The Exposure Strada MK11 SB AKTiv sits at the top of the company's road range, and with 1,600 lumens on tap you'll always have enough light on offer. With a larger selection of output modes than almost any other range of lights on the market, battery life is impressive for an all-in-one unit, while the AKTiv technology enables the Strada to respond to oncoming light sources. As I said when reviewing its lower-output RS sibling, it's a big investment, but if much of your time is spent riding in the dark, it's one you won't regret. But, if your budget doesn't stretch this far, you'll find some cheaper options in our guide to the best bike lights.
Exposure offers two models in its Strada lineup, the 1,300-lumen RS mentioned above, which I've also been testing, and this SB – Super Bright – with a maximum measured output of 1,600 lumens. Both of these models come with the option of AKTiv, giving four lights in total. If you've read my review of the RS then apologies for some repetition in this one, but the lights are very similar in numerous ways.
For 2023 the Strada SB has had quite a few updates over the original that we reviewed back in 2019.
As with the RS, the Strada SB uses two LEDs, arranged one on top of the other, sat behind a lens which, according to Exposure, is designed to deliver an optimum beam for road riding, with a flat beam for the periphery and a central spot.
And it does work very well, giving excellent illumination where you want it, with the bright white 'colour' picking out all of the road imperfections. On all but the widest of main roads it will easily light up the road in front of you from verge to verge.
The SB uses both LEDs all of the time, unlike some, such as the Ravemen PR1600. This has its two LEDs side by side, with a different lens design in front of each. One LED is used for 'dipped', giving a wide beam with a flattened top, and a press of the button turns on the second LED for a spot 'full beam', just like you get in a car.
It's a better setup if you ride in a lot of traffic, as with the dipped setting the light isn't directed into the eyes of oncoming drivers.
With both of the Strada's LEDs on all of the time there is no cut-off, so there is some light bleed upwards. It never seemed to cause a problem with oncoming traffic, though. I spend a lot of time riding on main roads and provided you're courteous in terms of how many lumens you are pumping out, it shouldn't be an issue.
Modes & programs
Exposure supplies a wired remote with the SB which allows you to scroll through whichever modes you have available in whichever of the seven programs you have selected.
As with the Strada RS, for general road riding I preferred program 4, which uses full power for high, and about a third of that for the low setting, but there are loads of options, as you can see from the photo above. The numbers next to each program relate to the run-times in hours.
This means you'll get around two hours at full power to around 36 hours at the lowest setting. A full recharge from flat takes around six hours.
We have the AKTiv model, which means you don't need to worry about dimming the light for oncoming traffic.
AKTiv allows the Strada to respond to oncoming light sources and to lower the output accordingly. I was originally expecting it to automatically switch modes like the system on my car does, effectively switching between dipped and full, but the AKTiv mode smoothly dims the output as cars get closer to you and then returns to full brightness quickly after they pass. It works equally well when cars are overtaking you, responding to a car's red rear lights just as well as it does to oncoming front lights.
When the AKTiv mode is on it doesn't allow you to scroll through the modes, which means if you're using a program to extend battery life, you'll need to leave the AKTiv switched off.
Exposure lights have a pulse mode, where the LEDs remain on at a low power with a brighter flash over the top. To activate this you press and hold the button (don't press it too long as you'll turn the light off) and then a quick press will put you back to the solid modes. That's right – no scrolling through disco flash when out in the wilderness to get back to the brightest level. Other manufacturers, take note!
The pulse mode is bright enough for daytime use, and in an urban environment at night it'll get you noticed among all the other illumination going on.
On top of all of that you also have the cool display panel on the rear of the light, which tells you what mode you are in when you turn the light on. It always displays the battery life, too, for the mode you are in.
That is accompanied by small LEDs that display which of the mode settings you are in – green for high, orange for medium, red for low.
And if you want to run the light upside down under your handlebar, the display mimics that, spinning so the text is always the right way up.
While the Strada SB is anything but cheap, it is an impressively well-engineered light, with no plastic involved in its main construction. The CNC-machined aluminium body is a piece of art, and even the bracket is aluminium.
