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Bontrager Flare RT & Ion 200 RT Connected Bike Lights In-Depth Review

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Bontrager has introduced a new far smaller and much cheaper variant of their popular Flare RT connected bike lights.  These $59 individual front and rear lights connect via ANT+ to supported head units to automatically turn on when you start a ride, and turn off when you end a ride.  You can also control functionality, like light modes, from the head unit itself.

Bontrager is hardly new to the connected lights game; in fact, they were actually the first company to introduce such connected lights using the ANT+ device profile (Garmin then followed a bit later), back in April of 2015.  The initial iteration of the Bontrager Flare RT and Ion RT was actually quite good – and they even had a nifty remote control (still do if you want it) to control the lights.  But these days most riders will likely be using their Garmin bike computers to do so.

The main focus for the new Flare RT and Ion 200 RT lights isn’t so much folks needing massive amounts of light (meaning, it’s not really best for mountain bikers), but rather what the industry roughly terms as ‘safety lights’.  In essence, it’s more about vehicles seeing you than you having the path in front of you lit-up like a stadium.  For those living in cities, it’s perfect – whereas for those living on farm roads…not so much (as I found out).  They’re also perfect as daytime running lights on the bike, since they’re so tiny you’d barely notice them weight-wise or size-wise.

Bontrager sent over a loaner pile of the new lights to try out.  This included both the Flare RT/Ion 200RT lights I’m reviewing here, as well as the Ion Pro Series lights that I’m not focusing on here.  The Pro series lights are also connected, and are quite a bit beefier in terms of size and lumen throw-down (an official term, obviously).  Maybe if there’s interest I’ll also do something on the Pro lights down the (well-lit) road. As usual, once I wrap things up I’ll shoot them all back to Bontrager.

With that – let’s begin!

What’s in the box:

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I should probably preface this section with helping you understand the confusing naming scheme that Bontrager has come up with.  That, in turn, might help you try and navigate this review a bit more.

Ion Pro RT: Elongated front light announced this month
Ion 200 RT: Tiny cube front light announced this month (this review)
Ion 350/450 RT: Clunky-looking front lights announced a year or two ago
Ion 700 RT: Cigar-like front light announced a few years ago
Flare RT: Tiny cube rear light announced this month (this review)

Oh, there’s one catch though: Sometimes the Flare RT isn’t this Flare RT. Sometimes it’s an older Flare RT. See, the company actually renamed the product the same thing – an Apple-like ode, without any clear generational or year identifier.

Thus, it’s confusing AF.  You’re welcome.

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All you need to know is you want to look for the squarish one, and not the roundish one. Got it? Good, let’s begin unboxing (because the box is actually rather clever).

Here’s the back of the package, which includes a fancy chart to figure out how far away you can see the lights at various brightness levels and flashing modes:

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Next, we’ve got the lights inside.  In my case, this is a twofer pack, which saves you a full $5 over the cost of buying them individually. That gets you three $1.50 Costco hotdogs + soda combos…just sayin’.

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The packaging is actually fairly clever, since almost everything you need is visible immediately, with only the USB charging cable hanging out on the edges in that little cove.

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Here’s all the parts on the table:

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A closer look at the two included mounts shows a very slight difference for front and rear.  The rear one is tapered a bit so that it counteracts the slant of your seat post to keep the light level.

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As for the lights themselves, they’re tiny – about the size of a strawberry (not the crazy big strawberries, just a normal strawberry):

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There’s also a manual in there with all of the various mount options (which I’ll dive into later):

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And finally, weight-wise, here ya go.

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Interestingly, I think Bontrager might be showing light+mount on their official weight listings. They show 32g/33g, whereas I show 23g, sans-mounts.

How it works:

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By and large, the entire point of buying Bontrager’s connected lights is to have them…connected.  But, that doesn’t mean you can only use them in a connected state. You can use them just fine sans-connection (mostly, as I’ll explain).  In short, there are basically three ways you can use these lights:

A) Just as normal lights: Press buttons on lights to turn on/off, and change settings
B) Connected to a head unit: Such as a Garmin device that can control them
C) Connected to Bontrager’s smart remote: Allows you to control them as well, using a tiny remote on your handlebars

I suspect the vast majority of people here are going with ‘Option B’ above, because there’s an overwhelming chance that if you’re reading this you’ve probably got a head unit that can control said lights.  But because you have to eat your vegetables before desert, we’ll start with the boring way, which is just double-pressing the button on the top of the lights (as the manual notes: just like a mouse double-click).

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You can then long-hold to turn it off, or, press the button quickly to cycle through all of the different modes the lights have.  It’s really that simple. There’s only a single button, though you can do some ultra-long hold presses to get things reset and such.

There are the following modes for the rear light (Flare RT):

Day Flash  – 90 lumens for 6 hours
All Day Flash – 45 lumens for 12 hours
Night Flash – 5 Lumens for 15 hours
Day Steady – 25 lumens for 4.5 hours
Night Steady – 5 lumens for 13.5 Hours

And these are the modes for the front light (Ion 200 RT):

High – 200 lumens for 1.5 hours
Medium – 100 lumens for 3 hours
Low – 5 lumens for 14.5 hours
Night Flash – 5 lumens for 30 hours
Day Flash – 100 lumens for 12 hours

As an interesting note – when the battery drops below 5%, the unit automatically adjusts the brightness to 50 lumens. This gets you an additional 30 minutes of battery time beyond the stated times above.

