by Wil Barrett
February 1, 2017
We test the compact Hope R2 light, and the massively-bright Hope R8+ light as part of our Combo Light Group Test.
Read the Hope R2 & R8+ light review as part of our Combo Lights Group Test.
Hope Technology may be best known for its whirring Pro4 hubs and trick anodized hydraulic disc brakes, but the UK based manufacturer also makes a banging range of high-powered LED bike lights too. Employing some of that classic Hope machining wizardry, Hope lights feature a tough alloy construction for the light bodies and battery packs, along with high-powered Cree LED’s and rechargeable lithium ion battery cells. Careful consideration has been placed on ensuring the lights are watertight and built to last.
The name for each Hope light denotes the number of LEDs packed into the housing. So the R4 features four LEDs, and the R2 features two LEDs. As well as lights with separate battery packs, Hope also builds an all-in-one R2i light that is suitable for commuters and road riders, and there’s even a wickedly powerful rear light called the District.
For our Combo Light Group Test, we selected the Hope R2 light for the helmet, and the R8+ light for the bars.
- RRP: £175
- Claimed power: 1300 Lumens (1000 Lumens measured)
- 2 x Cree LEDs
- Weight: 375 grams total = 129 grams (head unit & helmet bracket) + 246 grams (battery & extension cord).
- Mounting: Handlebar & helmet
- Actual run time: 2 hours on High, then automatically stepping down to Medium for another hour, then Low for ages
- Charge time: 3.5 hours
- Includes: Light, 2-cell battery, handlebar mount, helmet mount, head harness, extension cord
- Pros: Top-notch finish and construction, excellent beam pattern and power output
- Cons: Sits tall on helmet, battery won’t charge unless its under 75% capacity
Just like the headsets, hubs and disc brakes that Hope manufactures in-house, so too are the lights built in the Barnoldswick facility. The R2 light features a compact head unit that’s equipped with dual-LEDs, and it’s wired to a rechargeable 2-cell battery pack. The battery cells are housed within a tough alloy casing that is quite possibly the most over-engineered battery we’ve ever seen – in a reassuring way. The battery pack uses an external rubber shield to keep it from damaging your frame when you’ve got it strapped to the top tube in handlebar mode, and an elasticated Velcro strap is included in the box for such mounting.
Our favourite feature however, is the illuminated fuel gauge on the battery pack – hold down on the ‘Test’ button, and the fuel gauge lights up to let you know how much juice is left in the tank. One thing to note is that you won’t be able to charge the battery unless it’s under 75% capacity. If the battery is sitting around 90%, you can plug it in, but it won’t charge. That’s quite annoying if all you want to do is just top it up, and it’s not a problem we’ve encountered with any other light sets.
At full power, you’ll get one hour of run time on the R2 light. At this point however, the light automatically steps down to Medium (about 70% brightness) and then it will go for another hour. After that point, the R2 light steps down into a Low power mode, where it basically stays at forever (we were never patient enough to wait beyond 5.5 hours). It’s all automated and you can’t reprogram the light to change those settings – what it comes with is what you get.
Hope offers spare battery packs for £65, though they also produce a bigger 4-cell battery pack for £95, which will double the run times on the R2 light. If you like the power output and you want to ride unencumbered by having to flick power modes to get more runtime, the bigger battery pack could be a worthwhile, if expensive, addition.
