As far as heavy duty single-unit front lights go, the Blackburn Countdown 1600 is a seriously powerful product that's well suited for use on unlit roads.
- Pros: Bright, good battery life, handy screen and usability, build quality
- Cons: Weighty, gets very hot on top setting
The Countdown 1600 gets its name from two places – its display screen that functions as a permanent reminder of how much burn time you have remaining on a given setting, and the whopping 1600 lumens of output that the two LEDs are capable of producing.
That comes on the top 'Blitz' setting, which in testing yielded as near as makes no difference 1:20hrs of life when left alone, including the usual dimming as it heats up (more on that later) and reaches its end. You also get a 1200-lumen 'high' setting, plus 600-lumen 'medium', 300-lumen 'low', and pulsing and strobe settings that peak at 300 lumens within their respective cycles.
I liked the clear and bright burn time indicator, but what was curious was how pressing the arrow buttons to cycle through the settings (or pressing the power button to instantly switch between blitz and low settings) would result in an immediate drop of burn time – of up to eight minutes one time – despite only a few seconds passing.
I've no doubt that changing settings does cause a small drain in the lithium-ion battery, but a sap of eight minutes does seem extreme. This drain got less obvious as the battery burned down; it's also possible that this is the system simply adapting to the new setting and you end up getting the time back as it readjusts its prediction. But it is unnerving at first if you need, say, 1:15hrs of battery life to get home and it jumps from 1:20 to 1:12 just because you cycled through the settings.
To do that is very easy, with the directional and power buttons (all illuminated in blue) easy to see and to press even with gloves on. The power button also acts as a shortcut to engage Blitz mode.
The light is easy to slide on and clip into the supplied sturdy bracket too. The bracket itself is really designed to be a semi-permanent fixture through the winter and is certainly suitable for off-road use, although you can easily remove it using the twist screw, or a hex key if you fastened it a bit too tight. It's designed to work well in tough off-road conditions on 22.2-35mm bars, and on the road saw no problems.
The body is made of a heat-radiating aluminium shell, which is finished really nicely – you know you're holding a quality product, especially given the 244g weight of it. The thing about heat-radiating bodies is that they get hot – in this case so hot that it becomes impossible to hold in bare hands when it's been sitting on the Blitz setting for 20 minutes or so.
The light is designed to power down to the low setting when it gets too hot, but that's not ideal when you're enjoying the considerable benefits of the 1600 lumen Blitz setting. The 1200-lumen high does keep things in check more easily, and to be honest that is bright enough for just about any situation anyway – and you get a 2hr burn time with that (with times generally doubling as brightnesses subsequently halve).
Another characteristic to note is that the beam is relatively focused – a bit too focused in my opinion, where I'd quite like to see the higher settings make more of the brightness by producing a more 'floodlit' beam. It's by no means bad, giving plenty of illumination and some useful bleed into the periphery (as well as some designed-in side visibility too), but nevertheless it could be a touch more 'general' in its focus.
Despite the niggles, this is a very capable heavy-duty light that doesn't require an external power unit to hit some seriously high outputs. At £139.99 it's not cheap – Giant's Recon HL1600 is £99.99 (review to come), although Cateye's Volt 1700 is another £30 – but with the obvious build quality, from the aluminium shell to the screw bolts that hold it together and the tidy USB recharging port and cover in the rear of the unit, it'll definitely last.
Admirable performance, easy to use and great build quality
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Blackburn Countdown 1600 Front Light
Size tested: 1600 Lumens
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?
Blackburn says: "Mountain biking at night can be a magical experience that transforms your familiar trails into an entirely different world. Keep the magic alive by knowing exactly how much battery is left on each light level, so you're never stuck out in the dark. The Countdown 1600 has an easy to read backlit digital display that tells you exactly how many minutes of light remains in each of the 6 power modes."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
Features (via Blackburn)
- Meets ANSI FL-1 Standard
- Excellent Side Visibility
- Built in design features channel a bright hit of light to each side providing visibility to cross traffic.
- Micro-USB Rechargeable Charges
- Off Road Mount
- Fully charges in 4 hours with a 2amp USB port
- Countdown Logic (when the light is on, push the power button quickly to toggle between the current mode and Blitz mode)
From the bracket to the unit itself, this is an excellently made product.
Really simple thanks to the three button interface and clear screen.
I really liked it – it's sturdy to mountain bike standards, and really easy to fasten and unfasten too.
Seems very sturdy – and stood up to a fair dousing in the shower (we've not had that much rain lately!).
Battery life is very good. Sure, the readout can jump about as you cycle through the modes, but it's true to claims, which are decent. Charges quickly as claimed too.
No standout flaws to speak of.
The alloy shell and fittings look super-sturdy. Even the USB cap fits really well.
At 244g it's weighty, and probably the main downside of this light. However, I'd wager that this isn't a priority for winter users.
£139.99 is a lot of money, but there's a lot of performance and ease-of-use packed in here too, not to mention the build quality. And it's £30 less than Cateye's Volt 1700.
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
Bright, good battery life, handy screen and usability, build quality.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
Weighty, gets very hot on top setting.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Giant's Recon HL1600 is £99.99. Cateye produces a 1700 lumen Volt, but that's another £30 and weighs a smidge more too.
Did you enjoy using the light? Yes
Would you consider buying the light? I don't need this level of power (or want the bulk on the bars, to be honest).
Would you recommend the light to a friend? Yes, depending on their needs.
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is an excellent light, just a little pricey and a little weighty, but a really good choice if you need 1600 lumens.
About the tester
I usually ride: Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 SL (2016) My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding