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First Look: See.Sense Icon bike lights

It seemed pointless, but I was intrigued. Why would I want my bike lights connected to my phone? I discussed it with my wife, who was sceptical.

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“From the app you can switch modes, turn the lights on and off, pair front and rear lights so they work as one, change light intensity in 10% increments, see how much battery is left and get low-battery notifications.”

“But what’s wrong with old-fashioned buttons? Sounds like solutions to problems no one ever had.”

She has a point. In quiet moments, I’ve never wondered how much richer my life would be if I could control my bike lights with my phone.

Accelerometers in the Icons sense when you change speed or direction. In response, the lights change intensity and flash pattern. They become more noticeable when it matters most.

Like all good mobile tech devices, the Icons have sensors — in this case, to measure acceleration and ambient light. These are perhaps the biggest bike light innovations here. When these sensors are combined with a Bluetooth connection and features available through an app, the case for these lights becomes more compelling.

Accelerometers in the Icons sense when you change speed or direction. In response, the lights change intensity and flash pattern. They become more noticeable when it matters most: when slowing down or speeding up, fully stopped, changing lanes or turning at junctions. Light sensors in the lens react to oncoming headlights, raising intensity when approaching cars are detected. Research shows a change in light intensity or flash pattern attracts attention.

The accelerometers also allow the lights to turn off when left stationary for 3 minutes, and on when they detect motion. A button isn’t exactly inconvenient, but since knowing the lights shut themselves off and turn back on, I haven’t bothered doing it manually.

See.Sense claims a burn time up to 15 hours when flashing (less when steady). I put them on my bike for a week, set to turn on/off automatically using the “burst” flash mode. After 7-8 hours riding around the city over a week I had 40% charge remaining. So the “up to 15 hours” claim seems reasonable. I found only needing to charge them every week or two very convenient.

The Icons have become semi-permanent fixtures on my bike, only getting removed for charging. The front Icon is the brightest “be seen” light we tested, plenty to get noticed on a bright, sunny day. In Europe, all new cars are required to use daytime running lights, and research suggests bikes could also benefit from doing this. Having them turn on automatically means I’m never caught without lights on darker, rainy days or when I end up unexpectedly riding at sunset or sunrise.

The lights are easy to attach to a bike, they mount directly, fixed by a rubber strap. Unfortunately, this also makes them easy to remove — and hence steal. Given the advantages of leaving these lights attached to my bike, I’m going to see how I could adapt the mounts with cable ties to offer some protection against opportunist theft.

The downside of all this connectivity is having to carry your phone and having its Bluetooth enabled to access features through the app. But its auto on/off, and motion- and light-sensing work without being connected. It’s worth noting See.Sense treats its lights like Tesla treats its cars: it rolls out firmware with new features as they become available. An investment in this lighting hardware should be somewhat future-proofed.

The accelerometers combined with the Bluetooth connection enable a couple of other interesting, but not totally useful, features. A “theft mode” sends you a notification if your bike is moved when parked, while a “crash mode” sends a notification to a designated number if it detects you’ve crashed.

Both these features work as intended, but I’m not sure I’d ever use them. For the theft notification to get through, you need to be within Bluetooth range of your bike. Then you need to recognise the notification, react and get to your bike before it is long gone. With crash mode, your nominated number gets a generic text message with your crash location. But they get no indication of the severity of the crash. I’d only ever want it to send an alert if I needed assistance and couldn’t reach my phone. I can’t help think it would send too many false alarms and cause unnecessary panic.

Verdict

Bluetooth bike lights … who’d have thought? While they do have a few features of dubious benefit, the See.Sense Icons surprised me. I’d recommend them to anyone riding regularly, especially urban commuters. The great thing about these lights is they are always attached, ready to turn on whenever I jump on my bike — day or night. That’s revolutionised how I use bike lights. As a result, I feel I’m safer on city streets, even without considering the motion-sensed changes in light output that make me even more visible. And isn’t being visible and safe the ultimate point of bike lights?

See.Sense Icon front and rear bike lights

  • $190 (119.99 GBP)
  • Includes front and rear mounts, four rubber straps, a front light glare shield and two USB charging cables.
  • Optional Android and iPhone app available (free).
  • App requires at least Android 4.3 or iOS 8.0
  • IP67 rated for water and dust ingress
  • seesense.cc

First Looks are written from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons. Find out how the See.Sense front and rear lights performed in our test.


By Paul Smith
Head of Testing


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