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Illuminated Cycling Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light

You already know that you need a good taillight if you are going to ride your bike at night. However, the biggest problem with mounting a taillight on your seat post or seat bag is that they are situated fairly close to the ground. While the motorist directly behind you can see your taillight, the cars behind them can’t. They best way to increase your chances of being seen (and staying alive) is to use a helmet mounted light like the Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light from Illuminated Cycling.

Illuminated Cycling Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light

Illuminated Cycling Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light

The Fire Eye 2.0 light consists of a lightweight (63 grams) control box and two flexible light pods. The control box attaches to the top or back of your helmet with Velcro (included with purchase). The light pods also attach to your helmet with Velcro. The Velcro attachment system makes it very easy for you to take the Fire Eye unit off of your helmet if you desire. Complete installation instructions can be downloaded from the Illuminated Cycling Website, but I think a trained monkey could put these lights on in just a couple of minutes. I have a special helmet that I use for off-road rides at night and, in addition to the Velcro, I secure the control box to the helmet with two cable ties (the trails are often rough and this way I don’t have to worry about the Velcro slipping). Just for clarification, I don’t have the cable ties on in these photos. You will also notice that this helmet also has a lot of 3M Scotchlite Reflective Tape on it.

The Fire Eye 2.0 is powered by two non-rechargeable 1/2AA lithium batteries (6.3 volts). You should be able to get around 100 hours of use from a pair of batteries. This unit is also totally waterproof—it still works even while sitting in a tank of water!

Illuminated Cycling Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light (side view)

Illuminated Cycling Fire Eye 2.0 Helmet Light (side view)

I bought the original Fire Eye 1.0 about a year ago and was fairly happy with it, even though I never liked the way the switch on the control box operated. Recently Illuminated Cycling came out with a new version, the Fire Eye 2.0, and this product not only switched to a rugged toggle-switch design but also doubled to brightness of the lights! The new taillight has three modes: High power solid beam, Low power solid beam, and High power strobe. The Fire Eye 2.0 is set to the strobe setting by default. Personally, I would suggest you keep it on the strobe setting since it draws a lot more attention than a solid light. The new toggle-switch is bulletproof—just one simple touch to turn the unit on or off. When I am on the trails I often turn the light off to conserve the batteries (no one is out there to see me anyway).

Now for the best part: these lights are incredibly bright, even in full sunlight. My photographs or the videos you can find online just don’t do justice to how bright these lights are! It has been my experience that the pre-dusk hours are the most dangerous time of the day to ride. Visibility is declining but most motorists don’t have their headlights on yet. If cars don’t have their headlights on then all the reflective clothing in the world won’t do you any good—you need something like the Fire Eye 2.0 to protect your life!

I have a pet name for cyclists who ride at night with only one taillight—I call them “future organ donors.” Even under the best of circumstances batteries die unexpectedly, electronics fail and mounting brackets break for no apparent reason. Even with a light as powerful as the Fire Eye 2.0, I always ride a standard taillight like the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo on my seat bag. And, if I plan to ride on a really busy road, I will also add a Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000 to my seat post.

Fire Eye 2.0 helmet lights are hand-built in the USA and are available from the Illuminated Cycling Website for $60. In my opinion, if you ride your bike at night this is one of the best investments you will ever make. If you have any questions about this product you can call Erik Shaffer at 1-888-406-7626. Illuminated Cycling also offers a light designed for use by bicycle patrol officers—a Fire Eye unit with fiercely bright blue lights (only available to Law Enforcement agencies).

 

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Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000 Bicycle Taillight

Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000

Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000

The Portland Design Works RADBOT 1000 Taillight is an excellent product and one of the brightest bicycle taillights you will find. While most people think taillights are only for when they ride at night, the RADBOT’s 1-watt LED light is powerful enough for daylight use as well. This taillight offers three different flash patterns: always on, zZz, and my favorite, the cornea blitz (also known as zZzPOP). The RADBOT 1000 comes with clips so you can mount it to your backpack, seat bag, seatpost, or seat stay.

