OXFORD ULTRATORCH CUBE LIGHTS
36g each £14.99 individually or £27.99 bought as a set
The Oxford Ultratorch Cube Lights are, well, rechargeable, square-lensed rear and front lights suitable for a variety of situations. It is not the fastest to charge and run times are not the longest; however, there’s plenty of punch, realistic modes, and some handy details.
Pros: moderate price, good peripheral vision.
Cons: modest run times in lower lumen or flash modes, port cover needs care.
We’ll deal with detail of the modes and charge and run times, later. For now, suffice to say that there are, in my opinion, sensible five modes, and official run-times ranging from 3.5 hours to 8.5 for the front and to 8 for the rear. On that front, there’s a memory function.
The package consists of the Cube light, a watch-strap mount (with plastic lamp bracket), and the USB charging cable. On opening, I felt that here was a solid bit of gear. Not much in the way of frills, but a body that won’t get hot, a simple fixing system, and, importantly for peripheral presence, a curved lens claiming 270degree vision. Inside are, it seems 36 LEDS. Chips are on board, reducing weight and dimensions.
Max outputs of 75lumens (front) and 25lumens (rear), are not exceptional. Having said that, numbers are not everything, and I’d regard these a perfectly adequate for being seen.
Smack in the middle of the square mounting point is a rubber cover for the charging point, suggesting enhance defence against rain when sitting tight in the bracket. IPX4 rating equates to “splashproof” meaning that it has been splashed with water from all sides, rather like rain. In short, don’t spray it with high-powered jet sprays or chuck it in the river and it should serve you well. Having said that, IPX4 would be the minimum I’d look at for a bike light.
Watch strap mounting systems like this are pretty common. There are reasons for that; easy to port between bikes; adaptable for handlebar, fork, seat-post, seat stay, many bar, saddle and rack packs; easy to remove light and strap when leaving bike behind. They’re also pretty sturdy.
It should fit most stays, tubes, and bars, but is best suited to circular profiles. Safe to say they have adorned over-sized and standard bars, as well as the uprights of the back seat steering of the Hase Pino tandem. Seat posts are fine, but they sit uneasily on retro pencil stays: more modern diameters perfectly ok.
Requiring a firm push, I haven’t found these the easiest to operate in thick gloves. However, take a little care and things are not too tricky, even on the fly. Needless to say, things are perfectly straightforward without gloves.
You’ll be unlucky to unwittingly light-up when sticking the lights in your pocket. I managed it once, whilst firkling in a bar-bag, but otherwise things have been safe enough.
The switch also acts as a charge level indicator.
Modes, charge and run times 3/5
These are five modes. Plenty for me, but I’m easily confused. Back and front have solid modes at 100% and 50% power, plus flash, pulse, and day flash.
Charging from zilch took around three to three and a half hours, depending on the source. That’s quite respectable, but you’ll find faster.
Up front, steady 75 lumens offers very good presence at 100m on dark lanes; a bit less in the town centre. Flashing mode very good for that. Would manage as an SOS see your way home light, but only at slow speeds.
Likewise, the rear light, is good, rather than great. Not as intense as some, it still shows a clear body of light that could substitute for a rear light even in bright city lights, but is very good as an auxiliary light on half-power with a flash.
Both offer decent peripheral bleed; not massive but better than many, and there is genuine 270degree presence, as promised.
There’s a notable difference in day flash and night flash and pulse modes. I’ve been told that, on a dull day, the front grabs attention at fifty to seventy-five metres. I’m not generally one for day-time running lights in the bright sunshine, especially at fifty lumens, so limited presence on those rare days of blinding sunshine would not put me off purchase.
Flash and pulse will both have fans. The intensity of the rear light, in particular, was pretty impressive, even at 50% power, and both seemed to warn fellow road-users of my presence on country lanes or negotiating urban junctions.
I’ve not noticed any problems keeping rain and surface spray out. IPX4 is usually fine for most cyclists. Having said that, some real wild-weather riders may want to go up a level. Mind you, the charging port is well-protected by the bracket. Having said that, I have noticed that the port cover can become dislodged quite easily if one is less than careful. Thus, I’ve tended to remove the watch-strap rather than just the light when leaving the bike unattended.
Slightly longer urn times in higher modes than Moon Gemini – though less so at lower settings. Moon edge it on peripheral presence and day-time running: the Cube compare favourably in higher modes. RRP of Moon is higher, but have seen them cheaper on-line.
Much cheaper than my much-used Knog Mr. Chips – to which they have a physical resemblance – the Cube scores over them in terms of peripheral vision and charge time, without having the punch or longer runtimes, especially in SOS mode.
The Ultratorch Cube duo are very competent, sensibly specced-out lights. I’ve felt perfectly comfortable with them on dark lanes and city centre highways. Run times suggest commuting or auxiliary use, but they’ll serve well in emergency capacity, on tour, for example.