With those two big Cree LEDs, the R2 head unit pumps out a maximum power output of 1300 Lumens. Interestingly, Hope lists the measured output as 1000 Lumens. So what’s the difference? Measured output is exactly that – a calibrated device is used to measure just how many Lumens (or Lux) the light head is pumping out. The maximum power output basically comes from what Cree states its LEDs can produce. But the thing is, that number assumes a 100% efficient system, which no light on the market is capable of. Once you factor in the lens and various optic controls, that’s where you get a drop in the actual output of the light compared to the initially calculated output. According to Hope, there is no industry standard on which number to use, so they list both. I’m sure you can guess what number most other light brands use…
As for the output of the R2, it was one of the best compact lights on test. It isn’t the brightest, but as we suspected, it is actually brighter in use than the Gloworm CX Trail (1300 Lumens claimed), and while the ITUO XP2 (1500 Lumens claimed) offers a brighter central spot, the Hope light delivers a far smoother array of light thanks to its clever optics and dual-LED setup. It is very easy on the eyes. As such, the R2 is a case of quality over quantity when it comes to Lumens. Because of its even and slightly wider spread of light, you could easily run the R2 light on the handlebars, and it does in fact come with the bayonet bar mount in the box.
One thing that we didn’t like about the R2 is the very gentle step-down in light intensity when clicking down into a lower power mode. In fact, the step down is so gentle, that it’s almost impossible to know what mode you’re in whilst riding. I’d actually have to stop riding, concentrate on the beam pattern, and then I could be clear about whether I’d stepped from High-to-Medium, or Low-to-High. A more defined ‘step’ in power as you switch between settings would be nice. And while the button has a nice click to it, the button itself is quite small.
The Hope R2 is a brilliant light that packs plenty of power for its diminutive size. The quality of light is outstanding, and the finish is top notch. It works equally well on the bars or the helmet, but it does sit quite tall when helmet mounted, and we’d like to see a lower profile mount to tuck it down closer to the shell. Otherwise it’s a tough little nugget that offers a significant investment in your riding future – particularly as Hope offers a repair/upgrade service for older lights.
- RRP: £295
- Claimed power: 4000 Lumens (3000 Lumens measured)
- 8 x Cree LEDs
- Weight: 702 grams = 220 grams (head unit w/handlebar bracket) + 482 grams (battery)
- Mounting: Handlebar & helmet
- Actual run time: 1 hour on High, then automatically switches to Medium for another 1.5 hours, then to Low for ages
- Charge time: 12 hours
- Included in the box: Light, 6-cell battery, handlebar mount, helmet mount, head harness, extension cord
- Pros: Incredible power output, massive throw and width to beam pattern, tough as nails
- Cons: Heavy, long charge time, bayonet handlebar mount can result in vibration on rough trails, battery can slip when mounted to some top tubes
Compared to the Hope R2, the R8+ is an absolute monster of a light. Rather than two LEDs, it has no less than eight Cree LEDs, which are tucked neatly into the machined alloy housing. Weighing in at 220 grams, the R8+ isn’t a ridiculously heavy head unit, but it’s enough that most riders will use this as a handlebar only light. A helmet bracket is included in the box, but only the necks of ex-rugby players are likely to be able to handle such a load. It comes with a chunky 6-cell battery pack that’s rechargeable via the included AC charger.
Like the rest of the Hope light range, the R8+ is also manufactured in the UK. It’s not an inexpensive light, but then it’s basically designed to set fire to the trail, with a maximum output of 4000 Lumens. Wow. As with the R2 light however, Hope also includes the measured output in the spec list for the R8+, which comes out at 3000 Lumens. Still a lot of light, and still a lot brighter than other lights we’ve tested that claim to have 3000 Lumens. Respect to Hope for being honest with its claims.
To manage that kind of lighting intensity, the head unit features deep machined fins just behind the LED array, which helps to strip excess heat away from the LEDs. There are three power modes available with the R8+, which include ‘Bright’, ‘Bloody Bright’, and ‘Really Bloody Bright’. On full power, you’ll only get an hour of runtime out of the battery pack, which doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but then you are basically fuelling a nuclear warhead on the front of your bike. Run it in the medium setting, and you’ll still get a healthy 2100 Lumens and a run time closer to two hours. A large rubber button on the back of the head unit allows you to cycle through modes, and the button usefully changes colour depending on the mode it’s in. Like the R2 light, the step-down between each power mode is very soft, but because the R8+ is on your bars and the coloured button is in plain sight, it’s easier to quickly spot whether you’re in High/Medium/Low.