Next, pairing to a head unit.  In case of all Bontrager RT lights, they all support ANT+ connectivity using the ANT+ lighting profile. At present, to my knowledge that’s only Garmin that’s implemented it.  Others have talked about it, such as Sigma, but haven’t yet implemented it.  Anybody can implement it, it’s no different than implementing other profiles like power meter or heart rate sensor support.

To pair the Bontrager lights to your Garmin, you’ll head into the sensors menu and add the ‘Lights’ sensor type. Both lights show up as their proper front or rear lights within the menus.

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This will create a ‘light network’, which essentially allows all the lights to act cohesively together. You can control them as a formation, or individually if you want.

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There are essentially two configuration options for how to control lights.  You can have them automatically turn-on when you power on your Garmin, or you can have them automatically turn-on when you press start:

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I’ve set mine for when I press start, so that it’s not burning time while I prep my bike.  Also, one very distinct downside to this setup is that if you’re on the trainer indoors the lights will automatically turn-on. You can disable them entirely via the menus, but that’s not really an ideal solution.  More ideal in my mind would be a tie-in with GPS. If using GPS, then enable them, if not using GPS then disable them.

As I noted earlier, I did find issues with the default Garmin control panel for lights and seemingly overriding the manual button presses when in full formation mode to get in the steady-on mode in some situations.  If you disabled the full formation and went into individual light control mode on the Garmin, the settings seemed to stick.

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The other option is to simply grab the Bontrager Connect IQ app (free), which is available for most Garmin Edge devices:

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This app gives you a bit more control over the lighting modes, and the settings seem to stick properly. It’s easy to access as well anytime via swiping down from the top – just like you would access the weather.

All of this works just fine and dandy – and makes it easy to use the lights once setup.  Also, when you power off the head unit, it’ll automatically turn off the lights as well.

Finally, let’s talk battery and battery life – starting with charging. To charge the units you’ll grab your favorite micro-USB cable, or use the excessively short micro-USB cables that came with it.

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As for battery life, that’ll depend vastly on which specific mode you’re in. If you’ve got the units on full blast (non-blinking), it’ll last far less than differing blinking modes.  That’s no surprise, blinking saves a ton of battery life on most bike lights.  Of course, the challenge to blinking is that many European countries require steady/always-on for usage (which takes more battery life).  But that gets into a bit of lighting religious debate that won’t be solved here.

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In my case, I’m using it in a solid-on full-blast configuration.  In one test I did for battery depletion I charged both front and rear lights to 100%, and then got going on my ride. I probably had a few minutes of getting things setup before I started my ride (where the lights were on), but not much more than that.  At the 2 hours 00 minutes 04 seconds marker, the front light powered off, exactly at the specified 2-hour threshold (90 minutes full brightness + 30 minutes battery reserve) for this light in this configuration.  The rear-light meanwhile stayed on and appeared to have more battery – and didn’t reach a low-battery warning state.

I haven’t tested the blinking modes since solid-on lights are required here, though given the unit met specs precisely for the solid-on mode, I don’t doubt the company has the battery specifications correct.  Of course, it’s likely that things like temperature would impact battery life as well.  In my case, I tested on a warm summer night, whereas I’m sure if I tested in the dead of miserable winter, it’d undoubtedly be lower.

Brightness and Visibility:

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Probably the most important parts of lights is whether or not you can see things with them, as well as being seen.  In the case of these lights, we’ll start first with what the rider can see.  I rode in a variety of conditions, including city riding, country riding, woods, day-light, dusk, and full-on darkness.  Basically, everything I could think of.

Overall they were good, but given the size things are also a little bit limited as well.  I’d rate them as follows:

Day Riding Anywhere: In this situation, it’s about others seeing you, the lights provide no visible extra light on the ground on a sunny day.

Night City Riding: Perfect, zero issues, and provides just enough light to fill in the cracks in the road and avoid them.  The city provides most of the ambient light for streets.

Dusk: No problems here either – same as night riding, since there’s still a bit of waining light, these lights fill in the gap.

Night Country Road Riding: It’s OK – but ONLY if you’re in the 200 or 100 lumen modes, NOT the 30-minute battery saver mode.

Night Dark Wooded Paths Riding: Same as road riding, but definitely not ideal for mountain biking with any quick trail work. The reach of the light beam just isn’t far enough to get the details you want, so there’s an element of trusting that the road is still actually road (that’s missing in mountain biking). Whereas on bike/running paths surrounded by trees, it’s darker, but you can generally still trust that the pavement is the pavement.

The basic lesson here is that the lights are fine on any pavement surface as long as you’ve got the two full brightness modes on.  The 30-minute (50 lumen) battery saver mode is simply not enough light to do anything except act as a safety light so others see you (which is still incredibly valuable).

So why not show a bunch of photos for the lights?  Because for the most part, photos of bike lights are fake news. It’s all photography tricks.  Every single camera will shoot/show the lights differently.  And most cameras (unless in a full manual mode), will shoot each light differently as they’ll automatically compensate for it.

The only way to do this in any meaningful way is to shoot all the different lights at the exact same time in full manual mode (on camera), and without any other changes in the environment.

For example, here’s a shot I did of the lights against one of the I.Amsterdam signs.  It might look like the light is throwing out a fair bit of light, right?

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Kinda, it’s really more the phone is exposing it longer – thus, making it look brighter than it is (as is the waning sky).  Sure, there’s a fair bit of throw there from the lights, but it’s because it’s exposed for 1/4th a second.  If I exposed it for a full second, it’d probably look like day light out.  In the above setting, it’s actually in the 30-minute (50 lumen) saver mode.

Anything and everything you see photographically in any light review is 100% based on the settings the camera person selected.  That person can try and mimic what they see in real-life, but it’ll never match precisely.

