With a thirty kilometer commute that takes in rural roads with limited shoulders and no street lighting, I have two primary purposes for using lights on my bicycle – to see and to be seen. My secondary considerations when choosing lights are battery life, since I have a reasonably long commute, and ease of detaching them and reattaching them to my bike. Only then do I consider the remaining aspects of design and recharging time.
A set of six Cycle Design lights arrived as I returned home from a couple of wintery days in Melbourne which included some pre-dawn and dusk-to-dark driving. It is astounding how many cyclists on the roads are difficult to spot, their lighting is insufficient. Driven by this review I was specifically looking out for cyclists and it appears that cyclists believe that they are more visible than they actually are.
I currently run a Serfas TSL-500 with three brightness modes plus one flashing mode for my headlight plus a rear light also with multiple modes but usually run in flash. This was my benchmark for comparing the Cycle Design set of lights I had before me.
Cycle Design are a new brand in Australia. Imported by Sprockt, the range included six models and the whole range was provided for this review.
Headlights / Front: Super Bright 300 Lumen / Safety 40 Lumen / 3 LED / Mini Rechargeable
Rear lights: Safety 40 Lumen / Mini Rechargeable
With six models to test and review, I set up a testing bench, labeled each model and its accessories, mapped out each model on a spreadsheet, and then I fired up the USB charger. Five of the six models use USB rechargeable batteries so my USB hub looked like a radioactive octopus with various charging indicator lights flashing and glowing. Each of the lights included all of the required accessories including mounts, USB charging cables, and AA batteries for the only non-USB rechargeable model, the 3LED front light.
All lights were fully charged within the time stated on their respective boxes (I measured this several times during the review period). In contrast, the output (run time) of each light didn’t meet the target time. All failed to reach the times stated for at least one or more of the light modes. Keeping this in mind, for commuting it makes sense to carry one of the USB charging cables (fully interchangeable) in your saddle bag to top up via your computer during the work day.
The Safety 40 Lumen is compact and reliable
The Safety 40 Lumen rear light is good, though worked its way lose
The lights best suited to my needs were the compact Safety 40 Lumen Front and Rear Lights which gave off bright, crisp lights. During testing, one of them worked its way loose from the rubber bracket and fell off while I was riding on a relatively smooth bitumen road. It survived with just a couple of small dents and scratches to the metal casing.
The Mini Rechargeable Rear Light was a solid performer with nice and bright dual flashing modes.
The 3 LED Headlight was the only non-USB chargeable light in the set and gave off a reasonably bright light but the battery cover was easily knocked off. I ended up sticky-taping it in place.
Least suited to my needs was the Mini Rechargeable Front Light which gave off a bluish hue that did not help me to see and did not make me more visible to other road users.
The most powerful light in the range is called the Super Bright 300 Lumen Front Light. As a rural commuter, I normally ride with a Serfas TSL-500 front light which pumps out 500 Lumens. It was not fair to directly compare the Super Bright 300 Lumen Front Light to a 500 Lumen light, so based on a “fit for purpose” evaluation, it was not fit for my purpose. The Super Bright 300 Lumen did not provide enough light on High for me to see well enough pre-dawn. I knew there were potholes and riding at a medium pace I didn’t have enough light to see these in time to avoid them. My Serfas TSL-500 has more light power and is reliable for this purpose, so I would still categorise the Cycle Design Super Bright 300 Lumen light as a light to be seen, rather than to see.
Anecdotally, another effect of using ‘less bright’ lights was that on-coming vehicles did not dip their lights from high beam like they do when I am running my usual light. Could this be because they were not seeing me as early, or did the dimmer lights on my bike make them think that I was further away than I actually was? I can’t know what those drivers were thinking, but I certainly noticed a difference in their high/low beam etiquette during these tests.
In conclusion, the Cycle Design suite of lights is entry-level and appropriate for some, but not all commuting situations. For the suburban/metro commuter with plenty of street lighting, the focus is on being seen by other road users, and the two rear lights tested performed well in this regard. The Safety 40 Lumen Front Light, 3 LED Headlight, and Super Bright 300 Lumen Front Light would also be better suited to suburban/metro commuting.
As a rural road commuter, I am more than happy to rely on both the Cycle Design rear lights; the Safety 40 Lumen and the Mini Rechargeable. For front lights, my personal riding conditions demand a higher powered light not available in the range. However as a backup or emergency replace, the Safety 40 Lumen Front Light, 3 LED Headlight and Super Bright 300 Lumen Front Light are compact and well suited.
The Cycle Design lights are available at online from cycledesignlights.com.au with all models priced at a reasonable $35 aside from the Super Bright 300 Lumen Front Light which is priced at $55.