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Category Archives: Bicycle Lighting

Reviews of bicycle lights, taillights, flashers and reflectors

Orp Smart Horn: The Most Anticipated Cycling Product Of The Year

Orp Smart Horn (Smorn)

Orp Smart Horn (Smorn)

What does an inventor do when they have a great idea for a new product but lack the funding to bring it to market? Many inventors turn to Kickstarter, a website where they can promote their idea and seek financial backers. Sometimes the backers donate money just because they think the project is worthwhile and other times they contribute enough to earn a few perks (anything from decals or a copy of the finished product, and all the way up to a trip to the manufacturing plant). Over the past few years I’ve helped back several projects that had to do with cycling, but the one I have anticipated the most is the new Orp Smart Horn.

Orp Smart Horn (Smorn)

Orp Smart Horn (Smorn)

The Orp Smart Horn {Smorn} is a “combination dual tone, high-decibel bike horn and front beacon light designed to make you more visible and hearable.” While the Orp is not in distribution yet, the specs for this item are fantastic! The Orp is smaller than almost any other bicycle light on the market, and the horn is louder than any bike bell could ever dream of being. The horn is activated by touching an ergonomic switch on the back of the device (the Wail Tail) and you can choose from either a friendly chirp (76 decibels) or a loud ear-splitting alert (96 decibels). The light on the Orp has 87 lumens and operates in several modes, including Slow Strobe, Fast Strobe, and Constant On. This product is also incredibly compact and lightweight (only 89 grams).

The Orp is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion power cell and should last from 6 to 12 hours, depending on the settings you choose to use. This battery recharges with a USB cable—which means you can just plug it into your computer to recharge it (great for commuters).

The suggested list price for the Orp Smart Horn is only $65 and it will be available in seven colors (Glorp, Aorta Red, Snot Green, Frostbyte, Safety Cone Orange, Wail Blue, and Asphalt Black).

 

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Nite Ize SaddleLight LED Bike Bag (Product Review and Giveaway)

Every once in a while I come across a new bicycle product and my first though is, “Why didn’t someone think of this before?” That is exactly the way I felt when the folks at Nite Ize sent me one of their new SaddleLight LED Bike Bags for review. This product combines a weather-resistant bicycle saddle bag, a bright red LED taillight and plenty of reflective piping—and then they threw in a gear tie to make this bag incredibly easy to install.

Nite Ize SaddleLight LED Saddle Bag

Nite Ize SaddleLight LED Saddle Bag

The Nite Ize SaddleLight LED Bike Bag is made from a water-resistant fabric—this fabric is also UV resistant so it will not suffer damage due to exposure to the sun. This bag only comes in one size—I would call it a medium-sized bag (I own several saddle bags and this bag is neither the largest or smallest). The bag measures 3.6″ H x 3.3″ W x 7.4″ D (91mm x 83mm x 188mm), and weighs just 3.3 ounces (94 grams). This bag is big enough to hold a spare inner tube, patch kit and a couple of CO2 cartridges. There is also a small interior mesh pocket which serves as a great place to keep your cash. If you ever have to dig into this bag in a low-light situation you are going to appreciate the bag’s bright white interior—it makes it so much easier to find things!

Bright Red LED Taillight

Bright Red LED Taillight

Sewn into the back of this bag is a bright red LED taillight that runs on a pair of 2016 3V lithium batteries (one pair included with purchase). This light has both a “constant on” and a flashing mode. You should be able to get about 20 hours of use in the “constant on” mode and a few hours more in the flashing mode. Please be aware that cold weather has a negative impact on battery life.

Reflective Trim On The Nite Ize SaddleLight Bag

Reflective Trim On The Nite Ize SaddleLight Bag

The sides of this bag are outlined with a thick strip of passive reflective trim. Since I spend a lot of time riding at night or in low-light situations I always appreciate reflective elements being incorporated into my cycling gear. Light bulbs burn out, batteries die and mounting brackets break—but reflective piping will always be there! This bag attaches under your saddle rails with a hook and loop strap and to your seat post with a re-useable Gear Tie Rubber Twist Tie.

The Nite Ize SaddleLight LED Bike Bag retails for around $33 and is available from the Nite Ize Website. When you consider that you are really getting two products (a saddle bag and a taillight) the price seems very reasonable.

If you would like a chance to win a brand-new Nite Ize SaddleLight LED Bike Bag then leave a comment below telling me why you need this bag. The contest ends at midnight (CST) on Friday, April 19, 2013. After the contest closes I will read through the comments and choose a winner based solely on my incredibly subjective mood at the time—however, humor in your entry is highly encouraged (just keep it clean). If you don’t need this bag yourself you are free to comment on other entries. So I can remain impartial until the contest is over I will not be responding the comments. This contest is for U.S. residents only and only one entry per household allowed. I will send this product to the winner via U.S. Mail at my expense. Good luck!

