As the nights draw in and the dark mornings seem to never end, an extra biscuit with your morning tea seems natural and most of the guilt associated with putting the fire on has evaporated, you need to stay safe out there on the mean streets. Here are my top products for making sure you can see, and are seen. It is by no means exhaustive, but is what I am currently using to take me though the AW13 season. Note: clicking the name of the product takes you to the cheapest to buy them in the UK, if I couldn’t find one then you’ll need to do your own searching and possibly import.
£126 best price | 350g | 900 lumens | 3-11h battery life | 100m shine distance
Helmet mounted and 100% kitty cat approved
On the trail or the road, it is an impressive light. Whilst helmet mounted, it’s good to have the light on the front and battery on the back – it balances it out well so you don’t get a sore neck. The mounts are all very secure and unlike some, certainly don’t feel like they will fall off at a pot hole. The light shines far and wide – the whole package feels reliable and dependable.
Inside the aluminium housing is a multi chip LED technology, which means that the beam isn’t the singular but long-reaching line of light that you might expect. No no no, using multiple chips and clever lensing, there is a 15 degree angle of super bright light to see where you are going and a wider 40+ degree light to give you sense of where you are going. This is impressive from any light, but particularly from a single cylindrical unit that at first glance appears to only have one LED.
On the more technical side of things, the ribbed structure towards its rear acts as a sort of heat sink whilst the airflow from you moving extracts the warm air fairly efficiently. The battery powering this is as meaty as you might expect – 900 lumens for 3 hours ain’t going to come from a couple of AAs. Hence, the Sigma IION XL battery pack – XL for EXTRA LARGE – is included with its relevant mounts.
A problem that is prevalent in many lights is that there is no real indicator of the charge. The last thing you want is to be going through a damp lane when your only source of light cuts out – I’ve been down many a pitch black lane in my time, and if you are alone, it is always scary. Presumably with my fear of dark lanes in mind, behind the on-off switch is a multi-stage battery indicator. Rejoice!
As with all Sigma Sport lights that I have come with, there is a very comprehensive collection of mounting fixtures, fittings and extra wires. From cable ties with special holders for the cable on top, to wire extenders, it is all included. Apart from a handle bar mount, of course, that’s sold separately. A helmet mount is included instead.
So yay or nay? Over the past couple of winters, Sigma Sports lights have lit my way both reliably and brightly. Coming in around the £150 RRP mark, it isn’t the cheapest light – but it is one of the best. It’s a definite yay from me.
£299 best price | 480g | 350-1500 lumen output | 3-12 hour runtime
Retina scorchingly bright
Holding the battery pack of heft
If a bike light was made to be used by the military, I think it would look like this. It has that look – aggressive and rugged whilst still looking slick. The exposed screws and visible cooling system, dark appearance, and a general hefty feel. Imagine if Ross Kemp was reincarnated in a light.
The main light body is wide and fairly slim with its 3 separate high powered LEDs. As you can imagine, 3 LEDs with a total light output of 1500 lumens all packed into a small package gets very hot. Or at least it should, but with their Ram-Air venting and pod system around the LEDs, air rushes in and cools the heat sinks as you move. The faster you go, the cooler it runs.
Because of this cooling system, the LEDs have a longer than usual life of 50,000 hours. That’s a lot of tearing up trails and blasting through the country lanes and works out at about half a penny per hour of use.
As with the PowerLED Evo, on the highest setting it offers 3 hours battery life. Perhaps more impressive, considering it offers 600 extra lumens. An illuminated ring around the power button indicates the charge level when in use, and when it’s not, glows blue so you know where to press if you find yourself in the sudden darkness. It’s a very effective way of letting you know how much charge is left, being visible even when your finger is on the button.
The mountings are fantastic, and probably the best I have ever used. For the light, it is their patented quick release mechanism which really is superb – it is everything you’d hope for. Adjustable for the smallest to largest reasonable handlebars, and easy to put on, it is also laterally adjustable with the turn of a screw. For the battery, a simple velcro-esque strip and silicone patch make the mounting options very versatile. Seat post, frame, stem, it’ll stay secure almost everywhere. If handle bar mounts aren’t your thing, a helmet mount is also included!
In the real world, the 5 light brightness modes cover most applications, ranging from 350 to 1500 lumens and 3-12 hour running time respectively. Actually seeing the light in action is incredible, it is like having your own pod of bright sunshine around you. The light extends to about 80 degrees around you with a super-bright centre. It is so bright on every setting in fact, that I found it a bit worrying riding in traffic with it on.
As you might expect with a 1500 lumen light that’s built like a tank, it doesn’t come cheap. The lowest UK price I could find was £299, a steep price whichever way you look at it – but despite this I still recommend it. If you have that money to spend on a light, this is a serious contender, just maybe not if you are planning on using it on the more major roads.
Serfas HL-1.1 Headlight
£n/a | 100 lumen | 3 modes | up to 30 hours run time
It isn’t the brightest, but enough for drivers to see you and you to see street signs. It features an adjustable beam that goes from wide to focused and 100 lumens. It uses the same mount as the TSL-1500 – and that’s about everything you need to know about it. Despite not being the most exciting light, this is the one that is always on my bike due to its small size and way that it makes me quite visible from the front
£31 for almost identical light | 35-60 lumens | 4 modes | USB charging
I have never seen or had a rear light so bright. Even with a maximum of 60 lumens, it shines bright enough for drivers to see you even when driving into the glare of a sunrise. Serfas claim that it can be seen for a mile, and I think that might even be an understatement. With 4.5 – 14 hours of burn time, you probably won’t need to worry about it running out; especially with its USB charging. Because it is rechargeable, it means that the unit is more sealed than some others and has survived everything from dust to being washed under a tap.
It uses a great mount comprised of an extremely sticky silicone type material and plastic – even over the roughest terrain it hasn’t come loose or moved. The only thing about this light that I would say is less than perfect is the modes, there’s only a steady and flashing option in two brightnesses where I prefer a more complex pattern for extra visibility.
Serfas TL-TWO 7 Rear Light
£n/a | 7 LEDs | up to 80 hours of run time | 3 modes
Due to its very eye-catching burn modes that combine the very bright central light with the 6 surrounding it, this light is great for drawing attention. In situations where there are a lot of red lights like in a city, even a usual flashing rear light can go unnoticed which is why I like the fancy modes so much.
The 6 surrounding LEDs are only bright enough to be seen, but the central LED is bright enough to shine onto obstacles as you pass them. It is powered off of a couple of AAAs, is weather proofed, and uses the same mount as the USL-TL-70. Speaking of which, don’t Serfas lights have such catchy names?
They are bright, dual sided, stretchable and go around your ankle. One side is for night, being covered in Scotchlite™ and the other for day with Day-Glo yellow Nylon Lycra®. Simple but effective.
It is like a fireworks display on your back, only you are less likely to die. Actually, it is one of my favourite things apart from a rear light to make people pay attention to your position on the road due to the bright, flashing chevrons. Chevrons are something that road users are programmed to take note of which also helps.
It comfortably fits over most backpacks, is waterproof, reflective, lights up, has easy access pockets, and is pretty awesome. The only drawback I’ve had is that I don’t ride with a backpack enough for it come out of the box of bike stuff more than a couple of times a month, but a commuter friend uses one a couple of times a day at the moment.
So that’s what I’m going to be using this winter, but what will you be going for?