Sparse Bike Lights Review

I commute by bike year-round, and for the past 365, I’ve been using Sparse bike lights on my everyday steed. The lights have proven to be sleek by day and safe by night, while standing up to the wear and tear of a bike that’s called upon in all conditions.

Sparse lights on the author’s bike. Photo courtesy of Lucas Winzenburg

Sparse lights ($139.99) are the most hassle-free setup I’ve ever used; they’re there when I need them and I forget about them during the day.

Both lights integrate seamlessly onto the bike. The front light replaces a spacer beneath the stem, which keeps it pointed in your path of travel and visible above the shoulder line of cars, while being too much hassle for any would-be thief. The light fits both 1” and 1 1/8” steer tubes, though it isn’t compatible with center-pull brakes.

Sparse front light

The rear light slips over and clamps onto your seat post (fits 26.0mm-31.9mm). Opportunistic thieves are deterred again, with no way of getting to the light without removing the seat post.

I fastened the lights on a year ago, and haven’t had a second thought about them going anywhere since. This might not seem all that noteworthy, but as anyone who spends enough time riding in a city can attest, lights get forgotten, lost and stolen at a grim rate. The peace of mind knowing that your lights are always securely attached to your bike is a luxury.

Sparse rear light

With lights intended for 24/7 use, the Bay Area-based creators of Sparse put painstaking detail into the aesthetic of the die-cast zinc lights, achieving a truly commendable blend of form and function. Not only do they physically integrate onto the bike, but they look damn good in the process. The front light, especially, is ridiculously sleek. The lights come in matte black, brushed chrome and gloss white.

During the first few months of riding with the lights, compliments abounded, though I found myself needing to explain to friends what they actually were. Considering that many bike lights tend towards visual clutter, I took any questions as compliments.

Sparse lights charging up

The lights hold a charge for eight hours on flash mode and four hours on steady after a year of near daily use. They ship with a 6-foot micro-USB cable and a region-specific wall-adapter, so there’s no need to remove the lights to charge.

The front light throws off 200 lumens, and the rear packs 100. They’re of the “be-seen” variety, as opposed to lumen cannons like Light & Motion’s Urban line that light-up the entire block. In addition to the front and back projection, each light gives off side visibility unmatched by anything else I’ve come across at the price point.

On the topic of price: as mentioned earlier, the lights retail for $139.99 for the pair. This may be over budget for causal riders, but for anyone who regularly rides in the dark, the simplicity and dependability of Sparse lights makes them money well-spent.


-Patrick Murphy

Patrick Murphy

Patrick is a writer based in Boston with a penchant for life on two wheels and sleeping outside.