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Busch & Muller is a German manufacturer with an impressive portfolio of bicycle lights, including this Ixon Core handlebar-mounted front light, a perfect combination of sturdy construction, compact size, good illumination and impressive battery life. While it may not be enough for all-night cycling on remote country lanes, it's ideal for most roads in the hours on the dark side of dawn and dusk, lighting up the path ahead and alerting car drivers of your presence.
The key aspect of many Busch & Muller lights is the technology called IQ, developed partly to increase battery life but mainly in response to German traffic rules, that forbid bike lights from dazzling other road users. Now called IQ2 following further improvements, this technology essentially puts the LED high in the unit rather than in the centre, and facing backwards rather than forwards. The light from the LED then bounces off a parabolic reflector and through a lens. This results in a beam which shines on the road, where you need it, and not on tree branches overhead, where you don't, or into the eyes of car drivers.
The light has two settings: high power (50 lux) and low power (12 lux). One important thing to note: the Ixon Core has no flash option.
In common with some other manufacturers, Busch & Muller measure the output of their products in lux rather than lumens. The former measures illumination relative to the distance from the light source, whereas the latter measures the total illumination leaving the light source. Busch & Muller – not surprisingly – say that using lux as a unit gives a much better indication of the amount of useful light.
In practice, I found those 50 lux at high power were fine for seeing my way on most roads, especially where there was a bit of ancillary lighting (such as moonlight) and as long as I was keeping the speed fairly steady. On sections of dark country lane with trees on either side, I could have done with a bit more light, but I just slowed down a bit. For riding through town, where there were street lights, and being seen by other traffic is more important than illumination of the road ahead, I found low beam was enough, although some commuters may prefer to keep the light on full power to make them even more visible.
The beam itself when it hits the road is roughly oval, so you can see the section of road you're about to ride over, but not that much on either side, or a huge distance ahead, which is exactly how the light is designed to function. It's similar to a dipped headlight beam on a car.
The top of the beam is best described as 'squared off', with a clear jump from light to dark very noticeable compared to other lights where the variation from light to dark is more gradual. This is a little disconcerting at first, but you soon get used to it.
A lot depends, of course, on how you've got the light set on your handlebars. Busch & Muller recommend that you should set up the light by shining it on a vertical wall, and having the top of the beam no higher than the height of your bars.
For fitting the Ixon Core to your bars, there's a strong rubber strap that hooks onto pegs under a mount, and you then clip the light unit into the mount. Some retailers sell exactly the same light supplied instead with plastic mount that clamps around the bars with a bolt with a large head which you can tighten with your fingers. If you get the model with the plastic strap, you can buy the plastic circular mount as an extra, for around £5.
This plastic mount has one downside: it consists of three separate parts (so you can adjust it for different diameter handlebars) which stay firmly in place when tight on the bars, but have an annoying habit of coming apart and falling on the workshop floor if you're moving the mount from one bike to another. But once the mount is securely fixed, the light unit clips in and twists out easily, while remaining firmly in place when you're on the move.
On battery life, B&M claims three hours with the Ixon Core on high power, and 15 hours on low power. I found these claims very fair, with a simple test (turn on the light and see how long it lasts) revealing almost four hours on high power, and over 17 on low power.
The lithium battery is rechargeable. You plug one end of the supplied recharging cable into a mini USB port, which is under a rubber flap on the back of the light unit, and the other end into an adapter in a wall socket, or into a USB port on a computer, just like a phone. Charging from the socket in the wall takes about three hours; longer on the PC.
The Ixon Core's recommended retail is around £48 but you can find it under £40 or even under £30 at some on-line stores (especially those based in Germany – although shipping adds a bit back on). Compared to lights of a similar size, creating a similar amount of illumination, this is a very fair price.
If you're an all-night audax rider, or if you spend a lot of time going fast on very dark rural lanes, then you might want a front light that's brighter and has longer battery life. But if you need a small and sturdy unit to provide good light for a couple of hours, to get you through a hefty winter commute or evening social ride, or just to get you home after sunset if a long-distance day in the saddle turns out to be longer than planned, then the Busch & Muller Ixon Core is recommended.
Neat, compact and sturdy front light with ingenious design, good beam and impressive battery life
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Make and model: Busch & Muller Ixon Core 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?
This is a handlebar mounted front light. The manufacturer's website says the Ixon Core is "Small, yet very mobile. On and off with
one simple click. - In Germany approved for all bikes. IQ2 technology. Very good and homogenous lighting of the road. Fits all
handlebars. Circumferential soft component offers shock protection."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
The website goes on to highlight these features:
50 Lux – high power mode: more than 3 hours
12 Lux – low power mode: 15 hours
Aluminium casing, silver anodised
Integrated, rechargeable lithium
Charged via micro USB port
With capacity indicator
Splash- and rainwater-proof
Approved by German road traffic regulations
The light unit is made of aluminium and plastic. It seems very sturdy. The plastic sections are slightly rubberised and flexible, rather than hard and brittle, which should help protect the light in case of a knock.
The light is well designed (the IQ technology is ingenious) and very simple to use, with just two modes: high and low.
Some versions of the Ixon Core come with a strong rubber strap that hooks onto pegs under a mount, to fix the mount to your handlebars, and you then clip the light unit into the mount. Other versions come with 'proper' plastic mount that clamps around the bars with a bolt. This circular plastic mount has one downside: it consists of three separate parts (so you can adjust it for different diameter handlebars) which stay firmly in place when tight on the bars, but have an annoying habit of coming apart and falling on the workshop floor if you're moving the mount from one bike to another. But once the mount is securely fixed, the light unit clips in and twists out easily, while remaining firmly in place when you're on the move.
The light was used in test rides in the rain and this didn't seem to impact performance at all.
Battery life easily lived up to the manufacturer's claims of 3 hours with the light on high power, and 15 hours on low power.
Performance is very good. The Ixon Core is an ideal light to cover a few hours of night riding on reasonable roads at reasonable speeds.
Weight is a claimed 112g for the unit. Once again very fair, as we measured it 105g on the road.cc scales. Plus a few g for the mount. A very good weight for a unit producing this degree of light and with this amount of battery life.
At £30-40 this light is not an absolute bargain, but it's fair value for the light it produces, especially given its compact size and excellent build-quality. To get a brighter light, a broader beam or longer battery life, you'll probably have to spend more money, and/or put up with a larger unit on your bars.
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As a light to cover a few hours of night riding on reasonable roads at reasonable speeds, the Ixon Core performed very well. If you ride like a demon down tree-lined country lanes at midnight you'll probably want something brighter.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
Good beam, compact size, light weight, easy re-charge, easy operation, good battery life.
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.
Anything further to say about the light in conclusion?
There are light available which are much brighter, with a much broader beam, which will burn all night. These also tend to cost a lot of money. For what it is - a neat and compact light with enough burn-time for most night commutes or social rides - the Busch & Muller Ixon Core would score a 9. However, the fiddly clamp is a nuisance, and price (although fair) is not an absolute bargain, which together knock off a point, giving an overalls score of 8.
Age: 53 Height: 5ft 10 / 178cm Weight: 11 stone / 70kg
I usually ride: an old Marin Alp, an old steel classic My best bike is: an old Giant Cadex (can you see a theme here?)
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, Trail riding and rough-stuff (off road on a road bike)