was the least powerful in this setting. In fact, it was noticeably dimmer even when compared to the Hope R2 light, which is supposedly less powerful on paper. Either Hope is being humble, or Gloworm is being cheeky.

gloworm light led helmet handlebar cx trail x2
Two sets of optics come in the box, so you can choose between a narrow and a wide beam pattern.
gloworm light led helmet handlebar cx trail x2
With the narrow optic installed, the CX Trail concentrates its power into a smaller beam pattern that is useful for the helmet. But it is quite heavy.

Part way through testing, I swapped the CX Trail onto the helmet, and changed the lens out to the narrow beam pattern. This helped to concentrate the power into a smaller area, and made the CX Trail noticeably brighter. It still wasn’t particularly bright though, and it certainly doesn’t have the same throw down the trail that the Exposure Diablo and Hope R2 lights offer.

gloworm cx trail handlebar light helmet led
The stock handlebar bracket is terrible, so I swapped in a Barfly mount to securely strap the CX Trail to the bars.

Overall

When the Gloworm CX Trail light first showed up, I had high expectations for its performance. I like all-in-one lights from an aesthetic standpoint, and with a claimed power output of 1300 Lumens and a run time of two hours, it certainly sounds good on the tin. Unfortunately, the CX Trail doesn’t really deliver as a fully-fledged mountain bike light though. While you do get used to it, at 215 grams for the light body, it’s a bit heavy to use on the helmet. And as a bar light, it’s a little underpowered when configured with the wide lens. The fact that I had to dick around with aftermarket handlebar brackets just to get it to stay put didn’t help the situation. I can see it being a popular option with off-road commuters and gravel riders, but for off-road use, I’d recommend the Gloworm X1 and X2 lights over the CX Trail.

gloworm cx trail handlebar light helmet led
The Gloworm X2 has been around for years, but the new version has been updated with more power and longer run times.

Gloworm X2 Adventure

  • RRP: £179.99
  • Claimed power: 1500 Lumens
  • 2 x Cree U2 XM-L2 LEDs
  • Weight: 246 grams = 102 grams (light head & handlebar bracket) + 145 grams (battery pack)
  • Mounting: Handlebar & helmet
  • Actual run time: 1 hour 33 minutes on High
  • Charge time: 4 hours
  • Included in the box: Light, remote switch, battery, helmet mount, handlebar mount, extension cable, flood & spot lens
  • Pros: Compact head unit, flexible mounting, lightweight battery, usable beam pattern
  • Cons: Remote switch adds another cable to the system, overly complicated programming, super tight connectors
gloworm cx trail handlebar light helmet led
The X2 is a compact dual-LED head unit that can double duty on the helmet or the handlebar.

Compact Design

I’ve tested some of the earlier Gloworm X1 and X2 lights in the past (and Chipps also reviewed the original Gloworm X1 light back in 2013) and we’ve quite liked their compact and lightweight design. The X2 remains fundamentally the same as the original, with a small dual-LED head unit that weighs just 89 grams on its own. The light body is CNC machined out of a single block of 6061-T6 alloy, and that’s allowed Gloworm to build in numerous ‘fins’ into the head unit to allow it to dissipate heat more efficiently. Heat is the enemy of LEDs after all, which can get quite hot in use.

gloworm cx trail handlebar light helmet led
Our X2 light came with a 2-cell battery pack, but bigger 4-cell packs are also available to double runtimes.

Compared to the original X2, the new version steps up to 1500 Lumens of power thanks to using the later generation Cree U2 XM-L2 LEDs. Providing the juice is a 3.4AHr Lithium Ion battery, which is housed inside a plastic casing that has an in-built fuel gauge to show you how much battery life is remaining. The battery pack is built with rubberised end caps that are designed to avoid scratching the surface of your frame when the light is bar mounted. On that note, the X2 includes both helmet and bar mounts in the box, and there’s even a headstrap for the trail runners and hikers. The helmet bracket uses a GoPro style mount, so if you’ve already got a helmet with a GoPro mount built into it, the X2 light will tidily clip into place.

gloworm light led helmet handlebar cx trail x2
The compact 2-cell battery pack is lightweight and it features an integrated fuel gauge.

Remote Switch

One of Gloworm’s original features that carries through to 2017 is the remote switch. A single cable comes out the back of the X2 head unit, before splitting into two. One cable goes to the battery pack, and one goes to the remote switch. For helmet mounting, the switch can be stuck onto the side of your lid with a Velcro sticky dot. For handlebar mounting, a small plastic mount attaches to the bar with cable ties and provides the flat surface for you to stick the same Velcro sticky dot to.

gloworm light led helmet handlebar cx trail x2
The switch on the side of the helmet becomes quite easy to use after a few rides.

The idea of the remote switch is to make the on/off and mode activation easier. Initially, it doesn’t feel that way, as your hand hunts around the side of the helmet trying to relocate the button. Once you’re familiar with its location however, the side-mounted button becomes quite intuitive, and is surprisingly a lot nicer than having to reach all the way on top of your helmet to turn the light on and off.

gloworm light led helmet handlebar cx trail x2
You can also mount the switch on your bars, though it is an extra cable to manage.

When bar mounted, the remote switch means you don’t have to take your hands off the grips to change light modes, and that can be a boon during technical sections when you realise you need to be on the High power setting.

gloworm cx trail handlebar light helmet led
The beam pattern on the X2 is still on the narrow side, but its smooth and it fills a good deal of space down the trail.

Beam Pattern

Compared to the 1300 Lumen CX Trail, the 1500 Lumen X2 light is way more powerful, and it offers a much more useful spread of light. Not only is it brighter, but it casts a broader spread of light that helps to illuminate the shrub on the side of the trail more clearly. Like the CX Trail, Gloworm includes additional optics in the box with the X2 light that allows you to tweak the lens for both of the LEDs. In the stock setting, the X2’s beam pattern isn’t nearly as wide as the Hope R8+ or the Exposure Toro lights, but it’s good enough, and it’s more evenly spread compared to the ITUO lights.

lights_grouptest_72
The Gloworm X2 has a very low profile that makes it less noticeable on either the helmet or the handlebar.

Overall

The latest Gloworm X2 is a rocking little light that packs quite the punch. It’s a lightweight and versatile head unit that can be bar or helmet mounted, and with the included lens options in the box, it’s just as good in either application. Run time is pretty good, though you may want to upgrade to a 4-cell battery if you want to stretch that run time out to three hours.

I do have a love/hate relationship with the remote switch. Despite all that functionality, I can’t help but find myself disliking the extra cable required to make it happen. I like simplicity, so it would be nice to see an X2 light option that ditches the remote switch in favour of locating the on/off switch on the head unit itself. Otherwise the X2 is a great little light that I’m happy to recommend. In fact, I’d recommend skipping the CX Trail altogether and running an X2 on the helmet, and another X2 on the bars. Or if you want more power again, consider the bigger XS light for the bars and run the X2 on the helmet.

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