The Exposure Joystick MK12 is an excellent option for both day and nighttime riding, on and off-road. It's not cheap, but as with all Exposure products, you definitely get what you pay for.
- Pros: Bright, focused beam, multiple modes, sensible features, many accessories
- Cons: The price
Two years ago I reviewed the MK10 Joystick and came away seriously impressed. So much so, I've ridden with one ever since – my go-to light for both long daytime and short nighttime rides, usually as a helmet light off-road.
The only drawback I've found is a lack of focused light, limiting on-road speed in the dark to about 12mph – hence Exposure rating the Joystick as only 50% suited to road riding. The MK11 added a few (50) lumens, but not much else. This, the MK12, is a marked improvement – adding 200 lumens to the MK10 while not impacting battery life. They're put to better use too, with a slightly sharper focus where you want them for going faster in the dark.
It doesn't come cheap though. Let's get it over with: £159.95 is a lot of money for a 1,000-lumen light when you can get a well-reviewed unit that will light your way for half that. Mat was certainly impressed with the £99.95 Cygolite Metro Pro 1100 USB; not half the price, but a substantial £60 less. But Exposure kit is top-class, durable, made in the UK and able to be used in a multitude of ways.
On the button
While the form factor of the MK12 is pretty much identical to previous iterations, there's a new stainless steel button on the rear. It's larger and, according to Exposure, easier to actuate. I never really had issues using the old rubberised button, but marginal gains and all that. The old button contained the LED indicator for mode and battery life, but this now shifts to the circuit board you can see under the translucent rear cover.
Overall the MK12 is 5g heavier than the MK10, a little bit longer, and a wee bit fatter – but hold them in your hand blindfolded and you wouldn't be able to tell them apart based on size or weight. That Exposure has managed to squeeze an extra 200 lumens out of the design without impacting battery life or dimensions is a great achievement. If you have accessories that fit the older models, they should work with the MK12.
To recognise the Joystick reaching its 1,000-lumen milestone, Exposure has produced a limited number of colourful models: 300 each of blue, red or purple; otherwise it's stock black. There's no difference apart from the colour. You get the same Exposure Smart Port on the back for both charging it and running or charging other things, such as Exposure's reasonably priced RedEye range of rear LEDs, external battery packs or indeed a mobile phone. The Smart Port is protected by a very robust rubber cap that will seal out the worst of weather.
It's good to see a manufacturer supporting an ecosystem of lights and accessories over a long period, making the choice of investing and obtaining value an easier one to swallow at the checkout. The mostly-made-in-the-UK kudos and highly-reputable support, plus a two-year warranty go a long way to justifying the premium price tag in my view.
Battery life is consistent with Exposure's claims: a maximum-output 1.5-hour run-time being borne out on a near-freezing, fast-ish night pub ride. Exposure recognises the critical need to keep you appraised of low battery levels for safety and battery management, and you get in-beam warnings of low levels as you ride.
This warning is in addition to a multitude of battery level indications using the LED on the rear of the light – stepping down in 15 per cent increments, assuming you can remember what they mean.
Changing flashing modes is the same as previous models: hold down the button to turn on, and release it once it's flashed the number of times that correspond with the program you want. The table covering the seven modes is laser-etched into the body of the light, with run-times shown.
The included rubber-ladder strap and plastic bracket work well enough on your bar, but, as for the MK10, if you are repeatedly using the button to toggle between high and low beam it can move a bit. It's not too much of an issue, and the £28 alloy bracket would prevent this. Likewise, the £20 remote switch would allow you to turn it on and off and change modes... erm... remotely.
The included helmet mount and leashes remain unchanged from previous models as far I can tell, and work as well as ever, holding the MK12 steady on your helmet. Also in the snazzy zipped box is a mains charger and a USB cable lead. The mains charger delivers a full charge in under three hours, USB will obviously depend on your USB output power.
So far, so almost identical to the previous Joystick models. The reason to be excited about the Joystick MK12 is indeed the extra 200 lumens, and the revised lens through which they pass. Whereas the 800 on tap in the MK10 were a limiting factor on dark roads, preventing speeds above about 15mph, I felt comfortable pushing 30mph with the MK12. This is a totally arbitrary, skin-of-me-eyeballs assessment, and no, I can't provide any quantifiable proof as to why I'm happy doubling my speed when there's only another 25% of output compared with the MK10. I just felt happier going faster.
On a ride where I averaged 15mph, frequently cycling through full power and medium as the road rose and fell, and comparing in real time with the MK10 on the bar, the beam on the MK12 impressed. You'd certainly manage a two-hour period of twisting dark lanes, assuming 'high beam' use only on the shorter, faster bits and 'low beam' on the inevitably longer, slower climbs.
On an all-out 100% discharge test under road.cc laboratory conditions (i.e. zip-tied to an Argos desk fan), the MK12 delivered the goods. The MK12 claims to deliver 1,000 lumens for 90 minutes. The different colours of battery level LED ticked down until it hit 25% after an hour and 6 minutes – the first quick triple flash burst from the main LED.
