Review: Oculus Bike Headlight

Oculus bike headlight by Barry BeamsThe Oculus bike headlight from lighting startup Barry Beams LLC is a rechargeable bicycle headlight suitable for handlebars or helmets. The light features 5 brightness settings plus 6 pulsing patterns. For those of a technical mindset, the pulsing patters are actually also programmable via specific combinations of the control button.

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In the words of Barry Beams founder Barry Burr, the Oculus is “all about the optics.” The focused beam pattern is comprised of two light beams across the bottom illuminating the path in a wider angle, with a third beam focused slightly above that illuminates the path ahead.

The light is completely self-contained, without the need to run wires to a remote battery pack mounted elsewhere. While we are accustomed to this with handlebar mounted lights, 1500 lumens is up in the range where many manufactures rely on remote battery packs.

The claimed battery life fully charged is over an hour at the brightest, 1500 lumen range. That scales up to 10 hours for the second brightest setting, to an incredible 56 hours at the lowest setting. (Note: At the time of publication, no in-house tests of battery life have yet been completed.) As expected, lower power gives you greater battery life.

Oculus bike headlight by Barry BeamsThe light features a removable 3.6v, 4500mAh battery, and ships with a spare battery as well. This standard format battery offers the potential to use third-party chargers, as well as additional batteries for longer touring excursions. However, as shipped the only means of charging are using the included wall adapter plugged directly into the light itself.

As we would expect, the Oculus bike headlight is constructed to be both weather and dust resistant, with an IP5 rating for both. This was put to the test during the 2013 Race Across America (RAAM), when the company sponsored Team Lake Placid in the annual event.

Side Lighting, Oculus by Barry Beams
Side Lighting, Oculus by Barry Beams

Side lighting, Night Owl 200
Side lighting, Night Owl 200

The Oculus bike headlight is a bit heavy at about 1/2 lbs – heavy compared to lights with no where near the brightness that is. However, given the open format of the battery used the option of swapping in a lower amperage battery for less weight is doable. In fact, Barry Burr demonstrated an adapter sleeve he is working on to accomplish exactly that when I met him to pick up the evaluation unit.

Reference: Night Owl 200, High Setting
Reference: Night Owl 200, High Setting

Oculus, Setting 1 (lowest)
Oculus, Setting 1 (lowest)

Reference: Night Owl 200, High Setting
Reference: Night Owl 200, High Setting

Oculus, Setting 2
Oculus, Setting 2

Reference: Night Owl 200, High Setting
Reference: Night Owl 200, High Setting

Oculus, Setting 3
Oculus, Setting 3

Reference: Night Owl 200, High Setting
Reference: Night Owl 200, High Setting

Oculus, Setting 4
Oculus, Setting 4

Reference: Night Owl 200, High Setting
Reference: Night Owl 200, High Setting

Oculus, Setting 5 (Brightest)
Oculus, Setting 5 (Brightest)

Mounting is via a velcro strap attached to a rotating mount point. It is the mounting that is somewhat unique to this light – there is no rubberized friction coating on the inside of the mount. As shipped, the light itself will not stay in place on the bars. In fact, I was unable to keep it in place even on a rubberized bar wrap.

However, the product accounts for this with the inclusion of a silicon rubber tape that is intended to be wrapped around the bars at the mount point. This, in combination with a nice firm pull on the velcro strap, does the job of keeping the light angled where you want it, while still allowing for slight adjustments from the saddle while riding.

Coulus bike headlight on EloiseThe left-right angle of the Oculus bike headlight is always adjustable, with a reasonable stiff – but not too stiff – friction mount. In fact, the rotating mount is ideal for those that prefer to mount the light on the helmet. Optionally, if your stem is level or slightly downward angled you could conceivably mount this light on your stem instead of the bars. You would of course be giving up the adjustability of the up/down beam angle by doing so. This ended up being what worked best for our Touring bike project Eloise, which happened to have a downward sloped quill stem.

Beam angle is something that you do need to be conscious of with this light. At 1500 lumens you are well into car headlight brightness range, and blinding other drivers is something to be earnestly concerned about.

Turning the light on and off was, at first, a little confusing. It requires a series of presses and holds to select either the solid beam or pulsing patterns. However, after a couple of time this turned out to be pretty easy to understand. In solid mode, a single click will increase the brightness. If you are already in the brightest setting, a click will flash the light once. I’m not sure if this was intentional, but I actually found myself using this when approaching intersections as a way to alert drivers that I was coming. I’ve always preferred the solid beam when riding at night, but the ability to flash the light with the click of a button was a feature I would have never thought to ask for.

Turning the light off simply involves holding the button as it cycles down through the brightness settings. This is also how you “step down” off of the brightest settings to less light output. Single button presses also intuitively cycle through different pulsing patters when you have it set to be blinky.

Our overall assessment of this light was quite positive. The touring / commuter applications seemed pretty obvious right away.

Quality 4 of 5 stars The Oculus bike headlight feels solid and durable. As mentioned below, this has now become our go-to light for touring and commuting.
Price 5 of 5 stars The retail price of $209.95 is a bit pricy for a handlebar mounted light in general but actually on the lower end for lights of this brightness.
General Usability 4 of 5 stars The single button controls seemed confusing at first, but quickly became second nature. The mounting mechanism is probably the only complaint about this light. The need to apply tape to the bars of the bikes you want to mount it on was only slightly annoying.
Style RatingsThreeStars VeloReviews has yet to give a style rating greater than 3 for any bike light. This light will seem a bit large and stark for your aero-bars on your road bike, but right at home on your commuter or touring bike.
Overall 4 of 5 stars While there is something of a “do-it-yourself” feel to this product, the Oculus bike headlight performs admirably. This has now become our favorite go-to commuter and touring light.