The Oxford Ultratorch Mini+ USB Headlight 100lm is a tiny but mighty secondary/contingency light with four sensibly staggered modes, producing 100 lumens in the highest flashing and steady settings. Output is impressive, relative to size, but battery capacity and run-times are better suited to commuting and training than audax or similar endurance night riding.
- Pros: Super-compact, relatively quick charging, very reasonable run-times
- Cons: Rubberised strap struggles on oversized diameters
Bearing an uncanny resemblance to the front model of Topeak's mini pairing, the body-cum-bracket is sturdy by composite standards and the lens intelligently designed. There's hardly oodles of peripheral bleed but the lens design optimises the potency of the two tiny diodes. These are fuelled by a lithium polymer cell and the four modes selected by a simple, top-mounted switch.
Given the Mini's diminutive dimensions it's almost impossible not to find said switch in full-finger gloves. By the same token, you'd be going some to accidentally switch it on when it's holidaying in a pocket or luggage.
As I'd expect from a four-mode model (three steady, one flash), there's no memory function and ours defaulted to medium (75 lumens). Another deliberate prod ramps it up to 100 steady, nudge again for the lowest steady, and finally, flashing.
Given its dimensions, it produces a pretty concentrated and surprisingly pure beam of white light. There is just about enough navigational bite in the high and medium steady settings for scooting round town on.
The 100 lumens seem visible to around 60 metres along open roads, 35-50m through town, although the modest peripheral punch sees me default to flashing during rush hour, especially where roundabouts are involved. I got around 90 minutes from a full charge, although clicking down to medium bought another 15 minutes or so.
Frugality aside, the lowest is adequate for well-lit shared path scenarios and, possibly, limping home on. I'm not for one moment suggesting it's a waste of a setting, rather one of limited use to me. Visibility is to around the 25-metre mark, less when it turns cloudy. In this mode it managed 5hrs 30mins from a full charge, which is favourable.
Flashing is also 100 lumens and hardly one that approaching traffic can ignore. Comparisons with COB units such as Kryptonite's Avenue F100 are unfair, especially on a particularly bright day, but nonetheless the Ultratorch Mini's flash works pretty well in daylight, especially when it's slightly overcast. Oncoming traffic seemed to twig me at 30m or so, and was very welcome when entering the flow of traffic.
At dusk and beyond, we're talking 90-200 metres – urban and unlit lanes respectively. Ours has spent a fair bit of time partnering high-power dynamos and rechargeable systems. Despite the brightness of those main beams, I'm convinced drivers register the flashing light first – especially when I've been tackling roundabouts and tricky concealed junctions.
It's managed four hours on flashing before the battery indicator turned red, but there was another 40 minutes before it powered down, and I'd reached home by this point. Like most modern units, the quality of output remains consistent right until the end.
When it comes to charging, like most these days it does so from an android pattern charger, which is super-convenient. A higher input cable used for tablets and similarly powerful units can reduce mains charging to 100 minutes (20 short of the official time) but runs the risk of shortening the lithium polymer cell's life in the longer term, so best done infrequently, especially if you're not able to monitor and whip off when it's fully juiced.
The battery life indicator emits a blue/red hue when reserves are good/dwindling. During the charging phase, it winks red, then turns a constant blue when done.
Combining bracket and body in one is efficient space-wise, and coupled with the elastic ladder type strap, simple to use. Well, sort of. The rubberised strap is very thin and, despite some initial scepticism, pretty durable. However, I've had ours shoot off, under the freezer (of course) when removing it.
Fortunately, I was in the garage and able to retrieve it with a spoke. This might not be the case should it shoot away when you're attempting to re-tether it to the bar, in the street on a cold, dark night.
Ours was also reluctant to fit around increasingly standard 'oversized' diameters. On the flip side, it hasn't budged one iota when grunting along the green lanes or thundering through town.
Provided the port plug is properly refitted post charging, there's little chance of anything wet and nasty creeping inside. I've not been remotely squeamish about leaving it in place when giving bikes/bar tape a sudsy bucket scrub down.
Minor niggles aside, for the money this is a very impressive little light. It's very similar to the front of Topeak's Mini USB combo, but in my opinion the Oxford is much better value, especially given that these are secondary/get-me-home lights.
That said, Moon's Ring front light is another good alternative, with a better bracket. I've seen these for £15 or so online.
Decent contingency light that takes up little bar space, though the strap merits improvement
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Oxford Ultratorch Mini+ USB Headlight 100lm
Size tested: Black
Tell us what the light is for
An ultra-compact and surprisingly powerful contingency light with decent run-times, relative to size.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
Resin composite body, 2 LED, Lithium polymer cell, four modes. Maximum 100 lumens.
Decent build quality.
Generally practical, space-saving ladder type. However, it struggles with oversized diameter bars and clamps.
As weatherproof as most riders will need. Just be sure the port cap is fully home.
Generally good: 5hrs 50mins in the lowest steady setting, 90 minutes with the full 100, medium 1:45, and I've had 4:40 in the flashing mode.
Interestingly, lighter than the Topeak Mini it's a dead ringer for.
Good, especially compared with Topeak's model.
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, a very good contingency light that represents decent value for money. Run-times, relative to size and battery capacity, are pretty favourable. However, in some settings, it didn't give a lot of leeway between the indicator window turning red and powering down.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
Good build quality, decent settings and sensible run-times.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
Ladder type strap struggles with oversized diameter bars.
Did you enjoy using the light? Yes
Would you consider buying the light? Yes
Would you recommend the light to a friend? Well worth a look but think contingencies/training, not all-nighter dynamo companion.
Use this box to explain your overall score
A decent contingency light with impressive output relative to size. Rubberised strap could be better and more warning of dwindling reserves would also be welcomed.
About the tester
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)