For a light that can chuck out 1,100 lumens with decent burn times, the Giant Recon HL1100 is very compact, taking up very little room on the handlebar. The Smart Mode technology is a nice touch too, especially on a £79.99 light. The only real downside is that if you want to scroll from a lower output to full power you'll have to go through flash mode.
At just 103mm long and 30mm in height and width, it's hard to believe that the Recon HL1100 is capable of chucking out full power for a stonking 90 minutes. The other modes are just as impressive, too: the 500 lumen setting lasts 3.5 hours, and the 275 lumens 7 hours. The only flash mode throws out 100 lumens for 33 hours.
Battery life is shown via the LED that shines around the outside of the button, which also helps you to find the button in the dark. Green is 100-70%, orange 70-40%, red 40-20%, and red flash means less than 20%.
I found these times to be achievable once the light had been fully charged a couple of times; a neat bonus is that the Recon can be connected to your computer via ANT+ to show remaining battery life. A full charge via USB will take around 4 hours.
As I said, the Recon has three static modes, high, mid and low plus a flash mode.
You scroll through the modes by pushing the button and travel though low-mid-high-flash, so if you are in high and want to get to low because you are in town then you have to scroll through flash first. That's not too bad if you have ambient light but if you are wanting to use the mid mode out in the sticks after being in high mode you'll have to go through flash and then low, which isn't ideal.
Saying that, at least Giant has got the order the right way round, starting with low and working up to high rather than the other way round like a lot of light companies. That way, if you are in low to save battery life and want high just before a descent you don't have to go through a disco phase at the start of the downhill which can be a bit scary.
The HL1100 has a little trick up its sleeve, too. In between flash and low you'll see that the LED under the button will flash blue – this means you are in Smart Mode.
Small sensors on the rear of the light detect the brightness levels surrounding it, so if you are riding in daylight the Recon flashes, a pattern of 100 lumen and 250 lumen. Should the light levels drop, it switches to the static mid mode of 500 lumens, which to be honest, unless you are riding technical downhills at speed, is the only mode you'll really need. The bright white spot-like beam is quite focused and picks up everything that is going on on the road's surface, with just enough peripheral light to illuminate the verge and give you a sense of where you are in relation to the side of road.
Artificial light affects the Smart Mode so even if it is dark, if the streetlights are bright enough it will go into flash mode, but you have enough ambient light to see by so it's not an issue.
My only real concern was if I was passing the mouth of a junction – would a car sat waiting, shining its headlights on the sensors as I rode past, cause the Recon to start flashing? No, basically. Before the HL1100 switches from static flashing there's a good few seconds' delay, so you'll be past the light source before it switches over, so no issues there.
In the box you get a few extras compared with the norm. Obviously, there is a handlebar mount, but it's one that tightens to the bar rather than the o-ring designs commonly found at this price point. You get two straps that work with it, allowing you to use the Recon with either round or aero bars, which is a nice touch. You also get a 3mm hex key for tightening the clamp, and an adjustable GoPro mount.
Another good thing to see is an aluminium casing – many lights at this price are plastic. The use of alloy keeps the Giant from being damaged should you drop it, and will help it expel heat.
There is an opening either side to let a bit of light out to help you be seen at junctions too.
An IPX6 rating for waterproofing means no worries with using it in the heaviest of downpours. The only real way for any water to get in is via the charging port but that is tucked away underneath and sealed with a rubber cover. I gave it a blast with a power shower just to be on the safe side and had no problems.
The £79.99 price tag is good for this light, especially considering that last year you were paying the same for the Recon HL900, so an extra 200 lumens for no extra cost.
Ash did pose the question, though, that for an extra 20 quid why would you not buy the more powerful Recon HL1600?
At the same time as using the HL1100 I was also testing the latest version of Moon's Vortex Pro which costs the same money. For this year it has been upgraded to 1,300 lumens, which gives it a bit more punch than the Recon, as you can see in our light beam comparison engine, above.
It matches the HL1100 for burn-times and has the clever VLS system where you can control the output of various static modes, which makes it very versatile.
It doesn't come without its niggles, though. I wasn't a fan of the rubber band mount which slipped on rough terrain, and the button isn't lit which makes changing modes in the dark difficult.
The Ravemen CR1000 is also the same money; it isn't quite as powerful as the Giant, but run-times are pretty similar and you do get a remote in the box, a welcome addition if you ask me.
In fact, there are a lot of lights at this sort of money with similar outputs, and they all have their good and bad points, so it really just comes down to your needs, to be honest.
Overall, if you do choose the HL1100, I don't think you'll be disappointed. It's a well-made unit that offers a good balance of power output versus battery life for a good price.
Nice balance of output and impressive run-times along with some clever technology
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Giant Recon HL1100
Size tested: 1100 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?
Giant says, "Aside from outstanding lumen capacity and industry-leading usage time, the Recon HL1100 monitors ambient light to change output accordingly, helping to save battery power for when you need it. Shine brighter, run longer and work smarter."
It's ideal for the urban commuter right through to those who like to head out in to the dark countryside for a training ride.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
Smart Mode light sensor monitors ambient light to adjust light output accordingly
ANSI certified lumens and run time
Focused optics with side light design for over 270-degrees of visibility
Heat-dissipating CNC-machined aluminum casing
Power status indicator alerts remaining run-time before powering off
Includes adjustable GoPro mount
Size: 103x30x29 mm
Weight: 107g without mount
Output: 1100 lumens
Runtime: High (1100LM) 1.5hrs, Middle 3.5hrs (500LM), Low 7hrs (275LM), Smart (100LM>275 LM with flash output in Day) 36hrs; (500LM with steady output at Night) 3.5hrs, Flash (100 LM) 33hrs
Battery: Li-Ion polymer battery (3500mAh)
Water resistance: IPX6
Certifications: ANSI-Standard FL-1
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's a powerful light for not a lot of money.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
The smart mode makes it ideal for commuting.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
Scrolling through flash to change modes.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
This is a very crowded part of the marketplace but the Recon HL1100 compares well with the likes of Moon's Vortex Pro, and others from Magicshine, Ravemen and Lezyne.
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 small unit that packs a big punch. Plenty of light, good battery life, loads of accessories and it's well built, especially for the money. Having to scroll through flash to locate static modes is a bit of a pain, but the Recon isn't alone here. This is a good light and easy to recommend.
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!