Weighing a startlingly svelte 195g and packing a commendable 660 lumens, the Silva Trail Speed Elite front light is a compact, versatile lamp that can be worn around the head for running, trekking or other outdoor pursuits, on your helmet in conjunction with a more powerful handlebar mounted light for off-road riding, or on your bars for road riding.
Given the astonishing firepower that can be had for a handful of notes these days, it's easy to dismiss a 660-lumen system for over two hundred quid as overpriced and outclassed.
Having put Silva's Pavé light through its paces last season, I was slightly sceptical that an additional 110 lumens justified spending an extra fifty quid.
Superficially the Trail Speed Elite and Pavé units are uncannily similar. Both have a diminutive fossil-shaped lamp unit that hosts the switch, circuitry and two LEDs.
'Intelligent light' is Silva's way of saying flood and spot beams run simultaneously in all but the lowest (flashing) setting. One provides an overview and the the other picks out the detail. The combination maximises the effectiveness of every last lumen and explains how the Trail Speed Elite easily trumped lights with much bigger numbers.
Hustling along through winding rural backwaters at 30mph has been a joy with ample warning of lumps, bumps and bad tempered badgers. It's still slightly underpowered for serious trail antics, but there's enough clout for moderate bridle path and green lanes to around 18mph.
Helmet mounted systems can get very hot, which has implications, not only for diode longevity but lid-life too. Thankfully the aluminium shell has remained temperate, even after ninety minutes with all guns blazing. Its IPX6 rating for water-resistance means it'll stand being being hosed down; ours survived an undignified dunk during some shallow river crossings. The cabling is similarly tough, although it's not very long; I've tucked its battery under my stem when I've mounted it on the bike.
'Minimum' setting sounds comparatively mute but delivers sufficient wallop for moderately paced semi-rural saunters, while sitting the right side of aggressive through city limits. Flashing mode is similarly potent and will kick in by default when the battery reserves dwindle. Combined with the more generous run time that should mean all but the most cavalier will avoid complete system shutdown. The batteries seem to be interchangeable between Silva models, extending playtime quite considerably if you have a couple.
Summing up, this is another great little system for longer commutes, mountain biking and training but nomadic types and endurance riders are, in my opinion better served by the latest generation of high power dynamo systems.
Innovative, versatile system with remarkable output—highly recommended for commuting, mountain biking and training.
The light comparator
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road.cc test report
Make and model: SIlva Trial Speed Elite - Front Light
Size tested: Black, Front light - not tested
Tell us what the light is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
"The lamp unit is aluminum for optimal cooling. Two high power LEDs provide you with Silva Intelligent Light® – light where you need it. An external rechargeable battery pack that can be attached to the extra wide headband, to a belt or placed in the pocket of your running jacket or rucksack, ensures you have enough power for your evening or early morning exercise. Trail Speed Elite has a large on/off button that is easy to operate even when wearing gloves. Included attachments enables the user to mount the headlamp on a helmet or on a bike handlebar."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the light?
Light modes Max, Min, Wide, Blink
Batteries/type 2,5Ah 7,4V Li-ion
Discharge time (Max/Min/Wide/Blink) 2h 30min/10h/10h/20h
Light distance 90m
Weight (excl. Batteries) 50g
Bulb type 2x High power LED
Beam pattern: Intelligent Light®
Light®AttachmentHeadband, Bike, HelmetMaterialABS/PC/AluminiumBattery indicationYes (low bat warning flash)Carging time3h
2hrs 23 in top, 9hrs 47 min and 19.52 in flashing, which is pretty favourable from a full 2hr charge
Tell us how the light performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall I've been delighted by the Trail Elite's build and quality of output, which trumps many designs boasting much bigger numbers. However, even allowing for superior economy, run times favour training and trail duties, rather than dusk 'till dawn stuff.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the light
Impressive output quality, excellent build and intelligent, user-friendly design.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the light
Connecting cable length could've been more generous.
Did you enjoy using the light? Yes.
Would you consider buying the light? Yes.
Would you recommend the light to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
Age: 40 Height: 1m 81 Weight: 70 kilos
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)