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Verdict: 
Bright, sturdy and versatile headlight, but expensive – and the complex design needs refining
Weight: 
270g

The Topeak CubiCubi 1200 is a seriously hefty unit that throws out serious levels of light, making unlit country roads easily navigable. Its modular design makes battery-swapping easy and the mount is both sturdy and versatile, but it's heavy, expensive and not without niggles.

  • Pros: Very bright, good burn-times, sturdy build, solid bracket
  • Cons: Heavy, fussy design, limited compatibility with other devices

The CubiCubi is probably overkill for basic night riding, and certainly overkill for daytime use – though with its 1,200-lumen output, it's certainly going to show up no matter how bright the sun.

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The reason is not so much the light itself, which opens up the dark country roads with good penetration, a soft peripheral spread and no dark spots, but the extras designed into the unit and its bracket. It's aiming to please adventure riders, bikepackers and tech addicts as much as basic road riders.

Topeak CubiCubi-Garmin mount.jpg

It starts with a very sturdy alloy mount that's more than up to holding the 195g light steady, and looks up to surviving a few crashes too. It has its own integrated mount for cycle computers, and extra cubes can be clipped to this one to hold secondary lights, backup batteries or GoPro's little Session cameras. 

Topeak CubiCubi-computer mount.jpg

The plastic-cased battery detaches from the aluminium head to turn it into a powerbank, from whose full-size USB port you can charge devices including Android phones (for reasons of Apple's own it doesn't work with iPhones).

Topeak Cubicubi 1200 - battery and head unit connector.jpg

You don't need to dismantle it for charging the 3.7v Li-Ion battery – which takes a reasonable 4-6 hours with this long-running 6000mAh battery – as that's done via a waterproofed micro USB port on the rear.

Topeak Cubicubi 1200 - USB port.jpg

Topeak's claim of 2.5hrs on full power proves fairly accurate, but you can switch between four other modes to extend the life: 4.5hrs at 600 lumen and 30hrs at 100 lumen, or 60hrs flashing at 100. Unfortunately, the CubiCubi falls into the common trap of forcing you to click through every mode to get back to the brightest setting, which can be seriously awkward and leaves you not wanting to adjust it. The long mount also means the button is a stretch to reach.

It's fairly easy to tell how much juice is left thanks to the four-LED readout on the side, which a short button press will activate (it's on constantly in use). It's not perfect, however, as internal light-leaks make it a little unclear how many are actually lit, and if you orientate the torch correctly (more on that below) the readout's on the side and obscured by the bracket unless your eyes are physically level with the lamp. That means stopping, or putting your head under the bar as you ride. Your choice.

Topeak CubiCubi-guides.jpg

You can get round it by fitting the torch a different way round (life hack!), but the hole in the bracket is smaller on top and slightly obscures one end of the readout. Also, there's no way around one daytime issue, which is that you can't see if it's lit or not without pretty much going over the handlebar. A small tab of lens reaching over the housing (as seen on many cars) would let you check at a glance.

Getting the light into the bracket is fiddly thanks to the ribbing, but it's very secure once in – so long as you seat it in exactly the right rib (there are clear alignment marks). Leave the head sticking out and it could fall off – Topeak warns against this – though the fit is tight and there's a pretty secure internal latch. You'd be unlucky to lose a head, but the design means more parts, seals and gaps to potentially fail in a crash/rain, plus the need for yet more alignment marks. Also, if there's only one correct position, why are the other ribs even there?

Topeak CubiCubi-guides-side.jpg

On that note, and after some confusion, we began to suspect the design had actually changed very late in the process. Topeak confirmed it: the bracket was designed to hold the lighthead only, which is why it fits that section perfectly – as shown in the photo below – and leaves the power button and logos exposed neatly in the cutouts. It also leaves the battery indicator fully exposed.

Topeak Cubicubi 1200 - side 2.jpg

Early customers had issues with batteries drooping under their own weight, however, with an unfortunate natural ‘separating effect’. So Topeak added a second element to the latch and updated the mount positioning. The changes have certainly worked to make it secure, but it’s an untidy fix – now, the only button in the cutout is the one to separate the two halves (which of course can't work with the clamp there), while the battery indicator is slightly shrouded. It's hard to see it as much more than a bodge.

Topeak CubiCubi-mounted.jpg

The CubiCubi is rated IPX6 for waterproofing, which is very good, and means it can withstand having 100 litres per minute jetted at its entire casing for three minutes (a test otherwise known as 'riding in Wales'). Certainly I had zero issues with water ingress while riding in Wales. It's also dustproof, but I can't test that as we don't have it here.

One thing the removable head is good for – beyond adding complexity to the lamp and mount – is making backups cheaper. Topeak sells the batteries separately in 6,000, 3,000 and 1,260mAh varieties, and not having to buy the Cree XLamp XHP50.2-equipped lighthead again is helpful if you're going long and looking to pack spares.

