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Verdict: 
Some nice features, especially the day flash, though a bit expensive given the overall specification
Weight: 
78g
Bontrager Ion 350 RT front light
7 10

The Bontrager Ion 350 RT is an extremely compact light with a maximum output of 350 lumens and some neat features. In terms of output, its mix of spot and flood is very pure, with few imperfections, making it useful beyond city limits – although if you ride faster than 18mph or so then scanning for holes/similar hazards requires concentration.

What distinguishes it from the otherwise identical 350 R is its wireless transmitter technology, primarily designed with helmet use in mind. It works with a remote switch, so you can change settings without needing to move your hands from the handlebar when the light is helmet mounted. The Transmitr Remote is an aftermarket product (as used on the Transmitr Lighting Set reviewed last month), but the technology pushes the price up by a tenner, which, for me, is rather high for the level of performance relative to competitors.

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Starting with the basics, the bracket is a very neat rubberised watch strap design that offers secure tenure to the full zodiac of bar diameters and most standard road or trail-inspired commuter type lids. That said, fitting or removing it while wearing insulated winter gloves proved nigh-on impossible. In common with other designs, such as the Lezyne KTV2, you rotate the light 45 degrees, fasten the bracket, then whip the lamp round again. There's also a Blendr system of stem mounts, which keeps things clean.

Charging is quite lengthy – four hours when fully depleted – so having established run-times in each mode, I've been inclined to keep it topped up. The pronounced square power switch incorporates a battery life indicator, which changes from red to green when that 1450mAH lithium-ion cell is fully juiced. (Easily hidden, discreet office charging shouldn't be a problem.)

The indicator works the same way (but opposite) in use, although the lack of amber can lure you into a false sense of security. On our maiden outing, I was surprised to find it had suddenly slipped to red. Thankfully, there is a reasonable amount of grace and run-times are faithful to those quoted.

Build and output

The compact rectangular resin body is well made, and though IPX accreditation isn't mentioned, it seems well sealed from the elements. Heavy rain and sustained, provocative blasts from the garden hose have made zero impression to date.

A broad composite lens uses collimator technology and a decent reflector to get the very best from the single Cree diode. Bontrager claims visibility to other traffic is up to 1.5km – more about that in a minute.

The pronounced square switch cum battery life indicator sits slap bang in the middle and is reasonably easy to operate on the fly.

There are five modes in total: three steady, plus daylight and standard flashing, which should be enough for most needs. The highest is 350 lumens, prod again for 200 lumens, then 100 lumens. A memory function defaults to your last choice, which is always welcome.

Seeing by...

Real-world output is good. The flood does a decent job of road presence, while the spot provides a surprisingly sharp spot for riding by. Like others in this class, the highest setting is OK for semi-rural navigation to around 18mph, but much faster and it becomes harder to scan the road surface for holes, thorns, glass and similar hazards (other models, such as Moon's LX 360, have more navigational punch beyond city limits). Its 90-minute run-time also means this mode is better suited to shorter bursts.

Atop a helmet, it's a good companion for better quality bar-mounted main systems on the back lanes, useful for reading signposts and puncture repairs, and for occasional moderately paced trail work (600 lumens is my helmet light benchmark for speedy nocturnal singletrack stuff).

Stair-casing down to 200 lumens strikes the best balance between output and economy (2hrs 57mins from a full charge), and has been my default for suburban contexts. Spotting holes and hazards proved easy enough to around 23mph, which is about as fast as I like to push things in built-up areas in any case.

Being seen by...

Rather like the Electron F-150 and F-400 lights, Bontrager has opted for amber side windows. These are more effective for peripheral presence than I was expecting, and compared with the two Electrons.

In the higher constant settings, the relatively broad cloak of light helps – all things being equal, I've never felt unduly invisible when entering the flow of traffic, or negotiating roundabouts.

Helmet or handlebar-mounted, with the full 350 on tap, visibility ranges from 300m on clear nights to 125m on murky ones, and even in moderate fog you'll stand a sporting chance of being spotted from 200m or so. Through suburban stretches, given competing illumination, other traffic took note from 125m.

On the 200-lumen setting, I seemed to register with other traffic to around 100m.