Compare that to this GoPro shot taken from a video. It was shot at 30FPS (thus, 1/30th a second), and even though it was shot some 15 minutes earlier, it looks far darker (I’m coming towards the camera, that white dot to the left).  Oh, and the light? At this point it’s in the 200-lumen full brightness mode – far brighter than the above photo/scene.

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Not only that, the two lighting conditions were flipped. The first one was taken later at night, and the second earlier with more light (both ambient and the Bontrager unit itself).

Here’s a photo below taken just a moment before the photo above, looking towards the setting sun versus away from it:

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Again, a huge difference in what things look like.  You can see the visible light on the ground from the Ion 200 RT though in front of me.

As for others seeing me (or, me seeing my bike), no problems there.  For example, here’s me at dusk riding away from the camera (a GoPro). At this point I’m probably 150-200m away:

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And here’s me turning around at roughly that same point and facing the camera:

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And then much closer as well:

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Again – it all comes down to cameras used.  The below shot was taken perhaps 5 minutes earlier with an iPhone X – and you can see just how much brighter the sky is, and in this specific photo below I’m actually even facing the darker portion of the sky too.

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My entire point here is twofold:

A) Visibility of you: No problems here, no matter the conditions.
B) Visibility for you: Good for city riding or places with ambient light, mostly OK for dark riding as long as on highest brightness levels.

Though I suppose my real point is more simplistic: Taking photos of lights doesn’t do much for a review.

All the mounts:

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Now I didn’t talk about mounting in the initial section, because I wanted to save it for later. Now is later.

The units come with little bite-sized mounts in the box, which you saw in the unboxing section.  And by and large, these mounts work great. Really, they do. There’s a little bit of extra strap length in some cases on some seat posts, but hardly a big deal, and you could easily trim it if you really wanted to.

Here’s the front mount, mounted:

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And here’s the rear mount. You’ll notice in the case of the rear mount that there’s a tiny tilt built into it, to counteract the slanted nature of seat posts.

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But this isn’t all the mounts that Bontrager has put together. They’ve got other stem replacement kits that allow you to mix and match Garmin quarter-turn mounts and Bontrager mounts.

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You can see below the stem portion, then a middle piece that slides over your bars to allow either a Garmin or GoPro-style mount below it.  Alternatively, if you look above, at right is a snap piece that allows both a GoPro/Bontrager light and Garmin mount concurrently.

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I’d love to see one other option here though, in particular perhaps a GoPro to Bontrager mount adapter sold separately, allowing you to easily pop it on existing out-front mounts that have GoPro adapters below them.  The below adapter is part of the stem kit, and is exactly what you need, but only available in the entire stem kit which is much pricier.

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GoPro mount adapters have pretty much become the universal standard for mounting stuff on your bike, especially cameras and lights (Cycliq and Garmin both use them), and they’re found on almost all out-front mounts these days.  I’d expect a small piece of plastic adapter wouldn’t cost much, but would make a lot of people happy. [Update: Turns out you can buy it separately…at the mere cost of $25USD].

Feature Comparisons:

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(Above left to right: Garmin RTL510, Cycliq Fly6 CE, See.Sense ACE, Bontrager ION 200 RT)

Smart lights are becoming more and more common, with numerous players in the industry making them – and most all of them are using open standards to communicate.  For example: Bontrager, Garmin, See.Sense, and Cycliq all use the ANT+ lighting standard to allow lights to be controlled from any ANT+ capable unit that implements the profile.

But while each company adheres to the specification, each company also has differences in what they have as overall features.  For example, Garmin’s lights tend to fall on the bigger and brighter end of the spectrum (and more costly), whereas the latest Bontrager and See.Sense units are smaller and more affordable.  Of course, Bontrager also makes the bigger lights as part of the Pro series too.  See.Sense has far more connected phone tricks as well, such as theft detection and sending data to urban planners. Then you’ve got Cycliq, which makes the combination bike light and camera units, the Fly6 CE/Fly12 CE series.  And lastly, Garmin also makes a combo – theirs being the combination radar and bike light, the RT510.

Here’s a quick comparison chart I whipped up with the main offerings from each company.  When you get into battery modes things get kinda crazy, so I tried to simplify here into the max battery life for solid and blinking (most companies have numerous modes for each).

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Perhaps down the road I’ll create a new product comparison database category…but today is not that day.

Ultimately, like most product categories, it’s really going to come down to what your specific riding conditions are and what you value most.  If you’re riding darker routes, then the Bontrager Ion Pro or Garmin series is probably a better bet.  Whereas if you’re more in city conditions, then the smaller Bontrager or See.Sense units probably make more sense.

Wrap-up:

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The thing about connected bike lights is that they’re easy to make fun of.  People will simply say ‘Just press the button on, stupid’.  And sure, that’s an option.  But if you bike commute every day in the early morning or evening hours, there will undoubtedly be days you simply forget to do that – especially the rear taillight that you wouldn’t likely notice immediately (or days when your brain isn’t fully caffeinated).  These products aim to eliminate that safety risk.

Additionally, as Bontrager points out – they really want folks using these smaller lights as daytime running lights, just like cars do.  In blinking modes, these lights get really solid battery life – far longer than your head unit does.  The idea that you can just start your Garmin and these lights automatically turn on when you press that button (and turn off afterwards), is definitely safety-focused (even if you think it’s silly).

