With the night’s drawing in I am back in the rather depressing situation of riding to work in the half light, spending all day in an office and by the time I come to leave its dark again! What is a cyclist to do?
Well the short answer is to get some lights! But which ones I hear you cry?
Bike lights tend to fall into two main categories those that help you ‘Be Seen’ and those that help you ‘To See’.As the faint hearted in society seek the supposed refuge of their cars, making the roads busier than any other time of year, a good set of ‘Be Seen’ lights are vital! These must first and foremost do the job of making you visible to white van men and little old lady’s alike as they fog up their cars with heater on full blast, wipers going like the clappers and a lack of attention stemming from a few to many drinks at the office party! After this the lights should be small, light, easy to take on and off your bike and simple to recharge. After using a number of different types over the years the Knog Blinder range is, hands down, the best ‘Be Seen’ lights out there!Review of Knog Blinder 4 Front & Rear
These things are awesome! The rear pumps out 44 lumens through 4 LED’s. This might not mean much on paper, but in a group ride it results in ‘turn that f’ing light down, I can’t see shit behind you’ type comments. Although you can’t turn the brightness down you can chose from a number of different settings, including the groupe friendly 1 LED flashing at a time.
The front pushes out almost twice the lumens at 80 and will have drivers stopping to let you out thinking your a motor bike, or a car if your riding side by side 😉 In fact this thing is so bright you can get away with having it as a back up light out of the city, although you will have to go fairly slow as to not overtake the beam.
Its not about lumens though. What about charging them at your desk? No problem, build in USB charging with no need for any additional cables to lose or leave at home. What about switching them between bikes? No problem, built in rubber mounting mechanism that means they will fit anywhere on any bike, including 31.8mm oversized bars (was even running mine on my forks for a while when I had no room on my bars), What about riding in the rain? Fully waterproof, What about getting a pair to match my custom paint job? Loads of colors and different designs! What about, what about…forget it, go cop a pair now as you simply can’t do better!
|USB tucked away|
|USB ready to use|
OK, so thats round town sorted, but what about proper riding? Flat out riding? Out in the sticks with 8 foot high hedges each side of the road riding? No street lights for tens of miles riding? Well in this case you need a different breed of light. You need a ‘To See’!
These types of lights are a fair bit more spendy, but I took the plunge to invest for the first time in a ‘To See’ light last winter after a very scary school night jaunt into the South Downs with just my Knog Blinders. After somehow making it back to Southsea in one piece I ordered an Exposure Sirius Mk1.
Review Exposure Sirius Mk1
Exposure is a fairly top end bike light manufacturer based here in the UK with a range of both road and mtb specific lights.
The Sirius is at the lower end of their road lineup, but that is not to say its low end. It utilises 360 Lumens at its brightest and will last for just short of 2hrs on this setting fully charged and up to 6 hours on its lowest setting. I tend to run it on low in town or in a group, medium most of the time and high only on back roads or at the head of a group.
With the variation in power output I find this it’s fine for 30-40 mile night rides, but any longer and you really have to start actively trying to save battery.
|Rear view: Button and battery indicator plus USB charging port|
One of the biggest selling points of this light for me was the fact it has a build in battery and doesn’t mess us the look of your bike with external power packs and their trailing cables. That said Exposure do offer external batteries should you need to boost your lights life over longer rides.
|Keep it simple|
They also offer a number of other accessories including this Beacon’s which came in super handy while on tour in the USA as this was the only torch we had and allowed us to easily light up the tent for late night card games.
|Yes this is how it looks with the ‘Beacon’ attached lol plus USB cable|
The Sirius is also USB charging, but does require you use an additional cable. This brings me to the most frustrating issue I have with this light. It doesn’t tell you when its fully charged! You plug it in and the LED Fuel Gauge starts blinking green, but it just continues to blink green and never stops. When I contacted Exposure they just said it takes 6 hrs to charge. This is not the most useful of answers and I wouldn’t have thought it to difficult to just make the LED change colour or go solid when fully charged…
When I was offered the chance to test this baby out I just couldn’t say no, and not just because it was dark out! First things first this this is bright. It puts out over twice the lumens as the Sirius at a whopping 850! Now some lights just play off the lumen count, but use shitty components and are made as cheap as possible. Not these though, not by a long way. They are also UK made for one, so you can be proud to know you are helping support local industry at the same time as see where you are going. As a result of the high quality production they felt rock solid on my bar.
|Including extra link to fit oversized bars|
There was no movement at any point even when switching through the different modes. This is not a big issue with the Sirius, but due to having a push forward button to change the mode you have to place some backwards force at the same time to stop it sliding forwards. No such issues here though as the light switch style button is of an up and down construction, plus the unit is held in place by the well thought out quick release bar clamp.
|Rock solid switch|
Now to the downside…with great power comes great big battery packs. Well not that big to be honest, but this was the reason I went with an Exposure the first time. The battery sat well enough on my top tube, but is definitely not one for the fashion conscious. It was also very clear that the guys at lumicycle had placed the vast majority of their time on the light unit with the battery pack as an after thought. The pouch looked cheap the the velcro did the job, but could have been better presented. All that said, if you have a light on its because its dark out so who cares what the battery pack looks like, right? Hmm, well at almost £200 I would have expected a nicer finish.
|The battery pack|
Moan over and out on the road this thing is AMAZING! I thought the Sirius was bright when I first got it, but compared to this its like an old maglight strapped to my bars. You can see the whole road with this and not just the bit you’re about to ride on, but the whole thing! Side to side and far enough ahead the dark makes no matter. Switching between modes was simple and despite having it on high for most of the 2hrs 40min ride got back with plenty of juice to spare, and as I was later informed it wasn’t even fully charged when we felt!
Overall the battery pack does its job well and allows for much longer use of a much brighter light!
Well there you have it my thoughts on bike lights. Which should you get? Well definitely the Knogs and out of the Freeway or the Sirius its down to you, long lasting bright light, but bulky v small and compact, but limited battery and not as bright, but half the price.
Both the Knogs and Freeway can be purchased via bikeUlike, Southsea.