Lights - front
Lights just seem to get smaller and smaller and brighter and brighter. At this rate, in a few years they'll be brighter than the sun and invisible to the naked eye. For the time being though we'll have to make do with units like the MiNewt USB which kicks out three hours of super-bright beam and weighs less than your race saddle.
Weighing little more than a handful of paper-clips Knog’s Frog’s are surprisingly bright miniature LEDs, ideal for contingencies and complementing ultra compact Li-on lighting systems but fall dangerously close to the trap of being style over substance-especially compared with their Bullfrog siblings.
Light and Motion make some pretty serious lights and the Vega 120 is the latest evolution of their original groundbreaking Vega. It's an unusual looking piece of kit, with beefy looking cooling fins sitting at the front of a wide case. It's distinctive, if not elegant, and looks like it should survive the rough and tumble of the urban jungle. The neat rubber strap bracket, another beefy looking component, makes it easy to remove and fits pretty much any size of bar.
The Knog Gekkos are good strap on lights. They're not super bright and you wouldn't want to go cross country with them or out beyond where the sky glows orange, but they're ideal as a backup or rescue light around town. The styling is retro chic, if you can still call things retro: perhaps post modern is more appropriate, like the bike light equivalent of the NYC Guggenheim.
Cateye's EL-120 is designed as a backup or town light. To that end it doesn't have the brightest beam but the light it does put out is well-focused and useful and certainly enough to get you home.
Side visibility is addressed in the design but to be honest it's pretty average; other Cateye units fare much better in this area. If you regularly dart out of junctions at night you might want something with a bit more peripheral light.
Black Crater’s cord lock looks gimmicky but quickly becomes a must-have. It’s a tiny three function white Led aimed at anyone enjoying the great outdoors. Powered by two CR1220 batteries, it attaches to clothing, sleeping bags, tents or anything with a cord. It's a great safety backup and powerful enough for map reading or fixing flats. Just a pity it isn't a bit better put together.
This chunky torch from Electron has a measured beam and is built to last, but the lack of side visibility and short run time mark it down as a standalone commuting option, and there are cheaper lights available if you just want a bright torch.
LED lights have come a long way since Cateye used to make those front ones with the green diodes you could only see from about five feet away. In many ways this is the direct descendent of those cheaper units – a three-LED budget unit – and it's great that a cheap town light can now perform this well.
Knog's new Skink LED is one clever little light. It's good too, but it's not perfect. The clever bit, as you would expect from Knog, is the design. Essentially the Skink is a simple four LED unit plus two batteries wrapped in a rubber skin that requires no mount – you simply stretch the rear strap around whatever bit of your bike that you want to attach the light to, hook it to the integral tab and off you go. Nifty.
Cateye's EL410 from last year was well received in most quarters as a town commuting light, and the EL010 is the new pretender. Cateye don't have an unblemished record where superseding old models is concerned, so how does the new model stack up?