The bracket has changed slightly since the version I owned, which had a hinge that could rust and fail after many years of riding in wet and salty winter conditions. It's been replaced with a design where the top and bottom section join together a bit like a jigsaw piece.
The light slides into the v-shaped locating plate and sits very securely, even on rough roads, with the release pin allowing you to quickly remove the light should you need to.
Longevity is a big plus with Exposure lights. It's too early to say on this specific light as I've only had it on review for a couple of months, but other Exposure lights I own are still running after a decade or so, with no noticeable issues and batteries still holding their charge.
I really rate the waterproofing, too. I got caught in very heavy rain for around an hour while out on a ride with the Strada and it has carried on unscathed. Just make sure the rubber cover is sheltering the charge port on the back of the light.
So, what about the competition?
The Ravemen PR1600 I mentioned earlier is a light that I rate very highly; I still use it on the majority of my road rides as I just love the way it works. It comes with a wireless remote, and the same lumen output (on paper at least) as the Strada SB, although the burn-times are shorter at 1.4hrs on the full 1,600 lumen. It's a lot cheaper, though, at just £139.99.
There is also a 2,400-lumen option, the PR2400, which I tested in 2021; that's £199.99.
Cateye's most powerful light, the Volt 1700 USB, is just £179.99, and Iwein was impressed with the beam shape. But though you are getting a fair bit more light output for the £100-plus saving, the bracket is more basic than the Exposure's, and you don't have the SB's program choice. And I don't think its looks are in the same class as the Exposure, though this is subjective.
Lezyne's Mega Drive 1800i, which Ashley tested last year, kicks out more power than the Exposure, for just £160, and the modes are selectable via Bluetooth and an app. It does help, too, as Lezyne's lights have a tendency of making you scroll through far too many modes.
But the Mega Drive lacks any screen to show battery life and mode, leaving you to rely on guesswork and a coloured LED button. And the bracket – a simple wraparound band – is a bit of a wimp for a light of its size and weight.
The Strada Mk11 SB is expensive, there is no getting around that, but it is a very good package. The beam output is great, as are the burn-times for an integrated light system with no external battery, and the overall build quality is up there with the best lights on the market. If you want a light to rely on for years to come, then it is definitely worth the investment.
A lot of cash, but worth it for the light output, build quality and tech
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Make and model: Exposure Strada SB Mk11 with AKTiv
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?
Exposure says, "The SB, Super Bright, AKTiv is the latest technology in Exposure Lights Road range combined with the Road Specific Beam Pattern and an upgraded 1600 lumens is the best road light; once AKTiv is selected the light will sense oncoming light sources and auto dim when a vehicle is approaching, no button or thinking required. Also with the specific bevels to allow side illumination, and reversible graphics to remind you that the Strada can be mounted either way up. There is also a remote switch included which allows the rider to take control if required."
It's a great light regardless of road type and the AKTiv mode is a bonus.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
LEDs 2 x White XPL2(W3)
IP Rating IP65
Max Lumens 1600
Battery 10,200 mAh Li-Ion
Runtime 2 - 36 Hours
Charging Time 6 Hours
Material Anodised 6063 Aluminium
Head Diameter 58mm
In The Box Strada MK11 SB AKTIV, QR Handlebar Bracket, Wired Remote Switch, Fast Charger, USB Charge Cable, QS Guide
Rate the light for quality of construction:
Rate the light for design and ease of use. How simple was the light to use?
Rate the light for the design and usability of the clamping system/s
Rate the light for waterproofing. How did it stand up to the elements?
Rate the light for battery life. How long did it last? How long did it take to recharge?
Rate the light for performance:
Rate the light for durability:
Rate the light for weight:
Rate the light for value:
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It works brilliantly on all types of roads, and the number of programs lets you balance output with battery life.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
Loads of versatility.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
Very little, if you can afford it.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's more expensive than many lights with similar output, but you are paying for the tech, design and build quality.
Did you enjoy using the light? Yes
Would you consider buying the light? Yes
Would you recommend the light to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a big outlay of cash, but if you do a lot of riding in the dark then it is worth the investment as the various program(me)s give you loads of options for balancing output and battery life, while the build quality is just excellent.
Age: 44 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
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,
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