 

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Serfas Thunderbolt Headlight and Taillight

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 Amazon.com and many other online retailers.

 

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Cateye TL-LD610 Rear Bicycle Light

The long days of summer have passed and a lot of us now find ourselves still out on the road when the sun has gone down. Without a good taillight it is hard for motorists to see cyclists on the road (and it doesn’t help that some cyclists ride in black gear at night). Fortunately, there are many good bicycle taillights on the market and Cateye, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of cycling products, has several great taillights and they are available at almost any bike shop in America. The Cateye LD610 Taillight is an affordable taillight that should suit the needs of most cyclists.

Cateye TL-LD610 Rear Bicycle Light

Cateye TL-LD610 Rear Bicycle Light

The Cateye LD610 Taillight has five bright LED lights and is powered by two AAA batteries. This taillight has four different operating modes (constant on, flashing, random, and side-to-side). Cateye claims the batteries will last up to 30 hours in constant mode or 60 hours in flashing mode—I have found this to be accurate in warm weather, but battery life in cold weather always suffers.

There are three things that make the Cateye LD610 worthy of your consideration. First, it has a tool-free universal bracket that should fit on just about any bike. Second, the mounting bracket allows for either horizontal or vertical mounting. Third, the side-to-side light pattern is one of the most effective light patterns I’ve seen on a taillight.

The Cateye LD610 is well-built and the batteries are easy to change (some taillights make changing batteries a real pain). I need to point out that when I ride at night I always use two taillights. Batteries die, mounting brackets break and anything attached to your bike can fall off.

The Cateye LD610 Taillight retails for $25, but it appears as though the LD610 has now been replaced by the LD650 so you might have to look for it on Amazon.com. Since I have not used the LD650 myself I can’t recommend it (yet), but after looking at the tech specs I have to believe it is even better than the LD610.

 

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Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

I enjoy riding my bike at night and as a result I have a lot of cool lights, reflectors and assorted gizmos to keep me from getting hit (I don’t use them all at the same time). This past winter I bought a pair of Trek Beacon Bar End Lights for the road bike I usually use at night and while the product looked great at the bike shop it failed to live up to its potential.

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

As the name suggests, Trek Beacon Bar End Lights are lights that slip into the ends of your handlebar, and Trek offers models for both dropbars and flatbars. The flatbar model for mountain bikes has two rear facing LEDs, while the dropbar model for road bikes only has one LED. These lights operate in either a steady or a flashing mode. These lights run on a single AAA battery (per light) and Trek claims you should be able to get 30 hours of run time per battery (I only got about 25 hours, but cold weather hurts battery life). To install these bar end lights you just have to remove the caps on both ends of your handlebars and slide the Beacon Bar End Lights into the ends of the handlebar.

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights

In my opinion, there are three main problems with these lights. First, they are not very bright—they might be good for 1,000 feet or so, but not much more. Second, on most road bikes the rider is going to be in the way and make it impossible for cars coming up behind them to see the lights (unless you are a really skinny cyclist). And third, these lights self-destruct the first time you take them out of your bar ends.

When I get new products that include batteries I usually toss the batteries out and never use them because more often than not they are old, off-brand batteries. I am not sure why, but I decided the install the batteries that Trek included with the Beacon Bar End Lights—and as expected they only lasted about ten hours. When I tried to remove the lights from my bar ends to replace the batteries the rubber seal around the lights simply shredded. The folks at the local bike shop kindly replaced the lights, but the second pair also ripped the first time I tried to replace the batteries. While these lights were a great idea, they are poorly designed. Therefore, I can’t recommend these lights unless you buy them with the understanding that they are disposable after the first use.

Trek Beacon Bar End Lights retail for $20 a pair and should be available at your local bike shop. However, you would be a lot better off buying a good taillight like the Plant Bike Superflash Turbo or the Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000. Another great option is the Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light from Illuminated Cycling.

 

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BikeWrappers Removable Reflective System

If you ride your bike at night you already know how important it is to have a good headlight so you can see where you are going and a taillight be keep cars from running over you. However, many cycling accidents happen when a car runs into a cyclist from the side—usually because they couldn’t see the bike even though it was directly in front of them. BikeWrappers are the best way I’ve found to protect yourself from a side-impact collision while on a bike (in fact, they work from all directions).