Like the head unit and the battery pack, the handlebar bracket is beautifully machined from alloy. The split clamp mounts with two stainless steel bolts, which keeps it very secure on the bars, while a 4mm hex key allows you to adjust tilt angle. Currently, the handlebar mount is designed for 31.8mm diameter bars.
To mount the light, you insert the prong on a 90° angle, push the light body into the sprung bayonet mount, then twist the light back 90° to lock it in place. It has a very reassuring click as it settles into place, and it is impossible to dislodge while riding. However, we did encounter an issue with the sprung bayonet mount when riding extremely rough and chattery trails, where the weighty head unit would vibrate enough on the spring to cause the light to shudder – almost like the light was switching on and off very quickly. I should note that this was only experienced on a very rough fast-paced trail, and for 99% of the test period, the mount had no other problems. But it’s still not ideal for such an expensive light.
Two things that are immediately evident with the Hope R8+ light is its size and mass. The head unit is pretty chunky, but it’s the battery that really sticks out. Using a machined alloy casing like the 2-cell battery on the R2, the R8+ features a 6-cell battery pack. It still has the integrated fuel gauge, but the Velcro strap used to secure it to the frame is too flimsy in our experience. Mounted to full suspension frames like the Ibis Ripley LS pictured above, the battery pack will stay put, as it butts up against the shock mount under the top tube. With a sloping top tube on a hardtail however, we found the battery would slowly slip backwards on the frame, even with the strap down up super tight. In some situations where the battery pack and slipped all the way back to the seat tube, the coiled cable actually tugged on the head unit, causing the light to point upwards on the trail – not great.
Also, the battery weighs nearly half a kilo. You’re unlikely to notice that on winter bike rides where your bike has already picked up double that weight in mud, but it will scare off the weight weenies. Such is the price to pay for having such a powerful light though, and if you were really concerned about the weight, you could always use the R8+ with a smaller 4-cell or even 2-cell battery pack from Hope.
Everytime I rode with the Hope R8+ light though, I quickly forgot about any other shortcomings. The output delivered by those eight LEDs is absolutely stunning, with a monstrous amount of light being directed both down and out either side of the trail. And it’s in the width and overall ‘fullness’ of the lighting output where the Hope lights really stood out in the group test.
It’s one thing to direct Lumens into a small concentrated hotspot – anyone can do that really – but it’s an entirely other thing to direct that same intensity of Lumens over a much wider beam pattern. In this sense, one brand’s 2000 Lumen light is not the same as another brand’s 2000 Lumen light. As many experienced night riders will know, numbers are therefore only one part of the equation.
In the case of the R8+ light, a carefully engineered beam pattern is delivered by quality LEDs and highly specific optics. The top row of four LEDs feature a clean lens profile that allows for a more direct spot beam that delivers the throw down the trail. That’s combined with the two central lower LEDs that have a diffused lens, and the two outer LEDs that use an elliptical lens, and it’s these lower LEDs that cast a softer light profile directly in front of your tyre, and to the trail on either side of it. As such, you’re not just getting 3000 Lumens directed into a small hot spot of light – you’re getting 3000 Lumens thrown every which way in a beautifully smooth beam pattern that is an absolute pleasure on the trail.
From the very first night ride, I’ve become somewhat addicted to the power output of the Hope R8+ light. It isn’t the most powerful handlebar light I’ve used, but it is right up there, and it’s quality of the output and the sheer throw and spread of the light which leaves riders jaws on the ground. Yes it has a heavy battery, and yes it’s got a short burn time if you run it at full bore. But then who drives economically with a Ferrari V12 engine?
I would like to see a more sturdy handlebar mount, as the vibration issue is a little frustrating based on the high quality finish evident elsewhere on the R8+ light set. That’s unlikely to be a problem for everyone though. Despite this, the R8+ offers an incredible display of lighting power that delivers both quality and quantity.