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The Oxford UltraTorch Headlight CL500 is bright enough to see by in the darkest of lanes, outperforms its claimed run-times and can run for many hours in its dimmer settings. It's well made and easy to use – it's very impressive for the price. For other and more powerful options, check out our guide to the best front bike lights.
My part of Wales is closer to deep space than civilisation, and it gave the CL500 a pretty hard test. But even in heavy rain under full night-time cloud, on unlit country lanes miles from the glow of streetlights – miles from real streets – it coped well. Up to around 20mph, it was entirely acceptable as a sole main headlamp, which I personally think is impressive at the asking price.
Frankly, if you can night-ride with this as a main light where I live, you can ride with it anywhere, because it's not going to be darker.
This CL500 is not unique, of course – there are lights with similar performance at similar prices – but the Oxford is a well-rounded example.
It's not obvious, but the main body is aluminium, while the charging port is protected by a reassuringly thick silicone bung and the mounting 'foot' is bolted on. The bolt is stainless steel.
The unit is rated to IPX4, which means it's been tested to withstand splashing water and spray for 10 minutes. I tested it in torrential rain and against my own bow waves through flooded sections between fields, and it was utterly unaffected. The X in IPX4 just means it wasn't tested against solids so doesn't have a rating, by the way, but it's clearly going to keep out dust and dirt in normal use too.
The clamp hinges open and is secured by its own stainless bolt, and it comes with two rubbery shims – one for 31.6mm bars and the other for 25.4mm – and once installed it won't scratch, wobble or sag out of adjustment. It's a solid part.
The weakest-seeming bit of the whole clamp is Oxford's own 'Cliqr' section, which holds the light unit to the bar mount via a quick-release catch. The release button is a bit small and fiddly, especially if you're wearing gloves, and even more especially if you mount this to the left of your stem.
I did that to avoid it clashing with an existing out-front mount, and with the catch buried down by the side of the stem it was tricky to pull. A second lever on the other side of the mount would be a nice addition.
Once everything's attached there's some noticeable slop in the Cliqr part, but while I expected a shaky beam as a result, in practice I couldn't detect any movement – even over some severely bad tarmac. The whole thing also feels entirely secure, even under fierce vibration. I never felt concerned I might lose the light.
On full power, the single-cell, 2,400mAh lithium battery lasts considerably longer than claimed. I like the illuminated readout on top that tells you the remaining run-time, and despite it claiming one hour from fully charged, it actually lasted almost 1hr 50m – hooray! – before plunging me into near blackness as I braked into a steep wet hairpin. Unhooray!
It was only 'near' blackness because it automatically steps down to the lowest setting – 5 lumens – and at this point the unit claimed it could run for another 9.5hrs. That was just long enough for me to uncurl my deathgrip on the brakes, conveniently.
What I don't like about the illuminated readout is that its smallest unit is 0.5hrs, so there's no serious countdown to it shutting off, especially when it's been saying 0.5hrs for 0.7hrs already. Also, the 10 thin bars beneath the numbers obviously display charge information, but it's really hard to read – the lines are thin and closely packed, they're all the same colour, and there's no border to help you judge how many are missing at a glance.
In fact, I only found this meter intuitive while it was charging, when the 'missing' charge flashes while the completed charge stays solid. The charging time is officially 4-5hrs, but again this bettered the claims by taking easily under four.
Interestingly there's a regular USB port next to the micro-USB charging hole, which lets you use the CL500 as a power bank and charge, from what I know about banks, interest. Or phones. Or a GPS. Or whatever. Remember banks? We used to keep money in them. Remember money? Those were the days.
Anyway. Should I talk about the beam shape? Probably. It's unremarkable, with no excessively dark or bright patches and no fancy patterns; it's just round. There is a slightly darker ring just before the bright edge of the beam, but when it's aimed properly down the road it all blends well and looks natural. Basically, it works fine.
Cornering vision is also reasonable if not exceptional, and if you do happen to live somewhere there are other people, there are small windows in each side of the lens for getting you seen by them.
If you prefer a flashing light for such things, this has all the modes you expect, so long as you expect three. It has 10, 45 and 60-lumen flashes. Happily you don't have to scroll through them while you're faffing about in the five solid settings (5, 110, 300, 400 or 500 lumens) trying to see, because there are two buttons – you can scroll either backwards or forwards.
The price of £37.99 is bang on against similarly-powerful competition. The Ravemen CR450, for instance, is £44.99 (Iwein reviewed it last year), while the Cateye AMPP 500 Front Light is £44.99 (Stu tested that one in 2021).
The Blackburn Dayblazer 550 is slightly more powerful for just a couple of quid more, at £39.99, but like the others there are still niggles (you can read about the niggles in Shaun's review from 2021). The Oxford does well by keeping its niggles easy to manage – for instance, the run-time indicator might be a bit vague, but it runs longer than claimed anyway.
Overall, this is not a perfect light, but it's a very good one. It's extremely usable, both for getting yourself seen without constantly having to recharge, and for reliably seeing by on all but the fastest of road rides in the dark.
Good build, reliable performance and longer-than-claimed run-times – a great budget option
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Oxford UltraTorch Headlight CL500
Size tested: 500 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?
Oxford says: "the new CL series headlight range is packed with features to illuminate your way on anything from the daily commute to off-road night-time adventures. The Ultratorch CL 500 is a 500 lumen USB rechargeable headlight."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
* Max output 500lm
* Run-time 1-80hrs
* LCD runtime indicator
* USB power-bank output
* 270-degree visibility
* USB rechargeable 3.7V/2400mAh lithium battery
* Waterproof IPX4
* Extruded alloy body
* CLIQR Mini 31.8mm Handlebar bracket (w/reducer for 25.4mm handlebar)
* USB charging lead supplied
Tough metal body and reassuring silicone seals. Impressive for the price.
Secure on the bar and easy to use. The light can wobble slightly in its bracket, but that has no detectable effect on the light pattern while riding.
Rated IPX4, which isn't that high, but it survived Wales without issue.
Lasts considerably longer than claimed.
The beam pattern and power makes anything up to 20mph-ish easy on nighttime country lanes miles from any lights and under full cloud.
The performance and build quality equals or betters its price rivals.
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
The quality versus the price; bright enough to see by.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
The run-time meter looks nice but is hard to interpret.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's bang on against similarly-powerful competition.
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
Though not flawless this gets all the important stuff right, and the longer-than-claimed run-times are very welcome. It does well against similar lights and looks after you in the worst conditions for an impressive price. It's very good.
About the tester
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, mtb,