With the shortest days on the calendar now behind us, many are looking to eke out some miles to burn off the extra calories gained over the holidays or simply get some time to ourselves with whatever opportunity arises. With daylight saving time months away, night riding offers often overlooked possibilities to put in some much-needed time in the saddle.
While powerful lights are more accessible than ever, power alone is not always the best solution. Smartly designed lights are what’s preferable to prevent blinding other cyclists and road users. Industry-wide, the latest updates to cycling lights have aimed to improve visibility, minimize the share of valuable handlebar real estate and extend
Bontrager Commuter Pro RT
As the in-house component and accessory brand of Trek, the Waterloo-based crew produces just about every cycling knick-knack imaginable. The Commuter Pro RT is Bontrager’s latest release and was designed to be their self-proclaimed “best” headlight available.
The Commuter Pro has three light settings—a high beam with 1000 lumens, a low beam with 500 lumens and a flashing mode at 300 lumens. Run times range from an hour and a half in high, three hours in low and a claimed 12 hours in flashing mode. A full charge takes about four hours to achieve via the provided USB-C cable.
The alloy body houses the entire unit. Traditionally, 1000-lumen-plus lights would require an external battery pack. Along with its composite mount, the Commuter Pro hits the scales at 223 grams. The unit has an IPX4 waterproof rating, which means it’s water-resistant to splashes.
The mount uses a traditional knob retention system and is compatible with 25.4mm to 35mm handlebars. Bontrager’s Blendr accessory ecosystem can also be used with the Commuter Pro for additional mounting options.
Outbound Lighting got its start hand-building mountain bike lights in a basement in Missouri back in 2017. Now based in Chicago, Outbound’s catalog has expanded to include three models, including the road-specific Detour.
The Detour has four main light modes—high, medium, low and adaptive—with a max lumen output between 1100–1200 lumens. There are also two additional “commuting” modes, with a daytime strobe and nighttime pulse option. Outbound doesn’t list the specific amount of lumens provided in each mode, as they believe the pattern of the beam to be far more important than its intensity.
Run times are on par with similar offerings, with approximately an hour and forty-five minutes in high, four and a half hours in medium, eight and a half hours in low, and two hours and forty-five minutes in adaptive mode. Adaptive mode starts off in high power and tapers as your eyes adapt to the darkness, in effect saving power while appearing to maintain a constant field of view.
A soft nylon outer shell houses the unit. At just 197 grams, the Detour and its mount are relatively light, but the unit takes up quite a bit of handlebar real estate due to its rectangular shape. However, the mount alleviates many of those size issues with its easily adaptable design that allows the Detour to be placed above or below the handlebar and offset around the stem clamp if needed. The mount is compatible with 35mm handlebars and includes shims to fit 31.8mm bars.
On the road, the light is activated by a double touch of the single button on top of the unit. The button has an LED around its casing that changes colors from blue to white to flashing white to indicate the current mode. Five more LED lights are located below the button to indicate battery life. As the battery is used, the LEDs turn off until the final LED flashes red to indicate less than 5-percent battery life.
Powered on, the light casts a wide beam across an entire lane of traffic. The beam is intentionally flat and rectangular to light the road rather than oncoming traffic. Bontrager calls this Kindbeam technology. It’s their take on the increasingly popular trend to improve cycling light quality by preventing instances of “high beaming.”
On the sides of the unit near the front, there are colored side lenses to improve rider visibility. This is another common addition of new cycling lights. Much like a car has lights on every side to improve visibility to other road users, the cycling light industry has gone the lengths to brighten cyclists from additional angles as well.
We found the Commuter Pro RT cast a fair amount of light in low mode, but we often felt like we needed to ride in high mode when speed neared 20 mph to get a better sense of the road conditions ahead. The low mode didn’t have enough of a beam far enough ahead to have a sense of confidence at higher speeds. This meant most of
our rides ended up being less than two hours long to prevent any chance of being stranded in the dark
Mounting the Detour proved tricky at first. Its wide size had it competing with our Wahoo for position in front of the handlebar. After flipping the mount around, we were able to place it opposite the Wahoo mount to have the light sit just below the computer to maximize handlebar space.
A single button is used to operate the Detour. With one tap, the light starts off in Adaptive mode. Another tap and the light is in high mode, as indicated by the four LED lights located behind the button.
On the road, we felt like high mode was overkill. The lane we were riding in was evenly illuminated without casting any high beams into oncoming traffic. We opted to ride in medium mode most often, as it provided the best road visibility to battery-life ratio. We were able to cruise for two hours without any battery-range anxiety and never needed to tap back into high when the speed began to pick up, leaving us more time to focus on the ride rather than fumbling around trying to up the power before a big descent.
Both Bontrager and Outbound bring new offerings for cyclists looking to improve their visibility on the road. Bontrager’s Commuter Pro RT had the power to get us through most of our rides, but since we often had to use it in high mode, it left us unable to be confident it would survive if there was a mid-ride hiccup like a flat or a wrong turn.
The Detour’s smart beam design elevates it as one of our top choices in the cycling light market. There’s no need to run the Detour on full power, as its thoughtful lamp keeps the road ahead illuminated in its mid-settings, making the most of the battery life.
We do like the side-visibility improvements on the Commuter Pro, but would recommend riders to opt for the Bontrager Ion Pro instead and save $60. For anyone looking for increased visibility for gravel riding or country roads, Outbound offers the helmet-mounted Hangover light with many of the same modern features as the Detour.
• Improved visibility
• High speeds require high beam
• Great for short rides
Weight: 223 grams
• Thoughtful, full-road beam
• Can be run on lower settings effectively
• Multiple mounting positions alleviate bulky size
Weight: 197 grams