The Knog Bilby is a feature-loaded rechargeable head torch with a wealth of features and functions. It's light, bright and a typically Knog-ish funky take on the staid old head torch design. There are a couple of issues that mean it might not suit everyone in all circumstances, and the sheer range of lighting options can make it bewildering, but once you get to grips with it, it's a pretty impressive bit of kit.
How much can you pack into a head torch? In the case of the Knog Bilby, quite a lot. There is a mammoth selection of different functions and combinations available with five different individual lights: a central spotlight, a left mid light, a right wide light, a small red light and a downward-facing reading light. These can then be selected in four brightness settings: max, high, med or low. And there are also two further boost options, with a maximum output of 400 lumens. The only thing missing is a flash mode.
As you would expect with Knog, in design terms it's all a perfect marriage between funky novelty and practical performance. The lights themselves are housed in a removable plastic body that sits in a substantial silicone headband. With a total weight of just 88g, it's comfortable, secure to wear and easy to adjust. It also comes in a range of four colours.
Thanks to its slim design, I can just about sneak it onto my forehead below a helmet, although you might want check this for yourself. (Whatever you decide, don't compromise the positioning of your helmet – it's there to protect your frontal lobe as much as anything, so no pushing back your lid just to accommodate a head torch, if you don't mind.)
If you do wear it beneath a helmet, you almost certainly won't be able to access the two buttons on the top of the Bilby's body that control operation. That's not a massive loss – cycling through the different functions and getting to grips with its capabilities are not the most satisfying parts of the Bilby experience. There are so many options, it's hard to know what you've selected if you can't see the light itself. In essence, the left button as you face the Bilby changes function, the right one changes brightness. But they can also be used to tilt the beam, switch everything off, engage boost modes, check battery status and lock or unlock the light. I've found it a bit confusing at times.
When it comes to run-times, things are simpler – it's less a question of hours and minutes and more easily assessed according to different phases of the moon, the passing of the seasons, or even the length of Covid-inspired school closures. This little beauty really does keep on going. Knog says on full 400-lumens max boost output the Bilby should run for five hours. In reality it goes for more than nine, albeit with a slight drop in output after 10 minutes to prevent overheating (you can click it back into full max mode should you wish).
At other outputs you can get significantly longer. For example, the central spotlight at its normal high 200-lumen display will do a good 14 hours. And if you just want that same spotlight on low output, you'll get 105 hours of use. Yes, that's more than four days of constant use.
Knog says the Bilby is 'the world's most powerful silicone headlamp' and I can quite believe it. At full 400-lumens boost mode it is dazzlingly bright and will highlight things at a fair distance (I reckon 100 feet/30 metres is easily possible). Even in the less extreme 200-lumen spotlight mode, you'll be able to pick things out at the roadside. When not on the bike, I found myself using the quite useful downward-facing reading light a lot, too.
If I had any complaints about the lighting performance, it would be that the spread of light is quite wide, meaning the illuminating power is diluted somewhat and I couldn't really discern much practical difference between the different modes. That wouldn't necessarily be a problem if this was a dedicated front light, but with head torches, at least on full max power mode, I'd quite like a more focused, concentrated beam.
In any case, it's all pretty impressive. But once the life has finally expired from our plucky hero, we come to a slight flaw. To charge the integrated battery, you need to remove the light housing from the silicone headband with a simple unpeeling operation. You will then find the plastic light body is crescent shaped, with a USB recharging tab emanating at an angle from one end.
In theory this is very clever with no need for cables: just insert the tab into a USB charging plug and away you go. The problem is, if you're using a USB recharging plug such as the type that comes with a mobile phone, because of the Bilby's crescent shape, you might find the wall or plug socket surface gets in the way.
Some USB plugs are fine – although even then, the Bilby's charging tab has a tendency to slip out if vertically wall mounted, so I ended up using an old Knog USB lead with a female USB end to make sure we had a nice reliable charging experience. Recharging takes around four hours, with 75% charging seemingly coming after just a couple of hours.
Finally, waterproofing and dustproofing are top-notch – this is a hardy bit of kit.
Considering its relatively modest £50 price and its sheer range of functions and abilities, the Bilby certainly seems like very good value. There are other very good helmet-mounted – if not head-mounted – options available, but they tend to cost more.
For example, Simon thought the £69.95 made-in-Britain Exposure Link Daybright was a fab bit of kit that allows you to be seen and direct a beam where you want it. There's also the larger, heavier but more powerful Link Plus Daybright for £85. Or for £69.99 there's the Cateye Volt 400 Duplex which features 400-lumen top power with a 3-hour run-time.
Against this, the Knog looks like decent value, and I'd argue it has more real-world applications than 'just' a helmet torch. Indeed, I'd says it's probably the most impressive head torch I've ever used. It's feature packed and comfortable. But while it's easy to get around your head, it's not always quite so easy to get your head around all its functions.
Fully loaded head torch boasting power and functions – comfortable, cool and clever, if just a bit complicated
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Knog Bilby Headlamp
Size tested: 400 lumens
Tell us what the light is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
This is a head torch designed for adventure sports folk and outdoor enthusiasts.
Knog says: "Simply put, the Bilby is the world's most powerful silicone headlamp. The Bilby produces a serious output of 400-lumens and offers an impressive five-hour runtime on full power, and over 105-hours on the lowest setting. It's lightweight, dust proof and waterproof to 1m (IP67 rating) and intuitively designed from medical-grade silicone to ensure durability while providing form-fitting comfort. The Bilby will suit the most serious outdoor enthusiast in the most demanding of situations."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
Five LED lighting options - spotlight, mid light, wide light, red light and a downward-facing reading light
Adjustable silicone headband
Five-hour to 105-hour run-times
USB recharging (recharging time four hours)
Compatible and customisable with Knog's Modemaker app
Really well made – excellent silicone headband. Only the position of the USB recharging tab is a potential problem.
Getting it to work isn't a problem, but getting your head round the different functions, modes and settings is a bit tricky. I'd say it's overcomplicated.
Great design – fits round the head securely.
Excellent – keeps water out very well despite its 'unpeelable' design.
I thought battery life – considering its diminutive size – was incredible. And the four-hour recharge time is pretty good, too.
Very good performance, although I'd prefer a more direct beam on its max output setting.
It has handled the rough and tumble of life so far.
Really lightweight. Other than for the fact it feels secure when on, you wouldn't know you're wearing it.
Compared to other helmet-mounted lights of similar outputs, the Bilby is very good value. It's arguably more useful in a wider range of applications, too.
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I was pretty impressed with it. You couldn't use it as your sole front light – for legal reasons if nothing else – but it's a fantastic secondary option.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
Recharging and run-times are excellent, and lighting performance is impressive.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
All those lighting options – I think it's too many.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Exposure's very competent Link Daybright is £69.95 while the larger, heavier but more powerful Link Plus Daybright is £85. Or for £69.99 there's the Cateye Volt 400 Duplex, which features 400-lumen top power with a 3-hour run-time.
Did you enjoy using the light? Yes
Would you consider buying the light? Yes
Would you recommend the light to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is a typically Knog-ish take on the head torch, with a fun and comfortable silicone design, and a whole host of lighting options. But its crowning glories are probably the impressive 400-lumens max output, up to 105 hours of run-time and 4-hour recharging.
About the tester
I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29 My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Leisure