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Riding a bicycle, whether for pleasure, commuting, or any other reason, reminds me of Charles De Mar’s skiing instructions in the movie Better Off Dead: “Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way, turn.” Cycling isn’t much different, except that we need to also stay as visible as possible. A common excuse from drivers who hit cyclists is “I never saw them”. When it comes to visibility, I don’t think there’s such a thing as too much. That’s why we’re sharing some lights from Serfas. We were provided with their USL-6 Thunderbolt Head Light, UTL-6 Thunderbolt Tail Light, and TSL-200 headlight for review.
The TSL-200 is a quick release, USB rechargeable headlight that’s designed as much for lighting your way as being seen. With a single Cree LED putting out a maximum of 200 lumens, this 100 gram (with bracket) headlight has what it takes to light up the road in front of you. It provides around an hour and a half of run time on high, three hours on medium, and up to six and a half hours on the low or flashing modes. The Li-Ion (Lithium ion) battery has a long service life, can be fully charged in only 2.5 hours, and is even replaceable – a nod to the environmental nature of bicycle commuters. The MSRP is only $65, or a bit more than 1/5 of what my 180 lumen light cost about 5 years ago. More light, longer run times, and much lower costs. We like that.
Supplementing the TSL-200 is the USL-6 Thunderbolt Head Light. At 90 lumens, this light is best reserved for slower paced riding if you’re looking to illuminate the road in front of you. But its strip of 15 double strength micro LEDs can catch the attention of motorists, even during the day. High beam run time is 1.5 hours, and low is 6.5 hours. High and low flasher settings are 3.5 and 9 hours respectively.
The UTL-6 Thunderbolt Taillight is the mate to the Head Light, and utilizes a strip of 30 micro LEDs to put out 35 lumens of red light. It runs 1.75 hours on high, 7 on low, 3 on the high flasher setting, and 9.5 on low. Both Thunderbolt lights have a pliable silicone body that keeps the weight down to right around 50 grams on our digital scale. They’re available in black, white, red, blue, pink, green, and yellow, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble matching your bike, if that’s a concern. More importantly, that silicone construction makes them nearly impervious to rain or splashes, and two simple, stretchable rubber straps allow them to be mounted nearly anywhere on your bike. Note that we’ve mounted one on a 27.2 seatpost, and another on Cannondale’s oversize head tube, which is about as big as you’ll find.
We really liked these lights, and the mounting flexibility became more apparent as different testers tried them out on a variety of bikes. Combining a semi-solid mount with a rubber belt for the latching mechanism, the TSL-200 fits naked MTB bars or drops with tape, and takes seconds to install and remove. The Thunderbolts were mounted on handlebars, head tubes, forks, seat posts, seat stays, and rear racks. About the only place they don’t work so great is on a backpack or messenger bag. If you have any doubt about the output, go find a local retailer that can demo them. Output is really impressive. Most decent lights have some presence at night, but these can really help during the day too. Between the three, the shortest run time is about 1.5 hours on high. If that doesn’t cut it for your commute, just charge it once you arrive. All three have rubber covers that seal the mini (not micro, which is a surprise) USB ports. Of all the feedback we got, there was only one minor complaint – USB micro would be preferred, since that’s what most phones have, and it would mean one less cable. Of course, Serfas provides a mini cable with each light. Otherwise, they seem to be a pretty good value. MSRP for the TSL-200 headlight is $65, and the Thunderbolts each run $45. If you need more power and/or run time for your headlight, Serfas has plenty of other options on their website too. serfas.com
Disclosure of Material Connection: We received the Serfas lights for free from Serfas, in consideration for review publication