Serfas Thunderbolt Headlight and Taillight

07 Dec

If you have not shopped for new bicycle lights in a while you will be surprised at how much things have changed in the past few years. Modern bicycle headlights are far brighter and lot less expensive than the were just five years ago. Not only are the lights brighter, but they also weigh less—and most lights now have rechargeable batteries as well. A few weeks ago the folks at Serfas sent me a pair of their new Thunderbolt USB rechargeable lights to review and if you are a commuter these lights will be of special interest to you. Thunderbolt is the name given to both the headlight and the taillight, but they are sold separately.

Serfas Thunderbolt Headlight

Serfas Thunderbolt Headlight

The Serfas Thunderbolt headlight is very compact (3.5″ long, 1″ tall, and 1.5″ wide) and provides 90 lumens of light. The light pattern is non-directional, i.e., the beam covers a wide area (just the opposite of a spotlight). The Thunderbolt headlight has a silicone body and is highly water-resistant, as well as being extremely lightweight (just 50 grams). There are four light settings available: high beam, low beam, high blink and low blink. You should be able to get about 90 minutes of use in the high beam with a fully charged battery. However, cold weather negatively impacts all batteries—when the temperature drops below freezing don’t expect a full 90 minutes of use. The high blink mode is what I used the most and was able to consistently get almost four hours of use per charge (Serfas only claims 3.5 hours). The headlight can be seen from a mile away, but at 90-lumens it is intended for commuters, not mountain bikers.

Both the headlight and taillight attach to your bike with a pair of silicon mounting straps (included) and should fit most bikes. These lights attach quickly—a trained monkey could do it in under five seconds. If you use the lights to get to work you are going to love this feature!

The best part about these lights is that they are USB rechargeable. Using the included USB cord you can charge these lights by plugging them into your computer (I used the wall charger for my iPhone instead). If you buy both a headlight and a taillight you will have two USB cords—you could leave one at your office and the other at your house so you can recharge the lights at either place.

Serfas Thunderbolt Taillight

Serfas Thunderbolt Taillight

The Serfas Thunderbolt taillight quickly became one of my favorite taillights! At 35 lumens it outshines most of the taillights you will find at your local bike shop, and since it is USB rechargeable you will never have to buy batteries for it. The taillight is primarily designed to attach to your seatpost (3″ of exposed post required), but you could also mount it on your seat stays. Like the headlight, the taillight has four operating modes (high beam, low beam, high blink and low blink). I never run taillights in the high beam setting—I believe the blinking mode makes it a lot easier for motorists to see you. In the high blink mode this light runs for three hours on a full charge.

As I mentioned earlier, the Thunderbolt lights are not designed for mountain bikers. However, Serfas has a wide selection of other lights available, including their brand new TSL-1500+ (1500 lumens of light with a three hour run time).

The Serfas Thunderbolt headlight and taillight retail for $45 each and are available in seven different body colors (Black, White, Red, Blue, Pink, Green, Yellow). You should be able to buy this light at any bike shop—if they don’t have it in stock they can order it for you. These lights are also available from and many other online retailers.


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27 responses to “Serfas Thunderbolt Headlight and Taillight

  1. baileyaj

    December 7, 2012 at 8:54 AM

    Thanks for the recommendation. Having commuted regularly in the dark (no street lights either) having good lights is essential.

    On high blink mode for the headlight were you able to see obstructions on the road like rocks… or would you run two in the front one to be seen and the other to see?

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      December 7, 2012 at 9:47 AM

      Riding in town at night I can see fairly well without a light — I use the headlight in blink mode so other people can see me. When I ride off-road I always use two very powerful headlights — one on the handlebar and the other on my helmet.

  2. the drunken cyclist

    December 7, 2012 at 9:24 AM

    Just got the Nite Rider Lumina 650. Live it. You are so right–much brighter and cheaper than before.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      December 7, 2012 at 9:48 AM

      I remember paying about $400 about ten years ago for a headlight that is not nearly as bright as the one I reviewed today. And ten years ago you couldn’t even buy the 1,000 lumen lights I use off-road.

  3. Jeff Katzer

    December 7, 2012 at 10:10 AM

    Thanks for the great report. I’ll have a look at these lights.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      December 7, 2012 at 1:42 PM

      Please let me know what you think of them after you’ve tried them out.

  4. Irish Katie

    December 7, 2012 at 5:12 PM

    Oh wow…I love these…I love the look and the minimalist space it takes. I am going to take a look at my bike store for these when I get back.

    On the tail light…you mentioned it could be placed on the chain stays…are you talking the frame’s rear wheel down tube? I think its about half the diameter of the seat post….would the silicon straps work to hold it there?

    Wow…I really like the look of those….along with my super duper cybolight on my helmet (the one you recommended) … I will be good for night rides.

    (On a side note, I keep the cygolight charged on my counter…when I have to go into the yard at night I use that…it is smaller than a flashlight…and it totally lights the WHOLE area up. I LOVE that light.)

