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Verdict: 
Well-made and surprisingly bright budget town/secondary light
Weight: 
16g

The Oxford Ultratorch Mini+ USB 15lm is a five-mode (one steady, four flashing) rear light, which produces 15 lumens – though it's bigger, presence-wise, than its size or numbers would suggest.

  • Pros: Good modes, great build, more presence than 15 lumens suggest
  • Cons: Not quite powerful enough on its own for longer sections of unlit road.

The five settings are selected via a raised, centre-mounted grey switch. More rubbery than some, it's still very positive, and can be operated in full-finger gloves. As it requires a definite single press, there are no accidental engagement or 'damn, gone past my favourite mode' niggles to report. There's no memory setting either, something I'll let slide given its asking price and overall performance.

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The light is refreshingly well-sealed from the elements. The injection-moulded plastic body has a 'waterproof' rating of IP65, which protects the three diodes, lithium polymer battery and switchgear from pretty much everything bar sustained, full blown immersion. That makes it a great choice for hardworking winter/gravel bikes. As long as you've snugged the charge port cover home properly, it appears to keep going come hell or high water.

I've mounted ours low on the seatstays, right in the firing line of deep puddles, and given it sustained, close-range blasts with the garden hose without it missing a beat.

Mount

Like many, the back doubles as the bracket and tethers to host tubing via the familiar rubbery 'ladder' strap. This is stretchy and seemingly durable. I've had no issues swapping it between posts of varying diameters and it's proved equally dependable on pencil-thin seatstays.

Oxford Ultratorch Mini USB Rear light - seatstay mounted.jpg

Helmet mounting is possible, although it requires a longer strap.

Performance

The light performs well throughout the settings. While the diodes lack the same visual command of COB (chip on board) types, they deliver a very warm, enticing glow, which is most captivating in the flashing/pulsing settings.

Run in constant, casual chats with other riders suggested they clocked me at 100 metres along the open road, dipping to 80m through town, and 60m for other vehicles after dusk. I'm also pleased to report a pronounced lack of stealth moments when entering the flow of traffic.

Obviously, running it in steady puts a dent in run-times – 90 minutes is pretty much your lot. At that point, the battery is totally exhausted and will power down, which might come as a shock if you're used to lights that automatically default to their lowest when reserves tumble.

> Buyer's Guide: 14 of the best rear lights for cycling

All the flashing modes are surprisingly extrovert, on par with Cateye's Rapid Micro along unlit roads. As with the Cateye, I'd prefer something closer to 30 lumens as a main rear light for longer than a few miles of pitch black roads.

There's not much to choose between the modes in terms of presence or economy, although each assumes a slightly different pace/pattern. The ability to switch and suit surroundings is very welcome, especially when cruising through seasonal town centre illuminations. I've managed between 4hrs 44mins and 4hrs 57mins from a full charge.

Visibility in town varies from 80-120m. Though only subtly different, the pulsing effect seemed particularly distinctive in the city, something I attribute to its sequential pace.

Along unlit roads and in the faster flash, visibility was extended to 125-150m, maybe 100m when it was cloudier. Though peripheral bite is reasonable rather than remarkable, I've never had any heart-in-mouth moments. Pulsing, by contrast, seemed to register at 80m. Run-times have come within 3 minutes of the 5 hours claimed.

Charging

Mains charging takes two hours, another quarter if it's via laptops/PCs. When charged, it flips from steady red to blue. The OEM cable is a little on the short side, but being an android pattern it works fine with those common to phones or tablets.

Conclusion

The Oxford bears close resemblance to the rear of Topeak's Mini USB combo, so if you were seeking a bargain alternative, the Ultratorch should be high on your list (the Topeak is £34.99 on its own). The lens also has a more pronounced curve than the Topeak, offering better peripheral presence. Its 15 lumens is certainly adequate for suburban riding and has exceeded my expectations on unlit roads.

By the same token, it faces stiff competition from the likes of Moon's Alcor, not to mention its Gemini stablemate and the Cateye Rapid Micro I mentioned above.

Verdict

Well-made and surprisingly bright budget town/secondary light

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Oxford Ultratorch Mini+ USB Rear Light 15lm

Size tested: 15 lumens

Tell us what the light is for

Surprisingly bright, user-friendly compact safety light with decent presence and reasonable run-times.

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

5 modes 3.7v 220mAH lithium polymer battery, integral, tool free bracket, 15 lumen total output.

Rate the light for quality of construction:
 
8/10

Materials and construction are very good, especially at this end of the market.

Rate the light for design and ease of use. How simple was the light to use?
 
8/10

Intuitive switch, easily operated in gloved fingers but positive enough not to power up in a pocket or luggage.

Rate the light for the design and usability of the clamping system/s
 
8/10

Very simple, stretchy ladder type, compatible with standard and oversized bar diameters. Also ensures very reliable tenure around pencil-thin seatstays.

Rate the light for waterproofing. How did it stand up to the elements?
 
8/10

IP65 is very good for this price point and ours has passed my hosepipe test with flying colours.

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

Run-times are moderate, although faithful to those quoted, and charging times are pretty convenient.

Rate the light for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the light for durability:
 
8/10

Seems very well made, but just ensure the port cover is fully home after charging.

Rate the light for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the light for value:
 
9/10

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

Overall, it's a surprisingly bright compact light which represents excellent value for money. A little underpowered on its own for pitch black roads, but the modes and diodes are very distinctive and more than enough for town riding.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the light

Great build, distinctive settings.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light

Nothing, given the asking price and design brief.

Did you enjoy using the light? Yes

Would you consider buying the light? Yes, as a secondary/contingency.

Would you recommend the light to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

An excellent secondary/contingency light and very well made for the money, if just a touch under-powered for extended journeys along unlit roads.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 44  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)