BRIGHTSIDE TOPSIDE HELMET LIGHT
The new version of the Brightside Topside Helmet Light results from feedback from users. Needless to say, Brightside have had to make some choices. However, whilst the compromises are, in my opinion, negligible, the new features are major enhancements. The result is a highly functional safety light with lots of applications. All for a very moderate price. Just do not forget it is there!
Pros: great modes, good price, easy to operate, light-weight.
Cons: needs a little ingenuity to fit to some helmets.
With two fish-eye lenses each illuminated by a single LED, the Brightside Topside is aimed at commuters desiring some additional lighting presence. Aimed primarily at commuters, it should fit most helmets. It’s been, rightly, popular with cyclists for a while, and the new model maintains the functionality, ease of use, and flighty weight of the original. The new features include seven modes, including the ability to use either white or red light independently, a loner run time on flash, and a brighter top end. Some may see those as game-changers.
In the box I found the light unit, two mounting brackets, two rubber straps, two zip-ties, and the charging cable – plus a pleasingly brief operating manual.
Encased in the unit’s plastic casing, are two lenses, two LEDs – white for the front and red for the back – the battery, and the technical gubbins. The switch is a plain press button, located half way along the unit, and also indicates charge. The Lithium-ion battery is reckoned to be good for 1500 charges. A rubber flap on the underside of the unit defends the charging point. On that note, IPX65 is defined as water-resistant, rather than waterproof. That is inevitable with most lights, so do not be put off, just do not expect a headlong plunge off the canal towpath to do it any good: rain will to be a problem, provided the hatches are battened down.
A nice touch is the lip on the casing that reduces the chance of damaging the fish-eye lenses when away from the bike.
Charging, run times, and modes
To get the max battery life of 20-43 hours from empty takes about three hours and ten minutes via a laptop; a few minutes more rapidly from the mains.
The seven modes comprise; alternate flashing at each end (43 hours at 15 lumens), double pulse simultaneous flash (18 hours at 30 lumens), both lights constant (2 hours thirty mins at 30 lumens), constant white with red flash (15 and 30 lumens respectively 14 hours and fifteen minutes), constant white (5 hours at 50 lumens), constant red with white flash (6 hours at 15 and 100 lumens), and constant red (three hours and thirty minutes at 30 lumens).
I reckon all of these are accurate, give and take a few minutes. Environmental factors will have an impact. However, unlike with front light modes, I’ve tended to favour one mode almost to the exclusion of others. Consequently, estimating remaining run time has been easy. Even so, it is worth checking the indicator switch at the end of your ride is worthwhile.
Despite favouritism, the range of modes offers a really handy variety. Turn the red light off when riding anywhere but that the back of a group; flick to alternate flashing in suburban roads or for your winter training ride; brighter combinations for the bright lights of the city centre and heavier traffic.
There’s a memory function, too.
There are two mounting brackets – one that fits parallel to helmet vents and one that sits across them. Naturally they seem to fit best on general commuting and leisure style helmets, for example my blue helmet form Kali. On my Kali Therapy road helmet, things were not quite such a flush fit, and likewise on my Kali MTB helmet. Do not despair, it I’ve managed to get a secure seat for the bracket on both and everything has held solid when out and about. Of course, I’d not usually be commuting in the MTB lid – but these things do happen every now and again. Urban style helmets with limited vents have not proved a problem either, with a little ingenuity. In fairness, you cannot blame Brightside for the vagaries of helmet design.
The new mounts are stronger than the old version, say Brightside, and they have proved robust enough. It is worth noting that they are designed to break should the worst happen and the helmet be put to protecting you head in a crash. Frankly, the fate of my light would be low on my list should the worst happen.
The range of modes now mean that the topside can act as an emergency front or rear light, too. Granted, the angle on seat post or stay might not be ideal, but mounted on the bars it is spot on. It has found a handy berth to starboard on the Hase Pino’s rear steering bars.
The switch is conveniently located in the centre of the unit. Doubling-up as a charge indicator light, you can’t see it most of the time. Fortunately, it is easy to locate should you wish to change modes on the fly.
Powering on and off with a half second hold or mode switching with a crisp press requires a firm push. I’ve not managed to induce accidental illumination in my pocket of pannier.
The button changes colour from green through amber to red as charge reduces. When things get really low, it begins to flash.
Light is cast in a broad circle both front and rear. It doesn’t give you a halo, but it does give great visibility in the eye-line of many motor vehicle drivers, even HGVs and buses. Obviously, when helmet mounted, it points where you look, providing additional presence negotiating junctions and roundabouts.
I was pleasantly surprised by the 15 lumen modes, which seem to give an obvious presence at around fifty to sixty metres at dusk, with double simultaneous flash – my favourite – at thirty lumens, getting an additional twenty to thirty metres. Visibility was further. That was around dusk. When night fell, they looked even brighter. The latter mode seemed to give good presence in in heavier town centre traffic with greater competition for presence (Brightside reckon 30-40 metres), but I’d go further than that. Personally, I’d always go for a flash mode in heavy traffic. In some situations, I have run the 100 lumens white flash with an additional frame mounted blankie, such as my venerable Knog Mr. Chips.
The hundred lumen flash can be seen from several hundred metres. Nice, but not vital, in my opinion – unless signalling in an emergency. Fifty lumen rear, is also visible from that kind of range.
Although the mount has not always been a perfect fit for all helmets, there’s been nary a murmur of discontent, let alone an attempt to escape. That’s really good, even if, along with the weight, it makes it easy to forget that it is sitting on your head. Even on the longest ride, you will not notice.
The white light gives sufficient beam to read signposts, firkle in your saddlebag, do minor roadside repairs, or even – for fogeys like me – to look at a map.
Google “helmet mounted safety lights for cycle commuters” and the Topside will appear toward the top of the results. There are others, although not necessarily directly comparable. Cat-Eye’s Volt 400 Duplex, actually has a 400 lumens front light, so goes beyond purely safety lighting. On the other hand, in many countries, law states that lights cyclists must have lights that are fixed to the frame or bars of the bicycle.
Moon’s Aerolite Combi comes in about a fiver more expensive, but has fewer modes and punches out lower lumens.
The modifications to the original Topside light enhance performance in every way, from modes to flexibility of use. True, it will continue to be great for commuting, but in addition offers a lot to the winter trainer – even on a chain-gang – and, prone as I am to the odd winter tour, it will make a really handy all-round auxiliary light for front, rear, or helmet. In addition, its use on the steering bars of the Pino indicate that it can do a good job even in the less likely places. A great bit of kit, maybe paired with the Brightside Bright, Amber, and Sideways.