Giant Recon HL1600
The best self contained front bike light on the market.
I never ride with a light. I prefer to keep my time on a bike anchored between sunrise and sunset. As I continue to extend my distances, though, it’s clear to me that riding only with daylight is holding me back. At a certain point, there’s no choice but to start riding with a light. That means I’m looking for a light that will help me see on rural or city routes. I also want long run times, and I want to keep my cockpit tidy. With those criteria in mind, the product that jumped to the forefront was the Giant Recon HL1600.
The Recon HL1600 measures 105x35x47mm. For the output it’s small. Without the mount it weighs 204g but there are a tons of mounts included in the box. Giant Includes a strap based handlebar mount with a variety of different strap lengths to use.
There is also a GoPro mount, and most importantly—to me anyway—an under the stem mount that attaches to the left side of the handlebars. As I said, I don’t generally ride with a light, and the left side under the stem mount was a big selling point for me. If your GPS headunit mounts on the right side of the stem you can add the light without making other changes. The included GoPro mount also gives tons of flexibility because of the many dual GoPro and bike computer mounts available.
Aside from the packaging and included mounts the HL1600 has other advantages. Because the max lumens are in the top tier of what’s available on the market, in a self contained unit, I can run a lower power option to extend running times. The Giant Recon HL1600 quotes a run time of 1.5 hours at its brightest setting. That’s comparable to competitors but if you start to power down you can extend that. Half power of 800 lumens gets you a 4.5 hour runtime. If you can stand going all the way down to 300 lumens the time extends to 10 hours. There is also a 50 hour runtime on the flashing mode.
I don’t know any available bike lights that can’t handle the elements. The Recon HL1600 is no different and it carries an IPX6 rating. IPX6 means it’s not tested for solid ingress but can stand a minimum of three minutes of powerful jets spraying at least 100 liters of water per minute all over the outer casing of the product without the water ever penetrating.
The GIANT Recon HL1600 has a bevy of smart features that may be of interest to some. When paired with a speed sensor the SpeedBeam function is available. In this configuration the HL1600 adjusts output based on your speed. Ride faster and the light gets brighter. The Recon headlight series can also track ambient light sources and change the output (Smart Mode2) to ensure you have enough light to finish your ride. Pair with Garmin computers and you can see the battery information and light mode on the screen.
Actually using the light everything performed well. The 270 degree beam pattern does a good job illuminating what you need without wasting light. At 300 lumens, it’s possible to ride, but I found it difficult to move quickly. To change modes, press the single button on the unit. Each click cycles to the next mode. There’s no visual representation of what mode the light is on. This is one change I’d like to see made on the HL1600. If I was running a Garmin computer this would be a non issue but for everyone else it’s a nice feature to have. Once you find the right mode for you the HL1600 will remember your setting even when powered off and on. Moving over to the middle setting of 800 lumens gave me plenty of power to move at around 20 miles an hour.
Pair with Garmin computers and see the battery information and light mode on the screen.
My only disappointment with the light was that it will not run while plugged in. I’d hoped that I could use it as an all night solution by running it connected to a battery pack. Unfortunately, as soon as you plug the HL1600 in it turns off. That puts it back into the category of extending daylight, or shorter night rides versus allowing for a true 24 hour ride solution. Admittedly though, that’s a rather specific need.
The Giant HL1600 will not shine while charging.
The HL1600 does promise consistent lighting across its run times. “Giant’s Electronic Control Design (ECD) generates a constant electric current throughout the complete runtime cycle; this helps to maintain stable lighting levels during use and provides longer high-lumen output.” As the HL1600 gets close to depletion ECD switches to flash mode and helps maintain lighting for at least 30 minutes. This prevents the light from turning off when battery power is low. So while it won’t last through the night, it will give you the promised run times without compromise.
The bottom line is that the Giant HL1600 comes with more mount options than its primary competitors. It’s also cheaper with an MSRP of $126, and it has longer runtimes. Charging happens via a standard USB port and 5 hours completes a full charge. I wasn’t able to take advantage of its smart options but there are a lot of Garmin users who will reap the benefits. This is a solid option for just about everyone who spends their time riding a bike in the dark.