Because of work and family obligations, my cycling begins at 5:45 a.m. each morning, when I leave the house and start riding toward White Rock Lake in Dallas.
Riding that early in the morning, I need a good headlight for most of the year. In June and July, I usually only need it for 30 minutes or so. But for the rest of the year, I might need it for up to an hour or more before the sun comes up and it is light enough to see without a light.
Three years ago, I started out with a Light & Motion Vega light. At the time, it was considered bright. Around 100 lumens. (Not very impressive now, right?) It was one piece instead of having a separate battery pack, which I insist on as a feature.
I moved up to Cygolight Million 200. It was smaller, cheaper, lighter, and twice as bright, at 200 lumens. It also let you charge it with a USB cable, which was awesomely convenient. It just had one flaw. After many hours of use, the light would break at the bottom near the mount, rendering it useless. The first one broke off and bounced off a pedestrian bridge into a lake. I bought a replacement, and it broke in the same place after about a year and several thousand miles. I was able to get this one off the ground, but the body was broken so that it could not be mounted to my bike anymore.
I loved that basic design though, so I wanted something similar. I looked at the Niterider lights, which my buddy uses and says good things about. He has the Niterider MiNewt 350. But then I found the brand new Serfas True 500. It was literally 5 times brighter than what I started with a few years back!
I have been using it for almost a month now, and it is a terrific light. The body mount has a bigger platform where it attaches to the handlebar attachment, so it looks like it will not suffer from the same breakage issue that I had with my Cygolite.
The light has a replaceable battery. So if the battery craps out in a few years, you can pop in a new one and keep on going.
The “overdrive” setting is the brightest setting, which gives you 500 lumens of light. It also runs down the battery the fastest, giving you about 1 1/2 hours of run time. I use this setting when I’m riding to the lake, and then typically take it down a notch when I get there, because my buddies also have lights too and there’s plenty to see the road.
The Serfas TSL-500 True 500 LED bike light comes with both a handlebar mount (which is what I use) and a helmet mount. It’s a small and light enough headlight (150 grams with mounting bracket) that you could easily wear it, if you are riding off road, or you just like to be able to shine the light in the direction that you are looking. It also comes with a wall charger. You can also use any standard mini USB cable to charge it from a USB port.
The bike light has five different modes: Over Drive, High, Standard, Low, and Flashing. You can cycle through the modes by pressing the button on top again and again. If you want to turn the light off, you can cycle through to “off” or just hold the button down.
I use the Flashing mode after the sun comes up. It makes an incredible difference when you are riding where there are cars and traffic. Cars actually see that you are coming, so you aren’t so dangerously invisible to drivers. You can run the light for hours and hours in the blinking mode.
The button that you use to turn the light on and off is backlit in blue. When the battery discharges where you only have 30 minutes of runtime left, the backlighting turns red. But for example, if you are on the highest setting and it starts to turn red, you can go down to a lower setting and it will typically go blue again for a while, since each lower setting will last a longer period of time. I usually start out on the brightest setting for the first 20 minutes of my ride, until I get to the start where I meet up with my friends who also have lights. At that point, I go down a setting to extend my battery life because I have enough light. When the sun comes up, I’ll click it down to the blinking mode, so that cars can see me.
Overall, I’d say that this is the absolute best bike headlight that I’ve owned yet. Of course, LED technology continues to improve, so there will probably be something better next year. But for now, I haven’t found anything else that provides as much bang for your buck.
A single-piece design (where the battery is part of the light) is my most important consideration when choosing a light. So although there might be brighter lights out there, you’ll be hard pressed to find a light that is this bright, and holds a charge for this long, while still not requiring an external battery pack.
If you are in the market for a bicycle headlight, you can’t go wrong with this light.