> Buyer's Guide: The best front lights for cycling

Predictably, flashing was far more impressive: 700m tops along the open road on a starry night – excellent, but a way off the 1.5km cited. Flashing's pace means it also holds its own through town – 300m on a clear night, with those amber windows coming into play.

Night flash run-times have been a consistent 8:53 – 7 minutes short of the 9 hours claimed, but perfectly acceptable allowing for the factory battery clause.

Day flash returns almost an hour more and is easily one of the best of its kind, at least in this class of light.

Subjectively, I liked the Ion's versatility, small dimensions and that brilliant day flash. Objectively, £55 is relatively expensive for this level of specification. I've seen Blackburn's Central 700 and the Moon LX760 offered for similar money online.

Verdict

Some nice features, especially the day flash, though a bit expensive given the overall specification

road.cc test report

Make and model: Bontrager Ion 350 RT front light

Size tested: n/a

Tell us what the light is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Bontrager says: "Blazing light from a compact design, the Ion 350 RT comfortably mounts to helmet or bars and provides 350 Lumens to light the path or trail. Transmitr adds ANT + wireless compatibility for easy on the go control."

My feelings are that it's a good compact light with intelligent design, though it's not a trail light.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?

* ANT+ enabled for use with all Transmitr products

* Use Transmitr for wireless on/off, battery status, high beams and mode selection

* Ideal for helmet or handlebar mount

* 350 Lumens via high-power CREE LED

* 350LM-1.5hrs, 200LM-3hrs, 100LM-6hrs, Night Flash-9hrs, Day Flash-10hrs

* Fully charges in 4 hours through sealed Micro USB port

* Includes quick connect bracket and micro USB charging cable

* Blendr compatible, secure bar mount available

Rate the light for quality of construction:
 
7/10

High-quality plastics, precision fit USB charge port. Nothing less than I'd expect from Bontrager, or indeed, this end of the market.

Rate the light for design and ease of use. How simple was the light to use?
 
7/10

Intuitive for the most part, although a little trickier when helmet mounted.

Rate the light for the design and usability of the clamping system/s
 
7/10

Simple rubberised strap that easily adjusts for a secure fit on most handlebar diameters and contemporary road/trail helmets.

Rate the light for waterproofing. How did it stand up to the elements?
 
7/10

No IPX rating but has withstood persistent, heavy rain and hosepipe blasts effortlessly.

Rate the light for battery life. How long did it last? How long did it take to recharge?
 
7/10

Generally good; even in the highest setting it's on par with competitors of similar output. Run-times are accurate, but the four-hour charge time might be a deal-breaker for some.

Rate the light for performance:
 
7/10

Top seems more powerful than similar units boasting comparable figures. Day flash is one of the best I've used to date.

Rate the light for durability:
 
7/10
Rate the light for weight:
 
6/10
Rate the light for value:
 
7/10

Good, rather than great, and the 'need' to purchase the remote trigger separately may alienate some.

Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Overall, a very capable compact light with intelligent design and decent output, good enough for navigating shorter semi-rural sections, with little danger of being overlooked by other traffic. Other constant modes are easily up to suburban riding and offer much better run times. Day flash is one of the best I've come across, at least from this class of light. Contrary to Bontrager's blurb, on helmet duties, I would never describe it as a trail lamp in the commonly accepted sense, but is good enough for reading signs, rummaging through panniers, tackling punctures/similar roadside mechanicals etc.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the light

Good quality of light, great daylight setting and, aside from the full 350 lumens, reasonable run-times.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light

Pedestrian charge times and crude battery life indicator. Though output is better than numbers alone suggest, this end of the market is extremely competitive.

Did you enjoy using the light? Yes

Would you consider buying the light? Possibly but not at full rrp.

Would you recommend the light to a friend? Not at full rrp unless they were keen to use it with the remote.

Use this box to explain your score

Versatile light for commuting, yet small enough for pared-to-the-essentials best or TT bikes. Subjectively, I like it; objectively, there are torch type designs of similar calibre for less cash, but it's still a good 7.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 43  Height: 1m 81cm  Weight: 70kg

I usually ride: Rough stuff tourer based around 4130 Univega mountain bike frameset  My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking

Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)