The New Cygolite Expilion 850 vs. The Older Cygolite Expilion 800
The Cygolite Expilion 850 now has 50 more lumens than the model we tested, which was the Expilion 800. According to Cygolite, the 850 also has "Enhanced Cycling Optics" that gives a wider beam spread. We are currently testing the Expilion 850 - look for the review, coming soon!
In the meantime, you can compare both models below, with the newest version (the 850) shown on the left and the older model (the 800) pictured on the right.
The 800 has the best beam diameter and pattern of any standard bike light tested and scored a 9 out of 10. Only the NiteRider Pro 1800 scored better, but that light is really in a different class as it's much heavier, more expensive and can't easily be removed when you stop to lock up your bike. The beam quality is the key reason the Expilion 800 barely beat out the NiteRider Lumina 550. Both are great lights, but as you can see in the beam diameter and pattern photo below, the Expilion has a broader and more even beam. The Lumina 550 has a great beam, but it's narrower.
The 800 comes with more brightness modes than most of the models we tested. Most lights just offer a blinking mode. The 800 offers daytime flashing mode, a nighttime mode that pulses while constantly lighting your path, and the more standard SOS flashing mode.
Beam Diameter and Pattern
Cygolite Expilion 800
NiteRider Lumina 550
We measured the light's maximum distance at 160 meters, which makes it one of the brightest lights in its class. The Pro 1800 was one of the few lights to shine farther. Not only does it shine far, it also casts a very wide and even beam. As you can see below, it gets much better peripheral vision lighting than the Lumina 550.
Beam Distance Photos
Cygolite Expilion 800
NiteRider Lumina 550
The light is about average size and weight for its brightness. It fits in your pocket but is not to be confused with a true ultralight and small light. Installation on the handlebar is relatively easy. It takes less than a minute and is similar to the NiteRider series. However, it's noticeably harder to slide off when locking your bike up than the NiteRider Lumina series. In fact, at first, it's downright awkward, frustrating, and requires real finger strength. We got used to it with practice, but some people may find the trickiness of removing this light a real concern; especially if your hands are cold and/or you are wearing gloves. The main problem is the release lever; it's small and requires a lot of force to operate. Most other lights had a broader release lever and thus a more smooth glide on and off.
In high mode, the Expilion lasts about 1.25 hours before tapering off and going dim at 1.6 hours. This is slightly below average compared to the competition, but still acceptable. Turn the light to low mode and it will last much longer. We did not test low mode, but Cygolite claims it will last up to 22 hours.
By comparison, the Lumina 550 lasts about 20 percent longer in high mode. However, most of that time is at a more modest beam distance as you can see in this battery life vs. beam distance chart. The Expilion is for users who want the brightest light possible for a little over an hour. If you are riding longer than that, you need to switch to low mode.
The Cygolite does offer an optional swappable Li-ion battery stick for $40 so you can ride longer in high mode. Few other tested lights have this option.
This light offers a good value. It's the same cost or less than most of its competition and scores at the top. The Cygolite Metro 360, our Best Buy winner, is one of the few lights to offer a better value. That said, the NiteRider Lumina 550 scores almost as high and can often be found for $50 less. So, it comes down to how important the broad and even beam of the 800 is to you. If you find the Lumina 550 has a good enough beam, it's the better deal and is easier to remove.
This is the best light we tested and wins our Editors' Choice award. It has a bright and even beam and is well priced. If you are really on a tight budget, look at the Metro 360, which is half the price. However, the 360 has a much, much lower quality beam that is bright but narrow. If you are annoyed at how hard the 800 is to remove from your handlebar, consider the NiteRider Lumina 550. The 550 scored almost as high but just has a slightly lower beam quality score. Get the 550 if you feel it has a good enough beam for your needs and save $40-$50.