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I've been pleasantly surprised by the output and generous run-times of the Brightside Topside helmet light, a combination front and rear light unit. It's intended as a secondary form of lighting, but in a pinch can be mounted to your handlebar and used as a get you home light.
We liked the previous version of the Topside, but Brightside tells us there have been several significant upgrades and revisions for 2021.
The light that Siobhan tested in 2017 had 30 lumens front and rear, and four modes; it now sports seven, and the front is a more powerful 50 lumens, plus a 100-lumen flash.
The other significant revision is the ability to isolate front and rear lights, so they can run independently of each other.
Brightside lists the seven modes, with run-times and lumens, as:
There's also a memory function, so it'll turn back on in the last-used mode.
To operate, it has the same pronounced, top-mounted switch-cum-battery life indicator. This is user-friendly, easily located wearing winter-weight full-finger gloves, and requires a positive, half-second press, so accidental power-ups are unlikely.
In terms of optics, we have two Cree LEDs projected through wide angle fish-eye lenses, casting a flood beam.
Weatherproofing is IP65, which means it should resist heavy jets of water but not full-blown, bog-snorkeling immersion. Build quality is reassuringly good throughout, right down to the charge port cover.
Two nylon mounts and rubberised O-ring straps come as standard to cater for different helmet vent designs. One will also accommodate handlebars, should the need arise.
These have also been beefed-up and seem super-secure. I've had no issues, regardless of helmet and terrain – no hint of vibration, chatter or rattling, let alone slippage or ejection.
The flashing modes are the most extrovert, and just the right tempo for snagging driver attention. Brightside reckons it's visible to around 500 metres, the same as the previous version. It certainly reaches 250-300m at dusk, along unlit lanes – and more than 350m with the 100-lumen flash when it's pitch black. That falls short of the 500m cited, but it's still plenty of presence and impressive, nonetheless.
The 15-lumen settings are good for 150m, closer to 180m in morning mist, and the constant white (50 lumens) proved more useful than I was expecting for luggage scrutiny, finding locking mechanisms and a quick roadside component tweak.
Reading road signs from any distance in the back of beyond was easier than I was expecting, too.
There's enough punch in the steady 50-lumen modes for moderately well-lit shared-use paths, but the flashing wins when it comes to standing out.
The ability to switch between tempos means there shouldn't be any problems with being drowned out by competing illuminations around town, and is particularly helpful at roundabouts. While HGVs, buses and similarly large vehicles always leave me on edge, the Topside, being helmet mounted, is more closely aligned with driver eye-level, so in the flashing settings should hold their attention more convincingly.
The battery/charge indicator follows the standard 'traffic light' narrative, so it's easy to tell when it's time to plug in the micro-USB charger and refuel the lithium-ion 650MaH 3.7v cell. This is reckoned good for 1,500 charge cycles – that's several years' hard use before tangible deterioration sets in.
Using the supplied micro-USB cable (which, though serviceable, is very short) takes three hours, zero to hero, but bargain on 2hrs 30mins if you are using one designed to charge phones or tablets. Charging from my dynamo took nearer 3hrs 30mins.
The quoted run-times are accurate to within a few minutes. On a couple of occasions the indicator slipped to amber quicker than I'd anticipated but made no impression on total run-times.
True to claims, it will recover from a full discharge, although it does take a little while for any charge to begin registering.
Despite weighing a very modest 70g, it's surprising how solid the Topside feels. During testing it's been struck by overhanging branches, the odd stray stone and heavy showers and hasn't missed a beat. It's also passed my garden hose torture test – with flying colours.
Aiden at Brightside says testing involved freezing the lights in a block of ice and they just came back for more (I should stress Brightside doesn't recommend this!).
Siobhan thought the RRP of £29.99 for the previous version was excellent, and the price hasn't changed.
BBB's ScoutCombo pumps out a maximum of 200 lumens up front and seems well made – I've been running one regularly for several years – but is £59.99.
The ETC Sirrah 500 Lumen Front Rear Light will serve as a main light, proper, but this is reflected in the £52 asking price.
Ultimately, the updated Brightside Topside is a marked improvement on an already great design. More extrovert than the numbers suggest, it's an excellent companion to a main light or as an emergency backup, at a great price.
A marked improvement on an already great design – versatile, well designed and very user-friendly
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Brightside Topside Helmet Light
Size tested: 100 lumens max
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?
Brightside says, 'Lights at a driver's eye level are so much easier to see
Dual front and rear cycling helmet light. The new Topside helmet light now produces 100 lumen of bright, crisp light. *
The Topside helmet light is easily and securely fitted to most helmets.
Rechargeable, water resistant and with a 43 hour battery life, Topside is must for commuter cyclists. At eye level to drivers, the fish eye lens gives a wide but not blinding beam and is very visible from both the front and back.
Weighing just 68 grams or the same as seven £1 coins it's hardly noticeable when fitted and with the added benefit of being pointed where you look.
*100 lumen on flash mode
Dual front and rear cycling helmet light. Use as just a front light or a just back light or both together The 43 hour battery and 100 lumen bright flash gives great visibility without blinding drivers and gives sufficient light to let you see where you are going.
Having lights at eye level to a motorist really helps stay seen in traffic where normal bike lights can lost amongst the traffic.
Easily fitted to most helmets and at only 68 grams it's hardly noticeable when on. Waterproof, rugged and rechargeable, the Topside light provides a great option for staying seen in traffic."
My feelings are that it's an impressive secondary/contingency light with solid build quality and decent run-times.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
Brightside lists these details:
Battery life from 20 to 43 hours
New modes give the option to use as a front or rear light or a mixture of both combined
Brighter 100-lumen flash
Increased clip mounting strength
Also now available all across the EU, US, Canada and Australia
The battery is a Lithium-Ion,650MaH 3.7v. It is good for up to 1500 charges
All components, right down to the straps, feel really solid and fit really precisely.
User-friendly switch, and memory function adds another level of convenience.
Very solid and secure. Has proven compatible with several different styles of helmet.
Passed my garden hose test with flying colours.
Reliable, accurate and in line with those cited.
Decent run-times and much brighter than the numbers might imply.
Seems very rugged, especially given the price.
It's great value for money, especially given the upgraded specification. You get more lumens for your money with the BBB ScoutCombo and ETC Sirrah, but they're both north of £50.
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Though not overly powerful, the output is very effective at grabbing attention without being aggressive or irritating to other road users. Though large vehicles such as buses, skip lorries and HGVs always have me on edge, the light's positioning seems to hold their gaze in slow-moving traffic or when tackling roundabouts. The ability to isolate front/rear lights is another definite plus.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
Great build, innovative and very practical design, and competitively priced.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
Nothing, though a longer charge cable would be welcomed.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's half the price of the BBB ScoutCombo, which pumps out a maximum of 200 lumens up front, while the ETC Sirrah 500 Lumen Front Rear Light is £52.
Did you enjoy using the light? Yes
Would you consider buying the light? Yes
Would you recommend the light to a friend? Definitely
Use this box to explain your overall score
As before, it's excellent: a really well-conceived secondary light with solid build quality and sensible run-times.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb 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, mtb,
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)