Topeak Cubicubi 1200 - side.jpg

Certainly you're not saving much weight by only carrying one lighthead, as it accounts for just 57g of the total (which is less than the bracket).

My biggest concern of the whole multipart assembly is that the cube section is held onto the handlebar bracket by one really tiny (6x2mm) crosshead screw. Lose that and the bracket is free to slide off.

Topeak CubiCubi crosshead screw.JPG

Also, while the integrated computer mount comes with three fitments – Garmin, plus Topeak's own RideCase and PanoComp X – there's nothing for any of the other popular brands.

Value

If it's just lots of light you're after, there are simpler and cheaper ways to get it. Lezyne's Macro Drive 1300XXL is £85, for instance, and tops or matches the CubiCubi for performance (if not for solid bracketry). And while the £80 ETC Kochab is 'only' 1,000 lumen, it's still plenty bright enough for fast road riding and pleasingly simple to boot.

> Buyer's Guide: The best 2019/2020 front lights for cycling

But with its modular design, support for other devices and expandable bracketry, the CubiCubi is offering more, not least the versatility to venture (at length) onto gravel and rough trails without dipping into a full-on, burly off-road flamethrower: see Exposure's £385 Maxx-D, for example. If it's this kind of all-round, big ride use you want it for, the CubiCubi's value is higher.

Conclusion

Overall, it's a bright, robust and feature-packed light with scope for carrying other lamps, batteries, computers and action cameras on its sturdy bracket. Compatibility is limited to a handful of devices, however, and design errors have led to a product that’s a little fiddly and awkward. Once securely assembled and attached, though, it's a powerful and dependable headlamp.

Verdict

Bright, sturdy and versatile headlight, but expensive – and the complex design needs refining

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Topeak Cubicubi 1200

Size tested: 12.2x3.8x3.8cm

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?

Topeak lists this as: "An ultra-bright, high capacity USB rechargeable light providing 1200 lumens of light output and five lighting levels, plus reserve for longer run times."

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

Topeak says:

Cree® XLamp® XHP50.2

3.7V 6000mAh Lithium Ion(integrated)

Micro USB charging / 4-6 hr

5V / 1A input

6V / 1A output

Lamp housing - forged aluminum / Injection molded polymer

Handlebar mount (ø25.4 - ø31.8 mm) (Shim included)

Waterproof IPX 6

Dimensions: 12.2 x 3.8 x 3.8 cm / 4.8' x 1.5' x 1.5' (Light+PowerPack)

Weight 192 g / 6.77 oz (Light+PowerPack)

Mode / Burn Time (APPROX)

1200 Lumens (High) / 2.5 hr

600 Lumens (Middle) / 4.5 hr

300 Lumens (Low) / 7.7 hr

100 Lumens (Steady) / 30 hr

100 Lumens (Blinking) / 60 hr

Dual zone refractor lens, Low battery indicator, Optional USB charging dock

Rate the light for quality of construction:
 
9/10

Solid and feels pretty rugged.

Rate the light for design and ease of use. How simple was the light to use?
 
7/10

A bit of a faff to unbox and fit, but easy enough once it's all together.

Rate the light for the design and usability of the clamping system/s
 
5/10

Ultimately provides a steady, secure platform, but design issues mean it's a bit of a bodge.

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

Took showers and cold weather without issue.

Rate the light for battery life. How long did it last? How long did it take to recharge?
 
8/10

Lasts well, and charge time is about average for a battery of this power and duration.

Rate the light for performance:
 
9/10

Very bright and steady on its mount.

Rate the light for durability:
 
8/10

Feels sturdy enough for gravel and trail use too.

Rate the light for weight:
 
4/10

Big solid mount and battery are heavy.

Rate the light for value:
 
5/10

On a pure lumens per pound basis, the price is high and value is low but it does have some extra capabilities, so gains a couple of points (more if you own a GoPro Session, a Garmin and an Android phone already; less if you have a Hero, a Wahoo and an iPhone).

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

Very well.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the light

It's bright, has a good reach and feels dependable.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light

Heavy, fiddly design, won't take my Lezyne GPS... plus the mount involves a 6mm crosshead screw, the failure of which would bring it all crashing down.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

Bears a premium of £30-£40 over simpler lights of similar power.

Did you enjoy using the light? Yes

Would you consider buying the light? Maybe

Would you recommend the light to a friend? Maybe

Use this box to explain your overall score

With simpler shaping, security that doesn't depend on one 6mm screw, and wider computer mount compatibility, this would be an eight. As it is – and with its high price – it's just good and a seven.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 47  Height: 183cm  Weight: 78kg

I usually ride: Vitus Zenium SL VR Disc  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: A few times a week  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mountain biking