For some people, night riding is a necessity – getting to work in the mornings, or getting some training time in the evenings, while for others, it’s a thing in itself. A weekly indulgence through the darker months where like-minded riders get together to enjoy a new twist on old trails. Sometimes the fitness benefit is secondary to seeing friends you’d not otherwise see until the spring, while other times, it’s a way of managing the decline of fitness over the darker months.
Some people just don’t get the joy of night riding and they will always be happy with the cheapest lights they can get away with for the riding that they need to do, which is a fine place to be. However, some riders need the same kind of reliability and quality that they demand of their bikes, tyres and clothing and they’ll spend that bit more to get it.
Another influence is who you ride with and what lights they have. When I started night riding, I had a 6W BLT light that cast a feeble yellow glow over everything – and they were some of the most fun night rides I’ve ever done as everyone else had the same feeble lights. The brightness of your light will affect how fast you think you should ride and if it’s just you, then you can ride with any light. The moment you ride with someone with a whizz-bang light, you find that you’ll need to get a brighter light or forever find your shadow projected onto the scenery as you’re lit up by a zillion lumens.
How much you spend will depend on where you sit on the ‘Night riding is part of my life’ spectrum, but also consider what run time you need and if you’ll ever need more (or will need more light between charges.) Not everyone needs six hours of burn time, but if you want a light for a couple of nights away, you might want to think about it.
And finally, helmet mount or bar mount? Or both? Many of our lights will run in either position. I’ve found that bar lights allow much better reading of the trail, due to the shadows cast and it’s my choice if I only have one light with me. Helmet lights allow the rider to look around the corner and are essential for twisty trails, especially with tree cover, though they flatten the trail due to a lack of shadows. If you mostly ride rocky moorland, then keep it on the bars, if you ride in Thetford, you’ll want a bar light. If you have both, then run both!
So, suit up, grab your money for a pint and a pie at the pub at the end and let’s test some lights.
Exposure Lights Diabolo
From: Exposure Lights, ultimatesportsengineering.com
Details: Comes with helmet and handlebar mount, mains and USB chargers and light leash.
The Diabolo is a three LED light that can be run on the bars or helmet. It lives to be helmet-mounted, though, and Exposure gets an instant win for its simply beautiful and beautifully simple helmet mount. A tapered plug sits inside your helmet while the universal joint screws into it via a breakaway plastic bolt. The Diabolo clips securely into the mount, which can be pointed where you want and it’ll just stay there. Brilliant.
The light itself has evolved over the years to take advantage of electronics and battery advances (this is Mk7) and it provides a good, tightish beam of light (up to 1300 lumens) that lets you see round corners. There’s no button as such, just a circle on the back where you tap. The piezo sensor is sensitive enough that just the touch of a flailing, panicking gloved hand is enough to change mode when you’re in a hurry to get high beam on. It’ll give you over an hour on full beam (and this is all immensely programmable on the light) which is more than you’ll need for the nadgery bits of the Monday night rides. In reality, you tend to naturally conserve the battery and end up with light to spare on all but the longest
Overall: Simple set-up, small and light enough to carry all the time. Literally brilliant.
From: Exposure Lights, ultimatesportsengineering.com
Details: Comes with metal, QR handlebar bracket, fast charger, USB charge cable.
The MaXx-D Mk8 is a whole lot of technology in a small package. Exposure was probably the first company to produce a unified lights-and-battery unit and it has used this advantage well, building on previous successes. Again, like the Diabolo, there’s a very simple, but secure handlebar mounting system you can leave unobtrusively mounted all the time.
The 2600 lumen MaXx-D certainly has all the gadgets. There’s a rear readout that will tell you all sorts of info, such at the current lighting mode (there are many to choose from, all laser etched on the lamp.) It’ll tell you the amount of burn time available, changing by what mode. This proved to be very accurate in use, delivering the run time it said – though like the Diabolo, the rider would always start switching to a lower output as the battery level dropped so the run time then increased. Again these times are etched on the light too.
I did find the light frustratingly slow to charge, taking up to its quoted nine hours to recharge, which might be an issue for solo riders running one (or a pair) or riders who want to night ride, then commute to work a few hours later. There was always some juice in the tank though, so it’s not really that much of a worry for 98% of you.
The tap to adjust button worked well as long as you didn’t over analyse it and start pressing hard rather than tapping and the light modes – which are hugely tuneable, all delivered fantastic vision down the trail.
Overall: It’s not a cheap system, but it’s neat and self-contained in this age of lack of places to stash a battery, and it delivers. The lights are all made in the UK, so backup is great, from a company you’ll see supporting events UK-wide.
