Monday, December 02, 2019

2 Bike Lights Compared: Wildken Smart Bike Light vs. Cycle Torch Shark 500

I have two headlights on my bike's handlebars, a Wildken Smart Bike Light and a Cycle Torch Shark 500. I rarely use both lights simultaneously, but I like having a backup in case the charge in one of the lights runs out. Also, while the two lights share some similarities, they approach the problem of lighting in two different ways.

Both lights are fairly small and have an internal lithium battery pack that is charged via a micro USB port. While neither of these lights would be my choice for riding all night brevets, they are ideal for commuting in an urban environment. Both lights will run about three hours on high beam, more on their lowest settings. When they need charging, a color coded LED lets me know and despite my paranoid, double light back-up system, I've never actually needed to use the second light. I just charge things up when I get home.

Where the lights differ is in their beam patterns, brightness and how that brightness is controlled. The Wildken Smart Bike Light meets the German K-Mark Standard, which means the beam is very nicely shaped in order to put the maximum of light on the road instead of into the eyes of oncoming travelers. Below is a picture of the Wildken's beam.

Unlike other bike lights I've used, the Wildken Smart Bike Light doesn't use the switch to toggle through various brightness settings. Instead, it has a photo sensor that it uses to decide how bright to make the beam. This means that on a very dark bike path, it's shining at maximum brightness. But if an oncoming cyclist or driver has a bright light, it will very courteously dim itself. On my commute, the beam adjusts itself as I pass under street lights or ride through tunnels.

The light also has a motion sensor so when I park the bike, it will shut itself off after a couple of minutes. Curiosity about just how smart this "smart light" would be was what fueled my buy decision and I have to say that in general, I'm impressed. For most of my urban riding, it's all the light I need.

The Cycle Torch Shark 500 is a more traditional bike light. It does have a semi-shaped beam, casting a flattened cone of light with a lot more spillover. I toggle through the various brightness settings manually and the brightest setting seems about twice as bright as what the Wildken Smart Bike Light will put out on the darkest trail. I'm more comfortable using the Cycle Torch Shark 500 for fast riding, I never feel like I'm over running the beam. In fairness, the Cycle Torch Shark 500 sells for about twice what the Wildken Smart Bike Light does.

Both lights seem to be fairly well made, but the Wildken has a more solid mount. The Shark has the standard silicone band mount and it tends to rotate a bit unless I really snug it down. But that's a minor problem, easily fixed with a bit of extra old innertube rubber under the strap.

The bottom line is I think these are both decent lights for the money. The Wildken is more civilized, the Shark is more powerful.


KCJeff said...

Pretty amazing how much less they cost than a comparable light 5 years ago and they're lighter and smaller.

SweetCyclists said...

The Wildken has some impressive features for the price. I'm curious how well it will hold up. I've been using a Light & Motion Vya Pro Headlight which has a similar ambient light sensor/motion sensor to auto select mode and turn on/off. It was strange at first, but after a few rides you realize how nice it is not to have to have an automatic light.