I don’t really have any major complaints here with the new units except the confusing naming scheme – I really like them technically, and I suspect I’ll pick up a set to keep on my bike.  About the only downside that I found is that while the default Garmin app generally works OK with the units, you can’t seemingly set an entire light formation to stay solid-on from the control panel, only individual lights if you separate them out.  The Bontrager Connect IQ app solves this though, so it’s rather minor.

Ultimately – for the $59 each price point, these finally fit the bill from Bontrager. They bring them to a price point slightly cheaper than the existing See.Sense ICON+ lights (albeit with less features), and with a Trek distribution network that hopefully makes them easier for folks to pick up and make themselves more visible.

With that – thanks for reading – and feel free to drop some questions below!

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119 Comments

  1. Alex Will

    Wheres the Suunto 9 Review?

  2. Rob S.

    I have a previous version of the front light, including the previous unit;s GoPro adapter. Do you know whether the new light is compatible with the old mounting system?

    • I’ll double-check a bit later today when back at the office.

    • Peter

      Have You checked it? Thanks

    • Peter

      Any updates on this? Thanks

    • Updates yes.

      Useful updates: No.

      I actually spent about 15 minutes trying to figure out where on earth today I put the older lights in the Cave. I had cleaned up a bit upon arrival from Eurobike (when I had them with me in the DCR Eurobike RV), and at present I can’t figure out where the heck they are. I’m going to find them tomorrow, likely in the 3-5 boxes left of random ‘semi-recent’ product piles.

      But fear not, this tab with your question has been open this entire time on my browser. Sorry!

      I’m pretty sure they’re compatible, I just want to physically validate it.

    • Peter

      🙂 Ok no problem. Appreciate

    • So funny story Peter. Yesterday, while looking for an extra SD card I reached into my backpack and found a long slim object.

      Said object? The other @#$#@ light.

      It’s been in my backpack I’ve been carrying back and forth every day all this time. Grr…no wonder I couldn’t find it.

      In any event – works perfectly with the new mounts, or vice versa.

    • Peter

      Great to hear! Thank You for help

  3. Damien

    Would be great to know if there is a plan for Wahoo to make their head unit compatible with those lights.

    • People keep asking…

      Both Sigma and Stages have committed to adding it in upcoming firmware releases. Sounds like Sigma is far closer.

    • David

      Lights and radar. I’m a big Wahoo fan, but it’s really annoying that Wahoo won’t allow its products work with these things. I guess we needed a $250 fan instead.

    • Tommy

      I contacted them. They said they have no plans. Sad face

    • Kuttermax

      Very disappointing that Wahoo chooses not to support. I switched to a Wahoo Bolt last year on my road bike. It’s a great computer but since then I’ve added the new Garmin Varia rear light/radar (which is amazing), and now this Bontrager light looks like a great small front option. I’d love to get everything integrated back onto my bike computer (I’m using the separate remote display for the Varia right now), so the Bolt on my road bike may be short lived. Too bad because Wahoo has been doing a lot of other things right.

    • Eric Lamoureux

      I agree – would be nice to see Wahoo support products like this.

    • Hugo

      I second that. As a owner of a Bolt would be nice to be able to talk to smart lights.
      Surely there’ll be a day when all kinds of usefull accessories will be integrated to a head unit…

  4. simon gordon

    are the stem mount kits compatible with the older ones they did ? aka work with the old stem i have from bontrager ?

    • John

      For the integrated stem mounts (instead of the included stretchy band mounts), you’ll first need a Blendr stem, full stop.

      For a Blendr Pro stem, you’ll need a Blendr Pro Duo base (or Mono base) as pictured above.

      For a Blendr Elite stem, you’ll need one or two Blendr Elite bases (each mounts under one side of the stem faceplate).

      Be sure to check with your Trek dealer, your stem may (or may not) come with an included base/mount.

      Trek has a matrix showing which stem/base/mount combinations you might need here.

      There are also companies like Shapeways or RaceWare Direct that may be able to 3D print a custom mount. YMMV.

  5. Matt C

    How are the built in mounts for an aero seatpost and an aero basebar (handlebar) that you’d find on a modern tri bike (like a Trek Speed Concept)

    • I tried it on two aero seatposts I had around here and it worked on both of those. It wasn’t awesome-ideal, but it did stay put for the ride, even on bumpy sections.

      I don’t have any good aero basebars around here like the much newer variants that are a lot wider than mine.

  6. Joey

    When will someone come up with an unlocked, open source, head unit. Then a rider can pay 5 bucks for each ant+ or bts app.
    Or is that just a cell phone?

    • usr

      If you are hoping for getting a much cheaper base model by not footing the bill for quirky little extra features like lights control that you don’t use, think again: the company will eventually want/need to make the same amount of money, in aggregate, and only a fraction of the people who would use the feature if it was included will also be willing to pay extra. If for example the users pay for 0.25 features on average (really, the great majority simply won’t), that would mean that the base unit wouldn’t even get 2$ cheaper (sticking to your example of 5$/feature). That’s a very low price to pay for a device that does not come with artificial feature restrictions.

    • I think basically what you’re asking for is a phone.

      The problem we see with the concept of ‘using the phone as a head unit’ as a commonplace thing among athletic types, is that nobody really wants to use 12 different apps to ride their bike. Or for that matter, even two apps.

      Sure, there are obviously apps out there – but it just hasn’t really caught on. 7-10 years ago everyone said the death of Garmin head units will be because of phones on peoples bikes. But with phones getting more expensive (especially since carriers no longer subsidize costs in many places), people are even more hesitant to put phones up there. Not to mention battery life and such hasn’t really gotten any better either.

      The closest we see is the Android based head units like the Hammerhead Karoo or Sigma ROX 12, but in those cases the companies have mostly locked things up – and for good reason, the support costs of users dorking up their phone/bike computer is too high to deal with.

