Words by Katherine Moore

To the unknowing eye, the ICON from See.Sense looks to be just another rear light; an essential item for any cyclist. So why the hefty price tag? Turns out there’s a lot more to the Icon than simply blinking red.

Northern Irish business See.Sense was established to address the issue of visibility of cyclists on our roads, starting with a Kickstarter appeal in 2013. After designing and manufacturing their first generation intelligent bike light, the more recent ICON was released in 2016. We’ve put this rear light to the test to see whether it’s really as clever as they claim.

Basic features

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Let’s start simple. The ICON is a rather chunky bit of kit at 6.5cm x 3.5cm x 2.5cm, but only weighs 64g including the elastic rubber mount. A large rubber plug on the reverse seals the charging port and provides a curved edge for mounting on your seat post.

Out of the box, it is supplied with a micro USB cable for charging, plus three different rubber mounts for you to choose the most suitable for your steed. Rated IP67, it can withstand being submerged underwater up to 1 metre deep for 30 minutes. Suitable for our British weather, I think.

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A single large rubber button on the front of the light face operates the functions. Hold down to turn and off, and click quickly to change through modes; steady on, flashing and pulsating red patterns. It throws out a mighty 190 lumens; possibly even more than your front light. Not only that, but thanks to some clever lens design, the light is dispersed across 270 degrees for fantastic side visibility as well as from directly behind. Do you see me now?

More than just a light

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So far, so good. It’s a super bright rear light, with a great rubber mount that’s easy to pop on and off the bike when you pop into the shop or park outside the pub. But there’s more…

Next up, you’ll need to download the free See.Sense App; available for Android or iOS. It’s quick and easy to connect to the ICON unit using Bluetooth. From here, you’ll have the control screen where you view the percentage battery life, as well the following controls;

  1. Turn the unit on and off
  2. Change the light pattern - choose between normal, twin, burst, and pulse
  3. Adjust intensity - from 10% to 100%
  4. Activate theft mode
  5. Activate crash mode
  6. Activate pairing to other See.Sense lights

Through the app, you can also download the latest firmware as it is released to keep your ICON unit running as best as possible.

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Theft mode will detect if the ICON looses connection with your phone, straying more than the 100-metre connection radius. So if you’re sat in the coffee shop sipping a flat white and you get the phone notification, it’s worth checking - but let’s face it, by then it’s probably too late. Always secure your bike or leave it in clear view.

You can enable crash mode to send an SMS to a nominated contact in the event of an accident; more than just bumpy roads, provided that you have GPS signal. They will receive a message with your location, reading “I have had a crash, my location is [longitude/latitude]". Useful perhaps if you’re riding solo, or accident prone!

On the ride

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You might have thought that the unique features of the ICON were enough high-tech, but there’s more. The intelligent part really comes when you’re riding. Sensors detect what’s going on around you, changing the flashing pattern when you need it most.

Notice the ICON flashing more rapidly as you slow down for traffic lights and junctions, and with approaching car headlights. It’s the change in this pattern, as well as the brightness and wide angle of visibility that really makes you stand out as a cyclist on the road. As a fellow cyclist, it’s certainly noticeable, and I have no doubt that it will be the same for drivers too.

Charging

When off, the flashing green LED indicates a battery charge of 75% or more, whilst red indicates less than 25% and time to recharge. For an accurate percentage battery level, check the app. You’ll also get notifications on your phone when you’re on low battery, so you’re much less likely to end up in a sticky situation without charge.

Charging is an easy operation with the micro USB cable supplied, which you can plug straight into a laptop or plug into the wall. Perfect for your work desk in preparation for your commute or for easy charging at home.

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A full charge is claimed to last for 15 hours on flash mode, which will probably last most people at least a week of commuting. No expensive batteries to buy either.

Don’t be alarmed when you notice your ICON has switched off. To conserve battery, it has an automatic on/off setting after three minutes of inactivity, which will automatically restart when you get moving again. Here’s hoping that the traffic lights don’t take that long...

Verdict

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Retailing at £64.99, it’s certainly more pricey than your average rear bike light. Take into account the super bright visibility with 190 lumens and the smart features, and I think it’s actually rather good value.

The downsides? Although the rubber mount is very easy to use, the loose part is prone to be lost; an integrated rubber on one side might help negate this issue, but then limit compatibility for some. It’s pretty easy to attach to saddlebags, or on the back of pannier racks too, eliminating the need for tools to fit. The Bluetooth connection will inevitably use up some of your phone battery and app will occupy space too.

For some, it may be considered over engineered for something as common and simple as a rear light. However, it’s clear that See.Sense have safety at the forefront of their agenda, and their handy features and clever design bring much more value than conventional, basic bike lights. Pair up with the 320-lumen front light to be seen from all angles.

See.Sense is certainly confident that you’ll love the ICON, with a 30-day return policy, and a 12-month warranty. The neat features of the ICON should eliminate the age-old excuse ‘I just didn’t see you’, and improve not only cycling safety but city transport for all.

You can purchase a See.Sense ICON rear light here for £65.

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