Blackburn's Central 700 front light provides decent brightness with a well-designed beam pattern and impressive reach for riding along unlit roads at pace, but the wobbly mount is a bit of an annoyance, especially on bumpy roads and descents.
It's pitched as a commuter light, but it's bright enough to be used by those wanting to head off into the unlit countryside on training rides too, with a good range of modes to suit urban and rural use.
The light is a self-contained design, with an integrated (and removable) lithium ion battery that provides nearly 1hr 30mins of run time on the highest setting. That's enough for most commuting distances and quick evening training rides. The top button, which is the on/off switch and mode selector, also acts as a fuel gauge, changing colour to display the remaining battery charge.
A medium and low mode decrease the brightness to 400 and 200 lumens respectively and extend the run time to a useful 4hrs on the lowest output mode. You can see where you're going on the middle setting in the pitch black, though the reduction in brightness does make picking out potholes and other wheel swallowing obstacles a bit trickier.
But it's on the 700-lumen mode that the light is most effective. Blackburn has developed a lens that provides a very useful reach, a claimed distance of 131 metres in fact. I didn't get my tape measure out, but Blackburn isn't far off with this claim at all. There's also a decent width to the beam as well, and on narrow lanes the whole width of the road is illuminated.
I do a lot of riding before and after work, and living in the countryside most of this riding is in absolute darkness, so a bright light is a requirement. The Blackburn provided sufficient output with a satisfactory beam pattern that allowed me to ride at a decent tempo. Switching between the high and medium modes, depending on the section of road (brighter for a fast descent, less bright for a slow climb) extended the run time by a useful amount.
For riding in the town and city, the pulse and strobe modes are your friends and provide enough run time to go for days between charges, depending on the duration of your commute, of course. Two small strips of light at the side of the unit are useful additions for riding on busy streets, giving a bit of side visibility to other road users approaching from side junctions. It's probably not as effective as it could be because with your hands on the hoods they slightly block the side lights. Still, it's a nice idea.
It's all going so well, but then you get to the mount. The positives are that it's a simple and quick rubber band that loops around any diameter handlebar, and can be removed in a second if you have to lock your bike up outside. It can also be fixed to a helmet, making it ideal if you want to complement a super-powerful handlebar-mounted light with an auxiliary helmet light. And the angle of the light can be adjusted using the dial that operates the bolt attaching the light to the mount.
But, despite stretching the silicone band as tightly around the handlebar as I could, the light jiggles around on it. At lower speeds and on smooth roads it's passable, you get used to it, and for commuting it's mostly fine. But at higher speeds and especially on bumpy roads or, worse, a fast bumpy descent, it becomes intolerable. On several high-speed descents the front light slowly rotated forwards around the handlebar, requiring readjustment, which is the last thing you want when scanning the road for rocks and holes.
Decent light but it's let down by a wobbly mount
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Blackburn Central 700 Front Light
Size tested: 700 max 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?
Blackburn says: “INSANELY BRIGHT AND VERSATILE COMMUTER LIGHT
"Our most powerful light has a gracious beam pattern and loads of mounting options. Whether commuting or touring long distances, the Central 700 vision light soaks your path with glorious, consistent, dependable, USB recharged light"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
LED fuel gauge/charge indicator
Charging cable included, no tools required
Waterproof to IP-65 standard.
6 hour recharge time
Lumens: High 700 , Med 400 ,Low 200 , Pulse 150 , Strobe 150
Runtime: High 1.25 HRS , Med 2 HRS, Low 4 HRS, Pulse 16 HRS, Strobe 9 HRS
Distance: High 131M, Med 98M, Low 69M, Pulse 60M, Strobe 60M
172g / 0.38lb
Size: 102mm (long) x 70mm (high) x 40mm (wide)
Nicely made light. Blackburn has plenty of experience and it shows.
It's a doddle to use, from the tool-free mount to the one-button operation.
The clamp is very easy to use, and quick to remove, but that advantage is offset by the amount it jiggles on rough roads at speed.
It's fully waterproof.
The real-world battery run time is pretty much what Blackburn quotes in its literature, and those times are adequate for the size and price of the light.
I really liked this light, but I'd like to see an improved (more secure) clamping system.
No problems here.
Pretty decent value light with good performance for the price, but there are lights with better mounting systems.
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Judging the output alone, the light is impressive, with a very usable beam pattern, making it good for after-work training rides away from the bright lights of the city.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
Light and compact, nice choice of modes, very good beam pattern and reach.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
The wobbly mount.
Did you enjoy using the light? Yes
Would you consider buying the light? Maybe
Would you recommend the light to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your score
It's a really good light but I'd like to see a more solid mounting system, because the wobbly mount drags the overall score down from where it really ought to be.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.