    • Mitch W

      DC, if Hammerhead or Sigma are using Android based head-units, is it possible (even if not likely) that these companies can create an app that has 100% of the functionality of the head unit?

      Couldn’t some enterprising app developer do that and charge $25-100 for an app with all the bells and whistles of the highest end Garmin with none of the hardware costs or development?

      I have an old phone sitting in a drawer (and I’m sure I am not the only one) as a backup. I would gladly pay for an app rather than $500 for a piece of hardware, but nothing exists that has all of the functionality of the current high-end hardware.

      Is there a limitation stopping someone like a hammerhead, Polar, or anyone else from taking their already android based code and turning it into an app?

    • Possible, technically, sure, but probably…nope.

      (Nitpickers corner: While it’s technically possible, both Hammerhead and Sigma block users for loading their own software, Hammerhead more forcefully than Sigma….but that’s a minor issue for the sake of this conversation.)

      The challenge with the ‘enterprising app developer’ bit is that Garmin has basically 10 or so years of developing bike computers. Even Wahoo has around 8 years when you count their app/head unit efforts well before the ELEMNT lineup.

      There’s a lot of real-life knowledge in these years that users don’t even realize is there. It’s the death by a thousand cuts that Hammerhead has been dealing with (Sigma less so, since they’ve been developing bike computers for a decade or so themselves). Silly thing that one person cares deeply about, but another person don’t care at all about.

      Not to mention the size of these teams are huge.

      Which isn’t to say that apps can’t do it – but the investment to become realistically viable across many different features (workouts, mapping, data collection, sensors, Strava Live Segments, 3rd party compatibility etc…) is bigger than we’ve seen any specific app do to-date. CycleMeter is probably the most full featured, and still, I virtually never hear of people in real life actually using it*.

      *I know, someone will immediately post they they use it every day, but out of all the people I meet in person…nobody has said so. Which isn’t a slant against it, it’s awesome, but adoption is very very very small in the overall market.

  7. Happy Runner

    According to the data on the box, the light is visible farther in day flash mode than in high mode despite putting out half the lumins.

    More “noticeable” maybe, as that’s subjective but “visible” is an objective term. Makes me question Bontrager’s credibility.

  8. Bertram Redmeijer

    Something completely different: have you seen this?

    link to nytimes.com

    (hope the link works).

    Bertram

  9. usr

    Even manual mode fotos of light beams, with controlled, reproducible reference settings, are “fake news” because they fail to accommodate for how the eyes adapt to brightness (quite similar to a camera on auto, just not similar enough to make comparison shots on auto meaningful)

  10. Paula

    With a silicon case to smooth over the mounting side these could readily double as a dice. Thats some really uninspired design.

    • Personally I kinda like the design – nobody even knows they’re there when not powered on. They just blend in really well on a bike (at least a black bike).

    • Vince

      I was going to ask this and I’m glad this was answered. I was about to commit to a Knog Blinder mini but would love the latest “tech” instead plus a North American support for warranty

  11. A W

    I wish someone would make a front light that was aero-ish, small, and looked good on the bike. One that I could leave on the bike permanently. Maybe it exists and I just haven’t found it yet.

    (Yes I know that a small light like this isn’t really adding much drag. I still want one that’s more streamlined)

  12. Larry Schaub

    I bought my second trek cause a car hit my first one. I was using similar lights the flarer city brand. Im not really happy with them not enough battery life. Anyways now I drive the lime green Marlin which is fun af but if you have extra bontragers could like to try them. Also not happy with theyre soft tires they wear out to fast if you talk to them could also use a back tire. Im riding at least three hours a day.

  13. BNK Racing

    I find these connected lights all too gimmicky. I bought the latest Garmin headlight because I can mount it under the head unit instead of on the bars. I paired it with my Garmin 820 to try out all the features but in reality its all useless. I ended up unpairing the devices and just use the light in the traditional sense (on/off).

    • Tyler

      Good to know.
      I was considering it, but the price is too high, and the connected features seem not that useful.

  14. Andrew

    Do the lights also have slots for zip ties? For my road bike the rubber mount is fine, but for a Cervelo tri bike (very aero seat post) I’ve had a heck of a time trying to figure out how to mount any light to my bike. Any and all suggestions welcome.

  15. Norm

    Will these work with the new Garmin Edge explore?

  16. Tyler

    I use the non-connected version of these lights on front and rear in daytime blinking mode, as dusk/dawn commuters, and on longer rural road rides, at the same times of day.
    They have great daytime and dusk/dawn visibility (of you).

    Battery life isn’t quite as advertised, and certainly don’t outlast my head unit.
    I get about 4.5 hours out of each, before the low battery indicator light comes on. Not sure if lights switch to the low power mode, like these newer ones, but I’ve never really let them fully drain, since I consider them essential for safety in my not-very-bike-friendly area.

  17. Patrick G.

    Any options to control these with a Garmin Fenix 5? I don’t use a head unit but instead link to my Fenix 5.

  18. John

    I have the Ion 800 RT and Flare RT (old one with rounded bottom pictured above) and they are excellent for be-seen visibility. If anything, the “all-day” flash mode on the Ion 800 is too bright for the trail, judging from reactions of other trail users. I would be interested in seeing a brief overview of the Ion Pro added to this review, if time permits, or at least a picture of the modes/lumens/battery life graphic.

    The form factor of the larger/brighter Ion Pro RT/Ion 800 is a bit unbalanced weight wise, so that light has a tendency to aim down over time using the included stretchy mount. FYI, there are other mounts available (at extra cost) in addition to the ones Ray highlights above.

