The Fenix BC series lights are handlebar mounted bike lights with internal rechargeable batteries.
The BC30R contains an integrated, non-user-accessible rechargeable lithium battery pack. There are two LEDs to provide a dual beam system with both flood and spot optics.
Review: Long battery life, intense output, and battery monitoring screen pack many features into large package
Review by Nathan Hinkle, Dec. 14, 2015, 6 a.m.
The Fenix BC30, which we recently reviewed, is a great choice for anybody wanting the best in battery flexibility. Whereas the BC30 uses two 18650 batteries which the user must provide and charge themselves, its fraternal twin the BC30R has batteries built in and uses USB charging. The BC30R also offers a nifty OLED battery life meter, similar to those found in the MagicShine Eagle 600 and the NiteRider Lumina 800 OLED. For riders who want a light with great output and a long battery life, but don’t want the hassle of dealing with rechargeable batteries themselves, the BC30R is a strong choice.
Screen and controls
The most noticeable distinct feature of the BC30R is its large OLED screen which displays the remaining battery life. The system is simple and easy to use. There are three buttons on the top of the light – a main power button, a (+) button, and a (-) button. As you might expect, the (+) and (-) increase and decrease the light's output. This is great because you don't need to cycle through all of the modes to switch between a higher and lower setting. As you switch modes, the OLED screen displays "Level n" in the lower corner. Within a few seconds of switching modes, the screen will update to show the estimated runtime remaining. The OLED screen is backlit, so you can see it at night. The backlight brightens when you push a button and dims again after a few seconds to preserve battery life and not be distracting. The display only shows a time estimate; as far as I know there is no way to display a percentage value. Fortunately, the time estimate seems to be very precise, which will be discussed more in the battery section below.
The Fenix BC series lights are handlebar mounted bike lights with internal rechargeable batteries.
The BC30 has a dual LED system for both a flood and spot beam. It uses two 18650 batteries inside the main light housing. The batteries are not included, but some merchants sell bundles with various battery options.
Review: Bringing 18650 batteries to bicycling
Review by Nathan Hinkle, Nov. 7, 2015, 4:30 p.m.
Fenix is a popular manufacturer of high-powered and reliable flashlights. The company has recently started producing lights specifically designed for biking, but with designs heavily influenced by the prosumer flashlight market. The BC30 is a single piece light containing two 18650 lithium batteries and two Cree LEDs. These form a "dual distance" optic which combines a flood and throw pattern. The light is advertised as an 1800 lm light, but the maximum sustained output is only 1200 lm. A remote switch is included which boosts the output to 1800 lm when the button is depressed. The BC30 is large and heavy, but offers a level of flexibility not found in many other headlights. Read on for an introduction to modern rechargeable batteries, or if you're already an 18650 fan, skip to the full review of the light.
Cateye's rechargeable headlight series, the Volt, has been around for a few years now. After receiving several requests to review these lights, I’m excited to finally have one in hand. The Volt 700 is the top-end model; a review of the entry-level Volt 100 is also on its way. This light stands out from the crowd, featuring a removable USB-rechargeable battery which can be charged even when not attached to the light, and enhanced optics to spread the light evenly over the road.
Output and Visibility
At full power the Volt 700 is bright enough for almost any type of riding, including nighttime trail riding. For rides in the city where some street lighting is present the medium or even low modes are enough to illuminate potholes and debris when traveling at a moderate speed. Cateye's "opticube" lens creates a rectangular beam, spreading the light out across the path in front of you and reducing the amount of light wasted illuminating the sky above you. It doesn’t have a sharp beam cutoff, so you should still be mindful of how you aim it to avoid blinding oncoming traffic. A small side cutout gives some off-axis visibility, although not nearly as much as lights with full side lighting like the Bontrager Ion 700 and the L&M Urban.
Review: Much-improved output and battery life, but mounting frustrations remain
Review by Nathan Hinkle, Oct. 19, 2015, 6 a.m.
