- Long battery life; recharges quickly with micro USB
- Extremely bright for day- or nighttime riding
- 5 settings, including daytime flash
- Fast/easy removal of light from handlebar mount
- Small size takes up minimal handlebar real estate
- Syncs with select Garmin devices
- Optional Transmitr for wireless control
- Silicon handlebar mount requires no tools to install
- Neither Bontrager nor Garmin had a pairing instruction manual for the light
How Obtained: sample from company
Availability: Online and retail
RBR Sponsor: No
Tested: 50+ hours
- 800 Lumens
- Features a CREE® LED
- USB Rechargeable
- Fits handlebar sizes from 22.2 to 35mm
Capable Compact Headlight with Wireless Control
I’ve had a Bontrager Flare R tail light ever since it came out a couple of years ago. I bought it because it can be seen from 2 km away in bright daylight and it was USB rechargeable. So I’m familiar with the quality of lights from Bontrager. When the company recently announced the new ION 800 RT headlight, I put it on my wish list to test.
I had been looking for a new headlight because I wanted to do more nighttime trail riding. The lights I already had just were not bright enough, nor would they last the whole ride. As I read more about the ION 800 RT, the more I wanted to test Bontrager’s claims for the lights. Even the guys at my bike shop sang its praises.
Pick the Right Setting for Conditions
The ION 800 RT features a high-powered CREE® LED for very bright illumination. The focused optics and 270 degrees of visibility allows you to see more of what’s ahead of you while riding. There are 5 different settings, including a daytime flash mode. During testing it was rare that I needed the full 800 Lumens, but it was nice to have at the ready when I did.
Bontrager specs show the battery life as follows, but in my testing, the light lasted even longer. It never died on a ride. A built-in LED indicator light glows green for a full charge and switches to red when battery recharge is needed – so you can easily know when it’s a good idea to “power down” to a lower output mode to save battery life if necessary.
|800 Lumens||1.5 hrs|
|450 Lumens||3 hrs|
|200 Lumens||6 hrs|
|Night flash||20 hrs|
|Day flash||20 hrs|
The daylight setting is visible from over 1.5 km, allowing the rider to be seen easily by a driver. This is key since 80% of cycling collisions occur during the day. Using a daytime running light reduces collisions and is why they’ve been incorporated into cars and motorcycles. So why not on your bicycle?
Wireless Control via Transmitr ANT+ or Garmin
You can control this light wirelessly using an optional Transmitr ANT+ remote (additional $49.99) or by using select Garmin devices. The Transmitr (see photo) wireless remote can control up to 7 Transmitr-ready devices and attaches to the handlebars. You can use the Transmitr or select Garmin units to turn the light on/off, select the mode, view real time light battery status and more.
One interesting use of the Transmitr is to pair with multiple Flare RT rear lights for turn-signal configuration. The remote uses a common CR 2032 battery. Since it is not in constant use, the battery life is fairly long.
Pair with Your Garmin Unit
If you already own a Garmin Edge 1000, 820 or 520, you don’t need to buy the Transmitr. The light is easily paired for wireless control and battery status. You can also use older models like the 510 or 810 with a plug-in update. Since I have an Edge 800, I solicited my boyfriend to do the testing for this feature. Before handing it over to him, I was frustrated to find out that neither Garmin nor Bontrager had a manual on syncing or using the light with the Garmin head unit. It’s probably because Garmin has their own line of lights called Varia™.
So we just winged it. It turned out to be quite easy and fast to sync the units.
Once the light was synced, the Garmin can be set to manual or auto mode to turn on/off the light. In auto mode, if you are riding in daylight the Garmin automatically turns the light on, and sets it to daylight flashing. If the Garmin detects low or no light – for example, you are riding into a tunnel, underpass or the sun sets – the light automatically turns itself on to solid light. This functionality is feeding off the Garmin sensor that automatically turns on the night backlight feature.
Not having to fuss with your head or taillights, and having them adapt automatically to changing conditions, is very useful. It’s just set it and forget it. I also like that you don’t have to guess how much battery life you have left, it’s all there on the display.
Nice and Secure Handlebar Bracket
I’m used to attaching my headlights with a clip-on bracket for easy on and off, allowing me to quickly swap it to another bike. With the ION 800 RT bracket’s silicon strap, there are no tools needed. You simply stretch the silicon strap around the handlebar and over the hook for a very secure installation.
I own four bikes, so I’ll often swap both the taillight and headlight from one to another. I do worry that over time the silicon strap could fatigue and break. (I’ve known it to happen on cycling friends’ devices that utilize similar straps.) So I bought an additional mount (SyncV2) for $6.99. Now, I easily move the light from one bike to the other by only moving the light and not the bracket, too. The bracket fits a variety of handlebar sizes from 22.2 to 35mm. I have two road bikes, a fat tire and cross bike. The bracket fits perfectly on all four.
I do like the slide mount Bontrager uses on the handlebar bracket. It securely, yet easily locks and unlocks the headlight. I never had an issue with the light falling off on a bumpy trail. This has been an issue with other brands of lights I own.
Note: Another optional product is a Blendr mount for a clean integrated light mount with Bontrager Blendr stems.
If you can get excited about a headlight for day and night use, this could be the one for you. Bright, high visibility, long battery life, and 270 degrees of visibility make the Bontrager ION 800 RT a winner in my book. Add the ability to pair with your Garmin Edge 1000, 820, 520 (810 and 510 with plug-in) or Bontrager Transmitr and you’ve got one sweet wireless lighting system.
Sheri Rosenbaum regularly contributes articles and reviews products for RBR. She’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Chicago area and a major advocate for women's cycling, serving on the board of directors and volunteering with the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Click to read Sheri's full bio.