Innovative, smart and bright lights - though further improvements could be made
See.Sense have taken an innovative and interesting approach to their Icon+ Front and Rear light set, and the result is an impressively smart and bright set of lights – though a couple of tweaks could make them easier to use.
When we normally think of bike light sets, it is in the form of a front light that turns on and off and a back light that turns on and off. They are not the most interesting element of a bike and are often simply there because people need to see or be seen in the dark.
However, See.Sense have taken an entirely new approach to this, instead attempting to create high-tech lights that do more than simply produce light.
Maximum output: 420 lumens (front); 250 lumens (rear)
What do we mean by that? Well, one of the features making the Icon+ set so unique is their connectivity, with a Bluetooth connection to smartphones and an iOS and Android app to control certain settings. This includes brightness and pattern, and it can also turn on some additional features like theft mode and crash mode – more on which later.
Pairing is relatively simple, although it would have been useful to have them named before pairing, as at the initial connection stage it is not clear which is front and which back. This can be changed later, however.
Another innovative element is, thanks to movement and proximity sensors within the lights themselves, they become brighter and flash more intensely when they sense something nearby. It is a neat feature that really sets them apart from many other sets of lights, given the additional safety this brings.
No matter how much tech is packed into a set of lights, however, performance is the number one priority so how do they do in that regard? Well, it’s top marks from us – the Icon+ lights pumped out some frankly seizure inducing sequences and brightnesses from both the front and the back and you can also get blinded by it if you aren’t directly in front, with a 270 degree spread thanks to the use of a fresnel lens that dissipates the light.
See.Sense claim ‘seriously bright, without dazzling others’ though how accurate that is remains open to debate, especially in flash modes at 100% – I tried it and the blue circles lasted a few minutes. The front throws out a maximum 320 lumens with 190 lumens at the back: a big number for a rear facing unit. The lights are certainly bright, but they can be tuned to your needs on the partner app in seconds, which is simple to do.
Operation of the lights can be done through the app, which can turn them on/off and change sequencing, but primarily I used the single button on either unit, which allows them to be turned on/off and switch between flash and solid lights.
It is one of the elements that I would change as I found on my commute, where I face a number of different environments, that I needed a certain brightness in dimly lit areas and a completely different one when on a lit, shared use path (at one point somebody shouted ‘what if I had epilepsy!?’). The only way I could do this with this system is by needing to get my phone out of my jersey and changing it through the app, which would be simpler if you could do it quickly by pressing a button.
In addition to the regular setting of sequences and brightness through the app, you can also turn on theft mode or crash mode. Theft mode means that, when you turn it on, if the bike is moved (if you leave it outside a coffee shop for instance) you get an alarm on your phone. This works pretty well and it worked fine as long as I was in Bluetooth range (which SeeSense claim is about 100m for the Bluetooth Smart protocol used by the Icon+). Crash mode allows you to send a text to a designated number if the lights detect that you’ve crashed, although this is not currently operational, so I couldn’t test (Update 25/01/17: the SeeSense app has subsequently been updated and works smoothly, though it does need a GPS signal).
Battery life on the lights is strong, with the claimed 15 hours seeming about accurate and when connected to the phone you get low battery warnings, though these are perhaps a little overzealous. Charging is through micro-USB cable, which plugs into a port on the rear of the unit, which charges easily through a laptop or a wall plug.
They are easy to attach and remove, but force the front light to sit horizontally across the bar, with no option to mount it in a different alignment. It meant that I sometimes struggled to find a decent place to put it, especially on one of my bikes with an out-front computer mount and aero profile bars.
The set comes with an RRP of £119.99. It is difficult to really assess this against others because they are more or less unique, so can’t be compared directly to other lights. However, this is a price that I would certainly consider paying if I were in the market for a new set of hi-tech lights.
Overall I was really impressed with these lights, with elements like the proximity sensors and detection of when you need to be seen (junctions etc) a real highlight. The connected features are also a really interesting addition and something more light companies could look into.
There are a couple of things that could be improved, like a bit of variation in mounting the front light and the ability to change brightness without using the app, but aside from these elements, they are hard to fault.
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