There once was a time, not too long ago, when the bike light world was illuminated by a small selection of giants and choice among reputable brands was limited. Now, many more brands have got involved and as a result price points have fallen so you can get a pretty amazing light for not a huge amount of money.
FWE is the in-house brand from Evans Cycles founded in 1921. They are a fairly new player in the bike light field, but they've already got a pretty conclusive range, starting with 20 lumen blinkers and going right up to the new 500 lumen juggernaut we've got on test.
What's in the box?
- Lumens: 500
- Run time: 1.5-12 hours depending on mode
- Modes available: four
- Charging mode: USB
- RRP: £34.99
Packaged up in a typically vintage, minimalist brown cardboard box, the rather sleek looking FWE 500 lumen rechargeable light comes with a handlebar bracket and a rubber strap that can be adjusted to suit handlebar widths of 19-32mm.
There's also a USB cable - though the light rather handily comes readily loaded with one full charge. This kind of reminds me of the way my dad used to charge birthday and Christmas presents on the understanding that I'd never wait for a full charge before the first use.
When it does come time to charge the light, the rear end unscrews to reveal an easy access USB port. Evans Cycles suggest you'll need to recharge every 1.5 hours if you're using the light on full beam and based on my test rides this seems accurate. On medium they give you 3 hours, low mode you get 6 and on flashing you'll get 12 hours.
Setting up the FWE USB Rechargeable 500 Lumen Front Light
I'm a big fan of any form of cycling equipment that doesn't require an instruction manual or tools - so I was pleased to learn that this light falls very much into this category.
The mount slipped onto my handlebars, the elastic band hooking easily onto the plastic tabs either side. The rather swish aluminum body clicked into the mount easily, but firmly enough that I knew it wasn't going anywhere and wouldn't rattle. The body itself is water resistant, which is obviously a pretty standard requirement but is a place where some USB rechargeable items fall down if water gets into the system.
Powering up is simple - you just press the button on the top, and can click through the modes in the same way. To turn if off, you press and hold the same button.
Using the FWE USB Rechargeable 500 Lumen Front Light
So far, we know we've got a sleek looking, fairly robust aluminum body that's easy to mount and easy to recharge. But is it bright enough?
At 500 lumens, this light packs a pretty serious punch. How many lumens you need is an eternal question among commuters and night riders, but I'd generally consider that 50-200 will simply make sure other road users see you, 200-300 and you'll see a bit, 300-600 is enough to ride comfortably on unlit roads, 600-900 and you can ride pretty fast whilst 900 and above allows you to race along as though it were broad daylight.
The 500 lumen FWE front light clearly highlighted the road ahead, showing up pot holes and potential hazards. I even took it out on my local cyclocross route. This isn't the recommended use, and for off-road riding you really want a higher lumen output designed to spread a wider beam - but I'm all for thorough testing. I found the light cast a nice wide beam and when directed at a nearby object (eg: tree), it provided a clear outline, but obviously wasn't enough to ride full pelt.
On the road, I could ride confidently, happy in the knowledge that I had a full view of what as going on ahead. An open ring of light also provides some side visibility, which is a nice addition and provides peace of mind at junctions.
I would suggest if you want to ride hard and fast on the road, or want to ride off-road, you'd be better looking to the 900-1000 lumen bracket, but the 500 lumen shot of light on offer here is more than enough for most commuters and road riders.
I mainly rode with the light on the full power mode, but if riding on well lit, more populated streets I'd dial it down to medium or low. There is also a flashing mode, which I neglected to use - I'd only really operate the flashing light when riding through a very populated area, or if the battery was low and I just needed to get home safely, making it last as long as possible.
The battery lasted over an hour on full power mode. A blue light on the power button shows you when the juice box is more than 20 per cent full, and this turns red with there's less than one fifth left. On full power mode, that's about 20 minutes - so if you're more than 20 minutes away from home it'd be advisable to swap down to the medium or low light mode.
I did find one very minor complication on one ride that began in daylight and ended in darkness. I knew it was going to go dark over the course of my ride, so I powered the unit up to check there was battery available. The light showed blue, so I turned it off and headed out. What I didn't realise was that had I waited around 1-2 seconds, the light would have flashed five times and the indicator would have swapped to red because I'd already rinsed the battery on my last ride and failed to charge it. The result was that when the natural light did fade, I turned the unit on, only to be faced with a blue light, five quick warning flashes, then a red light around two seconds later. It seems blue is the standard 'powering up/I'm awake' mode, and the indicator comes on within seconds. This isn't unique to FWE, I've used lights from other brands that operate in the same way - but it's worth being aware.
In terms of resilience, I drop tested this light several times onto a wooden floor to see what would happen (because I can, and most customers would rather not tempt fate). It turns out the aluminum casing is as resilient as at appears, and neither the body not the glass lens over the light were damaged. Or at least haven't shown evidence of damage as yet.
FWE have created a great companion for rides after dark in this 500 lumen, rechargeable light. Aside from what was quite frankly a user error over the power indicator, I couldn't fault it. For £34.99 you're basically buying yourself the ability to ride in confidence on unlit roads at whatever time of day you please - which seems like pretty good value for money, to me.
Interested? Check out out here.
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