The original Cateye Rapid X did not impress me – its small size and weight necessitated weak output and a very short battery life, and the rubber band mount was difficult to use and keep track of. The new Rapid X2 is a significant improvement in many ways. The output has been increased from 15 to 50 lumens, making the light bright and visible, day and night. Unfortunately the mount is still problematic, but for certain applications the Rapid X2 is a strong choice for a taillight. Read on for the full review.
Output, visibility, and flash patterns
Flash pattern viewer:
The Rapid series has always offered a wide range of flash patterns. With 6 different modes it’s a bit much to choose from, but there’s a good mode for almost any situation. A low-brightness steady burn mode and a subtle pulsing mode are both good options to prevent blinding other cyclists nearby. The rapid flashing mode and the fast flashing mode are great for visibility in busy traffic, and are attention-grabbing even in broad daylight. The light remembers the last mode used. A single press of the button cycles through the pattern options and a long press turns the light on or off.
The Flare R is a rechargeable taillight. It has two steady burn modes with the brightest at 25 lumens, and two flash modes which both peak at 65 lumens. The light is specifically designed for flashing daytime visibility, and has amber side LEDs to be seen from all directions.
Review: A quality light with a questionable mount
Review by Nathan Hinkle, Aug. 27, 2015, 6 a.m.
Bontrager recently entered the high-powered bike light market with a bang – their Ion 700R headlight quickly made its way to our top headlights recommendations list for its sleek design, nice optics, good mount, and excellent value. The Flare R is Bontrager's first attempt at a modern taillight, and features many of the same well thought-out designs that were introduced with the Ion. The competition is tough though, especially for a $60 light, so let's see how the Flare fares.
Optics and visibility
First, to clear up any confusion: Bontrager advertises the Flare as being a 65 lumen light, but that's only in the highest daytime flash mode. The steady-high mode only puts out 25 lumens, putting it on par with lights like the Cygolite Hotshot. To be clear, 25 lumens is not bad for a steady mode, especially at night, but the prominence of the "65 lumen" advertising feels slightly misleading. We'll get to the details of those flash modes in a moment.
Review: An interesting development in low-cost headlights
Review by Nathan Hinkle, Aug. 26, 2015, 6 a.m.
Nobody likes being blinded when riding or driving at night, and as bike light LEDs get brighter and brighter, this is increasingly a concern for road users of all types. Most bike lights, even those costing hundreds of dollars, have symmetrical beams which shine equal amounts of light above and below the device. The result is that significant light is wasted by shining far above where the rider needs to see, and as a side effect, the glare can disorient oncoming traffic.
Most dynamo lights conform to strict standards which require a horizontal beam cutoff, but few single-piece battery-powered lights do, especially those costing less than several hundred dollars. Cycle Torch's new Shark 500 light seeks to change that, introducing a low-cost light with a horizontal beam cutoff to prevent distracting other road users. Read the full review to find out how well it works.
Dozens of vendors sell rebranded versions of this light on eBay, Amazon, and elsewhere. The lighthead is nearly identical on all variations, consisting of two Cree XM-L2 U2 LEDs and a single mode selection/power button. The battery pack varies significantly from supplier to supplier and even within products from a single vendor. Other names for this light include "SolarStorm X2" and "SecurityIng". Vendors claim anywhere from 2000 to 5000 lumens output, though actual output is about 1000 lumens on the highest setting.
Review: With false promises and poor quality, you get what you pay for
Review by Nathan Hinkle, May 4, 2015, 6 a.m. . Updated Aug. 24, 2015.
It's difficult to review this light because there are so many different variations. I purchased the unit I reviewed on Amazon from a vendor which no longer even exists, but dozens of others have popped up to take its place. And that is the very issue with these lights: you never quite know what you're getting. They all look the same, are all made by generic manufacturers in cheap Chinese factories, and none of them have a reputable company backing up the product. You could order 10 of these lights from 10 different vendors and get different performance, build quality, and longevity – and there's no way to tell how good a particular light will be until it shows up.
