- Product: Ultratorch Slimline F100 and R50
- From: Oxford Products
- Price: £17.99 each
I’m not a fan of riding in winter. There, I said it. I don’t mind the rain, snow, mud, cold… the extra time needed to get dressed to face the elements, wash clothes and bike and keep on top of maintenance as the elements wear away at an accelerated rate. I don’t mind it, but I’d be quite happy to skip it altogether and leap from autumn to spring.
The same applies to encroaching darkness – commuting usually ends up taking place in the dark and grim weather can lead to poor visibility at any time of the day. For most people in the UK, gravel rides mean at least some road work in between the off-road, and therefore the need for some form of lights.
See or be seen
These little lights from Oxford Products are designed to help you be seen rather than light the way. You could probably use the front on full power to light your way in extremis, but it wouldn’t be much fun. They are great at adding visibility though. Each has eight modes – four brightness settings and four different flash modes.
They have a long battery life – varying from 12 to 2 hours in constant mode and 45 to 5 hours in flash mode. Each light is around the size of a AA battery (although power comes from an external battery, charged via included micro USB). The lights fit using a simple o-ring elastic band. As the names suggest, the max output of the front light is 100 lumens and the rear is 50 lumens.
Claimed run times:
- High Constant: 2hrs
- Medium Constant: 4hrs
- Low Constant: 6hrs
- Eco Constant: 12hrs
- Slow Flash Low Beam: 45hrs
- Slow Flash Med Beam: 9hrs
- Slow Flash High Beam 5hrs
- Quick Flash Med Beam: 18hrs
When fitting I was a little concerned that the Ultratorch Slimlines might be a bit susceptible to the elements; the silicon seal over the USB port is loose until the light is strapped on. I needn’t have worried though. I’ve spent many a commute in hosing rain without any water ingress. The o-rings mean that it is quick and easy to swap the lights between bikes. Ours were a little on the short side though – Oxford has told us that production ones are a bit longer. With the bands supplied, the rear fits best around a seat stay rather than a seatpost. The front o-ring is long enough to wrap around bars, but there is relatively little real estate on a drop-bar bike and the wide/thin design of the light made it a fiddle to fit. I ended up using it on a fork leg with a lot of success. I was happy using just the Ultratorch Slimlines on dusky commutes, but as the nights have drawn in, I felt safer with a higher light on my seatpost and bars to complement them.
You could of course buy a few o-rings from a hardware shop, or zip tie the lights in pretty much any position on the bike. While we are on that, as I took the last photos for this test, one of the o-rings failed when I went to fit the light – again Oxford has told us that the production o-rings have been substantially upgraded. You shouldn’t have an issue at all. And if you do, Oxford will sort you out with some more.
On the road
I was really impressed at how much visibility each light provided though. The flash modes are vibrant and eye catching, without being epilepsy-inducing unless you stare right at them. I prefer a constant mode usually, and tended to run the lights in “low”, knocking them up to high for those “the sky looks like it’s about to fall in” dark cloud days. There’s good visibility of the light from the sides too.
When out riding in the dark I obviously try not to test the limits of battery power, but a quick test at home suggested that the quoted times aren’t a million miles off. I got around 1hr 45 on full power. In practice, I tended to do two-three days commuting for 30 mins each way on a low setting, then charge them up.
I like that the lights are small enough to keep in the pocket of my commuting bag year-round and that the on/off switch was big enough to activate with gloved hands, but required enough of a “click” that it’s unlikely that it would switch on in the bottom of your bag.
It’s a little early to comment on longevity, but other than the o-ring issue, the lights show every sign of keeping trucking for many autumns and winters to come.
Small light, big visibility. Design means they fit best relatively low on the bike, so you may want to supplement with other lights. We had a minor issue with the retaining o-ring, but you shouldn’t. At £17.99 each, the lights aren’t pure bargains, but worth the money.