The Light & Motion Urban 850 is a great front light for mixed on and off road riding but beam pattern and limited side illumination mean this model is not the best commuter light.
Very bright on highest setting
Good for unlit roads and off-road use
Range of mounts included
Limited side illumination
Potential to dazzle other traffic
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Based in California, Light & Motion makes a wide range of lights, not just for cycling but for other outdoor and underwater activities as well as for photography. At £133.99 and with a peak output rated at 850 lumens the Light & Motion Urban 850 Trail is the most powerful and expensive light in the company's Urban range. Somewhat confusingly, it’s actually rather more geared to off-road use, with its high output and focussed beam.
The Urban light family all feature amber side lights to improve lateral visibility, but in the Urban 850 Trail these are a deeper red colour and less bright to avoid dazzling the rider on dark rides while still providing a limited amount of side illumination. Light & Motion also states that the Urban 850 Trail has a beam pattern designed for trail riding.
The Light & Motion Urban 850 is packaged along with a helmet mount and a GoPro adapter as well as the standard rubberised bar mount, again emphasising its off-road credentials. With a weight of 124g, the light is quite heavy to carry on your head, but it’s nice to have the option.
Watch: buyer's guide to bike lights
There are three brightness levels, with the lowest pushing out 185 lumens and having a claimed run time of six hours. There is also a pulsed mode where the light level fluctuates to gain attention from other road users without the disorienting effect which a strobe can have.
On full beam we got 2.5 hours out of the Light & Motion Urban 850, which is respectable. The battery indicator flashes red once the battery level gets low, allowing you to switch to a lower light output mode. But when it does stop it just stops, potentially leaving you without illumination – there’s no in-built step-down as the battery level gets low.
At its highest setting it’s a very bright light and the beam pattern is circular, so unless you are careful how you position the light, you risk dazzling on-coming traffic. Its combination of high output and trail features do make this a good choice if your commute takes you onto unlit roads or bridlepaths though.
>>> Nine ways to make your commute more like the Tour de France
If you want a more commute-oriented light, there are 12 other lights in the Urban family with lower outputs and prices ranging down to £45. For dedicated off road use Light & Motion makes light sets with separate battery packs providing up to 2200 lumens output.
Charging via the included USB cable is pretty quick: Light & Motion claims 2.5 to 6 hours and I got up to full charge in around four hours using a standard computer USB port. The Light & Motion Urban 850 Trail is IP67 rated, meaning that it should survive immersion in 1m of water for 30 minutes. The light also has a two year warranty and Madison carries spare parts such as the mounting strap.
For more details visit the Madison website (opens in new tab).
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Paul started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2015, covering cycling tech, new bikes and product testing. Since then, he’s reviewed hundreds of bikes and thousands of other pieces of cycling equipment for the magazine and the Cycling Weekly website.
He’s been cycling for a lot longer than that though and his travels by bike have taken him all around Europe and to California. He’s been riding gravel since before gravel bikes existed too, riding a cyclocross bike through the Chilterns and along the South Downs.
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