Updated August 2015 with information about battery safety. NOTE: This product may be dangerous! For safety reasons we do not recommend purchasing generic lights from unreliable manufacturers.
Most cyclists will recognize Bontrager, or at least its parent company Trek – one of the largest bicycle companies in the world. Bontrager has been selling some very basic lights for years, but the company is hardly well-known as a lighting company. That's why I was so pleasantly surprised when I started using the Ion 700 they offered to send me. It gets almost everything just right, and is one of the most impressive first attempts at a high-power single-piece rechargeable light I've ever seen.
The first thing I noticed is that the Ion 700 is compact. It's narrower than many comparable lights, with a sleek and clean design. The low-profile mount keeps the light just barely above the handlebars. It's operated by a single button on the top, and has a USB micro port on the bottom for charging.
The Blaze XLR is Planet Bike's first rechargeable headlight offering.
Review: Blaze XLR is a drastic departure from previous Blaze series lights
Review by Nathan Hinkle, Feb. 9, 2015, 6 a.m.
Planet Bike was among the first popular vendors of LED bike headlights, and its Blaze 1W and 2W lights were once very common among bike commuters. The industry has progressed quickly though, and for many years Planet Bike was falling behind with no high-intensity or rechargeable LED offerings. With the debut of the Blaze XLR, Planet Bike has finally released a bright rechargeable light, and it has a lot to offer.
Light output and optics
The optics on the Blaze XLR are unremarkable, putting out a circular beam like most other entry-level single-piece headlights. The beam has a slight hot spot, but is sufficiently broad to illuminate obstacles and debris on a road or path.
Review: PDW's first rechargeable headlight fulfills almost every headlight desire
Review by Nathan Hinkle, Jan. 5, 2015, 12:08 a.m.
Portland Design Works has been putting out classy, well-designed lights for several years now. The Lars Rover is their first foray into the ever-expanding arena of USB-rechargeable high-intensity headlights, following on the heels of their rechargeable Aether Demon taillight from 2013. It comes with a nice variety of high-quality mounting options, is certified to the FL1 Standard, has decent optics, and an excellent selection of flash patterns. Read on for more details.
Beam and Optics
The Lars Rover has a fairly standard circular lens. The beam pattern is fairly smooth, with good throw but enough flood to illuminate the sides of a road. There is no horizontal cutoff; the beam is almost completely symmetrical. This means it's necessary to tilt the light down somewhere to avoid blinding oncoming traffic.
The 2013 version of the Vis 180 had a 50 lumen primary LED. In 2014 the light was upgraded to a 70 lumen output, but otherwise is physically identical. When purchasing the Vis 180, make sure you get the new, brighter version. The colors "Brown Shugga" and "Silver Moon" are the 2014 version with 70 lumens. Other colors will be previous years' less-bright versions.
Review: 2014 update adds more lumens
Review by Nathan Hinkle, Oct. 24, 2014, 6 a.m.
I was quite impressed with the previous-generation Vis 180 when I reviewed it about a year ago, and the new 2014 model is very similar. The overall design remains the same: very sturdy construction using mostly metal and some durable plastic. A single bright, wide-angle red LED at the top, and a small amber side-visibility LED at the bottom. The output has been increased from 50 to 70 lumens, and the pulsing flash pattern has been modified slightly. If you already have a Vis 180 there's no pressing reason to upgrade, but if this is your first time looking at this light, read on for a detailed review.
Optics and visibility
The Vis 180's optics exceed what its name implies: the light is visible from well over a 180° range. The high-intensity primary red light is behind a custom reflector that spreads the light evenly across the horizontal plane, without wasting too much light by shining it skyward. The output of the lower amber LED is split to each side, and is also very bright. This combination makes the light visible from almost any angle behind or next to the bike.
The Urban 2.0 series was released in July 2014. Major new features include IP67 waterproof certification, pulsing flash mode, and peened reflectors to distribute the beam.
Review: A major upgrade for the Urban series
Review by Nathan Hinkle, Sept. 26, 2014, 6 a.m.