From: Ison Distribution, ison-distribution.com
Details: Comes with handlebar mount, mains charger, GoPro helmet mount, extension cable.
Gloworm has been around many years and has incrementally improved its lights over that time. Light power has also gone up (to 1500 lumens on the X2 – there’s a bigger and smaller head available).
The system consists of a tiny double-LED head unit, small enough to run on a helmet or on the bars using a diminutive clamp. Gloworm now provides a clip-in GoPro mount for ease of helmet mounting, though most helmet and bar mounts we’ve seen for GoPro are for the three-prong fork mount, rather than the stick-on mount.
The battery is a small, square job that will fit in surprisingly numerous places (in a back pocket, or under the bars or stem if it’s long enough). There’s a wired-in clicky switch that will Velcro just about anywhere using the sticky pads provided.
In use, the light can be surprisingly complicated and it definitely needs a read of the manual to know that single clicking and double clicking the switch will both turn the light on, but into different modes (a high/low or a high/medium/low) and furthermore, a press and hold will turn it off, but a press and hold for not quite as long will put it into programme mode where all sorts of chaos happens. If you avoid this, though, the light is simple to use and if you do want to programme it for different applications, it’s easily done with the manual at hand.
Overall: A great, small and light, weatherproof system with versatile mounting options and a lot of programmability for a good price. Too easy to accidentally switch modes if you’re not careful.
Hope Technology R2i
From: Hope Technology, hopetech.com
Details: Comes with mains charger, bayonet handlebar mount, helmet mount.
The R2i has two LED emitters and sits in the Vision range that runs from the R1 to the colossal R8. There are two R2 lights – one with a separate light and battery and this one, the R2i that has battery and light in one unit. The price of both is the same, so it’s up to you if you prefer the convenience of a single unit or the versatility of a lamp and battery separate. The light produces 1400 lumens (which Hope honestly reports actually measures about 1000).
The mount is a simple clamp that attaches securely and leaves a bayonet socket on the top. The same is true for the helmet mount, but the light is too long to mount particularly sturdily – if you want to helmet mount, then get the separate system. The bar mount also suffers from vibration. There are two separate run modes, each with three brightnesses: the Race mode cycles through 400, 700 and 1000 lumens. Press and hold and you’ll get Trail (commute?) mode which is 40, 200 and Flash.
The on button is easy to press, though hard to find in the dark. I was turning it on by accident when leaning on the bike, then had to look down to find the button when riding. The ‘Fuel Gauge’ setting has its own button and this gives an easy-reading coloured LED read-out of battery levels. It’s reasonably speedy to recharge, taking under four hours to get a full tank.
Overall: A super-neat, integrated system with a quick release system for a good price, but too juddery for off road use. The separate R2 system for the same price would be a winner though. Get that one instead!
Lumicycle Explorer Extender Pro Pack
From: Lumicycle, lumicycle.com
Weight: 413g per light set.
Details: Twin pack of paired lights. Two bar mounts, one helmet mount, mains charger.
What you get in your neat tin is a pair of Lumicycle’s Explorer lights. Each lamp puts out 3000 lumens, with an optional 3500 lumen boost for three minutes. A flip up of the rubber sheathed knob turns the light on and up-flips will make it brighter and down-flips, dimmer. The coloured LED on the back shows the battery status (green, orange, red) and then once every second flashes the light level (blue – boost, green, orange, red). It’s simple to read when you get used to it, though I’d prefer to know my light level (as in, can I make it even brighter?) constantly and be flashed the battery status. The battery bags are small enough to fit under a stem, or on the bars (or in a jersey pocket).
The lights are pre-paired so that the Master light controls the Slave and, with the Master on the bars and the Slave on your helmet (or also on the bars), turning on the Master also turns on the Slave. Turn up the Master and the Slave also increases. This works well, with little lag. Run both on low, drop into the downhill, flip the lever and the night becomes day! The amount of suns these things put out is impressive. The lights are locked in step though, so back on the road home and you can turn off the helmet light with its switch, but touch the master switch and your helmet light is back on again.
Overall: Hugely bright and clever lights. I’d prefer to be able to run different power on each light – for battery conservation if nothing else. And, dare I say it, there’s more power on tap here than you’re probably ever going to need. If you want to bludgeon the darkness,
get this. Or just get the single lamp system and mildly concuss it.
Lupine Betty R14
From: Leveret Productions, leveretproductions.com
Details: Comes with intelligent mains charger, car charger, helmet mount, handlebar mount, Bluetooth controller.
The self-proclaimed brightest bicycle headlight in the world – the Betty R14 pumps out a claimed 5000 lumens, ‘enough illumination to flood entire valleys’ according to Lupine.
