Karma Evo Bicycle Light Review

The Karma Evo is an awesome LED light with an included lithium-ion battery made by Sigma; a Germany based brand who make bicycle lights, computers and watches. And boy, are they good.

This light performed superbly for the three main types of riding that I’ve tested it under; commuting, cross, and technical off-road riding.

The Evo’s Packaging

I love the way that Sigma have packaged the Karma Evo. It is presented in a bright red box with clear details about the power, features and what is included printed on the outside. Inside, the lithium-ion battery and light unit are displayed by being embedded into cardboard. On the inner lid, more detailed specifications and colour pictures of it in action are displayed. This is great for first impressions and also very effective in a retail-based environment.

What’s in the box

  • The Karma Evo unit
  • The lithium-ion battery pack
  • Various cable ties with attachments to route the cable
  • An adjustable helmet mount
  • Battery mount
  • A charger for the battery (two-pronged European fit)
  • An extender lead

Not in the box

  • The handlebar mount, this is sold separately

Aesthetics of the Karma Evo

The Karma Evo has a striking, raw, dark grey appearance. From the front elevation, the Evo is a squircle (yeah, that’s really a shape). And it is so small, just 70g; it fits into the palm of your hand. It is so small and dark that from behind, I found it hard to see the Evo attached to my bars; this gave me a magical feeling momentarily that my bike was producing its own light.

The Karma Evo’s Build Quality

Sigma haven’t skimped on the built quality of the Karma Evo in any way. The housing is made from aluminium and is sealed to be watertight. The weight of the light at 70g gives it solid, but light feeling.

The single cable coming out of the light unit is tightly sealed and is resistant to wobbling which will increase the life of the connection. This then leads to a shielded female connector; also connected well. The use of a connector here and not just a direct line to the Lithium-Ion battery unit allows you to use the included cable extender; a brilliant design choice. Out of the battery pack comes a similar lead, also well sealed into the unit but with a male connector.

The aluminum that the light is housed in feels very strong, not flexing in the slightest when pressured by hand. This light is so solid that I feel like I could drop it out of an aeroplane and it’d still be working after impact. This is due to both it being solidly built and it using an LED which is solid state and has no easily broken parts. I didn’t test this, so don’t try it.

Karma Evo Bike Light

From examining Sigma’s 3D drawing of the Evo cut in half, available on their website, and playing with the light in the flesh; I believe that the components are built outside of the aluminium housing and screwed in when built. A sturdy construction technique, but the 6 small circular points which would have been used to screw it in have very minute imperfections in the red anodizing.

The Technology behind the Evo

To make such a small yet bright little light, you are going to have to fit some advanced lighting technology into a palm-sized object. That’s no easy feat. This is how they did it.

The Karma Evo outputs 320 lumens on its highest light setting, on this setting it lights up to 250 feet (80m) ahead of you. That’s more than a quarter of a kilometre. This is even more impressive in real life than it is on metaphorical paper.

The lens is cleverly engineered to illuminate far ahead, up close and also laterally; all without adjusting or focusing the Evo, leaving you with both hands firmly on the bars and brakes.

The LED is single-chip, giving the light a higher burn time and theoretically a more focused light versus clusters.

The Karma Evo’s thermal management is super effective and also clever. Heat is directed backwards away from the LED, back and onto the cooling fins which offer a larger surface area for the heat to dissipate. On a two-hour ride with it on its highest lumen setting, the Evo barely felt warm. The 1ºC temperature outside would have had an impact on this, though.

Behind the large glove-operable button is a battery indicator light: this changes colour depending on the percentage of the battery’s charge.

To power all of this, the Karma Evo comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery unit. Lithium-ion batteries generally have an 8% monthly self-discharge rate at 21ºC. They are also relatively environmentally friendly in the EU, with a battery recycling law that requires vendors to reclaim at least 25% of the batteries they manufacture and sell.

The Karma Evo in the Wild

Going into this review, I knew what I wanted from the Karma Evo:

Reliability

When you’re in the middle of a dark forest, potentially going down a technical descent, you’re not going to want your light to cut out. That could get nasty. Similarly, when you’re on the road, you want to be as visible as possible. Especially in the lanes.

How it fared:

Over the three charges and 20 hours I’ve spent riding with the Evo, I’ve not had it cut out or even fade slightly. This is through considerable knocks and variations in gravitational force through drops and jumps.

Durability

None of us want to buy a new light every few months, and durability also fits into reliability.

How it fared:

I wiped out with the light mounted to my bars, this was off-road and involved a hard knock to the bars, but yet it was still riding bright.

Brightness

If you are going to lose your scotopic vision for the sake of a light, it better do a good job. I’ve been in some sticky situations previously involving being off road and not being able to see an obstacle that lay at the bottom of a sharp descent due to my light not having the range.

How it fared:

With up to a 320 lumen output and 260 ft (80m) range, the Evo is jaw-droppingly bright. Because of its brightness and lens structure, the light also bounces off of objects which reduces the harshness of shadows and increases visibility.

Longevity

Being restricted by how much light you have sucks.

How it fared:

The included lithium-ion battery offers 4-24 hours of battery life between charges, and this is doubled by their larger battery which is sold separately.

Operation

Preventing you from accidentally turning it off or on, the Evo only turns on with a double click of the button and off by holding the button down.

Modes

The Karma Evo has 4 modes, energy saving, standard power, power mode and flashing. With a burn time of 4, 6, 12 and 24 hours respectively.

Mounting

The Karma Evo is extremely versatile in ways that you can mount it, it is supplied with the helmet mount and also a battery mount and a handlebar mount is sold separately. Personally, I mount the light onto my helmet and route the cable down the back of my helmet with an included cable tie, with the cable extender, and have the battery attached to my CamelBak using the included battery mount.

Karma Evo Bike Light

When I’m not using this setup, I have it attached to my handlebars with the battery on my top tube.

Conclusion

Through the 20+ hours I’ve spent with the Karma Evo so far, it has got muddy, wet, been knocked about and been operated with the thick leather gloves by Black that I reviewed earlier. This is the brightest and most solid bicycle light that I’ve ever used and I highly recommend it. Found around the £145 mark, this light isn’t the most expensive by far, but still costs a fair chunk of cash. But when it’s a choice between getting a reliable, bright light and coming off your bike and going splat, pay £145. Buy the Karma Evo here.

Craig Lackie

Craig Lackie ()

Former Vice President of Previous Magazine, Clikyz and Split An Atom. Avid photographer and keen to adopt the latest technologies. Circle me on Google+.