The Light & Motion Urban series has been one of my favorites for a while, so I was excited to see the Urban 2.0 update this summer. The new Urban series carries the same design and features as the older series, but with redesigned internals. The lights are now fully waterproof, and all lights in the series have the peened reflector that debuted with the Urban 700. The Urban 350 in particular is exciting because it's the first L&M headlight that I feel is in the price and output range that appeals to the most riders. The Urban 200 wasn't bright enough, and the Urban 400 was a bit too pricey. At $70, the 350 hits a good balance between power and price.
Optics and visibility
The optics of the Urban lights are unparelled in this price and output range. Many lights in the 300ish lumen category have a relatively narrow beam that adequately lights up the road directly in front of you, but with no spill to see anything to the sides, but the 350 has a custom engineered reflector that creates a wide, smooth beam. Compared to the Serfas USL-305 with similar specs, the Urban 350 feels like it puts out way more than 50 additional lumens, because the light is put to better use.
Serfas' USL series bike safety lights are primarily designed for being seen. Although not as bright as the high-powered TSL series lights, these lights are good for adding visibility to your bike when riding at night on lit roads. The 2015 product lineup will introduce several new high-power commuter headlights to the USL series.
The USL-305 is part of Serfas's redesigned commuter headlight line to be available in 2015. The light features side visibility ports, a lower weight than Serfas' previous lights, and fast USB charging capability.
Review: A new favorite in the commuter light arena
Review by Nathan Hinkle, Sept. 7, 2014, 10 p.m.
Serfas already makes some of my favorite lights, but there was a large gap between their bright and bulky mountain biking lights and their small Thunderbolt be-seen lights. The 2015 (U)SL line changes all that, offering compact, low-weight lights with a good balance of visibility to see with and be seen by. The USL-305 weighs nearly half as much as Serfas' TSL-750, and puts out over 3x as much light as the Serfas Thunderbolt.
Optics and visibility
In my experience, optics have never been a selling point for Serfas lights. I've often criticized their TSL series lights for having far too narrow of a beam and a complete lack of side visibility. The beam profile of the USL-305 is a marked change from the TSL series, with a beam that isn't quite wide enough to illuminate an entire street, but more than adequate to see what's coming up in your lane or on the bike path. I often wished the light had a wider beam when I was rounding sharp corners, but otherwise it struck a good balance between flood and throw.
This Vis 360+ is specifically designed for use on a helmet, and integrates a 250 lumen headlight with amber side-visibility lights and a red taillight. The USB rechargeable battery is built in to the taillight fixture.
Review: An excellent supplementary safety light
Review by Nathan Hinkle, July 13, 2014, 7 p.m.
The Vis 360+ is one of the few bike lights I've seen that is designed specifically and exclusively for helmet use. As the name implies, it's meant to provide the rider with 360° of visibility. A small headlight goes on the front, connected via a springy cord to the rear light which is integrated into the battery pack. Both the front and rear lights have amber side visibility: the front light has filtered cutouts to allow some of the main beam to come out the side, and the rear light has separate yellow LEDs on each side.
The headlight provides a wide beam, putting out 250 lumens on high. It's not much compared to many high-powered headlights these days, but is quite sufficient to provide visibility for safety, which is what this light sets out to do. It's bright enough to find your way if necessary, but I wouldn't use it as my only light. The wide angle of the headlight combined with the amber side visibility ports makes the light very noticeable from the front and sides. The rear light isn't quite as bright (L&M doesn't specify its output either), but is definitely still very visible, and has great off-axis visibility. This is important, because riders' heads can be in many different positions, and a more focused beam would be hard to see if the rider's head was turned. The side visibility LEDs on the rear are small and so dim that they're practically pointless, but fortunately the side lighting from the headlight is bright enough to make up for it.
Review: A disappointing evolution of the Cateye Rapid series
Review by Nathan Hinkle, July 12, 2014, 4 p.m.
