LED (Light Emitting Diodes) have come a long way in bicycle lighting applications since the first Vistalite rear blinker was introduced more than a decade ago. Does the Antarex stand up to it?
 

Antarex X12CS 1 Watt LED headlight

LED (Light Emitting Diodes) have come a long way in bicycle lighting applications since the first Vistalite rear blinker was introduced more than a decade ago. The first 5mm leds have extremely high visibility and miserly battery consumption, which lends themselves very well as ‘be-seen’ rear flashing lights. However, such leds do not work as well in applications which call for more powerful lighting to illuminate the road ahead of the rider.

However, LED technology has been improving at the speed of light (forgive the pun) in recent years, with light output per watt tripling in the past couple of years. Together with better battery power density, this has made LED headlights which can match halogen in terms of output, and with much longer runtime. Such improvements have also trickled down to the more basic headlights which can package decent light output, low weight and reasonable runtimes with easily available alkaline batteries.

CROPS Co ltd  is a relatively new company in the bicycle industry, offering bicycle headlights, taillights, locks and other accessories. For this review we’ll be looking at the X12CS 1Watt LED Headlight. We’ll also be looking at a more powerful 3Watt version in an upcoming review.

DESCRIPTION

The headlight came in a blister pack with the required information, mounting and some amusingly labelled ‘Billion Power’ batteries. The 3 batteries have to be loaded onto a battery carriage first before inserting the whole lot into the light. Make sure you don’t insert the batteries in the wrong orientation though as one of the battery has to be inserted in an opposite direction.The light itself looks to be a typical flashlight with the body CNCed to increase the mass and accept a bike handlebar mounting system. The increase in mass might seem counterproductive as it increases the weight of the light, but high power LEDs do run pretty warm, and their lifespans will decrease as per any other semiconducters in high heat environments. Hence the added mass acts as a heatsink to reduce the build up of unwanted heat. The package claims 17hours of burntime in the constant on mode and 80hours when used in flashing mode. However, the graph on the back of the package also showed a gradually diminishing power slope, which suggests it doesn’t have any form of regulation to hold brightness constant.

The light attaches to the handlebar easily via a quick release bracket. The mounting bracket itself is simple to fit but abit fiddly to remove once it’s installed. This is because it uses a ‘cable tie’ method to adjust for all sizes of handlebar diameters, plus a thumbscrew which can be used for left-right angle adjustments and fine tuning of the handlebar fit. In order to remove the mounting bracket, you have to undo the thumbscrew entirely to release it from the handlebar.

IN USE

The headlight cast a pretty typical flashlight-style beam, which is a intense bright spot with some spill on the side. It is far more powerful than the usual be-seen kind of LED headlights, and it is bright enough to ride on unlit footpaths at a reasonable speed with this unit. Its compact dimensions also lend it to be a potential choice as a backup light for adventure racers and people who venture offroad at night, though you’ll need something more powerful or you can easily outride the light’s reach.

In flashing mode, the light was extremely effective in alerting the user’s presence to other road users to the point of annoyance. I find that shining the light at a spot right in front of me wasn’t viable as the flashing effect was disconcerting and actually reduces the visibility of potholes as my night vision was affected when I looked at the road.

When tested on the roads at night, it helped to illuminate the road, exposing potholes which will otherwise be unseen. However, the light slowly slipped and angled itself downwards after sometime due to road vibrations, and I had to stop and do it up really tightly in order to prevent it from slipping.

I know lots of people leave the mount on the handlebar when they remove the light, but the mount is quite a hassle to remove if they choose to do so.

I did not test the lights runtime with the supplied batteries, as they aren’t commonly found in stores (and hence not really a good benchmark). Instead I used 3 GP 1000mah AAAs nimh rechargeables for the test. After 5hours in the constant on mode, there was still an appreciable amount of light output, although it was slightly dimmer than the start point of the test. There don’t seem to be any form of regulation in this light based on the way the output is gradually diminishing. I did not test it until the output was totally extinguished as it would be harmful to the batteries. It would be safe to assume that there would be appreciable output up to perhaps 8hours, but anything after that it would function strictly as a ‘be-seen’ only light. It also seems that Antarex went abit overkill with their ‘more mass to prevent overheating’ approach, as the light did not even get anywhere near a unbearable state of heat buildup even in static test conditions. When there is a moving mass of air over the headlight similar to riding conditions, it wouldn’t even be warm at all. Perhaps future versions would see lighter weight versions.

CONCLUSION

This headlight takes advantage of the current technology advances in high powered LEDs which are able to combine a decent light throw pattern, runtime sufficient for at least a night’s ride using easily available AAA batteries. Together with a wire-free and tool-free (although the mount takes abit of effort to undo from the handlebar), it works great as a commuting light (especially in the flashing mode), and as a backup light for adventure racers who require something relatively lightweight. It is however, not to be used as a primary light source for night offroading by itself, for that you’ll need something more powerful.