- 4.5 / 5 Bee's Knees -
It’s interesting to witness the progression of ideas developed by bright-eyed enthusiasts who put a spin on products that have gone relatively unchanged for years. In the case of bike lights, you’d likely agree that we’re past the stage where any advancements can really be considered "revolutionary" or "ground-breaking" as a certain tech giant is known for touting...over and over again. Trek, or more specifically Bontrager, has jumped on stage with their first go at a substantial-output light and claims "there's no better light on the market.” To go from zero to outright best seems like an improbable feat but let’s give the new 2014 Ion 700 a look and see what we’ve got here.
We can dive into specifics in just a bit, but first let me start out by saying what an impressive little package the Ion 700 is. After unboxing the light for the first time, I was struck by its small size. In the unboxing video I estimated that the Ion was likely smaller than the popular Urban line by L&M and in fact it is slightly more compact after comparing the two side by side. Is there much of an advantage gained by this minute difference in size? Well no, but compared to most other lights on the market, the Ion takes on some long standing rivals right out of the gate.
Part of the hype behind this light revolves around the use of focused optics and clear lens. By avoiding the use of diffuser lens, Trek hopes to maximize light transmission and put 100% of the output on the road or path ahead. If there is anything about the Ion that is incredibly pleasing, it would definitely be the optics. On High or Med, 3 distinctive areas of focus graduate from the center with a hugely generous spot, confident mid-flood and massively wide full flood. In Low or Flash, the 3 areas are less noticeable and appear as 2. Even when compared to the Urban series, the Ion has possibly the largest flood of any single emitter light I’ve tested or owned. In addition, the center spot is also among the largest I've seen. For all of these reasons, I find the beam pattern to be phenomenal although the Low setting is less confident than other lights…but still usable. While I won’t rave about the output claiming dear god it’s the brightest thing out there, you gotta get this!, I will say the claims are justified. Because the hue is a little green or even blue, I don’t feel like your eye perceives as much output compared to lights that are a truer white. Regardless, you won’t critique this unless you have other lights lined up to directly compare it against.
A world-class light deserves a world-class mount. For the Ion 700, the implementation of a silicone strap style mount was executed better than most manufactures. The silicone mounts that produce a jittery experience on Serfas’s True 750 or Knog’s Arc 5.5 make the Ion seem rather exceptional. However, compared to the more stable mounts used by L&M and especially Cateye, there is something to be desired with the Ion as some shaking is still present, all-be-it somewhat minimal. That being said, there are exciting prospects for other options in the near future. Bontrager is beginning to apply integrated mounts within select helmets and also on select stems. This mount style has taken on the name "Blendr" as Trek is increasingly integrating all aspects of the bike into a more seamless design to reduce weight and master simplicity--a move I love! Getting back to the stock mount known as "SyncV2," this guy does offer an indexed angle adjustment but I gladly sacrificed this feature after tightening up the screw to reduce as much shaking as possible.
Like few lights on the market, the Ion features lit side windows to promote greater visibility. Preferences will be formed here but it is worth mentioning that these redish-amber colored tabs are much more subtle than those found on the Urban series. If you look directly at the side of the light, these windows are noticeable but they don’t cast much light and therefore they don’t illuminate your bikes cockpit as some do. Overall operation of the light is excellent. Every design element is well executed and intuitive operation was clearly a priority in development.
No sense in dancing around it, when a company touts their product is the best, my expectations for excellence are set very high. So, this begs the question: is this the best bike light the world has ever known? The best, I think not. Among the best? Likely yes. Without hesitation, given the price point of the Ion 700, there is no other light I’d recommend for the price...period. Again, the included mount is the best execution of a silicone style design I’ve seen, but solid mounts still reign supreme. However, with more options coming down the pipe, I believe the Ion 700 could go from being a great choice to possibly the best…at least in an overall sense of features and value.