Bike Headlight Review: Cygolite Expilion 680

By | March 25, 2014

Last fall, I had grand plans of bike commuting throughout the winter, weather permitting.  Seattle winter days are short.  My last night bike commutes, I had employed zip ties and a small LED Maglite.  I do like my Maglite, but it is not up to the task of nighttime cycling illumination.  A friend/mechanic at ( my local bike shop) recommended the Cygolite Expilion 680.

The Cygolite Expilion 680 is
a nice looking, compact powerful
headlight.

Well now spring is in the air.   I did not commute as much as I would have liked this winter, but I did get enough miles in to review the Cygolite Expilion 680.  Here is a quick rundown of  its features:

  • USB charging via Mini-B Plug
  • Quick release bar mounting.
  • Replaceable Internal Lithium-ion battery
  • (5) Settings as follows:
    1. Medium (350 Lumen) 3 Hours.
    2. High (500 Lumen) 2 Hours 15 Minutes.
    3. Boost (680 Lumen) 1 Hour 15 Minutes.
    4. Low (120 Lumen) 9 Hours.
    5. SteadsyPulse 4 Hours.
    6. Day Flash 22 Hours. (Available on newer models)
    7. Walking 38 Hours. (Available on newer models)
    8. SOS 38 Hours. (Available on newer models)
The GOOD!
My typical commute includes some urban riding and some dark, spooky, isolated trails.  I prefer not to use the flashing light feature.  As a driver, I find them distracting and disorienting.  In urban settings I use the low setting for visibility.  During the darker portions of my ride, the medium setting is plenty to light my way.  The Cygolite Expilion 680 is durable and the charge lasts a LONG time using the lower settings like I do.
Back of the light.  The plug meant
to protest the USB Plug is gone.
The BAD…
The case is well made and durable, however the same cannot be said of the Rubber portions of the Cygolite Expilion 680.  The first time I took the Cygolite Expilion 680 out of the box, the plug that keeps water out of the USB port fell off.  It was a pain to put back on.  It has since been lost.  This is annoying and would likely be a serious issues if I rode regularly in wet conditions.  On a recent ride, the rubber power button fell out while I was changing a flat tire.  I was lucky to be able to find it and put it back.  However, these issues could easily destroy the light in damp conditions.  Another complaint about the Cygolite Expilion 680 is the power settings.  When you turn on the light, you get the Medium setting, then High, Boost, Low and SteadyPulse.  To turn off the light, hold the power button down for 2 seconds.  It is a huge pain in the neck to go between the Low and Medium settings.  The Cygolite Expilion 680 clamps to a 25.4-32mm handlebar.  This does not fit any of the three bikes I own.  I had to rig something up with electrical tape and foam rubber to mount it to my bike’s handlebar.
Conclusion.
I really like the Cygolite Expilion 680.  It meets all of my needs for my commute, has great battery life and is easy to charge.  It is mostly well made, but I now worry about losing the power button and water getting into the electronics.  The power settings are frustrating.  I also wish the mounting hardware was more flexible and accommodating.   The Cygolite Expilion 680 does everything I need, but if I were in the market for a bike light, I would consider other options.

Top of the Cygolite Expilion 680.
The power button fell out on a
recent ride.  I worry it will happen
again.

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