    FWIW, I’m a huge fan of the ANT+ connectivity, set to automatically toggle the lights with the Garmin’s start/stop button. No, you don’t need it; yes, it’s a nice-to-have. The Bontrager ConnectIQ app is a must if you’re running these lights, as Ray points out.

    I also have the older (and smaller) non-connected Ion 100 R and Flare R City that I use with the custom magnetic light mounts on Bontrager’s 2018 Circuit helmet. I use these mostly in city traffic, adding set of lights higher up definitely increases be-seen visibility in traffic. I will be replacing those “City” series lights with these new Ion 200 RT and Flare RT.

  19. Eric Byers

    It doesn’t look like clever training carries this line, and I can’t really find them anyplace, any suggestions?

    • Trek sells them on their own site. I think eventually they end up on Amazon. I’m not sure if CT can sell them or not (not sure how that works exactly with Trek/Bontrager branded products).

  20. josh weiss

    Is this compatible with the 920xt?

  21. Klaus

    And for some European Countries, like Germany, a blinking Backlight will not be possible, because not allowed. That’s why Garmin must sell a RTL511 with other specifications.

    By the way, is it possible to hack RTL511 in RTL510. I think only the Firmware is different and not the Hardware.

  22. David

    I’ve been running the older (bigger) Ion 700RT and Flare for the last couple of years.I didn’t even know my front light WAS a connected device until I got my Garmin 935, and it asked about “forming a network”. Anyway, a lot of my rides during the week start in the dark and end in daylight, and the front light automatically turns on at full power and somehow knows when it’s light enough to only be needed for visibility and again automatically turns to blinking to conserve battery life.

    It seems like a simple thing, but it is awesome to just not have to care – it just works.

    Someone asked about front lights and tri bikes, and I thought I should mention I mount mine about halfway down my left hand aero bar (the traffic side in the US) with the light hanging on the bottom out of the way. Works great, visibility is good, love it being always on.

  23. Jordan

    I have the Flare (non-connected) and Ion 800 (I think – could be the 700). To use the 800 with my Barfly, I bought the Helmet Mount Kit (link to trekbikes.com) because it includes the piece you need for the Go Pro mount and was much cheaper than the various Blendr/Stem kit. I still wish I could have just bought the one piece, but this at least did exactly what I needed it to.

  24. Robert

    Apart from size and price what are the differences between the old and new Flare RT Rear Bike Lights?

  25. Karim

    RayAnybody,
    I am looking for a new rear light and live in NYC and ride a lot in/outside the city in PA, NJ, NY etc. and am looking for a light that would be great in the city as well as in more rural areas — dont think I want or need the radar, like the concept of a rear camera (as I was hit from behind while biking in PA on rural road which would be helpful with police) but above all I want a light I can use in nyc and somehting that will make me more visible in the country….what would you suggest as the best of all worlds (and I have a Giant TCR SL so an areo seat post). Thoughts? Any long term follow up reviews of the Cycliq? Thanks.

  26. Antoine

    That framing mount adapter is available separately : link to trekbikes.com

  27. Larry

    You say, “GoPro mount adapters have pretty much become the universal standard for mounting stuff on your bike, especially cameras and lights (Cycliq and Garmin both use them), and they’re found on almost all out-front mounts these days.”.

    What your day is true for GoPro & Garmin Virb, but not for Garmin Varia. Although the Garmin Varia attachment looks like GoPro, it’s subtly different. The spacing of the Varia mount parts is slightly narrower than GoPro or even Garmin’s own Virb. A Varia will be loose in a standard GoPro/Virb mount and fitting a GoPro/Virb into a Varia mount will be so tight it stretches the mount. It’s maddening that Garmin made the Varia to appear like the GoPro standard, but it’s not quite the same.

  28. Pablo

    Curious if using at night and connected to a head unit that randomly shuts down. Will it power off my light leaving me in the dark….. maybe buttons for power off are better?

    • John

      @Pablo: You can manually cycle through the different light modes or even turn the light off while connected. You can also override the manual setting from the ConnectIQ app. Basically, the most recent input is what takes effect.

  29. Tommy

    I had the old RT set. I had to return it for safety reasons. It kept disconnecting with no warning and both lights would shut off. Not great when it’s pitch black on a busy road. One time I had to walk my bike back home as they would not reconnect.

    Technology is great, but dumb lights are more reliable.

  30. Eli

    Side visibility? Seems like these are aimed straight forward or straight back. Light and motion has LEDs aimed to the side and See Sense uses the optics of the plastic to send light out the sides. The old Flare seemed to do the same trick as See Sense and had side amber LEDs but seems like this doesn’t from your pics.

    I kind of disagree with you about photos being useless. Yes you need to be in full manual mode which most cameras don’t do and true, it won’t be a good shot to see how one individual light will look. But its great at comparing two different lights and see how they compare relative to each other

    • Mike Richie

      Ray mentions the 450 RT above, and calls it clunky, but seems fine to me. It appears to have side lighting, 450 lumens for 1.5 hours (good enough for trails) as well as 100 lumens for 6 hours and day flash for 10 hours. It is only $10 more expensive, I’m not sure why this isn’t a better overall option, it’s still pretty small. Maybe Ray can compare this to the 200 RT and the larger Pro.

    • Adam

      My 450 RT is achieving only 6 hours in day flash mode. Tested many times :/ – and always 6 hours (4,5 hours to “low energy” mode)

    • Brian Harris

      There is a teeny tiny amount of side visibility. But it’s not much honestly. That would be my biggest knock on these. Otherwise, I really like them so far.

