Topeak Redlite Aero USB Rear Light
The Topeak Redlite Aero USB Rear Light has been around a good while but doesn’t feel dated. Topeak describes it as “a slim, aerodynamic taillight, perfect for road cycling”. Without wind tunnel facilities, it’s difficult to comment on the aerodynamic properties but riders wanting a bright, simple light with good run times should take a closer look.
Pros: Simple, bright, lightweight, solid, decent run times.
Cons: IPX4 for weather proofing may be a consideration for some.
Measuring 6.6 x 2.4 x 3.4 cm, it’s a nice size - plenty of presence, without spoiling the clean lines of a pared to the essentials road/training bike. IPX4 for weather proofing won’t win any bragging rights but is for the most part, perfectly adequate for road duties. Build quality is also reassuringly good - light and mounts feel solid.
Behind the injection moulded plastic housing, designed to project a 220-degree arc live three super bright LED diodes. These are aligned to ensure they project a straight beam regardless of positioning and fuelled by a 3.7V 220mAh Lithium-ion cell. Oh, and there’s a low battery indicator and more helpfully, 30 minutes grace before it shuts down.
In terms of output, Topeak cite 30cd (candela). Candela and lumens are two different measures of light. Lumens refers to the total amount of light a device emits, candela measures the light projected in a certain direction. The Redlite Aero is certainly bright, rivalling some in my collection producing 50lumens but doesn’t compare with the presence offered by others, including Ravemen TR200 . More about that later.
The battery fuels via the ubiquitous micro usb cable, so no issues if you’ve lost, or forgotten it-chances are you, or a friend will have a suitable spare. The rubber port is a snug fit and has done a decent job of keeping wet, gritty stuff out.
Topeak has a justly deserved reputation for innovative design, and though I wasn’t surprised to find standard and aero post mounts, it was nice to find one for luggage too. The back of the light features a rubberised foot, which ensures limpet like tenure, while being kind to finishes.
There are two straps-different lengths to entertain different diameters of tubing. I’ve had no issues with 31.8 down to 25.4 and with the aero mount, pencil thin seat stay tubing. Lost the rubber strap? Fear not, spares are available, and, in a pinch, the “doughnut” type will also do the job reliably enough. Oh, and it has also been long enough to entertain helmets and some box section tubing- my Bob Yak homage, specifically.
Two - steady and flashing. Arguably all you need-no call for a memory function, although I’d be the first to admit, choice can be welcome, especially if you have a diverse riding diet. The top mounted switch is positive enough not to accidentally engage, yet easily found in the dark and in gloved hands.
Charge/Run Times 3.5/5
Before I get into this, it’s worth mentioning there’s a AAA fuelled sibling, which may be a better choice for some tourists. AAA cells are similarly ubiquitous-supermarkets, off-licences, petrol stations all stock them, if you’re not someone who brings a spare cell or two along.
That out the way, using the OEM cable, ours has gone from flat to fully juiced in 3 hours from a laptop, 2.5 from the mains, slightly quicker with an aftermarket cable. Bargain on 3.5, if you’re refuelling from a twin port dynamo charger, such as the K-lite Bikepacker Ultra . Run times in temperatures between 4 and 12 degrees have been within a few minutes of the 10 and 40 hours (steady and flashing respectively).
In the latter context, scope for 3 weeks middle distance commuting from a single charge. To date, the reserve has also done its thing very reliably but as we’re always saying, good charging discipline gets the best from rechargeable lights.
On paper at least, the Redlite Aero trails behind some in the power stakes and as I hinted earlier, it’s not going to pass as a daylight running light in bright sunlight. Otherwise, held its own, thanks in part to the lens’ large surface area and decent peripheral punch.
Flashing has more than enough bite for the backroads-300 metres seems the consensus when I’ve asked the odd farmer, trucker out in the early hours.
Again, this seems to dip a little on misty/foggy starts, but casual conversation suggests I came under the radar from 180 metres or so from behind. The tempo is similarly extrovert when turning right, entering the flow of traffic, negotiating bigger roundabouts etc.
Characteristics that meant it performed better than I’d expected on my low-slung touring trailer - vertically, or horizontally (if you’re going the latter route, a lick of silicone grease around the port would be a wise move). That said, in my experience, Topeak’s 5 function Redlite Mega (below) is a better choice if you’re seeking something trailer, or tagalong specific. However, at 93g it’s a fair bit heftier too.
Back to the Redlite Aero, I wouldn’t want to be following close behind it in flashing mode, say on a group ride. For these reasons and mist aside, I’ve typically nudged to steady through town. Used as a companion unit and mounted atop a helmet, projection was boosted a little 325 metres in flashing and through the sticks, 220 in steady. On the occasions I’ve run it in flashing through suburban stretches, we’re talking 250 metres and 150 for the steady, which inspired confidence when HGV and other large vehicles have been following in slow moving traffic.
Other than keeping lithium-ion batteries recharged - ideally when they dip to 70% of capacity (50% if you’re putting them into seasonal storage) the Redlite Aero seems very solid. Ours has been subjected to a fair bit of wet stuff over the past few weeks, including Storm Babet. Mounted on the seat stays, it’s been drenched by dodgy standing puddles, heavy rain and I’ve left it in situ while giving Ursula and fixed gear winter/trainer sudsy bucket washes. Never missed a beat.
On paper, the Redlite Aero seems a bit low rent for nigh on £40, and yes, there’s a lot of choice at this end of the market. Magicshine See Mee 200V2 is £38.99 and features a 200lumen day flash, 60lumen tracer light (which projects a 360-degree arc of light around the rider). It also boasts a 60lumen flash, 200lumen “braking” mode and Smart night flashing mode selects output (between 10 and 60 lumens) and in my experience, reliable. It also meets IPX6 for weatherproofing.
Infini Sword Super Bright 30 COB Rear Light can be bought separately for £39.99. It offers five modes, pumps out 50 lumens and has a laughably frugal flash (200hrs from a full charge). Ravemen TR50 Rechargeable Rear Light is also £39.99, pumps out 50 lumens and five modes- two steady (30 and 10 lumens respectively) and three flashing (the highest being 50lumens, rapid flash and pulse being 10 apiece.
Run times range between 2.5 and 25 hours, which is quite a bit less than the Redlite Aero and though good, peripheral prowess doesn’t rival the Topeak either. The Lelumia the Beast Rear Light (now £41.99) is a five-mode model, delivering 150lumens and some decent run times. However, the lowest 65lumen mode is a bit fierce for town and group riding.
If oodles of modes, bells n’ whistles and bragging rights are your thing, then there are several that will give the Topeak Redline Aero USB rear Light a good run for your hard earned. However, it's beautifully simple in the less- is- more sense. Bright, yet refreshingly frugal, its ideally suited to long commutes, dusk till dawn all-nighters, touring. Build quality is generally solid, the slender profile is a great fit on clutter phobic builds and indeed, some helmets.