At road.cc every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.
Good scores are more common than bad, because fortunately good products are more common than bad.
The Oxford Ultratorch 850 puts out plenty of lumens and is well made, but the beam from the single LED is rather primitive. The bracket doesn't feel the most robust, either, though it's still holding up after a month of testing.
With a decent beam pattern, 850 lumens is pretty much enough for all road riding situations, so to see the Ultratorch available for £59.99 I instantly thought, what a great light for the commuter or for those who have to get their training done in the evening.
The problem is, the Oxford doesn't have a decent beam pattern. It literally uses a simple concave reflector with a high-powered LED, which delivers a spot of intense light onto the road surrounded by a massive halo that really isn't doing much at all apart from illuminating the sky and surrounding hedgerows in a weak glow.
The spot itself is a crisp white light, which picks up everything in your path even when the roads are wet, and if Oxford had done something with the reflector design to focus more of the 850's light on the road this could actually be a really decent product.
For starters, the run-times for the various modes are impressive: 850 lumen (3.5hrs), 425 lumen (7hrs), 215 lumen (14hrs), 85 lumen (28hrs). There is also a daylight flash mode which lasts for 28hrs. After three or four charges I was achieving well within the ballpark for these figure, sometimes above, sometimes below.
The modes are changed via the power button at the side of the light, and you scroll from brightest to flash. I'm not a fan of having to scroll through the flash mode to get back to the brightest option on a dark country lane, but what makes the Oxford even worse is that you have to scroll through the off position too!
So, you're riding along and you know you've got a technical downhill coming up. You're in the 425-lumen mode so as you scroll to get that 850-lumen one your light output is getting dimmer, then a bit of disco, then complete darkness before getting the light you require. It's not good.
The on/off button emits a light glow in green while the battery is above about 25%, before it turns orange. Being on the side of the body, though, it is difficult to keep an eye on when riding.
Charging takes place via USB at the rear of the main light unit and takes 6.5hrs; that's doable during work hours if needs be but quite a long time compared to many other lights.
The charge point is covered by a rubber cover and when the light is fitted to the bike it is also shielded by the bracket. This all keeps the rain out when on the road and even in the shower too, for a bit more of an intense test. The 850 is only rated to IPX4 which means, 'It is resistant to water splashes from any direction' so the fact that it stood up to the power shower is impressive.
The bracket will fit 31.8mm diameter handlebars or, with the addition of the rubber inserts, it can cope with 25.4mm.
Although the plastic it's made from doesn't feel particularly high quality, and the little button that enables you to slide the light off the bracket feels really flimsy, once tightened the bracket does keep the light firmly on the handlebar.
For the money, the quality of the light – with an aluminium light head and a plastic cover for the battery – is pretty decent. Its shape means it sits snuggly against the handlebar as well.
At £59.99, though, it's up against some tough opposition.
The Lezyne Lite Drive 800XL has a few issues with its own mode selections but its beam pattern and use of the available 800 lumens far surpass that of the Oxford, and it's a little cheaper at £57 too.
The Blackburn DayBlazer 800 also scores well for its optics and costs just £54.99.
The Oxford competes and even beats these lights on run-times, so it's a shame that more development has gone into that reflector.
Overall, it's an okay light for urban commuting with the odd foray out into the lanes, but its beam pattern is seriously lacking.
Great run-times for the power outputs, but let down by a poor beam pattern
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Oxford Ultratorch 850
Size tested: 25.4/31.8mm bar bracket, 850 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?
The Ultratorch 850 is a light designed for being seen and to see by. It has some flaws in its design, though, especially when it comes to the beam pattern.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
Hard anodized aircraft aluminium and polycarbonate casing
1x CREE XM-L2 LED, 850lm Maximum Output
Battery: 6000mAh Lithium Ion
Modes: Constant 100%, Constant 50%, Constant 25%, Constant 10%, Slow Flash
Runtime: 3.5hrs (100%), 7hrs (50%), 14hrs (25%), 28hrs (10%), 28hrs slow flash
Charge time: 6.5hrs
Easy to use, but having to scroll through 'off' is a serious design flaw.
Does the job but feels cheap and plasticky.
No issues in heavy rain or in the shower.
Charge time is around 6.5hrs and the battery offers pretty decent burn-times.
Not bad for the quality and output, but others for the same money perform better.
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As a light it doesn't really deliver; it's best described as a torch that fits to your handlebar.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
Good battery life.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
Poor beam pattern.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
You can get plenty of similarly powered lights for around the same money but with optics that are far superior in most cases.
Did you enjoy using the light? No
Would you consider buying the light? No
Would you recommend the light to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your overall score
Those poor optics and the fact that you have scroll through 'off' while riding really brings the score down to average for the 850, which is a shame because there is actually a lot to like.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!