  31. Kevin

    I have sort of a meta comment about how Trek is marketing these. On their website they listed only LBSes. In abstract concept I like the idea of supporting my LBS, so I thought “great – I’ll call the nearest LBS on Trek’s list and ask them if they will be getting these in.”

    The first two LBSes I asked said “no, we don’t know if we will be stocking these, but if you want we can special order them for you.” I said great, what do I need to do – “well, you need to come by the store and we’ll do a credit card charge and then when it comes in we’ll call you so you can pick it up.”

    Um. No thanks. I’ll just wait until I can get them through the internet delivered to my house without two car trips.

    • Yeah…thus the challenge with how bike shops (in particular, manufacturer driven ones) figure out their purpose in life in 2018.

      I’d like to think they’d do things like free fast shipping to the nearest Trek store (perhaps they do), or such. Of course, most internet retailers offer free shipping these days anyway.

  32. Peter

    As far as I can see adapter GoPro style adapter is available for 19.99$ :

    link to trekbikes.com

    • Ahh, interesting, so the other link someone sent now that I look closely appears to be in Canadian dollars ($24.99) versus USD ($19.99). Still expensive for what should really be a $9 part (retail), but hey…at least it’s there.

  33. Tim

    I have an Ion 800 RT and Flare RT on my home bike. My local Trek dealer sold me the little piece (GoPro adapter) to connect the Ion 800 RT under my K-Edge XL combo. The lights both link to my Garmin Edge 1000 with little to no set-up and simply work automatically. In fact, when I was out riding a gravel road and rode into a dark tunnel, the Ion 800RT switched from daytime flash to steady when it sensed the drop in lighting. I just wanted to add my brief experience with this line of lights. I’ll likely buy another set for my other bike that lives away from home.

  34. joan r.

    Any idea why the CIQ app does not work on a 520? It is a shame they don’t support the most used bike computer.

    • Without digging into it, I suspect because the way Bontrager created the CIQ app, it requires touch (to touch the various ‘buttons’), and thus lacks a way to do it via physical buttons.

  35. nalc

    Is there a battery life associated with having them in “standby” mode waiting for a signal from the head unit to turn on? My understanding of ANT+/BTLE is that they would require some amount of power just to be waiting and listening for the signal to power on. Turning on and off automatically is cool, but will a few days of sitting there not being used run out the batteries?

    • Lee Weikert

      Leaving the older Flare RT in auto (Ant+) control mode takes a serious hit to the battery for me. I Commute 6 miles and I can only get one day (2 rides) of use on the Flare RT (older gen). It sits there waiting for the command to turn on and won’t last for more than one day. Maybe Bontrager has fixed this in the new Flare RT? Other concern is there is no clear indication you have put it into “off” mode versus Ant controlled off mode when using the button. Love the light and the integration just not happy with battery life when in auto (Ant+) mode for commuting.

    • Jason Fraser

      Lee….same problem with these ones. Leaving the lights in standby (blue flashing light waiting to wake up) destroys the battery life.
      After a couple of days they only have a minimal charge left (DC Rainmaker, I think this is an important point you miss in your review).

      I have no idea why Bontrager can’t get this right. You can leave the Garmin lights and rear radar (the new rear radar is an awesome piece of kit) for days and with minimal battery impact.

      I love the form factor / weight of the new Bontrager lights, but the Ant+ connectivity is all but useless given the rapid battery depletion in standby mode.

    • Mateo Manzari

      I was curious about the same drain. Here’s the reply from Bontrager:

      Thanks for reaching out to us here at Trek!

      We have found the small flashing blue light that indicates wireless connectivity utilizes less than 1% of battery life for the light unit so it will not deplete the life of your battery significantly between charges when not in use.

      If you have any further questions regarding your lights, feel free to give us a call at 1-800-585-8735.

  36. Scott Kirkpatrick

    Got a Flare R which I picked up
    late last year. It’s been outstanding so far and very bright. I run it mainly as a daytime running light most of the time and at night as well and I can tell I am being seen in the various flash modes. What has peaked my interest is the new Flare RT specs which show it has a 90 lumen day flash (my flare R is 65 lumens). I’m not complaining about my existing light but Im certainly curious how they compare to each other real world. Any comments on this?

  37. Chris Furner

    Love it. I keep having issues with my Fly6CE and I have basically given up on getting support. I will be looking for these at my local shop.

  38. Chris Horsfield

    There is a lot of stuff fighting for seat post space on a bike. We need someone to develop a really solid mount for the seat stays. You really need more than one light running at night at the rear. One should be a flasher and one solid as its easier to judge distance to a solid light. One should be a focused beam visible over a km back and one a spreading beam visible from a wide angle (eg a Flare Pro). You should aim to be as visible a motorbike.

    Chris

  39. Marcos

    I couldn’t find those anywhere…

  40. Peter

    One thing which confuse me…

    Will it be possible to mount ION 200 RT upside down under Garmin computer mount?

    I already have K-edge Combo mount and Bontrager ‘gopro’ style mount for ION .
    I wonder if I will be able to mount the ION 200 RT like gopro session here:

    link to k-edge.com

  41. Scott D

    Ray,

    I just got the new rear light yesterday and I really like it. One question based on your review that I can’t seem to figure out. I have downloaded the Bontrager Connect App to my Garmin 1000. You indicate “It’s easy to access as well anytime via swiping down from the top – just like you would access the weather.” however all i seem to be able to do is create a whole new data screen that I have to scroll to. Am I missing something? The use of a full data screen seems a bit of a waste but I do like the Bontrager interface better than the Garmin Light Network page.

    BTW thanks again for answering my Q on twitter about the 4iii vs Watteam power meters. I just got the 4iii and did my first ride on it today and I think it will be perfect for what I need!!

  42. Marcos Saad

    Ok. Tks.

    I needed an online store.

    Regards

    • Scott D

      Marcos, I believe they are also available now on the Trek website 🙂

      Scott

    • Marcos Saad

      I live in Brazil and Trek doesn’t allow shipping to Brazil neither to an US address using a brazilian credit card …
      Specialized does the same …

  43. Norm Beland

    Finally got the lights and Edge explore. Paired the lights no problem but the one thing I cannot find is the Bontrager light control app. Is that specific to the 1030? Thanks!

    • Adam

      You can download it from Garmin Connect IQ Store. Example direct link: link to apps.garmin.com

    • Norm

      Edge explore is not compatible with the Bontrager light control app. Just got off the phone with Trek and they verified that the edge explore is not supported. Total bummer. Thought I had a good easy setup for the wife.

    • I’ll poke them to get it on the compatible list. It’s a simple checkbox, and given it’s listed as compatible with past Explore editions, I imagine this is merely an oversight with it being a new release.

    • Circling back on the Edge Explore – they’re on it.

      Apparently the screen resolution of the Edge Explore is very slightly different than the Edge 1030, and thus they need to tweak their app UI a tiny bit to make sure it fits right. They say it’s in progress.

    • Brian

      phew. I was halfway tempted to take my edge explore back. I’ll just sit tight then instead.

  44. Jon Rubel

    Ray..

    Can the rear light mount to a saddle bag? I have the original flare RT and it included a clip for bag mounting

  45. Michael

    I’m desperately trying to get these in Germany without any success.
    A number of dealers told me, that there is a lot of interest in the lights, but they’re not allowed to sell them due to the missing StVZO compliance.

    Really frustrating as I do not see any comparable options regarding size and features. Thought about See.Sense Icon+ but dislike the form factor.

    • cafeburger

      Just orderd mine on mantel.com, shipping to germany was fast. The bundle is not available, but the single front and rear DRL. Above that, bought separately was cheaper than buying the set.

      In germany there is the “Bontrager Blendr XXX Mount – Ion Halterung “hoch” (gopro mount) available for just 4,90€. but you have to pay attantion to the mount orientation on the back of the ion 200RT. It is rotated 90°. So you have to use it tilted with no position lights on the left and right or you have to buy an additional adapter for a few cents.

  46. Graham Wynde

    Hi Ray – great review, thanks. I note that one of your observations is “…one very distinct downside to this setup is that if you’re on the trainer indoors the lights will automatically turn-on”.

    Well I’m pretty useless at finessing the set up these types of things but have found that the profiles on my Garmin Edge 820 retains specific light settings so the ‘Indoor’ profile automatically turns off the lights I don’t even remember setting this us, I think it ‘just knew’. Not sure if it was an added benefit of the IQ app. In fact, I switch the 820 to ‘Indoor’ before recharging it to stop the most boring disco in the universe effect from kicking off…

  47. Stuart

    I have an aero seat post would the rear mount fit as I am having problems finding a decent light for the rear.
    Thanks

  48. Ben OBrien

    Has anyone tested the integrated light sensor? According the the Bontrager website both units have the following feature.
    “The integrated light sensor auto-adjusts brightness to your environment”

  49. Peter Popp

    If the Ion 200 can be set to turn on when you start the timer or power up your Garmin, does it shut off when you stop the timer/power down?

  50. Giovanni

    The blue light in standy (Ant+ mode) destroy the battery. Is it normal? Is there a way to turn OFF completely ?

    • Peter

      According the manual, yes. “With the light off, press and hold the power button for 15 seconds. The main LED will flash once at 8 seconds, and again at 15 seconds. Release the button after the second flash.”

  51. Peter

    Here’s of a picture of my Ion 200 installation, mounted below my Garmin 520. The wide-angle lens on my iPhone makes the light look bigger than it actually is. The whole setup than the photos show.

    This mount required the K-Edge GoPro adaptor, and the Bontrager High Ion light mount (that’s what they call the over-priced plastic piece referenced above).

    • cafeburger

      I got the same result with no k-edge gopro adaptor. mine was just 3€ from ebay and works fine. bontrager mount is also just 4,90€. so the setup is quite cheap.

  52. Tommy

    Can anyone testify if the “auto deceleration” option pictured actually works with the bontrager rear light?

    Also has anyone used the new Ion Pro RT 1300 lumen light? Would be great if Ray reviewed that too.

  53. Patrick Foley

    Any idea if Garmin is going to update the Fenix 5x software to enable light control? Right now it seems like only the EDGE computers support light control.

  54. Adam

    Tactix Charlie (a version of Fenix 5X) is able to form a light network and control the lights (exactly like 1030). The only “miss” is dedicated control widget. Which IMO in fact could be rather not easy to use (even dangerous) during riding a bike.

  55. Sigs

    Here’s the issue I have with the headlight. I recently purchased both the ion rt front and flare r tail. Normally I’m using the solid in lower light side streets and I want the blink mode when I need or want to be seen asap. The sequence is out of order. It takes 4 clicks to cycle through for that emergency flash. That’s way too slow when someone’s about to pull out infront of you. It should of been programed or the option to program the order. Solid one click to bright flash.

  56. Giles

    Hmmm… They don’t seem to be available from amazon in the UK so I can’t give Ray the clicks…