With this chunky, beautifully machined light comes an equally chunky 13Ah battery that should power the Betty on full beam for two hours. Even at a chunky 1000 lumens, you’ll get 12 hours out of it. There is a smaller system available, the Betty R7, that will do exactly half the time of the big battery – which is still all the light in the world.
The long, square shape doesn’t lend itself too readily to mounting, even with a round depression on one side, but you’ll find a way. The battery has a ten-segment battery life indicator and an optional add-on will let you charge USB devices from it when you’re not riding.
The Lupine folks really do love technology. You get a smart charger that conditions the battery as well as charge it, or lets you recharge from a 12V cigarette lighter. There’s a neat handlebar clamp or a helmet mount (as long as you promise never to turn to look at your friends to chat while it’s on as you’ll melt their faces). Then there’s the Bluetooth remote, which controls the light, duplicating the headlamp’s single button to run the pre-set modes and feedback the battery level (handy if you’re running the light on the helmet.) The light has three modes, but that’s easily changed to two, or five or whatever, with infinite adjustability in between.
Overall: Astoundingly bright. Slightly cumbersome to mount, but made up for in sheer power. Programmability and user-friendliness are top notch too. One for the serious power freaks and backcountry heroes.
Lupine Piko R4 SC
From: Leveret Productions, leveretproductions.com
Details: Comes with helmet mount, Bluetooth remote, extension cable, mains charger.
The Piko is tiny by comparison with the Lupine Betty, yet it still packs 1500 lumens and all of the clever behind the scenes stuff of the bigger light. It’s intended to be used as a helmet light, though there’s a small, neat bar mount as well (and a 35mm bar option too, which isn’t something that seems to have made it to many light companies’ awareness yet). The 3.3Ah battery is very small and can be strapped to the back of a helmet without weighing you down. It also has an LED battery level indicator which can be switched on permanently to serve as a rear light. Clever…
The cleverness continues to the lamp which only has one button but it’s easy and quick to use, with the light casting a good strong beam out there, whether you’re using it to supplement a bar light for the turns, or as your main source of light. The lamp can be custom set to always start up in high beam or low beam, you can adjust how early or late the low battery warning comes on and you can switch between two, three or four step levels of brightness to cycle through. There’s even a choice between Alpine SOS and regular SOS flashes. And that’s not to mention the upcoming phone app that’ll let you do all this over Bluetooth.
Speaking of which, there’s a Bluetooth remote for this that works brilliantly and is how all helmet lights should be. It controls lamp settings and glows with battery status too. If you have a Betty too, you can sync one remote to do both if you want.
Overall: Diminutive light that will give over 90 minutes burn on full power, but which you can programme to suit your every lighting need and desire. So small, so clever.
Moon Lights XP2500
From: Raleigh UK, raleigh.co.uk
Details: Comes with mains charger, helmet and bar mount, remote switch.
The XP2500 comes with a hoofing great big 13mAh battery of a similar size to the Lupine one, though this is a little more lozenge shaped and its more rubbery ends and twin straps make it rather easier to mount to top tubes or seat posts. The 2500 lumen lamp unit is similarly proud and chunky, though it clips firmly onto its bar or helmet mounts. The bar mount wins a prize by being a tool-free installation, though the lamp release clip is only on one side, so you need to be wary of mounting it too close to the stem or it won’t come off easily.
The helmet mount is very tall and not one to run if you have a lot of low trees on your ride.
The big battery takes a while to charge, but a read of the manual meanwhile reveals that as well as an input, the battery also has a USB output built in so you can recharge a GPS or phone while in the wilds, something longer legged adventurers might appreciate.
There’s also a slim, plug-in remote that plugs simply into the back of the lamp head and duplicates the single button operation. There are two operation modes here where a single press of the button cycles through a four-step power range while a double-click puts you into flashing mode, which offers three different flashing settings: flashing, strobe and SOS.
The light itself has a ton of light on tap, and the big battery ensures that you’re unlikely to run out of power on your regular weekly night rides – although running at max power will get you less than two hours, so don’t be greedy. Standard mode gives 3hrs 40 at 1100 lumens, which will be enough for most rides, short of a 24-hour solos.
Overall: A good, solid light with a few clever features. A reasonably economical way of getting a lot of power to hand.
Moon ADJ 1300
From: Raleigh UK, raleigh.co.uk
Details: Comes with mains charger, helmet and bar mount, remote switch.
The ‘ADJ’ bit in the name comes from the adjustability of the two separate LED units. While fitting on the same bar or helmet clamp, the lights can be angled individually to give whatever kind of up-down spread you can. Plus the head unit looks like a spaceship, so that’s got to be a good thing.
