Last year I somehow got by on a combination of a Cateye Opticube, a £7 Bell Dawn Patrol light from Asda and the illumination provided by cars passing me (mainly that). But then again I only had about 3 miles of unlit roads.
This year, with about 17.5 miles of unlit country lanes I decided (well, rather more the fortunate consequence of smashing my Asda light when falling off my bike, than "decided") to get a better light. There are a hell of a lot of bike lights, but I'd narrowed down my choices to:
- Fenix LD20 R4, 205 lumens, £47.95 (plus £6.95 for a bike mount).
- Hope Vision 1, 240 lumens, (varies, £71.99 to £81)
- Busch & Muller Ixon IQ, 40 Lux, €55.90.
The Hope Vision 1 and the Fenix are basically the same as far as light output goes, the main difference being the number of batteries each takes.
I was put off the Fenix torch by the runtime (because it only takes 2 AA batteries). It's got an advertised 2hrs at full output, but this test result shows just under one and half hours with 2000mAh Eneloops, my prefered kind of battery, since I already had some of the 7dayshop equivalents. My commute is around the 1hr 20min mark, but has been known to stretch to 1hr 45mins with really bad head winds. The LD20 also shuts off completely rather than dimming down to the next level when batteries can no longer power the max output. I just didn't want to risk this on my commute. On a shorter commute I would have been more tempted to go with this option.
The Hope Vision 1 gets around 3 hours at full output thanks to the additional batteries, however, reading reviews this requires high power batteries, rather than those around 2100 mAh (this review of the Hope Vision 1 headlamp says 2.5 hours with 2100mAh batteries). Also a few reviews mention manufacturing quality issues such as blobs of glue on the led/lens. And the battery holder design doesn't seem to be great (only really a concern if replacing batteries out on the road). The other thing that put me off, in addition to the price, is that it suffers the same problem as the Fenix and shuts off completely, rather than automatically switching to lower light output as batteries deplete. Bit risky for some bits of my journey.
The B&M Ixon IQ can't be as bright as the Hope or Fenix simply because it has a quoted run time of five hours on max power using 2100mAh batteries. However, five hours means I can use one set of batteries for my commute in and back home with plenty of time to spare even on the windiest and therefore slowest days. This test by YACF compared a load of lights including the Fenix and Hope, but with the dynamo version of the B&M lights. The Lumotec IQ Fly is the dynamo equivalent of the Ixon IQ since it is 40 Lux (the Lumotec IQ cyo is 60 Lux). You can see that the Ixon IQ centre spot brightness is about 80% of the Hope Vision 1 and Fenix. However, owing to having an actual proper reflector design that spreads and places the light a bit better, it's brightness at 1 metre out from centre actually exceeds the Hope and Fenix.
The Ixon IQ is a well designed and engineered bit of kit. The battery holder is intergrated: the top hinges open allowing the batteries to be slotted into place. Rather than shine the LED directly out of the front of the torch, the LED shines downwards onto a reflector. This reflector is designed to put a nice patch of light on the road (rather than shine light out in a cone). You can even buy it with a charger that you plug directly into the light so you don't have to take out the batteries; and thus also can use a "ride and charge" kit to make it dynamo-esque.
I'm using it for unlit and unmarked country lanes. The only time I find it lacking is on soaking wet black tarmac; then it is still necessary to play a spot of "guess the pothole". On dry roads it's ace. And on lighter coloured (grey) wet roads it's fine as well. When you get onto roads with cateyes and white lines it lights up for hundreds of metres and even though the reflector puts most of the light on the road, you can also clearly see reflective street signs hundreds of metres away.
The new version (Ixon IQ Fly) is only 10 Lux brighter, but €129,90 and also doesn't use standard AA batteries. So to me it would make far more sense to get two Ixon IQs at €55,90 as then you get 80 Lux. That really isn't necessary for road use, but would be great all the same (maybe someday).