A light needs to have four things in my book: a good beam shape; be decently bright; have enough battery power to make it through a ride at full power; and have a good mount. The Blackburn Central 700 front light does 3.5 of those four things.
As the name implies, the Central 700 has 700 lumens of power and was ideal for commuting or training, whether on a well lit main road or on dark rural backstreets.
Blackburn has designed the lens for a ‘Dual Beam Pattern’, which it says allows for crystal clear vision near and far, and claims that at full power the beam reaches 131m down the road.
It’s a big call, and I didn’t get out my ruler to confirm the beam length, but I would agree with both claims. I never found myself outrunning the beam and easily spotted hazards, and the spill on either side allows for pretty good peripheral vision too.
As you go through the light modes, the medium, low and two flashing modes decrease the output from 400 to 200 and 150 lumens respectively, and bring the range in a bit as well.
Where I live, on the Australian Gold Coast, the street lighting is pretty variable, and in a matter of two or three blocks you can go from an extremely well-lit road to almost complete darkness. For the most part, I found the medium 400 lumen setting to be sufficient for all but the darkest stretches.
It’s definitely not bright enough to serve as a standalone trail light, but it can be easily mounted to your helmet and integrate into a multi-light system well.
For a bit of added visibility, the light also sees two strips on either side — though depending on how you’ve got the light mounted your hands may well block them.
The light is completely self-contained with a removable and rechargeable lithium ion battery, and gives you about an hour and a half at 700 lumens, two hours at 400 lumens and will last up to 16 hours on pulse mode.
Blackburn also sells these batteries on their own, so you could potentially carry a spare, but it also means after lots of use when the battery begins to wear out it can be replaced rather than the whole unit.
The on/off button also serves as a fuel gauge, lighting up green when there is plenty of battery remaining, turning yellow when there is ⅔ charge left and red when it needs some juice.
The only real complaint I have about the Blackburn Central 700 is the rubber band mount.
It fits pretty much any diameter bar, can be removed in seconds and both tilt and angle can be adjusted, but the trouble is, as with many similar silicone mounts, as you ride it creeps forward and there is a bit of play in the plastic part of the mount. This means that it shakes around a bit even on smooth roads.
However, Blackburn has opted to use the GoPro mounting interface, meaning you don’t need to use the included mount.
I’ve become partial to the out in front Garmin mount with a GoPro mount on the underside because it keeps the light out of my way and puts it into an ideal position. Given how popular mounts like this are becoming it pretty much eliminates the need for the silicone mount.
When I used the light with a mount like this it was stable and didn't interfere with cables.
There are also plenty of mountain bike lids that incorporate an integrated GoPro mount and this light slots in perfectly. And weighing in at 131g it doesn’t pull your helmet too far askew.
As with all its products, Blackburn offers a lifetime warranty.