As the name suggests, the Moon has 1300 lumens on tap and the supplied battery seems to give just over 90 minutes on full power and 3hrs 30 on a 300-lumen low. The smaller battery is easier to find a home for than the bigger Moon and stayed in place securely. There are red LEDs to indicate power, though you have to remember to position the light where you can see them as there’s no indication on the lamp of anything but the beam power (the usual red, orange, green, blue levels). The clicky, adjustable beams were something that we played with once or twice and then left as is, so it’s probably not a feature that will be a dealmaker (or breaker) for anyone. Again the helmet mount seemed a little stalky, but at least it gave an unobstructed light.
Overall: Looks like a spaceship, just about bright enough to summon one. Slightly fragile feeling, though perhaps that’s just the plasticky clicks of the beam adjustment.
Starry Light RX02
From: Bright Bike Lights, brightbikelights.com
Details: Comes with mains charger and remote switch, helmet and bar mount.
I did do a double-take on the price of this light. A 1600 lumen headlamp and battery set for that little could be what many riders are after. If you’re not a dedicated disciple of the dark world, or if you just have better things to spend your money on, then this light is well worth a look. There are two LEDs, arranged one on top of the other rather than side by side, this is claimed to offer much better illumination of things just in front of your wheel (and similar to what’s offered on the Moon ADJ). There’s a square, nylon-wrapped battery that will Velcro on just about anywhere, with a screw-together connector. The lamp attaches with rubber O-rings to the bars and there’s a socket for the supplied remote switch. This bizarrely features four switches on a flat rubber strip that all do exactly the same thing which is to duplicate the single switch on the lamp head.
The lamp has an array of green LEDs that constantly tell you the battery status and are quite dazzlingly bright and rather annoying. Some translucent electrical tape would probably sort them if you’re bothered.
And so, how does it ride? Very impressively actually. Running these lights on the same bars as ones costing nearly ten times the price and there wasn’t that much in it. 1,600 lumens, which it claims (and I’d agree) will run for 2hrs 40 is still pretty bright and if you dip your lights for the road and climbs, you’ll get a good four or five hour ride. Downsides? The connector felt a bit flimsy and the narrow, tall lamp isn’t the most secure, but just get a stronger O-ring if it wobbles.
Overall: A great, simple, light that’ll suit half of the night riders I ride with for a decent price. I’m impressed.
As I’ve tried to stress, you can go night riding with any light at all (even moonlight some times) and don’t necessarily need the bells and whistles on offer. However, if you’re after better build quality, more reliable run times and a system that will last you a few wet years of regular winter riding, it usually pays to invest a little in a lighting system.
Of the lights here, every one provided enough light to ride fast with and lasted the whole of a regular two-hours-or-so Monday night ride. Some lights provide extra features that might stand out for you, like the Hope R2i’s simple ‘twist off and put in your pocket’ convenience/security for the regular dark commuter, others, like the Moon systems provide USB recharging functionality. Others simply provided firepower, like the Lumicycle and Lupine.
If you’re a night riding evangelist and can’t get enough of the dark, then look to the Lupine range for the ultimate in programmability, flexible mounting and Bluetooth control. The Betty 14R is out of nearly everyone’s price range (even the R7 is over £600) and it doesn’t offer very convenient battery mounting on most bikes, however, the Piko is well worth a look for a helmet and do-everything light due to its low weight and easy operation.
The Exposure range continues to impress, with the simple to mount and use Diabolo packing a stonking amount of power. However, it’s the MaXx-D we’d suggest for a best all-round handlebar light, offering multiple modes to suit every off and on road condition, with an accurate readout and simple mode choice too. It takes a while to charge, but it’ll run and run.
Finally, a big thumbs up for the StarryLight’s power for price. It lacks the sophistication of the smarter lights here, the four button remote is puzzling (though does work fine) and the brightly glowing battery gauge is simply annoying. However, it’s fifty quid and, as long as its long term durability is as good as it promises, it’s a no brainer for riders looking for a first, or an economical introduction to night riding.
|Brand:||Exposure Lights, Gloworm, Hope Technology, Lumicycle, Lupine, Moon Lights, Starry Light|
|Product:||Diabolo, MaXx-D, X2, R2i, Explorer Extender Pro Pack, Betty R14, Piko R4 SC, XP2500, ADJ 1300, RX02|
|From:||Exposure Lights, Ison, Hope Technology, Lumicycle, Leveret Productions, Raleigh UK, Bright Bike Lights|
|Price:||£54 - £720|
|Tested:||by Chipps for|