Silva calls the Velo 'a perfect product for the advanced commuter' and that's as good a description as any of the light's strengths. The Velo's three-LED head is very similar to Silva's Minox head torch - the Swedish company has years of experience with head torches and is seeking to use that knowledge to break into the bike market.
Silva calls its triple-LED setup the Intelligent Light System. Rather than the large-diameter emitters commonly seen on modern bike lights, the Velo features a trio of small LEDs with the central one being equipped with a reflector and lens to project light a little further. The emitters off to each side provide a wide pool of light onto the road ahead. Claimed output is 110 lumens, but the light is spread widely and doesn't penetrate that far into the gloom ahead. Get above late teens speeds on unlit roads and you'll be wishing for a bit more firepower.
The Velo runs from three AAA batteries that live crossways inside the lamp unit itself, making it very compact. Access to the battery compartment is via a twist-off cap on one end of the unit. A knurled periphery aids grip and there's a slot for a coin or other improvised tool if needed. The cap's quite a snug fit thanks to the generous O-ring seal inside - Silva says that the Velo is fully waterproof, and it certainly coped admirably with downpours and spray.
Three power settings and a flashing mode are accessed via a small push button on the top. Cunningly, the rubber button is illuminated from behind by the outboard LEDs themselves, giving the button a gentle blue glow that makes it easy to find without being distracting. Repeated button pushes cycle through the modes in the usual manner, although it would be better if the flashing mode was outside the cycle - the only way from low to high is via flashing, and if you find yourself needing high you probably don't want a brief burst of strobing first. Holding the button down turns the light off. Claimed run times are 30 hours on high, 48 on medium and 90 on low. That's with alkaline batteries, expect to get somewhat less on rechargeables - really high-capacity rechargeables are hard to come by as AAAs. While even high power doesn't really cut it for brisk riding on unlit roads, low is perfectly adequate for being seen on streetlit ones and that's where the Velo is most at home, perhaps with the odd excursion on cycleway or towpath.
The head torch-derived lamp head has the possibly unique feature of an up-down pivot that lets you easily aim the light for different conditions without having to move the bar clamp. This is useful in as much as you don't need to pay too much attention when attaching the bar clamp - just correct the angle with the head as you go along. The pivoting head also allows considerable flexibility in positioning the light on different bar configurations - if you need to have the light sat up above, or slung below, the bars for any reason, the swivel can accommodate that. I had no problems with it rattling out of position even on markedly bumpy roads. There's no adjustability side-to-side but the light cast by the Velo is wide enough that that doesn't really matter.
The clamp itself is a hinged plastic affair that accommodates different bar sizes using a stack of shims. A small Allen bolt secures it, threading into a brass insert in the other half of the clamp rather than the commonly-found loose nut. This means that there's no nut to fall out, but the insert is pushed in on the inside of the clamp so any overtightening of the bolt acts to pull it out. This happened to us, but it pushed back in and less ham-fisted tightening proved adequate to hold the clamp in place. The light doesn't weigh much so there's no great force on the clamp.
The Silva Velo has much to offer the commuter, with a useful pool of light from a compact, adjustable and pocketable package that won't need recharging every day (and can be refuelled from any corner shop). If your needs include faster riding on properly dark roads, though, shop elsewhere.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Silva Velo 3LED Headlamp
Size tested: Black/Blue
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?
Silva says: "A perfect product for the advanced commuter, Velo ensures that your sport cycling experience will expand beyond that of sunny summer weather. Following Silva's 'see and be seen' philosophy, this tough new sport-bike headlight incorporates the proven Silva Intelligent Light System that provides high visibility while keeping you visible, an essential combination for safe commuting. Velo is completely waterproof, which means you'll have no problem with rain or snow and a reliable partner whether riding day or night in urban traffic or on a forest trail. The Velo bikelight is easy to operate and offers the strong light output and variable modes of Silva's Intelligent Light System. It's also a snap to mount and dismount on either helmet or handlebars. Tough, strong, waterproof, safe. Velo allows cyclists to see and be seen in the darkest night, rain or snow, on street or off."
The "commuter" pitch is pretty spot on, and you'd be OK at typical off-road speeds. Brisk road riding on unlit roads is going to need a bit more oomph, though.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
Claimed maximum light output is 110 lumens for 30 hours on three AAA batteries, although obviously not all batteries are created equal. Medium and low modes are claimed to run for 48 and 90 hours respectively and there's a flashing setting that ought to last for weeks.
The light unit itself is robust and didn't mind rain and road spray. The pivoting head is a neat touch. We had an issue with the brass threaded insert in the bar clamp coming adrift, but once pushed back home and the bolt done up more carefully it didn't recur. We'd feel more confident with a good old nut, though.
Pivoting head means quick and easy aiming and the top-mounted switch is gently illuminated -- easy to find without being distracting. Switch action is very soft, which isn't great for feedback, but you can tell what setting you're on easily enough. We'd rather see the flashing mode taken out of the low-medium-high cycle -- if you want to go from low to high you have to go via flash which is potentially distracting.
Simple hinged clamp with a selection of rubber shims to fit various bars. Easy to use quick release. No sideways angle adjustment so heavily-swept bars will aim the light off to the side. We had an issue with the brass threaded insert in the bar clamp coming adrift, but once pushed back home and the bolt done up more carefully it didn't recur. We'd feel more confident with a good old nut, though.
It's claimed to be completely waterproof and it's had no trouble with some rather moist rides.
The Velo uses three AAA batteries, either alkaline or rechargeable. Battery life will depend on what batteries you choose to put in it.
Good pool of light works well at low speeds but the Velo doesn't have the punch to let you see far enough ahead at higher speeds on unlit roads. That's not really what it's for, though.
The light itself is sturdy, there's just that little question mark over the threaded insert in the bracket.
Weighs less than a sparrow's fart.
Value is OK, but there are lights for similar money with more oomph and rechargeable batteries.
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As a commuter light it's pretty good -- unobtrusive, lasts a long time, gets you seen and OK for seeing where you're going up to a point.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
Compact size, usefully-shaped light pool, adjustable head.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
Out of its depth at speed on unlit roads.
Did you enjoy using the light? Until it got really dark, yes.
Would you consider buying the light? If I needed a compact light for riding on mostly lit roads, yes.
Would you recommend the light to a friend? If it fitted their needs.
Anything further to say about the light in conclusion?
Good commuter light but if you want to ride fast on unlit roads the same money will buy you more darkness-penetrating oomph.
About the tester
Age: 38 Height: 6ft Weight: 11st
I usually ride: Whichever's nearest the door My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Track; to the shops; with the kids