Cateye's Rapid series has been around for a while, and I was a big fan of the Rapid 5 in particular when I wrote my first taillight review back in 2012. Technology's evolved a bit since then, and Cateye's new Rapid X light is a dramatic departure from its predecessors. Rather than having several larger LEDs spread out across the light, the Rapid X has a bunch of minuscule LEDs lined up to appear as one larger bar of light. The light has an integrated USB-rechargeable battery, and is very light at just 23 g.
While the features sound good, in actual use the light is extremely frustrating. The circular rubber straps provided to attach it to the seatpost are very small, and must be stretched to the limit to attach the light. This makes it very difficult to quickly install/remove the light. You're also stuck having the light at whatever angle your seatpost is at, which for me meant the light shined mostly towards the ground, not towards traffic. Due to the rubber band attachment setup, there's no way to change the angle.
The TSL series includes Serfas' single-piece USB-rechargeable lights, designed for commuting, road biking, and off-road rides.
The latest in Serfas' USB-rechargeable TSL line, the TSL-750 is the first light to feature an interchangeable lens which can be swapped out between a flood configuration and a spot configuration to meet the demands of each ride. The TSL-750 also has a quick-release internal battery so you can bring extra power with you on longer rides.
Review: Though adaptable, TSL-750 may be more trouble than it's worth
Review by Nathan Hinkle, July 12, 2014, 3 p.m.
The TSL-750 is the first Serfas headlight I've tested since the TSL-S500 I reviewed last year. It has the same conveniently removable battery and handy mount, and a similar overall design. The 750 however is significantly bulkier than its predecessors, and weighs in at a hefty 195g, nearly 50% heavier than the TSL-S500.
My primary complaint with all of the Serfas TSL lights I've tested is the extremely focused beam and lack of side visibility. Unfortunately, the TSL-750 comes with a similarly narrow spot lens installed by default, creating an extremely bright yet very small circle of light that I didn't find useful for riding on roads or trails. However, Serfas is trying something new with the TSL-750: a wide "flood" lens comes in the box, and can be swapped out by the user. Swapping out the lens is not difficult, but it can't be done on the fly, and isn't epitome of user-friendly either. I'll go into a bit more detail on the lens swap process itself below, after describing the differences in using the two optics.
Review: OLED battery display is a novelty, but dubiously worth the price
Review by Nathan Hinkle, July 7, 2014, 9 p.m.
When MagicShine announced the Eagle 600, bike blogs and twitter feeds were abuzz about its OLED display that shows how much runtime the light has remaining. Although some other lights feature color-coded battery indicators, none before has literally told you how much time is remaining.
Battery life is important, and knowing how much time you have to get home before you're left in the dark is a welcome feature. But a light is much more than its battery display. The Eagle 600 gets several key features right that other lights lack, but also falls short in some critical areas. I'll get to a detailed analysis of that famed OLED charging display, but first let's discuss the other unique features of this light.
The latest update to our favorite Serfas Shield series, the USL-TL80 boosts the previous edition's output, adds a battery level indicator, and features two LEDs with diffused optics.
Review: TL-80 offers substantial improvements over the TL-60
Review by Nathan Hinkle, May 15, 2014, 8 a.m.
I'm a big fan of the Serfas TL-60 – it's really bright, sturdy, has decent battery life, and is easy to use. It had a few problems though: primarily a very narrowly focused beam, and no warning when the battery drops. The new TL-80 is a significant upgrade, addressing some of those problems.
Beam & optics
First, let's talk about beam pattern. Many lights – including the TL-60, and many popular lights like the Cygolite Hotshot and the Planet Bike Super Flash – have very intense but narrow beams. They form a bright spot that's visible from a long distance when viewed straight-on, but quickly loses intensity from any other angle.
Review: Style and utility unite for Knog's Arc debut
Review by Nathan Hinkle, May 6, 2014, 8 a.m.
