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Blackburn Central 700 Front Light



Decent light but it's let down by a wobbly mount

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.

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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.

Blackburn Central 700 Front Light - side.jpg

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.

> Check out our guide to the best front lights and our beam comparison engine here

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.

Blackburn Central 700 Front Light - mount.jpg

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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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?


"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?

Micro-USB rechargeable

LED fuel gauge/charge indicator

Charging cable included, no tools required

Lithium-ion battery.

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)

Rate the light for quality of construction:

Nicely made light. Blackburn has plenty of experience and it shows.

Rate the light for design and ease of use. How simple was the light to use?

It's a doddle to use, from the tool-free mount to the one-button operation.

Rate the light for the design and usability of the clamping system/s

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.

Rate the light for waterproofing. How did it stand up to the elements?

It's fully waterproof.

Rate the light for battery life. How long did it last? How long did it take to recharge?

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.

Rate the light for performance:

I really liked this light, but I'd like to see an improved (more secure) clamping system.

Rate the light for weight:

No problems here.

Rate the light for value:

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.

Overall rating: 6/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180cm  Weight: 67kg

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 tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of 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.

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