BikeWrappers Removable Reflective System

BikeWrappers Reflective System For Bicycles

BikeWrappers are a set of highly reflective bands of spandex and Lycra that wrap around the top tube, down tube and seat tube of your bike and they make your bike nearly impossible to miss at night. When the headlights from a car hit the reflective BikeWrappers your bike will be visible at least 1/4 of a mile away. In addition, these reflective bands are reversible and you can choose from over 30 different styles for the non-reflective side. You can choose from many bright colors or interesting patterns, such as leopard print, camouflage, plaid, stripes, etc. I chose a bright yellow color for the reverse side of my BikeWrappers and use it for rides in daylight when it is raining. By the way, riding in the rain will make you BikeWrappers look pretty bad after a few hours—fortunately, they are machine washable.

BikeWrappers attach to your bike in under a minute using the Velcro fasteners that are sewn into the material. They will easily fit on just about any size adult bike. Since these wrappers are so easy to put on or take off you really one need one set of BikeWrappers regardless of how many bikes you own. However, since they are so inexpensive you might want to buy several sets just to dress up your bike.

BikeWrappers Removable Reflective System

BikeWrappers Are Reversible

When I ordered my set of BikeWrappers last year I assumed I was going to have to cut a hole in the down tube wrapper since the bike I wanted to use it on has three water bottle cages. However, when my order arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see that BikeWrapers were designed to accommodate the extra bottle cage (see photo above).

The only downside to using BikeWrappers is that if you ride through a busy neighborhood at night you are probably going to have people ask you to stop so they can see what you have on your bike (yep, it happens nearly every time I use them). People always want to know “what type of battery does it use?” They are amazed when I tell them it doesn’t use any batteries—it is just highly reflective.

BikeWrappers retail for $45 for a three-piece set and they are available directly from the BikeWrappers Website. There are very few cycling products that I recommend as highly as I do BikeWrappers. The photos above do not do justice to how bright the reflective material is. If you ride your bike at night you need to get a set of these wrappers before your next ride! This product comes with a “100% Money Back Satisfaction Guarantee!” (see company Website for details).

 

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Axiom Ultra Spark LED Headlight

Editor’s Note: Most of us in the United States are enjoying a day off from work as we celebrate Independence Day. I decided to take the day off as well and am happy to provide you with an excellent product review from triathlete and fellow-blogger David Clancy. I am a frequent visitor to his blog, College Tri, and hope you can visit it as well.

All fifty states require that cyclists have at least a headlight and a rear reflector on their bike (please note—this is the minimum, there are states that require more). And quite honestly, common sense says that as a cyclist at night, it is very important to be seen by drivers! Many car-bike accidents happen in the evening and the chances of fatality sky-rocket at night. In fact, according to the City of New York’s website, while most riding occurs during the day, 45% of bike fatalities occur at night! Although you may not live in New York (I sure don’t), chances are the statistics tell a similar story in your area. Lights are essential to nighttime riding and your options are many and varied.

Performance Bicycle LED Headlight

Tool free, extremely quick mounting!

LED technology continues to evolve and the result is lights with good power that are lightweight and affordable. I don’t do much night riding at all because, in general, I don’t need to. But I knew that I needed a good light for instances where I’d be out during the evening or even early in the morning. So, at Performance Bicycle I found the Axiom Ultra Spark LED Headlight. The light is a 5 LED USB rechargeable headlight. It has 4 modes: low, high, strobe, and flashing. The highest setting is 70 lumens. The battery life is decent with 3 hours (high), 6 hours (low), and 8.5 hours (flash and strobe) run time.

This light, in my opinion, falls under the safety light category. Don’t expect to take this light on the trails or lengths of poorly lit well. This light is made for you to be seen but it still does a pretty decent job for lighting your path. This is a lightweight, extremely compact light that is very easy to take on and off of your bike. If you are a roadie who rides at night occasionally on fairly well-lit roads, this is a great choice for you. Heck if you are one of those weight weenies, check this stat out… This light weighs 36 grams! That’s right, this light is light! Even if you’re worried about aerodynamics, this light can easily fit into a wedge saddlebag or your jersey pocket when you aren’t using it.

Performance Bicycle Axiom Ultra Spark Headlight

Mounting system in action… Incredibly efficient!

One thing that is great on this light is the side visibility. The way the light is designed it really shines to the sides so you are visible from all angles, not just head-on! I must point out something though. If you do a lot of night riding, you should really consider splurging on a high power headlight that is more useful. This is not a product I’d recommend for every night use or trail riding! This is a safety light which gives a decent beam for when you need it.

The Ultra Spark has a list price of $49.99 at Performance Bicycle (don’t bother shopping around, Axiom is a house brand of Performance) but I’ve never seen it being sold for more than $40.00. This light can fit into any budget because, let’s be honest, your life is worth it. This is a safety light and a great value at that. There are a lot of competitors in the safety light world including some names like the Blackburn Flea, but in my opinion, the Ultra Spark has to be one of the best values on the market. Ease of use, battery life, visibility, and size make this a great light for a roadie who rides in the evening on occasion!

 

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