After 1hr 18mins the 10% warning flash came on. Thereafter you get the warning flash every two minutes; there is simply no chance of missing it.
From this point the brightness begins to degrade, until after another 10 minutes – so at 1:28 run-time – the brightness of 'high' is the same as 'low'; going off the run-time, about 375 lumens. This is perfectly rideable in a get-you-home way, at maybe 12mph. The MK12 finally turned itself off after 1hr 52mins, having sat there flashing every two minutes while holding the constant low-power output.
I'll happily trade a slightly lower output towards the far end of the claimed run-time in return for another 22 minutes of half-brightness. If needed, I could have swapped mode to a lower-yet output and probably doubled or tripled the remaining run-time, if needed more as a 'legal/safety see me' as opposed to 'see the road' light.
Apart from nighttime rides using the Joystick on the handlebar or head with the excellent, unchanged helmet mount, the other main use case is for daytime 'see me' visibility. This, for many people, will be the reason to buy the Joystick. Exposure was very possibly the first light manufacturer to overlay a flashing mode with a constant beam, and the run-time in this mode stretches over 24 hours – even the most prolonged commuter schedule should only need a weekly charge.
This mode is always on tap by making a long press, until the light emits a brief flash, then release. So unlike cheaper lights where you have to cycle through modes to get a flash, it's easy to manage either constant or flashing modes as you're unlikely to change modes mid-ride unless the sun sets – and then, it's a simple press.
When I reviewed the MK10, Exposure was marketing it as only 50% suited for road use, and the lower output marked down what was otherwise an excellent light. Now, with the tweaked beam and higher output, the MK12 Joystick is more capable of being that one light you need for both night and daytime riding. Yes, run-time is still limited to 90 minutes on full power, but that's assuming you are trying to ride well over 15mph in the dark for that long. If you are riding two hours a day in full darkness you could use the Joystick, but would be charging it every day. If this sounds like a faff then perhaps a light with a larger external battery pack might be the one to go for – but if you lock your bike somewhere you need to remove the light for security reasons, the extra faff of a separate light-battery combo might be an unacceptable trade-off.
As I found previously, whether the Joystick is the one for you will depend on how far and how fast you want to ride, day or night. Understand that and the Joystick MK12 could well be the only light you need. If you need a helmet light to aid off-roading, there's even more reason to invest in this British modern classic.
A revamped classic, now capable of supporting fast, dark road rides as well as off-road adventures
road.cc test report
Make and model: Exposure Joystick MK12
Size tested: Max Lumens 1000
Tell us what the light is for
It's for anyone who wants to ride a bike, day or night, with a simple, all-in-one solution of impeccable pedigree.
"A perennial favourite that has achieved a milestone by emitting 1000 lumens the Joystick remains the lightweight helmet light of choice, and to celebrate this light's coming of age there are special edition colours to choose from. A high quality, stainless steel button further refines the Joystick granting you more tactile feedback than it has ever had before. Exposure Lights started with the Joystick and we are proud to have seen it grow with us to the light it is today.
"In the box: Joystick MK12, Helmet mount, Handlebar bracket, Smart charger, USB charge cable, Lanyard, Quick start guide"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
Exposure lists the following features:
Optimised Mode Selector allows you to easily select from a concise number of programs to provide the optimum lighting for your ride.
Output - 1000 lumens
Weight - 93grams
Burntime - Min 1.5 hrs Max 36 hrs
Battery Capacity - 3100 mAh Li ion
Dimensions (mm) - Length - 112, Head - 30, Back - 27
Optimised Mode Selector
The Optimised Mode Selector allows you to easily select from a concise number of programs to provide the optimum lighting for your ride.
Cable Free Design
The primary design feature of Exposure Lights, Cable Free Design removes the hassle of cables and straps utilising the superb range of brackets for speedy, rock solid attachment.
Smart Port +
SPT+ enabled lights automatically recognise accessories allowing you to power additional front and rear lights, use the Remote Switch and charge USB devices on the move.
Intelligent Thermal Management
Controlling the temperature of the LEDs is important in ensuring that the lights remain as efficient as possible. Patented technology in the circuitry of Exposure Lights stop the light from heating up to a point where the light loses power due to the elevated temperature.
Exposure Lights Fuel Gauge technology accurately displays battery power and burntime information so you can see how long you have left to ride.
The usual Exposure quality.
The Exposure menu system is genius.
For what it is, it's very good. Some movement, but any rubber ladder mount will do that.
Lasted longer than advertised, charged as quickly as would be expected.
Likely to last longer than your bike.
Packing all that into less than your phone weighs is some achievement.
More than £150 for a front light isn't a bargain, but it's well worth the money; if you have the cash, buy one. You won't regret it.
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Excellent. Can't fault it.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
The refined brighter beam, it's all about the lumens.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
Did you enjoy using the light? Yes
Would you consider buying the light? Yes
Would you recommend the light to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's an excellent light in terms of performance and quality; the only drawback is the price.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling