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Home Get smarter Review Fenix BC21R: USB rechargeable bicycle light with a maximum light output of 880 lumens

Review

Fenix BC21R: USB rechargeable bicycle light with a maximum light output of 880 lumens

We have an exciting new arrival: the first Fenix product of 2016, the Fenix BC21R bicycle light. The R stands for rechargeable: this light has a handy (USB) charging function, making it an attractive option for frequent users. The upgraded mounting system and the option of side markings also pique curiosity: what can this bike light do? Let's take a closer look!

The latest model in the Fenix bicycle light series, the Fenix BC21R
Thoughtful and user-friendly design

Fenix BC21R specifications

The BC21R emits up to 880 lumens of neutral white light. By comparison: this is about the same as a quality lamp from the smaller middle class, such as the Fenix PD32-2016. Because you don't usually need 880 lumens on your bike on a daily basis, and your battery would run out quickly on this mode, you can also choose from three lower modes. It also features a flashing mode (which makes you more visible).

For the exact details, please refer to the knivesandtools product description, where this is all explained nice and clearly. Another addition here: As standard, the BC21R comes with a battery that has a capacity of 2300 mAh. Want more endurance? Then it could be worth ordering a battery like this battery.

Packaging

The BC21 is jammed into a compact cardboard box that can be opened along its long side. It is handy and well thought out: there are notches in the protective foam padding so you can store the lamp and the parts in an organised manner. To save space, Fenix has rolled up the instruction manual with the spare parts in between.  This could have been a bit neater. The box is complete, the only thing missing is a charger. Since almost any USB output is suitable and the package does come with a cable, charging won't cause any problems. In short, this complete package means you can basically start using your light straight away!

With these contents, you can get started straight away!

First impressions

The design looks contemporary and the Fenix BC21R makes a fresh impression compared to Fenix's previous bicycle lights. Because the lamp is a bit longer as well as narrower, it can also be used as a flashlight. The outer housing is made of plastic, which is very rarely the case for flashlights. Although this doesn't detract much from the general construction quality, it does make the BC21R more prone to getting scratches and it looks a bit cheaper. Fortunately it all feels solid, without any cracks or imperfections. The advantage of this structure is its low weight; you'll hardly feel the BC21R when it's mounted on your handlebars. The finish is also top quality: a great example of this is the USB connection, which can be double sealed to guarantee watertightness. On the inside of the lamp, we see some solder and glue residues - Fenix could pay some extra attention to this. When you look into the head of the light (with “shutters” at the top), you can see a clean reflector and a perfectly positioned LED. The plastic cap is in good order and the screw thread (which, incidentally, hasn't been greased) runs smoothly. Greasing is harmless and improves the lifespan. On the top is the lamp switch, which, thanks to its somewhat rigid structure, is easy to find in the dark. And, since the material used for it glows in the dark, you really can't miss it. In summary, we can say that the Fenix BC21R's construction is all in good order! You'll find various accompanying photos below.

A fresh design with distinctive details. Everything in its place, with a high quality finish. Note the “shutters” here
The micro-USB port is hidden at the bottom of the light
And protected from water by a double seal
Comes with a 2300 mAh battery as standard
The inside of the cap looks neat except for some solder
A look inside the battery compartment. Some (glue) residue here as well

How to use the Fenix BC21R

The BC21R is a compact bicycle light with an emphasis on convenience. That's why the lamp is designed such that mounting and removing the lamp takes almost zero effort. You actually have two options for mounting it: you can leave the holder attached to the light and mount it with the rubber tie, or you can slide the lamp onto the holder, which you then leave on your handlebar. Naturally, option two is more susceptible to theft, while with option one, you run the risk of losing the rubber. Fortunately, a spare rubber band is included. I actually always go for option one: remove the lamp and the holder, and leave the rubber mounting on the holder. This literally takes seconds; I've never been able to (dis)mount a bicycle lamp faster than the Fenix BC21R. Pure class! A carry pouch (for sunglasses, for instance) would be a great idea for keeping everything together neatly.

Mounting the holder only takes seconds; you then slide the BC21R into the holder
Mounting and removing the holder and lamp also works great

Charging the Fenix BC21R

Charging is child's play. The Fenix comes with a USB cable that allows you to charge the Fenix BC21R via the port of your computer, car radio or powerbank. But your mobile phone charger with a micro-USB port will also work well, and will often work a bit faster. Most people won't have to search for long to find a suitable charger. While charging, the power button lights up red; green means that the battery is fully charged. With an average phone charger, charging takes 1 to 2 hours.