Portland Design Works claims this light will run for 15 hours in steady mode and up to 30 hours in flashing mode. This has not been my experience, but I don’t think anyone actually gets the battery life that most manufacturers claim. However, this does not mean they are trying to mislead you. Battery life is dependent on many factors, including the age of the battery, how it has been stored and weather conditions. While I have never been able to get 30 hours of flash time out of a set of batters with this light, I am not the least bit disappointed. The RADBOT 1000 is an extremely powerful taillight and I think my life is worth considerably more than the price of a set of batteries (your opinion may vary). By the way, I never run a taillight in the solid (always on) mode—I’ve found the flashing light pattern to be far more effective.

I bought two RADBOT 1000 taillights over 18 months ago and they are both still going strong, even after a couple dozen sets of batteries and a really bad Chicago winter.

Any review of the RADBOT 1000 would not be complete with a mention of it’s main competition, the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Taillight. Both of these lights are made by excellent companies and I honestly could not claim that one is better than the other. I’m sure you have heard of Murphy’s Law (“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”). In my opinion Murphy was a flaming optimist. Riding with only one taillight will eventually mean a ride home with no taillight at all. Batteries run down, mounting brackets break, and a taillight is probably the easiest thing for someone to steal from your bike. I use both of these lights on nearly every ride I take at night. Since the Planet Bike Superflash is fairly lightweight I attach it to my seat bag. The RADBOT 1000 has a great built-in reflector and I keep it on the seatpost. Because these two lights use different flash patterns it really makes it easy for motorists to see you a long way off.

The RADBOT 1000 retails for $32. Portland Design Works guarantees their products for life against defects. Their Website has a rather humorous explanation of what constitutes a defect, i.e., “Defect does not include damage caused by a drunken bicycle crash, ghost riding your bike off a bridge, act of God or normal wear and tear.”

 

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Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Tail Light

A few weeks ago I published a review of the Planet Bike Superflash Tail Light. I started using the Superflash last year and liked it so much I bought four of them (one for each bike I own). Well, the folks at Plant Bike have not been resting on their laurels—they’ve come out with the Superflash Turbo, a tail light with twice the power of the original Superflash!

Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Tail Light

Planet Bike Superflash Turbo Tail Light

If you look at the two Superflash units side-by-side you will not see much difference at all—they are the same size and weight and the only difference you will notice is in the color scheme. They both run on two AAA batteries and the batteries will last around 100 hours (in flash mode). If you turn both units on and hold them at arm’s length I doubt that you could tell them apart (they will both just about blind you). The real difference is seen as you get further away from the units. At 100 feet away you can easily tell the two flash units apart, and at 1,000 feet the difference will blow you away!

The Superflash Turbo has two different operating modes: steady (always on) and turbo flash mode. I think the steady mode on any tail light is a waste of time—even a bright light gets “lost” except on the darkest of nights. I always run my tail lights in the blinking mode since it seems to draw a lot more attention. However, the turbo flash mode is not just an on/off mode. The turbo mode is intermittent—the powerful one-watt power main light on top flashes first, then the two LEDs in the lower part of the unit flash in an irregular pattern.

The Superflash Turbo comes with brackets that should allow you to mount this tail light on just about any bike. It also has a clip so you can attach it to you seat bag or jersey pocket.

The Superflash Turbo retails for $35, which is just $5 more than the regular Superflash. To me, the choice between the two is a no-brainer: just buy the Superflash Turbo. The extra $5 gives you twice the light and a better flash pattern.

 

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CycleAware Beamer Reflective Saddle Bag

The CycleAware Beamer Reflective Saddle Bag has something I’ve always though other bags should have, i.e., a highly reflective case. I have several saddle bags with small reflective strips, but this bag is made entirely from reflective material.