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      December 7, 2012 at 5:35 PM

      The chain stay is the same things as the “rear wheel down tube” and the Serfas light will fit there — the silicon strap is easy to adjust.

      • Irish Katie

        December 7, 2012 at 5:38 PM

        YES!!!! …. Okay …when I get back from vacation I will so look for these…nods…thank you again!

  5. sedge808

    December 7, 2012 at 7:10 PM

    How cool.

  6. MikeW

    December 7, 2012 at 10:43 PM

    Bro-in-law’s a triathlete and could definitely benefit from one of these on his road bike.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      December 8, 2012 at 4:13 PM

      These lights are great, but this particular model is more for commuters — a triathlete on the open road would probably need a stronger light so he doesn’t “outrun his light” (I presume he is fairly fast if he is a triathlete).

      • MikeW

        December 8, 2012 at 7:18 PM

        Oh that’s a good point. I’m glad you pointed that out. I get around on my feet mostly and have never taken to cycling even though I’ve always been inspired by Breaking Away, the Tours, and an IMAX movie I saw once called Wired To Win. I’ve done more mountain biking than road cycling.

        • All Seasons Cyclist

          December 8, 2012 at 8:52 PM

          OK, now I have to see “Wired To Win” — maybe I can find it on DVD (most IMAX movies make there anyway).

        • MikeW

          December 9, 2012 at 10:53 AM

          There’s a bit salt-grain to add to the Lance Armstrong sequences, but program’s focus is how the brain works during such a race, and in coping with falls, injuries or traumas. How the brain can rewire itself to win.

  7. deepsspace

    December 10, 2012 at 6:58 PM

    This would have come in useful the time I went mountain biking in the woods at night and fell into the river

  8. Tom

    December 11, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    I just bought the headlight, and I have to say I rather dislike it. I Usually use a planet bike light that I like a lot, but after the mounting bracket got stolen off the bike twice in one week, I figured I should go for this one and ditch the mounting bracket. It seemed like a good choice at first, but I’ve grown to dislike it.

    My biggest issue is the flash rate. As a bike commuter, the major reason that I have a front light is so that cars can see me when I an paying through in intersection or overtaking a car that might be contemplating a turn. In this situation, you need to be seen in the quarter of a second that most drivers take to check their rear view mirrors or look along am intersection. This light is off for about 3/4 of a second in its flash cycle. In order for a flashing light to really be effective, in needs to blink much more rapidly. In my opinion, the flash mode on this light is useless.

    I have found that the batteries last for a much shorter period than advertised. The high beam only lasts for about an hour, and the low beam maybe four. This means that I need to charge the light every day, which is a bit annoying, and makes the light useless for tours, where your light needs to last for eight to ten hours in the case of inclement weather.

    the attachment system is less then ideal too. Yes, there are alot of places to put it, but the only way I have found to get it to shine horizontally takes up valuable real estate on my handlebars. I guess that positioning doesn’t need to be ideal because of the broad beam, but it is sort of annoying.

    I vastly prefer a planet bike half watt LED. The light may not be quite as bright, but it takes up much less handlebar space, has a strobe light like flash rate, and the batteries last for a good forty hours straight, I would guess.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      December 11, 2012 at 5:07 PM

      Sorry you didn’t like the light! As you know, no single light is going to suit everyone. I agree with you about the blinking pattern — I wish it were faster myself. As for the attachment system — it was perfect on three of my bikes, just OK on another, and wouldn’t fit at all on the fifth. As for battery life — that might just be a matter of temperature — I had very good luck with it. Like I said twice in the article, this light is for commuters, not mountain bikers. Most commuters travel less than an hour each way and this light would work well for them. When I ride off-road I use a total of 2,000 lumens of light (I’ve been told it looks like aircraft landing lights when you are heading towards me).

  9. Anita Mac

    December 14, 2012 at 11:57 AM

    Love the USB recharge feature! Lights are coming a long way. That headlight looks brilliant (pardon the pun!). Could be good for night hikes to the cabin too.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      December 14, 2012 at 3:23 PM

      It’s funny, but I often use one of my bicycle headlights out in my backyard (usually when looking for something we left outside).

  10. Marcus

    January 19, 2013 at 3:47 PM

    I think you’re confusing seat stays and chain stays.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      January 19, 2013 at 9:42 PM

      Marcus — thank you so much! I really do know the difference, but I must have have chain stays on my mind from another review. I just made the correction — thanks again.

  11. Bici Love

    March 19, 2013 at 10:06 PM

    Like the slim look, different colours, and the brightness. Was wondering do they clip off at all, I am worried about it getting stolen

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      March 19, 2013 at 10:08 PM

      They won’t fall off, but you can remove them in just a few seconds.

  12. JPD

    May 25, 2014 at 8:53 PM

    I completely agree with your review. Realize I am over a year late in commenting; but was just visiting your page. I bought both the tail light and head light, and use them even on cloudy days when cycling through roadways that may be shaded. There is no missing these lights (I hope anyway).

    Great Blog


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