If you’re looking for one of the best front bike lights on the market, the Giant Recon HL1600 is the most powerful option in Giant’s new HL range and isn’t just a lumens-per-pounds winner. It’s got a great mount and a cunning smart mode for extending its already-decent battery life. However, the beam is wasteful of its watts and the accidental switch on and limited battery communication is a potentially problematic combo.
Styling is distinctly blocky and utilitarian with no cooling fins on the two-piece metal (front end and top panel) and plastic (lower rear section) construction. The two LEDs sit in a flat optic block behind clear magnifying lenses with a side slit on each side. The Li-Ion battery has a 6000mAh capacity and is controlled by a square soft-touch button that sits just proud of the top casing. There’s a light sensor above the LEDs too and the Micro USB charging port is hidden under a thick, flush-fit rubber plug that gives the Recon HL1600 an IXP6 waterproof rating. Weight is a reasonable 210g.
The lamp slides onto the 16g OSFM mount that secures firmly to the bars using one of two different length QR straps and an Allen key screw, or you can use a centralising ‘out front’ mount or a GoPro-style twin-tab mount.
Mounting is very secure but unlike most lamps, the beam pattern points downward with the light level so take that into account when setting it up. Be prepared to see a lot of your output thrown away upwards rather than spread out usefully sideways, too. You are getting much more power than any other big brand light you’ll find for the same price though. The beam is even with no distracting sudden edges or holes either so we should be grateful rather than grumbling.
While the flat, almost flush button is a little hard to find in gloves, it’s backlit to make spotting easy and the surrounding light displays different colours for each mode of four constant and one flashing mode when it changes. If the button surround is flashing, that means you’ve entered the ’Smart Mode’ where the output is governed two ways. Normally it switches between constant power levels and a daytime flash depending what the ambient light sensor judges to be appropriate. Sync the Recon HL1600 to any ANT+ speed sensor (like you’d use on a non-GPS bike computer) and it changes modes according to your current speed. It genuinely works too, although it seems geared to road speed recognition and often left us underlit in slow but technical situations off-road.
Even in conventional full-power mode it provides over 100 minutes of light and toggling manually extends that significantly. You’ll need to try and guess where you are in the battery life though as the warning light only comes on with 20 per cent charge left. More worrying is that the the ‘hold and press’ ignition can easily be triggered accidentally if you chuck the light into a bag upside down and it self-presses. That’s potentially dangerous given that it runs very hot even in middling modes. It also meant it had already burnt through an unknown amount of battery life a couple of times before we even started test rides.
Verdict: Giant Recon HL1600
Loads of power and run time for the £100 price with a selection of secure brackets and a potentially very clever light sensor or ANT+ speed sensor smart mode. Accidental ignition is a worry though and a flatter, wider beam would use the power better.
Tech Specs: Giant Recon HL1600
- Weight: 226g (light and bar mount)
- Size: 105x35x45mm
- Modes: Overdrive, high, medium, low, flash, auto.
- Battery: 6000mAh
- Price: £99.99