Knog's well known for stylish lights, but I've often criticized them for putting form before function. With the new Arc 5.5, Knog has finally achieved a light that is as practical as it is slick. Featuring the familiar silicone housing, rugged aluminum, and smooth corners of Knog's other lights, the Arc impressed me by putting out more lumens for more hours than the preceeding Blinder Road.
The optics on the Blinder Arc 5.5 are particularly noteworthy. Many manufacturers all use the same generic TIR optics with some small differences in beam angle. The Blinder Arc features a custom-designed lens that spreads the light into a wider, smoother beam that illuminates the whole roadway instead of just a single spot. You can see the difference in the beamshot overlay above.
Planet Bike's original Super Flash was the first bike taillight to use a high-powered LED that did more than just subtly wink at the cars driving by. Designed with a powerful primary LED and two secondary LEDs to ensure that something's always flashing, the Super Flash lights use a unique attention-grabbing strobe flash to draw drivers' attention.
The new SuperFlash USB is identical to the original SuperFlash in nearly every way, but has a built-in internal lithium ion battery with USB charging.
Review: A modern take on a classic taillight
Review by Nathan Hinkle, April 9, 2014, 6:30 p.m.
The Planet Bike Super Flash may be the most popular bike light of all time. The first light to introduce a high-power single LED design with a strobing pattern, it's ubiquitous on streets and paths in any city where people commute by bike. In recent years it's been overshadowed by the new kids on the block, with fancy USB-recharging lithium batteries.
The Hotshot SL is nearly identical to the original Hotshot 2W. It has the same LED, a slightly lower capacity battery, and lacks the pulse and random-flash modes. It also comes with just a standard seat post mount, whereas the regular Hotshot also includes a stay mount.
Review: Hotshot SL provides a lower-cost alternative to the original Hotshot without cutting corners
Review by Nathan Hinkle, Feb. 24, 2014, 6 a.m.
The original Cygolite Hotshot 2W was the first USB rechargeable taillight to hit the market, and won our approval as the "grand master" of the 2012 taillights review. It's undergone some minor improvements since then, but the design and features are essentially the same. This fall, Cygolite released the Hotshot SL, a nearly identical light at a lower price point.
The Hotshot SL is literally identical to the Hotshot 2W we know and love – it has the same LED, battery, buttons, and design. The only difference in the light is a smaller selection of flash patterns, and the package doesn't include a stay mount (but comes with the standard seat post mount). The mounts are still interchangeable, so you can always get a mount separately from Cygolite's small parts store or from online vendors.
The Blinder Road lights feature two LEDs in a single attractive package. One LED is behind a wide-angle (22°) lens, and the other is behind a spot (15°) lens. The lights can be switched between both wide and narrow beams at once, only wide, only narrow, an alternating flash, or 1 flashing 1 steady combo mode. Separate buttons toggle brightness and which beams are active. The lights strap on with Knog's signature silicone band and a study metal clasp. The Blinder Road series lights also come with a USB extension cable to facilitate plugging in the built-in USB charging plug.
Review: Form over function in Knog's first high-powered light
Review by Nathan Hinkle, Feb. 19, 2014, 6 a.m.
There's no denying that Knog makes some of the classiest looking bike products out there. Silicone straps, anodized aluminum, built-in USB chargers, and eye-catching colors bring a sense of style that's lacking from some more strictly utilitarian lights. The Blinder Road is Knog's first foray into lights designed to see by, not just to be seen by. The company's name was once synonymous with its small coin-cell operated lights (and the many knockoffs that followed), but that's all changing now as Knog breaks into the high-intensity bike light market.
The Streak series is Cygolite's compact headlight series designed for commuters.
The Streak 280 is a miniaturized version of Cygolite's Metro series lights. Weighing just 90 grams, it's significantly smaller than the Metro lights but still puts out 280 lumens in steady mode and up to 500 lumens in day lightning mode. With side visibility ports, Cygolite's steady-flash and day-lightning modes for 24/7 visibility, and USB recharging capabilities, the Streak 280 is the ideal choice for commuters. The Streak 280 was recently discontinued, and has been replaced by the Streak 310 which is the same cost but with a higher output.