CycleAware Beamer Reflective Saddle Bag

CycleAware Beamer Reflective Saddle Bag

I put the CycleAware Beamer Reflective Saddle Bag on the road bike I use for night rides and riding in the rain. The bag is small (6″ X 3 1/4″ X 2 1/2″) and is just big enough to hold a spare road tube, patch kit, two tire levers, a CO2 inflator nozzle with two cartridges, and a Topeak 9 Mini Pro tool. This bag attaches under the saddle itself with a sturdy strap, but is not attached to the seat post with Velcro straps like most saddle bags.

While this bag is perfect for a road bike it would be too small for a mountain bikes because there would not be enough room for the larger mountain bike tube (I tried). I really wish CycleAware offered a slightly larger bag. My only complaint with this bag is that it does not have a loop so you can clip on a reflector or flasher. However, since this bag fits tightly under the saddle you should have room to attach a flasher on your seat post.

The CycleAware Beamer Reflective Saddle Bag has a retail price of around $25. If your local bike shop does hot carry it you can always find one at Amazon.com.

 

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JetLites A-51 Bicycle Headlight

Have you ever purchased an item for your bike and after a few months wondered, “Why doesn’t everyone have one of these?” That is exactly how I feel about the A-51 LED Headlight from JetLites. I purchased my A-51 late last September when it first came out and I have not regretted it one bit!

JetLite A-51 LED Bicycle Light

JetLite A-51 LED Bicycle Light

This LED bicycle headlight puts out 720 lumens of beautiful light and runs for over three hours on a full charge. The JetLite Website only claims a three-hour battery life, but I have been about to get three and a half hours out of it on when running on maximum brightness. You can also run the light in low mode and should get five and a half hours of light from it, or get twelve hours in the strobe mode. The connector between the battery and the headlight is threaded and waterproof. I carry the 9 ounce Li-Ion battery in my jersey pocket.

The “smart charger” for the A-51 LED Headlight is the best I have ever seen. Once you plug-in the 7.4 volt Lithium Ion battery into the charger it quickly determines how much of a charge it needs and once the battery reaches full the charger goes to sleep. The charger also wakes up every twelve hours to keep your battery topped off.

You can buy the A-51 LED Headlight with either a helmet mount or a bar mount. I chose the helmet mount since I like to have my brightest light on my helmet and a secondary light on the handlebars. The first time I rode an off-road trail with this light I noticed that some bikes ahead of me were pulling off to the side of the trail when I got close—they thought I was a car or motorcycle. When I caught up with them everyone wanted to know where I purchased the light!

You will probably never see a JetLite product in your local bicycle shop. You are going to have to either visit the JetLite Website and buy one online or find one of their few certified dealers to buy one of their lights. I bought mine online for $249, but I noticed on their Web site the price for the light, charger and helmet mount is now only $229.00 (folks, this is a steal).

This light comes with a one year warranty and it is made in the USA. If you ride at night you really need one of these lights!

 

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Planet Bike Blinky 3H Tail Light

I do not think it is possible to be too well seen at night. In my opinion, being seen falls into two categories: passive (reflective gear) and active (lighting). I am amazed that so many cyclists are willing to put their lives at risk by not making a better effort to be seen by motor vehicles at night.

Planet Bike Blinky 3H Tail Light

Planet Bike Blinky 3H Tail Light

In addition a good tail light on my saddle bag (and a lot of reflective clothing) I also use a Planet Bike Blinky 3H Tail Light mounted on my helmet. The helmet mount is self-leveling which means it will always be visible to traffic directly behind you, regardless of whether you (and your helmet) are looking up or down. This light has three bright LEDs and a built-in parabolic reflector. In flash mode the light should run for about 100 hours on a single AAA battery. You can also run the light in continuous mode, but I think a blinking light draws a lot more attention. The Planet Bike web site claims the Blinky 3H can be seen from up to a mile away.

The Blinky 3H comes with both a helmet mount and a seat post mount. The helmet mount is Velcro and you can attach it to your helmet in under a minute. The list price is $23.00, but I got mine from Amazon.com for $18.00.

 

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