The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Cygolite Expilion 850 Review

Although it has a shorter battery life, it has a wide even beam with multiple blinking modes.
Cygolite Expilion 850
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Price:  $140 List
Pros:  Wide, even beam pattern, multiple blinking modes
Cons:  Minimal swivel, short battery life
Manufacturer:   Cygolite
By Gentrye Houghton ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 14, 2018
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 16
  • Brightness - 40% 9
  • Beam Quality - 25% 8
  • Battery Life - 20% 4
  • Portablity - 15% 7

Our Verdict

The Cygolite Expilion 850 is a high performance bike light for commuting and occasional off-road riding. It has a relatively wide, even beam pattern and a long beam distance for its size. Competition was tough for the Editors' Choice award, but the Expilion 850 fell short of the award by just a few points for battery life and portability.

This is a fantastic light, but if you're looking for a performer that exceeds expectations, check out our Editors' Choice winner, the NiteRider Lumina 750. For the ultimate mountain biking light, we recommend the NiteRider Pro 1800 and check out the Light and Motion Urban 350 if you're on a tighter budget.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Cygolite Expilion 850
Awards  Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award   
Price $140 List$241.76 at Amazon$99.95 at Amazon$249.99 at Amazon$51.73 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
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Pros Wide, even beam pattern, multiple blinking modesGreat beam distance and quality, lasts four hours in high modeWide even beam pattern, bright, illuminated on/off button, swivel mountVERY bright, wide and even beamBright, wide and even beam pattern, illuminated on/off switch, easy on and off handle bars, good value
Cons Minimal swivel, short battery lifeVery heavy, expensive and time-consuming to install and removeBeam could be more even/less narrow, battery life on the short sideCan get super hot, heavy, short battery life, 18-hour full charge time, requires two hands to take on and offShort (1.5 hour) battery life
Bottom Line Although it has a shorter battery life, it has a wide even beam with multiple blinking modes.This is your go to light for quality and distance of beam.This light is bright, swivels nicely and even has an illuminated on/off switch.This light has an extremely bright and wide beam but it does take a while to fully charge and can get hot if used for an extended period of time.This light not only is a great value but it has a super bright and even beam pattern.
Rating Categories Cygolite Expilion 850 NiteRider Pro 1800 NiteRider Lumina 750 Light and Motion Taz 1500 NiteRider Lumina 550
Brightness (40%)
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9
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9
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8
Beam Quality (25%)
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8
Battery Life (20%)
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Portablity (15%)
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Specs Cygolite Expilion... NiteRider Pro 1800 NiteRider Lumina 750 Light and Motion... NiteRider Lumina 550
Max Beam Distance (m) 147 m 175 m 180 m 144 m 146 m
Battery Life (hours) 1.4 hrs 3.8 hrs 1.7 hrs 1.6 hrs 1.5 hrs
Battery Type USB Recharge USB Recharge USB Recharge USB Recharge USB Recharge
Mount Options Handlebar/Helmet Handlebar Handlebar/Helmet Handlebar Handlebar/Helmet
Installation Tool-free Tool-free Tool-free Attached Tool-free
Swivel Mount Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Weight 174 g, 6.1 oz 500 g, 17.6 oz 182 g, 6.4 oz 220 g, 7.8 oz 180 g, 6.3 oz

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Cygolite Expilion 850 is an excellent option for the urban commuter wanting to go on a quick trail ride after work. The Expilion 850 excels in several of our categories, but due to some seriously stiff competition, just narrowly missed earning our Editors' choice award.

Performance Comparison


The Cygolite Expilion 850 accompanies our testers on daily commutes  as well as a quick romp in the dirt after work.
The Cygolite Expilion 850 accompanies our testers on daily commutes, as well as a quick romp in the dirt after work.

Brightness


We measured the light's maximum distance at around 147-meters, which excels as one of the brightest lights in its class. The Editors' Choice winner, the Lumina 750, was only one of the few lights to shine just a bit farther. Not only does it project a beam well into the distance, it also casts a very wide and even beam. As you can see in the photographs below, it floods into your peripheral vision much better than the Cygolite Metro 400, on the left.

Beam Distance Photos
Beam photo of Cygolite Expilion 850
Beam photo of Cygolite Metro 400

Cygolite Expilion 850
Cygolite Metro 400

Beam Quality


The Expilion 850 has one of the best beam diameters and patterns of any standard bike light we tested, tying with the our other Editors' Choice competitors and scoring an 8 out of 10. The NiteRider Pro 1800 earns a slightly better score, but that light is really in a class all on its own.

There are only minuscule differences in the beam patterns between the Editors' Choice competitors. You can see how similar the patterns are between the Expilion 850, on the left below, and Lumina 750, that earns the award.

Beam Diameter and Pattern
Beam photo of Cygolite Expilion 850
Beam photo of NiteRider Lumina 750

Cygolite Expilion 850
NiteRider Lumina 750

A major difference with the Light and Motion Taz 1500, below on the right, is the amount of flooded beam this light projects over the Expilion 850. The Taz earns a few more points that the Expilion in this category.

Beam Diameter and Pattern
Beam photo of Cygolite Expilion 850
Beam photo of Light and Motion Taz 1500

Cygolite Expilion 850
Light and Motion Taz 1500

Battery Life


Unfortunately, this category is really where the Expilion slipped behind the NiteRider Lumina 750. As you can see in this chart which compares battery life versus beam distance over time, the Lumina 750 loses a little power early on, but it evens out to project around 160-meters of illumination before drastically tapering off; while the Expilion 850 maintains a beam distance near the 140-meter range for just over an hour and a half before it begins a gradually decline. Then, this light subsides almost to darkness nearly half an hour before the Lumina 750.

This light is a bit larger than some of the other models we tested. It can be a tight squeeze to fit into some pant pockets  but we didn't have any issues with tossing it into a jacket pocket or backpack.
This light is a bit larger than some of the other models we tested. It can be a tight squeeze to fit into some pant pockets, but we didn't have any issues with tossing it into a jacket pocket or backpack.

Portability


This light is about average size and weight for its brightness. It fits into a jacket pocket, but is not to be confused with a true ultralight and compact light. Installation on the handlebar is relatively easy. It takes less than a minute, and is similar to the NiteRider series. Removal from the mount seems to have improved drastically when compared to our last review. In quoting our previous review, "At first, it was downright awkward, frustrating and requires real finger strength." During our field testing portion of this review, we were pleased to find the light easily glides on and off the mount.

Best Applications


The Cygolite Expilion 850 is a high powered performer, and top contender for our Editors' Choice award. It excels on the streets during your daily commutes, and you'll be happy to have it along during short mountain bike rides. If you're looking for an exceptional mountain biking setup, and aren't concerned with spending some extra dough, you might consider adding the NiteRider Pro 1800 to your repertoire.

The screw used here allows you to make quick and easy adjustments that allow this light to fit on a variety of handle bar sizes.
The screw used here allows you to make quick and easy adjustments that allow this light to fit on a variety of handle bar sizes.

Value


Though the Cygolite Expilion performs rather similarly to the Lumina 750, it retails around $140. This is a great light, however, you can pick up the Lumina 750, our Editors' Choice winner, for $40 less. If you're on a tight budget and still looking for a high performer, check out the NiteRider Lumina 550 or our Best Buy winner, the Light and Motion Urban 350.

Conclusion


The Expilion 850 ran a great race for the Editors' Choice Award, ranking close to the top as a high performance all-around light. However, for the price, we recommend you pick up the slightly less expensive award winner.


Gentrye Houghton