Review: Streak series debut impresses with a powerful punch in a small package
Review by Nathan Hinkle, Feb. 18, 2014, 8 a.m.
I was impressed with the Cygolite Metro 300 when I first reviewed it last year, and the Streak 280 packs all the same features (plus some new ones) into a smaller, lighter, cheaper package.
Don't let the Streak's small size fool you. It's only 3 inches long and weighs just 90 grams, and at 280 lumens it won't be lighting up the woods for off-trail riding, but it's a great light for commuting, road biking, and riding around town. It was bright enough to illuminate debris on city streets and to ride comfortably on unlit bike paths. The Streak lasted a full two and a half hours at maximum brightness on its built-in USB rechargeable battery. In flashing mode it could easily run all day.
The Taz 1000 is an all-in-one performance "crossover" light, designed to provide a compromise between heavy, high-intensity systems with external batteries and smaller cordless systems with lower performance. It packs 1000 lumens into a 213 g light featuring 3 LEDs and customized optics.
Review: Amazing optics and handy features
Review by Nathan Hinkle, Feb. 16, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
I've tested a lot of lights, and most of them are pretty similar. There's a button that cycles through different brightnesses and flash patterns, and an LED behind some plastic that puts out a round splotch of light. Light and Motion's Taz 1000 is different. Three LEDs behind a carefully engineered reflector. The top two LEDs are like high beams, shining far into the distance. The bottom LED is behind a wide-angled frosted lens that casts a wide swath of light, illuminating anything near your bike.
As its name implies, the Taz 1000 puts out a maximum of 1000 lumens between the 3 LEDs. L&M also sells the Taz 1200, which is identical other than a maximum output of 1200 lumens. More important than the raw lumen number though is where the light goes, and that's where the Taz blinds the competition. The triple-LED setup with custom optics provides a beam much smoother and wider than many entry-level lights, while still reaching far ahead. Riding on a dark road at night, I could easily see a couple hundred feet down the road, and at the same time every pothole, stick, and rock was illuminated right up to my wheels. The bottom LED's spread is so effective that it illuminated the reflective strips on my front fender.
Light and Motion's Urban series is their flagship commuter light, with options ranging from the entry-level Urban 200 to the high-performance Urban 700. Although thoughtfully designed with a commuter's needs in mind, these lights are also well suited for off-road and singletrack use.
Review: Improvements to the Urban series optics and performance
Review by Nathan Hinkle, Oct. 6, 2013, midnight
Differences compared to the Urban 550:
Brightness: I went for a night ride with the 550 and 700 side-by-side, and alternated between using them. Initially it seems like the Urban 700 is only slightly brighter - and at the center of the beam, that's true. However...
Reflector design: The Urban 700 introduces a new reflector design with what L&M calls "micro peens" to reflect light to wider angles. The center of the beam is brighter (though not much) than the previous generation, but way more light gets spilled to the sides, and lights up an even wider path. The Urban 550 was already had some of the best optics for spreading light across the entire road or trail; the Urban 700 takes it even further by pushing light almost 180 degrees.
Battery life: Despite pumping out an extra 150 lumens, the Urban 700 actually lasted 5 minutes longer in the battery test than the 550 did. Advancements in LED efficiency mean that extra brightness won't sacrifice battery life.
Flash mode: The Urban 700 replaces the flash mode with a pulse mode. This is nice at night since it's a bit more eye-catching than no flash at all, while still illuminating the road and not giving you a headache. However, I wish L&M hadn't eliminated flash mode completely, since it's far less visible during the day than the original strobing flash mode was.
So far, the Urban series has been one of my favorites. Starting this fall, all L&M Urban lights have a new button lockout mode: press and hold the power button for 6 seconds, and the button locks so that it won't turn on if bumped in your pack. To unlock, press and hold for another 6 seconds. The new Urban 700 I tested has this feature, and as a student with lots of items in my bike bag, it's been a welcome development.