After a short click on the switch, the red side lights will light up. This shows you the battery's current charge, so that in theory (with some calculations) you can figure out how much longer you can keep going on each mode. If the lights shine constantly, you're above 60%, a slow flash means 20-60%, and a fast flash means you should recharge as soon as possible. A handy function, although experience has taught us that you can't really rely on the last 20%. So make sure to charge it in time!

The side marking also shows the battery's charge level

To switch the BC21 on or off, press and hold the switch for a couple of seconds. You then click through the five modes. You can only “upshift” - it's not possible to downshift like on the BC30R. It's a simple, effective system; it really can't go wrong. Having said that, upshifting and downshifting does work really well on the BC30R... But because you don't have to continuously change the light mode while you're cycling, this is fine to work with. It remains to be said that what I'm missing on this Fenix is a really low mode. Besides the fact that a low mode allows you to go further with one battery charge in case of emergency, it can also be used as a beacon. Think of it like the “parking light” that cars have. A tip for Fenix!

Comparison to other lights

To give you a sense of its shape, we'll set the Fenix BC21R alongside its bigger brother the Fenix BC30R and the compact Fenix E35UE, a flashlight with roughly the same light output.

The E35UE, BC30R and BC21R next to each other on the bike rack

Light features

As seen previously, the upper part of the lens is partially concealed with slats or shutters. These ensure that the top part of the beam is projected downwards. This gives you greater visibility at a short distance, and reduces the dazzling light scatter. You can easily test this yourself on a wall: when you put your finger on the top part, the bottom part of the profile will be shielded. When we shine the BC21R on a white wall, you can see from the light beam that this system has been applied: the profile and hotspot are flattened at the top, and you discover an extra beam at the bottom. The fairly shallow reflector creates a large hotspot and relatively little residual light (spill). This makes the beam most suitable for roughly 50 metres. You have a nice, wide light beam while cycling, and the neutral white colour provides natural and pleasant light. The countryside in particular is where the Fenix BC21R really shows you what it's capable of: it's as if you have a (small) car headlight at your disposal! This means you can feel safe taking a dark forest path without knowing exactly where you're riding. A tip: adjust the beam of the BC21R carefully, because despite the dual beam system, it is definitely possible to dazzle oncoming traffic if the lamp is not properly adjusted. So always angle the beam towards the road, not straight ahead.

The BC21R has a significantly more neutral tone and a “flattened” profile compared to the E35UE

Fenix BC21R beamshots

Time to get practical! We will use photos to examine and compare the light features of the BC21R. Let's start indoors, with the BC21R shining on a white wall. The photo below shows the BC21R on its maximum mode. Here too you can clearly see the influence of the slats in the top. This is a typical profile for wide and even light at a (somewhat) shorter distance.

A wide hotspot with evenly distributed residual light around it

And now we'll see how the BC21R fares on a bike in the dark. I opened the shutter of the camera a little longer (4 seconds) so that the photos give a better picture of what you would see in real life. Below are the BC21R's four light intensities.

Low mode
Medium mode
High mode
Turbo mode

Below is a photo of the Fenix E35UE on maximum mode. You can clearly see that the BC21R illuminates the road much more widely and evenly, even though the total outputs barely differ from each other.

For comparison: the Fenix E35UE on the highest mode

The BC30R actually has two BC21R heads. This results in an even wider beam and even more impressive output.

The “double” Fenix BC30R in action on the highest mode

Conclusion

I can actually put it quite succinctly: It doesn't get much more straightforward or effective than this (in terms of use)! The BC21R can be mounted and dismounted in an instant, charging is easy, and the controls couldn't be simpler. The construction quality and finish also hit the mark (despite the plastic used). The red LEDS on the side increase visibility, but I don't think they add any significant value. Do you want to be more visible in heavy traffic? Then opt for the flashing mode.

As is almost always the case, some wishes remain unfulfilled. The most important, in my opinion, are the addition of an extra low mode, and a carry pouch to carry the lamp and parts in your jacket pocket or in a backpack. Hopefully we'll also see the two button controls of the BC30R again in the future...

As a motorist, I have to deal with poorly lit or unlit bicycles almost every day, so I definitely want more road users to use a quality light like this one. It is truly a worthwhile investment! With the BC21R, you won't be easily overlooked!