Exposure Strada Mk11 SB AKTiv front light review – Front Light – Lights

The Exposure Strada Mk11 SB AKTiv is a road-specific light with a mode that senses oncoming traffic and dims itself accordingly.

It has largely impressed in testing, and is certainly a premium product. Although designed for the road, the consistent quality of the 1,600-lumen beam is enough for occasional off-road outings too.

However, a high asking price and a complicated program system mean there are arguably more cost-effective and easy-to-use lights available.

Exposure Strada Mk11 SB AKTiv specifications and details

The light’s body has a premium feel.
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The Exposure Strada Mk11 SB AKTiv is claimed to be the brand’s top-of-the-range light for road cyclists.

It features a ‘road-specific beam pattern’, which combines a wide-angled beam for lower-level peripheral vision and a spotlight beam for longer views down the road.

When engaged, the AKTiv technology takes the form of a built-in sensor, which is able to detect light sources ahead.

Unlike some auto-sensing lights, the function can be switched off if required.

The Strada Mk11 can put out a claimed 1,600 lumens, and has a plethora of modes and settings accessible via the single power button on the back of the unit.

The underside of the light body itself reveals eight function programmes, each with two or three power settings that use the two beams in different combinations.

There’s also a daytime flash mode, plus an SOS setting. A wired remote is supplied, which can also be used to activate and control the light.

A wired remote is supplied.
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Exposure includes a display on the back (common on many of the brand’s high-end lights) to show remaining battery life, complete with colored LEDs that change depending on the mode selected.

The integrated battery is claimed to be able to run for two hours on full beam, and is charged using Exposure’s own fast charger, rather than micro-USB or USB-C.

Whether that matters to you will depend on your appetite for having proprietary charging cables that can get lost or tie you to charging the light from one place.

The bracket is an alloy affair to match the premium construction of the Strada’s barrel-like body. It’s slim to save on handlebar space, but with a pull-to-release mechanism to lock the light in place.

The light can be mounted upside down without affecting the beam pattern.

To this end, there’s a sensor inside the body to detect its orientation, so the back display automatically adjusts to read the correct way up.

Exposure Strada Mk11 SB AKTiv performance

The Strada has a ‘road-specific’ beam pattern.
Russell Burton / Our Media

Setting up the Exposure Strada was my least favorite thing about it: it isn’t particularly intuitive.

While neat when set up, when fitting the bracket there are five separate pieces that need to be held together with one hand while you fasten the Allen key bolt with the other.

Happily, once in place you don’t need to touch it again because the light body is separate.

It attaches and detaches easily by sliding into place – you just need to pull the sprung fastening bolt to release or lock it in place.

It appears to be a small point of contact, but proved to be very secure in testing.

The small foot on the base of my test unit (the part that clips onto the bracket to secure the light) worked loose over the course of a few rides. I found that I needed to tighten it from time to time, but that’s easy to do with an Allen key.

Otherwise, the Strada Mk11 is a beautifully made light. The overall finish is excellent and I really like the look and feel of the circulating fins, which are, Exposure claims, designed to dissipate heat.

Given that this is an all-in-one unit with such a neat design, I was surprised the remote isn’t wireless. However, it’s a neat and reliable connection, using the same port as for charging.

Power modes are easily cycled through using the button on the rear. A display lights up showing what mode you’re in and the battery life left. I know how, so simple.

Sadly, the different programmes, each of which offer different output modes, can only be selected by using the same button, and only when the light is off.

Maximum output is a claimed 1,600 lumens.
Russell Burton / Our Media

You need to press and hold the button to engage the program selection function (you’re assisted by the display on the back), then cycle through to the one you want. You also switch the AKTiv mode on and off in this way too.

Because you can’t do this with the light switched on, this means you select the programme, then need to switch the light on to see if it’s suitable for your needs. If it isn’t, you need to switch it off and try again.

When you’ve selected a programme, you can toggle through the output modes within it with repeated presses of the button.

Put simply, it’s not a user-friendly solution and would benefit from the capability to use Exposure’s SYNC V2 app, which enables customization of a selection of its enabled lights. Unfortunately, the Strada Mk11 SB AKTiv isn’t one of them.

On the road, AKTiv mode really makes a positive impression. When you’re in high beam, it can detect an oncoming light and automatically dim your beam. It works identically to automatic car headlight functions.

The integrated battery charges via Exposure’s own cable.
Russell Burton / Our Media

It comes into its own on quiet unlit roads, where only occasionally passing cars might not prompt a courteous switch into low beam.

To be clear, this is not the cut-off pattern of an StVZO-compliant light. Instead, it dims and reduces the reach of the spotlight beam to be less dazzling to other road users.

The beam itself gives a full clean light with consistent coverage and no holes. It has good peripheral reach and fades gradually to the edges with no harsh contrast to dark.

It has been designed for road use, but the clarity, output and even spread of the beam meant I was happy to use the Strada Mk11 on a mix of gravel and road routes.

The sides of the light body are also usefully cut away, boosting side visibility at junctions.

Despite the quality of the light’s beam, construction and design, you need to be prepared to pay a premium £335 price tag.

The slim alloy bracket features a pull-to-release mechanism.
Russell Burton / Our Media

Exposure in general has a well-earned reputation for creating high-quality lights with useful technology that performs well in use (and this is a very good example), but anyone looking for the best bang-for-buck option is likely to find more appealing lights elsewhere.

While auto-dipping beams are a useful feature, the Trek Commuter Pro RT, which is similar in its high/low beam approach (but with a manual switch to toggle between beams), comes in at around half the cost.

Our buyer’s guide to the best bike lights also showcases plenty of other options that may offer better value for money, but there’s no denying the Exposure light’s high-end quality.

Exposure Strada Mk11 SB AKTiv bottom line

The Strada’s performance is top-tier.
Russell Burton / Our Media

The Exposure Strada Mk11 SB AKTiv is a great-quality light, offering the convenience and benefit of auto-sensor dimming.

It has enough reach and peripheral visibility to be able to extend its use for riders who want to add in some gravel riding or less technical off-road riding, too.

If performance were the only measure of success, the Strada Mk11 would likely be one of the best single-unit front bike lights money can buy.

However, there are certainly better bang-for-buck deals to be had. The Strada is also slightly hobbled by a frustratingly complicated programming system.

That said, the Strada Mk11 SB AKTiv is an excellent bike light for committed night-riding road cyclists and commuters.

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